The classic Howth Seventeens have not survived and thrived since 1898 through having a narrow perception of themselves writes W M Nixon. When they decided some years ago to add an annual two-day championship to their already busy 60-race season of regular midweek evening and Saturday afternoon contests plus regattas and the Howth Autumn League, they announced it as the Howth Seventeen Worlds.
Told by the Powers That Be that they couldn’t call it that, the following year it became the Howth Seventeens Inter-Galactic Title. Eventually, it became the Howth Seventeen ‘Nationals’, and that’s what they challenged for yesterday (having lost Friday evening’s first race because of a gale), with Race Officer Scorie Walls managing to fit in three races between wind bombs and thundery downpours which were deluging much of the rest of Ireland.
Admittedly conditions were marginal, with a strong and gusty westerly as fifteen boats came to the line for the first race. Certainly, it wasn’t a top’l day, but spinnakers were flown, and though there were some retirals, damage was relatively minor with a broken spinnaker pole or two, and some trouble with jib halyards.
Thus the boats re-built after the shoreside carnage of Storm Emma, (aka The Beast from the East) back in March 2018 showed that they were able for it, but it has to be admitted that it was a race for physically strong crews. When the Seventeens first appeared, they were frequently raced with just two on board. Gradually this became three, but these days these able little 22ft 6ins boats seem to do best with four on the strength, and strength was at a premium yesterday.
"Some said it was really too windy and volatile to be taking any boats out"
The Masseys and Mike Twomey on the 1907-built Deiliginis had a field day with a scoreline of 1,5,1. Their very able-bodied crew were brothers Luke and Jamie Massey, their cousin Ian Massey, and Mikey Twomey, and their accomplished sailing made it four in a row for a title Deilginis has won at least six times in all.
It was a very special day for Roddy Cooper, as it was his 70th birthday. He has owned the 1898-built Leila since 1998, the two previous owners being Seventeen class legend Norman Wilkinson, and before him Billy McBride, who was a special talent in the renowned Harry Clarke stained-glass workshops.
Birthday Boy Roddy was crewed by his sons Drewry and Giles and longtime shipmate Ian Jackson, and they finished the series second overall on 11 points to Deilginis’s final score of 2, while third was Peter Courtney in Oonagh on 13 points.
Peter Courtney is third generation Howth Seventeen - his grandfather first owned one of the boats in 1907 - and for the ‘Nationals’ his crew were Daisy O’Shea, Dinger Massey and David O’Connell.
Some said it was really too windy and volatile to be taking any boats out, let alone boats where four of the fleet were 121 years old. But you won’t hear that said by the twelve guys who were on the three leading boats…….