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Displaying items by tag: Royal Irish Yacht Club

Six races will be sailed in the waters of Dublin Bay for the Irish East Coast Dragon Championships in just over a fortnight. 

Last year, Andrew Craig's Chimaera topped a 13–boat Dragon fleet to win the East Coast Championships at the Royal St. George Yacht Club at the weekend. Second on the Dublin Bay race track was Craig's club mate Phantom skippered by Neil Hegarty with Kinsale Yacht Club's Little Fella Cameron Good third overall.  

The Royal Irish Yacht Club hosts the 2016 event that runs from Friday 27th to Sunday 29th May 2016 and will be sailed over Windward-Leeward courses. The NOR for the three man keelboat is available to download below. 

Published in Dragon

We’re into the last weekend in which the popular figure of James Horan will be making regular appearances on the Dun Laoghaire waterfront, and at national sailing occasions, as Commodore of the Royal Irish Yacht Club. Next week at the RIYC Annual general Meeting, he stands down from the top post after two hugely productive years in which he has guided and inspired one of Ireland’s – and indeed the world’s – premier clubs through an accelerating programme of development and success, afloat and ashore, writes W M Nixon

Commodore Horan will hand over to his successor a thriving club which is emerging from an outstanding year which resulted in it being acclaimed as the Mitsubishi Motors “Sailing Club of the Year” 2016 at the National Sailing Awards in Dublin in February. And the RIYC faces confidently into this new season of 2016 - which will see it celebrate its 185th Anniversary – with the staging of several special events in addition to being well represented afloat, both nationally and internationally, at all levels right up to the Rio Olympics themselves.

Meanwhile, from the club’s elegant and well-equipped waterfront complex, the RIYC Training Division – current holder of the ISA’s Eastern Region Best Training Establishment Award – will continue to provide willing recruits to a fine sailing tradition in line with a club history which few comparable organisations anywhere in the world can match.

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The evening sunshine helps to match the neo-classic style of the Royal Irish YC’s 165-year-old clubhouse with the new Mitsubishi Outlander

But before next week’s significant change of the watch, there was one final and very appropriate celebratory event with which to mark the end of the James Horan Years. For many years now, it has been a tradition that although the Sailing Club of the Year Award is nationally announced early in the year, the process is not completed until a reception is held in the winning clubhouse for a final formal handover of the famous ship‘s wheel trophy “on site”, a tradition which facilitates all members of the club to share in its success in their home clubhouse, while also allowing the Commodore to highlight those who have made special effort or achieved great results to bring about the win.

As the RIYC’s beautiful building is the world’s oldest purpose-built sailing clubhouse still precisely intact as originally designed – for it was completed in 1851 to the plans of John Skipton Mulvany – there’s no denying the sense of history kept alive with its elegant interior and impressive exterior. But while respecting its heritage in every way, the RIYC can live lightly enough with its ever-present history, operating on the principle that it respects and cherishes the past, lives keenly and efficiently in the present, and looks enthusiastically, with vision and planning, towards the future.

So although you find yourself in what might seem to some to be a museum – albeit a stylish and very much living museum - this past Tuesday, when the ship’s wheel trophy was finally lodged in its new home for the next twelve months, it was definitely party time. Even the weather obliged with a hint of a spring evening, and with the clocks put forward (albeit by barely a wet week) there was just enough of the day left to have the club flagpole fully dressed in celebratory bunting without infringing on flag etiquette for the lowering of colours at sunset.

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A flash of sunshine highlighted the dressing of the club flagpole, while still allowing for proper regard of flag etiquette at sunset. Photo: W M Nixon

Within, the mood was warm, friendly and relaxed. And when we consider the RIYC record in 2015, being warm friendly and relaxed was the only option. Where to begin with a year’s sailing which successfully encompassed every aspect of our sport?

In fact, it’s scarcely fair to begin with just one year, as in recent decades the Royal Irish YC has been very much at the heart of Irish sailing, but in the past season one of its most dedicated owner-skippers, George Sisk, campaigned his 42–ft sloop WOW to become the Irish Cruiser-Racer AssociationBoat of the Year” after victories at national championships on the east and south coasts.

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George Sisk and Fintan Cairns

The longterm devotion of the club to its own and national sailing development was reflected in the fact that ICRA was co-founded in 2002 by another leading RIYC member, Fintan Cairns. He has also given distinguished service to Dublin Bay SC, and he was there on Tuesday with many of WOW’s decidedly senior crew (they say the acronym stands for “We Ould Wans”) to celebrate their own superb year, and a great year for their club.

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Michael Boyd, Commodore Royal Ocean Racing Club, puts the world to rights with Tom Power, who skippered the boat which won the 1987 Fastnet overall, and is now one of WOW’s crew with George Sisk

Another leading member, Michael Boyd, serves as Commodore of the global offshore racing organisation, the Royal Ocean Racing Club, and his boat Quokka was top-placed Irish boat in the Fastnet Race 2015 to win the Gull Salver, and on Tuesday night he entertained us with awesome stories about the extreme conditions experienced during the RORC’s recent Easter Challenge Series in the Solent, when the fleet was frequently hit by huge 40 knots-plus mini-storms of the blackest hue, yet the harder it blew, the better the Irish boats seemed to do.

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Tim Goodbody, a former RIYC Commodore and Fastnet Race winner in 1987, who chaired the Dun Laoghaire Regatta Committee in 2015 and also won many prizes afloat during the past year, with Jacqueline McStay (Rear Commodore RIYC)

Back home in Dublin Bay, longtime RIYC member Tim Goodbody had served as Chairman of the Organising Committee for the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta in July, Ireland’s biggest event in 2015. But he also continued to win trophies when racing his own boat, and emerged as a top performer at the ICRA Championship in Kinsale, and as overall top scorer in Dublin Bay Sailing Club’s season-long championship. And all this from a sailor who in times past was a winning helmsman in the Fastnet Race, way back in 1987.

As for ocean cruising, Ireland’s premier national trophy - the Faulkner Cup which dates back to 1931 - has been awarded to Alan Rountree of the RIYC for his skill and determination in dealing with a severe storm in 2015 while returning single-handed from a voyage to the Azores in his 34ft yacht Tallulah, which he built himself. But then, when an RIYC member builds himself his dreamship at his remote house and workshop in the Wicklow Hills, you can be sure that the results will be a vessel superior to many professionally-finished craft.

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Rio qualified Olympic sailor Saskia Tidey, Brendan Farrell, and RIYC Marine Manager (and Dun Laoghaire Lifeboat cox’n) Mark McGibney

The news that Alan Rountree was the latest recipient of the Faulkner Cup only came towards the end of the year, but this sense of the Royal Irish Yacht Club being on a continuous and active journey which lasts for twelve months of every year was reinforced in the days leading up to this week’s ceremony, with the news that the club’s Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey had qualified for a place in the Rio Olympics 2016 in the Women’s Skiff. Saskia herself was there to join a celebration which was further enhanced by the latest news, that young Tim Norwood of the RIYC had qualified over the weekend in some challenging weather for the ISA Junior Pathway.

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Commodore Jim Horan, classic boat pace-setter Chris Craig, and Vice Commodore Paul Sherry

So Tuesday night provided a welcome and congenial breathing space in which to reflect on great achievements afloat in all sorts of condition, at all ages, and in all sorts of boats, while at the same time permitting refection on what makes one of Ireland’s many remarkable sailing clubs just that extra bit special in any particular year.

Billy Riordan of Mitsubishi Motors Ireland – himself a keen sailor, he’s an Oppie dad and an SB20 campaigner – outlined his company’s long association with the basically informal “Club of the Year” contest. It was actually first staged in 1979, but Mitsubishi Motors came aboard in 1986 - “We’ve been together since before the Berlin Wall fell” he quipped – so this year we’ll be celebrating a thirty year connection. While becoming Club of the Year may seem a light-hearted business with the fun of the hand-over ceremony, underneath it all there is serious thinking about what ensures a club is successful through providing the services required by its members while maintaining its traditions and updating them to modern needs.

At the same time, the club has to interact dynamically and successfully within the community – both the local community, at national level, and in the sailing community in general – and all this before it can devote its main energies to sailing, its promotion, its encouragement of newcomers, its training of juniors at whatever level, and ultimately all of it leading on the to the skilled and competent staging of major events, while on top of that there’s the quest for success and satisfaction by members in their own sailing and racing.

So running a major club is not for the faint-hearted, but in his thoughtful acceptance speech, Commodore Horan gave us much to reflect on about how he had sought to build on the sense of community of interest within the club at all levels both afloat and ashore, with a genuine interaction between the two, among members and staff alike. In achieving this, he had been greatly assisted by the RIYC’s Marine Manager Mark McGibney who – as the Commodore remarked – has succeeded in removing the mental barriers between sea and land within the RIYC complex. “The club no longer ends at the quayside, and the marina no longer ends at the quayside – the two now interact in the most healthy way, and we are all part of each other’.

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A Commodore relaxes – Jim Horan with Jill Gibson Holman and Hugh Cunniam

Quite how Mark McGibney manages all this with such seemingly effortless success is a matter of wonder, as he is also the Dun Laoghaire Lifeboat cox’n. But he does, and the contribution he and the staff have made to the success and hospitable reputation which the RIYC has built up in the sailing community, while still functioning as a club whose ultimate responsibility is to its own members, is a wonder to behold.

All this is taking place in and around a 165-year-old building which is immaculately maintained in authentic style, for after all the Commodore – who has his own very quiet but extremely effective way of getting things done – is one of Ireland’s leading conservation architects. But he’s a keen sailor too, so he knows the needs of those who sail the sea, and as someone who appreciates the finer things in life, he is supported by a very keen house staff who ensure that the hospitality provided by the RIYC is in keeping with its great traditions and current prestige.

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That end of term feeling. Shortly to retire RIYC Commodore James Horan (right) who stands down next week, is congratulated by ISA President David Lovegrove (left) whose AGM is today (Saturday) but he still has another year to serve

With the formal business out of the way, the official party could then mingle with the members, many of whom had already taken up that evening’s mainbrace and begun splicing it with considerable vigour. With a gathering of that calibre, the range of boat and topics, plans and techniques, and news and gossip being covered was mind-boggling, while at the same time hugely informative. Just as you’d expect, in fact, when the Club of the Year is contentedly and convivialy at home.

Published in W M Nixon

The Irish Sailing Association Annual Awards ceremony undoubtedly conveyed three clearcut messages. The first is that, in global sailing terms, we’re a wet and breezy little island which nevertheless punches way above our weight. The second is that we live comfortably with a long and very distinguished history of recreational sailing which puts most other nations in the shade. And the third is that Ireland is definitely not the greatest place in the world to be a professional sailor. W M Nixon takes a look back at Thursday’s annual prizefest.

Those unfamiliar with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland might think it odd that, in just two short years, its splendid College Hall, at the very epicentre of Dublin on Stephens Green, has come to be seen as the most natural focal point for the annual honouring of our top sailors and clubs.

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The College Hall in the RCSI provides an ideal setting for the annual gathering for Irish sailing’s national awards.

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Sailors talking about sailing. The Awards Ceremony provides a cherished opportunity for sailors from every discipline to shoot the breeze together.

Declan magee ciara dowling4RCSI President Declan Magee – a sailing man – with Events Organiser Ciara Dowling, who kept the show on the road

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Dragons Den star Bobby Kerr – a sailing man himself – was the lively Master of Ceremonies

But in terms of being a setting which lends itself very positively to such a gathering, College Hall is right on target. It’s a splendid room which is confident with itself without being over the top. It comfortably accommodates the crowd of between 180 and 200 who have come from all over Ireland to celebrate what’s best in our sailing. And as if that weren’t enough, the RCSI has remarkable links with sailing going back more than a hundred years.

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John Treacy, CEO of the Sports Council, with Liam Shanahan and ISA President David Lovegrove

So after last year’s first use of the venue, which stemmed from a typically far-sighted suggestion by ISA Board Member Brian Craig, people were keen to go back. And it wasn’t because no-one could think of anywhere better. On the contrary, it was because we’d found that the College of Surgeons is one of those wonderful buildings which make you feel better just from being in it. So in the early days of Spring when we wonder if summer is really going to come at all, a bit of a party in the College of Surgeons is just what the doctor ordered. And as for those doctors and surgeons from the RCSI going sailing, we’ll return to that at the end of this piece. But what of the event itself?

Well, with the Afloat.ie Sailor of the Year award going to a determinedly Corinthian skipper who cheerfully admitted that there’s any amount of professional sailors out there who could probably beat the pants off him, but nevertheless his core interest is offshore racing with family and friends, and if they win within those self-imposed limitations, then so much the better…..There it was, the real voice of Irish sailing, and no mistake.

is7The youngest award winner was Topper champion Geoff Power of Waterford Harbour SC at Dunmore East

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Pierce Purcell of Galway Bay SC with the RIYC’s Michael Boyd, Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club

But what about the clubs through which we go sailing? How can they carry such a wealth of history, and yet be of any contemporary relevance? Here again, the evidence speaks for itself. The new Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year has a wonderful history going back to 1831, yet in terms of sailing achievement and voluntary input into the local, regional and national organisation of sailing, it is making a fantastic contribution. And as for its relevance to sailing in the future, independently of the Club of the Year adjudication taking place, this same club was comfortably on its way to being the top ISA Training Establishment in its region, and on the shortlist for the national title too.

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Olympian and rising stars – James Espey, Aoife Hopkins and Saskia Tidey

If that’s not an illustration of the way that Irish sailing honours its past while living in the present and looking to the future, then I don’t know what it is. But what’s this third point about Ireland being a cold place for professional sailing? Here again, the assembly in the RCSI was very representative of our Irish sailing population. For sure, there are some very distinguished Irish professional sailors, and there are certainly Irish owners who are prepared to pay the top talents to sail with them. But there’s something about the Irish sailing scene which is inimical to such a setup at home. By all means do it where the weather’s usually benign, and there’s lots of money floating around. But in the Irish climate you sometimes have to be so keen to go sailing despite hostile weather that you just have to rely on nutty amateur crew - the professionals know there’s much better and more reliable pickings elsewhere.

Thus we’ve come to the ironic situation that our top home-based professional sailors are actually our Olympic hopefuls. It’s extraordinary when you think that the modern Olympics were “re-founded” in 1896 in order to celebrate amateur sport, yet now in Ireland just about the only home-based sailors who can be said to be professional are the Olympic aspirants. And if they haven’t accepted that they need a professional approach, then they’re not really at the races at all.

Thus although the friendly Olympian presence of Annalise Murphy, James Espey and Saskia Tidey was much to be welcomed in the very representative throng, generally anyone who was there with any sort of a professional interest in sailing had it as part of a larger business in which actually going sailing is only a small part of the total setup.

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Paralympic sailors Ian Costello and John Twomey

Admittedly we did have one Olympian who received an award, John Twomey who took the title in December for his qualification for the Paralympics in September 2016. And he came with added laurels, as on the very day of the ceremony, it had been announced that he and his crew of Ian Costello and Austin O’Carroll had moved up to fifth in the World Rankings. But if you suggested to John Twomey – headed for his 11th Olympiad – that he’s a professional sailor, he’d be convulsed in mirth. Real life is related to an accountancy practice in Kinsale.

So the only other monthly awardee who could remotely be said to be a professional sailor was August winner Ronan O Siochru. who skippered the winning Irish Offshore Sailing boat Desert Star to victory in the 33-strong Sailing Schools Division in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2015. But he’s very definitely running a business - and a very demanding one at that – in which going sailing is only part of it.

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Ronan O Siochru with the President

Thus what Thursday’s ceremony was all about was voluntarism and amateur sport, and in case anybody missed the point, it was supposed to be a bit of fun. In this spirit, the greatest trophy in Irish sailing, the might salver for the Helmsman’s Championship, was given an outing. The All Ireland Helmsman’s Championship being an amateurs-only affair, as it is held over an October weekend, inevitably by the time its award ceremony for the salver is shaping up it’s well into Sunday evening. It’s getting dark, and everyone’s tired and wants to go home. So inevitably the handing-over of the historic trophy is a downbeat and somewhat rushed affair.

But as the ISA Annual Awards ceremony is all about handing over prizes with as much ceremony as possible, it was arranged for the salver – which had been hurriedly handed over to successful defender Anthony O’Leary in Dun Laoghaire back in October – to be smuggled out of the O’Leary household down in Crosshaven, secretly taken to Dublin, hidden away in the College of Surgeons, and then formally presented as a surprise extra to the great man after he’d received his Sailor of the Month award for April. He blushed.

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Got him! Sailor of the Year 2014 Anthony O’Leary unavoidably missed last year’s awards ceremony, and then in 2015, although though he was Sailor of the Month for April, there were very few people around in October when he successfully defended the Helmsmans Championship Salver. So it was taken secretly to this week’s ceremony, where more than 180 people cheered him to the rafters.

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ISA Youth Champions 2015 are Colin O’Sullivan and Doug Elmes, Bronze Medallists in the 420 Worlds.

Before all this, we’d been setting the scene with the ISA Youth Sailors of the Year, who were 420 Worlds Bronze Medallists Douglas Elmes and Colin O’Sullivan, and the ISA Training Centre of the Year, which was Mullingar Sailing Club from Westmeath which headed the Western Region, and overall came in ahead of Foynes YC from the Southern Region and the Royal Irish YC from the Eastern Region.

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Katie Johnston of Mullingar Sailing Club with David Lovegrove when MSC was announced as ISA Training Centre 2015.

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The new Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year is the Royal Irish YC – Commodore James Horan with Billy Riordan of Mitsubishi Motors and David Lovegrove.

But for the RIYC Commodore James Horan, the good news was only beginning, as his club was then announced as the new Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year for a host of excellent reasons. We’ll list them in more detail here on Afloat.ie in due course when the traditional handing-over ceremony for the old ship’s wheel trophy is held in the RIYC clubhouse later in the Spring. But meanwhile on Thursday we saw ample reason for it, as two of the Sailor of the Month awards went to very active RIYC members, George Sisk and Tim Goodbody.

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July Sailor of the Month George Sisk with the ISA President

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Dun Laoghaire Regatta Week 2015 Chairman, Fastnet Race 1987 overall winner, and multiple champion Tim Goodbody was Sailor of the Month in November

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Youngest cruising award winner was Fergus Ogden, who in June and July sailed round Ireland with his brother in an open Drascombe Lugger.

Then came the Sailor of the Year announcement. Anyone who was following the voting in the Afloat.ie poll will know it was running very close. But as the poll results are only a quarter of the adjudication process, it was just a couple of days ahead of the awards ceremony when the judges finally made their decision. They came down in favour of Liam Shanahan both for his wonderful and very sporting victory in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race with his family’s J/109 Ruth, and his subsequent success in retaining the Irish Sea Annual Championship title.

His modest acceptance speech was, in effect, a manifesto on behalf of all Irish amateur sailors, and particularly family sailors. The Shanahans are one remarkable sailing tribe right through three generations. And as for that win in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race – well, it was beautiful sailing. Some sailing races are won by brutal slugging. Some are won by sheer cunning. Some inshore races are even won by dirty sailing, and it’s within the rules even if it does the image of our sport no good at all. But some race wins are simply beautiful sailing. And Ruth’s success in Dingle was definitely in that category.

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After receiving his award, Liam Shanahan briefly but eloquently outlines his philosophy of sailing

So the ceremony on Thursday concluded with this celebration of the best in Irish sailing, and it chimed well with the mood of the moment and the location, as the current President of the RCSI is Declan Magee who sails from Dun Laoghaire, and he was most welcome at the party and naturally thanked for the use of the hall……

Then as we exited the College Hall, the first doorway we passed was the Sir Thomas Myles Room. He was RCSI President 1900-1902, a wonderful surgeon and a man of prodigious energy who boxed to championship level, and adored sailing. A Home Ruler of Limerick origins. he made his auxiliary ketch Chotah available to take the guns off Conor O’Brien’s Kelpie during the Asgard gun-running of 1914, and landed them in Kilcoole in County Wicklow. And though he was immediately made a Colonel and head of British army surgical services in Ireland on the outbreak of the Great War of 1914-18, he also saw to it that hidden rooms in the major Dublin hospitals under his control were available to treat wounded rebels, indeed anyone who was wounded, during the Rising of 1916.

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Builders of the future – the team from Mullingar Sailing Club, ISA Training centre 2015

More recently, a leading sailing figure with links to sailing is Michael O’Rahilly who, when he became a student at RCSI at the end of the 2950s, found that the RCSI Sailing Club consisted of just one neglected Firefly dinghy. By the time he graduated in 1963, he was Club Captain, RCSISC had three Fireflies in top racing condition, and they were the Irish university champions.

Subsequently he went in to play a leading role in Dublin Bay SC, and was the Commodore for the DBSC Centenary in 1984. He follows in a notable RCSI tradition of sailing and working voluntarily for our sport, as an earlier top sailor in the college had been Jimmy Mooney who played a key role in the development of Irish dinghy sailing, and then went on to be our top Dragon sailor for many years, winning the Edinburgh Cup and representing Ireland in the Olympics.

Before Jimmy Mooney another noted character in the RCSI sailing scene was Rory O’Hanlon, who became a noted figure in offshore racing – he won a cup in the 1971 Fastnet Race – and was further renowned for his long distance cruising exploits.

He was noted as a kindly mentor to young cruising hopefuls, gently giving encouragement which could make all the difference to a nervous skipper. One such beginner, who later went on to great achievements, nervously went to Rory O’Hanlon to ask how best he should approach his first major voyage, north towards the Arctic in a little 26-footer.

“Sure, you just keep on sailing, and you’ll get there” said Rory. “Just keep on sailing, that’s all there is to it”. Just keep on sailing. It’s sensible advice. It resonated round College Hall in the RCSI on Thursday afternoon. We should all heed it.

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“Just keep on sailing, and you’ll get there”. The late Rory O’Hanlon at the helm of his S & S 43 Clarion with which he won the Philip Whitehead Cup in the 1971 Fastnet Race, and also cruised on long voyages. While a student at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, he was active in the sailing club.

See also: Sailing Awards slideshow

Published in W M Nixon

During the Autumn it was quietly announced that Wicklow Sailing Club had secured longterm sponsorship from Volvo Cars Ireland to support the biennial Round Ireland Yacht Race. This week, the new relationship put its head formally above the parapet with a reception at Wicklow’s partnership club in Dun Laoghaire, the venerable Royal Irish. W M Nixon went along to test the waters.

Volvo Round Ireland Race”. There’s a harmonious sonority to it. Outside in the dark, it may have been the first really cold night of this winter. But within the elegant warmth of the world’s oldest complete purpose-designed yacht club building, people were enjoying the hospitality and savouring the new phrase as they rolled the freshly-minted title about their vocal cords, exploring its many rhetorical and operatic flourishes.

Okay, maybe we were all a bit over the top in the relieved realisation that the longest Christmas hiatus in living memory seemed at last to have drawn to a close. Whatever, this was real life again, bringing future prospects and sporting sailing challenges with the anticipation of summer right back to the top of the agenda, and not so much as a whiff of stale mulled wine about the place.

Officially, we can suppose that the new title is the “Volvo Cars Ireland Wicklow Round Ireland Yacht Race”. But the clearcut brand of Volvo Round Ireland Race is already so firmly embedded in sailing’s consciousness that you’d be on a hiding to nothing trying to promote the copyright-protecting legally-binding longer title. And with the obvious goodwill among the great and the good gathered in Irish sailing’s most gracious building, the shorter title just seemed so right.

The link with the Royal Irish began with the Round Ireland 2014, when it was felt that an alternative pre-race berthing option for the biggest boats at the Royal Irish YC’s unrivalled facilities within Dun Laoghaire marina would help to spread the load, for Wicklow Harbour can become very crowded in the lead-in to the start.

But in the end, you couldn’t help but notice in 2014 that it was switched-on owner-skippers like Brian O’Sullivan of Tralee Bay, with his 2013 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race winner, the Oyster 37 Amazing Grace, who seemed to get the most convenient advantage from the RIYC hospitality.

round ireland yacht race 2015 2The switched-on Kerryman…Brian O’Sullivan of Tralee Bay SC knew that his 2013 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle winner Amazing Grace would be most conveniently berthed at the RIYC in Dun Laoghaire in the lead-in to the Round Ireland Race 2014. Photo: W M Nixon

However, looking to this year’s race, there’s no doubt that the expected presence of serious international heavy metal such as George David’s Rambler 88 and the IMOCA 60 Artemis will see a greater call on the RIYC welcome.

And it was made clear by Commodore Jim Horan that the welcome will be there. For although it’s 21 nautical miles from Dun Laoghaire to Wicklow, the links of friendship between these two very different clubs are strong in their shared belief that a major race round Ireland every second year is absolutely central to our identity as a sailing nation.

round ireland yacht race 2015 3At the Volvo Round Ireland Race reception in the Royal Irish YC were (left to right) Adrian Yeates (MD, Volvo Cars Ireland), Theo Phelan (Race Organiser), Andrew Doyle TD, and James Horan (Commodore RIYC). Photo: Ann Egan

round ireland yacht race 2015 4The morning of the start in Wicklow, June 20th 2014, with the RIYC and the Wicklow SC flags flying together. Photo: W M Nixon

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George David’s Rambler 88 was the first of the international entries to declare a formal interest in the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016

This is a view which has been taken on board by Adrian Yeates, MD of Volvo Cars Ireland. He is already well accustomed to dealing with Irish sailing administrators at the top level, for Volvo sponsor both the Dun Laoghaire Regatta and Cork Week, as his brand has found it makes for a very neat yet dynamic fit with sailing. But taking on the Round Ireland Race is something a little bit different.

There may well be the powerful image already projected by the Volvo Ocean Race round the world to add an extra and invigorating dimension. Nevertheless the Round Ireland setup was a difficult proposition to assess, with this biennial 704-mile challenge being the pillar event – indeed, almost the raison d’etre - of a small local sailing club in a little port which has much of the country town about it.

Or at least, it was difficult to assess until the shrewd Wicklow folk persuaded Adrian Yeates to come to Wicklow to the club reception on the morning of the race on Saturday June 18th 2014. You would need a heart of frozen stone not to be caught up in the special mood of the colourful yet nervy carnival which is Wickow Harbour on race morning, and Adrian Yeates is far from stony-hearted.

So as a result, there we were in the RIYC with such luminaries as Nobby Reilly, Commodore of ICRA, Peter Ryan, Chairman of ISORA, Wicklow Dail representative Andrew Doyle TD, and Harry Hermon, CEO of the ISA, to see the seal being set on a welcome new linkup which is in for the long haul.

While Greystones, Dublin Bay and Howth sailing were well represented, the Wicklow men and women were there in strength - staging the Round Ireland Race is now part of their DNA. Their Commodore Hal Fitzgerald led a talented contingent which included Race Chairman Peter Shearer together with the man with whom the buck stops, Race Organiser Theo Whelan.

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Wicklow SC Commodore Hal Fitzgerald and Race Organiser Theo Phelan. Photo: Ann Egan

Although entries don’t officially open online until this Monday, 18th January, Theo was able to give us a hint of some of the boats they are already expecting, while revealing plans for new prizes and extra classes.

At the top end of the spectacularity scale, the introduction of a multi-hull division will be getting attention, particularly as Ned Collier Williams has confirmed that international challengers Team Concise will be bringing three boats, headed by their MOD 70 trimaran, but with their two Open 40 monohulls there as well.

But for the Open classes, top contender for the time being is Philip Johnston’s Open 60 Artemis-Team Endeavour, whose crew will include Cork’s Figaro veteran David Kenefick. It will be very interesting to see how this specialised flying machine shapes up against the larger but more orthodox Rambler 88

However, for sailors who operate at a less rarefied height, perhaps the most interesting news is that there will now be a separate prize for Sailing School boats. Both of the Irish Offshore Sailing Jeanneau Sunfast 37s raced in the 2014 Round Ireland, and one of them got a podium place. But it was Ronan O Siochru’s overall victory in the 33-strong sailing schools division in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2015 – winning the Roger Justice Trophy – which hit the publicity target spot on, and the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 now provides a worthwhile project for serious offshore sailing schools.

round ireland yacht race 2015 7The two Sunfast 37s of Irish Offshore Sailing, seen here on the morning of the start in 2014, will be going again, but this time they’ll be racing for a Sailing Schools Trophy. Beyond them on the outer pier are two Open 40s which will also be returning in 2016. Photo: W M Nixon

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The Irish National Sailing School’s Prima 38 Lynx did a previous Round Ireland Race sailed by NUIG.

Thus both Irish Offshore Sailing’s boats are going again, but as well the word is that the Irish National Sailing School’s Prima 38 Lynx is being kitted out for proper racing in 2016 after spending 2015 as the school’s yachtmaster workhorse. And as this boat provided success for NUIG in a previous Round Ireland Race, there’s already a real race in the making before we know which sailing schools boats are coming from from Britain and France.

All these possible and probable entries are under the microscope before we have even begun to consider the huge number of “ordinary” club and offshore sailors who like to have at least one Round Ireland Race in their sailing CV, while for many it’s impossible to see an even-numbered year go past without giving some though to a serious campaign for the Round Ireland.

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A well-presented boat – Richard Harris’s Sydney 36 Tanit heads out for the start of the Round Ireland Race 2014, which she won overall by seven minutes from the Shanahan family’s J/109 Ruth. Photo: W M Nixon

Included among these will of course be the Shanahan family of the National YC whose J/109 Ruth missed the overall win in 2014 by just seven minutes to Richard Harris’s Sydney 36 Tanit from Scotland. And with the J/109s undergoing a further increase in fleet numbers in their natural home of Dublin Bay, it could well be that, as it was with the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race last year, there’ll be enough J/109s to constitute a class within themselves.

Certainly J Boats have a good record in the round Ireland story, with both Peter Wilson of Howth and Michael Boyd of RIYC winning overall in their J/35s. The latter – now Commodore of the RORC – did it with Big Ears in 1996, and he plans to compete again this June twenty years down the line with as many of his 1996 crew as can be persuaded aboard, but it will be with a boat at least slightly larger than a J/35.

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Game On! Immediately after the start of 2014 race, the Volvo 70 Monster Project (on charter to David Ryan of Wicklow SC) comes powering through the fleet: Photo: W M Nixon

Doubtless as ever there will also be a strong contingent from the Cork Harbour and Kinsale fleets too, for although the Round Ireland race was inaugurated in 1980, it was the arrival of Denis Doyle from Crosshaven to participate with the new Frers 51 Moonduster in 1982 which set the stage for the Round Ireland Race becoming central to Irish sailing.

Entry numbers have waxed and waned since, with the peak being reached in 1990 with 61 starters, though the greatest number of finishers was 54 in 1994. Through the grim years of the recent recession, the Wicklow enthusiasm kept the show on the road, but for the last three stagings of the Round Ireland, the entries have flatlined at 39 boats – it’s quite a good show in the circumstances, but there’s room for more.

With the new mood of optimism and enterprise, and an ideal new sponsorship setup, we can expect to see numbers rising again. However, for those who had acquired a taste for the traditional setup with the widespread finishing times being accommodated by holding the prize-giving at a gala dinner in Wicklow in the Autumn, be aware that Theo Phelan and his team are now thinking in terms of scheduling the prize-giving within the week of the race, staging it on the night of Friday June 24th. It will certainly add some extra excitement to see if all the results can be done and dusted in time……

round ireland yacht race 2015 11The Volvo Round Ireland Race includes a two-handed division, which in 2014 was won by father-and-son duo Derek and Conor Dillon of Foynes YC with their Dehler 34 Big Deal, one of the smallest boats in the fleet. Photo WSC

Published in W M Nixon

After the success of last year's match racing nationals in Howth Yacht Club last December, organisers say the 2015 event is set to be an exciting event for both competitors and spectators. With the event being hosted by the Royal Irish Yacht Club and the championship due to take place within Dun Laoghaire Harbour, the west and east piers will provide viewing of the close, fast paced racing.

Organisers are currently inviting helms and their teams to email in for an invitation request by the 9th of this month. The top 10 skippers will then be invited to enter.

The NOR has been published and can be downloaded below.

 

Published in Match Racing

Following the fun we had with our new  at Dun Laoghaire Regatta we wanted to race Checkmate XVI in a one-design fleet, so took the decision to ship her to the United States where the class is developing quickly writes Nigel Biggs. With the help of our friends at Hyland Shipping, the boat was shipped to the port of Baltimore and then transported by road to Annapolis where she arrived safely at Bert Jabin’s Yacht Yard on the shores of the stunning Chesapeake Bay.

The guys and girls at Jabin’s were extremely helpful and Checkmate was soon rigged, afloat and awaiting the arrival of the crew which included young Irish sailors Cian Guilfoyle (recent All Ireland winner) and Adam Hyland together with Dublin resident Jimmy Houston and myself (Nigel Biggs) from the Royal Irish Yacht Club.

We arrived a day early, hoping to get some practice in before the racing began, only to find that most of the boats had the same idea so we had a full day of straight line tuning in a steady southerly breeze of around 10 knots, with a couple of short practice races thrown in at the end. It soon became apparent that the boats were extremely evenly matched and that results would be decided by good starts and going the right way, proper one-design racing.

The first race of the Annapolis Fall Regatta was to be 24 miles around the Chesapeake Bay, which included a scoring gate and a points weighting for the second part of the race. Just in case it wasn’t going to be tricky enough finding our way around, the course description referred to passing “through one of the 3 highest spans of the William Preston Lane Jr Memorial Bridge”. Try working out which of the 20 or more spans are the highest from sea level. Add in 15 knots of breeze, lots of commercial ships (both moving and anchored) a downwind start and we felt we had a bit on but at least the sun was shining!

An average start saw us hoist the spinnaker and head off across Chesapeake Bay in cloud of spray, in hot pursuit of the leaders. With everyone struggling to lay the first mark spinnakers were dropped early and we rounded in 2nd . The next leg was an 8 mile beat, against the tide, under the bridge. Maintaining our position in the leading bunch things were looking good until quarter of a mile from the windward mark (and scoring gate) when we found our own little hole and watched the rest of the leading group sail around us, just as happens in Dublin Bay although this fact didn’t help us feel any better about it. We continued around the course in a gradually decreasing breeze, only managing to pick off one boat before the finish where we crossed 5th. A frustrating start but as we kept reminding ourselves, better than being at home in the rain.

The evening’s entertainment included a party launch trip around the bay (courtesy of one of the competing boats owners) which was enjoyed by all, followed by food at a local bar. After a few beers we had soon forgotten our disappointments of the race course and set about doing what we do best, making new friends.

Day 2 began with a shifty 10 knot northerly breeze and warm sunshine, tricky conditions for the 3 planned windward/leeward races. After our early (ish…) night we were keen to make up for the previous days results and started well with a 3rd in the first race of the day. Scoring 4,4 in the next 2 races we returned to the dock in 4th position overall, within reach of 3rd and reasonably satisfied with our days work. Conscious of the fact we were representing the Royal Irish, we considered it our duty to befriend more locals in our new favourite watering the hole, McGarveys Irish Bar, where we sank a few pints and failed miserably to follow the rules of the American Football match being shown on the TV screens. Being fellow athletes, we decided another early night was required, or maybe the time difference was having an effect.

The finally day dawned with more breeze, rain and a lumpy sea so we felt right at home! Unfortunately our early night didn’t seem to have the desired effect and we only managed 5,7 in the days two races, leaving us in 4th overall. On the long motor back to the boatyard the skies cleared and the sun came out, making de-rigging the boat far more pleasant that it would otherwise have been. We attended the prize-giving at the lovely Eastport Yacht Club and after a couple of beers with our new American friends (who’s names really do include Chuck, Randy and Clay) we took the short journey back to Baltimore airport for the return flight home.

We had a fantastic time in our first C&C 30 One-Design event, learnt a huge amount, made new friends (mainly) and are very much looking forward to the next event at Key West in January. Checkmate XVI is now packed up on her trailer ready for the 1200 mile road trip to get her there whilst we are all back at work struggling with jet lag.

I would like to thank everyone who sailed on the boat and all those who helped us along the way and made us feel so welcome, particular thanks going to Clay Deutsch and his team on Just A Friend together with all the staff at Jabin’s Yacht Yard and North Sails whose support was invaluable.

Published in Racing

The top Irish Squib at July's British Isles Championships in Howth has won the 11-boat Squib Irish East Coast Championships at the Royal Irish Yacht Club at the weekend. Afficionado sailed by John Driscoll and David Cagney of the Royal North Ireland Yacht Club beat club–mates Gordon Patterson and Ross Nolan. Third in the five race, one discard series was Royal St. George's Jill Fleming and Conor O'Leary. Full results downloadable below. 

 

Published in Squib

After three days of typically tricky Dublin Bay conditions, the Dun Laoghaire crew aboard Sin Bin (IRL 3544) – Michael O’Connor, Owen Laverty and Kevin Johnson - were deservedly crowned the 2015 Irish SB20 National Champions writes Ted Laverty.

Hosted by the Royal Irish Yacht Club and under the experienced race management of Jack Roy, racing commenced at lunchtime on Friday in 15+ knots of breeze. 20 boats made it to the start line in what was a highly competitive fleet with multiple Olympians (past and present) and former all-Ireland helmsmen winners in attendance.

sb20 champions

The 2015 SB20 Irish National Champions – Kevin Johnson, James Horan, Commodore of the RIYC, children Peter and Olivia O’Connor, Michael O'Connor, Owen Laverty and outgoing SB20 class president Justin Burke

Race 1 was won by the returning SB20 veterans in Martin Reilly Motors (Colin Galavan / Chris Arrowsmith / Rory Byrne), beating the top ranked SB of the 2014 season Corona Extra (Graham Grant / Ronan Dowling / Katy Kelly) into second place, with the crew of Sharkbait (Darren Martin / Simon Murray / Roger Parnell) coming in third. After the first race it was apparent that it was a ’streaky’ Dublin bay day, with localised pockets of breeze enabling the most alert crews to climb up the leaderboard.

Race 2 was won by former Olympian Peter Kennedy with Stevie Kane and Emmet Ryan aboard Ridgefence. The eventual champions on Sin Bin came in 2nd, with Espey 3 – a boat containing no fewer than 2 Olympians on board (Rob Espey / James Espey /Steve Milne) crossing the line into 3rd.

Race 3 concluded the day with Espey 3 climbing up to 1st place, local boat Animal Origami (Marty O’ Leary / Chris Chapman / Neil O’Hagan) scoring 2nd in their first event together and Ridgefence following up in 3rd. Some very tired crews sailed back in for light refreshments and craic in the RIYC. Things were tight at the top with Espey 3 and Sin Bin both on 12 points, so there was plenty to discuss!

Weather conditions on day 2 were lighter than the previous day but there was still just enough wind to get boats planing downwind and make the racing exciting. However, the flooding tide was to make starting conditions challenging for the fleet and the ever patient race management team in the Northerly breeze, with the latter tasked with running 4 back-to-back races on the day.

The crew of Espey 3 put the pressure on early, winning Race 4 from the reigning 2014 national champions on board Bad/Kilcullen (Stephan Hyde / Jerry Dowling /Jimmy Dowling) in 2nd and with Lia (Dave Barry / John Malone / Bob Allen) coming in 3rd. Race 5 was a local affair at the very top, won by RIYC boat Venuesworld.com (Ger Dempsey/Chris Nolan/Blair Stanway/Graham Barker) who lead from the start over 2nd place Bango (James Gorman / Ted Laverty / Keith Staunton) with Ridgefence coming in 3rd. Race 6 was then won by the crew of Sharkbait, with Sin Bin re-establishing their credentials with a fine 2nd place and the crew of Espey 3 maintaining their claim for the championship with a hard fought 3rd place. The final race of the day was won once again by Sharkbait – who were now worrying some the event favourites – with Venuesworld.com nailing 2nd and Ruby Blue (Aidan O’Connell / Kieran Dorgan / Ben O’Donoghue ) following closely in 3rd.

A long day and a deserved evening of relaxation (after the formality of the class AGM, but more on that at a later date) with a sit down dinner in the RIYC. The dinner was extremely well attended, with a few bottles of wine consumed along with some great craic. The class is fast gaining a reputation for its competitiveness on the water and the warmth of its apres-sailing to one and all.

The final day. 2 races and places up for grabs. With just a couple of points separating the 2 leaders – Sin Bin and Espey 3 – nothing could be taken for granted. The forecast was for extremely light conditions and it didn’t disappoint with Jack Roy working hard to get the full quota of races in.

Race 8 saw the fleet split evenly on the downwind leg, with the wind filling in from the left side of the course leaving anyone on the right hand side floundering. Sin Bin, who had proven to be highly consistent all event, came out trumps on this leg with Espey 3 having chosen the wrong side. Sin Bin never lost the lead and won the race handsomely with Espey 3 coming in 4th. Bad/Kilcullen crossed in 2nd, with Animal Origami in 3rd.

The final race, and Sin Bins’ to lose. You already know they didn’t! Sharkbait topped off a strong second half to their event with another race win, with Ridgefence claiming 2nd and the new class presidents boat Seriously Bonkers x 3 ( Martin Cuppage/ Peter Lee (President)/Rory Groves) coming in 3rd.

The crew of Sin Bin won from Espey 3 by 4 points in the end, with the crew of Ruby Blue climbing up to 3rd place on the back of highly consistent scoring after an OCS in race 1.

All in all a fantastic event, expertly run by Jack Roy and team, in a superb venue in the RIYC. The new SB20 Association Committee have a lot to live up to. A word also to our event sponsors – Dubarry, Venuesworld.com and Dinghy Supplies whose continued support was greatly appreciated. 

Published in SB20

#dlregatta – As well as winning the 'Volvo Boat of the week award' with George Sisk's offshore performance in Wow, the Royal Irish Yacht Club topped the leaderboard of Dun Laoghaire's waterfront clubs with eight wins across IRC and one designs at yesterday's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta. The club took wins in IRC One, IRC Four, J109, White Sails Two, Dragon, Beneteau 21 and Mermaid. Significantly, the RIYC won two of three national Championships being sailed as part of the extensive 29 class regatta programme. ICRA divison one champion, John Maybury's Joker II came from behind yesterday afternoon to win the J109 Irish title after a battle with Howth Yacht Storm in an 11-boat fleet. Séamus Storan's Capilano of the RIYC overhauled a Scottish entry to win in a 13-boat Beneteau 21 fleet.

As well as boat of the week, the Royal Irish also won VDLR's 'Best Overall IRC Yacht' with an impressive performance by club–quarter tonner Cri–Cri skippered by Paul Colton in IRC four. Paul O'Higgin's Rockabill V took the final advantage yesterday to take IRC one from overnight leader Tony Fox's A35 Gringo of the National Yacht Club who suffered from a premature start.

Neighbours at the Royal St. George YC were not far behind in the winning stakes. The George won in seven classes of the one design divisions from Beneteau 31.7 keelboats to GP14 dinghies. The National Yacht Club had five class victories; White Sails one, Flying Fifteen, SB20, Shipman and Moth.

The event that is organised by all four Dun Laoghaire waterfront clubs is being hailed a huge success both afloat and ashore. Although 180 visiting boats, made up nearly half the fleet, yachts from outside the bay area took away only seven trophies. The bulk of the silverware – 17 titles – have stayed on Dun Laoghaire's waterfront.

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Published in Volvo Regatta

#dlregatta – With the Kinsale ICRA Nats/Sovereigns Trophy 2015 very successfully concluded last weekend, and a classic Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race put stylishly in place before that, the feeling of another sailing summer busily in progress is all-pervasive. But while the image projected may well be one of stately progress by the cruiser-racer fleets along the Irish coast, taking in an offshore race here and a regatta there with much leisurely cruising in between, the reality is usually otherwise. For those boats doing significant segments of the programme, it's a case of fitting chosen events into the usual hectic early summer life of work and family commitments and exams and everything else, with the re-location of boats to the next venue being a hurried task undertaken by delivery crews.

Next week sees the mid-season peak of the sailing summer, with the four day Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2015 in Dublin Bay from Thursday July 9th to Sunday July 12th. In a way it is an amalgamation of all that has has already occurred in this year's season, together with new elements to make it a unique sailfest which celebrates the fact that the citizens of Ireland's capital city and their guests can be conveniently sailing and racing within a very short distance of the heart of town. W M Nixon sets the scene

In the dozen or so years since its inception, the biennial Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta has settled itself firmly into the sailing scene as an exceptionally varied event in terms of the boats and classes taking part. There are five regular cruiser-racer classes, plus an offshore division, fourteen one design keelboat classes, and nine dinghy classes. And although there are contenders from Ireland's north coast and from the Cork area and south coast too, together with one gallant entry from Galway, it is essentially an Irish Sea Sailfest, though with a remarkably strong Scottish presence.

However, it was on the coast of Wales at 8.0pm last night that this sailing celebration began, with an ISORA Race starting in Holyhead and heading for Dun Laoghaire to set this large and complex programme into action towards a culmination on Dublin Bay in eight days time with the conclusion of VDLR2015.

2015 marks the Bicentennial of the Royal Dee YC, which was founded in 1815 on the Cheshire shores of the River Dee estuary where northwest England marches with northeast Wales. Originally the Dee Yacht Club (and founded, it's said, a month or two before the Royal Yacht Squadron came into being in the south of England, making the RDYC the second-oldest Royal yacht club in England after the Royal Thames), the Cheshire club became the Royal Dee YC in 1847.

Although the great prosperity of Liverpool in the 19th century saw the club's fleet of substantial yachts gathered in the Dee and then increasingly in the Mersey, by the late 1900s it was looking to the Menai Straits area as the focus of its keelboat events. As well, the completion of Holyhead breakwater in 1873 added a new and important harbour to its list of possible big boat sailing locations, and there was an increase in the number of cross-channel "matches" which the Royal Dee and the Royal Mersey, in conjunction with the Dublin Bay clubs, had already been running for some years.

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A Royal Alfred YC cross-channel match from Dublin Bay to Holyhead gets under way in 1888. Cross-channel links were strong in the latter half of the 19th Century, and with the new breakwater completed at Holyhead in 1873, a new venue was available both for the Irish clubs and those on the other side such as the Royal Dee and the Royal Mersey

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The bicentenary logo of the Royal Dee YC. In 1815, this club on the Cheshire coast was founded shortly before the Royal Yacht Squadron in the souh of England, whose Bicentennial is being celebrated at the end of July.

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Dun Laoghaire saw its first regatta staged in 1828, and participation by yachts from the northwest of England and North Wales was regularly recorded. This is the Royal St George YC regatta of 1871.

So when we say that the Royal Dee has always been a stalwart of offshore racing in the Irish Sea, we're not referring to a story spanning only the 20th and 21st Centuries. On the contrary, it goes well back into the 1800s. And now, with the revival of keelboat sailing in the Mersey with several of Liverpool's myriad docks being given over to recreational use, we have in a sense come full circle with enthusiastic Dublin Bay support of the Bicentennial celebrations reflecting sailing links which go back almost 200 years

The Lyver Trophy is the Royal Dee's premier offshore challenge, and this year it is special, as it's a fully-accredited RORC event counting for points in the annual championship, and a highlight of the ISORA Programme 2015. It's start scheduled for yesterday evening in Holyhead will see the fleet – mostly regular ISORA contenders – sail a course of at least a hundred miles before finishing in Dun Laoghaire. Then as VDLR 2015 gets under way, races in it, combined with the Lyver Trophy results, will count as part of a series towards finding an overall winner of the RDYC Bicentennial Trophy.

Only entrants in the Lyver Trophy race are eligible, and for that race itself – which can be followed on the Averycrest Yellowbrick Tracker - the favourite has to be the Shanahan family's J/109 Ruth, still buoyed up by her great victory in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race three weeks ago.

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Back in The Bay – the Shanahan family's J/109 Ruth will be back in her home waters of Dublin Bay after winning the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race and completing the Lyver Trophy Race from Holyhead which started last night. Photo: David O'Brien

At the other end of the size scale, the VDLR2015 Dublin Bay programme includes several dinghy classes, and the biggest fleet will be mustered by the International GP 14s, who have designated the racing in Dublin Bay as their Leinster Championship. In an interview with Sailing on Saturday in March, VDLR Chairman Tim Goodbody emphasised that, overall, the event should be seen as a regatta rather than a championship, and for most boats that's just what it will be. But the GP 14s with their great esprit de corps have always done things their own way, and with their compact boat size – albeit comprising a large fleet of dinghies – they reckon they can get in a proper championship while sharing in the fun of the event.

v6.jpgThe brothers John and Donal McGuinness of Moville Sailing Club in Donegal are expected to be among the pace-setters in the GP 14 class with their superb Alistair Duffin-built boat. Photo: W M Nixon

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The GP 14 Ulsters 2015 were recently won on Lough Erne by Shane MacCarthy & Damian Bracken of Greystones

As to who is favourite, the McGuinness brothers – Donal and John - from Moville in Donegal, with their top-of-the-line Duffin boat built in Northern Ireland, have to be in the reckoning after being top Irish at last year's Worlds on Strangford Lough, but there's fresh blood in the fleet with the newest class developing at Youghal, while this year's recent Ulster Championship on Lough Erne was won by the Greystones duo of Shane MacCarthy and Damian Bracken.

The dozen and more boats coming south from Scotland, most of them substantial cruiser-racers, are testimony to a growing trend in sailing on Europe's Atlantic seaboard. Given a choice of venues, your average yachtie on this long coastline will incline to head south if at all possible. Other things being equal, it's reckoned the further south you go the warmer it is likely to be. And from the upper reaches of the Firth of Clyde, there are times when Dublin Bay might seem like the distant and sunny Mediterranean.

Maybe so, but we'd caution that much depends on the moods and location of that all-powerful weather determinant, the northern Polar Jetstream. In July, so long as it's well clear of Ireland -whether to the north or the south - we will have glorious high summer, and that occurred for the previous VDLR back in 2013, where the photos speak for themselves.

So we hope for the best in looking forward to welcoming a fleet of around 415 boats to Dun Laoghaire between July 9th and 12th, with all four of our in-harbour yacht clubs extending the hand of hospitality in a regatta tradition that goes right back to 1828. But while heritage and ceremonial are all very well in their place, it's the prospect of good sport which energises the participants and their sailing, and with several major contests already logged in 2015, what can we expect on the leaderboards next week?

At the top of the tree, Class 0 has formidable competition, including former Scottish champion Jonathan Anderson racing his XP38i Roxstar against the Royal Cork's Conor Phelan with the Ker 37 Jump Juice, which was one of the best performers in last year's ICRA Nationals at the same venue, and this year again became a force to be reckoned with as the breeze sharpened in the four day Kinsale ICRA Nats 2015/Sovereigns Cup a week ago.

v8.jpgFreshly squeezed – her storming finish to last weekend's final race of the ICRA Nats/Sovereigns Cup at Kinsale makes Conor Phelan's Ker 37 Jump Juice one of the top contenders in the VDLR2015. Photo: David O'Brien

With a win in the final race, Jump Juice came in second to seasoned campaigner George Sisk's class overall winning Farr 42 WOW (RIYC), the pair of them in turn displacing the early leader, lightweight flyer Mills 36 Crazy Horse (ICRA Commodore Nobby Reilly & Alan Chambers, HYC) down to third in the final day's racing, so Crazy Horse will be hoping for a return of lighter breezes when racing starts next Thursday on Dublin Bay.

In the previous Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta in 2013, the most successful boat in was Nigel Biggs' much-modified Humphreys Half Tonner Checkmate XV, but this year the Biggs team is racing as Checkmate Sailing with the newest boat in the fleet, the Mark Mills-designed American-built C & C 30 OD Checkmate XVI. She may be only 30ft LOA, but she's such a hot piece of work with so many go-fast bells and whistles that she has a rating of 1.140 to put her in Class 0.

The oldest boat in the cruiser-racer fleets will be found in Class 3, where the 44ft Huff of Arklow is making an historic return to Dublin Bay racing. Originally built in 1951 by Jack Tyrrell of Arklow to a design by dinghy genius Uffa Fox, Huff is so-called because her concept is reckoned three-quarters Uffa Fox and one quarter Douglas Heard. The latter was the founding President of the Irish Dinghy Racing Association in 1946, and he later went onto to become Commodore of the Royal St George YC and a noted cruising and offshore racing enthusiast with this unusual boat, which is like a very enlarged Fying Fifteen with a lid – in fact, with her 30ft-plus waterline, she was described as a Flying Thirty. In recent years she has undergone a total restoration with Cremyll Keelboats near Plymouth in Devon, and Dominic Bridgeman of the Cremyll group will be racing her with trainee crews in her old home waters of Dublin Bay.

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The Flying Thirty Huff of Arklow racing off Dublin Bay while under Douglas Heard's ownership in the 1950s. Built by Tyrrell's of Arklow in 1951, the hugely innovative Huff has recently had a major restoration, and will be making her return to Dublin Bay to take part in VDLR2015.

Among the newer boats on the bay, the 2013 champion Checkmate XV is still very much in the picture, but now she's owned by Howth's Dave Cullen, and took second overall in class in the Kinsale series a week ago. In Dun Laoghaire next week, she's with other Half Tonners at the lower end of the Class 2 rating band on 0.944, almost 200 rating points below the new Biggs boat. Class 2 also includes the Division 3 winner at Kinsale, Richard Colwell & Ronan Cobbe's Corby 25 Fusion (HYC) which bested VDLR 205 Chairman's Sigma 33 White Mischief in a real duel after they went into the final day's racing equal on points, while another Kinsale success story in the Class 2 lineup is Paddy Kyne's X302 Maximus from Howth, overall winner of the Portcullis Trophy for top ECHO boat.

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Dave Cullen's modified Half Tonner Checkmate XV will be looking to take the top slot on Dublin Bay after being runner-up in Kinsale. Photo: David O'Brien

In between the two Checkmates on ratings, we find most of the cruiser-racer fleet, with Class 1 shaping up some interesting competition between the likes of Paul O'Higgins Corby 33 Rockabill (RIYC), Kenneth Rumball skippering the Irish National Sailing School's Reflex 38 Lynx, and two very sharp First 35s, Prima Luce (Burke, Lemass & Flynn, NYC & RIYC) and another former Scottish Series champion, John Corson (Clyde Cr C) with Salamander XXI.

This year's Scottish Series Champion and the Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Month" for May, Rob McConnell of Dunmore East, will certainly be racing in the VDLR 2015, but whether or not it's with his all-conquering A35 Fool's Gold (second in class at Kinsale) or aboard another boat (a Flying Fifteen) remains to be seen. And the Top Sailor Count doesn't end there, as there'll be at least four Olympic sailors involved in four different classes, with Robin Hennessy racing in what has all the marks of a quality International Dragon fleet against the likes of former Edinburgh Cup winner Martin Byrne, Annalise Murphy racing in the Moths which will surely be a change from the Water Wag which she raced with her mother Cathy MacAleavy (also another ex-Olympian) last time round, and Mark Mansfield helming John Maybury's J/109 Joker 2. After Joker 2's class overall win in Kinsale, we can expect a battle royal in the J/109s with boats of the calibre of Ruth for the National title fight.

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The Shipman 28s find that the sport and socializing which the VDLR guarantees will provide some of their best racing of the year. Photo: VDLR

The J/109s are the queens of an impressive array of One Design keelboats which includes Sigma 33s (where VDLR 2015 Chairman Tim Goodbody's White Mischief is racing under the command of Paul McCarthy), Beneteau First 31.7s, Shipman 28s having one of their best gatherings of the year, Ruffian 23s with a good turnout, the attractive First 21s which are steadily gaining traction as a Dublin Bay class, and best OD keelboat turnout of all is by the Flying Fifteens, nearly all of them under the NYC flag.

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Olympians all – in VDLR2013, Olympic sailors Cathy MacAleavey (1988) and her daughter Annalise Murphy (2012) raced the family Water Wag Mollie. But while Cathy will be sailing Mollie again this year, Annalise will be on her own racing a foiling International Moth.

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Newest of the oldest – Adam Winkelmann and Doug Smith's new French built Water Wag No.46, Madameoiselle, has been launched in time for the regatta. Photo: Owen McNally

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The Howth 17s of 1898 vintage will be the oldest class racing. Photo: David Branigan

Veteran classes include the IDRA 14s from 1946, the Glens from 1945, the Howth 17s of 1898 which pre-date the 1902 Water Wags, and the 1932 Mermaids, the latter being in the interesting position of no longer having an official division in Dun Laoghaire, yet it's a Dun Laoghaire skipper, Jonathan O'Rourke of the National, who continues to dominate the class both at home and away.

With large fleet numbers afloat guaranteed, the shoreside programme is appropriately busy, with the official side of each day's racing concluded by the evening's daily prize-giving at one of the four waterfront clubs. But with so many sailors involved, there'll be action in all the clubs – and at other establishments in Dun Laoghaire - throughout the week. The scene is set, let the party begin at a venue which has been staging regattas since 1828.

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When the summer comes, the après sailing at the VDLR is world class. Photo: VDLR

Further reading:

Download the full entry list for Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2015 class by class below

Download the Sailing Instrcutions for Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2015 HERE

 

Published in W M Nixon
Page 5 of 12

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W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
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