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Over a number of years, the numbers of Water Wag competing in club racing, on Wednesday evenings, has been bucking the national trend, by increasing in numbers of competitors. Hal Sisk, the 2017 Captain of the Water Wags, decided that the race for the Captain’s Prize, would be an opportunity to break the current world record for Water Wags in the same race, which currently stands at twenty-eight.

Water wag Hugo bossThe Royal Irish Yacht Club was abuzz with the arrival of Hugo Boss boat and the Water Wags Captain’s Prize. Photo: Amy O'Leary

On 30th August, the light wind was somewhat unstable, and blowing from the west. The committee, under the leadership of Tom Hudson laid a windward mark off the marina entrance, and a clever start line, long enough for thirty Water Wags, with a pin end advantage, which could have led the competitors into the lighter wind close to the shore, while those starting near the committee boat could tack away, into the last of the flood tide at the harbour mouth to their advantage. With a large fleet, one might have expected a general recall, but only two boats were recalled. At the first windward mark, the leader was Pansy, (at 111 years old, the second oldest boat competing) who had started near the pin mark, followed by Moosmie and Eva. The race was four windward-leeward laps of the harbour. At the bottom of the run, the gate marks were widely spaced. Pansy opted for the north mark, while Moosmie and Eva took the south mark, which dropped Pansy to third place at the second windward mark. It appeared that the best course was to sail up the middle of the harbour.

At the next windward mark, Swift moved up into third place. On the next run, there was a big wind shift. The boats which gybed quickly did best out of this change, which turned the north gate mark into the preferred one. At the third windward mark Tortoise was in third place. The wind was growing in strength, which brought six boats to the finish line together. They crossed the line in the following order.

1st –15, Moosmie. David MacFarlane.
2nd.– 8, Barbara, Ian & Judith Malcolm.
3rd. 33, Eva, Katie Tingle & Dermot O Flynn (Winner division 1B)
4th.. -42, Tortoise, William Prentice & Moiselle Hogan.
5th. - 38, Swift,
6th, -24, Gavotte.
7th. -46, Mademoiselle.
8th. -3, Pansy.
9th.-32, Skee.
10th. -9, Marie Louise.
11th. – 17, Coquette.
12th. – 44, Scallywag.
13th.- 18, Good Hope.
14th. 26, Nandor (Winner division 2)
15th. -6, Mary Kate.
16th. -47, Peggy.
17th. – 43, Freddie.
18th. -30, Sara.
19th. – 14, Phyllis.
20th. - 36, Little Tern.
21st. – 40, Swallow.
22nd. – 16, Penelope.
23rd. – 12, Alfa.
24th. – 20, Badger.
25th. - 4, Vela.
26th. – 31, Polly.
27th – O8, Eros.
28th. –34, Chloe.
29th – 10, Sprite.
OCS- 41, Mollie.
OCS- 45, Mariposa.

The world record attendance of 31 Water Wags was achieved, and celebrated afterwards with a dinner in the Royal Irish Yacht Club.

Published in Water Wag
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“For many people yacht ownership is enough. They buy a boat and they keep it in a marina and they don’t go sailing very often and they go there for picnics and so on, but for some people you can combine the two and you can get the best enjoyment from your boat, using it, which is the main thing.”

There is a sport of sailing and there is a sport of yacht ownership, glassfibre boats are a bit anodyne and Dublin has the classiest of boats sailing. Those are pretty strong views, but made by a man whose opinions command respect - the exponent of classic boats, yacht restoration and history, Hal Sisk, who I met as he was attending to his Water Wag, Good Hope, which he has been racing for 39 years and that he had brought to the West Cork harbour of Glandore for the Classic Boats Regatta. We discussed what is happening to yacht racing and concern that fleets have been falling off in numbers around the coast. “In 1887 Water Wags gave the world the first one-design boat and we still race them every week in Dublin Bay. When I started in the Class we had five or six racing. We had 27 last week on the water and more young people are joining the Class in which there is a great buzz. That shows what can be done in racing.”

We discussed glass fibre yachts which he considers a bit “anodyne” and doesn’t find them as interesting as the wooden classics. He pointed to the “National 18 wooden clinker boats, a fine boat,” but mostly gone from the racing scene. He contrasted this with older wooden boats still actively racing in Dublin, pointing to the Water Wages, the Howth 17s and the Glen 21s.

Hal Sisk has boundless enthusiasm for the sport which comes across in my interview with him which you can hear on this week’s Podcast. Also on the PODCAST, this Saturday is Whale Watch Day. The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has recorded a thousand sightings of whales and dolphins this Summer, but there are fears that ‘killer whales’ could be threatened with extinction in Europe. Whale Watching locations and details are here: 



Tom MacSweeney presents THIS ISLAND NATION programme on radio stations around Ireland

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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Heritage week runs from 19th to 27th August, and the Water Wags are part of Ireland’s heritage, and thus the race for 23rd. August was a Heritage Week event.

The wind blew force four at the beginning, so, some of the competitors were asking if we would be better reefed? The clouds above ensured that the wind would be shifty in direction.

The committee, under the leadership of Tom Hudson laid a suitably long line for the 25–boats competing. By the start of the race the wind had dropped to a kindly 10–knots which is perfect weather for Water Wags.

The fleet were quite evenly spread along the line, and those nearest to the committee boat end tacked off early to obtain benefit from the rising tide. At that stage, nobody realised what a game of snakes and ladders it would become. Over the first beat, the wind dropped down to about four knots along the marina side, while near the harbour mouth, there was no wind. Mariposa was first at the windward mark. On the first run it did not matter a bit which side one took, or which gybe. There were few gains to be made. More significant was the leeward marks.

Those who took the starboard mark remained in wind, while those who took the other mark were left out to dry. At the next windward mark the brave committee decided not to shorten the race, and to set the Water Wags on a second lap. At that stage the order was Mariposa, Little Tern, and Pansy. Again, the run offered few opportunities other than the straight line. On the third beat, the wind was offered, and as quickly taken away from the competitors. At the final windward mark the race was shortened with the order:

1st – 45, Mariposa- Cathy MacAleavey & Con Murphy.
2nd.- 36 Little Tern- Tim & Marcus Pearson.
3rd. - 3, Pansy, - Vincent Delany and Emma Webb.
4th. - 38, Swift,
5th. -24, Gavotte.
6th. -41, Mollie,
7th. – 12, Alfa.
8th. - 16, Penelope.
9th. -9 Marie Louise.
10th. -20 Badger.
11th. -42, Tortoise.
12th. -4, Vela.
13th. -18, Good Hope
14th.- 40, Swallow.
15th. -43, Freddie.
16th. – 33, Eva.
17th. -44, Scallywag.
18th. -31, Polly
19th -34, Chloe.
20th. -17, Coquette.
21st. – 30, Sara.
22nd. -15, Moosmie.
23rd.. -26, Nandor,
24th. -08, Eros.
25th. -47, Peggy.

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If variety is the spice of life, then the 25th Anniversary Glandore Classics Regatta is currently staging the most vibrant and flavoursome boat show on the Irish coast writes W M Nixon.

Admittedly the mid-week routine, which will lead on to events like races to Castlehaven (or Castletownshend if you prefer), doesn’t have quite the same hectic pace as the opening weekend. But for connoisseurs of classic or traditional or even just plain odd boats, it’s a feast for eye, memory and analysis which has seen some vividly contrasting boats all united in at least one purpose.

cuilaun glandore2Flagship for style. The 1970 McGruer ketch Cuilaun at Glandore exemplifies the contemporary standard for classic yacht maintenance and presentation. Photo: Gary MacMahon

That purpose was to honour the memory and achievement of the late Theo Rye (1968-2016). He was taken from us all too soon last Autumn. But in his short life, his passion for yacht and boat design - its history and its future – was an inspiration for all who came in contact with him, and particularly those with whom he worked on a variety of projects which could range from the smallest of boats right up to the ultimate Fife restoration, the giant 23 Metre Cambria

glandore cityone3The CityOnes from Limerick cutting a dash with a difference at Glandore. It takes an effort to realize they were designed by Theo Rye, yet he could comfortably take such unusual challenges in his stride. Photo: Gary MacMahon

chod glandore4The Cork Harbour One Design Elsie (Patrick Dorgan) at Glandore. She was desined by William Fife in 1895-96. Photo: Gary MacMahon

In Glandore, there are currently several boats which have benefitted from Theo’s expertise, or could do were it so wished. For instance, a regular at Glandore is the modernized Clyde 30 Brynoth, a Fife creation of 1905. If anyone had ever planned to bring Brynoth back to her original form, it would have been so reassuring to entrust the project to Theo’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the Fife design and build canon.

Yet the breadth of his influence and expertise is also seen in Hal Sisk’s eye-catching yet under-stated 63ft powercruiser Molly Ban, which is in Glandore to act as mothership to the owner’s Dublin Bay Water Wag. Molly Ban could be claimed to find inspiration from may sources, but she is such a unique combination of seagoing powerboat and classic dinghy mothership that we could reasonably argue she is sui generis, she’s just her own sweet self, and that’s all there is to it.

molly ban5The 63ft Molly Ban is an elegant multi-purpose vessel whose large self-draining cockpit can be used as a “deck garage” for smaller classic craft. Photo: Gary MacMahon

In addition to the owner’s advanced technical experience, Molly Ban saw the combined talent of Nigel Irens and Theo Rye put to work to create a very elegant and distinctive vessel so easily driven that, with a single 300hp Cummins diesel, she has a maximum loaded speed of 16 knots and makes an easily-reached 14 knots on 30 litres of fuel an hour. Yet if you throttle back to 10 knots – a tidy enough speed for most cruising – she burns only ten litres an hour.

molly ban6The stern view of Molly Ban gives a hint of the ingenuity of her design. The little clinker tender is based on a dinghy built for Hals Sisk’s grandfather in 1926. Photo: Gary MacMahon

There’s a completeness to the Molly Ban concept which is a credit to the memory of Theo Rye. But equally, in looking at the presentation of all the top classics at Glandore, you realize that you’re looking at yachts which have been raised to a standard which Theo and others like him ensured was set, and then adhered to, and if anything improved over time.

His mind could also produce totally off-the-wall solutions to design challenges. But though we all know that it was Theo Rye who came up with the completely innovative design for the CityOne dinghies to be built by the Ilen Boatbuilding School in Limerick, nevertheless at Glandore it was still pause for thought to see them sharing the sea with the utterly classic Dublin Bay Water Wags, a design of 1900 which Theo Rye equally cherished.

water wag glandore7The timeless elegance of classic clinker construction. Guy Kilroy heels his modern-build Water Wag Swift to make the best of zephyrs at Glandore. Photo: Gary MacMahon

wags cityone rankin8Mixing the fleets – Water Wags from Dublin Bay, CityOnes from Limerick, and a Rankin from Cork Harbour share the waters of Glandore. Photo: Gary MacMahon

With four CityOne dinghies available in Glandore for an inter-area Theo Rye Memorial Series, Race Officer Donal Lynch was able to provide competition for a representative selection with crews from Limerick, the County Clare folk of Seol Sionna who had arrived in Glandore with their own distinctive Shannon Estuary hooker Sally O’Keeffe after a fine overnight passage from Kilrush, a West Cork crew with some involved in the restoration of the ketch Ilen at Oldcourt, and a Cork city team.

glandore cityone9The Cork crew in the Inter-Area series for CityOnes were Nicola Cowhig (helm), Aoife & Muireann O’Donnell, and Gemma. Photo: Gary MacMahon

glandore cityone10They may not look like they’re going anywere fast, but Limerick’s Donal Coffey (helm, right) and Sean McNulty won the Theo Rye Memorial Series for the CityOne dinghies. Photo: Gary MacMahon

In the end, it was the Limerick duo of Donal Coffey (helm) crewed by Sean McNulty who won the weekend series overall, but really it was the way that the CityOne dinghies so ably fulfilled the role envisaged for them by Gary MacMahon of the Ilen School and Theo Rye which was the abiding memory.

As the photos reveal, Donal Lunch has had quite a challenge in setting races for all classes which will be manageable despite a shortage of wind, with further frustration early in the week as the underlying northerly airstream tended to negate the efforts of the warming summer days to create a sea breeze, but by week’s end we hope to get reports of improved sailing.

Meanwhile, a view of the classic style currently gracing the Glandore anchorage is more than enough to be going along with.

glandore fleet11“Eclectic” would be the best word for the fleet at Glandore. Photo: Gary MacMahon

Published in Historic Boats
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It could be over 50 years since a cotton topsail has been seen from the National Yacht Club and this afternoon as the classic fleet arrived "Peggy Bawn", a GL Watson 36–ft Cutter, built in 1894, hoisted her cotton suit of topsail and gaff main.

A temporary pontoon as been anchored off the Carlisle Pier and here the renovated Dublin Bay 24 footer "Periwinkle" this afternoon having sailed from France via the Scilly's and Greystones where some former 24 hands with long association with the class shipped on board, Chris Johnson, David Espey, Chris Craig and Terry Johnson.

On the National Yacht Club platform the Dublin Bay Mermaids were arriving by road and a fleet of "Fifes" from Royal Anglesey Yacht Club were being masted and launched having arrived by ferry.

The fleets arrival for the opening of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta and the inclusion of the classics for this edition will provide a historic spectacle from the East Pier.

National yacht club pontoonDun Laoghaire Regatta entries line up at the National yacht club pontoon ahead of tomorrow's regatta

Published in National YC

For the second handicap race of the year, for The Buckingham Cup and The Wigham Trophy, the Dun Laoghaire Water Wags were discommoded by a 9,975 ton, 440ft long cruise liner, The Star Pride with her 208 passengers and 164 crew.

She was scheduled to leave the Carlisle Pier at 18.00hrs but there was an upset to her plans. Allegedly, a replacement part was required for her engines, which was being delivered from Dublin Port by car, leaving the latter venue at 18.00hrs. Instructions were conveyed to the Water Wags by Harbour Company officials. The reality was something different. At approx. 18.45hrs the tugboat Burfort arrived in Dun Laoghaire harbour joined by the Dublin Port harbour pilot. They set to work quickly, towed The Star Pride by the stern, until the liner was in the centre of the harbour. They then spun her, until the bow was pointing towards the harbour mouth.

The Wags quickly launched, the committee boat then laid a four-lap course with a start line near the marina entrance, and windward mark under the East Pier Lighthouse. The first Water wag to start was Nandor, followed half a minute later by Chloe, and Coquette, Polly and Scallywag two minutes later. Last to start after the passage of six minutes were Moosmie, Gavotte, Swift, Tortoise and Eva.
As the race developed the early starters merged with some of those faster boats attacking from behind. It soon became clear that the leaders, mother and daughter team of Kate & Amy O’Leary in Chloe and Mc Bride & McBean in Nandor were in for a great battle. A similar battle developed between Hal Sisk and Sue Westrup in Good Hope and Ian Magowan in the recently restored Mary Kate. At the finish, the order was:

1st – 34, Chloe. Kate & Amy O’Leary
2nd. -26, Nandor, Brian McBride and Stuart McBean
3rd.- 6, Mary Kate, Ian & Jenny Magowan
4th. -18, Good Hope
5th. -46, Mademoiselle
6th. - 3, Pansy
7th. -Moosmie
8th. - 38, Swift
9th. - 10, Sprite
10th. -30 Sara
11th. -45, Mariposa
12th. -42, Tortoise
13th. -17, Coquette

Published in Water Wag

The Collen Cup is a new perpetual trophy which has been in the Collen family since 1907 and will be awarded to the overall winner of the Water Wag Class within the Classic section of this and subsequent Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regattas.

The Trophy will be presented by Pamela Collen, on this, the 207th year of the Collen families’ Construction business and on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Dun Laoghaire construction commencement.

The Collen Family has had a long association with The Royal Irish Yacht Club. Lyal Collen who married Euphemia Adelaide Falkiner (a daughter of past Commodore Dr. Ninian Falkiner) was an active member throughout his life. The Collen Cup is in honour of Euphemia Adelaide Falkiner, mother of Neil Collen, current Chairman of the firm, who sailed in the Water Wag fleet on Shindilla in the 1950s and 1960s.

Sharing a bicentenary with Dun Laoghaire Harbour, Collen is a main sponsor of the 2017 Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta.

Published in Water Wag

It’s probably more than a little sacrilegious to suggest that, as some of the rituals of a global religion are built around The Last Supper, then it’s not at all unreasonable for the world’s oldest One-Design sailing class to have its rituals built around The First Picnic writes W M Nixon.

But the thought springs irresistibly to mind on seeing the first image of the Dublin Bay Water Wags settling into their new home for the week, southern Brittany’s incomparable inland sea of the Morbihan, currently en fete with a fleet of 1400 craft of all sizes for the biennial Festival of Sail which has been getting under way today.

The Dublin Bay Water Wags make up just 1% of the fleet, with fourteen boats present. But that’s not bad going for a class founded in 1887. Admittedly the boats now in France are of a type introduced to the class in 1900, yet that still makes them older than most other boats present, though not the two Howth 17s Leila and Aura of 1898 vintage, there in France with four other newer boats of their class

It was when the two Irish classes finally met up today that the Water Wags were found having a picnic. Not a very organized one admittedly, and definitely not Glyndeburne style, as it was little more than a lunch stop at a handy beach.

water wags in france2
The First Picnic. Midsummer’s Day 1887, and the Water Wags (of the original 13ft type) are gathering at Dalkey Island. Photo courtesy Water Wags

Nevertheless it sparked thoughts of The First Picnic, which was held on Dalkey Island on Midsummer’s Day, June 21st 1887, when the Water Wags were in their first year, and were sailing the little double-ended 13ft dinghies that were the basis of the class for their first dozen years.

It was combined with a “cruise” from what was then Kingstown Harbour to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. And as the photos from Alfred & Vincent Delany’s excellent history of the Water Wag class reveal, Victorian picnics were not something to be undertaken lightly. This is Serious Fun in a tradition which the class have continued ever since. So they’ll probably be very offended by any thought that this photo just in from the Morbihan suggests for even a nano-second that they’re having a picnic.

water wags in france3These are Serious Picnic People – the Water Wag Class members and guests on Dalkey island, June 21st 1887. Photo courtesy Water Wags

Published in Water Wag
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Over the next few days fourteen Water Wags will head by ferry to France to participate in one of the greatest classic boat regattas in Europe. As reported previously, one thousand four hundred and forty two traditional workboats and recreational boats will head to Brittany from Britain, Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Spain, and Japan.

Among the 19 yachts of the Irish contingent travelling to the celebration of traditional yachting are:

Waterwags: 9, Marie Louise (1927), 17, Coquette (1909), 31, Polly (1984), 32, Skee (1985), 33, Eva (1986), 34, Chloe (1991), 38, Swift (2001), 40, Swallow (2003), 41, Molllie (2005), 44, Scallywag (2009), 45, Mariposa (2015).

Howth 17 ft: Aura (1898), Deilginis (1905), Eileen (1908), Gladys (1907), Leila (1898), Silvermoon (1898).

Others: Anna Panna, a Mcmillan gaff cutter. Sylvana, Moody 46 and possibly the only boat which will sail to the event instead of being trailed.

What a celebration of Irish craftmanship it will be.

Published in Water Wag

Yesterday evening the Water Wags raced for the Buckingham Cup & Wigham Trophy with handicaps applied at the start, resulting in some boats starting five and a half minutes ahead of others. The handicaps were allocated on the basis of average finishing places in the three championship races held to date. At the time when the first boats started, there was almost no wind in that part of the harbour, and the course was laid for the expected wind from the east, and there was much congestion and dirty wind in the starting line area. The start guns sounded at approximately one minute intervals, but due to lack of wind many boats failed to start on their allocated times.

At the first mark, Paul & Anne Smith in Sara led from Ben McCormack in Marcia and Nandor with Brian Mc Bride and Stuart McBean sailing in 5 knots of wind. These three managed to escape the wallowing at the start area, and built up a huge lead. On the downwind legs, there was much effective blanketing in the following fleet caused by spinnakers of the following boats.
On the final beat, a large black cloud was building up over Dublin City. Eventually, the wind caused by this cloud revealed itself as a strong southerly wind of about 12 knots which hit some of the fleet with such a surprise, that a few boats nearly capsized.

At the finish the order was:

1st – 30, Sara, Paul & Anne Smith.
2nd - 45, Mariposa.
Cathy MacAleavey & Con Murphy
3rd.-33, Eva,
Orla Fitzgerald & Katie Tingle.
4th. 38, Swift, Guy & Jackie Kilroy
5th. - 44, Scallywag. Dan O’Connor & David Williams
6th. -15, Moosmie, David MacFarland.
7th. - Skee, Jonathan & Carol O’Rourke.
8th. - 31, Polly. Richard Mossop and Henry Rooke.
9th. – 46, Mademoiselle.
10th. –37, Marcia.
11th- 36, Little Tern.
12th. – 41, Mollie.
13th. -42, Tortoise,
14th. – 16, Penelope.
15th. - 18, Good Hope.
16th. -3, Pansy,
17th. – 4, Vela.
18th. – 40, Swallow.
19th. -43, Freddie.
20th. -47, Peggy.
21st. -20, Badger.
22nd. –26, Nandor.
23rd. -17, Coquette,
24th. -10, Sprite,
25th. - 34, Chloe,.
26th. -6, Mary Kate

Published in Water Wag
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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.