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An ISORA move to deal with professional sailors racing in its expanding 2017 fleet has been amended just in time for the first race of the season tomorrow.  

Following instructions received at the AGM in December and in keeping with the spirit of ISORA, the offshore body now say that the definition provided by World Sailing for Group 3 has been considered by most of its skippers to be 'overly onerous' and 'potentially detrimental to the growth and advancement of ISORA'.

As a result ISORA has amended its Notice of Race and 'Group 3' sailors are redefined as 'ISORA Group 3'.

Group 3 sailors are persons who are paid to sail on boats competing in an ISORA race (reasonable expenses allowed). 

ISORA Chairman Peter Ryan told Afloat.ie: 'The rule does not eliminate sailmakers or pro–sailors as long as they do not accept payment to race'. 

Ryan added: 'Those paid to race in ISORA, will be accommodated in a class of their own and are not eligible for the main prizes. Pro sailors not paid to race are welcome in ISORA'. 

The rule change met with immediate approval from one pro at least, telling Afloat.ie it was 'a sensible ISORA solution to an ISORA problem'.

But reader Kevin Byrne, commeting on this article on social media, described the move as a 'pointless change'. 'You won't be able to prove they are paid or not', he wrote on Facebook.

Published in ISORA
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2017 ISORA offshore racing on the Irish Sea starts this weekend with two coastal races - one in Ireland and one in Wales and with a bumper fleet of 35+ boats expected on the two start lines.

The Dun Laoghaire to Wicklow race starts at 10am and is organised by the National Yacht Club in conjunction with the Royal Alfred Yacht Club

The Pwllheli Coastal Race, where a fleet of 12 is assembling in the North Wales harbour is one long bay race starting at 1010hrs.

The early forecast is for 14–knot, northerly winds with blue skies, just perfect for sailing.

Both races will be tracked by Yellow brick trackers.

Pwllheli Sailing Club Commodore Eifion Owen is hosting a post race reception. 

This year, as previously reported on Afloat.ie, the ISORA fleet will also race under ECHO handicap.

Published in ISORA

After a disappointing first race of the year last weekend, as Afloat.ie previewed here, Ireland’s Tom Dolan hopes to improve on his performance in the first single–handed race of the Mini 650 circuit.

In offshore racing, 'once the wind has died completely it is too late, you can’t do anything', says Dolan. The trick, he says, 'is to make sure that you stop in the right place' and that when the new wind arrives 'you are the first (or at least not the last) to touch it.' In light conditions it is in the phases of transition that races are lost and won.

This was a lesson that Dolan learned hard last weekend during the first race of the 2017 Mini 650 season. After a strong start the Franco/Irish team on board IRL 910 were in second position when the first shutdown (zone of no wind) arrived. The back of the fleet became the front of the fleet! One more shutdown later and they were not far off last position. “the second one hurt the most, as we were stopped as the boats offshore were at 3/4 knots...”. They managed to work there way back up the fleet, finishing in 18th place.

This Saturday is the first round of the French Offshore Sailing Championship, the Pornichet Select 650 is a 300–mile coastal race around the Islands of the south Breton coat. There will be almost 90 boats on the start line, and almost 60 of them in the production class so the competition will be tough. Dolan’s Concarneau based sparring partner, Pierre Chedville on board the 887 “Blue orange Games” will be a favourite as he returns to defend his title in the production class and yet again it will be Ian Lipinski in his 865 scow “Griffon.fr” who will be the man to beat in the prototype class.

The course takes the fleet from the small port of Pornichet, down to Les Sables d’olonne, across the finish line of the vendee globe before sailing back up to ile de Groix. The largest strategical decision of the race is which side to leave Belle Ile on the return leg. For the time being the weather conditions promise to be light with yet again a strong chance of there being a number of shutdowns. “This time round I will work to better prepare the weather forecast for the race, and be sure not to be the wrong side each time!', Dolan told Afloat.ie

Dolan, who hails from County Meath and is preparing to compete in the 2017 Mini Transat race, a single–handed race across the Atlantic Ocean on the smallest class of Ocean racing boat that there is.

To follow the Select 650 click here

Published in Solo Sailing
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After a very successful tenth ISORA season last year, offshore campaigner Peter Hall from the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire decided to relocate his Beneteau First 34.7 and try his hand in warmer climes! Adélie went south last autumn and is now based in Ibiza, and this was the first race of his season.

It is the 30th anniversary of the Ruta de la Sal regatta (Salt Race) and the first time they've had a Salina class in the race - for boats skippered by a female (Mairead Ni Cheallachain in the case of Adelie pictured below with trophy) and with at least 50% female crew (Adelie had Antonia O'Rourke, Louise Dwyer, Susan Delaney, Noel Butler and Sam Hunt as well as Peter and Ni Cheallachain). It's an initiative by the Spanish to try and encourage more female participation in offshore racing. There were seven boats entered in the Salina class (2 x First 40.7, X302, Oceanis 43, Bavaria 50, Sunfast 32 - all Spanish boats).

92 boats overall raced from Denia on the mainland, south around Formentera and then north around the Ibiza coast to a finish in San Antonio, Ibiza - a course of roughly 125nm.

Maired with Salt race trophy

The race took just over 26 hours in starting in beautiful moderate champagne sailing conditions, which overnight fell to very light, leading to some very tactical, technical racing!

In the overall fleet Adelie came 13th of 92 - in her racing class A3 they came 6th of 20 and won the Salina class ahead of the two local 40.7s

Results are here

Published in ISORA

After a winter which included training with Irish National Sailing School in Dun Laoghaire, Galway’s Mossie O’Reilly and Paddy Shryane are well into a clockwise Easter circumnavigation of Ireland to raise funds for Cystic Fibrosis writes W M Nixon.

Spurred on by the death from CF last summer of their friend Eva Davin aged just 32, the Galway duo are sailing fully-crewed on the INSS’s J/109 Jedi. They aren’t trying to break any sailing records, but instead are doing the classic Round Ireland circuit in a way with which most sailors will identify. This in turn will, they hope, draw attention to the remarkable work being done in Galway University Hospital, where 85 children and adults are receiving treatment for CF.

Even before their venture got under way from Dun Laoghaire in the first minute of Holy Saturday, April 15th, they and their team had already raised €2,545 towards a modest target of €3,000 which we hope will be significantly exceeded by the time fund-raising ends of August 15th 2017. Because the voyage target is simply to get round Ireland, when total calm descended off Kinsale they dropped into port for a few hours until the wind returned.

Published in INSS
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Time was when the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race was promoted as a handy way to position your little old cruiser in West Kerry to be nicely placed to make her way in gentle hops back to her home port on the south or east coast, ambling in leisurely stages along one of the finest cruising grounds in the world writes W M Nixon.

It was envisaged primarily as a sort of enlarged club race, the club setting the tone being the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. There, enthusiastic members and Dingle race plotters Martin Crotty, Peter Cullen and Brian Barry added a further attraction when promoting the first race, as it drew nearer in 1993, by suggesting that real dyed-in-the wool cruising types might find the race of interest if they were thinking of continuing with a clockwise cruise on round Ireland.

dingle harbour 2Dingle Harbour makes for an attractive destination...

dingle marina3…while its marina is enticing for cruisers and racers alike

Lovely idea. But so far as I know – though it’s very much hoped that I’ll be rapidly informed otherwise – it is this goggle-eyed wordsmith focused on his ancient computer screen who is still the only cruiser-racer skipper who has completed the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, and then cruised on round Ireland.

We did it in handy stages, leaving the boat in Dingle for ten days after the race was completed to return home to the word-production coalface, then going on to leave her on a mooring we’d laid at Arbear at the head of Clifden Bay after we’d cruised the Aran Islands and Connemara in detail, followed by another return home for the manufacture of merchandisable verbiage. Then the third stage was home to Howth round the top, with Donegal doing its best to rival Kerry for dramatic scenery.

However, that was all a very long time ago. In fact, it was so long ago it was the first time I’d sailed with a proper pair of Dubarry Shamrock Goretex boots. I’d previously had an experimental leaky pair from a different manufacturer with which I’d persisted for years, so I can still remember the sheer joy of dry warm feet whatever the weather after the genuine Dubarrys had been deployed.

But enough of such ramblings - even if it does serve to remind us of the way the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race has become a much-loved part of our sailing world. And as for the reason for people not cruising on round Ireland when being in Dingle leaves them so handily placed for continuing the circuit - the answer is simple. The fact is that the course of almost 300 miles has taken them as swiftly as possible past some of the most glorious cruising places in Ireland, and the only way the skipper can keep his shipmates plugging on is by swearing on all that is holy that they’ll cruise gently back the same way in a much more civilised style.

In such circumstances, you’re whistling against the wind in trying to sell the coast of Connacht as the more interesting way to get home. Yet from an early stage, even the notion of the Dingle dash as having a strong cruising orientation hasn’t really held up for a significant part of the entry. People go into it with every intention of winning, and the talk of conveniently positioning the boat for a spot of cruising in Kerry and West Cork has only been smoke and mirrors.

dingle yacht tracker4The Yellowbrick record of the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race in 2015. Sometimes the fleet has been even more widely spread than this

The pace was set from the off in 1993, when the winner was Richard Burrows’ Sigma 36 Black Pepper. In subsequent years, she was cruised to Greenland and other Godforsaken spots in the ownership of fellow Malahide sailor Peter Killen, so Black Pepper has a boat history which must make her the best-used Sigma 36 ever. Certainly for the Dingle dash of 1993, skipper Burrows shipped aboard the formidable talents of Peter Wilson and Robert Dix as the main occupants of the driving seat, and Black Pepper had a wellnigh perfect race.

That said, at the riotous prize-giving afterwards – the Dingle prize-giving is always riotous, just relax and enjoy it – Black Pepper’s skipper gave a wildly funny speech which he rounded out by presenting Robert Dix with the Golden Blanket Award. As to what was meant by that I haven’t a clue, so you’ll have to ask Dixie himself. But as he has been winning major awards of every kind since 1970 when he became the youngest ever Helmsmans Champion, the Golden Blanket goes well in his trophy cabinet.

With the first race off to such a humdinger inauguration, the vision of the founders had been justified. Well, perhaps “vision” is overstating it. At this week’s launching of the 2017 staging, which will be on June 14th, longtime organiser Martin Crotty revealed that the idea of the Dingle Race came about almost by misadventure.

martin crotty5The founding Dingle Race organiser Martin Crotty reminiscing about the early days in 1993 at this week’s reception in the National Yacht Club. Photo Michael Chester

peter cullen6Peter Cullen was another of the inspired group who first thought of the race in 1992. Photo: W M Nixon

He and fellow owner Peter Cullen had been doing the 1992 Round Ireland Race with their hefty Sigma 41 Koala, and in slugging up the west coast into a particularly unpleasant northerly (I remember that one too), their mainsail went into several pieces on the latitude of Loop Head, so they retired and ran back to Dingle, a place they didn’t know at all.

They got to know it very well indeed over the next day or two, and the hospitality the little West Kerry port meted out to them – with the Dingle Skellig Hotel more or less providing open house – soon got them thinking that a race there rather than sailing all the way round the Emerald Isle would be an interesting alternative in the years when the biennial Round Ireland Race from Wicklow was not being staged.

Such ideas seem marvellous over a pint or three as midnight draws on, then fade from the memory. But there was some special chemistry already at work between the can-do Dun Laoghaire sailors and the maritime-minded folk of Dingle. Perhaps it’s because both ports think they’re the hub of the universe…… Whatever the secret ingredient, by 1993 in Dingle Harbour, Master Brian Farrell was ready to welcome the fleet, a new marina was in the making, and Dingle was on the cusp of an entirely new era.

dingle town7Dingle in the far west of Kerry has formed strong links with Dun Laoghaire in Dublin Bay, yet the two places could not be more different.

As for the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, we knew it was fully part of the scheme of things by 1995, as Denis Doyle turned up to compete with Moonduster. Once that happens, you know your race has arrived, and “The Doyler and The Duster” were honoured participants for many years, encouraging some very substantial boats to subsequently take part, with new heights being reached in 2009 when Michael Cotter’s handsome 78ft Whisper brought a touch of global glamour and a new record, though she missed the magic 24 hours by 43 minutes and 45 seconds.

As each race succeeded its predecessor, a bonus emerged when it was acknowledged that the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle would count as a qualifier for the Fastnet Race, which would as usual be staged about eight weeks later. By this stage the race had so much going for it that it seemed impervious to setback, but like everything else in Irish life, it went through diminished times during the recessionary years.

denis doyle8When “The Doyler and The Duster” (Denis Doyle and Moonduster) became involved from 1995 onwards, the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race was made. This is a page from the August 199 Afloat magazine, with Moonduster much in evidence in the race report. The winner that year was Donal Morrissey’s GK34 Joggernaut from Galway, and in those days the start was in Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

But then came 2015, and the numbers were back up, and then some. Having seen his pet project through times good and bad, Martin Crotty had indicated that this 12th Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race would be the last he would personally administer, but already a strong successor was being briefed in the person of Adam Winkelmann. And in the 2015 race he had a vintage familiarisation to observe how it all worked, though as his mother Carmel was for many years one of the time-keepers, he started from a position of inside knowledge.

Over the years, the Dingle Skellig Hotel, which showed such generosity to the sea-battered crew of Koala way back in 1992 – leading to the inception of the race – has stayed on board as co-sponsor, and everyone’s longterm faith in the event was born out in 2015’s race, which was a classic. Before it, the atmosphere around the National Yacht Club was pure carnival, and while the start may have been slow, the winds soon filled in from the north and the fleet scampered down the east coast.

Out in front, the line honours battle was between Adrian Lee’s Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners from Dun Laoghaire and Anthony O’Leary’s Ker 40 Antix from Cork, and they went so well that for a while it looked like Antix might get the corrected time win. But holes in the wind at the Fastnet and beyond shook up the order, and by the finish it was glory day for J Boats, with the Shanahan family’s J/109 Ruth (NYC) winning by 20 minutes from her Pwllheli-based sister-ship Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox), the first foursome being very complete for the Johnstone brothers as the J/122 Aurelia was third and the J/109 Dear Prudence was fourth.

Antix dingle 2015Anthony O’Leary’s Ker 40 Antix crossing the finish line at Dingle in 2015

liam shanahan10Overall 2015 winner Liam Shanahan at the helm of his J/109 Ruth with Skellig Michael put astern, and crewman Kevin Daly trimming the main for the final stage up Dingle Bay to the finish.

dingle party llAfter a rugged race, there’s nothing like an al fresco party at Dingle

But in a fascinating contest, almost every boat was having her day at one stage or another, and for those who were doing the race as a Fastnet qualifier, it came up trumps. Irish Offshore Sailing’s 36ft Jeanneau Desert Star may have only been in the middle of the fleet in the Dingle results, but her crew were on a learning curve and on top form by the time they did the Fastnet Race, so much so that they won overall in the 33-boat fleet making up the Sailing Schools Division, a well-earned dream result for skipper Ronan O Siochru.

So Martin Crotty handed over a prestigious event in really good order to Adam Winkelmann after all the D2D business was done and dusted in 2015, and this week’s launching reception in the National Yacht Club for what is now the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race was one of those gatherings which ticked so many boxes that we could get a month’s worth of Sailing on Saturdays out of it.

The heartwarming sense of continuity was palpable. Not only was Adam Winkelmann taking over the D2D from Martin Crotty, but in the host club, Ronan Beirne had been barely a wet week as the new Commodore in succession to Larry Power. To say that the speeches were in tune with the mood of the evening barely gets the flavour of it. It was a time for nostalgia, a time for relishing the present, and a time for keenly anticipating the future, with all aspects covered.

adam winkelmann12Adam Winkelmann, chair of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Dingle race Committee, reveals his hopes for 2017’s race and the races beyond. Photo: Michael Chester

It was Adam Winkelmann who summed it all up in a friendly presentation – he does it so painlessly that the word “speech” is way too pompous – effortlessly telling us about the new dynamic with the lineup with Volvo, the continued support from Dingle with the Dingle Skelligs Hotel joined by Crean Brewery – and the growing interest from the RORC with that club’s Janet Grosvenor – a very good friend to Irish offshore racing – planning to monitor the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race 2017 with a view to giving it greater recognition in the RORC’s 2019 programme.

dingle volvo adam13Graham Fitzgerald of the Dingle Skellig Hotel, Patricia Greene of Volvo Car Ireland, Adam Winkelmann, and Jerry O’Sullivan of Crean Brewery, Dingle. Photo Michael Chester

As it is, the 2017 race will start on the evening of Wednesday June 14th, which research among competitors has show is reckoned as the most user-friendly time for those fitting the race into work breaks, as it means you can definitely do a three day week, yet have every chance of making the clock-in at the workplace first thing Monday morning.

Thus the prize-giving will be on Saturday night, and it is being moved beck to the Dingle Skelligs’ sister establishment, Benners Hotel in the heart of town. As for the bigger picture, the timing also allows a useful gap before the Sovereigns Cup series starts at Kinsale on June 21sr, but while the start time will be tight for anyone who also plans to also do the ICRA Nationals at Crosshaven from Friday June 9th to Sunday June 11th, in times past we’d have reckoned that’s it a logistical challenge which is do-able, you just draw lots for the three guys who are going to take the boat to Dun Laoghaire as soon as the last race at Crosser is over.

As if that’s not enough of a challenge, Ric Morris has lately been airing a suggestion that it’s time to think seriously about an Irish National Offshore Championship based around the many events already in existence. He reckons that with the Round Ireland and the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle races alternating at the peak of this annual season-long series, we’d have an intriguing setup which has the potential to involve many boats – and he means many big time.

Certainly the imprimatur of the RORC on the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Dingle Race would give it turbo power, making it a serious points accumulator apart from being a superb race in its own right. Truly it has moved on a long way from being a handy little club-oriented event best used to position your boat in Ireland’s finest cruising ground. But we shouldn’t be surprised, when we remember that the Fastnet Race itself started in a very modest way in 1925. It was so shunned by the sailing establishment that it couldn’t get a starting line at Cowes, and had to be sent eastward out of the Solent from the start line of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club at Ryde.

ronan beirne14Brian Farrell, Harbour Master of Dingle when the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle race was inaugurated in 1993, Ronan Beirne the newly-elected Commodore of the National Yacht Club, and Yannick Lemonnier, who will be racing a Minitransat 650 to Dingle. Photo Michael Chester

Presumably the RORC still sends the RVYC an annual Christmas card as a token of their appreciation of that display of faith way back in 1925, now that the hugely popular Fastnet Race is started from all the glory of the Royal Yacht Squadron line at Cowes.

And as for the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race in all its manifestations, while it has always been comfortably under the imprimatur of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, the developing positive attitude towards sailing at official levels in Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown was underlined by the official presence at Tuesday’s gathering of Councillor Cormac Devlin, Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council.

But while the new turbo power of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race was quietly in evidence at the party in the National YC this week, it was good to meet up with old friends from Dingle from the earliest days, particularly the former Harbour Master Brian Farrell whose enthusiasm for his job always went way beyond the call of duty.

There too were Brian Barry and Peter Cullen, both of whom did so much to put the show on the road and keep it there through times good and bad. But it was appropriate that also present was the one and only Yannick Lemonnier, who did the race in the two-handed division in 2015 (he was second to Howth’s Colm Buckley and Simon Knowles) but in 2017 will be doing it in a new special division which has been encouraged into the fray by the National’s Sailing Manager Olivier Prouveur.

Yes indeed – the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race will be providing a start for Mini 650 boats, and Yannick Lemonnier will be right in the thick of it all. They’ll get a separate prize and won’t be in the IRC Division, but it’s a new twist in a race which, in 2017, will also have a new old twist.

david thomas15David Thomas, MD of Volvo Car Ireland, with Emma O’Carroll, also of Volvo Car Ireland, and Darryl Hughes, owner-skipper of Maybird, the first gaff-rigged entrant in the Dingle Race. Photo Michael Chester

For no-one has any recollection of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race ever having a gaff-rigged entry in its 24 years. Yet the madly enthusiastic Darryl Hughes has entered his beautifully-restored 1937 Tyrrell-built 43ft gaff ketch Maybird. He knows he’ll be doing quite well to make it to Dingle in time for the prize giving. And then he’ll have to think of further schedules, as he is also entered for the Classics Division in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta from July 9th to 12th. But in the National this week this week he was able to assure everyone that Maybird is already well n the way to being race ready. Sure hadn’t he and his mates scrubbed her and anti-fouled her – including a fresh boot-top – all on the one Spring tide at Poolbeg a couple of weeks ago? So the count-down is already well under way for the turbo-powered Volvo Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race 2017.

maybird scrub16Race preparation. Maybird gets completely re-antifouled and with a fresh boot-top a fortnight ago, all in one tide at Poolbeg

Published in W M Nixon

The Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association (ISORA) will trial the Irish based “Progressive ECHO” rating in all its races this season.

ISORA Chief Peter Ryan says the performance based rating will 'produce a greater spread in the results and prizes.

Most racing boats in Ireland have an ECHO rating issued with their IRC Rating for the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) but as part of the new move by the Irish–UK offshore body, UK boats are being encouraged to take part in the ECHO rating, ISORA have negotiated an initial fee for the ECHO rating of €10 for those UK boats competing in ISORA. 

Over the winter, ICRA rating guru Denis Kiely re-ran all last season’s results under the ECHO rating to ensure that those boats who have not used ECHO in the past will have their appropriate performance handicap for the first race, based on their last year’s ISORA performance.

Applications for the ECHO rating should be made through ISORA.

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Conall Morrison, 35, from Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland, has been named as one of the twelve professional Skippers who will lead a team in the next edition of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. It adds yet another Irish dimenson to the race with the north coast city confirming this week it will be part a host city for the fourth consecutive race. It also follows last December's news that the former Skipper Of the Irish entry, Mark Light has been named as Clipper Race Director

The Northern Irishman, who began sailing at age eleven on Lough Swilly and has watched the Clipper Race fleet arrive into Derry-Londonderry for all previous three editions, is relishing the upcoming mental and physical challenge. He says: “It’s always been a dream of mine to circumnavigate the globe.

“I’ve had many memorable experiences on the water, from sailing to kayaking, to surf lifesaving, but nothing that comes close to the feeling of competing in the Clipper Race. I feel my background in both racing and sailing instruction will help my team to gel and become better ocean racers.”

Conall is the second Skipper selected from the region, after Sean McCarter, who led the Derry~Londonderry~Doire team to a fifth-place finish in the Clipper 2013-14 Race.

“Being from Derry-Londonderry, I know exactly what the race means to the city. I was on the banks of the Foyle to see the fleet arrive in 2016 and it’s great to hear the Clipper Race will return to my home city next year. Sailing into Derry-Londonderry will be the proudest day in my whole career!”

Founded in 1996 by William Ward and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo, non-stop around the world, the Clipper Race is the only event which allows amateurs the opportunity to become ocean racers and face Mother Nature in the most remote locations on the planet.

Speaking on the Skipper selection process, Sir Robin said: “The role of Clipper Race Skipper is one of the toughest, but most rewarding jobs that exists in sailing. Not only do you have to be a highly capable sailor to be able to complete the relentless challenge of circumnavigation, you also have to be an excellent instructor and leader.

“I wish Conall and his team the best in their Clipper 2017-18 Race campaign and as ever we look forward to returning to Derry-Londonderry in 2018.”

Conall was previously the Skipper of Tectona for the ‘Voyage of Recovery’ in 2012, a twelve-week voyage around Britain to assist adults in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

The Morrison family is no stranger to global competition, as Conall explains: “My sister Aileen is a professional athlete [competed in the triathlon in the London 2012 Olympic Games] and my other sister Ruth was an Irish swimming champion. I admire their dedication and drive, and now it is my turn to make them proud!”

The eleventh edition of this unique biennial ocean race will visit six continents and include six ocean crossings. Almost 5000 novices have been turned into ocean racers throughout the past twenty years of the Clipper Race, though still more people have climbed Mount Everest than circumnavigated the globe.

The twelve Clipper Race teams compete on the world’s largest matched fleet of 70-foot ocean racing yachts. Crew come from all walks of life and from all around the world, with over 40 different nationalities represented. Crew can complete the full circumnavigation, or one or more of the eight legs that make up the Clipper Race.

The next major event in the race preparations is Crew Allocation, at Portsmouth Guildhall, May 20, where all Skippers and crew will be assigned to their teams for the first time.

The Clipper 2017-18 Race will begin in the UK this summer and return almost a year later, once again including a stopover in Derry-Londonderry in summer 2018. The team with the highest total points at the finish wins the Clipper Race Trophy

Published in Clipper Race
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The world's largest, most prestigious offshore sailing event will take place this summer off the Irish south coast with the 47th running of the Rolex Fastnet Race.

Some offshore yacht races struggle for entries, but the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial flagship event is not one of them. When the entry list opened on 9 January, spaces sold out faster than a Rolling Stones farewell concert; the 340 boat limit reached, incredibly, in just 4 minutes and 24 seconds. And this figure excludes the non-IRC fleets which will include a giant international turn out of Class40s and significantly, will be the first occasion the eight VO65s, set to compete in this year's Volvo Ocean Race, will line up in anger.

When the Rolex Fastnet Race set sails from Cowes on Sunday 6th August, close to 400 boats will make up the combined IRC and non-IRC fleets - the largest ever entry in the race's 92 year history and a significant step-up from 356 in the last race.

So why is the race so successful? "It is within easy access for the largest fleets of offshore-capable yachts anywhere in the world," succinctly explains Nick Elliott, Racing Manager of the RORC.

The Rolex Fastnet Race is one of the world's oldest offshore races, but the 605 mile course represents much the same challenge today as it did to competitors 90+ years ago: Typically an upwind westbound slog along the south coast of England, then full exposure to the open Atlantic Ocean on the crossings to the Fastnet Rock (lying four miles off southwest Ireland) and back, before leaving Bishop Rock and the Scilly Isles to port, en route to the finish off Plymouth.

However today, the standard of yachts and their equipment have improved immeasurably, as have the safety and qualification requirements for competing yachts and crews. This, combined with weather forecasting becoming a more exact science are all designed to prevent a repeat of the 1979 race, when a storm of un-forecast severity devastated the fleet and cost 15 crew their lives.

The modern day Rolex Fastnet Race fleet is also the most diverse, with yachts of every conceivable type represented. These range from the 100ft long Ultime trimarans, the fastest offshore race boats in the world, to the Volvo Ocean Race one designs, to the IMOCA 60s, used in the Vendée Globe singlehanded non-stop round the world race, while, with thirty four boats entered, the Class40s will be by far the biggest non-IRC class.

Meanwhile some of the world's most prominent grand maxis will be competing in the main IRC fleet. The longest is the Judel Vrolijk 115 Super Maxi, Nikata, while Ludde Ingvall is bringing his radical DSS-equipped 100 footer CQS all the way from Australia and one of the race favourites will certainly be George David's Rambler 88, that just missed out on line honours in 2015.

But making up the bulk of the IRC fleet are the Corinthian entries. Nick Elliott explains: "The Rolex Fastnet Race has that 'challenge appeal' which people are looking for more and more at the moment. It's something people can tick off their 'list'. Also, there are lots and lots of boats available for charter and spaces available for individuals who want to do it. Generally instead of people going racing every weekend, these days they'll cherry pick, they'll choose to only do bigger, more special events."

A lot are crewed by families and friends or yacht club teams, many of whom come back year after year.

For example Tony Harwood is returning for his sixth race and his fourth on board Volante, a 1961 Camper & Nicholson 38 footer, in her day a Morgan Cup winner. In 2009 Volante claimed the Iolaire Block for being the 'oldest yacht to complete the course', while this year she is the lowest rated boat in the race (IRC TCC of 0.855).

So what is the attraction of the Rolex Fastnet Race? "It's like 'why climb Everest?' Because it's there, I suppose," explains Tony Harwood. "We are heavy old crew in a heavy old boat, but we do about 5,000 channel miles a year. I like competitive sailing, even though the starts frighten the life out of me."

It is also a 'father and son' affair, although son Simon races their Prima 38 Talisman. "It's never the same," says the younger Harwood. "It is different every time and you always try to do better than last time. About half of the times I've seen the Fastnet Rock in daylight - two years ago it was thick fog and in 1999 there was the solar eclipse. Also it is a talking point. 'Did you do the Fastnet?' 'How was it?' That all brings me back every couple of years."

When his father last competed aboard Volante in 2009, she finished in just under six days, while Talisman made it round in four days 7 hours and 46 minutes in 2015. A boat that in 2015 was comfortably finishing in Plymouth at roughly the time Talisman was still outbound to the Fastnet Rock and slower Class 4 boats were just passing Land's End, was Tony Lawson's Concise 10. The MOD70 trimaran class completed their race in a mere 2 days 17 hours 35 minutes, although this was slow, way off the multihull race record of 1 day, 8 hours and 48 minutes.

"That was the first big offshore race we did with the boat," recalls skipper Ned Collier Wakefield. "It was pretty light, so we'd like to do a faster race. We should be able to do it in 26 hours if the conditions are right. The Rolex Fastnet Race is a prestigious race, it's one of the big ones for us and it is nice do a 'home race'."

Concise is also planning on entering its Class40.

The 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race sets sail from the Royal Yacht Squadron line to the north of Cowes at 1200 BST on 6th August.

Published in Fastnet
Tagged under

#Piracy - The body of a German sailor held hostage by militants in the Philippines late last year has been found, as RTÉ News reports.

Seventy-year-old Jurgen Kantner was murdered last week by terror group Abu Sayyaf after their ransom demands of more than half a million euros were not met, according to the Philippine government.

Kantner had been captured in November by the IS-aligned militant group, who killed his companion Sabine Merz when their yacht Rockall was boarded off the southern Philippines in an kidnapping blackspot, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

The incident came eight years after the couple had been held hostage for 52 days by Somali pirates at the Horn of Africa.

RTÉ News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Offshore
Tagged under
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