Racing at least once a year round the beautiful and unspoilt island of Lambay seven miles north of Howth has been part of the Howth Yacht Club DNA for so long that nobody is 100% certain when this intriguing sporting challenge was first introduced writes W M Nixon.
We know for sure that a cup for the race was first put up in 1899 in the early days of Howth SC, which had been founded in 1895. But it seems the earliest record of results of a race taking place date from 1904. However, there could well have been earlier stagings of it, but as Howth’s sailing functioned in a very laid back and often un-reported style as a contrast to the formality of Dublin Bay’s newspaper-highlighted grand manner of yachting, it’s possible a Lambay Race happened pre-1904.
Whatever, we know for sure that by 1921 it was a cherished part of the annual calendar, as noted by noted cruiser-racer enthusiast Pat Walsh, who wrote enthusiastically for a sailing journal about the race and his participation in it, with a second place gained in that year’s race.
The Lambay Race has definitely been scheduled every year since, and numbers have waxed and waned and waxed again. For 2017, this classic event is receiving a major boost with sponsorship from the Michael J Wright Hospitality Group, which owns and operates renowned establishments which make Howth such a magnet for discerning visitors.
With a return to what used to be a weekend-long event, this year's HYC annual summertime keelboat regatta has been re-formatted to celebrate the traditional weekend that was the Lambay Races & Howth Regatta. The return to a historical format on the June bank holiday weekend (3rd to 5th June 2017) includes racing around Ireland's Eye on Friday night followed by the traditional Lambay Races on Saturday and a cruise-in-company/family day on Sunday.
While the emphasis is on fun sailing, Howth’s on-water racing administration is of international standard. So those who go to the Lambay Weekend for the hottest competition will be well catered for, but so too will other sailors intent mainly on pleasure afloat. As for pleasure ashore, with the Wright Group feeding in its welcome presence (which now includes the new Thai restaurant, Diep, in the group’s flagship pub Findlater’s) the après sailing buzz will be world class.
Afloat, competing classes will be divided into three fleets each with their own race management team. The large offshore fleet will comprise of five 'cruiser classes' along with the Shipman Class, while the inshore fleet includes One-Design fleets such as J80s, Ruffians, E-Boats, Puppeteers and the Squibs. Consolidating the theme of returning to the historical 'weekend' regatta, Howth's indigenous class, the Howth Seventeens will join the 'Classic Classes', starting and finishing off the East Pier. This will be the third year that visiting classic boats will join the event.
The short race on the Friday evening will conclude with a prize-giving in the clubhouse along with a reception for those visitors sailing from further afield and planning to race (or cruise) the following day and on Sunday.
The Lambay Races on Saturday provide a unique opportunity and challenge for racing teams to compete in what might at first glance appear to be a relatively straightforward windward-leeward race, but encompassing a variety of extras including coastal navigation, tidal considerations, shoreline rock-hopping and sailing in a variety of weather conditions on the different points of the course.
Speaking at the launch of the sponsorship announcement, HYC Commodore Joe McPeake said: 'The club is delighted to have the partnership with Michael and his team, and there is no doubt that the involvement of the Michael J Wright Hospitality Group will add a significant extra dimension to this ever-popular regatta.'
The club is encouraging everyone to get afloat that weekend - racing or not, there will be something for members and visitors of all ages to enjoy. A massive entertainment and hospitality programme is being assembled and it will include an event reception on Friday evening, live bands after racing on Saturday with themed bars and 'Diep' catering providing a lively party through to prizegiving and after the Lambay Dinner, more live music and dance into the small hours.
Sunday's cruise around Ireland's Eye and a family day ashore will no doubt be aided by the 'lay-day' that the Bank Holiday Monday will provide. And every boat that enters the Regatta also gets a €50 voucher for the newly-opened Diep restaurant, which makes the Lambay Weekend 2017 unique. Enter online here