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Centenarian Shannon One Designs Are Busy – And Getting Busier

16th June 2022
The fleet Locking through in the Shannon One Designs’ Long-Distance Race down the Shannon from Lough Ree to Lough Derg. With a total distance of 40 miles to sail, the few locks between Ree and Derg provide a welcome break
The fleet Locking through in the Shannon One Designs’ Long-Distance Race down the Shannon from Lough Ree to Lough Derg. With a total distance of 40 miles to sail, the few locks between Ree and Derg provide a welcome break

Being involved in Shannon One Design racing in a normal year is a State of Mind as much as it’s a matter of active sport afloat in a highly individualistic 18ft una-rigged open boat, a hard-sailed work of art that was created with exquisite classic construction. The boat is well-matched by the characterful sailors that race her - they may not always be exquisite, but they’re certainly of classic construction.

Be that as it may, in this the SODs’ Centenary Year, Class Chairman Philip Mayne and the Honorary Secretary Naomi Algeo and their team seem determined to move it all on from being a State of Mind to becoming a complete Way of Life. For if SOD sailors can maintain the pace of the programme which is developing as management gauges the growing level of enthusiasm for Centenary sport, they’ll find that they’ve no sooner recovered from one major happening before the countdown begins towards the next.

Nip and tuck – Shannon ODs in close action on Lough Ree. Photo: Con MurphyNip and tuck – Shannon ODs in close action on Lough Ree. Photo: Con Murphy

The real rocket booster to getting things moving was the class’s stellar performance at the recent ClinkerFest at Lough Ree YC, where organiser Garret Leech was prepared to test them to the uttermost with a two-day programme of nine races in brisk breezes. They saw it through with style even if many had discovered twinge of varying severity in muscles that they didn’t even know existed.

But more importantly, the favourable reports of supper-sport inspired those who still hadn’t completed their fitting-out – for the SOD is a high-maintenance girl – to get on and finish the work in time to be ready for the two special regattas devoted to the Centenary in July, at Dromineer on Lough Derg from 2nd-3rd July, and then back up at Lough Ree from July 23rd and 24th.

Shannon One Design Centenary Year Fixtures List

There is of course more to the pillars of the programme than that, as this outline reveals:

  • JUN 18-19 Mid June Regatta (LRYC)
  • JUN 25-26 Long Distance Race (LRYC)
  • JUL 3-4 LDYC SODA Centenary Regatta
  • JUL 9-10 Goose Island Regatta (LDYC
  • JUL 9-10 Barges & SOD's (LRYC)
  • JUL 23-24 LRYC SODA Centenary Regatta
  • JUL-AUG 30-5 Lough Ree Yacht Club Annual Regatta (LRYC)
  • AUG 6-7 Dromineer Castle Regatta (LDYC)
  • AUG 8-13 Lough Derg Yacht Club Annual Regatta (LDYC)
  • AUG 27-28 Corrikeens Regatta (LDYC)
  • SEP 3-4 North Shannon Regatta (LRYC)
  • SEP 10-11 Harvest Regatta (LDYC)

Thanks to the meanderings of the Shannon, not all of the Long Distance Race is a beatThanks to the meanderings of the Shannon, not all of the Long Distance Race is a beat

With such a determinedly even-handed spread between Lough Ree and Lough Derg, logistics play a key role, and this reaches a special height in nine days time on the weekend of June 25th to 26th, with the legendary Long Distance Race from Lough Ree south to Lough Derg, forty miles of river racing which has an overnight at Banagher, and used to have a time-honoured pit stop at Shannonbridge for the high-energy intake of hot rum and chocolate to wash down black pudding toasties at Killeens unique grocery & hardware-selling pub. Alas, Killeen’s as the class knew it is no more, but SOD ingenuity will doubtless come up with a more-than-adequate substitute.

a good breeze on Lough Derg the Shannon ODs It may not quite be planing as it is generally understood, but when there’s a good breeze on Lough Derg the Shannon ODs have their own special version of get up and go

In fact, the prospect of the Long Distance Race makes it just possible that a hyper-enthusiast could do both the Round Ireland starting this weekend, and still be finished in time for the Long Distance, thereby circling and quartering Ireland in the space of eight days.

Certainly it’s the sort of thing that SOD sailors would see as a right and proper challenge. As it is, the second Centenary Regatta on Lough Ree on July 23rd-24th will see history in the making, as it will be attended by members of the family of Frank Morgan Giles, the Devon-based yacht designer who created the lines of the Shannon One Design in 1921-22 when some sections of Irish life were pre-occupied with the aftermath of the War of Independence and the prospect of the Civil War.

When you have only one sail, you soon think of unusual ways of deploying it.When you have only one sail, you soon think of unusual ways of deploying it.

In such circumstances, it’s scarcely surprising that the newly-formed Shannon One Design Association managed to create a little war of their own with their designer. Morgan Giles. His original drawings showed the boat with a dipping lug. This was surprising in itself, as it’s a much clumsier configuration than the standing lug which was already well known in Ireland at the time through the popular International 12.

But after a couple of labour-intensive experiences with the dipping lugs, the class decided to leap right over the standing lug possibility, and go instead beyond it for the much sleeker gunter rig, with which they still sail.

In the 1920s, the SODs quickly adopted the sleek-fitting gunter lug, with which they still sail todayIn the 1920s, the SODs quickly adopted the sleek-fitting gunter lug, with which they still sail today

Unfortunately, they omitted to tell Morgan Giles, and when he got to hear of this “amateur” change of his design, he was somewhat miffed. A 35-year frost set in on relations between designer and class, such that though he continued to draw a royalty as each new boat was built, communications were businesslike and distant in the extreme, until some sort of thaw set in back in the late 1950s. And it has happily since held up sufficiently well for Frank Morgan Giles’ descendants to contemplate a visit to the second Lough Ree SOD Centenary Regatta on July 23-24th.

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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