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Classic National 18 'Fingal 226' to Be Modernised

27th September 2021
The classic National 18 Fingal 226 under sail - the boat is to undergo an upgrade of equipment
The classic National 18 Fingal 226 under sail - the dinghy is to undergo an upgrade of equipment

Roger Bannon is undertaking a major upgrade of Fingal 226's equipment and he will also redo her lovely finishes in a bid to allow as many people as possible to sail this classic National 18, a 'thoroughbred maritime greyhound'

In 1957 the National 18 was the dominant fleet in Skerries, with the Mermaids trying hard to make an impact.

Leo Flannigan and his brother Dr Jack Flannigan decided to get new National 18s built by ARP in the UK using the then remarkable Bruynzeel plywood being manufactured in Holland for planking rather than silver spruce. These boats (known as Stickies) were revolutionary in their lightness and stiffness and totally outclassed all the existing boats at the time despite retaining a cast iron centreboard weighing over 175lbs. These boats also pioneered the first Proctor built aluminium spars which proved to be an immense performance enhancer.

National 18 Fingal 226 -  when built she was revolutionary in their lightness and stiffnessNational 18 Fingal 226 - when built she was revolutionary in their lightness and stiffness

These developments led to the collapse of the National 18 fleet in Skerries and prompted the establishment of a large fleet of Mermaids which were cheaper, more one design and better able to cope with the brisk wind conditions which tended to prevail in Skerries Harbour, which exposed the relatively unprotected drying out moorings.

Fingal - a beautiful piece of outstanding dinghy building craftsmanshipFingal - a beautiful piece of outstanding dinghy building craftsmanship

These two boats were beautiful pieces of outstanding craftsmanship but hugely expensive. The final major development of the wooden generation was the change in 1967 to a 65 lb aluminium centreboard which hugely increased the performance of the boat, making it much livelier, less suitable for exposed moorings and more prone to capsizing in brisk conditions. This eventually led to the emergence of the Proctor designed smooth hulled glassfibre versions as a successful attempt to reduce costs and introduce lighter one-design hulls with a more modern, easily driven shape.

Upgrade project -  it is proposed to modernise the equipment to make the boat easier and safer to sail, fit a lighter centreboard, include a trapeze (which is used on more modern versions) and install additional built-in buoyancyUpgrade project - it is proposed to modernise the equipment to make the boat easier and safer to sail, fit a lighter centreboard, include a trapeze (which is used on more modern versions) and install additional built-in buoyancy

Dr Jack Flannigan's boat on which I learned to sail in the mid-'60s, Finola 225, eventually ended up in the UK, where after some spectacular mishaps, it was beautifully restored and is now actively sailed in the Classic division of the National 18s in Bosham. Leo Flannigan's boat, Fingal 226, was acquired by noted Skerries based dinghy sailor Brendan Reddin who undertook a restoration project over many years to put 226 back into pristine condition. By his own admission, he had spent over 2,500 hours carefully reviving this outstanding boat. Brendan tragically died five years ago.

The family was tortured over what to do with the boat, eventually concluding that Brendan would have liked someone to take over its custodianship and undertake a major upgrade of its equipment and redo its lovely finishes, particularly on the deck. They have little patience for museum pieces, and a bit like the wonderful DBSC 21 project, they want the boat to be actively sailed by as many people as possible and enjoy the experience of sailing in one of these thoroughbred maritime greyhounds from the era of the emergence of dinghy sailing as a universally accessible pastime.

Fingal's stern locker complete with lock and keyFingal's stern locker complete with lock and key

With this in mind, it is proposed to modernise the equipment to make the boat easier and safer to sail, fit a lighter centreboard, include a trapeze (which is used on more modern versions) and install additional built-in buoyancy similar to the Mermaids to make it genuinely self-rescuing in the event of a swamping, a not uncommon experience in these lively vessels.

It is expected the project will take approximately six months to complete, and the planned relaunch of the boat is targeted for early May 2022, when it will join the active Classic National 18 Fleet.

The advent of this project has occurred very serendipitously in 2021, coinciding with the restoration of the DBSC 21's, including Garavogue, on which I had my first sail ever in 1964 when it was still gaff rigged.

Published in National 18
Afloat.ie Team

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At A Glance – National 18 Dinghy Specifications

The new National 18 ‘Ultra’ Specifications

Designer Phil Morrison
LOA 5.49m
Beam 2.36m
Hull Weight 160kg
Sailing Weight <200kg
Crew Weight No Limit
Main & Jib 22.5 m2
Kite 21.0 m2
PY 910
Construction Vinylester Foam Sandwich

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