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Dun Laoghaire’s Classic Water Wags Continue To Increase With Two New-Builds In West Cork

15th November 2022
Cut and thrust of historic Water Wag racing against the background of the “noble granite” of Dun Laoghaire’s West Pier. The harbour now has monumental status with a history dating back more than two hundred years, and for much more than half of that time, the Water Wags have been a regular feature of its sailing scene
Cut and thrust of historic Water Wag racing against the background of the “noble granite” of Dun Laoghaire’s West Pier. The harbour now has monumental status with a history dating back more than two hundred years, and for much more than half of that time, the Water Wags have been a regular feature of its sailing scene Credit: W M Nixon

It could be argued that the progress of the Dublin Bay Water Wag Class has been unstoppable since its foundation in 1887 by Ben Middleton and his friends as the world’s first One-Design fleet. There may have been times in their unrivalled life-span when the future of these characterful little boats seemed thin enough, but such times have been forgotten, and now they thrive as never before.

The Wags have come in two manifestations. The first was a lug-rigged 13ft double-ender in 1887, while the second, a more robust 14ft 3ins transom-sterned boat to Maimie Doyle’s design with a gunter sloop rig, arrived in 1900. This second version clearly hit the spot, and though not all individual boats have stayed the course, the class’s fastidiously maintained registration system - which only allocates sail numbers to boats in full sailable condition – has been through the 50 mark for two seasons now, and will be increased by at least two more in 2023 with a couple of completely new boats under construction by master craftsman Rui Ferreira of Ballydehob in West Cork.

 Rui Ferreira with a previously-completed Water Wag awaiting the paint and varnish treatmentRui Ferreira with a previously-completed Water Wag awaiting the paint and varnish treatment

Rui is no stranger to Water Wag building to the highest international standards, but the pace in the class is such that having the newest boats will not necessarily bring success.

That said, the two new owner-skippers, who prefer to remain anonymous at this stage, come with impressive track records. And in keeping with the Class’s gender-blindness – part of its DNA since its foundation – one of the new owners is female, while the other is one of the others.

 The Ferreira workshop is tidied, and the setup is in place for a new Water Wag to start taking shape The Ferreira workshop is tidied, and the setup is in place for a new Water Wag to start taking shape

The skeletons of two new Water Wags begin to emergeThe skeletons of two new Water Wags begin to emerge

 The original Water Wag builders of 122 years ago did not have the benefit of today’s lamination techniques for building the stem, but now it greatly enhances the finished boat The original Water Wag builders of 122 years ago did not have the benefit of today’s lamination techniques for building the stem, but now it greatly enhances the finished boat

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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