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Howth Yacht Club's Classic Boat Championships Finishes in Style for Mermaids & Howth 17s

8th August 2016
The Mermaid championship concluded in a blow in Howth Yacht Club at the weekend The Mermaid championship concluded in a blow in Howth Yacht Club at the weekend Photo: Jonathan Wormald/HYC

The Howth Yacht Club hosted the Classic One-Design Regatta - incorporating the National Championships of the Dublin Bay Mermaid and Howth 17 Footer classes. Download Mermaid results below. Even before you could see them, the vapour of varnish bumbled over the hills and lowlands into Howth. Facebook updates from sailors on motorways passing shiny timber creations confirmed that the Mermaids were officially on tour. Some arrived under cover of darkness and were only noticed early on Thursday morning with a full dinghy pen. Little sailors, just starting out on their sailing careers, couldn't even see over the gunwhales of these big dinghies. They oohed and ahhed at boats made from "actual timber?"

Twenty-three Mermaids were weighed and plopped into Howth Harbour. Some of them had been here relatively recently (1953!) and wondered who had stolen Howth Sailing Club. HYC's Jedi, Neville Maguire was on hand with fellow Mermaid aficionados Gerry and Ian Sargent to poke and point and raise eyebrows at things called "Cleats".

Under the care of National Race Officer Scorie Walls, Thursday's racing started at a polite 1400. Keeping the Northside flag held high, "Azeezy" from Skerries did the business with two wins from three races. Not content with competing with eachother on the water, the Annual Mermaid Table Quiz followed rehydration. In a show of poor manners, a table made up almost entirely of Howth 17 Footers won. A prize was awarded for the best answer to "What is the capital of Mongolia?" "Don't know, but it's got a lot of vowels and sounds fierce foreign".

Two races for the Mermaids on Friday saw "Wild Wind" (Rush SC) and "Tiller Girl" (National YC) equal "Azeezy"'s daily tot of 6 points. The gap wasn't closing.

Howth history in the making was being mentioned all week before the old ladies of sailing, the Howth 17 Footers, put on their Friday night frocks and took to the water for a single race from the East Pier. For the first time in history, 18 boats were afloat and jockeying for position. The busy start line was made slightly more complex when the class was given a downwind/ spinnaker start in front of the East Pier, with boats gybing and tacking simultaneously as they jockied for position with a minute to go. Almost inevitably for the class, the girls began the bumping and grinding before the start signal and "Oona" went for "Rita" like a jealous girlfriend. "Rita’s” stick-man, Marcus Lynch, found himself with a clip around the ear from "Oona's" bowsprit and was forced to retire with injured planks, cracked frames and a split rudder. Turns out that "Oona" picked the wrong girl to shout at and she broke her bowsprit in the collision. And so the anticipated race with the full compliment of the world's oldest one-design racing keelboats never quite happened. The remaining seventeen boats crossed the line with spinnakers flying and more photographers clicking than at a Justin Bieber underwear collection launch. Head girl was "Deilginis" with "Aura" and "Hera" following in her tracks.

Saturday morning saw the Howth 17 Footers dressing up in their finest gowns and bonnets and gliding like debutants to the dancefloor. "Hera" lifted up her skirt and frightened the girls by winning by over two minutes. The brazen thing. She would have to have her cough softened! "Deilginis" took back control of the crowd in Race 3, trailed by "Gladys" sporting her 2016 Spring/Summer collection.

By the middle of the day, the wind had picked up, gusting over 30kts, and it was become hard for some to keep the bonnets atop. The ladies rolled down the run more like drunken maids than the elegant princesses which left the Harbour. Half of the fleet chose to remove their topsails but not before the paparazzi had caught them on video, in full swing...

The Mermaids were on the far side of the trapezoid course and only crossed the Howth 17s at the leeward mark and short beat to the finish. It was likely that some Mermaid sailors were checking their insurance when they saw the 17s approach! Top Mermaid of the day was "Vee" (Rush SC) with a 1st and 4th. "Wild Wind" and "Tiller Girl" produced some magic to close the gap to leader "Azeezy" but it wasn't to be enough to rein in the eventual Champions.

Back on the Howth 17 course, "Leila" and "Aura" sobered and took the last two races, and "Deilginis" was to take the 2016 title. Class Captain, Tom Houlihan, took the Handicap prize aboard his "Zaida".

As the last of the Howth 17 sailors were plucked from the moorings, the Mermaids had already already been craned out and packed up, setting the scene for a packed balcony in glorious sunshine. Rehydration once more!

170 sailors and their entourages filed into the club dining room to be fed, found, watered, awarded and clapped at. Champion Mermaid sailor Sam Shiels pronounced an epic acceptance speech. His Howth 17 opposite, Luke Massey, countered it with an example of brevity and raised the trophy aloft.

The next Classic One-Design Regatta will be held at Howth Yacht Club over the weekend of 10-12 August 2018.

Downloads

Published in Howth 17

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Howth 17 information

The oldest one-design keelboat racing class in the world is still competing today to its original 1897 design exclusively at Howth Yacht club.

Howth 17 FAQs

The Howth 17 is a type of keelboat. It is a 3-man single-design keelboat designed to race in the waters off Howth and Dublin Bay.

The Howth Seventeen is just 22ft 6ins in hull length.

The Howth 17 class is raced and maintained by the Association members preserving the unique heritage of the boats. Association Members maintain the vibrancy of the Class by racing and cruising together as a class and also encourage new participants to the Class in order to maintain succession. This philosophy is taken account of and explained when the boats are sold.

The boat is the oldest one-design keelboat racing class in the world and it is still racing today to its original design exclusively at Howth Yacht club. It has important historical and heritage value keep alive by a vibrant class of members who race and cruise the boats.

Although 21 boats are in existence, a full fleet rarely sails buy turnouts for the annual championships are regularly in the high teens.

The plans of the Howth 17 were originally drawn by Walter Herbert Boyd in 1897 for Howth Sailing Club. The boat was launched in Ireland in 1898.

They were originally built by John Hilditch at Carrickfergus, County Down. Initially, five boats were constructed by him and sailed the 90-mile passage to Howth in the spring of 1898. The latest Number 21 was built in France in 2017.

The Howth 17s were designed to combat local conditions in Howth that many of the keel-less boats of that era such as the 'Half-Rater' would have found difficult.

The original fleet of five, Rita, Leila, Silver Moon, Aura and Hera, was increased in 1900 with the addition of Pauline, Zaida and Anita. By 1913 the class had increased to fourteen boats. The extra nine were commissioned by Dublin Bay Sailing Club for racing from Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) - Echo, Sylvia, Mimosa, Deilginis, Rosemary, Gladys, Bobolink, Eileen and Nautilus. Gradually the boats found their way to Howth from various places, including the Solent and by the latter part of the 20th century they were all based there. The class, however, was reduced to 15 due to mishaps and storm damage for a few short years but in May 1988 Isobel and Erica were launched at Howth Yacht Club, the boats having been built in a shed at Howth Castle - the first of the class actually built in Howth.

The basic wooden Howth 17 specification was for a stem and keel of oak and elm, deadwood and frames of oak, planking of yellow pine above the waterline and red pine below, a shelf of pitch pine and a topstrake of teak, larch deck-beams and yellow pine planking and Baltic spruce spars with a keel of lead. Other than the inclusion of teak, the boats were designed to be built of materials which at that time were readily available. However today yellow pine and pitch pine are scarce, their properties of endurance and longevity much appreciated and very much in evidence on the original five boats.

 

It is always a busy 60-race season of regular midweek evening and Saturday afternoon contests plus regattas and the Howth Autumn League.

In 2017, a new Howth 17 Orla, No 21, was built for Ian Malcolm. The construction of Orla began in September 2016 at Skol ar Mor, the boat-building school run by American Mike Newmeyer and his dedicated team of instructor-craftsmen at Mesquer in southern Brittany. In 2018, Storm Emma wrought extensive destruction through the seven Howth Seventeens stored in their much-damaged shed on Howth’s East Pier at the beginning of March 2018, it was feared that several of the boats – which since 1898 have been the very heart of Howth sailing – would be written off. But in the end only one – David O’Connell’s Anita built in 1900 by James Clancy of Dun Laoghaire – was assessed as needing a complete re-build. Anita was rebuilt by Paul Robert and his team at Les Ateliers de l’Enfer in Douarnenez in Brittany in 2019 and Brought home to Howth.

The Howth 17 has a gaff rig.

The total sail area is 305 sq ft (28.3 m2).

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