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The J80 UK National Championships was hosted by the Royal Lymington Yacht Club from 24th to 26th August with racing taking place in Christchurch Bay rather than the Western Solent writes Shane Hughes of North Sails Ireland. The tides are more moderate there and the race course is often used for major championships.

The forecast for the 3-day event was very light and the race committee team did a fine job getting 7 out of a planned 9 races sailed. Unfortunately, the final day was very light and with teams looking to pack up and head home, the race committee took the decision to abandon racing for the day.

This year I was racing with Nick & Annie Haigh on ‘Slightly Steamy’. Nick and Annie have campaigned many race boats over the years and its always a pleasure to join them. There was also other Irish interest at the event with Jonny O’Dowd racing ‘Jabs / IRL 1609’. Jonny was joined by Ross McDonald, Patrick Good and Paul Quinn.

Having coached this team in the lead up to the event, it was clear that this talented group would be competitive and it proved to be with them claiming a podium position with a very creditable 3rd place finish in their debut J80 National championship. It will be great to see how this team develops in future events and I’m sure there will be more top results to come. As Jonny put it himself “As this is our first year sailing the J80’s this was a must do event to learn and evaluate our progress over the season. Using the North Sail program we felt we were very much on the pace and hugely look forward to the 2020 season” On ‘Slightly Steamy’ we finished in 2nd overall, just 1 point off the win.

It was a little disappointing for us as we led from the first race up until race 7 but with no racing held on the final day we did not have an opportunity to recapture the lead. Great credit and congratulations to Chris and Hannah Neve and the team on ‘No Regrets’, they had some challenging races but they also showed great speed and poise to grind out the win and were deserving champions.

J80 resultsThe UK J80 scoresheet

All top 4 boats used North Sails, with the winning team using the new 2019 3Di Raw Jib, coded APi-2. We used the 2018 version 3Di Raw Jib, code APi-1. Both sails performed very well in the range of light to medium conditions and gave both teams the speed required to push out in front of the fleet. 6 out 7 races were won by 3Di jibs with Seahorse Editor Andrew Hurst and his team scoring a fine win using the 3Di 360 jib also.

J80 jibAbove and Below - the 2019 edition 3Di Raw Jib (APi-2)

J80 Jib 2

All 3 podium teams used the MR-5 Spinnaker and either the crosscut MAXM1 or Radial cut T-6R mainsails.

J80 mainsailBelow - T6-R Radial Mainsail

So for all J80 teams looking to refresh inventories either for upcoming events or looking ahead to 2020, now is the time to talk to us. North Sails One Design will be offering a -15% discount in the month of September. This is the time to order and get the best deal available.

It is also the best time to talk to us about boat and rig set up and how we can assist your team getting more performance out of your J80. So please get in touch with us to discuss and take a trip to our dedicated J80 web page here

Published in North Sails Ireland
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Were it not for a 'DSQ' in race three, Dublin Bay helmsman Jonathan O'Dowd of the Royal St. George Yacht Club may well have been further up the podium when racing was cut short at the J80 UK National Championships in Lymington yesterday. Instead, the Irish boat took bronze in the 11-boat fleet.

As Afloat previously reported, racing in Christchurch Bay at Royal Lymington Yacht Club, in 5 - 8 knots of breeze, the Royal St. George Yacht Club entry 'Jabs' stayed third overall when the final races were abandoned.

Chris & Hannah Neve of the host club were overall winners with Nick Haigh's Slighty Steamy in second. 

Overall results in the 11-boat fleet are downloadable here

Published in RStGYC

After seven races sailed at the UK J80 National Championships Jonathan O'Dowd is six points off the overall lead with two races left to sail today.

Racing in Christchurch Bay at Royal Lymington Yacht Club in 5 - 8 knots of breeze the Royal St. George Yacht Club entry, 'Jabs' is currently third overall. 

Overall results in the 11-boat fleet are downloadable below

Published in RStGYC

This year’s inaugural J/80 Irish National Championships will run back-to-back with Howth Yacht Club's Wave Regatta, Ireland’s largest keelboat sailing regatta this year.

Some convenient scheduling at HYC means that the Irish Championships take place at the North Dublin club during the UK May bank holiday weekend (24-26th) followed by an invitation to the class to take part in Wave Regatta on the following weekend and coinciding with the Irish bank holiday. This will provide competitors with an opportunity to savour the famous hospitality at Howth and to enjoy two weekends in one of the worlds top keelboat racing venues.

Event chairman Ross McDonald explains ‘scheduling the J/80 championships on the weekend of the 25th of May was always going to be a winner. It will allow many of the enthusiastic UK teams to participate and compete with the emerging Irish fleet at at top quality venue. Significantly, we are also offering a combined entry option, to entice teams to stay on for the huge ‘Wave Regatta’ taking place in Howth on June 1-3. With a special launching, lift-out and trailer storage deal, a special concession deal with Irish Ferries together with free berthing for the week as well as a second weekend of racing within what will be a showcase regatta for Ireland (see: waveregatta.com), this will be and unmissable and unforgettable week!’

The Irish J/80 Championships will be run over three days and as part of the ‘Sportsboat Cup’ which incorporates racing for other one-design keelboat divisions, including 1720s and SB20s.

For Wave Regatta, the J/80s have been invited to take part in three days of racing under IRC rating with additional prizes for their own one-design class also. The schedule includes two days of windward/ leeward and round-the-cans races and a coastal race around local islands ‘Lambay’ and ‘Ireland’s Eye’.

The notice of race and online entry to the Irish Championships with discounted option to enter Wave Regatta also can be accessed here.

Published in Howth YC
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A group of Royal St. George Yacht Club members have 'joined together' to purchase Irish Sailing's ten-year-old J80 fleet on behalf of the Dun Laoghaire harbour Club.

The Royal St. George Yacht Club was one of several bidders for the eight boat fleet that was originally purchased by the then ISA with a Sports Capital Grant at a cost of circa €240k plus VAT in July 2007.

Writing to members to outline the 'exciting development', Club Commodore Michael Pomeroy says the initiative is to 'meaningfully re-engage with the 25 to 50s and to create a less time consuming more value-driven racing environment for young adults'.

Pomeroy also says it will allow the club, one of the largest in the country, to promote corporate sailing and other activities to further increase Club participation. Pomeroy's full statement is on the club website here.

Published in RStGYC

While the headlines and public attention for much of the summer were dominated by the acrimonious Brexit vote in Britain and the extremes of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, out beyond a narrow sandspit on a secretive peninsula east of Ireland, a special project was being finalised. This has seen the local sailing club benefit both from the Brexit fallout, and the general increased goodwill towards sailing in Ireland which Olympic success has generated. W M Nixon finds that his home-from-home of Howth Yacht Club has been doing some remarkable things while everyone else – himself included - was looking elsewhere.

You’ve heard the story about the three Howthmen who went across to England a few weeks ago to buy four J/80s, and came back with five? We hadn’t either. But all we know is that every time recently when we looked along the hard-standing on the waterfront at Howth Yacht Club, there seemed to be a couple of extra J/80s about the place. Soon there were five. And they all looked distinctly newer than the eight long-used J/80s of the SailFleet flotilla of the ISA, four of which are regularly stored out the back of the Howth club when they’re not in action.

All was revealed last weekend. The background is that Howth YC had undertaken to look after the ISA’s SailFleet flotilla of eight J/80s when the national authority began its severe slimming process three years ago. The club uses four of them at any one time in a leasing programme from the ISA for its own training purposes, but rotates the boats for their periods of non-use to implement an “equalisation process”. And of course, all eight are made available for the use of the ISA in national events like the Helmsmans Championship, wherever such events may be held.

However, since 2013 when Breda Dillon was Commodore, the Howth club has also had in place the allocation of a Sports Council capital grant for buying keelboats for training, the grant of €77,000 being conditional on HYC raising an extra €23,000 to provide a round sum of €100,000.

It was also conditional on being spent before 31st July 2016. Logic would seem to suggest that they would buy the ISA boats, four of which were on lease until 31st December 2016 anyway. But it wasn’t as simple as that. Those boats were bought with a government grant in the first place. There were all sorts of potential problems with VAT and whatever. And a bidding war against other clubs was an additional unknowable. 

howth j80 2They look like they were made for the place – four of the new HYC-owned J80 flotilla in Howth Marina last weekend. Photo: W M Nixon

Yet the Howth men knew that for a multi-purpose boat which can play a key role in getting new people into sailing, or encouraging lapsed sailors back again, the J/80 was and is and will long continue to be the best boat for the job. It’s one of the very few sportsboat types which qualify for a European offshore certificate. And it is also entitled to an IRC rating. Thus in the Irish context, you can race it as a One-Design, but you are also eligible for open ICRA competition.

In addition to that, the J/80 is a very likeable knockabout boat, real fun to sail with a cockpit big enough to take significant numbers of beginners out for good yet educational times afloat, while still being a very serious racing proposition for crews of three to five. Thus the feeling in Howth was that increasing the national stock of J/80s by whatever means would be good for Irish sailing anyway.

howth j80 3While the J/80 was designed primarily as a performance boat with racing a priority, in Howth they find many other uses. Photo: Brian McDowell
But though the J/80 has been a major part of the sailing scene in Europe only since a new production facility for the boat was set up in France in 2002, the design actually first appeared in America in 1992. And with the remorseless new product initiative which drives J Boats as it drives any other successful company, in late 2012 J Boats introduced the J/70, more of an outright sportsboat than the J/80, but still with a little cabin – albeit a much smaller one.

Thus for those with a taste for novelty and fashion trends, the J/70 will have been seen as the successor to the J 80. But many would reckon that the J 80 continues to be a significant brand in her own right, as she has that cherished European offshore cert. And while her cabin is minimal, it does offer significantly roomier overnight space than the J/70, as the J/80 is almost 9% larger in every way than the newer boat, an addition in size which adds a very useful bit of beef to her potential for multi-purpose functions.

That said, in the last couple of years the advent of the J/70 has tended to freeze or even reduce the price of used J/80s. For the Howthmen sitting on a war chest of €100,000 which had to be spent before the end of July 2016, the availability of top-quality used J/80s in the Solent area presented something of a dilemma. They could either enter into a lengthy tender process to take over the ISA J/80s, or else they could send an expeditionary force to the south of England to snap up four quality J/80s in a neat and clinical operation.

Four was the key number, as experience in the past three years has shown HYC that the total SailFleet flotilla of eight boats is too much for one club to handle comfortably, but anything less than four boats would be less than the required critical mass. Four boats was the absolute minimum, but as Howth YC also have two J/24s in their successful U25 Keelboat Training Squad, including the Enda O Coineen-donated Ireland’s Eye Kilcullen (Ireland’s Eye are knitwear manufacturers in nearby Baldoyle), they had some flexibility of movement in finalizing boat numbers.

In fact, in recent years the Howth club has become so dedicated to introducing people to sailing and training generally that the noted offshore racer Kieran Jameson, a General Committee member who heads the HYC key “Vessels Committee”, finds his group running a club-owned training fleet of thirty dinghies including Optimists, Toppers, 420s, and Laser Vagos. But in addition to dinghies, the Howth sailors are very strongly of the opinion that keelboats also have an important role to play in getting people started sailing, thus at any one time the club has had six “training keelboats” – the four J/80s being used at any one time plus the hotly-competed pair of J/24s – playing an active role.

The feedback from HYC Marine Manager Brian McDowell during the 2016 season has been particularly encouraging regarding the popularity of the J/80s as much for non-racing activity as for racing/training. Ireland’s many cruising enthusiasts will be delighted to hear that day cruises to places as diverse as Skerries, Dalkey Island, and Dun Laoghaire rating high on the list of favourite activities aboard J/80s amongst both younger and adult newcomers to sailing alike.

howth j80 4Cruising enthusiasts will be pleased to hear that trainee sailors at Howth particularly enjoy using the J/80s for cruises-in-company along the local coast. The photo above shows them returning round the Baily after a visit to Dalkey Island and Dun Laoghaire, while (below) one of the most popular destinations has been Skerries, which involves a 14 miles coastal passage with proper navigation and pilotage exercises. Photos Brian McDowell

howth j80 5

So acquiring the best possible J/80s within the budget was clearly the way to go. After Vice Commodore Emmet Dalton had burnt the midnight oil and the fibre optic cables in ensuring that everything in the original capital equipment grant application of 2013 was still valid, Commodore Berchmans Gannon and his committee confirmed Kieran James as “Concept and Logistics Director” with his three man “Solent Procurement Task Force”, and off they went with the 31st July deadline looming.

All this may sound very formalised, but as anyone who is familiar with Howth will know, there are times when you’ll find yourself in the midst of what seems to be a convivial gathering, yet it’s actually an open-ended official planning meeting. The club takes much of its internal communication style from its oldest class, the Howth 17s of 1898, which have managed to stay together for 117 years while apparently relying largely on telepathy for in-class information. And as all the many people involved in the J/80 acquisition programme were old friends who frequently sail together as shipmates, new ideas and understandings of how best the project might best move forward could emerge in all the most unlikely places at unexpected times.

The three man squad was imbued with enthusiasm, as Kieran Jameson is a total J/80 fan. So he already had the class’s used-boat scene sussed out in some detail in the south of England where he is well known, and with him he brought his keen sub-committee member Johnny Wormald, while third hand was a very important man when money is being spent, HYC Honorary Treasurer David Sargent.

They’d two very busy days around the Solent finalizing deals on four J/80s of the required standard in a time of financial turbulence. After the Brexit vote, the Pound Sterling had plummeted against the Euro, but their feeling (quite rightly as it turned out) was that even though it was still falling, it might be about to bounce back a bit any time soon, so there was some urgency to their work.

With no slackening of the pace, the buying job was done, and then with four boats satisfactorily secured, they were having a celebratory lunch in the RORC’s Royal Corinthian clubhouse in Cowes. But David Sargent couldn’t stop being the money man. He’d been working the screen for the numbers and the exchange rate, and in mid-meal he came up with the news that they’d hit the dealing floor on the sweet spot, in fact if they wished there was still enough in the kitty to buy a fifth boat.

Well, why not? A quick phone call home got the cheerful instruction to go right ahead. And another quick phone call ensured the fifth boat was theirs before news had spread from the Isle of Wight that three mad Irishmen were on the prowl around the Solent ready to throw good money at proper quality used J/80s.

Moving up to five boats from four may not seem such a big deal. But in fact it puts you across a significant threshold as many clubs such as Dublin Bay SC will recognize five boats as a valid class eligible for its own start, but not four. Yet thanks to Brexit, as former HYC Commodore Brian Turvey has since put it: “We landed sunny side up” – five boats and all of them good ones.

But now the challenge was to keep things moving along. Everyone had been fuelled with the excitement of the chase. Yet with high summer and its holiday plans upon them, a busy sailing programme in full swing, and the all-dominant Olympics taking over all sailing thinking for two weeks in mid-August, the challenge for all involved was to get the five boats safely back to Howth and moved into the next stage of the plan, for it was essential that the boats be in active use as soon as possible.

howth j80 6Perfect conditions for introducing the new J80 flotilla to Howth YC, and for showing junior sailors the workings of the sails. Photo: Emmet Dalton
Thanks to the usual useful contacts, the boats were road-trailed to Fishguard and popped on the ferry to be taken across channel on their own to Rosslare. There, another key contact made sure they were taken safely off the ship and put in secure storage while a volunteer towing team co-ordinated by Ian Malcolm journeyed up and down the M11 from Howth until all the boats were safely on the peninsula to successfully complete a project in a league of its own for sheer value for money.

Which is fine and dandy, but the boats need to be used, and used for a lot for multiple purposes, to make this extraordinary example of club and voluntary effort worthwhile, and worthy too of the Sports Council’s support. Yet by now total serendipity had set in. Even as the newly-acquired boats were being checked over and rigged by the flotilla’s newly-appointed bo’sun Luke Malcolm, the news from the Olympic sailing in Rio got better and better. Suddenly thanks to Annalise Murphy and her team-mates, the sun was shining on Irish sailing, and there was no better time to be launching a new initiative in sailing promotion. While there’d been some concern that moving up to five boats from the projected four was maybe a bit ambitious, now people were wondering would five boats be enough.

The day after the fantastic Annalise Murphy “Welcome Home” night at the National Yacht Club, across Dublin Bay on Friday August 26th, beyond the Baily Lighthouse round in Howth Harbour the new five-strong flotilla of Howth YC’s own J/80s were in final preparation for their introduction to the membership and public with an Open Evening providing many immediate options for sailing aboard the boats. It was primarily designed with the club’s rapidly growing beginner and junior sections in mind, and as one of those perfect evenings which have blessed the late summer, it showed how well the performance-oriented J/80s lend themselves to simply being used as fun boats which can maximise the numbers getting afloat for straightforward sailing pleasure.

howth j80 7Celebrating a job well done. Brian Turvey and Emmet Dalton finally get the opportunity on Sunday for their first sail on one of HYC’s new J/80s. Photo: W M Nixon
It also underlined the fact that at Howth as at other clubs, people such as Kieran Jameson and noted instructor Graeme Grant share the concern of leading thinkers in other clubs, that it has been too easy to let junior training and coaching take the more easily-managed route of single-handed sailing. Thus Howth has become a centre of 420 encouragement in the hope of leading on to more advanced two-handed boats, and while the J/80s were making their debut with waves of youngsters on board, on the same waters the current World 420 Bronze Medallists Doug Elmes and Colin O’Sullivan were having their first forays with their newly-acquired 49er skiff, one of a new national wave of seven 49ers with crews drawn from a number of Irish sailing centres.

But primarily it was the J/80s’ evening, and they performed with style. With the weather co-operating, the programme moved jauntily on into a junior party with early supper in the club, and then finally, with a very informally-minded audience made up of every age and interest in Howth sailing, the plans for “our very own J/80s” were at last officially revealed by Commodore Berchmans Gannon and his team.

Noted offshore racing champion Ross McDonald, as Chairman of the HYC Performance Sub-committee, left us in no doubt that while the multi-functional uses of the J/80s are significant in the new flotilla’s programme, the boats’ performance potential is also another pillar of their activities, and they’re going to be very actively raced, with their first major series the up-coming Howth Autumn League. The possibilities of sending a boat or two to major J/80 championships in the future has not been overlooked, and of course next year’s ICRA Nats at Royal Cork Yacht Club from 9th to 11th June to will be another option thanks to those very useful IRC Certs.

howth j80 8Kieran Jameson (left) led the team buying the new J/80s, and as a former ICRA Commodore, Nobby Reilly (right) has unrivalled experience in introducing people to sailing using the J80s in Try Sailing initiatives. Photo: W M Nixon
It seems an awful lot to be asking of a little fleet of five 26ft boats, but the best way to show me why it could all work very well indeed was to let me sail a J/80 on Sunday, when all was revealed. The secret of a J/80’s appeal seems to lie in the fact that she’s a boat of broad-spectrum performance and function aboard which kids feel like grown-ups, while a group of grown men start behaving like a pack of schoolboys having sailing fun.

My four ship-mates were at the heavy-hitter end of sailing’s local and national sailing administrations. They included former ICRA Commodore Nobby Reilly who has unrivalled experience in using the J/80s in Try Sailing events – he regularly gets turnouts of upwards of 80 total newbies at such happenings – there was also HYC Vice Commodore Emmet Dalton who somehow finds himself to be the owner of a foiling Moth and the skipper of a Howth 17, there was of course Kieran Jameson whose devotion to sailing and it development and promotion is lifelong, and there was also former HYC Commodore Brian Turvey who has been the club’s liaison man in handling relations with the ISA SailFleet administration while coming to the conclusion that the only way forward was for Howth to buy its own fleet of J/80s to give the programme an extra and vital element of direct proprietorial pride, something which has been achieved.

howth j80 9In sailing a J/80, it’s the effortless speed which will most impress sailors of more traditional craft. In a light breeze, we’re clocking 7.6 knots through the water and 8.7 over the ground. Photo: Brian Turvey
So in sailing “our” J/80 in a glorious burst of sunshine and a grand little north to nor’east breeze last Sunday while the HYC Junior Dinghy regatta with 90 boats in several classes proceeded apace nearby, and Doug Elmes and Colin O’Sullivan buzzed over the ocean towards the northern horizon in their 49er, we had ourselves a ball. While you can certainly get sensational speeds out of a J/80 when the breeze is stonking, we’d no bother in that pleasant moderate wind of finding 7.6 knots through the water with genniker set, and as that translated into 8.7 SOG thanks to a favourable tide, the schoolboy glee was much in evidence between sessions of serious information exchange about the importance of the boat in Howth’s development programe.

In such sailing conditions, the J/80’s effortless progress made it possible for us to get quicky up to Malahide and then have some sport carrying the genniker as close as it could go to get us round Ireand’s Eye where the gannets are more crowded than ever on the Stack, and back into Howth Marina with the J/80s manoeuvring capacities being demonstrated with a flourish.

howth j80 10“There’s something about a J/80 which makes junior sailors feel like grown-ups, and grown men act like schoolboys….” Photo: Brian Turvey

howth j80 11Home waters. Effortless yet swift sailing as we close in on the Stack Rock on Ireland’s Eye. Photo: W M Nixon

Of course, it won’t always be a sunny nor’easterly of very manageable strength, and it won’t always be a time when a club can look back on its own good season while sharing the national mood of euphoria over an Olympic Sailing Silver Medal. But this new J/80 project at Howth has a lot going for it. And when you start looking at the figures which would have come up if they’d ordered new boats, or maybe even new J/70s, through the formal channels, you’re very quickly getting away from €100,000 for five boats, and approaching the region of a quarter million euros.

But for the times that are in it, it seems that Howth took the best approach. In fact, when the boats are going to have such a multi-functional role, it’s surely better to start with the best second-hand boat available rather than a brand new one. When knockabout use is part of the programme, evidence of the occasional little scape or minor bump makes the boats seem less daunting.

So in all, it has been a very good six weeks of voluntary work. But out in Howth, they don’t see it that way. As far as they’re concerned, the work is only beginning. If those boats aren’t all being kept very busy, steps will be taken immediately to accelerate the pace.

howth j80 12Home port, and everyone gives a hand. Former HYC Commodore Brian Turvey and former ICRA Commodore Nobby Reilly stow the J/80’s mainsail while above on the forecourt the presence of the 1898-built Howth 17 Rita is a reminder of HYC’s long and colourful history. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in W M Nixon
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The Irish Sailing Association (ISA) has put its fleet of eight J/80 keelboats on the market. 

The national governing body is seeking 'Expressions of Interest' (EOI) from parties by noon 3rd June 2016 regarding the purchase of eight J80 keelboats. A form (downloadable below) sets out how to register interest.

The fleet was founded in 2007 as an initiative of the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) which through providing a fleet of small keelboats aimed to increase participation in the sport of sailing and facilitate Clubs to host major events. Seven Founding Clubs became involved as did private Partners with part funding from the Dept of Arts, Sports and Tourism at the time.

The fleet of 8 J80 keelboats were used to 'introduce new people to sailing, underpin major events including World Championships and create a platform for Clubs to own their own boats to attract new and younger members'.

The fleet is now in its 9th year and the ISA say the time is right for SailFleet to examine renewal and other initiatives for the benefit of Irish Sailing. The association's Jack Roy, who is in charge of the sale, says 'any money realised will be reinvested in Irish sailing'.

Published in Boat Sales
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10 symmetric North spinnakers, 3 mainsails and 5 vertical battened Jibs all in brand new condition along with 8 carbon assymetric spinnaker poles and 24 RTYC branded Spinlock Wing PFDs in new condition all contained in an Ifor Williams trailer branded with "Royal Thames Yacht Club and Royal Yacht Squadron J/80 Fleet support trailer"

If offered any of these unusual items (they are no use other than to "in class" J/80s) there is a reward offered for successful recovery of any of the items you are asked to contact the RTYC Chief sailing officer Richard Ambler [email protected]

Published in News Update

This weekend’s two-day All-Ireland Sailing Championship at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, racing boats of the ISA J/80 SailFleet flotilla, is an easy target for facile criticism. Perhaps because it tries to do so much in the space of only two days racing, with just one type of boat and an entry of 15 class championship-winning helms, inevitably this means it will be seen by some as falling short of its high aspiration of providing a true Champion of Champions.

Yet it seldom fails to produce an absolute cracker of a final. Last year, current defending champion Anthony O’Leary of Cork, racing the J/80s in Howth and representing both ICRA Class 0 and the 1720 Sportsboats, snatched a last gasp win from 2013 title-holder Ben Duncan of the SB20s, thereby rounding out an utterly exceptional personal season for O’Leary which saw him go on to be very deservedly declared the Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Year” 2014.

So this year, with a host of younger challengers drawn from a remarkable variety of sailing backgrounds, the ever-youthful Anthony O’Leary might well see himself in the position of the Senior Stag defending his territory against half a dozen young bucks who will seem to attack him from several directions. And with winds forecast to increase in strength as the weekend progresses, differing talents and varying levels of athletic ability will hope to experience their preferred conditions at some stage, thereby getting that extra bit of confidence to bring success within their reach. It’s a fascinating scenario, and W M Nixon tries to set this unique event in perspective.

When the founding fathers of modern dinghy racing in Ireland set up the Irish Dinghy Racing Association (now the ISA) in 1946, they would have been reasonably confident that the immediate success of their new pillar event, the Helmsman’s Championship of Ireland, gave hope that a contest of this stature would still be healthily in being, and still run on a keenly-followed annual basis, nearly seventy years later.

They might even have been able to envisage that it would have been re-named the All-Ireland Championship, even if their original title of Helmsman’s Championship had a totally unique and clearly recognisable quality, for they’d have accepted its fairly harmless gender bias was going to create increasing friction with the Politically Correct brigade.

anthony OLeary2The Stag at Bay? Anthony O’leary sniffs the breeze last weekend, in charge of racing in the CH Marine Autumn league. This weekend he defends his All-Ireland title in Dun Laoghaire. Photo: Robert Bateman

ai3Sailing should be fun, and run with courtesy – invitation to enjoyable racing, as displayed last weekend in Cork on Anthony O’Leary’s Committee Boat. Photo: Robert Bateman

But what those pioneering performance dinghy racers in 1946 can scarcely have imagined was that, 69 years later, no less than a quarter of the coveted places in the All-Ireland Championship lineup of 16 sailing stars would be going to helms who have qualified through winning their classes within the Annual National Championship of a thirteen-year-old all-Ireland body known as the Irish Cruiser-Racing Association.

And if you then further informed those great men and women of 1946 that those titles were all won in an absolute humdinger of a four-day big-fleet national championship staged in the thriving sailing centre and Irish gourmet capital of Kinsale, they’d have doubted your sanity. For in the late 1940s, Kinsale had slipped almost totally under the national sailing radar, while the town generally was showing such signs of terminal decline that there was little enough in the way of resources to put any food on any table, let alone think in terms of destination restaurants.

So in tracing the history of this uniquely Irish championship (for it long pre-dates the Endeavour Trophy in England), we have a convenient structure to hold together a manageable narrative of the story of Irish sailboat racing since the end of World War II. Add in the listings of the Irish Cruising Club trophies since the first one was instituted in 1931, then cross-reference this info with such records as the winners of the Round Ireland race and the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, beef it all up with the winners of the national championship of the largest dinghy and inshore keelboat classes, and a comprehensible narrative of our national sailing history emerges.

ai4The veteran X332 Equinox (Ross McDonald) continues to be a force in Irish cruiser-racing, and by winning her class in the ICRA Nationals in Kinsale at the end of June, Equinox is represented in the All Irelands this weekend by helmsman Simon Rattigan. Photo: W M Nixon

It’s far from perfect, but it’s a defining picture nevertheless, even if it lacks the inside story of the clubs. Be that as it may, in looking at it properly, we get a greater realization that the All-Ireland Helmsman’s Championship (or whatever you’re having yourself) is something very important, something to be cherished and nurtured from year to year.

Of course I’m not suggesting that we should all be out in Dublin Bay today and tomorrow on spectator boats, avidly watching every twist and turn as eight identical boats race their hearts out with a variety of helms calling the shots. Unless you’re in a particular helmsperson’s fan club, it’s really rather boring to watch from end to end, or at least until the conclusion of each stage and then the final races.

This is very much a sport for the “edited highlights”. The reality is that no matter how they try to jazz it up, sailing is primarily of interest only to those actively taking part, or directly engaged in staging each event. When great efforts are made to make it exciting for casual spectators, it costs several mints and results in rich people and highly-resourced teams engaged in costly and often unseemly battles to which genuine sporting sailors cannot really relate at all.

But with its exclusion of Olympic and some High Performance squad members, the All-Ireland in its current form is the quintessence of Irish local and national sailing. It’s almost compulsive for its participants, it provides an extra interest for their supportive clubmates, and in its pleasantly low key way it’s a genuine expression of real Irish sailing, the sailing of L’Irlande profonde.

So of course we agree that it might be more interesting for the bright young people if it was raced in something more trendy like the RS400s if they could find sufficient owners to risk their boats in this particular bear pit. And yes indeed, the ISA Discussion Paper and Helmsmans Guidelines of 2012 did indeed hope that within three years, the All Ireland would be staged in dinghies.

But we have to live in the real world. Sailing really is a sport for life, and some of our best sailors are truly seniors who would be disadvantaged if it was raced in a boat making too many demands on sheer athleticism, for which the unattainable Olympic Finn would be the only true answer.

But in any case, if you watch J/80s racing in a breeze, there’s no doubting the advantage a bit of athletic ability confers, yet the cunning seniors can overcome their lack of suppleness and agility with sheer sailing genius.

ai5While they may be keelboats, in a breeze the J/80s will sail better with some athleticism, as displayed here by Ben Duncan (second left) as he sweeps toward the finish and victory in the 2013 All Irelands at Howth. Photo: Aidan Tarbett

ai6Yet a spot of sailing genius can offset the adverse effects of advancing years – Anthony O’Leary (right) with Dylan Gannon (left) and Dan O’Grady after snatching victory at the last minute in 2014. Photo: Jonathan Wormald.

But another reality we have to accept is that Ireland is only just crawling out of the Great Recession. And in that recession, it was the enduring competitiveness of ageing cruiser-racers and the sporting attitude of their owners which kept the national sailing show on the road. Your dyed-in-the-wool dinghy sailor may sneer at the constrictions of seaborn truck-racing. But young sailors who were realists very quickly grasped that if they wanted to get regular sailing with good competition as the Irish economy went into free fall, then they had to hone their skills in making boats with lids, crewed by tough old birds most emphatically not in the first flush of youth, sail very well indeed.

Thus in providing a way for impecunious young people to keep sailing through the recession, ICRA performs a great service for Irish sailing. And the productive interaction between young and old in the ICRA fleets, further enlivened by their different sailing backgrounds, has resulted in a vibrant new type of sailing community where it is regarded as healthily normal to be able to move between dinghies and keelboats and back again.

The final lineup of entries is a remarkable overview of the current Irish racing scene, and if you wonder why the winner of the GP14 British Opens 2015, Shane McCarthy of Greystones, is not representing the GP 14s, the word is he’s unavailable, so his place is taken by Niall Henry of Sligo.

2014 Champion Anthony O'Leary, RCYC
RS400 Alex Barry, Monkstown Bay SC
GP14 Niall Henry ,Sligo Yacht Club
Shannon OD Frank Browne, Lough Ree YC
Flying Fifteen David Gorman, National YC
Squib Fergus O'Kelly, Howth YC
ICRA 1 Roy Darrer, Waterford Sailing Club
Mermaid Patrick, Dillon Rush SC
Laser Std Ronan Cull, Howth YC
SB20 Michael O'Connor, Royal St.George YC
IDRA14 Alan Henry, Sutton DC
RS200 Frank O'Rourke, Greystones SC
ICRA 2 Simon Rattigan, Howth YC
ICRA 4 Cillian Dickson, Howth YC
Ruffian Chris Helme, Royal St.George YC

As a three-person boat with a semi-sportsboat performance, the J/80 is a reasonable compromise between dinghies and keelboats, and the class has the reputation of being fun to sail, which is exactly what’s needed here.

The Sailing Olympics and the ISAF Worlds may be terribly important events for sailing in the international context, but nobody would claim they’re fun events. Equally, though, you wouldn’t dream of suggesting the All-Ireland is no more than a fun event. But it strikes that neat balance between tough sport and sailing enjoyment to make it quite a good expression of the true Irish amateur sailing scene.

Inevitably from time to time it produces a champion whose sailing abilities are so exceptional that it would amount to a betrayal of their personal potential for them not to go professional in some way or other. But fortunately sailing is such a diverse world that two of the outstanding winners of the Helmsman’s Championships of Ireland have managed to make their fulfilled careers as top level professional sailors without losing that magic sense of fun and enjoyment, even though in both cases it has involved leaving Ireland.

Their wins were gained in the classic early Irish Yachting Association scenario of a one design class which functioned on a local basis being able to provide enough reasonably-matched boats to be used for the Helmsman’s, and the three I best remember were when Gordon Maguire won in 1982 on Lough Derg racing Shannon One Designs, then in the 1970s Harold Cudmore won on Lough Neagh racing Flying Fifteens, and in 1970 itself, a very young Robert Dix was winner racing National 18s at Crosshaven.

Gordon Maguire was the classic case of a talented sailor having to get out of Ireland to fulfill himself. His win in 1982 in breezy conditions at Dromineer in Shannon One Designs, with Dave Cummins of Sutton on the mainsheet, was sport at its best, though I doubt that some of the old SODs were ever the better again after the hard driving they received.

ai7Driving force. Gordon Maguire going indecently fast for a Shannon One Design, on his way to winning the Helmsmans Championship of Ireland at Dromineer in 1982. Photo: W M Nixon

Then Gordon spread his wings, and won the Irish Windsurfer Nationals in 1984 - a great year for the Maguires, as his father Neville (himself a winner of the Helmsmans Championship five times) won the ISORA Championship with his Club Shamrock Demelza the same weekend.

But Gordon needed a larger canvas to demonstrate his talents, and in 1991 he was a member of the Irish Southern Cross team in Australia, a series which culminated in the Sydney-Hobart Race. The boat which Maguire was sailing was knocked out in a collision with another boat (it was the other boat’s fault), but Maguire found a new berth as lead helm on the boat Harold Cudmore was skippering for the Hobart Race, and they won that overall.

gordon maguire8A man fulfilled, Gordon Maguire at the beginning of his hugely successful linkup with Stephen Ainsworth’s RP 63 Loki

And Gordon Magure realized that for his talents, Australia was the place to be. More than twenty years later, he was to get his second Hobart Race overall win in command of Stephen Ainsworth’s RP 63 Loki, and here indeed was a man fulfilled, revelling in a chosen career which would have been unimaginable in Ireland.

Harold Cudmore had gone professional as best he could in 1974, but it was often a lonely and frustrating road in Europe. However, his win of the Half Ton Worlds in Trieste in the Ron Holland-designed, Killian Bushe-built Silver Shamrock in 1976 put his name up in lights, and he has been there ever since, renowned for his ability to make any boat perform to her best. It has been said of him when racing the 19 Metre Mariquita in the lightest conditions, that you could feel him getting an extra ounce of speed out of this big and demanding gaff-rigged classic seemingly by sheer silent will power.

ai9
The restored 19 Metre Mariquita is a demanding beast to sail in any conditions…

ai10
...but in light airs, Harold Cudmore (standing centre) seems to be able to get her to outsail larger craft by sheer will-power.

ai11A different scene altogether, but still great sport – Harold Cudmore racing the classic Sydney Harbour 18-footer Yendys

But as for Robert Dix’s fabulous win in 1970, while he went on to represent Ireland in the 1976 Olympics in Canada, he has remained a top amateur sailor who is also resolutely grounded in Irish business life (albeit at a rather stratospheric level). But then it could be argued that nothing could ever be better than winning the Helmsmans Championship of Ireland against the cream of Irish sailng when you’re just 17 years old, and doing it all at the mother club, the Royal Cork, as it celebrated its Quarter Millenium.

It was exactly 44 years ago, the weekend of October 3rd-4th 1970, and for Robert Dix it was a family thing, as his brother-in-law Richard Burrows was Number 2 in the three-man setup. They were on a roll, and how. The manner in which things were going their way was shown in an early race when they were in a tacking duel with Harold Cudmore. Coming to the weather mark, Cudmore crossed them on port, but the Dix team had read it to such perfection that by the time he had tacked, they’d shot through the gap with inches to spare and Cudmore couldn’t catch them thereafter.

ai12
Decisive moment in the 1970 Helmsman’s Championship. At the weather mark, Harold Cudmore on port is just able to cross Robert Dix on starboard………Photo W M Nixon

ai13……but Dix is able to shoot through the gap as Cudmore tacks…..Photo: W M Nixon

ai14…..and is on his way to a win which will count well towards his overall victory over Cudmore by 0.4 points. Photo: W M Nixon

Admittedly both Harold Cudmore and the equally-renowned Somers Payne had gear problems, but even allowing for that, the 17-year-old Robert Dix from Malahide was the star of the show, and the final points of Robert Dix 9.5 and Harold Cudmore 9.9 for the 1970 Helmsman’s Championship of Ireland says it all, and it says it as clearly now as it did then.

ai15
The six finalists in the 1970 Helmsman’s Championship were (left to right) Michael O’Rahilly Dun Laoghaire), Somers Payne (Cork), Harold Cudmore (Cork), Owen Delany (Dun Laoghaire), Maurice Butler (Ballyholme, champion 1969) and Robert Dix (Malahide), at 17 the youngest title holder ever. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in W M Nixon

#matchracing – Ireland's hosting of International Match racing events is set to to continue in 2015 with Howth Yacht Club's annuoncement that it will host the 2015 Nations Cup European Final on 7-10th May 2015. It follows the acclaimed 2014 staging of the ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship at Royal Cork Yacht Club

The Howth result follows a recent decent decision by ISAF to award the worldwide regional finals to Buenos Aires (South America), Brisbane (Oceania), San Diego (North America), Tunis (Africa), Bahrain (Asia) and Howth (Europe). The Grand Final will be held in Vladivostok on 14-19th July.

As per the Notice of Race, the ISAF host member national authority may nominate an entry in each of the Open and Women's Division.

The event will be run in the ISA Sailfleet J80s and the full schedule will be announced in due course.

The ISAF Nations Cup was first introduced to the world in 1991. Open and Women's contests are run and it is based on a series of Regional Finals with the top crews meeting at the Grand Final.

Racing at the Regional Finals is preceded by an ISAF Match Racing Clinic, aimed to help develop match racing skills and officiating in that region. The winners of each Regional Final progress to the Grand Final, where they are joined by the defending nation and the host nation.

All relevant information will be published and available on the ISAF website - sailing.org

The aim of the event is to broaden the availability of match racing and provide international match racing competition for national authorities and sailors at a reasonable cost, whilst acting as an incentive for national match racing programmes.

Published in Match Racing
Page 1 of 3

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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