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Displaying items by tag: Simon Coveney

#oceanwealth – Addressing the second 'Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth' Conference today, in Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork, Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine outlined new economic research that indicates the Government's blueprint for the marine which could deliver more than 29,000 additional jobs and an additional €2.7bn in economic growth by 2020. Downloasd speech below.

Minister Coveney said that "Ireland is now firmly on what I believe is an unstoppable journey of marine expansion. We are experiencing a significant period of 'blue growth' with a 9% increase in growth in Ireland's marine sector over the last five years and the ocean economy now valued at 1.3% of GDP. Today we are building on this progress with the publication of a development framework for the marine sector, coupled with the clear commitment from Government to introduce a marine spatial planning process for the country, which will underpin the achievement of these economic targets as the Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth strategy is implemented."

Ireland's Ocean Economy report and associated research on the downstream impacts of the marine, produced by the Socio Economic Marine Research Unit at the National University of Ireland states that if HOOW targets are met, 29,300 new jobs could be created by 2020, with 16,100 projected to come directly from the marine sector. An additional growth of €2.7bn in the wider economy is also expected.

The report also confirms the current value of the blue economy. In addition to the 18,400 individuals currently directly employed in our marine industries, a further 13,000 are employed indirectly across the wider economy, creating an additional €3.3bn in turnover. For every €100 turnover created from our ocean economy, a further €78 is created indirectly in other sectors.

The Minister encouraged members of the public to attend the Seafest 2015 open day on Saturday in Ringaskiddy "Members of the public will be able to access a state of the art stimulator that is used to train ships' captains and visit seafood cookery demonstrations. They will also be able to experience what it's like to be exposed to hurricane force winds through the BIM Beaufort Scale Hurricane Experience. There will be an extensive seafood fair and cookery demonstrations and multiple other activities on and off the water. This event is free of charge for every age group with lots of family activities planned."

The Conference included contributions from Minister Coveney, Alex White, T.D., Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Sean Sherlock, T.D., Minister for Research & Innovation; and Mr Paudie Coffey T.D., Minister of State at the Department of the Environment. Commissioner Karmenu Vella, Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries European Commission and Rt. Hon. Darin King, Minister of Business, Tourism, Culture in the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador also spoke at the Conference.

This second annual Conference which reviewed ongoing progress on implementation of the Government's Integrated Marine Plan (published in 2012) was attended by over 500 delegates from the public and private sector with an involvement in the marine sector.

In concluding his address, Minister Coveney said "I believe that the outlook for the sector is really exciting and the possibilities are endless. The challenge now is to make the marine sector a leading contributor to the Irish economy and to recognise the potential we have as an island nation to be a major player in the sector internationally."

Published in News Update

#haulbowline – The toxic site at Haulbowline in Cork Harbour looks set to be cleaned up following a Government decision to allocate a total budget for the island remediation project of €61m.

Commenting at the decision, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD said "I welcome the approval of this very significant €61m in funding to take a "whole of island" approach to the remediation of Haulbowline Island. We have already seen An Bord Pleanála and the EPA give approval for the remediation project and the completion of crucial work to repair the Haulbowline Island access Bridges. While analysis, testing, design and enabling works have been continuing we can now look forward to the core remediation work at Haulbowline Island including remediation of the East Tip, former steelworks factory site and south tip".

In 2011, As Afloat reported, Europe gave a deadline of three months to 'clean up' the site. Earlier this year, there was speculation the cleaned up site could be a future hub for international yachting

The Minister went on to say "The next phase of the project, following the agreement of my Cabinet colleagues, is the most complex phase to date and is expected to take approximately six months to complete, following the appointment of Consultants. This will lead to commencement of initial elements of the core remediation 'clean-up' phase on site, by late 2015. This work will intensify into 2016 and 2017 with significant progress towards completion of the project expected by late 2017. There will be significant construction activity on the island, it will bring substantial benefits to the local economy and transform the Island into a genuine national infrastructural asset. "

The Government approved a proposal to enable the clean-up of the East Tip on Haulbowline Island in 2011. Cork County Council is acting as agent of the Minister in the remediation of the site. Key milestones of the remediation project were the planning application for works on the East Tip, lodged with An Bord Pleanála in October 2013 and the waste licence application, submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency in November 2013. The approval of both planning and waste licence applications which involved complex and detailed preparatory work cleared the way for the completion of the project in the East Tip. Today the Government has agreed a total budget of €61m for the remediation of all areas of the island (East Tip, South Tip and former steelworks site) and not just the East Tip which is the focus of an ECJ judgement.

Haulbowline Island is located within Cork Harbour, between Cobh to the north and Ringaskiddy to the south. The East Tip contains approximately 650,000m3 of steelworks waste that was deposited on a sand spit over a 40 year period. The demolition of the former steelworks has also left a large site in the centre of the island that is unusable pending remediation. Access to the Island by road is from Ringaskiddy via bridges which transverse Rocky Island.

Published in Cork Harbour

#dunmoreeast – The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today announced details of a €6m dredging project, which his Department has awarded for works at Dunmore East Fishery Harbour Centre. The contract to complete the works was awarded to L&M Keating Ltd. following a competitive tendering process. It is anticipated that the works will commence next month and be substantially completed by the end of September.

Whether it is a suitable harbour for a marina has been the focus of some intense debate on Afloat.ie

On making the announcement the Minister said "I am delighted to be able to announce that the much needed dredging works in Dunmore East will commence shortly following the award of the contract. The Fishery Harbour Centre at Dunmore East is an important piece of infrastructure which is the bedrock of the local community and is integral to the Governments policy to further develop our fishing industry, the wider seafood sector and indeed other ancillary and marine leisure industries."
Years of siltation in the harbour has restricted vessel traffic and made manoeuvrability and fish landings problematic for fishermen. This maintenance dredging operation will cover the harbour area itself and the entrance channel to the Harbour basin. The Minister went on to say "Today's announcement is a further indication of this Governments commitment to the fishing industry in the South East. When complete, not only will the harbour be more accessible to larger vessels, landing times and vessel management will be much improved as will the availability of the syncrolift, which is required to raise vessels to facilitate their repair and maintenance."

The volume and value of fish landings into Dunmore East have increased significantly in recent years, and the size of fishing vessels using the harbour have also increased. Currently the siltation impedes their ability to operate efficiently, while making the syncrolift unusable.

Concluding the Minister said" This is the single largest capital investment in our Fishery Harbour Centres this year, and when complete, the Dunmore East Harbour will be well equipped to attract larger Irish and foreign fishing vessels, while also benefiting other commercial and leisure harbour users. It will complement the works carried out in 2013 and 2014 to create a new and enlarged slipway for marine leisure and fisheries users and also the newly opened harbour user's facilities in the ground floor of the Harbour management Building. Those works and the new €6m dredging contract announced today will improve the utilisation of the infrastructure in Dunmore East and will help to stimulate further economic development in the area with a spin off for local job creation"

Published in Coastal Notes

#moth – Stewart Hosford, the yacht racing industry executive who identifed Cork harbour's potential as a 'Global Yacht Racing Hub', has signed up a top Chinese Asset Management company as a sponsor of a high profile Moth regatta. 

At a press briefing held at the Royal Thames Yacht Club, London, ZhongJin, one of Shanghai's leading Asset Management companies, was announced as Primary Regatta Sponsor for the 2015 Shanghai International Regatta. The Shanghai International Regatta presented by ZhongJin, is the first professional sailing event to take place on the Huangpu River.

Hosford, who grew up in Cork and manages British solo sailor Alex Thomson, said last October he was in 'discussions' to see how he can support Minister Coveney's ambitions for Cork Harbour.

Hosford, Managing Director of 5 West Ltd, co-organiser of the Chinese regatta commented: "We are delighted to welcome ZhongJin as Primary Regatta Sponsor for the first Shanghai International Regatta. ZhongJin are a highly respected organization in Shanghai, so it is fantastic that they have given their support to our regatta."

Also announced was the line-up of sailors due to take part in the Moth Invitational section of the regatta. Leading international sailors, including Chris Rashley (GBR), Josh McKnight (Aus) and Kalle Costa (NED), will make up a fleet of 12 Moths competing on the Huangpu River.

Chris Rashley who has finished in the top 5 in the last two Moth World Championships is very excited to be making history in Shanghai: "I am very much looking forward to competing in the Shanghai International Regatta presented by ZhongJin. I have been privileged to sail in some amazing places in my career, so to be one of the first professional sailors to compete on the Huangpu River is a fantastic."

Previous America's Cup World Series syndicate, China Team, will represent China in a head to head Match Racing series in M2 Catamarans against Team GREAT Britain. Team GREAT Britain will race under the colors of The GREAT Britain Campaign, which works to showcase the very best of what Britain has to offer. At the Press Briefing, China Team was represented by Chinese Olympic Gold Medallist Xu Lijia and Team GREAT Britain was represented by British ocean racing star Alex Thomson, both of whom are Official Regatta Ambassadors. The crews for both teams will be announced in the coming weeks.

Published in Cork Harbour

#fisheries – Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD today welcomed the progress made at the international Blue Whiting Fisheries negotiations in Clonakilty.

The Minister said "I am pleased that serious efforts were made this week to resolve the contentious issue of how this important fish stock is shared between the various parties. The current sharing arrangement for this large fish stock, which is heavily fished to the north west of Ireland and Scotland in the springtime, has broken down .The European Union and other parties are looking for a fairer long term sharing arrangement of this valuable resource."

The Minister reported that at this week's negotiations "The European Commission made a strong case for an increased EU share, which would also mean an increase in Ireland's quota. It's unfortunate that a final agreement was not possible with our international partners in this fishery but substantial progress was made in the negotiations. I am hopeful that an equitable sharing arrangement can be found when the parties next meet."

Negotiations on international management of the very large North East Atlantic Blue Whiting fishery began last Tuesday and were hosted by Ireland on behalf of the European Union at the National Seafood Centre in Clonakilty, Co. Cork. Delegates from France, United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands Norway, Iceland, Faeroes Islands, as well as Ireland were in attendance.

The European Commission had requested that Ireland host the talks on behalf of the European Union at the National Seafood Centre. Fishing industry representatives were also present to monitor the negotiations. The Blue Whiting fishery is very important to Ireland and for 2015 the Irish quota is over 23,000 tonnes.

This quota is landed directly into Killybegs and is increasingly processed for human consumption in fish factories in Killybegs , who have pioneered the use of this resource for human consumption. In addition to the catch by the Irish fleet, vessels from Norway & the United Kingdom have landed over 32,000 tonnes of Blue Whiting into Killybegs this year, creating additional employment in the fish processing industry.

Published in Fishing

#mapping – The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD today joined with Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, and Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries in Brussels, along with Canada's Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea, to announce the first trans-Atlantic mapping survey to take place under the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance.

The Irish research vessel, RV Celtic Explorer will undertake a mapping expedition between St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada and Galway in Ireland in June of this year, as scientists from the Marine Institute, Ireland will be joined by a multi-national team made up of USA, Canadian and European ocean mapping experts. This is an important step following the agreement reached at Galway in May 2013 and is an example of scientific diplomacy in action.

Speaking from Brussels, Minister Coveney said "Information from the sea-floor is vital to the sustainable management of the Atlantic as well as to important industries such as fisheries, aquaculture and tourism. Ireland has developed a world-leading reputation for sea-bed mapping and is also very committed to the implementation of the Galway Statement and so I am delighted to put at the disposal of the team, Ireland' state-of the art research vessel-RV Celtic Explorer."

Commissioner Moedas stated "I am committed to harnessing the societal and economic value of our oceans, while protecting fragile marine ecosystems. Under Horizon 2020 we have invested just under €70 million to support the Galway Statement follow-up. The first calls delivered excellent project proposals involving international teams. I am glad that this investment is being leveraged to make our transatlantic vision a reality."

Commissioner Vella welcomed the announcement, stating. "One of the priorities of my mandate is Ocean Governance. Our wish is that the EU continues to be fully engaged on this subject. The sea-bed mapping expedition announced today illustrates the EU's capacity as a global leader and partner. The 'Celtic Explorer's' mission across the north Atlantic will be undertaken by crew from 'both sides of the pond'. This embodies the spirit of cooperation that we need in the field of Ocean Governance. Their work will help inform the mapping of the European seabed, which is set to be completed by 2020. I congratulate all those involved".

Welcoming the initiative, the Honourable Gail Shea, Canada's Minister of Fisheries and Oceans said "Canada recognizes the importance and complexity of Atlantic Ocean science. Our nations' cooperation is key to broadening our scientific understanding of the Atlantic Ocean and helping to ensure it remains healthy, resilient and productive. This is why our scientists are collaborating through the Galway Statement to pool resources, share expertise and advance our science goals."

The announcement was made at the European Commission hosted event, 'The Atlantic- Our Shared resource. Making the Vision Reality' which was a follow up to the May 2013 signing of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Research Cooperation between the EU, Canada and the United States of America.

This event is the launch pad for all the Galway Statement follow-up projects funded with the first Horizon 2020 Blue Growth calls - the main financial instrument on the EU side implementing the Galway Statement commitments.

With a view to translating commitments into investments, the European Commission has earmarked around € 70 million in calls under Horizon 2020, the EU Research and Innovation Programme for the period 2014-2015.

Background:
The Galway Statement – The Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance
In May 2013, an Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance between Canada, the European Union and the United States of America was launched in Galway, Ireland, with the high level signature of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation.
The goals are to join forces to better understand the North Atlantic Ocean and to promote the sustainable management of its resources. Together we can build a capacity to understand and predict major Atlantic and Arctic processes, as well as the changes and risks they carry in relation to human activities and climate change.

The Galway Statement contributes to the implementation of the EU's Atlantic Strategy and its related Atlantic Action Plan. The Action Plan considers responses to the challenges of delivering growth, reducing the carbon footprint, using the sea's natural resources sustainably, responding effectively to threats and emergencies and implementing an "ecosystem" management approach in Atlantic waters.

The lead on the side of the Commission for the Ocean Research Alliance lies with DG RTD – the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, in close coordination with DG MARE -the Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, which leads on the overall Atlantic Strategy.
Areas identified for cooperation under the agreement include:
· Ocean Stressors (e.g. ocean acidification)

· Aquaculture

· Interoperability and coordination of observing systems and infrastructures, including vessels

· Seabed and benthic habitat mapping

· Marine Microbial Ecology and

· Ocean Literacy

A series of regular Stakeholder Meetings to operationalise the Galway Statement started in Brussels in April and June 2014 with high level participation from Europe, US and Canada, bringing together a variety of existing networks already active on both sides of the Atlantic. Other Stakeholder Meetings were organised in 2014 in Washington D.C. and Ottawa. In December 2014 the first seabed mapping event took place in Dublin (Ireland), which was followed by another meeting in February 2015 in Brussels.

The Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance has been recognised as an example of how we can join efforts in research and innovation in the Joint Statement of the EU-US Summit on 26 March 2014, during President Obama's visit to Brussels. Also, the importance of this initiative was acknowledged in the EU-Canada Summit Declaration from September 2014, as a contribution to the strategic partnership in the field of research and innovation.
Since the signature of the Galway Statement, the expansion of this cooperation to the Southern part of the Atlantic, particularly towards Brazil and South Africa, has been evoked regularly. Brazilian and South African partners have been invited to several Atlantic Ocean Alliance events.

The event "The Atlantic – our Shared Resource: Making the Vision Reality" to launch research projects which constitute a clear follow-up of the Galway Statement and which were selected under the first Blue Growth call for proposals of Horizon 2020, takes place on 16-17 April 2015 in Brussels. Representatives from Brazil and South Africa are partners in some projects and will join representatives from Europe, the US and Canada in order to celebrate the translation of the political commitments taken in Galway into real investments which will boost the Atlantic Ocean Research Cooperation initiative.

Published in Marine Science

#cruiserracing – Can you successfully incorporate a full-blown National Championship into an established neighbourhood regatta? We're going to find out from June 24th to 27th, when the ICRA Nationals and the Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale are combined into one four day event, the result of the joint efforts of two sets of organisers and administrators. W M Nixon takes a look at how this situation has developed and discovers four of the top men in the marine and sailing scene have significantly different views as to how big regattas and the ICRA Nationals should be staged. 

The Irish Cruiser-Racer Association emerged from an attitude of complete realism about the contemporary sailing scene in 2002. Back then, the Irish economy was starting to develop a head of steam, and people were buying potent performance-cruisers which just begged to be raced offshore. Yet changing social attitudes meant that the traditional concept of an offshore racing crew being prepared to spend seven or eight long weekends away every summer campaigning the boat in classic offshore races simply wasn't acceptable in the new world of shared family responsibilities.

But the short-lived ideal of making classic offshore racing more family-friendly was also soon seen as unattainable except for those few extra special family crews – we can all think of one or two examples - whose very uniqueness in their shared enthusiasm for rugged offshore sailing day and night only serves to emphasise that what they like doing is simply not for the majority of sailing families.

For sure, we admire them without reservation. But we know that it won't float our family's boat. For although the totality of Irish "cruiser-racers" in 2002 included several out-and-out racing machines which were vigorously campaigned inshore and offshore, the reality is that most of the fleet were the sailing equivalent of those 4x4 SUVs which block up the parking in many a leafy and affluent suburb.

Usually, the most adventurous outing such vehicles will go on is the daily school run. There's no way their loving owners plan an aggressive demonstration of their pride-and-joys supposed off-road ability. But they do seem to find it reassuring to know that if for some reason they suddenly have to go across rough terrain, the vehicle can manage it even if the driver is scared stiff. And of course, in the unlikely event that a horse-box needs to be towed – well, no problem......

So, thirteen years ago as sailing's equivalent of the SUV began to take over marinas, two leading figures in sailing administration realised that, far from changing the new increasingly family-oriented way of doing things and forcing boats well capable of going offshore to do so even if their crews didn't particularly want to, what was needed instead was a new kind of event to suit the way that most people wanted to sail with their new performance cruisers.

The late Jim Donegan of Cork, Commodore of the South Coast Offshore Racing Association, was ocean racing aristocracy – his grandfather Harry owner-skippered the 18-ton cutter Gull to third place overall in the first Fastnet Race in 1925, and consequently became one of the founder members of the Ocean Racing Club which six years later in 1931 became the RORC, while Jim himself was to go on to win many an offshore contest.

Fintan Cairns of Dun Laoghaire has given generously of his energy and time over the years to sailing both as an active participant, a race officer, and an administrator – he was Commodore of Dublin Bay Sailing Club at a period of its healthiest expansion. Like Jim Donegan, in 2002 he was hugely enthusiastic about racing boats with lids, and he loved the offshore game. Yet in the Autumn of 2002, the two of them convened a national assembly in Kilkenny in order to form an organization whose primary aim would be to create the kind of event that would be attractive to the new generation of cruiser-racer owners, people whose boats could go offshore, but preferred the nice regatta atmosphere and home-to-port-at-the-end-of-the-day format.

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A nice regatta atmosphere, and back to port at the end of the day.....the racing in the ICRA Nationals 2014 at the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire neatly captures the purpose of the organisation as envisaged by the founders in 2002. Photo: David O'Brien

Thirty-one years earlier in 1971, the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association had been formed by enthusiasts like Hal Sisk of Dun Laoghaire and Dickie Richardson of Holyhead on the assumption that their new organisation should be related to an area of good and extensive racing water, and for a while it worked very well. At its peak, ISORA was attracting a total entry of 107 different boats from all arts and parts into their annual season-long championship in which – if you were intending to be a serious contender – you had to think of racing at least seven events.

That meant seven weekends which, in some cases, inevitably meant leaving your home port on the Thursday and maybe not getting back until Monday morning or even later. Fine and dandy in its day, but its day didn't last too long. Maybe fifteen years in all. By then, new attitudes to family life and a tendency to concentrate one's sailing on a few big events combined with other less time-consuming smaller local events, meant that the ISORA model was no longer valid.

Yet boat numbers in ports kept increasing, so the Irish Cruiser Racing Association came into being at that November meeting in Kilkenny in 2002 to provide Irish-based regattas which, in some cases, would involve trailing the smaller boats to distant venues still on the island of Ireland, instead of sailing them many miles to others ports across the channel.

For old salts, the idea of an offshore racing association based on a land mass, and the notion of road-trailing offshore racers across that land mass to a regatta, seemed absurd. But this was only the beginning of it. For unless there was an unexpected demand for it, the new ICRA programme had no plans to include any overnight sailing except where it involved the training up an Irish Commodore's Cup team, as this was soon within ICRA's ambit.

Basically, what it meant was that ICRA's purpose was to organize an annual national championship regatta of four days at one of Ireland's main sailing centres, chosen on a rotational basis, they would also honour a "Boat of the Year", and every second year they would assemble a Commodore's Cup team.

Far from owners being faced, as they were in the old days, with the challenging demands of preparing a boat for offshore racing and then assembling an experienced crew from a panel in which the ideal number would be twice the number required to crew the boat, instead they were now offered an agreeable pattern of day sailing at some pleasant venue, and much socialising with it, while the results were efficiently calculated by ICRA's travelling road show of race administrators and number crunchers.

Yet for anyone who thought this wasn't really quite rugged enough, there was ruggedness-by-association with the Commodore's Cup campaigns. And all this went particularly well as the Irish economy went stratospheric from 2002 until 2008, so much so that at one stage Ireland actually fielded three different Commodore's Cup teams which even had the luxury of competing against each other. There's posh for you......

But it was too good to last, and ironically the economy had already fallen off a cliff in 2010 when a very serious single team Irish Commodore's Cup campaign, carefully led by Anthony O'Leary, finally won the Commodore's Cup. Also during 2010, the ICRA Nationals in late May were hosted by the Royal St George YC in Dublin Bay, which provided immediate access to the largest fleet of cruiser-racers in Ireland. Thus numbers were easily kept up to a respectable level and in all – the brutal recession notwithstanding – it was a great year for ICRA, with the 2010 Commodore Barry Rose, who had also been the Commodore's Cup Team Manager, deservedly accepting the Mitsubishi Motors "Irish Sailing Club of the Year" award after this great season.

But inevitably, things were more subdued for the next three years as the longterm ill-effects of the recession took hold. So though ICRA Nats were held in Crosshaven in 2011, Howth in 2012, and Fenit on Tralee Bay in 2013, resources were so scarce that the decision was taken not to attempt a defence of the Commodore's Cup in 2012.

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The images which came back from the ICRA Nationals 2013 in Tralee Bay suggested good sailing, but for two days the stormy weather caused a complete shut-down. Photo: Bob Bateman

When one cornerstone is removed, others are examined in more detail. The 2013 ICRA Nationals in Tralee Bay had the misfortune to coincide with a period of very unsettled weather which emphasised the fact that many of the top boats had travelled a long way by both sea and land to this gallant outpost of the Irish offshore racing scene to link up with their WIORA counterparts. But although some spectacularly sunny photos of racing in strong winds and bright sunshine emerged, the reality is that they barely had two days of viable competition as the rest of the programme was blown out in utterly miserable storm conditions.

Coming as it did at a time when the economy was barely faltering back into life, this unlucky outcome led to it being open season for suggestions as to the way ahead. There were those who wondered if people's seemingly ever-decreasing sailing time might be better used if the ICRA Nationals were combined into some established events, pointing out that a natural annual rhythm was already there with the biennial Volvo Cork Week rotating with the biennial Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta to provide easy access for large local fleets.

When set against the all-Ireland idealism of the founders, this was anathema to many, as the stand-alone national event, with the effort made to go anywhere in Ireland where you could find substantial local cruiser-racer fleets, was seen by some as central to the ICRA ethos.

However, things were put on hold during 2014 with a well-supported if locally-emphasised ICRA Nationals hosted by the Royal Irish YC in Dublin Bay in June, and then in July there was a mighty victory in the Commodore's Cup 2014 in a wonderful effort built around quiet background work by team captain Anthony O'Leary.

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ICRA Nats 2014 in Dublin Bay saw a popular win in Class 0 for the Phelan family's Ker 36 Jump Juice from Crosshaven. Photo: David O'Brien

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Jonathan Skerritt's vintage Quarter Tonner Quest of the host club was overall winner of the ICRA Nats 2014 at the RIYC. Photo: David O'Brien

But meanwhile, faced with the reality of the recession in sailing, ICRA's senior number cruncher Denis Kiely had quietly been putting out feelers about the possibility of combining the 2015 ICRA Nationals with Kinsale YC's biennial Sovereigns Cup regatta, which has been trundling along since 1995. By the time the great 2014 season was fully under way, it was no secret that this arrangement for 2015 was already in place, thereby guaranteeing – it was hoped – a substantial increase in numbers in 2015 and better overall value for the sailing community, while at the same time taking the ICRA Nationals to another new venue.

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The perfect sailing in the 2013 Sovereign's Cup at Kinsale inspired ICRA officers to seek the link-up for the ICRA Nationals 2015 with the Sovereigns Cup 2015. Photo: Bob Bateman

At first glance, it seemed eminently sensible. But not everyone agreed. It was towards the end of an engaging interview with Commodore's Cup winner Anthony O'Leary at the end of July last summer in his beloved Royal Cork YC, just four days after he and his team had received the trophy on behalf of Ireland on the Royal Yacht Squadron lawns in Cowes, that I witnessed the first significant shot going across the bows of the good ship ICRA/Sovereigns of Kinsale.

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Team Captain Anthony O'Leary's veteran Ker 39 Antix hanging in there to stay ahead of a newer Ker 40 to lead Ireland to victory in the 2014 Commodore's Cup. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

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Someone whose considered opinion has to be taken seriously – Anthony O'Leary in thoughtful mood as he speaks at a reception to welcome the Commodore's Cup back to the Royal Cork YC. Photo: Bob Bateman

Anthony O'Leary was quite clear in his mind as to how the Irish cruiser-racing scene should go forward. And just as you should never get into a row with people who buy ink by the barrel, equally you wouldn't dream of openly disagreeing with someone who has just pulled Irish sailing out of the doldrums, so I just sat still and let this broadside roll over me.

"I think it's a mistake to incorporate the ICRA Nationals in the Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale....." he said bluntly. "The Sovereigns is one of my favourite regattas, but it's a friendly intimate business. While the town may have the infrastructure ashore, the marina is always crowded and I don't see how the kind of fleet they hope to attract will be comfortably accommodated there".

"Then too" he continued, "we already have two major alternating four day regattas in Dun Laoghaire and Cork Harbour. It's time to accept that sailing people are seeking to focus on fewer major events, and to give a more compact annual programme their best shot. So let's see how it would work if the ICRA Nationals simply rotated between Volvo Cork Week and the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta".

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Clean close racing at Volvo Cork Week 2014. There's a line of thought that reckons this regatta could comfortably incorporate the ICRA Nationals. Photo: Bob Bateman

You can see how, in the circumstances, this idea seemed vibrant and immediately attractive. But more recently in an interview with another equally renowned sailor, Tim Goodbody who is Chairman of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Committee 2015 there was something said which gave further pause for thought.

Tim Goodbody was totally clear in his own mind about the thinking behind the successful VDLR concept and its ability to provide viable racing for 31 different classes, and as he has helmed to victory both inshore and offshore to the highest levels, while also proving himself a master at designing courses for Dublin Bay, his views carry every bit as much weight as those of Anthony O'Leary.

"You have to remember it's a regatta, not a championship" said Goodbody. "Enjoyment of sport comes first, and the purity of fierce competition second. But of course we're going to provide the best possible starts. And the intention is to have those starts leading into the best possible courses in the conditions prevailing"

"Yet the way we see it, people should be racing just as soon as possible after leaving the harbour. There's nothing which impairs simple sailing enjoyment so much as having to wait around in a perfectly good but maybe fickle sailing breeze, hanging about in frustration while an overly-pernickety Race Officer dithers over setting the absolutely perfect start line".

In the context of the fun-filled suburban sailfest which is the VDLR, that's a perfectly reasonable approach. But is it a proper approach for something which aspires to call itself a National Championship? I rather doubt it, and there's no way the VDLR claims to be a national championship even if the numerous GP 14 Class are calling their enthusiastic participation in the VDLR 2015 the class's "Leinster Championship".

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Everyone getting in everyone else's way, but that's part of the fun. The laid-back approach of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta as seen at 2013's event. Photo VDLR

For, in terms of boat size, the GP 14s will be among the smaller craft taking part in the VDLR, and they can find their own space. However, if you were campaigning a large cruiser-racer in one of the ten IRC classes which have to share the waters of Dublin Bay with 21 other boat classes during VDLR, would you expect to have your part of the event designated as the ICRA Nationals? On the contrary, if you were seriously concerned about the overall good of Irish sailing, you'd probably rightly think this was a spurious claim for what is essentially a fun event.

We were still mulling over the deeper meaning of Tim Goodbody's words in relation to Anthony O'Leary's opinions when this week another big beast in the sailing sphere, Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney no less, also launched into the choppy waters to be met with by those who would hope to rationalise the sailing programme into fewer but bigger international-standard events.

As he was speaking aboard the Naval Service's LE Eithne in Dublin's River Liffey at a reception to boost this summer's joint ICRA Nationals/Sovereigns event in Kinsale, it will be no surprise to learn that he was strongly in favour of it, so perhaps he reckons – unlike Anthony O'Leary - that Kinsale can cope with a substantial influx of visiting boats.

"Two events like this combined at the same time in one venue give extra strength" he said. "I want to see sailing in Ireland become much more ambitious in combining resources to create events which will have true international standing. This is a sport we should be really good at, both in participation and in staging events of world stature. Combining medium-sized events and regattas into one much bigger event like this one in Kinsale is going to be for the long-term good of Irish sailing in particular, and Ireland in general. The planned event is now expected to generate at least €800,000 extra income for the Kinsale area during the regatta period, while there's continuing beneficial spinoff for this harbour town which has added significance as the southern terminal and start point for the Wild Atlantic Way".

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Norbert Reilly, Commodore of ICRA, with Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney at this week's reception aboard LE Eithne in Dublin to promote the combined ICRA Nats and Sovereigns Cup 2015 at Kinsale from 24th to 27th June. Photo: David Branigan

Doubtless we'll be getting spinoff of a different kind about these Ministerial views from the many people around the coast who work long and hard to keep alive those quirky little local regattas and special neighbourhood sailing and boating events which will never be major happenings of international stature, but are an essential part of the fabric of our many and varied maritime communities, and are deeply attractive for discerning visitor who shun crowds and seek out quiet enjoyment.

But as it is, aboard the Eithne we had yet another viewpoint to put into the cauldron of developing opinion, as the concluding speech was made by Nobby Reilly, current Commodore of ICRA. In a conversation with him before he made his speech, Nobby emphasised that the ICRA Nationals 2016 will be a stand-alone event once more, and he can be fairly certain about that, as the venue will be his own home port of Howth.

In the light of this, it should be remembered that in his blunt no-nonsense way, Nobby has done great work in encouraging newcomers into sailing. Earlier this week, I happened to be with some keen sailing folk from Wicklow including David Ryan – Farmer Ryan - whose remarkable Monster Project campaign of racing a Volvo 70 in Wicklow's Round Ireland Race 2014 had drawn on the efforts of Nobby Reilly and ICRA with their Let's Try Sailing campaign last May. This resulted in four wannabe sailors from remote parts of Ireland getting their first taste of the heavy metal with the Monster, and we'll see a film of it on RTE and other channels in due course, after the heroic task of cutting 147 hours of tape down to one hour has been completed.

But in the meantime, Nobby concluded the shipboard reception for this year's ICRA Nationals-with-the-Sovereigns-in-Kinsale with a spot of unexpected banter. "Maybe" says he, "maybe we should stop being concerned about trying to convince people that sailing is inexpensive. For we all know that, as it's a vehicle sport, there's bound to be basic expenditure over and above what you'd get with straightforward athletics and team sports. So maybe we should encourage people to get their kids to take up sailing on the grounds that if they come to like it, then there's no way they'll have the money to do drugs....."

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ICRA Commodore Nobby Reilly's positive response to the perceived costliness of sailing

Read also: 

Should Irish Cruiser Racing (ICRA) Championships Stand Alone? (July 2013)

The Commodores' Cup – How Ireland Won It & Where It Might Go From Here (August 2014)

Published in W M Nixon

#haulbowline – Marine minister Simon Coveney says there has been no final decision taken on an 'Ocean Yacht Racing Hub' within the Naval Service base at Haulbowline island in Cork Harbour.

In this morning's Irish Times newspaper, marine correspondent Lorna Siggins writes that a British yacht racing consultancy has met Government agencies as part of a 'grand plan' for haulbowline island, site of a former steelworks site. The plan for the yacht base was first mooted by British solo racer Alex Thomson when he called into to Cork Harbour for repairs last April before heading across the Atlantic Ocean.

As Afloat.ie reported last October, Thomson, together with his shore manager Stuart Hosford, a Cork native, returned to the harbour and gave a public lecture about his solo sailing success that also included comment about the potential to develop the harbour site. The visit was part of an 'Innovation Week' in Cork where Cork Institute of Technology, the Irish Naval Service and University College Cork promoted the first Imerc Innovation Week.

Interest in the Haulbowline site focuses on the substantial graving dock where large yachts measuring up to over 100–foot in length or more could be lifted in an out of the water in a deep water environment with convenient access to the Atlantic. 

Haulbowline has been making headlines for years because of cancer-causing residue, left over from the Irish Steel plant that once occupied the land. It has been confirmed that a cache of 500,000 tonnes of slag and toxic waste material were buried at the former steelworks. Afloat reported on the hot site in the harbour in 2011.

More in the Irish Times on the Yacht Hub story here.

Published in Cork Harbour

#woodenboat – Marine Minister Simon Coveney is confident that wooden boat building in Ireland is going to be revived writes Tom MacSweeney.

Traditional skills have been lost and there are fears that they will disappear forever, but the Minister sounds a confident note about preserving them on the current edition of my maritime programme, THIS ISLAND NATION.

"This project is going to reinvigorate wooden boat building in Ireland again. It is going to open a new chapter for us," he says. "Hopefully multiple ports around the country will be able to build projects like this in the future. We still have great skill sets of wooden boat building available to us in Ireland which we must not lose. It is projects like this that will keep them alive and encourage a new young generation."

I recorded Mr.Coveney at Liam Hegarty's boatyard at Oldcourt near Skibbereen where the Ilen, the last traditional sailing boat of its kind, is being restored. It is the boat which the legendary Conor O'Brien had built for the Falkland Islanders who so admired his previous vessel, Saoirse, when he sailed it into those islands during his round-the-world voyage in 1923-25. Liam Hegarty's yard at Oldcourt on a bend of the road from Skibbereen to Baltimore in West Cork is one of the few remaining that specialises in wooden boat building.

The Falklanders asked O'Brien, the first Irishman to sail a round-the-world voyage to emulate the boat on which he arrived in Port Stanley. He did as they asked, having the Ilen built in Baltimore, where Saoirse was also constructed. With two Cape Clear Islanders as crew, he sailed it to the Falklands in 1926 where it worked for 70 years until Limerickman, Gary McMahon, had it brought back to Ireland in 1997:

I was the only reporter on the quayside in Dublin when it was landed there from the deck of a cargo ship, looking every bit her age of 71 years at the time. So it was a great feeling to stand on her deck in Liam Hegarty's boatshed where the restoration work has been carried out, in conjunction with the AK Ilen boat building school, initiated by Gary McMahon, the driving force of the project Such a change from the condition in which I had seen her in the Dublin docks 18 years ago.

Gary McMahon, Liam Hegarty and Minister Coveney tell the story on the programme. Gary and Liam are both confident that Ilen will be back in the water, sailing once again. She may provide opportunities for effective sail training. Several sources have provided restoration funding. More is needed for a project which, as the Minister said, can restore Ireland's resource of traditional skills.

Also on the programme you can hear the story of a submarine which sank not once, but twice, which will make you wonder whether superstition about changing the names of boats is correct. And did you know that the Dubs beat the Kingdom ... Not in football, but fishing...?

You can hear more by listening to THIS ISLAND NATION above.

Published in Island Nation

#tallship – With St Patrick's Day almost upon us, the westward trek across the Atlantic in search of American benevolence and funding for worthy objectives can become a very crowded pilgrimage. Among those looking for meaningful support for their pet projects, there will likely be proponents of some sort of new Tall Ship to replace the much-mourned brigantine Asgard II, and the ketch Lord Rank, both of which foundered in 2008 to leave Ireland - north and south alike - bereft of national sail training vessels.

Since then, there have been re-groupings of those who support the admirable concept of sail training for young people. In all, there may be as many as five different bodies on the island of Ireland which now provide access to the international programme. Coiste an Asgard itself was wound up in 2011, but it was immediately re-born as the Dublin-headquartered Sail Training Ireland, the national authority which carries the imprimatur of Sail Training International, the global body which co-ordinates and regulates all sail training.

The other main organisation, often functioning in tandem with Sail Training Ireland, is the Atlantic Youth Trust. It has offices in both Dun Laoghaire and Belfast, and has as its primary objective the construction and commissioning – for all Ireland – of a Class A 40-metre three-masted barquentine. WM Nixon continues with the story.

When we carried a history and analysis of Ireland's involvement with the International Tall Ship and Sail Training movement on this site on January 17th, the immediate response was formidable, and in favour. It continues to register hits at a rate which shows that the maritime community in Ireland has a real wish to see our own proper tall ship.

To achieve this ambition, in terms of having a clearly outlined plan the Atlantic Youth Trust is way ahead. With leading personnel from many parts of Ireland on its high-powered board of Trustees and Directors, the concept - originally inspired by Enda O'Coineen and John Killeen of Galway – is already becoming very complete.

Executive Director Neil O'Hagan and other have researched globally in order to analyse the success of more than two dozen national sail training schemes, and they have concluded that the best model to learn from is the Spirit of Adventure Trust in New Zealand, which functions through training based around the barquentine Spirit of New Zealand, which at 45.2 metres in "sparred length" is steel built registering at 184 gross tons, and carries 40 trainees.

The funding concept on the capital outlay for building the new ship for Ireland will ultimately rely on a total of €15 million being put up jointly by the two governments in the interests of inter-community and cross-border co-operation. Although the current turmoil in the Northern Ireland political administration might temporarily impair the onward progress of the plan, it seems to have a certain inevitable momentum, and highly-regarded Netherlands-based Dykstra Naval Architects have been retained on the project, as have their associates at Damen Shipyards, who may supply the vessel in flatpack form for final construction in Ireland.

As to running costs, the AYT point out that it will come out of current spending, as the vessel by nature of its work will be able to tap into government funds for social welfare and other youth schemes.

Faced with such a juggernaut of ideas, energy, contacts at top government level, and sheer enthusiasm, it seems churlish to question the validity of what is, after all is said and done, a magnificent project. But there are many in Irish sailing in general and sail training in particular who are concerned about the thinking on which it is all based.

To begin with, while we all admire the maritime spirit of New Zealand, does it make sense to draw conclusions for Ireland from a successful scheme in what is essentially a very isolated island nation? Ireland may be an island nation, but it's clearly wide of the mark to describe us as isolated, and this is reflected in the pattern of tall ships visit. If just six tall ships turn up at one port in New Zealand, it's regarded as a major event. But if less than sixty tall ships turn up at this year's Tall Ships Festival in Belfast at the beginning of July, then it will be regarded as a non-event.

In other words, Spirit of New Zealand usually functions in relative isolation, so it is not sail training as we know it in Europe. In fact, she is more of a floating school cum boot camp which happens to set sails, and in order to keep her very numerous trainee complement of 40 busy, while cruising in New Zealand waters (which she does nearly all the time), she is escorted by a large rib which frequently conveys the trainees ashore for land-bound ventures which sometimes out-balance their sea time.

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Alone, all alone.....the Spirit of New Zealand in a remote inlet on New Zealand's South Island. With forty trainees and a relatively easily-handled rig, she has a programme whch includes much shoreside activity. Photo courtesy STI

It's a very attractive programme in the New Zealand context, as they have many remote coastal areas which are virtually uninhabited and ripe for shore adventures which will not conflict with the rights of local inhabitants. But in Ireland and much of Europe such a programme would immediately meet problems, and for Ireland it makes more sense to follow the European pattern which puts an almost total emphasis on voyaging and sail training races.

Were a heavily-crewed vessel such as Spirit of New Zealand to do the European programme, there simply wouldn't be enough work for the 20 trainees on each watch to keep them happily occupied for long periods. Ideally, trainee tall ships are extremely labour-intensive for all hands, and in Europe that's the way it is done, but it needs what amounts to individual attention for each trainee.

So it's difficult to escape the conclusion that one reason for the attraction of the New Zealand scheme for the Atlantic Youth Trust is that it wins out in the numbers game. Forty young people taken out of troubled and aimless environments ashore, and sent away together on a voyage, is an impressive amount of social problems temporarily sorted in one fell swoop.

But will it be as behaviourally beneficial, in the long term, as it would be for a smaller number of people on a smaller and busier vessel? It will vary from case to case, but generally you'd reckon that the smaller more personal crew setup, with each trainee more directly involved in the sailing of the ship, would produce better results, while always remember that having as much square rig as possible is central to the concept.

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A timeless design which remains a very viable proposition for an easily managed ship which keeps her crew busy. Jack Tyrell's lines for Asgard II would lend themselves to construction in steel or even aluminium.

Ideally, to see Ireland's Tall Ship-owning reputation restored, many of us would like to see not just one newly-built replica of the 84ft brigantine Asgard II being launched, but three – one each for Cork, Dublin and Belfast. For, at the moment, the main axis of Atlantic Youth Trust activity seems to be between Dublin and Belfast. Yet as last weekend's National Annual Sailing Awards ceremony in Dublin so clearly underlined, Cork is really where it's at in terms of maritime development, and the lack of a significant Cork element seems to be a weakness of the AYT scheme.

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Might this be the way forward? One of our suggestions today is that Ireland really needs three Asgard IIs, based in Cork, Dublin and Belfast. We get an idea of how it might look with the two sister-ship American brigantines Exy Johnson and Irving Johnson, which are based in Los Angeles in California, where they were built in 2002.

Nevertheless, it says much for the dedication and energy of those promoting the Atlantic Youth Trust that we have the luxury of debating the validity of their plans, which have been so thoroughly developed. We may disagree with their conclusion, but it's not total disagreement – an Irish version of Spirit of New Zealand would be a very emphatic improvement on our present ship-less state, which is too much of a reflection of an ancient and negative mind-set.

Every time you see the Tall Ships gather and see how maritime countries of population comparable to Ireland, such as Norway, Denmark and Portugal, can send forth spectacularly handsome Tall Ships, it becomes a painful reminder of how the new Irish Free State increasingly turned its back on the sea.

The fact was admitted by Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney at last week's National Sailing Awards Ceremony in a speech which hinted at some very significant developments in the Irish maritime sphere in the near future.

But really, what Minister Coveney was talking about is that it is time and more for us to grow up in our attitude to the sea. When the Free State was struggling into being in 1922, the popular view was that British power was synonymous with sea power. So if you were against the sea and seafaring in all its manifestations, then you were demonstrating the purity of your patriotism through adopting what was essentially if subconsciously an anti-British stance. Childish perhaps. But we all know that's the way it was.

So despite the flurry of maritime enthusiasm which was engendered by national emergency during World War II to inspire the creation of Irish Shipping and the Maritime Inscription, what this meant was that when the underlying attitude genuinely began to change in the 1950s, a positive attitude towards the sea wasn't being built upwards from Ground Zero. It was being built from Ground Minus Thirty – the number of years that an anti-maritime attitude had been the unstated yet very real official policy.

Thus there was a period when Irish maritime enthusiasm had to be kept going almost as a secret cult, and I'd an odd reminder of this some weeks back at the annual Awards Ceremony of Sail Training Ireland. The Patron of STI is President Higgins, and the event was held – for the second year running – in the Mansion House in Dublin. Yet the very fact of the identity of their Patron, and of their event being staged in the Mansion House in the presence of Lord Mayor Christy Burke, provided such pleasure and pride for everyone in the gathering that it was a forceful reminder that, not so very long ago, seafaring was very much the poor relation in Ireland, and there were those in authority who would have happily air-brushed it out of the national picture entirely, leaving it to foreign crews to undertake the rough trades of the sea.

But thanks to those former members of Coiste an Asgard who refused to give up the vision of sail training for Ireland, even as the onset of economic Armageddon from 2008 to 2011 made any prospect of a new Asgard II a very distant vision as the government chucked the €3.8 million insurance payout into the bottomless pit of national debut, Sail Training Ireland arose like a Phoenix and set in place sail training bursaries for places on foreign tall ships, using international contacts built up during the 27 successful Asgard II years to ensure that Ireland could re-build our position at the heart of the movement.

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She keeps them busy....the Dutch brig Morgenster is superbly labour-intensive in the best sail training traditions. Photo courtesy STI

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Gulden Leeuw is another of the Dutch Tall Ships which have been taking Irish trainees to sea on Sail Training International programmes. Photo: Courtesy STI

The thriving tall ships scene in the Netherlands – which has become a focal point for sail training and the Tall Ships industry for all Europe – proved the most fruitful placement area, with most Irish trainees being positioned aboard the very handsome 48 m (sparred length) brig Morgenster, which has become a familiar sight in Irish ports. Another ship well used is the three-masted topsail schooner Gulden Leeuw, a long slim craft as she is 70 m in sparred length, while that noted poster girl of Tall Ships sailing, the 56 metre three masted Dutch barque Europa, also carried Irish crew from time to time.

However, while placements on such vessels work very well, the hankering for an Irish sail training flagship is always there, and fortunately in recent years Oliver Hart's 70ft training schooner Spirit of Oysterhaven has been punching way above her weight in filling the role in gallant style with a varied programme on the Irish coast.

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Spirit of Oysterhaven in South Harbour, Cape Clear Photo: Oliver Hart

This and much more was reflected in the Sail Training Ireland Awards Ceremony in the Mansion House, a goodly gathering which was representative not just of every possible aspect of sail training at home and abroad, but also of Irish ports which are increasingly interested in an activity which brings their ancient waterfronts vividly to life. And the progress of various ship projects was spoken for by everything from complete vessels such as the Basque Spanish schooner Atyla represented by Rodrigo de la Serna, through vessels in the making as personified by our own ketch Ilen. She has since seen her final new plank knocked ceremonially into place at Oldcourt in Baltimore, but here's an evocative video Gary MacMahon left with us of the creative planking process under way. And present too was Neil O'Hagan of Atlantic Youth Trust, whose organisation deservedly received recognition for their pioneering work towards a completely new ship.

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The main awards presented in the Mansion House by STI Chairman Seamus McLoughlin, who is former Head of Operations for Dublin Port, were:
1. Trainee of the year: Andrew Crowley
2. Special Contribution Award: Turlough Kennedy
3. Special Achievement Award: Fiona Armson
4. Perpetual Asgard Award: For an outstanding contribution to, or achievement in Sail Training by an individual or group: Atlantic Youth Trust / Foroige Group of Trainees
5. Watch-leader of the Year: Sara Mason
6. Volunteer of the year: Jonathan O'Brien

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Trainee of the Year Andrew Crowley with his parents in the Mansion House

Trainee of the Year Award: Andrew Crowley
Andrew is Club Captain of the Spirit of Oysterhaven Trust. During 2014, he was instrumental in helping to organise the Club's sailing trips aboard Spirit of Oysterhaven with a special emphasis on providing opportunities for young people with disability. He helped to organise the Club's Youth in Action programme, and crewed aboard Spirit during the Irish Cruising Club's sponsored Anniversary voyage from Glandore to Glengariff with a crew of eight trainees, including several with disability. During the summer Andrew was a vital member of a short-handed crew delivering Spirit from Oysterhaven to Glandore during which he proved himself an outstanding active crew member.

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Commodore Hugh Tully, Flag Officer Commanding Naval Service, with Turlough Kennedy, who received the Special Contribution Award

Special Contribution Award: Turlough Kennedy
This year's special contribution award goes to Turlough Kennedy from the lakeside port of Scarriff in County Clare for the outstanding role he filled on the Dutch tall ship Morgenster.

To quote Michael Byrne, Director of Sail Training Ireland: "This contribution was not only recognised by us. On completion of last year's voyage Turlough - despite his limited sea going experience - was offered a crew member's berth on board the ship by the Captain. While he was not in a position last year to take up this offer for the remainder of the 2014 season, in 2015 we are delighted that Turlough will be sailing as voluntary crew on board the Morgenster. The following is a short note from the ship's Captain, Harry Muter: "Turlough sailed with us last year and he was very good good both in the sailing department as in the social processes. For his age he was surprisingly adult, patient and emphatic. And then the music, it coloured this voyage, and Turlough played a role with his complicated bagpipe and improvisation talent. Looking forward to sail with him again." " (There are no prizes for guessing that "complicated bagpipes" are Uileann Pipes).

Special Achievement Award: Fiona Armson
The special achievement award this year went to Fiona Armson for the tenacity and determination she showed by completing her 14 day voyage. Fiona found some aspects of life at sea a real challenge but despite being given several opportunities by her leaders and the crew to take on a lighter work load Fiona refused to leave her watch and pushed on.
Fiona completed her voyage having never missed a single watch or duty and, in a way that would put a smile on any sailor's face, she sailed the Gulden Leeuw into her home port of Bangor.

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Special Achievement Award Winner Fiona Armson with her parents

Perpetual Asgard Award
Awarded to a group of four Foroige Trainees: Michael Collins, Dean Mc Keon, Brandon McDonagh, and Daniel O'Halloran,

In March 2014, four young people from Ballybane in Galway set out on a remarkable adventure, travelling half way around the world to experience the Spirit of Adventure's 10-Day Youth Development Voyage in New Zealand. Three youth workers accompanied the group for the three week trip, and one of them, Pearse O'Toole, was at the Mansion House with them. The trip was funded by a private donation and managed by the Atlantic Youth Trust and Foroige.

The group spent 10-days sailing around the magnificent Hauraki Gulf off Auckland on the barquentine Spirit of New Zealand. They adapted very well to their new surroundings as crew members and returned with fresh skills, more confidence than ever, and a new outlook on life and what is possible.

Neil O'Hagan, Executive Director of the Atlantic Youth Trust, followed this award with a presentation about the Peace and Reconciliation Fund-supported Sea-Connections scheme, and then the next award was remarkably appropriate, as it was for the Watch Leader of the Year and it went to Sara Mason for her very successful participation in an EU Youth Exchange Voyage on Gulden Leeuw.

Sara (pronounced saarah) is from the North Island of New Zealand, but now lives and studies in Dublin. She is part of the Shackleton Outdoor Adventure Management Diploma Course in Colaiste Dhulaigh in Coolock. She joined the team of youth leaders which facilitated the main voyage programme of Youth Exchange projects in May-June. As a leader on the Dutch Ship Gulden Leeuw, she cared for and facilitated a group of 40 young adults over a 14 day period. She was an outstanding support to them as a leader, and brought with her a set of skills that are unique to professionals who spend their lives working with people in the outdoor adventure industry. She also has a fantastic energy and enthusiasm and was an inspiration to the trainees and other leaders.

Volunteer of the Year Award - Jonathan O'Brien
Jonathan has become involved in a multitude of voluntary activities with Sail Training Ireland in the last year. In 2013 he volunteered as a youth leader for one of STI's youth exchange voyages for 10 days from Belfast to Dublin. In 2014 he was head-leader across youth exchange voyages with a total of 8 leaders, with at times up to 100 trainees across three ships seeking his support.

Having a background in both outdoor education and in social care, Jonathan has an exceptional set of skills that lend themselves very well to the role of leader on a tall ship, and he has now found himself "volunteered" for a position on STI's sub-committee for trainee programmes. During 2014, he also spent time on a number of ships across Europe, while somehow also fitting in a spell serving as First Mate on the Spirit of Oysterhaven. He is helping to develop on-board programmes for a number of STI's funded voyage schemes during 2015, and will also train STI's group of twelve youth leaders in April.

So the good work goes on, but the more of it there is, the more it become apparent that Ireland needs her own tall ship, and the sooner the better. A programme of international placement may work very well for those in the know, but for people down the country which are remote from maritime communities, it often takes the stimulus and sense of pride engendered by an Irish ship to make that first move afloat.

It was summed up so well by investigative academic and journalist Dr Elaine Byrne in our story about the Tall Ships on January 17th that it deserves repeating here. Usually in her line of work, Elaine Byrne takes no prisoners. But the quiet depth of feeling underlying the brief story of how the Byrne family from the deepest rural depths of County Carlow became involved in sail training has a resonance for us all today:

"I'm the oldest of seven children from a farming family on the Carlow/Wicklow border, where the household income is augmented with a funeral undertaking business attached to a pub in which I might still work on visits home. Our background is just about as far as it's possible to be from Ireland's maritime community. Yet thanks to Asgard II, I was able to take a step into the unknown world of the high seas as a trainee on board, and liked it so much that over the years I spent two months in all on board, graduating through the Watch Leader scheme and sailing in the Tall Ships programmes of races and cruises-in-company.

Down in the depths of the country, my new experiences changed the family's perceptions of seafaring. Four of my siblings then had the opportunity to sail on Asgard II. If it were not for Asgard II, my family would never have had the chance to sail, as we did not live near the sea, nor had the financial resources to do so. The Asgard II played a large role in our family life as it became a Rite of Passage to sail on board her. My two youngest siblings did not sail on Asgard II because she sank, which they much regret.

Apart from the discipline of sailing and the adventure of new experiences and countries, the Asgard II brought people of different social class and background together. There are few experiences which can achieve so much during the formative years of young adulthood".

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Seamus McLoughlin, Chairman of Sail Training Ireland, with Michael Byrne, Director.

 

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Carolanna Foley, awarded a Drogheda Port Sail Training Bursary, with Seamus McLoughlin (left) and Commodore Hugh Tully

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Sara Mason, Watch Leader of the Year, with Commodore Hugh Tully

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Jonathan O'Brien (left) Volunteer of the Year, with Oliver Hart

Published in W M Nixon
Page 2 of 10

The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.

Competitions

The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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