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Howth 17s Celebrate 125 Years of One Design Racing in West Cork Trip to the Fastnet Rock

26th April 2023
The vintage Howth 17 fleet is heading to West Cork in 2023 for 125-year celebrations
The vintage Howth 17 fleet is heading to West Cork in 2023 for 125-year celebrations

As part of the 125th year celebrations for the oldest one design racing keelboat class in the world, the Howth 17s will be travelling to Baltimore, West Cork, this year.

As Afloat reported previously, they will be launching on Saturday, 24th of June, in Baltimore Harbour and plan to spend a full week in West Cork to include some cruising and some racing.

The schedule for the week includes a welcome party on Saturday, the 24th of June, at Baltimore Sailing Club, sailing to Schull on Monday 26th, followed by a stopover in Crookhaven and a trip around the Fastnet Rock on Wednesday 28th June. The class selected Cape Clear Ferries and Cape Clear Distillery as their partners for this special day, finishing at Cape Clear with a tow into the inner harbour for a drinks reception, barbecue and a ferry back to Baltimore that evening.

Thursday will be set aside as a reserve day or 'lay day', allowing sailors and attendees to enjoy the local culture and relaxation. The week will conclude with a final race followed by the prizegiving on Friday, 30th June in Baltimore Sailing Club.

This event is open to all sailors and sailing enthusiasts, and the organisers are inviting people to come and join in the celebrations. There will be plenty of opportunities to sail on the Howth 17s, as well as social events and activities throughout the week. Support boats and enthusiastic chaperones are actively encouraged and should register here or contact the organising committee through class captain David O'Shea.

The Howth 17s are a symbol of the Irish sailing heritage, and this event is a great opportunity to experience the beauty of West Cork and to celebrate the history of one of the oldest one design racing classes in the world.

Howth 17s in Baltimore Schedule (provisional):

Saturday 24th June:
Launching of the Howth 17s in Baltimore harbour
Welcome party in Baltimore Sailing Club

Sunday 25th June:
Day in Baltimore - sail in harbour - possible trip to Sherkin Island

Monday 26th June:
Sail from Baltimore to Schull
Evening in Schull
Return to Baltimore by road

Tuesday 27th June:
Sail from Schull to Crookhaven
Evening in Crookhaven
Return to Baltimore by road

Trip around the Fastnet Rock
Finish at Cape Clear Island (14:30 - welcome party sponsored by Cape Clear Ferries and Cape Clear Distillery)
Return ferry to Baltimore

Reserve/ Lay Day

Friday 30th June:
Racing in Baltimore Harbour
Prizegiving in Baltimore Sailing Club

Saturday 1st July:
Lift-out from Baltimore

Published in Howth 17, West Cork Team

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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