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Howth 17 Nationals Championship Shared by Deilginis and Zaida  

7th August 2021
Oona (17, Peter Courtney) Isobel (19, Brian & Conor Turvey) and Rosemary (12, David Jones, George Curley & David Potter) getting stuck in at the Howth 17 Nationals
Oona (17, Peter Courtney) Isobel (19, Brian & Conor Turvey) and Rosemary (12, David Jones, George Curley & David Potter) getting stuck in at the Howth 17 Nationals Credit: John Doran

With a rising westerly of notably dense air today (Saturday), Race Officer Scorie Walls did well to get three contests completed for the vintage Howth 17s annual championship at their home port, with the fleet benefiting from the class having already completed a sedate mid-week style race without topsails on Friday evening, sailing under a picturesque but pessimistic sky whose indications of stronger winds were borne out as Saturday progressed.

“A picturesque but pessimistic sky” – Friday evening’s race was sailed with an ominously watery sunset. Photo: Brian Maguire“A picturesque but pessimistic sky” – Friday evening’s race was sailed with an ominously watery sunset. Photo: Brian Maguire

In such conditions, the Debate of the Day with these venerable boats is whether to race with topsails or not. And though a significant number sallied forth with full cloth early on Saturday morning, it was notable that Deilginis utilized a clear OCS in Race 3 to take time out to become bald-headed, thereby enabling her to get a convincing win in the final race and ensure that the title moved on from 2020 champion Pauline (Shane O’Doherty and partners), which had raced without the topsail from the start, yet had logged two useful seconds to keep her in the frame.

Deilginis and Isobel persevering with topsails while Rita and Pauline show that bald-headed was ultimately the way to go. Photo: John DoranDeilginis and Isobel persevering with topsails while Rita and Pauline show that bald-headed was ultimately the way to go. Photo: John Doran

However, although topsail or not was just one of several Issues of the Day, Brian and Conor Turvey kept it centre stage with Isobel by masterfully managing the special trick of a double gybe, ending up with topsail on one side and mainsail on the other - something which newcomers to the class had thought was in the realms of mythology. Fortunately, a photographer was on hand to show it can be done, but he failed to capture the bonus of the helmsman going over the side and being hauled back by the brother grabbing his ankle – “It was only a footnote, really,” we are told.

After a spectacular gyration, it was thought that Isobel had broken her gaff boom………..Photo: John DoranAfter a spectacular gyration, it was thought that Isobel had broken her gaff boom………..Photo: John Doran

…..but it emerged that she had managed the Five Star trick of the Double Gybe – topsail on one side, and mainsail on the other. Photo: John Doran…..but it emerged that she had managed the Five Star trick of the Double Gybe – topsail on one side, and mainsail on the other. Photo: John Doran

Inevitably there was some damage as the series went on – damage of a type unknown to modern sailors, as they seemed to feature various disconnections with the gaff booms, the most notable being Rosemary whose gaff was irretrievably fractured such that a diet of bread and dripping will be the order of the day in three households until the complete replacement cost is recovered.

When it was still all systems go – Rosemary (foreground) retired with a broken gaff, but once Deilginis (11) had discarded her topsail as the wind freshened - not as easy as it looks – she took the last race and the title in convincing style. Photo: John DoranWhen it was still all systems go – Rosemary (foreground) retired with a broken gaff, but once Deilginis (11) had discarded her topsail as the wind freshened - not as easy as it looks – she took the last race and the title in convincing style. Photo: John Doran

The ding-dong for the straight title continued, but freed of her topsail Deilginis had a scoreline - after the discard of her OCS - of two firsts and a third, while defending champion Pauline was on two seconds and a fifth, the third-placed Aura (Ian Malcolm) consistently logging two thirds and a fourth.

Under HPH, the Tom Houlihan partnership with Zaida won overall, but despite a rugged handicap, Deilginis was second, while Sheila (Dave Mulligan & Andy Johnston) was third in a championship which showed this venerable class to be in fine form. Details here 

The 2021 Howth 17 champions with Deilginis – wall-to-wall Masseys except for Mikey Toomey (second left). Photo: Brian TurveyThe 2021 Howth 17 champions with Deilginis – wall-to-wall Masseys except for Mikey Toomey (second left). Photo: Brian Turvey

Published in Howth 17, Howth YC
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).

©Afloat 2020

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