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Dublin Bay Sailing Club Commodore Pat Shannon Retires Tonight

23rd November 2015
Commodore Pat Shannon retires at this week's DBSC agm Credit: Joe Fallon

Dublin Bay Sailing Club Commodore Pat Shannon will retire at tonight's agm. In his final report to members of Ireland's biggest yacht racing club, Shannon leads his annual review with the club's response to the 'misconceived project' of a berth for cruise liners across the middle of the harbour.

The DBSC AGM takes place in the NYC this Monday at 8pm. 

Chris Moore (pictured left above) takes over as Commodore from Shannon. Jonathan Nicholson (from the RSGYC) takes over the Vice-Commodore slot. Peter Fleming will be the new Hon Treasurer in place of Ian Mathews.

The proposal to form a mixed DBSC Sportsboat class will come from the floor. Contary to some rumours, according to DBSC there is no suggestion that the club would favour incorporating DBSC's existing Sportsboat class, the SB20, into the proposed new class. There seems to be a feeling that there is a demand for such a move. All of the waterfront clubs possess 1720s which could be chartered to people who have not got a boat. There have been soundings with owners of J70 and J80s about joining the new class.

The J70 might become part of a new DBSC sportsboat class. Photo: David O'Brien

Interestingly, in the UK, RORC had a separate Sportsboat rule within IRC but it collapsed because of lack of demand. Jenny Howells of RORC says RORC are perfectly happy using the existing IRC system to rate sportsboats. 

At this stage the DBSC officers are regarding all this with some interest but, ultimately, all - as ever -will depend on the numbers who actually sign up for the venture.

Commodore's Report 2015
In this, my final report as Commodore of DBSC, I must – before all else - comment on a matter that has been exercising the minds of the officers of the Dun Laoghaire clubs over the summer – the harbour board’s plans to construct a berth for cruise liners across the middle of the harbour.

Members will be aware how gravely the sailing community in Dun Laoghaire view this misguided proposal. Not only will it seriously affect the thousands of boat owners and their crews to whom sailing is an important part of their lives but it will inflict incalculable environmental damage to a public amenity which all who live on the south side of the capital city regard as the jewel in the crown of all public amenities. We have had some sympathy with the harbour board’s
earlier attempts to create a revenue stream to maintain the harbour but surely that is beside the point. St. Stephens Green is not expected to produce an income.

Nor the Phoenix Park nor the innumerable public amenities throughout the country maintained out of the public purse because life would be much poorer without them.

Our Vice-Commodore, Chris Moore and myself have been part of the DLCC team which has been formulating a collective waterfront response to this misconceived project - a scheme that would see thirteen storey behemoths straddling the most beautiful expanse of sailing water in these islands. We trust, hope and pray that all our objections will be listened to.

With that off our chests, I turn now to the review of the sailing season. The public’s memory of a good summer - which may not necessarily be ours – is that the summer of 2015 was a fairly indifferent affair. Our view, on the other hand, tends to be coloured by the number of times we had to cancel racing because of unsuitable weather conditions.
By that yardstick, it was still an enjoyable season – we have had some terrific sailing winds and great racing.

Cancellations were few: there was only on Saturday, the 6th June, when all racing was cancelled and another (the 2nd May) when only the Cruisers 1 were allowed to race. Three days were lost from the Thursday schedule – all because of little or no wind. Committee vessels On the subject of cancellations, those of us who raced with DBSC when all keelboat racing started and finished at the West pier, will readily appreciate the difference the acquisition of committee boats has made to the quality of our racing.
Nowadays, when the wind drops, race officers can shorten courses or send off ribs to alternative finishing lines. This was impossible in earlier times. We also have proper windward starts and the sort of race management you get when you go to high-level national and international events. 

All this, unfortunately, comes at a price. Committee boats, which go out regularly in all sorts of weather, require a lot of maintenance. No matter how carefully we budget, there is always some unpredictable emergency or perhaps some part to be replaced that can only be obtained abroad.

Overseeing all this has been the task of the Vice–Commodore, Chris Moore, who has had spent long hours ensuring that the committee vessels are fit for purpose and that race officers personnel, drivers and race officers are available to man them. It’s an onerous, time-absorbing job and we are all deeply in his debt.

The DBSC patrol team fulfils a vital role in race management, both on dinghy and keelboat courses. It, too, is a considerable expense because, nowadays, rib drivers have to be given some recompense for their efforts. And, also, the ribs themselves must be maintained to a very high level – something on which there can be no skimping.
In fact, this year, the quality of the rib fleet has been augmented, thanks to a grant from the Sports Council which enabled us to acquire a new Humber rib. It arrived too late to be brought into service this season but it will be a valuable addition to the Patrol Team fleet in 2016. Our thanks, first of all, to the Sports Council for the grant, and most particularly, the Rear Commodore, Jonathan O’Rourke, who, most skilfully, guided the application through the volume of documentation that the application entailed.
Above all, we must thank the young people who man the ribs and who did such a wonderful job during the 2015 season. They were all extremely willing and flexible and enabled our sailors to have great racing. Our thanks, too, to Joanne Sheehan, who so ably manages this very complex operation and to the on-the -water supervisor, Declan Traynor.

The marks service had a busy year of it. For some time it has been obvious that the quality of our fixed marks had been deteriorating and that a replacement programme would have to be put in place. This year - thanks again to the Sports Council grant - we took delivery of six new marks - five more replacements are planned for next year. New mooring chain has also been acquired but this is an on-going annual expense.

We must acknowledge that seasonal marks such as these are sited in a most robust environment and the occasional loss is to be expected. Usually, they are found drifting somewhere in the Bay and, from time to time, they can even travel as far as Cornwall, Wales or Scotland. Merrion Mark went adrift early in the season but was recovered drifting near the shipping channel.

Pier Mark disappeared and at this stage has not been recovered. The green starting mark also came loose but was recovered fairly smartly. It’s Sean Doyle’s challenging task to look after all this and we are most grateful to him for the time and effort he has had to put in to it. Our thanks, too, to Martin Carey who serviced the marks and to Leo Melia and his fishermen associates who put them on station. Our thanks also goes to Brian Mathews, who cast the occasional professional eye on the proceedings. 

Entries and turnouts
The economic gloom may be lifting but it’s taking time for the recovery to trickle down to organisations like ourselves. Subscriptions came to 1220 which was down by 30 on last year and entries were significantly down in some classes – 3 in the case of Shipmans, six for Cruisers 3, 3 for the SB20s. The Laser fleet, in contrast, increased by 17, increasing the net entry figure from 304 in 2014 to 312 in 2015. It’s some distance from the 2009 figure of 401 boats but there is every sign of revival and we are hearing of members who dropped out at the height of the recession indicating their intention to return.
This is not to say that DBSC does not remain a strong, vibrant sailing organisation, attracting entries and turnouts that other racing clubs envy. There are not many high-profile regattas anywhere that can attract 130 entries but that was the average keelboat turnout for DBSC’s Thursday evening racing this year. In fact, the scene in the waterfront clubs after racing on many a Thursday evening with crowds of happy sailors queuing on the forecourts for burgers and refreshments, was very reminiscent of a normal club regatta. Saturday figures are usually less than this, due to the combination of circumstances discussed in earlier reports – the average was 94, if you include Flying 15s and Squibs.

The dinghy scene with DBSC continues to be somewhat of a challenge - indeed as is the case with all sailing centres which have the rival attraction of thriving keelboat fleets. Over the last winter, the DBSC Rear Commodore, Jonathan O’Rourke, and committee member, Joe Hickey, engaged with dinghy representatives to see whether they could tailor a programme that would meet dinghy sailors needs. The consultation was preceded by a questionnaire. Responses were varied and in some cases conflicting but there seems to be a consensus of sorts that Saturday racing does not appeal to the generality of dinghy sailors. There was also a group which objected to paying a boat fee that provided for Saturday racing – in which many of them have no interest whatever.
There was also a sense that DBSC was not reaching out to new boats like the RS200/400. Whatever about the costs of dinghy racing – which has been traditionally subsidised by DBSC’s keelboat fleet – and about which there is no argument at all – the dinghy sub-committee decided to take much of all this on board.
Accordingly, Laser racing was taken out of the Saturday programme, as was racing for Fireballs. Instead two
races were provided for them on Tuesdays and space was provided in the programme for RS200/400 boats.
The IDRAs and Portsmouth Yardstick class opted to continue with the existing programme. Fees were modified to reflect the new pattern of racing.
After all this, the outcome was mixed to say the least. True, the Laser entries increased but that simply brought them back to the 2013 level, the class having seriously fallen away in 2014. It is true also, it must be said, that the Tuesday racing proved very popular with all dinghy classes, particularly the two-race formula.
The Harbour option also proved very popular also on days when there was too much wind to race outside –
or when there was not enough of it. Our thanks to the Harbour Master, Captain Coate, for his agreement to this.
The RS boats, despite intensive canvassing, just simply did not appear: only two boats entered whose owners had already been DBSC sailors.

With over 850 scheduled races spread over five months of the year and racing taking place five days week, the
Club is hugely dependent on a wide range of volunteers. The flight of years, alas, has taken its toll at the West Pier Hut whose occupants have always enjoyed the warm regard of DBSC sailors.

This year we were without the services of Anna O’Connor and Jacqueline McKenna, who must have officiated at the West Pier for forty years or more. Carmel Winkelmann’s voice, precise, clear, authoritive, no longer rang out over the airwaves in Dublin Bay though Carmel herself continued to meet the teams before racing on the RIYC, updating starting lists and attending to other necessary documentation. Of the original West Pier team, only Wendy Batten remains - irrepressible and well-nigh irreplaceable.

Pat Shannon presents the Viking award for an outstanding contribution to sailing to Wendy Batten. Photo: Joe Fallon

Miraculously, and probably due to earlier coaching, these departures scarcely impacted on the smooth running of the West Pier operation. Debbie Horan has been at the Hut for some seasons now and two new recruits, Therese Tyrrell and Marie Branigan proved to be worthy successors to Anna and Jacqueline. The MacLir team, too, has had its losses. In last year’s report, we looked forward to the return of Caroline Leonard, who had been in indifferent health for some time. It was not to be, unfortunately, for Caroline passed away on the 9 th March, leaving us all bereft. Westill miss her leadership qualities, her warmth, her gift for friendship and great enthusiasm. However, the MacLir team was largely Caroline’s creation and, with Ida Kiernan guiding it, continued to maintain its high standards.Hal Bleakley, as was signalled in last year’s report, hung up his sailing boots at the end of the 2014 season. Not entirely so because when we found ourselves without a race officer for the last Saturday race, Hal happily stepped in. Eddie Totterdell, most ably and with considerable aplomb, has taken his place on Thursdays evenings to control the Blue fleet. The Saturday afternoon slot has been has been filled by a panel of experienced race officers. The latter included Con Murphy, just appointed, we learn, an Olympic race officer. Jack Roy, now DBSC’s chief racing officer, who controls the Thursday red fleet on Thursday evenings, fulfilled the same function during the last Olympics at Weymouth. DBSC race officials Rosemary and Jack Roy. Photo: Joe Fallon

I must also thank Suzanne McGarry, who in addition to officiating on the dinghy course also stood in for Richella Carroll on Tuesdays as did Fintan Cairns, not forgetting either Barry O’Neill, who has been very helpful in many ways besides officiating as race officer on Sundays for the SB20s.

With race officers of this quality, and state of the art committee boats – not to mention participants who frequently win prizes at national and international events – the DBSC project is far from “just club racing” as it might be dismissively described from time to time. Cruiser Challenge
By all accounts, this year’s Cruiser Challenge, hosted by the National Yacht Club was a most enjoyable affair,
with strong winds on the first day’s racing making it challenge in every sense. There were 52 entries for the event, mostly from local boats, down somewhat on last year, but thanks to Sean Doyle’s organisational skills and careful budgeting, it realised a modest surplus. Davy’s Stockbrokers sponsorship of the event was also most appreciated.

Effectively, we have broken even for the year despite a fall in boat entries and subscriptions which was offset by the BAM sponsorship and the sale of a surplus rib. The incoming Committee will continue to encourage more boat entries and seek more sponsorship opportunities.

DBSC Committee
This year, as usual, and in conformity with DBSC’s articles of association, two members have to resign as directors from the DBSC board. This does not in the least impinge on their executive functions and Sean Doyle and Trina Milner, the two members technically retiring this year, will happily continue to serve DBSC with their customary zeal and effectiveness.
We are also losing Ian Mathews, who has been our Hon.Treasurer for the last six years. As Hon Treasurer, Ian kept us all strictly on the path of financial rectitude. He introduced a budgetary system and the fact that he finishes his term of office with the Club in a sound financial state is tribute to his wise and careful control of our financial resources. All this, despite the fact that his time in office coincided with the worst recession in living memory. We are all deeply in his debt.
He is being succeeded by Peter Fleming, from the same profession, whom RIYC members will remember from his time on that Club’s committee.
Leaving us also at the AGM will be the Hon.Protest Secretary, Tom Mulligan, who likewise has given six years’ service to DBSC. It’s no easy task, dealing with the protests and arguments that are inseparable from a competitive sport and we are all very grateful to Tom for the time and energy he devoted to the job.

Winter Racing
In the days before Dun Laoghaire acquired a Marina and DBSC has no committee vessels, the idea of racing in the winter months was unthinkable. Now, the Turkey Shoot series (November/December) and the Spring Chicken series (Feb/March) are so popular that the club secretariat is receiving anxious enquiries from potential participants’ long before Fintan Cairns, the organiser of all this has even got round to putting up the notice of race.
You’re not supposed to take it too seriously. You can even get additionally handicapped if you don’t greet Fintan and the committee boat with proper respect. Afterwards, there is light a lunch, drinks and a most cheerful prize giving after each race in either the RIYC or the NYC. Our thanks to Fintan, for making it all happen, to Henry Leonard and the committee boat team who come out in all sorts of weather, and Brian Mathews who with Fintan presides over the raffles and prize giving with such wit and good humour.

Finally, it’s my pleasure to thank all the people whose generosity makes DBSC such a successful organisation.
With over fifty volunteers, it’s simply impossible to list them without innocently causing offence by leaving somebody out. The names of the more regular volunteers are printed in the yearbook and on the website.
I also thank our sponsors, BAM, Davy’s, Killen Marine, MGM Boats, Rathfarnham Ford and SagePay I should not forget the staff and management of the Dun Laoghaire clubs for their help and cooperation. Nor the management and harbour masters of Dublin Port and Dun Laoghaire Harbour (however we may differ
with the latter over the cruiser liner issue!). 


For me it’s been a source of enormous pleasure to have served Dublin Bay Sailing Club, first as committee member, then as Vice-Commodore and for the last three years, as Commodore. I would like to thank the members of DBSC for supporting the Club during my time with DBSC.

I would like to thank the Committee and all who gave up their time to make racing happen for all of us throughout the year. Thanks also to Bairbre O’Sullivan who is in charge of our membership and helps out in various other ways.
Finally, I would like to thank Donal O’Sullivan for his wise council, support, hard work and friendship. I can only admire his energy, commitment, and ability to help run Dublin Bay Sailing Club. It has been a pleasure to work with him. I wish him and the new team the very best for 2016 and the coming years and wish all members a very enjoyable 2016.

Fair winds,
Pat Shannon.

See DBSC 2015 annual prizegiving photo gallery here

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Dublin Bay Sailing Club (DBSC) is one of Europe's biggest yacht racing clubs. It has almost sixteen hundred elected members. It presents more than 100 perpetual trophies each season some dating back to 1884. It provides weekly racing for upwards of 360 yachts, ranging from ocean-going forty footers to small dinghies for juniors.

Undaunted by austerity and encircling gloom, Dublin Bay Sailing Club (DBSC), supported by an institutional memory of one hundred and twenty-nine years of racing and having survived two world wars, a civil war and not to mention the nineteen-thirties depression, it continues to present its racing programme year after year as a cherished Dublin sporting institution.

The DBSC formula that, over the years, has worked very well for Dun Laoghaire sailors. As ever DBSC start racing at the end of April and finish at the end of September. The current commodore is Eddie Totterdell of the National Yacht Club.

The character of racing remains broadly the same in recent times, with starts and finishes at Club's two committee boats, one of them DBSC's new flagship, the Freebird. The latter will also service dinghy racing on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Having more in the way of creature comfort than the John T. Biggs, it has enabled the dinghy sub-committee to attract a regular team to manage its races, very much as happened in the case of MacLir and more recently with the Spirit of the Irish. The expectation is that this will raise the quality of dinghy race management, which, operating as it did on a class quota system, had tended to suffer from a lack of continuity.