Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Howth 17s' National Championship Brings it All Home This Weekend

4th August 2021
A class in good heart. Some of the top-performing Howth 17s racing in July's spell of good weather with (left to right) Rita (Marcus Lynch & John Curley), Aura (Ian Malcolm), Isobel (Brian & Conor Turvey), Sheila (Dave Mulligan & Andy Johnston) and Oona (Peter Courtney)
A class in good heart. Some of the top-performing Howth 17s racing in July's spell of good weather with (left to right) Rita (Marcus Lynch & John Curley), Aura (Ian Malcolm), Isobel (Brian & Conor Turvey), Sheila (Dave Mulligan & Andy Johnston) and Oona (Peter Courtney) Credit: Jane Duffy

For more than fifty years now, the 1898-founded Howth 17s have all been located at their port of origin, and the class has been thriving, so much so that serious damage to seven of the boats in winter storage in Storm Emma in March 2018 now seems like no more than a hiccup. The class recovered, with boats repaired or re-built and new ones added, such that assigned sail numbers have gone through the twenty mark. This may not seem such a big deal when international classes run into the thousands. But by local standards at any sailing centre, it's more than healthy, and the intriguing thing is how many locations internationally have contributed to this Howth growth.

With the port having only a limited local boat-building tradition - although two boats were built by the great John O'Reilly in a shed at Howth Castle in 1988 - the class's seemingly inexhaustible movers and shakers such as Nick Massey and Ian Malcolm have since had to cast the net wide for quality work, and this has used talent in Irish counties as diverse as Wicklow, Offaly, Meath, Fingal and West Cork in addition to availing of the subsidised boat-building schools of France.

A new Howth 17 being built at Skol ar Mor in South BrittanyA new Howth 17 being built at Skol ar Mor in South Brittany

Thus although they may be a one-place one-design, they've an international and forward-looking outlook. So it was an intriguing experience for eleven of the boat to go across to Dun Laoghaire last weekend to welcome home the first three restored Dublin Bay 21s to the National Yacht Club, and be greeted by some very senior sailors as "the Dublin Bay 17s from the noted northside club at Howth".

Fact is, DBSC had the use of the design for a sub-section of the class only from 1907 to 1964, by which time their crews had mostly moved into Glens, while the Dun Laoghaire Seventeens were all brought home to Howth and the TLC which has been lavished on them to varying degrees ever since.

The morning after…. Early on Saturday, July 31st at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, after eleven Howth 17s had sailed across to join the previous night's Welcome Home party for the three restored Dublin Bay 21s. Photo: David JonesThe morning after…. Early on Saturday, July 31st at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, after eleven Howth 17s had sailed across to join the previous night's Welcome Home party for the three restored Dublin Bay 21s. Photo: David Jones

As to Howth itself being northside Dublin, the reality is it is all actually east of the entire capital, and the sandy link (tombolo if you prefer) to Dublin's associated landmass is so tenuous that it's thought of as being "nearby Ireland".

But not to worry. The Howth-folk are generous of spirit, and in 2021 they've already visited Clontarf for the annual At Home – involving a sporty rounding of the Baily against a north-going tide with the race won by Deilginis – while going to Dun Laoghaire seemed right and proper even if some of the denizens thereof were confused about the type of boats they'd arrived in, and equally confused about points of the compass and relative geography.

Cutting the corner – with a fair wind but a foul tide, two of the Howth 17s try to find the weakest adverse stream right in on the pin of The Baily as they race into Dublin Bay, on course for the 2021 Clontarf At Home. Photo courtesy Howth Seventeen AssociationCutting the corner – with a fair wind but a foul tide, two of the Howth 17s try to find the weakest adverse stream right in on the pin of The Baily as they race into Dublin Bay, on course for the 2021 Clontarf At Home. Photo courtesy Howth Seventeen Association

This weekend it's back to local reality for the Howth 17 National Championship. It's officially designated as Friday, August 6th to Sunday, August 8th, but in time-honoured style, Sunday is very much the reserve day, they race on Friday evening and then pile on the races throughout Saturday until the quota is reached so that everything can be done and dusted by the Saturday night prize-giving dinner which - even in semi-socially-distanced times - will not be an event for shrinking violets.

As to results, the defending champions are the Shane O'Doherty team with the 1900-built Pauline. She is usually to be found in the middle of the fleet, but in the 2020 Championship, there were so many private battles going on between the more noted hotshots that Pauline was able to slip through the gaps into a popular overall win.

Back where they belong – Howth 17s racing in the Sound inside Ireland's Eye in July's drought conditions – Oona (foreground) is owned by Peter Courtney, whose family have been involved with the class since 1907. Photo: Jane Duffy

This year a noted pace-setter in club racing has been Isobel (Brian & Conor Turvey), while other names featuring at the front of the fleet have included Deilginis (Massey, Toomey, Kenny), Rita (Marcus Lynch & John Curley), Orla (Marc Fitzgibbon/Gallagher), Sheila (Dave Mulligan & Andy Johnston), Oona (Peter Courtney) and Aura (Ian Malcolm), which is the most recent top scorer as she won on Tuesday evening.

But with a turnout this weekend pushing towards fifteen of these unique boats, if the private battles for which the Howth 17s are renowned develop in their usual way, who knows what new name might come to the fore by nipping through the gaps, like the hero in Jurassic Park……..

After making a perfect job of rounding the final gybe mark, Shane O'Doherty with Pauline was on his way to victory in the Howth 17 2020 Nationals.After making a perfect job of rounding the final gybe mark, Shane O'Doherty with Pauline was on his way to victory in the Howth 17 2020 Nationals.

Published in Howth 17
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

Email The Author

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.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

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

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2021

vdlr21 sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating