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Ida Kiernan - First Woman Commodore of the National Yacht Club

7th September 2022
The late Ida Kiernan - her trailblazing in sailing started long before the Millennium year. She is pictured above at the 2017 National Yacht Club Commodore's Dinner
The late Ida Kiernan - her trailblazing in sailing started long before the Millennium year. She is pictured above at the 2017 National Yacht Club Commodore's Dinner Credit: Michael Chester

Ida Kiernan's election as Commodore of the National Yacht Club on the 25 March 2000 marked a firm shattering of the glass ceiling that limited the role of women in sailing.

Only in the late 1970s were women admitted to full membership of Yacht Clubs – despite many making considerable contributions to the Clubs and sport long before that.

Ida was the first Commodore of a 'Category One' Club – generally defined as one with large premises, full-time staff and over 1,000 members – in Ireland, the UK, and maybe the world.

But her trailblazing in sailing started long before the Millennium year.

In her twenties, she "shelved her safe and comfortable nine to five job in the civil service to make her living at the mercy of the truculent sea", as an article in the Evening Herald in July 1977 described the founding of her Dun Laoghaire Sailing School. Up to this point, Glenans provided summer sailing schools in the South and West of Ireland – but no school was open to the general public in Dublin.

Ida Kiernan was a member of the National Yacht Club for over 50 yearsIda Kiernan was a member of the National Yacht Club for over 50 years

Her base was the Coal Harbour – where her fleet grew to twelve Mirrors and a few 420s and Herons. She had tremendous organisational and marketing flair – launching her annual programme in the Burlington Hotel one year and working closely with principals of the numerous local schools.

Ida ran the school successfully for several years until Alister Rumball took it over and grew it into today's highly successful Irish National Sailing School (INSS).

Ida was a member of the National Yacht Club for over 50 years and was an expert sailor – especially in Mermaid class, and helped train many of the Club's Junior sailors.

Author Donal O'Sullivan described her most famous pupil: "This is Cathy MacAleavey, born in Mexico, who was brought by her mother to Ireland when her father died unexpectedly."

Cathy was the first Irishwoman (with Aishling Byrne) to sail in the Olympics (Seoul, 1988), while her daughter, in turn, was the first Irish woman sailor to win an Olympic medal (Silver at Rio 2016).

In a fitting tribute to Ida Kiernan, DBSC held a minute of silence before the start of the Water Wag Race. The DBSC Race Committee Boat Freebird flew 'I' and 'K' flags hoisted fully before dipping to half-mast Photo: DBSCIn a tribute to Ida Kiernan, DBSC held a minutes silence before the start of its Wednesday Water Wag Race. The DBSC Race Committee Boat Freebird flew 'I' and 'K' flags hoisted fully before dipping to half-mast Photo: DBSC

Ida was born and educated in Dun Laoghaire and started her career in the Revenue Commissioners. When she left state service to set up the Sailing School, she also developed an expertise in Marketing and Organisation. She acted as a professional support for a number of trade organisations. Highly innovative and efficient, she worked closely with CTT, The Export Board.

Most notably, following the 1988 Lockerbie Pan Am 747 Bomb, American buyers were not coming to Europe, so she organised for the Federation of Jewellery Manufacturers of Ireland (FJMI) to Showcase their products in New York. That Group Trade Mission & Exhibition continued successfully for many years. She also acted for a number of Irish clothing and fashion houses in a similar way.

After serving as Commodore of the National Yacht Club, she volunteered incessantly and effectively in many roles. She was on the Dublin Bay Sailing Club Committee Boat Mac Lir weekly during the season. She organised, with Jackie Flynn, the Club Bridge Society, and each Christmas assembled the team which ran a significant charity fashion show in the Club.

She was out on Mac Lir three weeks ago and then went into hospital but was terminally ill at that stage.

Many tributes have poured in from the sailing and commercial worlds, where her fearless, innovative contributions will be sorely missed.

Ida is survived by her brothers Michael and Gerard, and sister-in-law Angela.


Read the DBSC tribute to Ida here Team

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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

At A Glance - National Yacht Club 2022 Events

  • ILCA/Laser Ireland Master Championships 2022 - May 28th & 29th
  • Topper Southern Championships 2022 - June 4th and 5th
  • National Yacht Club Regatta - June 18th
  • Irish Sailing Women at the Helm Regatta - August 27th & 28th
  • FFAI Flying Fifteen National Championships - September 2nd, 3rd & 4th
  • Irish J109 National Championships - September 23rd, 24th & 25th

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