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The Fastnet 450 starts today (Saturday) at 1300hrs in Dublin Bay, and sends the fleet on a 270-mile course southward, taking them all the way to the Fastnet Rock before finishing back at the entrance to Cork Harbour, clear of the coast and shoreside communities throughout the race. The 450 comes from the combined ages of the Royal Cork YC and the National YC – 300 and 150 years respectively. As both have been prevented by the pandemic from implementing anything but the most basic parts of their planned celebrations, there's an impressive amount of pent-up energy going into this one permissible pop-up offshore event, which is COVID-compliant with designated Crew Pods.

This event has come to mean so much for the ultimate well-being of Irish sailing in this frustrated season of 2020 that it would surely be for the best if we could somehow – for the time being at least - set aside the burden of expectation which many are putting on it as primarily an icon of hope, and see it instead as just a uniquely historical challenge which will provide an enthusiastic group of Irish sailors with a very welcome sporting challenge, in which everyone will live for the moment and seize the day, without risking anyone's health.

In hoping to achieve that attitude this weekend, we are helped by that sometimes much-maligned yet ever-present element in our sport, the Irish weather. After a week of some of the grimmest weather - by any metric - in Irish meteorological history, whether summer or winter, our climate seems to have decided that a few light-hearted days won't go amiss. 

Grzegorz Kalnecki's First 31.7 More Mischief from Dun LaoghaireGrzegorz Kalnecki's First 31.7 More Mischief from Dun Laoghaire is the smallest boat in the Fastnet 450. Her successes this year include an ISORA Race overall win. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien

Admittedly we are not going to have a high-summer weekend of firmly settled weather. And by the time the fleet are getting themselves past Hook Head tomorrow morning after a fast reaching-to-close-reaching passage in an "off the grass" southwest to west wind down the east coast, they'll know for sure that they've put in some real offshore slugging to windward from the Tuskar out past the Coningbeg, particularly when the ebb is running against the big leftover swell which – for a while – will be one of the legacies of the now well-gone Storm Ellen.

But through Sunday there'll be a modest attempt at a pet day as a weak ridge builds, and they may even get the breeze drawing off the land before the wind starts to back on the west side of the ridge, when the leaders may well be closing towards the handbrake turn at the Fastnet. The way that plays out – coupled with the inevitability of local breezes or even calm spots - is going to make for a fascinating comparison of the racing benefits or otherwise of different boat sizes and types.

The 270-mile course. The most rugged section is likely to be off southeast Ireland getting past the Tuskar Rock, Carnsore Point and the Saltee Islands.The 270-mile course. The most rugged section is likely to be off southeast Ireland getting past the Tuskar Rock, Carnsore Point and the Saltee Islands. See race tracker embedded below,

For although it may seem to be a very compact fleet, with all 20 boats in the 31ft to 40ft LOA range, the difference in performance possibilities increases exponentially. And while it may not be so extreme as the variations in wind power, where a Beaufort Force 6 of 25 to 32 knots is actually exerting 200 times the pressure of a Beaufort Force 2 of 5 to 8 knots, nevertheless the windward potential of a 40 footer such as Denis and Annamarie Murphy's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo, or Chris and Patanne Smith's J/122 Aurelia, is in a different category completely to the upwind speed ability of little 'uns like Grzegorz Kalnecki's First 31.7 More Mischief from Dun Laoghaire, or Conor and Derek Dillon's Dehler 34 Big Deal from Foynes.

 Simon Knowles Indian (Howth YC) is the only J/109 entered in the Fastnet 450Simon Knowles Indian (Howth YC) is the only J/109 entered in the Fastnet 450. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien

That said, offwind flying machines like Cian McCarthy's new Sunfast 3300 Cinnamon Girl from Kinsale – which will have the formidable talents of Mark Mansfield on board - and her larger older sisters, the Sunfast 3600s YOYO (Brendan Coghlan, RStGYC) and Hot Cookie (John O'Gorman, NYC, with Maurice "The Prof" O'Connell on the strength), will be hoping that the effect of the run back from the Fastnet is maximised to optimise their gains from their startling offwind performance, captured here (yet again) in this now-famous vid of Cinnamon Girl making hay off the Old Head of Kinsale. We run it for the umpteenth time in the hope that somebody will finally reveal the names of the auteurs, for crediting it to "A Couple of Kids in a RIB" really won't do.

That famous Cinnamon Girl vid recorded by "a couple of kids in a RIB". If the "couple of kids in a RIB" could identify themselves, we'd be delighted to credit this super bit of work to them. (Update: Vid by Jack & Robert Carroll)

However, as revealed in the Kinsale-Fastnet-Kinsale race a fortnight ago, the overall winner Nieulargo (which once again has Nin O'Leary and Killian Collins on board) sails to a rating of only 1.023 when she limits herself to her non-overlapping headsail, which had her level-pegging rating-wise with Cinnamon Girl, yet The Girl finished half an hour astern on the water. And though Nieulargo may be sailing with full headsail which would put her rating up to 1.035 this time round, it still keeps her below the Sunfast 3600s around the 1.040 mark, so both Sunfast marques will have their work cut out, and Nieulargo remains a good sensible wager.

Yet, Aurelia, the Golden One should never be under-estimated, even if she is the highest-rated boat in the fleet at IRC 1.076. In the last big fleet offshore race in Irish waters – the 2019 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race – she was in consistent form to finish second overall. In fact, consistency is an Aurelia hallmark, and if ever a boat deserved an outstanding win such as the Fastnet 450 offers, then she is that boat.

Chris and Patanne Power Smith's J/122 Aurelia is one of Irish offshore racing's most consistent performersChris and Patanne Power Smith's J/122 Aurelia is one of Irish offshore racing's most consistent performers

But then, the crews of the 19 other boats all think exactly the same way about their craft, and while the compact fleet of 20 boats may be in line with COVID-19 compliance, between them they manage to represent 16 different yacht and sailing clubs, which for a race which has been put together in a fortnight, really is a remarkable achievement, and different clubs will be rooting for their own sailing gladiators.

Thus through being among the lowest-rated boats in the fleet, it's conceivable that More Mischief and Big Deal could have their day in the sun. Equally, the highly competitive racing among J Boats has really sharpened their game in the Dublin area, and there are those punters who would support the potential of Alan Algeo's J99 Juggerknot from the Royal Irish with dinghy champ Conor Kinsella in the crew, or Simon Knowles' well-prepared J/109 Indian from Howth.

Derek & Conor Dillon's Dehler 34 Big Deal from FoynesDerek & Conor Dillon's Dehler 34 Big Deal from Foynes. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien

Either way, it's little short of miraculous that a competitive fleet has been recruited in such a short time. But as we've pointed out already in Afloat, the granddaddy of them all, the Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour or Kingstown to Queenstown Race of July 1860 was also a pop-up event, put together in the days beforehand by the 80-year-old Admiral of the Royal Cork, T G French, who recruited his 16 entries among the yacht racing in a week of regattas in Dublin Bay staged by the Royal St George YC.

So ad hoc was it all that the "fine old Admiral" (as Hunt's Yachting Magazine described him in its August 1860 issue) confirmed entries by visiting each of the 16 interested yacht on the morning of the start in order to confirm entries by collecting the entry fee, which was based on the size of the yacht being entered.

Admiral Colin Morehead of the Royal Cork Yacht Club will be following the example set 160 years ago by his predecessor Thomas G French through being in Dun Laoghaire for the start of the race to Cork Harbour, where he will greet them as they finish Admiral Colin Morehead of the Royal Cork Yacht Club will be following the example set 160 years ago by his predecessor Thomas G French through being in Dun Laoghaire for the start of the race to Cork Harbour, where he will greet them as they finish Photo: Bob Bateman

The total amount collected was a tidy £60, which was a very substantial sum of money in 1860. But instead of augmenting club coffers, it became the prize purse which went to the crew of the winning boat. And as the winner by matter of minutes was one of the smallest competitors, the 39-ton cutter Sibyl skippered by the noted amateur Henry O'Bryen, her relatively small professional crew will have hit the inns of the Holy Ground like a tsunami with their newfound personal wealth.

The fine young Admiral of today's Royal Cork, Colin Morehead, is in Dun Laoghaire this (Saturday) morning to see the fleet on its way, just as his predecessor did 160 years ago. But whether he and his host - NYC Commodore Martin McCarthy – can arrange contactless payments from entries to make up a prize purse for the winning crew is something else altogether, and in any case when the fleet reaches Crosshaven, there'll be no way that financial tsunamis of any size can hit the local hostelries under lockdown rules.

Commodore Martin McCarthy of the National Yacht Club, whjch is 150 years old in 2020.Commodore Martin McCarthy of the National Yacht Club, which is 150 years old in 2020.

For as Mark Mansfield, one of those who have determinedly put together this one and only chance of a decent mid-length offshore race in 2020 has bluntly put it:

"This is pure racing, boy. Forget about your parties before and after. This is all about those who really care very deeply about their sailing – that's the beginning and the middle and the end of it all." 

Thanks to the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association, all competitors have been provided with a Yellowbrick tracker below

The 1 pm race start may also be visible on the Dublin Bay webcam here

 

Fastnet 450 Race Entry List @ 20/08/20

First Name Last Name Club Boat Name Boat Type Sail Number class IRC TCC Echo
James Tyrrell Arklow Sailing club Aquelina J-112E IRL 1507 1 1.061 1.055
John Harrington RUYC and BYC eXcession IMX38 IRL1880 1 1.014 No ECHO
John O'Gorman NYC Hot Cookie Sunfast 3600 GBR7536R 1 1.037 1.035
Brendan Coghlan George YOYO Sunfast3600 IRL3618 1 1.036 1.035
Rónán Ó Siochrú Irish Offshore Sailing Desert Star Irish Offshore Sailing Sunfast 37 IRL1455 2 0.952 0.97
Cian McCarthy Kinsale yacht club cinnamon girl Sunfast 3300 IRL1627 1 1.023 1.025
ROBERT RENDELL Howth Samatom XC45 GBR1345R 1 1.074 1.075
Simon Knowles Howth Yacht club Indian J109 IRL1543 1 1.007 1.015
Derek Dillon Foynes Yacht Club Big Deal Dehler 34 IRL3492 2 0.928 0.93
Grzegorz Kalinecki ISA More Mischief first 310 IRL966 2 0.911 0.92
Peter Coad Waterford Harbour Sailing Club Blackjack Pocock 37 IRL1988 2 0.917 0.92
Andrew Algeo RIYC / BSC Juggerknot 2 J/99 IRL3990 1 1.01 1.02
Rupert Barry Greystones Sailing Club Red Alert JOD35 IRL6036 2 0.993 1
Flynn Kinsman NYC A plus Archambault 31 IRL977 2 0.978 0.98
John Conlon Arklow Humdinger sunfast 37 IRL1357 2 0.98 0.97
Coleman/Coleman David/Noel RCYC Blue Oyster Oyster 37 IRL3852 2 0.93 0.932
Denis & Annamarie Murphy Royal Cork Yacht Club Nieulargo Grand Soleil 40 B+C IRL2129 1 1.023 1.035
Riome (skipper)/ co owner Leonard David/ Mark Kinsale Yacht Club Valfreya Sigma 33 IRL 4297 2 0.912 0.915
Power Smith Chris Royal St George Yacht Club Aurelia J112 IRL35950 1 1.076 1.08
dMiller Keith Kilmore quay Andante Yamaha 36 IRL375 2 0.95 0.935

At the start of COVID 19 pandemic, the sailing community in Dun Laoghaire began planning for one event to replace the four individual waterfront yacht club regattas.

The original regatta plan had two potential dates July 31st/ August 1st - or Sept. 5/6th. The event is an initiative of all five of Dun Laoghaire's yacht clubs as a response to the COVID-19 interrupted season.

In the light of recent delay to Phase 4 of reopening, the later date is being chosen and an event is being designed to meet the COVID-19 protocols.

The event will be hosted by the National Yacht Club who are celebrating their 150th year.

It is being supported by the other Clubs – RIYC, RSGYC and DMYC, whose members will take part.

In what is turning out to be a bumper September for Irish sailing, the event will run a fortnight after the Round Ireland Race from Wicklow (August 22nd) and a week before the ICRA National Championships at Howth as part of the North Dublin Club's WAVE regatta on 11/13 September.

National Yacht Club Commodore Martin McCarthyNational Yacht Club Commodore Martin McCarthy

The event will also have a trophy to mark 100 years since the renaming of the town to Dun Laoghaire and will be supported by Davy Group who will provide prizes and support.

National YC Commodore, Martin McCarthy commented: “We are thrilled that the other clubs have so generously given us the opportunity to celebrate our 150th with a Regatta, in a year where sailing time has been very condensed. The event is being designed to meet the requirements of the battle against COVID 19, so Apres Sail will be restricted.

National Yacht Club 150th logo

"We will have 10 Commemorative medals struck for race winners across the waterfront and a singular trophy to mark 100 years of Dun Laoghaire for the finest Classic boat taking part".

"We especially thank Davy Group whose loyalty and ongoing sponsorship during this pandemic has contributed greatly to running this event.
It will be an important step on the road to “new normal” and which we hope will finish with a rowing race in Dublin Bay".

Published in Royal Irish Yacht Club

The generally accepted view of the 1950s in Ireland is of an economically grim period when everything - including the spirit of the inhabitants - withered in the face of a seemingly permanent financial recession, with desperate emigration the only solution for many young and sometimes not-so-young people. And in sailing, even though the early years of the decade had seemed a time of hope, with the new vision of the 1946-founded Irish Dinghy Racing Association still in the ascendant and people like Douglas Heard and Freddy Brownlee of Dun Laoghaire ordering the exciting new offshore racers Huff of Arklow and Flying Fox from the design board of the innovative Uffa Fox, the underlying trend was soon going downwards.

The nadir was reached in 1954-1956, when the American dollar was high against the pound that was then the Irish currency, and a connection to America saw the disposal for short-term profit of what was virtually an entire flotilla of some good Dun Laoghaire-based yachts to new American owners.

Baltimore-built 6-ton yawl Evora

Inevitably there was a typically Irish upside to this, as the decidedly individualistic businessman Dermot Barnes, having found a lucrative American buyer for his attractive John Kearney-designed 1936 Baltimore-built 6-ton yawl Evora, reckoned that the most economical way to comply with the purchase requirement for the boat be shipped to America was to get a keen young crew to sail her across the Atlantic.

Dermot Barnes 30ft John B Kearney yawl Evora in Dun Laoghaire in 1954Dermot Barnes 30ft John B Kearney yawl Evora in Dun Laoghaire in 1954 shortly before she sailed for America under the command of Michael O’Herlihy of Hawaii Five-O fame. Photo: Dick Scott

The delivery skipper was a determined guy called Michael “Styx” O’Herlihy, who had ambitions in showbusiness. Having reached the Promised Land with Evora, he promptly headed on west for Tinseltown, and became a huge success in television as a producer and director with Gunsmoke, Maverick, Star Trek, Hawaii Five-O, M*A*S*H, the A-Team and other top shows which one daren’t acclaim out loud for fear of age-recognition.

Meanwhile, Evora stayed on America’s East Coast for a while, but then someone with the west in their eyes took her away to sail round the world. The little Baltimore-built boat did well, as she got right across the Pacific to north Australia. But there the funds ran out, for in 1991 an Irish crew - voyaging round the world in some comfort in a Hallberg Rassy 46 – came upon her looking rather sorry for herself in Darwin.

It was a sad sight, yet it was also a reminder that back in the later 1950s, for most people all of Ireland was reckoned to be a sad sight. Yet when you consider some of the international businesses which were building on hard-earned success from a narrow Irish base during the 1950s, you can’t help but think this gloomy view of Ireland resulted from an unnecessarily negative groupthink which definitely wasn’t shared by everyone, yet was shared by enough for significant numbers to up-sticks and seek their fortune elsewhere.

Sparkman & Stephens-designed Gaia 36 Sarnia

As for those who stayed behind and made their way as best they could, we can see them as either dully unadventurous or quietly heroic. The quietly heroic were those who managed to build up businesses in that arid time, and it was as the photos by Michael Chester of last weekend’s lift-in at the National YC came up on the screen that there came a vivid reminder of one of the quiet heroes. For among the forty boats being heaved afloat in a remarkable day’s work, there was the 36ft Sparkman & Stephens-designed Gaia 36 Sarnia, now all of 54 years old, yet looking better than ever under the caring ownership of Michael Creedon.

Michael Creedon racing SarniaClass shows. Michael Creedon racing Sarnia.

John Sisk

She was built as part of a series-production in Livorno in Italy by Cantieri Benello in 1966 for John G Sisk (1911-2001). He wasn’t quite the father of all the Sisks, for there were Sisks of significance in the building trade from the mid-1800s in Cork, where they built the majestic City Hall in 1930. But it was this John Sisk who, in the difficult business climate of the later 1930s at the age of just 26, decided to move the company’s main focus of operations in 1937 to Dublin, where he’d been in school at Clongowes Woods.

Gradually he built the business through the patient winning of major contracts for hospitals, cathedrals and bridges, such that by the late 1940s the company was the first in Ireland to sign major construction contracts for more than a million pounds apiece.

Yet it wasn’t all work. In Cork the family had been into boats and even when Dublin-resident they continued to holiday at Crosshaven. But while his father and grandfather had been content with commissioning new pleasure craft from local boatbuilders around Cork Harbour, in Dublin young John G Sisk became an investor in a yacht building enterprise called the Dalkey Shipyard Company, which despite its name was based at the head of the West Pier in Dun Laoghaire.

The plans of the 38ft Cheerful Maid designed in 1943 by Robert Clark for John SiskA beacon of hope in wartime. The plans of the 38ft Cheerful Maid designed in 1943 by Robert Clark for John Sisk, as published in London in the Spring 1945 issue of The Yachtsman

The classic profile of an offshore racer until the benefits of a separate vertical rudder were appreciatedThe classic profile of an offshore racer until the benefits of a separate vertical rudder were appreciated, as seen in the hull profile and accommodation of Cheerful Maid

Robert Clark-designed sloop-rigged Cheerful Maid

Subsequently, it became the Dalkey Yacht Company and was best known for building a number of Folkboats long before the class became ubiquitous in Ireland. But in 1949 and again in 1954, it also built two substantial yachts for John G Sisk himself, the 38ft sloop-rigged Robert Clark-designed sloop-rigged Cheerful Maid in 1949, and the 41ft 6ins Knud Reimers-designed yawl Marian Maid in 1954.

The order for the design of Cheerful Maid was placed with Robert Clark in London in 1943, when there certainly was a world war going on. But John Sisk and Robert Clark seemed determined to maintain some semblance of a more normal life, so much so that the completed design appeared in the London-published Spring 1945 edition of the then-quarterly magazine The Yachtsman.

Cheerful Maid ashore for the winter in Dun Laoghaire in 1951Cheerful Maid ashore for the winter in Dun Laoghaire in 1951

This was all of six months before World War II ended in Europe, but such things were encouraged to a limited extent by the authorities as morale-boosting, for we can be quite sure that those fighting by sea and land would have devoured any information about the new boat as a harbinger of peacetime sailing.

Yacht-builders of Dun Laoghaire managed to build Cheerful Maid to high standardsDespite the acute post-war shortages of material, the yacht-builders of Dun Laoghaire managed to build Cheerful Maid to the high standards required for her topside to be varnished

Knud Reimers-designed yawl Marian Maid

Cheerful Maid, when she finally appeared in Dublin Bay in 1949, was classic Robert Clark, a witch to windward but a bit of a handful downwind with that heavily-raked rudder. For his next boat Marian Maid. John Sisk went for a less-raked rudder with some flat along the bottom of the keel, but the main interest in this new Dun Laoghaire-built Maid was that she was designed by Knud Reimers of Sweden to the new International 8 Metre Cruiser-Racer Rule, which had been mainly devised by James McGruer of Scotland.

John Sisk’s 8 Metre Cruiser-Racer Marian Maid was designed by Knud Reimers of SwedenJohn Sisk’s 8 Metre Cruiser-Racer Marian Maid was designed by Knud Reimers of Sweden, and built in Dun Laoghaire in 1954

Another Dublin Bay owner, Peter Odlum, had gone to McGruer for his boat to the new class, Namhara which was number 5, but John Sisk had a very European outlook, and getting a Swedish design was typical of his approach. However, although he sailed from the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, and continued to maintain his membership of both the Royal Cork and the Royal Munster in Cork, he was a busy man in work and somewhat reserved too, with a strong focus on family life.

Thus the energetic social and sporting scene of Dun Laoghaire sailing wasn’t really his thing, and his time afloat was largely a private affair, such that his son Hal observes that while he loved sailing, he wasn’t all that keen on racing despite having competitive racing boats, as he felt it sometimes brought out the worst in people.

Yet although he could be a prodigiously hard worker, he’d a company rule that all senior managers and specialists in the now-large Sisk organization should retire at the age of 60. So by the time the 1960s had arrived, he was in the count-down phase of handing over the reins to his oldest son George, with key roles in the company also being fulfilled by his other sons John and Hal, with the latter bringing a special marine expertise through spending his college years at the University of Delft in The Netherlands.

John G Sisk (second left) with his sons John, George and HalJohn G Sisk (second left) with his sons John, George, and Hal on the occasion of his receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Institute of Building. At the age of just 26 in 1937, he had moved the main focus of operations of the Sisk company from Cork to Dublin and had gone on to build it into one of the largest construction companies in the state with extensive international operations. But despite his exceptional work ethic, he retired at age 60, as he always said he would.

 Thus it was something of a joint family enterprise in selecting a new Sisk yacht for the mid-1960s, but the head of the family was ahead of the game in that he’d been in correspondence with designer Olin Stephens of New York, whose work he greatly admired.

Olin Stephens

The relationship between Sparkman & Stephens of New York and the offshore racing scene in Britain (and Ireland by extension) had not always been smooth. For although the very young Stephens brothers Olin and Rod and their indomitable father Roderick Senr had brought the all-beating Dorade to England in 1931 to win the Fastnet Race - which the brothers on their own then won again with Dorade in 1933 - no useful European design orders resulted from the campaign.

On the contrary, the result was less than pleasant. In 1933-34, Yachting World magazine ran a competition for a substantial yacht to the new 55ft rating rule of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, and the winner was a 72ft yawl designed by Olin Stephens. The detailed winning plans were published in the magazine in the best Yachting World style, and a Scottish whiskey magnate and notorious big game hunter after ivory (he proudly claimed to have killed more than a thousand elephants) promptly lifted the plans and took them to the noted steel trawler builders Hall, Russell of Aberdeen, and asked them could they build this boat in steel.

Trenchemer as she was to be called – named after William the Conqueror’s flagship of 1066 – was virtually finished, with her enormous spars well on their way to completion by McGruer’s on the Gareloch in their renowned spar shop, by the time Olin Stephens got to hear about it all. He felt badly done by, for apart from his rather shabby fee-avoidance treatment, he said that he could already think of several improvements he would have made to the design had he been involved in the building from the start.

Olin Stephens at the height of his success in the 1960sOlin Stephens at the height of his success in the 1960s. In 1934 while still building his career, he had felt rather bruised by the way he had been treated over the “abducted” designs for the 72ft Trenchemer

The big game hunter claimed that as the design had been published as the result of an open public competition, he felt it was in the public domain, for use by anyone. In time, some sort of settlement must have been reached, for when the new Trenchemer’s details were eventually published in Lloyd’s Register, Olin J Stephens was acknowledged as the designer. But the whole business left an unpleasant taste, which meant that when the Stephens brothers brought the new Stormy Weather to England for the 1935 Fastnet, they took quiet satisfaction from clearly beating all the newest British designs, although they probably had mixed feelings from trouncing Trenchemer too, but her navigation was all over the place as the compass adjusters had been unable to fully offset the effects of the big steel hull.

The 54ft Zeearand was Sparkman & Stephens first proper European design commissionThe 54ft Zeearand was Sparkman & Stephens first proper European design commission and won owner Kees Bruynzeel of The Netherlands the 1937 Fastnet Race

After this third Fastnet win, they did finally get a proper design commission from the European side of the Atlantic, but it was from the Dutchman Kees Bruynzeel who was building a plywood manufacturing empire, yet found the time to commission and campaign a handsome new 54ft S&S design called Zeearand in the 1937 Fastnet race, and he duly won.

By this time Sparkman & Stephens were so busy with the expansion of their business in America and elsewhere that they didn’t need to expend unnecessary energy on cultivating a British clientele, and in Europe while they had a presence with a few boats in the Mediterranean, in northwest Europe they weren’t really centre stage again until 1959, when discerning Dutch owner Hendrik van Beuningen ordered the 35ft Hestia (she was S & S Design 1478, business was booming), and cut a mighty swathe through RORC racing and Cowes Week.

Very fast 35ft Hestia of 1959Business is booming, The good-looking and very fast 35ft Hestia of 1959 was design number 1478, and put down a serious marker for the new range of S&S designs in Europe

Hestia’s hull profileHestia’s hull profile provided a very potent windward performance, but she was a handful downwind, and during the period 1962-65, Sparkman & Stephens developed a more manageable fin-and-skeg profile for their new production 36 footer

But by this time, yacht design was going into a fast-development stage, with the fin-and-skeg designs of Dick Carter coming successfully down the line in the wake of pioneering work by Ricus van der Stadt. Although the first S&S fin-and-skeg was the 43ft Deb (later Dai Mouse III, later Sunstone) in 1963, the skeg-hung rudder in this case looked like an afterthought rather than an integral part of the design.

Thus the traditional closed profile shape with the rudder now at an almost ludicrous angle was still the norm when the S&S-designed 43ft Clarion of Wight won the Fastnet Race for English owners Derek Boyer and Derek Miller in 1963.

So it was that, having first made their mark with the Fastnet win in 1931, after 32 years Sparkman & Stephens had become an overnight success in England. They were finally making their mark with the British offshore racing establishment, for although the difference between the RORC and Cruising Club of America rating rules had been seen as a barrier, ever since Bruynzeel’s Zeearand in 1937 the S&S team had shown they could create winners for European owners racing under the RORC rule.

Hull profile of the 1963 Fastnet Race winner Clarion of WightHull profile of the 1963 Fastnet Race winner Clarion of Wight, “bringing overnight success to Sparkman & Stephens in Britain after only 32 years….” The main part of the race involved heavy windward work, so the downwind disadvantage of her much-raked rudder was not a significant problem

Clarion of Wight racing for Ireland under Rory O’Hanlon’s ownership in the 1971 Fastnet RaceClarion of Wight racing for Ireland under Rory O’Hanlon’s ownership in the 1971 Fastnet Race, when she won the Philip Whitehead Cup. By this time – as is just visible - she had been changed to fin-and-skeg configuration

Yet it wasn’t until the mid-1960s that this was finally accepted, and it was accepted for other rules as well. From Scotland, Peter Wilson ordered a new 8 Metre Cruiser-racer, to be called Nan of Gare, from Sparkman & Stephens. Fortunately, relations had already been smoothed with McGruer’s building the S&S designed Deb in 1963, for they were also to build Nan. But it may well be the Trenchemer bruising of 1934 still rankled, for having completed the design with Nan of Gare getting her first of many wins, Olin Stephens wrote a somewhat waspish critique of the International 8 Metre Cruiser/Racer Rule

For John Sisk in Dublin, this sudden rush to acquire a Sparkman & Stephens design threatened to de-rail his own developing relationship with Olin Stephens, but he needn’t have worried. The great designer wrote personal letters to Dublin revealing his concerns at making a proper change from an angled rudder on the back of the keel to a vertical and much more effective skeg-hung rudder which nevertheless looked as though it was an integral part of the whole concept, and he told of how they were working on a 36ft hull working on the basic canoe body which had proven such a success with Hestia, but with a new concept in the way the skeg-hung rudder blended with the whole.

John G SiskJohn G Sisk in retirement. As planned, he retired at 60, and had thirty years of retirement, “always interested in life and often rather amused by it”.

He further revealed that a new company in Finland was hoping to mould boats to this design, but meanwhile his long-established relations with Italy meant the design – which in Finland was to become known as the Swan 36 – was coming into production in Italy as the Gaia 36 at an earlier date, albeit with a different coachroof and a special highly-engineered foam sandwich construction, and might John Sisk be interested in one of these?

For John Sisk in conference in Dublin with his sons George, Hal and John, this was all music to their ears. Their engineering outlook much preferred the greater rigidity of the foam build, they liked the sound of the builders, they were all for Italy, and by 1966 they were owners of the new 36ft S&S instant classic Sarnia, a very handsome yacht in an attractive shade of emerald blue, and a brilliant all-round performer.

Sarnia has been one of the most cheering things in Irish sailing ever since. It is good to know that such boats are among us, and it as entirely appropriate that she should emerge in such style from among the crowd last Saturday at the National YC, John G Sisk’s Dun Laoghaire club. Michael Creedon deserves every credit for being such a devoted custodian of a true classic.

Published in National YC

Suddenly, it’s summer in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. Oh for sure, we all well know that, meteorologically speaking, it seems to have been bright sunny summer in Dun Laoghaire town since at least Easter, and maybe earlier. But in the Harbour, it isn’t really officially summer until the anchorage within the curve of the East Pier – The Bight as it’s known – is well-filled with a colourful array of yachts and boats lying serenely to their moorings. And the first stage of that vital marker took shape on Saturday, with the annual lift-in - COVID-19 delayed for two months - at the National Yacht Club, with forty boats going afloat in a steady day’s work.

Hibernation at the National YCHibernation at the National YC. Thanks to the use of a long-jib crane, the boat-deck storage space is optimised for winter lay-up of members’ boats. But with the summer well upon us, the COVID-19 two-months delay meant they’d over-stayed their welcome. Photo: Brian McCullough

Led by Commodore Martin McCarthy - who looked every inch The Gaffer with a decidedly rakish and stylishly white customised NYC hard hat - it was a communal members’ effort, focused around the professional skills of a William O’Brien crane whose driver seemed doubly-determined to prove the accuracy of firm’s motto: “O’Brien Can Shift It”.

The crane had an apparently endlessly-extending jib which would have disappeared into the cloud base, had there been one. But it was a day of searing sunny heat, despite which everyone kept their cool and worked in compliance with the Industrial Outdoor Covid Restrictions – in other words, Building Site Regulations.

Dawn patrol for the first boat to be lifted-inDawn patrol for the first to be lifted-in. With forty boats to be splashed, it was an early start to a long day

Having a long-jib crane is central to the operation, as its use maximises the boat-deck storage area. Instead of space-consuming trailers, the members’ boats can be neatly dropped from high above into and out of spaces only slightly bigger than their basic support cradles, in what is for all the world like a continuous “Beam me up, Scotty” procedure.

O’Brien long-jib extending crane enables boats to be extracted “O’Brien Can Shift It” – an O’Brien long-jib extending crane enables boats to be extracted from their minimalist space-maximising berths in a “Beam me up, Scotty” operation. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Well, it wasn’t quite continuous, as the tidal times meant there was insufficient depth in the launching bay for two hours around the lunch-time low water. But although the clubhouse itself is shut, the kitchen is open, and the ubiquitous manager Tim O’Brien was on had to make sure that the creations of club chef Cormac Healy were rolling out for al fresco lunches in some welcome shade.

The it was back to work with the continued steady splashing-in of everything from the class of vintage Ruffian 23s (“We’re classics now, y’know”), right up to the flotilla of J/109s, including the Hall family’s distinctive dark blue Something Else, Dun Laoghaire’s senior boat of the marque.

Dress code was high vis vest, hard hat and industrial glovesDress code was high vis vest, hard hat and industrial gloves, but otherwise casual

As late afternoon drew on, the boat-deck space emerged as newly-cleared, and it seemed enormous. There’ll be tidying up for a while and a bit of re-organisation, but by Thursday (June 4th) the space will be ready for dry-sailers and dinghies and the fleet of Flying Fifteens, finally released from their extended hibernation in storage in the Wicklow Mountains.

Meanwhile on Saturday after a day of mega-achievement, there was the return to the current reality, with the realisation that there was no question of everyone adjourning to the club bar for some very refreshing and well-earned pints. But useful alternative arrangements may have been in place on an individual basis, and anyway there was nothing to beat the refreshing feeling of a complex communal job very well done.

A Shipman 28 goes aloft at the National Yacht Club Lift InNearly there. A Shipman 28 goes aloft, with just four boats still to be launched in a long day’s work which saw forty boat go afloat. Photo: David OBrien/Afloat.ie

Summer will continue to return officially to Dun Laoghaire Harbour in the coming days with the Royal Irish YC boat-deck open for use to dry-sailers and dinghies from Tuesday June 2nd onwards, while as mentioned just now, the National YC’s deck is in business from Thursday. Then on Saturday June 6th there are big crane lift-ins at the Royal St George YC and the Dun Laoghaire Motor YC, and on Sunday it’s the turn of the Coal Harbour Boatyard to make use of the crane which will have been at the DMYC on Saturday.

As to sailing, it is of course already available for those who can comply with some quite strict restrictions, and in theory some limited racing will be possible for these compliers. But now that the boats are getting afloat again, we can expect a greater focus on clarifying what is possible. To revert to Star Trek, it may not be racing as we know it, Jim, but it will be some sort of racing nevertheless.

The David Cheverton-designed wooden classic Carrick Witch finally gets gratefully afloatAlmost the last in. The David Cheverton-designed wooden classic Carrick Witch finally gets gratefully afloat. The intense sunshine and heat of recent days has been very harsh on wooden boats still ashore

Additional photography by Michael Chester below

Sign-In to lift-in: The National Yacht Club cruisers were lifted in for the summer season at the weekend

COVID-19 Temperature checks and sanitising station for the Natonal Yacht Club Lift-In

National Yacht Club Lift in of Boats

National Yacht Club Lift in of Boats

National Yacht Club Lift in of Boats

Published in National YC
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The National Yacht Club re-opened its platform at Dun Laoghaire Harbour yesterday, for the purpose of preparing boats for Lift in on Saturday 30th May.

The original annual lift-in date on April 11 was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Government Roadmap Phase 2 starting on Monday, June 8th, and the NYC anticipate it will be possible for some sailing to take place thereafter.

The club is working with DBSC and the other clubs to shape a summer sailing program that is safe but 'exciting and fun', according to Commodore Martin McCarthy.

As Afloat reported previously, all four of Dun Laoghaire Harbour's Waterfront Clubs will combine to host a Solidarity Regatta on Friday 31st July & 1st August, all being well.

Meanwhile, the club's honorary member Annalise Murphy was back training yesterday after 55 days off the water, as Afloat reported here.

Published in National YC
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With the Government announcement last week of the phased plan to relax restrictions, sailing can begin preparing for a resumption of sailing activity in accordance with the phases of that plan. The National Yacht Club has now cancelled its special 150th-anniversary Regatta originally scheduled for the 10th to the 13th of June.

The NYC will be working with the other Dun Laoghaire waterfront clubs to put on the 'Dun Laoghaire Combined Clubs Solidarity Regatta 2020’ planned for 31st July to 3rd August if circumstances allow, and with a fallback Plan B date of September 5/6 also in the Irish Sailing and DBSC diaries.

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The 2023 SB20 World Championships will be hosted in Ireland by the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire Harbour, County Dublin.

The successful Irish bid for the event will see the World Championships return to Dublin Bay in September 2023, 15 years after the inaugural world championships were sailed at the NYC in 2008.

That event attracted 136 SB3s drawn from 13 countries and was won by Britain's Geoff Carveth, Roger Gilbert, Roz Allen & Sarah Allan.

More recently, Dun Laoghaire's Royal Irish Yacht Club hosted the successful SB20 European Championships in 2018 when a final race win for Royal St. George's Michael O'Connor, the 2017 SB20 Corinthian World Champion, allowed him to produce the goods again for Ireland by taking third overall.

The plan for 2023 is to achieve the largest ever number of nations attending an SB20 World Championships, according to SB20 Irish President John Malone.

Due to Covid-19 the SB20 Worlds in 2020 (Cascais), 2021 (Singapore) and the Europeans in 2021 (St Petersburg) have all been moved forward by one year, the updated Calendar is as follows:

SB20 World Championships Calendar

  • 2021 Cascais, Portugal (29th of August to 3rd of September)
  • 2022 Singapore
  • 2022 St Petersburg, Russia (European Championships)
  • 2023 Dun Laoghaire, Ireland (National Yacht Club, September)
  • 2024 The Hague, Netherlands (June)
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The National Yacht Club has joined other yacht clubs across reland in launching its own members 'eSailing' League.

Series One of the NYC League will comprise five races every Thursday evening for the next four weeks using the ‘Virtual Regatta Inshore’ platform. 

The Virtual Regatta platform allows you to race people from across the world and even get yourself an Irish Sailing ranking!

As regular Afloat readers will know, Aat the neighbouring Dun Laoghaire Harbour Royal Irish Yacht Club, Enda O'Coineen got the RIYC Virtual league underway on Saturday.

A racing tips video (get practising!) is here:

Published in Esailing

A new Dublin Bay regatta involving the whole Dun Laoghaire sailing waterfront has been announced for July 31st to August 3rd. 

The 'Dun Laoghaire Combined Clubs Solidarity Regatta 2020' is an initiative of all five of Dun Laoghaire's yacht clubs as a response to the COVID-19 interrupted season.

"The event is a joint effort of the DMYC, RIYC, RStGYC, NYC and DBSC", according to Mark McGibney, the sailing manager of the Royal Irish Yacht Club.

We plan to run this regatta from Friday 31st July to the 3rd August.

In these uncertain times, the clubs have also decided to 'book' the weekend of the 5th/6th September as reserve dates if the August dates fall through.

More details as we have them.

Read also: 2020 Irish Sailing Fixtures (The Beyond COVID-19 Version)

Published in Dublin Bay

The National Yacht Club has decided to reschedule the lift-in back to its ‘normal’ mid-April weekend (eg back by one week) to Saturday 11th April.

The lift-in had been brought forward by a week to Saturday 4th April as the 11th was during the Easter bank holiday weekend and the East Pier club were anticipating that some boat owners might be away.

However, as the weather has been very poor since Christmas and NYC says it thinks the additional time to prepare for the sailing season will be welcomed by owners.

The NYC says it doesn't think that many people will make travel arrangements over Easter or go on with previously made arrangements

Published in National YC
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Page 2 of 29

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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