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Plans for New Irish One Design Fleet of Cape 31 Racers

26th August 2021
A Cape 31 at speed on the Solent
A Cape 31 at speed on the Solent - plans are afoot to bring the new design to Ireland where it was originally designed Credit: Cape 31 Class/Instagram

Could it be that the newest Irish one-design keelboat class will be another Irish design?

The news that Irish sportsboat exponents here have ordered up to five Cape 31 One Designs for next season has echoes of what happened almost 30 years ago when the smaller 1720 sportsboat was born in Cork Harbour.

The new Cape 31 was designed by Wicklow based Mark Mills as a simple, clean, high-performance One Design, and it's been turning heads at some of the world's biggest sailing centres.

Now, according to Afloat sources, Irish interest in the South African inspired racer has come from Howth and Cork Harbour and from some very experienced crews seeking a racing boat with 'no pretences towards cruising'. 

The boat, which is crewed by five or six, offers a combination of both upwind and offwind performance in a breeze while retaining lighter airs capabilities which has appealed to many sportsboat sailors.

As regular readers will recall, Afloat has been reporting on Cape 31 developments since its inception in 2017

Cape 31s racing at Cowes WeekCape 31s racing at Cowes Week

There is a fleet in double digits in Cape Town, and, closer to home, the class stole the limelight at this month's Cowes Week Regatta on the Solent.

According to Mills, boasting high-performance features such as an innovative ramp deck, an all-carbon keel fin, and a Southern Spars carbon rig, the light but powerful 31 has been impressing sailors on both sides of the Atlantic.

Designed to be the tightest possible fit for a high cube shipping container to allow easy transport worldwide, it's not entirely clear at this point if the new Irish owners intend to race locally or join the international regatta set, a means to escape the Irish winter.

Cape 31 - The low freeboard aggressively chined hull shape that maximises form stability in a breeze but enjoys low wetted surface when upright. Plans courtesy Mills DesignCape 31 deck plan - The low freeboard aggressively chined hull shape that maximises form stability in a breeze but enjoys low wetted surface when upright. Plans courtesy Mills Design

Cape 31 - The low freeboard aggressively chined hull shape that maximises form stability in a breeze but enjoys low wetted surface when upright. Plans courtesy Mills DesignCape 31sail plan - the new design accommodates a socketed deep carbon keel fin and a powerful sail plan, developed with North Sails South Africa and set on a Southern Spars Cape Town carbon rig Plans courtesy Mills Design

In the UK, promoters say they are also competing against the IRC rating fleet in a bid to make the Cape 31 the "ultimate all-rounder". 

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Irish Sailing Classes and Association – There’s no shortage of one-design classes from which to choose and each gives its enthusiasts great competition, fun and camaraderie, writes Graham Smith in this review of the classes. 

One-design racing is where it all starts. It is, after all, where all the top sailors earned their stripes, battling away for line honours without a thought for a handicapper’s calculator wiping away a hard-fought victory!

Indeed, you could count on less than one hand the number of top Irish sailors who didn’t cut their teeth in a one-design dinghy! Just think of Cudmore, Barrington, Watson, Wilkins, Hennessy and Dix to name a few and you realise that they honed their skills in everything from Enterprises to Lasers and a lot in between.

At present count, there are a little over 30 one-design classes in Ireland, split almost evenly between dinghies and keelboats, a statistic which might raise a few eyebrows. They range from the long-established Mermaids, IDRA14s and Dragons to the newer additions like Fevas, Topaz and RS Elite. They all fill a particular need and give their owners and crews considerable enjoyment.

Many have attracted their World or European Championships to Irish waters over the years and while 2009 is notable for a lack of such events here, the following year will see the Etchells Worlds at Howth and perhaps a few other international regattas too.

In addition to the review, we asked each class to complete a questionnaire giving details of their fleet numbers, whether they were on a growth pattern or holding their own, so we could highlight those ‘on the up’ and those remaining static in terms of numbers. The older traditional designs, as you might imagine, fall into the latter category, although that’s not a negative!

CLASS REVIEW  The State of the Classes – League Table (as at February 2009)

S = Static; U = Up/growing

275     Optimist   U

200+   Laser   S

189     Mermaid   S

160     Flying Fifteen   S

130     RS Feva   U

115     Shannon One Design    U

100+   Mirror   S

100+   Topper   U

99       Topaz   U

94       Laser SB3   U

87       GP14   U

85       Squib   S

70       Fireball   S

70       Ruffian   S

60       J24   S

60       Shipman   S

52       Dragon   S

50       RS400/200   S

50       420    U

43       Multihulls    U

42       Dragon    S

40       Water Wags    U

40       Wayfarer    S

34       IDRA14    U

33       Puppeteer    U

28       Etchells    S

27       E-Boat    U

26       Glen    S

25       Enterprise    S

18       Sigma 33    S

18       Howth 17    U

13       RS Elite    U

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