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Howth Seventeens Have their Own Special Programme at Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta

14th July 2019
Ian & Judith Malcolm’s 1898-built Aura has emerged as Howth 17 Champion from the VDLR 19 Ian & Judith Malcolm’s 1898-built Aura has emerged as Howth 17 Champion from the VDLR 19 Credit: Afloat

The Howth Seventeens have survived and prospered for 121 years by doing things their own way, so for the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2019, eight of them packed a lot of sailing miles into a compact programme by racing across the bay from their home port on the Friday afternoon, joining in the Dun Laoghaire parties through Friday night, then they’d three great races in the bay in the sunshine of Super Saturday with partying to follow, and today they rounded it all out by racing back home around the Baily and into Howth Harbour.

Howth17 Sheila2The Howth 17 Sheila is one of the newer boats, with hull built by Charlie Featherstone in Wicklow and completion by Dougal MacMahon in Offaly. Owned by David Mulligan & Andy Johnston, she finished fifth in class in VDLR 2019. Photo Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Conor & Brian Turvey with the 1988-built Isobel put down a marker with a win in the passage race across the bay to Dun Laoghaire, with second going to third-generation Howth 17 sailor Peter Courtney with Oona, while Ian & Judith Malcolm with Aura (one of the original 1898 boats) were third.

It was Aura which roared into form on Saturday, logging two firsts and a third, and though John Curley & Marcus Lynch won today’s passage race home to Howth in another of the originals, Rita No 1, Aura was second and thus took the overall title with 7 points, with Isobel getting second overall with 8 points while Oonagh took third on a total of 11.

Howth17 start3Howth17 start with (left to right) Rita, Isobel, Gladys, Erica and overall winner Aura. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Published in Howth 17, Volvo Regatta
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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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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