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'Dalkey Boat' Wins Historic Howth 17 Championship

14th August 2017
An ancient class in the best of health. The Howth Seventeens Oona (left, Peter Courtney, built 1910), Isobel (Conor & Brian Turvey, built 1988) and Orla) (Ian Malcolm, built 2017) racing towards Ireland’s Eye in their Annual Championship on Saturday. In addition to their five race “National” Championship, the class provides about 60 club and regatta races in the course of the season An ancient class in the best of health. The Howth Seventeens Oona (left, Peter Courtney, built 1910), Isobel (Conor & Brian Turvey, built 1988) and Orla) (Ian Malcolm, built 2017) racing towards Ireland’s Eye in their Annual Championship on Saturday. In addition to their five race “National” Championship, the class provides about 60 club and regatta races in the course of the season Credit: Neil Murphy

The Massey family’s 1907-built Deilginis of Howth Yacht Club has retained the Howth Seventeen Annual Championship after a five–race series concluded on Saturday with a countback following a points tie with the 1910-built Oona (Peter Courtney) writes W M Nixon.

The combined age of the boats taking part in this well-supported event was 1,487 years. And though this oldest active keelboat class in the world has a strong presence of younger sailors in its makeup of crews, the fact that many boats now find they do best four up meant that the total combined ages involved with people and boats soared through the 2,000 years mark.

But in mostly ideal conditions, Race Officer Neil Murphy was able to get in a complete programme which would have been envied by many younger classes, thanks to putting through a preliminary race on Friday evening, sailed in sunshine and a brisk southwest to west breeze.

howth seventeen 2 yachtThe Friday evening race in a brisk sou’west to west breeze sent the Howth Seventeens away from a traditional pier start through the Sound inside Ireland’s Eye. Photo: W M Nixon

Although Conor Turvey helming the 1988-built Isobel had the best of the start, by the finish Luke Massey had brought Deilginis through to the lead, and at the line it was Deiliginis, Oona and Roddy Cooper’s 1898-built Leila taking the honours.

However, the real excitement was back in the midst of the fleet, where Transatlantic Solo Race winner Conor Fogerty was guest helming aboard the Lynch family’s Echo. In a close encounter on a rolling run with Eileen, the latter’s mainsail came in across the Lynch boat, and their star visiting helm found himself wrapped up in Eileen’s mainsheet, and hauled into the sea.

Any talk of being Lynched was reckoned in the worst possible taste as they got the right people aboard the right boats. And nothing daunted, the Atlantic veteran raced on despite being soaked to the skin, though the 14th place recorded by Echo became her discard.

howth seventeen yacht 6Saturday at first brought plenty of breeze, but topsails were carried throughout. Photo: Neil Murphy

Things were back to normal in the morning, and Saturday’s packed programme was staged in a west to nor’west breeze which was marginal for topsails at first, but with the forecast for wind strengths to ease as the day went on, the fleet went forth with full sail set.

It was intriguing to note the different levels of skills being shown in the arcane arts of setting a jackyard tops’l. The fact that Peter Courtney’s family have been involved with the class since 1907 suggests that it’s an inherited talent, as the topsail on Oona was in place to perfection, setting as one with the mainsail, whereas some other boats had inefficiently large gaps between the jackyard and the gaff.

howth seventeen yacht 6The new French-built Orla (Ian Malcolm, left) and Peter Courtney’s Oona, which had the best-set topsail in the fleet. Photo: Neil Murphy

Despite the style of her topsail setting, Oona was back in third in Saturday’s first race, but Deilginis was on a roll with another win. However, the Courtney boat then moved rapidly up the ranking with two firsts in Saturday’s second and third races, while Deilginis logged a sixth and a second. This meant they were head to head in the final race with Deiliginis in cover on Oona, while the brand-new French-built Orla (Ian Malcolm) read a windshift to perfection to take the win, with second going to the Turveys and Isobel, and Deilginis and Oona coming in third and fourth.

With them tied on 7.0pts after discards, the quick judgment was that Oona must have it, as she discarded a fourth while Deilginis dropped a sixth, and they both had a scoreline of two firsts, a second and a third. But somewhere in the deepest depths of World Sailing Rules it apparently says that in the event of a tie, the placings in the final race are the decider, with discards ignored, so Deilginis retained the title she won in 2016, with Oona second, Isobel third and the new Orla fourth on a 4th, 5th, 6th and 1st, with an 11th discarded.

In a class of this size, the availability of handicaps adds greatly to the commitment of the fleet, and the placings in this division were 1st Gladys (Pat Heydon), 2nd Bobolink (Doyle/Finnegan/Walsh), 3rd Silver Moon (Susan Morgan) and 4th Erica (Ian Byrne and Eddie Ferris).

howth seventeen yacht 6The breeze eased on Saturday as the day went on, but the full programme was completed. Under the rules of the class, it is obligatory to carry the entire spinnaker on the weather side. Photo: Neil Murphy

As to a Howth championship being won by “the Dalkey boat”, it goes back into the mists of time, when Dublin Bay Sailing Club were casting about around 1906, looking for a seaworthy little keelboat class. Having searched high and low, it was pointed out to them that a well-proven little class was hidden round on the other side of Howth Head. Apparently they were called the Howth Seventeens, and the word was they did the business as regards seaworthiness and good racing.

So in classic Kingstown style, Dublin Bay Sailing Club adopted the design, immediately renamed them the Dublin Bay Seventeen, and ordered seven to be built by James Kelly in Portrush on the north coast, for delivery to Kingstown on flatbed railway trucks in time for the 1907 season.

Leading this movement was Dr W M A Wright who was to become DBSC Commodore in 1919. But in 1907, to underline the Dublin Bay character of his new Seventeen footer, he called her Deilginis, after that place which has been known as Dalkey ever since the Vikings passed through.

howth seventeen yacht 6The Massey family’s 1907-built Deilginis, Howth 17 Champion 2017, was retrieved from the canal bank in Dolphin’s Barn in Dublin in a tarred and derelict state in 1971. Photo: Neil Murphy

Deilginis was a star of the Dun Laoghaire yachting scene for years, but by 1970 when Nick Massey was in the heart of the movement to re-locate all the boats to Howth, the word was that Deilginis was in a state of dereliction, with evidence of tar being deployed, on the banks of the Grand Canal at Dolphin’s Barn in Dublin.

We just don’t have the space, time or knowledge to explain how Dolphin’s Barn got its name. Sufficient to say that Nick and his siblings and shipmates managed to retrieve what was left of Deilginis around 1970, and her path has been onwards and upwards ever since, with this past weekend yet another waypoint on that magic route.

Published in Howth 17, Howth YC
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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).

©Afloat 2020

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