In Howth, sailing life goes on after the destructive shock of Storm Emma on Friday, with its Force 12 onshore east to northeast winds, and the serious damage to the roof of the end-of-pier shed in which the classic gaff-rigged Howth 17s have been stored since their foundation in 1898 writes W M Nixon.
In that first winter of 1898-99, there were just five boats in the Long Shed, but as the long-lived class have now expanded to a fleet of 20, there was only space for seven down the pier, while the rest are wintered elsewhere. But fitting-out together in the Long Shed was in itself one of the ancient and much-loved rituals of the class. Yet whether it will ever be enjoyed again remains to be seen.
However, the spirit of the class and of Howth sailing in general is such that there’s no doubt the fleet will soon be back to full and growing strength afloat, as new boats are being built to the 121-year-old Walter Boyd design.
As for the seven boats damaged in Friday’s mayhem, this morning Class Captain (and HYC Vice Commodore) Ian Byrne quietly confirmed that five of them will be sailing again this year, and of the other two, Rosemary (built 1907) may make it afloat again before the 2018 season is finished, though the worst-damaged boat, Anita of 1900 vintage, will take a little longer.
No-one is in any doubt about the amount of work involved in some cases, but he concluded by saying that there’s a very positive will to get those boats back on the water, encouraged by the community spirit in Howth, and the messages of goodwill and offers of assistance from classic yacht enthusiasts all over the world.
That mood was already abundantly in evidence on Saturday, so as Sunday was scheduled for the final series race in the annual Howth Laser Frostbite Challenge (it dates back to 1974), Race Officer Neil Murphy reckoned life should go on - they could get one race in before the growing ebb Spring tide and the persistent easterly swell made Howth Sound untenable once more. All boats came to the line with Standard rigs, the winner (for the fifth time in the Spring series) being Ronan Wallace of Wexford - the Wallaces of Wexford have been making the weekly winter trek to the Howth Frostbite Lasers for more than forty years.
In fact, Ronan Wallace has been so consistent he was able to discard a second place for the final tally. Runner-up was Darrach Dineen (RIYC) with David Quinn of the host club third, while T. Fox of Rush won the Radials and Dylan McEvoy of Howth took the 4.7s. The Howth Lasers conclude the Winter/Spring series this Saturday with their annual Round Ireland’s Eye race, whose USP is the fact that you can go clockwise or t’other, just as you wish - it’s always a popular event, followed by a spectacular party