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National Yacht Club's Main Man in California Provides Link to Match Racing Worlds

29th October 2020
The 70th Annual Gold Cup Match-Racing Worlds in Bermuda is being raced in the GRP-built version of a classic 1936 boat, the International One Design The 70th Annual Gold Cup Match-Racing Worlds in Bermuda is being raced in the GRP-built version of a classic 1936 boat, the International One Design

Global sailing's focus of attention this week is on Bermuda, where the 70th Annual Bermuda Gold Cup and 2020 Open Match Racing World Championship is underway with GBR's Ian Williams the defending title-holder against fifteen other top drivers, Williams having won the 2019 final from Sweden's Johnie Berntsson.

Those who followed the 2019 Gold Cup may not recall it as having quite the same razzmatazz as the current event. But that's because, thanks to the international pandemic shutdown, Bermuda's position of natural isolation as a sunny little mid-ocean archipelago has enabled it to achieve an acceptable level of quarantine. Thus as the other national events in the World Match Racing Series were forced to cancel, the canny Bermudans worked carefully to having everything in place to make their end-of-October event the only show in town.

Thus they've taken aboard generous sponsorship from the Bermudan Tourism authorities, which would otherwise be having a very thin year, and for good measure they've beefed out the title to make it the 2020 Open Match Racing World Championship while they're at it, for who's to argue?

The National YC's flagship in San Diego. Johnny Smullen's classically-restored International One Design Altair slipping effortlessly along in Californian watersThe National YC's flagship in San Diego. Johnny Smullen's classically-restored International One Design Altair slipping effortlessly along in Californian waters

Yet although for such an event you might expected very special boats – maybe even the pace-setting Mark Mills-designed ILC Melges 37 – they're sticking with the tried and trusted GRP versions of the 33ft 1936-designed International One Design, which was originally commissioned by American sailing legend Cornelius Shields from Norwegian designer and builder Bjarne Aas of Fredrikstad south of Oslo.

Johnny Smullen

Between them, they created a classic which caught on in many places including Bermuda, and it was very much the premier One Design keelboat fleet there when the Gold Cup for match-racing was inaugurated in 1950. Over the years, they may have introduced a GRP version, but basically, the top match-racing stars are still sailing a boat which manoeuvres slowly but certainly, and is well-behaved in every way while providing a miniature version of America's Cup racing when it was sailed in 12 Metres, which many would reckon were the golden years of that particular stellar-fest.

As we write, the Gold Cup 2020 is going full blast on Hamilton Harbour, Bermuda, with the numbers gradually being whittled down towards the weekend's final. But meanwhile, it's timely to recall a real if extended link to the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, ancestral club of Johnny Smullen, master shipwright and the man-to-go-to around boats in San Diego in California.

When America's Cup legend Dennis Conner was at the most active stage of his classic boat passion, Johnny Smullen was his personal shipwright and boat-restorer. But Johnny meanwhile had his own enthusiasms, and one of them was for the classic wooden-built International One Design. He secured one of them, Altair, and restored her to better-than-new condition, such that she is now one of the ornaments of San Diego Harbour, sailed and raced with a reverence and respect which is a whole world away from the rough and tumble of the Gold Cup in Bermuda.

Johnny Smullen at the helm of his IOD Altair.A boat which looks good from any angle – a very contented Johnny Smullen at the helm of his IOD Altair

Cork Harbour linkage

And if you would seek a Cork Harbour link to the current Bermuda contest, cast your mind back to the International 8 Metre If, brought originally to Cork Harbour by Aylmer Hall, and then owned for many years - after Hall had bought the 12 Metre Flica – by Tom Crosbie. If was not only a classic Bjarn Aas design and build in the IOD style, but her role as Altair's big sister was further reinforced by her topsides being painted the same discerning shade of blue.

Tom Crosbie's International 8 Metre IfLet's hear it for Cork Harbour. Tom Crosbie's International 8 Metre If, making smooth progress off the Cobh waterfront in the early 1960s, is very much Altair's big sister. Photo: Pascal Roce

Published in National YC
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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The home club of Laser Radial Olympic Silver medalist Annalise Murphy, the National Yacht Club is a lot more besides. It is also the spiritual home of the offshore sailing body ISORA, the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race and the biggest Flying Fifteen fleet in Ireland. Founded on a loyal membership, the National Yacht Club at the East Pier in Dun Laoghaire on Dublin Bay enjoys a family ethos and a strong fellowship in a relaxed atmosphere of support and friendship through sailing.

Bathing in the gentle waterfront ambience of Dun Laoghaire on the edge of South County Dublin, the National Yacht Club has graced the waters of the Irish Sea and far beyond for more than a century and in 2020 celebrates its sesquicentennial.  

The club is particularly active in dinghy and keelboat one-design racing and has hosted three World Championships in recent years including the Flying Fifteen Worlds in 2003, 2019 and the SB3 Worlds in 2008. The ISAF Youth Worlds was co-hosted with our neighbouring club the Royal St. George Yacht Club in 2012...

National Yacht Club Facilities

Facilities include a slipway directly accessing Dun Laoghaire Harbour, over eighty club moorings, platform parking, pontoons, fuelling, watering and crane-lifting ensure that the NYC is excellently equipped to cater for all the needs of the contemporary sailor. Berths with diesel, water, power and overnight facilities are available to cruising yachtsmen with shopping facilities being a short walk away. The club is active throughout the year with full dining and bar facilities and winter activities include bridge, snooker, quiz nights, wine tasting and special events.

National Yacht Club History

Although there are references to an active “club” prior to 1870, history records that the present clubhouse was erected in 1870 at a cost of £4,000 to a design by William Sterling and the Kingstown Royal Harbour Boat Club was registered with Lloyds in the same year. By 1872 the name had been changed to the Kingston Harbour Boat Club and this change was registered at Lloyds.

In 1881. the premises were purchased by a Captain Peacocke and others who formed a proprietary club called the Kingstown Harbour Yacht Club again registered at Lloyds. Some six years later in 1877 the building again changed hands being bought by a Mr Charles Barrington. and between 1877 and 1901 the club was very active and operated for a while as the “Absolute Club” although this change of name was never registered.

In 1901, the lease was purchased by three trustees who registered it as the Edward Yacht Club. In 1930 at a time when the Edward Yacht Club was relatively inactive, a committee including The Earl of Granard approached the trustees with a proposition to form the National Yacht Club. The Earl of Granard had been Commodore of the North Shannon Y.C. and was a senator in the W.T.Cosgrave government. An agreement was reached, the National Yacht Club was registered at Lloyds. The club burgee was created, red cross of Saint George with blue and white quarters being sky cloud, sea and surf. The Earl of Granard became the first Commodore.

In July of 1950, a warrant was issued to the National Yacht Club by the Government under the Merchant Shipping Act authorising members to hoist a club ensign in lieu of the National Flag. The new ensign to include a representation of the harp. This privilege is unique and specific to members of the National Yacht Club. Sterling’s design for the exterior of the club was a hybrid French Chateau and eighteenth century Garden Pavilion and today as a Class A restricted building it continues to provide elegant dining and bar facilities.

An early drawing of the building shows viewing balconies on the roof and the waterfront façade. Subsequent additions of platforms and a new slip to the seaward side and most recently the construction of new changing rooms, offices and boathouse provide state of the art facilities, capable of coping with major international and world championship events. The club provides a wide range of sailing facilities, from Junior training to family cruising, dinghy sailing to offshore racing and caters for most major classes of dinghies, one design keelboats, sports boats and cruiser racers. It provides training facilities within the ISA Youth Sailing Scheme and National Power Boat Schemes.

Past Commodores

1931 – 42 Earl of Granard 1942 – 45 T.J. Hamilton 1945 – 47 P.M. Purcell 1947 – 50 J.J. O’Leary 1950 – 55 A.A. Murphy 1955 – 60 J.J. O’Leary 1960 – 64 F. Lemass 1964 – 69 J.C. McConnell 1969 – 72 P.J. Johnston 1972 – 74 L. Boyd 1974 – 76 F.C. Winkelmann 1976 – 79 P.A. Browne 1979 – 83 W.A. Maguire 1983 – 87 F.J. Cooney 1987 – 88 J.J. Byrne 1988 – 91 M.F. Muldoon 1991 – 94 B.D. Barry 1994 – 97 M.P.B. Horgan 1997 – 00 B. MacNeaney 2000 – 02 I.E. Kiernan 2002 – 05 C.N.I. Moore 2005 – 08 C.J. Murphy 2008 – 11 P.D. Ryan 2011 – P. Barrington 2011-2014 Larry Power 2014-2017 Ronan Beirne 2017 – 2019

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