#dbsc – Dublin Bay Sailing Club (DBSC) celebrated its 130th Anniversary last night (Saturday September 27th) with a dinner in the National Yacht Club. Held after the last race of the Club's 2014 season, it was very appropriately attended by a full house of 130 racing enthusiasts who honoured the incomparable contribution the club has made to the development of sailing from Dun Laoghaire during the past 130 years.
Originally founded in 1884 as a club to provide racing for boats too small to be properly facilitated by the big boat-oriented sailing programmes of the large established yacht clubs, DBSC quickly evolved into an interactive force for the greater good of all yacht racing in the Bay, co-ordinating all the racing in and out of Dun Laoghaire harbour, and influencing the development of yacht design through the commissioning of classes such as the Dublin Bay 25s of 1898, the Dublin Bay 21s of 1902, the Dublin Bay Mermaids of 1932, and the Dublin Bay 24s of 1938.
Then as yacht building first became a matter of series construction in wood, followed by mass assembly in glassfibre, DBSC's influence continued, as its official recognition of a new one design - once it had achieved sufficient boat numbers - became fundamental to the new design's growing acceptance and continuing success in racing in the bay.
Over the years, the club has also refined its provision of racing and handicapping for very diverse cruiser classes, such that in Dublin Bay, boats of a very markedly cruiser type, which would be most unlikely to be raced at all in other sailing centres, are regularly raced in the annual programme which also features out-and-out racing machines. The club's long-established Thursday evening cruiser-racing fixture in particular is a remarkable sporting-sociological happening, as nearly two thousand South Dubliners regularly go straight from their work for hotly-contested evening racing afloat which is then followed by sailing suppers at whichever of the four waterfront clubs their boat is affiliated to.
Standing aside from all this, Dublin Bay SC thrives because of its continuing existence as a totally separate club, albeit without a clubhouse. It has a membership of 1300, and registers 400 boats. There's an elected officer board supported by a large core group of voluntary sailing administrators who record, keep and analyse the results. Highly experienced voluntary officials man the two committee boats to organise races over courses which have been developed and refined over the years to maximize the quality of the sport, and they also man the cub's only premises – a race staff hut for shore finishes at the West Pier.
Current DBSC Commodore Pat Shannon – who races in one of Dublin Bay's growing newer OD classes, the First 211 – hosted this lively gathering in the NYC last night. It was emceed by noted Dun Laoghaire waterfront personality Brian Mathews, and a succession of speakers spoke briefly but passionately of what the club means to them and their sailing, and of the enormous voluntary effort which is central to the ethos of DBSC.
Particular praise was reserved for long-serving DBSC Honorary Secretary Donal O'Sullivan, and for active sailing enthusiast and longterm race officer Hal Bleakley, who retired from very many years of RO duties on Saturday after officiating at his last race. One of the club's most distinguished sailors, Tim Goodbody, who in addition to local, national and international sailing success, has also been one of the leading developers of the most effective courses on the bay, received a special award as the person who most completely typifies the Dublin Bay SC spirit. And former Race Officer Colin McMullen – who also led the club in development of computer use in organizing yacht races – brought the house down with a Gilbert & Sullivan-inspired song about the lot of the race officer afloat and ashore.
Guest speaker W M Nixon of Afloat.ie concluded the evening by pointing out that not only is DBSC probably unique in sailing worldwide, but it is a remarkable example to other sailing centres. He continued that if it had been necessary to meet the work demands and challenges of this very special totally voluntary organization from scratch in order to meet the needs of the rapidly growing numbers sailing in Dun Laoghaire during recent decades, then it would have required an expensive feasibility study funded by the Sports Council in Ireland and the EU in Brussels, followed by lengthy consultation with research units in prestigious establishments such as the Harvard Business School. The result would inevitably have been a very expensive professionally-manned secretariat in an equally expensive suite of offices. But instead, Dublin Bay sailors were in the happy position of having a highly professional race service provided entirely by skilled volunteers of the highest calibre, and the spirit of the club is a wonder to behold.