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Our header photo is one whose use had not been anticipated for at least another month, and hopefully not at all. For it was optimistically expected that by late January, we'd have evidence the vaccines were beginning to work, with their roll-out accelerating by means of ever-greater degrees of efficiency in a general situation of the pandemic being under control, and thus a sunny escapist image of a magic sailing moment would be superfluous to requirements.

However, writing this a couple of days before Christmas, the abiding thought for now is attributable to Chairman Mao, or so it's said. Admittedly he wasn't exactly a laugh-a-minute merchant at the best of times. But his response to the supposedly uplifting cliché from a follower during The Long March, to the effect that it's always darkest just before the dawn, was well flattened by the Chairman's monotone response: "It's always darkest just before it gets completely black".

A bit OTT even in these straitened times, perhaps. But a week ago just as Sailing on Saturday 19-11-20 was hitting the screens, the news came through that the 2020 Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race had been cancelled for the first time in its remarkable 76 year history, with just a week's notice.

It should not have been such a surprise and so much of a special disappointment, but even the almost unlimited research resources of the vast Nixon Verbiage Industries complex had failed to provide the info that there'd been a new and particularly virulent COVID outbreak in Sydney's northern beach suburbs, while the Tasmanian Diplomatic Corps had completely overlooked its duty to inform us that their authorities – previously noted in the 19th Century for keeping Irish patriots forcibly sequestered on their lovely island – were now taking steps to prevent anyone coming near the place at all.

This should have been this morning's header photo – the start of the Rolex Sydney-Hobart RaceThis should have been this morning's header photo – the start of the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race

That would admittedly have removed the maddening dawdle up the Derwent which has frequently concluded the Hobart Race since 1945, but it has also wiped out the Sydney-Hobart Race completely while it's at it, leaving those of us who rely on it as a Yuletide release valve when all the seasonal pressure dial readings are rising.

This is not helped by the news that, having kept it at bay in exemplary style, Tokyo is now experiencing a COVID surge of unprecedented power, which suddenly makes everyone aware that the supposedly secure Olympics 2020 in their new slot of July-August 2021 may not be such a surefire runner after all.

Yet just across the China Sea, the People's Republic - where it all may or may not have begun – is holding China up to the world as the perfect ideal of how to deal with COVID-19. So the inescapable logic is that if Japan cannot now hold the year-late Olympics, the entire circus should be shifted across that same China Sea to a place where – having put up completely new fully-equipped hospitals from scratch in six weeks - creating half a dozen Olympic arenas in a couple of months should be a doddle.

Finn Class racing at the 2021 Olympic venue of Enoshima near Tokyo. The postponed regatta in July-August – which would have been the Finns last appearance as an Olympic class - is now itself in question with a new pandemic outbreak in JapanFinn Class racing at the 2021 Olympic venue of Enoshima near Tokyo. The postponed regatta in July-August – which would have been the Finns last appearance as an Olympic class - is now itself in question with a new pandemic outbreak in Japan

But as we are now only too well aware of the kind of regimented and highly-disciplined social structures which makes such things possible in China, as a precaution our would-be Olympians would do well to get a copy of the Little Red Book for bedtime reading, while the Olympic Council of Ireland should be exploring ways and means whereby our athletes can gain associate overseas membership of the Chinese Communist Party, as such a link would smooth the way should a Chinese location become the 2021 Olympic Venue of last resort.

Forgive the ramblings, but this morning all over the world Rolex Sydney-Hobart followers should be tuning in to a race already under way, and getting their very necessary dose of Australian summer and sailing culture. It's not quite Mad Max territory, but there's enough in the varied characters who strut their stuff each year in the dash to Hobart to make you realise that it's only from Australia that Max Max could have emerged.

But instead, we have to retreat into a miasma of sailing memories conveyed through preferably sunny photos, and for years this image of the red boat in sunshine has been sitting in a corner of my screen with the notion that bringing it up full screen will blow away any temporary melancholy.

It's a ploy which doesn't always work, as its contrast may only accentuate the downer. But generally, it does the trick. It was taken during ISORA Week in 1991 or thereabouts at Howth, and I'm racing the partnership-owned Doug Peterson-designed 1976-built Contessa 35 Witchcraft of Howth (we bought her at Hallowe'en 1990) with shipmates-for-the-week John MacDonald on left (he's the father of noted sailors Emma and Ross) and Don O'Donnell on the right in the white hat, with the rest of the willing crew assembled from the hiring fair which gathered at the top of the marina bridge each race morning, for in those pre-offshore sailing school days, ISORA Weeks were magnets for people keen to get involved in the offshore game.

The photo is by Patrick Roach, longtime photographer with Yachting Monthly who later branched out freelance, in fact, he may have done so by the time this was taken, for not only did this one appear on the cover of Yachting Monthly nearly thirty years ago, but variants from it provided the cover girl for other sailing publications. It seemed that magazine Art & Picture Editors just couldn't get enough of a bright red boat in vivid sunshine when usually they had to make the best of white-hulled or occasionally dark blue boats in poor light.

The 1912-built Ainmara and the 1976-built Witchcraft together at the Down Cruising Club in Strangford Lough. In 1964, the Round Isle of Man Race was won by Ainmara. Thirty years later in 1994, it was won again under the same command, this time by Witchcraft. The 1912-built Ainmara and the 1976-built Witchcraft together at the Down Cruising Club in Strangford Lough. In 1964, the Round Isle of Man Race was won by Ainmara. Thirty years later in 1994, it was won again under the same command, this time by Witchcraft.

Another plus is that you can see some of the faces. Only John MacDonald can remember Patrick being there in his little RIB, the rest of us were recovering from the challenge of getting our ludicrously large spinnaker up and drawing. But this has been achieved, we're starting to pull away from the next boat in line, and for a nano-second – captured by the photographer – pure existential bliss is the mood of the moment.

The Contessa 35 is a remarkable boat, heavy for her size – she's nearly two tonnes heavier that the large Sigma 38 - and notably comfortable in a seaway, with the weight tending towards amidships, a feature we emphasized in making her a proper cruiser-racer by carrying an over-powered electric anchor winch beside the mast. and having the 83 metres of 7/16" chain in a self-stowing vertical box under it beside the mast, which is well aft.

This midships weight location greatly reduces hobby-horsing to windward, and removes that awful corkscrew steering you get on a breezy broad reach when all the weight of the boat's chain has been stowed right forward because the builders' marketing department won't allow such crude stuff as ground tackle to intrude into the luxury accommodation….

Witchcraft on passage from Kinsale to Glandore during the 1996 Cruise-in-Company, showing the successful slightly luminous topside finish she was given as an experiment by a classic car paintwork expert. Although she carried the heavy ground tackle expected of a 40-footer, as the anchor winch and chainlocker below it were at the mast, there was little or no adverse effect on performance. Photo: Kevin DwyerWitchcraft on passage from Kinsale to Glandore during the 1996 Cruise-in-Company, showing the successful slightly luminous topside finish she was given as an experiment by a classic car paintwork expert. Although she carried the heavy ground tackle expected of a 40-footer, as the anchor winch and chainlocker below it were at the mast, there was little or no adverse effect on performance. Photo: Kevin Dwyer

For about nine years we raced and cruised Withcraft of Howth flat out until the steam began to run out of the partnership (it's rather more difficult than keeping a marriage together), with my own energies then being further deflected by interactions with orthopaedic and other surgeons.

But for those nine years, all things seemed possible in cruising to all sorts of places between the Faroes and Spain, and going round Ireland more times than we could remember, two of them in the race from which we emerged with some silverware, as we did from ISORA racing, the Scottish Series, Cork Week where one morning we woke up to find the boat had somehow provided overnight accommodation for eleven people, and the Dingle Race where we simply cruised on round Ireland afterwards, while a Witchcraft speciality was the Autumn League at Howth, where our crews might include everyone from Arctic veterans who thought racing a bit of a joke, to champion dinghy sailors who though all sailing other than racing was a bit of a joke.

Cork Week, and the fleet's in Crosshaven. Somewhere in the midst of them all is Witchcraft, anticipating Airbnb with sometimes as many as eleven sleeping on board.Cork Week, and the fleet's in Crosshaven. Somewhere in the midst of them all is Witchcraft, anticipating Airbnb with sometimes as many as eleven sleeping on board.

Our biggest problem in racing was that bright red hull colour. As the starting fleet swelled towards the line, there was no way an absurdly conspicuous red stemhead could be hidden in the crowd of white boats in debatable OCS situations, so we erred on caution, knowing that the boat's extraordinary windward performance would soon get us back in the hunt.

This was something which was well demonstrated at Cork Week when a Force 9 suddenly squall swept through the fleet as we were slugging upwind to the Fountainstown Mark. While it seemed as though the entire Sigma 33 fleet were reversing in formation close past us, in fact, they were just about holding their own whereas our old warhorse has simply found her stride, and her powerful streaking to windward though the bulletlike spray was such that the helmsman had experienced a total facial defoliation by the time we finished racing.

The red hull – superbly built by Jeremy Rogers at Lymington when I think the great Bill Green was working with him – fascinated everyone, not least a little guy whose name now eludes me. He used to be intrigued by the developing hull re-spray facility at Malahide Marina, as his own business was in re-spraying cars and particularly classic cars, where he was given free rein to replicate some unusual colours.

He saw something in Witchcraft's hull that invited experimentation, and offered us a virtually free re-spray that, he assured us, would actually make her glow. We were a bit afraid that we'd end up with something like one of those metallic colours you very quickly get tired of, but what the hell, we could always get her re-spayed again. So our little genius went to work and produced a beautiful quality finish with a slightly luminous effect which never faded, proved remarkably hard wearing, and we didn't tire of it – which was just as well, for year after year each Spring it polished up again as good as new.

The true cruiser-racer in proper ISORA long weekend mode. Witchcraft in Lighthouse Cove on Bardsey in Northwest Wales, August 1993. The previous (Thursday) evening she'd arrived across channel from Howth in to Port Dinnllaen for supper at the Ty Coch Inn. Early next morning, down to Bardsey Island for Friday breakfast (mega-feast) in Lighthouse Cove and leg-stretch ashore. Friday lunchtime across to Aberdaron for pub lunch and visit to historic little chapel where Welsh "national poet" R S Thomas is priest. Friday afternoon, super sunny sail to Pwllheli for monumental pre-race party with Squire Jones at Penmaen. Saturday: Pwllheli-Howth Race, which is also RORC event. Sunday in Howth, guests at party for winners in Evora, the Jameson house. Photo: W M NixonThe true cruiser-racer in proper ISORA long weekend mode. Witchcraft in Lighthouse Cove on Bardsey in Northwest Wales, August 1993. The previous (Thursday) evening she'd arrived across channel from Howth in to Port Dinnllaen for supper at the Ty Coch Inn. Early next morning, down to Bardsey Island for Friday breakfast (mega-feast) in Lighthouse Cove and leg-stretch ashore. Friday lunchtime across to Aberdaron for pub lunch and visit to the historic little chapel where Welsh "national poet" R S Thomas is priest. Friday afternoon, super sunny sail to Pwllheli for the monumental pre-race party with Squire Jones at Penmaen. Saturday: Pwllheli-Howth Race, which is also a RORC event. Sunday in Howth, guests at party for winners in Evora, the Jameson house. Photo: W M Nixon

As for our re-spray genius, it was a doubly-useful experience. His experiment was a complete success. He was deservedly pleased with what he'd done, which was much admired. But in working with other regulars in the boatyard, he'd quietly come to the conclusion that if his serious mortgage was going to continue to be paid with little effort, he'd have to stick with the classic cars. And who could disagree with him?

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It would be needlessly painful to look back at the Afloat.ie features of a year and more ago anticipating the coming sailing season of 2020. They exuded optimism, anticipation, energy and enthusiasm for the approaching twelve months. They looked forward to a season at home and abroad which showed every promise of being the greatest Irish sailing year ever in local, national and international terms.

But as it happens, there's now little or no discussion of What Might Have Been. We've been through a lot. And we obviously still have a great deal to get through. But we've learned to cherish the good things that did happen, while the mood of the sport of sailing is clearcut - we're moving on.

Thanks to our sailors and organisers proving so adept at managing to pull some sort of regulation-compliant sport and seafaring out of the severe limitations of a rolling pandemic, we've reached the sensible stage of living for the moment and the future, while enjoying the memories of those sometimes contorted happenings which, in the end, made for an interesting, absorbing and – when it happened – an enjoyable season.

The heart of it all - the Royal Cork YC at Crosshaven.  Photo: Robert BatemanThe heart of it all - the Royal Cork YC at Crosshaven. Photo: Robert Bateman

In achieving this, the Royal Cork Yacht Club set a mature example which encouraged and sustained the rest of the community. 2020 began with the RCYC – acclaimed at New Year for the seventh time as the Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year – facing with justifiable pride and confidence into its Tricentenary Year with an internationally supported programme which reaffirmed its unique historical position going back to 1720.

Yet as the shutters began to come down, the RCYC - calmly led by Admiral Colin Morehead – set an example of mature acceptance which carried valuable influence way beyond the world of sailing. The season the RCYC had planned over several years as they worked towards 2020 had been shaping up to be utterly exceptional in its quality. But the national and global health crisis - faced by us all as February became March - was likewise utterly exceptional. It was unprecedented in a hundred years.

Admiral Colin Morehead of the Royal Cork Yacht Club: His calm and responsible leadership when the pandemic struck his club in its Tricentenary Year was exemplary. Photo: Robert BatemanAdmiral Colin Morehead of the Royal Cork Yacht Club: His calm and responsible leadership when the pandemic struck his club in its Tricentenary Year was exemplary. Photo: Robert Bateman

In this time of need, the inevitably high profile series of cancellations which the Royal Cork had to implement was done in such a considered, reasonable and indisputable way that Admiral Morehead and his team carried not just their club with them in a remarkable display of unity, but they provided an example to others on land and sea which resulted in one of the most gregarious and sports-mad countries in the world sensibly accepting extreme social limitations which, in the long run, have stood Ireland very much to the good.

Sailing may not be a spectator sport, but it is a very visible activity when it does occur, particularly with substantial racing. Thus although many club fleets were approaching full commission as lockdown loomed, the fact that the boats stayed on their moorings or in their marina berths - or indeed didn't launch at all – sent a very strong message in line with national policy.

Before all this, there had been the first achievements for the year's Irish sailing in Australia at Sail Melbourne in January, where the National YC's Annalise Murphy – ultimately selected to be Ireland's Laser Radial Women's representative when the 2020 Olympiad is staged in Japan in 2021 – got herself back in contention while young Eve McMahon successfully took the opportunity to get acquainted with seriously grown-up competition.

But for Ireland, the real star of the show was Optimist sailor Rocco Wright of Howth, who in Melbourne was overnight leader going into the final race in a fleet of 255 boats, and came home with the Silver before going on to avail of the last of unfettered travel in February with the Optimist Euromarina Trophy in Alicante in Spain, where again he took Silver, this time in a fleet of 401 boats.

Rocco Wright (left) takes Silver in the 401-boat Optimist fleet at the Euromarina Cup in Alicante in FebruaryRocco Wright (left) takes Silver in the 401-boat Optimist fleet at the Euromarina Cup in Alicante in February

Back home the sporting lights were going out big time by mid-March, leading into total April lockdown. But then in May when the first wave began to ease as the approaching summer's more benevolent weather began to work its magic, the infection figures began to go the right way and some restrictions were scaled down. It was highly-focused club administrators such as Howth Yacht Club Commodore Ian Byrne who trawled through the sometimes confusing official directives in order to provide a meaningful guide to sailing folk as to what they could do afloat, and when and where.

Such guidance was needed in a time of frustration and bewilderment, for it was becoming increasingly clear that being near or on the sea played a beneficial role in combatting the virus. Yet it would have been irresponsible and selfish for sailing enthusiasts to flaunt their good fortune when a large section of the population was restricted in locked-down isolation in unpleasantly confined spaces.

But equally, there were increasing possibilities for sailing after the first wave of COVID-19 had clearly peaked, and key organisations such as Dublin Bay Sailing Club under Commodore Jonathan Nicholson and Honorary Secretary Chris Moore explored the possibilities and timings while planning the production of a virtual DBSC Yearbook 2020 in co-ordination with Afloat.ie.

Nimbleness, flexibility and shoreside numbers control were pivotal to it all, and in this the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association led by Peter Ryan of Dun Laoghaire, and the South Coast Offshore Racing Association headed by Johanna Murphy of Cobh, were well-placed to deliver the goods, with ISORA in particular providing a remarkably complete programme even though – for Irish sailors - it had to be restricted to our own waters, as a planned expansion to take in cross-channel races to Wales was stymied by more sever restrictions being imposed on the Welsh side in August.

People who get things done – Peter Ryan of ISORA and Johanna Murphy of SCORAPeople who get things done – Peter Ryan of ISORA and Johanna Murphy of SCORA

By late June and early July, restricted club racing programmes were getting under way. But in early July the winds and weather were uncooperative, and it was in the second week of July - on the evening of Thursday July 9th to be precise - that a brisk and sunny northwesterly swept away a period of wet and gloomy calm to provide the Royal Cork cruiser-racer fleet with their first real contest of the year, and they and photographer Bob Bateman grasped the opportunity to make a clear statement that while the sailing season of 2020 was going to be in a very truncated form, there nevertheless was going to be some Irish sailing at its very best.

We're here! The keelboat racing season starts for the Royal Cork on Thursday July 9th.  Photo: Robert BatemanWe're here! The keelboat racing season starts for the Royal Cork on Thursday, July 9th. Photo: Robert Bateman

Up in Dublin Bay the season had been moving gingerly into action at much the same time, and when the fresher more summery weather arrived to bring everyone to life, DBSC found their fleet numbers were pushing towards the 140 mark, while the venerable Water Wags – doing their own thing as usual – managed a best turnout of 24 boats.

Thus if we take the broad view, it means that nationally, somewhere towards a half the people who could have been going sailing chose to do so once it became available in its limited form. Everyone was entitled to their own approach to it amidst the uncertainties and plain horrors of the pandemic, and some clubs chose to function only for junior sailing which came under the heading of teaching and training.

Don Street's secret – live well, live long, and sail a DragonDon Street's secret – live well, live long, and sail a Dragon

But of course there were gung-ho types who raced afloat the minute it became remotely possible, and in Glandore the irrepressible Don Street has his 90th birthday some time around July 24th, and that became the focus of a super summer series for Glandore's famous classic Dragons.

Up in Howth while juniors had been in action from an early stage, the keelboats really got going with the Aqua Two-Handed Race round Lambay on July 18th, with 38 boats racing and Diane Kissane and Graham Curran winning in one of the HYC club-owned J/80s.

Summer perfection – Sutton DC Commodore Ian McCormack and Nobby Reilly on helm, racing a J/80 in the Aqua Two-Hander Round Lambay at Howth.  Photo Lynn Reilly Summer perfection – Sutton DC Commodore Ian McCormack and Nobby Reilly on the helm, racing a J/80 in the Aqua Two-Hander Round Lambay at Howth. Photo Lynn Reilly

Meanwhile, the local classes were coming to life, and eventually, enthusiasts like Ian Malcolm coaxed 13 of the 1898-vintage Howth 17s afloat, with Shane O'Doherty and partners in the 1900-built Pauline winning the annual championship (the "Worlds", would you believe) while the annual Lambay Race went to the Massey-Toomey syndicate in the 1907-built Pauline. As for Howth's Puppeteer 22s which date back to 1978, some have reached the age to make them ripe for restoration, and it was one of these, Puppeteer Number 1 Shiggy Shiggy restored by Paul McMahon & Laura Ni hUallachain, which won.

The 1907-built Howth 17 Deilginis, winner of the 2020 Lambay Race, has undergone many restorations…Photo: W M NixonThe 1907-built Howth 17 Deilginis, the winner of the 2020 Lambay Race, has undergone many restorations…Photo: W M Nixon

…..while the 1978-built Puppeteer 22 prototype Shiggy-Shig has just undergone her first restoration, and it may have helped owner Paul McMahon to win the 2020 Class Championship…..while the 1978-built Puppeteer 22 prototype Shiggy-Shig has just undergone her first restoration, and it may have helped owner Paul McMahon to win the 2020 Class Championship.

The dinghy classes got going properly by mid-August at Crosshaven, and though a storm was to blow out the Lasers competition, the four day AIB Optimist Nationals concluding on the 16th August were if anything plagued by over-light winds. It came down to the wire with Johnny Flynn of Howth snatching it by one point from the home club's Ben O'Shaughnessy, with Howth's Rocco Wright third, while the National YC's Clementine van Steenberge was top girl at fifth.

Cork Harbour's unique (in Ireland) fleet of National 18s had reminded everyone of their exuberant existence when Charles Dwyer's Shark II won the Dognose Trophy over the same August weekend, but their Irish Nationals weren't staged until 12th September when an eight race series saw the title go to Nick Walsh, Rob Brownlow and Eddie Rice in Fifty Shades ahead of Alex Barry in FOMO and Colin Chapman's Aquadisiacs in third.

In Dun Laoghaire, it's the Flying Fifteens which top the listings as the largest One-Design keelboat class, and in August in a final period of easing on travel restrictions, they managed to stage a 16-boat-limit Nationals at Dunmore East, and in a blast from the past, superstar John Lavery was persuaded out of retirement to campaign with Alan Green, and in rugged conditions, they recorded a convincing win.

This was heartening news for the National Yacht Club, for the sheer scale of the Royal Cork Yacht Club's pandemic-induced cancellations had tended to obscure the fact that 2020 was also supposed to see the 250th Anniversary celebrations of Lough Ree YC, the 150th (the Sesquicentennial) of the National YC in Dun Laoghaire, and the 125th of Howth YC.

The fact that all four clubs were managing to get substantial sailing of some kind was – in the circumstances of 2020 – a matter for celebration. But by August and particularly by early September, it was all taking place in the knowledge that thus far, the predictions of the epidemiologists had proven remarkably accurate, and so the expectation of a second wave in September was accepted as highly likely.

Thus sailing levels in August were almost frenetic, but it was sensibly done with a minimum of razzmatazz. They'd a splendid long weekend Quarter Millennial Regatta at Lough Ree, but other than those actively involved, most folk didn't hear about it until afterwards. Equally, the Mirrors had their Nationals at Sligo apparently organized through a system of telepathy, but that enabled them to keep it comfortably compliant in every way.

The SB20 Bango on the way to success at Lough Ree's Quarter Millennial, with junior champion Ben Graf on helm, LRYC Commodore John McGonigle at middle, and owner Kevin Fenton forward. Photo: Alex HobbsThe SB20 Bango on the way to success at Lough Ree's Quarter Millennial, with junior champion Ben Graf on helm, LRYC Commodore John McGonigle at middle, and owner Kevin Fenton forward. Photo: Alex Hobbs

Shannon One Designs helping Lough Ree YC celebrate its Quarter Millennium. The Shannon Class celebrates its own Centenary in 2022. Photo: Con MurphyShannon One Designs helping Lough Ree YC celebrate its Quarter Millennium. The Shannon Class celebrates its own Centenary in 2022. Photo: Con Murphy

The Mirror Nationals at Sligo, venue for the 2021 Mirror Worlds. The winner in the 2020 Nationals was Lough Ree's Caolan Croasdell (foreground). Photo: Con MurphyThe Mirror Nationals at Sligo, venue for the 2021 Mirror Worlds. The winner in the 2020 Nationals was Lough Ree's Caolan Croasdell (foreground). Photo: Con Murphy

And then in mid-August, there was the big one, the Fastnet 450. In the Irish Sea, Peter Ryan with ISORA had shown what could be done with minimum staff and maximized close communications, and by season's end he was to have a completed programme with Paul O'Higgins' JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI (RIYC) the champion.

On the south coast meanwhile, the first weekend of August saw SCORA run a testing-the-waters Kinsale-Fastnet-Kinsale race which didn't frighten the horses or anyone else, and had the Murphy family's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo from Crosshaven emerging as winner. So this in conjunction with the quiet success of ISORA saw the Fastnet 450 put together, the "450" being the combined ages of the National YC which hosted the start, and the Royal Cork which hosted the finish.

Legends of sailing. Clayton Love Jnr of the Royal Cork YC and Carmel Winkelmann of the National YC at the NYC before the start of the Fastnet 450. Clayton Love was Admiral of the Royal Cork for its Quarter Millennium in 1969-70, while Carmel Winkelmann was one of the founders of the pioneering NYC Junior Division in 1967, and the IYA Junior Programme.Legends of sailing. Clayton Love Jnr of the Royal Cork YC and Carmel Winkelmann of the National YC at the NYC before the start of the Fastnet 450. Clayton Love was Admiral of the Royal Cork for its Quarter Millennium in 1969-70, while Carmel Winkelmann was one of the founders of the pioneering NYC Junior Division in 1967, and the IYA Junior Programme.

The Murphy family's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo from Crosshaven was winner of both the Kinsale-Fastnet-Kinsale and the Fastnet 450 races.  Photo: Robert Bateman The Murphy family's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo from Crosshaven was the winner of both the Kinsale-Fastnet-Kinsale and the Fastnet 450 races. Photo: Robert Bateman

The course was Dun Laoghaire Pierheads-Fastnet Rock-Cork Harbour entrance. It was a rugged one for a good fleet with the 35ft Red Alert from Greystones dismasted, and in a cracker of a finish, the Murphys with Nieulargo took second on line honours but claimed the CT win from first-to-finish J/122 Aurelia (Chris Power Smith, RStGYC) while the small but high-rated SunFast 3300 Cinnamon Girl (Cian McCarthy Kinsale YC, with Mark Mansfield on board) was third across in an event which, at the time and in retrospect, was a season's highlight.

Tom Dolan's Figaro 3 Smurfit Kappa found form in 2020Tom Dolan's Figaro 3 Smurfit Kappa found form in 2020

Abroad, Tom Dolan suddenly found his mojo racing Smurfit Kappa in Le Figaro Solo. As he said himself, he was doing nothing with the Figaro 3 that he hadn't done in 2019, yet in 2019 he was in the crab grass, but in 2020 after they finished in St Nazaire he was very much in the frame, and made a speech at the prize-giving which went viral.

Irish Cruising

Any cruising which was taking place was inevitably muted, with attention being drawn to the problems of boats which had been in the Caribbean where the pandemic spread like wildfire, and getting out and back to Europe was the only alternative to being in lockdown for weeks or months and restricted to staying in board.

With flights being cancelled wholesale, crew were unable to get out to join homecoming skippers, and on the shores of Clew Bay, Mayo-based Ocean Cruising Club officers Alex and Daria Blackwell ran a comprehensive guidance system which helped many home. Meanwhile, all Ireland watched nervously as one-armed solo skipper Garry Crothers from Derry with his Ovni 435 Kind of Blue made the long hop from the Caribbean to Lough Foyle singe-handed in absolutely every sense of the term.

Garry Crothers on Kind of Blue with his daughter Oonagh (left), his wife Marie, and daughter Amy in cruising mode in the Caribbean. When the pandemic arrived, the one-armed sailor was alone, and had to sail back to Ireland on his own Garry Crothers on Kind of Blue with his daughter Oonagh (left), his wife Marie, and daughter Amy in cruising mode in the Caribbean. When the pandemic arrived, the one-armed sailor was alone and had to sail back to Ireland on his own

The Quinlan-Owens family's DanuThe Quinlan-Owens family's Danu

He did it, and did it well, and a few weeks later the Quinlan-Owens family with their 43ft steel ketch Danu made their keenly-anticipated homeward landfall in the Aran Islands, having made the best of their homeward voyage by being the first boat to get clearance into the newly COVID-free Azores, which seemed like a different world entirely from the pandemic-plagued Caribbean and Europe.

As for Irish waters, the cleverest move of all was made by the 1926-vintage Limerick trading ketch Ilen, which in late August and early September "between two tropical storms and ahead of lockdown", managed an educational cargo cruise between Kinsale, West Cork, Dingle, Limerick, and the Aran Island carrying consignments of choice artisan products.

The Limerick ketch Ilen in Greenland in 2019. In 2020, she fitted in a Coast and Cargo cruise in Ireland between two tropical storms and a pandemic…..Photo: Gary Mac MahonThe Limerick ketch Ilen in Greenland in 2019. In 2020, she fitted in a Coast and Cargo cruise in Ireland between two tropical storms and a pandemic…..Photo: Gary Mac Mahon

September sailing

The early Autumn saw a revival of the progression towards the 12-month-delayed Olympics, firstly with Kiel Week – where the Irish squad indicated there's work to be done – and then the Laser Europeans in Gdansk in Poland, where Finn Lynch was on form for Ireland and took a personal best.

But it all went a bit sour afterwards, as Danish champion Anne-Marie Rindom came down seriously ill with COVID-19 on her return home, the infection having apparently been brought into the championship by a Portuguese sailor.

While all this wasn't exactly sung from the rooftops, the story spread quickly, and increased the focus in safety in Ireland, where all the Irish squad had test clear on their return. By this time, with the staging of events being decided on an almost day-to-day basis, the marking of the National YC's 150th in Dun Laoghaire with a regatta had become a matter of allocating one of DBSC's Saturday race's for up-grading to all-classes regatta status, and this had taken place in style on September 5th, just in time as the graphs were starting to up again as summer receded.

It became a case of get it done while you can, and after the 1720s found they might be straying outside the limits by going back to Baltimore to complete their nationals, they finished the job at Crosshaven with Rob O'Leary taking the title.

In Cork Harbour itself, meanwhile, the annual Cobh-Blackrock Race is so such a part of the fabric of harbour life in mid-September that not staging it was unthinkable, so they defined the socially-distant limits required and off it went, with Denis Byrne's little T250 Cracker winning out overall to take the Moonduster Trophy from a remarkably diverse fleet.

Denis Byrne's Cracker, winner of the coveted Moonduster Trophy in the Cobh-Blackrock Race.  Photo: Robert BatemanDenis Byrne's Cracker, winner of the coveted Moonduster Trophy in the Cobh-Blackrock Race. Photo: Robert Bateman
The first (and only) race in the Howth Autumn League provided one of 2020's most perfect sailing days for Simon Knowles' J/109 Indian chasing down three of the hot Howth Half Tonners. Photo: Judith MalcolmThe first (and only) race in the Howth Autumn League provided one of 2020's most perfect sailing days for Simon Knowles' J/109 Indian chasing down three of the hot Howth Half Tonners. Photo: Judith Malcolm

But the shadows were closing in. Dublin Bay SC knew it was experiencing its final races even as Howth YC staged its opening (and only) race of its Autumn League in idyllic conditions. The Water Wags pushed the envelope to its limits with their final race – finishing in an appropriately emotion-inspiring sunset – proving to be 2020's last formal race in Dun Laoghaire, for the new rise of the virus saw the planned Laser Masters at the Royal St George YC cancelled at 24 hours notice.

The sun sets on 2020 club racing…..with the next lockdown imminent, the Water Wags see the sun set on Tim Pearson winning from Ian Malcolm, with Martin Byrne coming in on port tack.  Photo: Cathy Mac Aleavey The sun sets on 2020 club racing…..with the next lockdown imminent, the Water Wags see the sun set on Tim Pearson winning from Ian Malcolm, with Martin Byrne coming in on port tack. Photo: Cathy Mac Aleavey

It would have been a depressing note on which to finish the 2020 speed-sailing season, even if club activity has continued with carefully-regulated junior training sessions and events which come in under the radar using the newly acceptable buzzword of "Clinics".

But come October, and 2020's Irish sailing concluded on the most wonderful high imaginable, reinforced by an end-of-month international success. At mid-month, Pam Lee of Greystones and Cat Hunt blasted away southward from the Dun Laoghaire to Kish Lighthouse round Ireland record line in the foiling Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta. Their only ambition was to set a time for a female two-handed Irish circuit, a time which until then didn't exist. So they comfortably did what they set out to do.

Cat Hunt and Pam Lee on the Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta. Their record-making, record-breaking circuit of Ireland in mid-October was a tonic for the sailing community.Cat Hunt and Pam Lee on the Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta. Their record-making, record-breaking circuit of Ireland in mid-October was a tonic for the sailing community.

Yet by whizzing round in just 3 days 19 hours and 41 minutes with all Ireland's sailors following them on the Yellowbrick tracker loaned by Peter Ryan of ISORA, they outperformed all sorts of comparable times going back nearly 20 years, including the existing two-handed record set by a male crew in a Class 40. Now that really was a good note to finish what may have been the weirdest Irish sailing season ever experienced, but it was very definitely a sailing season nevertheless.

Butt before we could finally declare it was all over, there came a last bit of good news from a distant island before October was out. In Malta, the organisers of the annual Rolex Middle Sea Race hung onto the staging of their flagship event on a day-to-day basis even as pandemic numbers surged in Europe. Their monitoring was rigorous, but even so, of the 71 boats entered, only 50 made it on the day, while an international listing of 21 countries had been whittled down to 15 by the start.

But it still had all the makings of a good race – "depleted but not defeated" as they put it - and in Ireland, Nin O'Leary of Crsshaven had gone into self-isolation in order to qualify. Then when he got to Malta, he passed the tests there, and was clear to ship aboard the Dutch-owned Reichel Pugh 72 Aragon. They won their class.

The Reichel Pugh 72 Aragon – first in class in Rolex Middle Sea Race with Crosshaven's Nin O'Leary on board.The Reichel Pugh 72 Aragon – first in class in Rolex Middle Sea Race with Crosshaven's Nin O'Leary on board.

Published in W M Nixon
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When I first saw Clochmor, Achill, County Mayo, in the late 1960's it was as if I had walked into a Paul Henry painting. The Famine era pier, built from the local red sandstone, was intact. Currachs and tarred wooden boats were tied alongside or stored upside down. A fleet of old fishing boats called the pier home. The white cottage above the pier, the forlorn, abandoned coastguard station on Darby's point, even the billowing layers of stratocumulus clouds were somehow straight off his canvas from 100-years earlier.

Nowadays it resembles more a scene from the latest 'Mad Max' movie, crossed with a scene from that Kevin Costner 'Waterworld' one.

The tiny pier is still discernible under a pancake of cement. It has been extended in an L shape and covered in a layer of concrete, steel pilings, arc lights, and bulletproof bollards. The hinterland has been bulldozed into an extensive work area and car park which is permanently cluttered with an amazing collection of steel containers, junk, machinery, plastic tubes, anchors, coloured ropes, pallets, trailers, lobster pots, broken down vans, boats, fish cages, fish pumps and fish boxes. Oil storage tanks, nets, trawl winches, abandoned pilot houses, otter boards, chains and one or two yachts.

The new pier is home to a fleet of indestructible workboats built in the fjords of Norway. The extensive sand flats are used, with the help of the tide, to service the giant circular fish pen floats. Hardy fish farm workers, clad in hi-viz suits operate the cranes and loaders, fish pumps and winches in all weathers.

I love it. Happy as that proverbial clam in the mudbank. Having found a spot on the shoreline where I can park my two boats (Accolade and a 14 ft punt). It's not unlike being in an ultra-safe anchorage or a marina, only much safer.

I acquired Accolade, an ageing Jag 22, some years ago in an earnest attempt to interest my two then kids in the joys of sailing. That, unfortunately, did not happen, and she had lain idle on her trailer as we holidayed in foreign parts.

Accolade sits there; trailer well blocked up. I try not to let her get too dilapidated looking. I bail out the rainwater. I keep an eye on the brightwork, try and keep the interior ventilated and attack the green moss and lichen which tends to develop here and there. I make cups of cocoa on the stove, sit in the sun and keep an eye on the industrious fish farm doing its business at the pier, the workboats coming and going.

There is a thriving sailing scene in Clew Bay-based at Rosmoney near Westport. But out Achill way, there are few yachts. It's not a very hospitable location with strong winds, fast currents and few shore facilities. Angling is its main draw and the recreational boaters who do show up tend to be trailing ribs and motorboats of various shapes and sizes.

Achill Yawls racingAchill Yawls racing. Illustration by Pete Hogan

The exception, however, is the Achill Yawls, a thriving fleet of traditional open boats with a dipping lug sail which is based on the working boats of the region dating back to the time of Granuaile. The Achill Yawl Festival / Cruinniú Bádóirí Acla takes place each summer with a series of weekend races based in Achill Sound, Mulranny and Clare Island. Like the hooker races in Connemara, they have their own rules, such as a start from standing with sail down. I don't know if they observe the port/starboard rule, the rock on which international sailing is founded. Don't mention windward-leeward.

The Achill Yawls differ from the traditional boats of the Galway region in that they seem to prefer white sails as opposed to the romantic red. Also, they use aluminium spars which are a big break with tradition. This allows them to carry a huge spread of sail, making the sailing very exciting. The boats are open and use sand and rocks as ballast. Filling them with water in a gust is a distinct possibility.
July this year came, and the Covid lockdown was lifted. I rushed across country from Dublin to check on Accolade. It was looking highly unlikely that I would be invited to sail on my buddies boats in the Med or Galicia this year, so I decided to launch Accolade from its safe resting place. Staycation was the new right thing to do. The resident fish farm is very helpful in the matter of launching. I hitched a ride on a passing hi loader and in no time at all boat and trailer were deposited on the beach beside the pier at low tide. Off we floated on the rising tide and went alongside the pier. One of the local fishermen, with his truck hoist, volunteered to step the mast. All in a day's work and I was sailing. I couldn't believe my luck.

Launching at ClochmorLaunching at Clochmor. Illustration by Pete Hogan

The weather being settled, I betook myself and my boat out to the mooring located off the beach at Achillbeg. And there Accolade stayed for the summer.

There are many interesting cruising destinations within a few hours sail of Cloghmor. The most obvious, easy and handy, is the main harbour of Clare Island. About 5 miles away, it has a good anchorage or moorings, or it is often possible to go alongside. There is refreshment to be had in the hotel or the community centre. There is a beach and the romance of the ancient Granuaile Castle overlooking the harbour. But it is busy, with ferries and fish farm vessels coming and going.

The Harbour,  Clare IslandThe Harbour, Clare Island. Illustration by Pete Hogan

Further south are the harbour of Ronagh and the beach resort of Old Head. Ronagh is a busy ferry port and car park but nothing else. Old Head has a wonderful beach, a drying pier and there is quite a clutter of local moorings and speed boats. It's a fair old walk into the village of Louisberg from either location. On the other side of the bay is Mulranny with a host of facilities. But it can be a bit exposed to the prevailing south-westerlies.

Inner Clew Bay with its famous island archipelago is all very well, but I find that any time I wander in there in a yacht, I invariably go aground. On a falling tide. Then there is the uphill slog to get back west when the tide finally releases the captured vessel.

Lifeboat at anchor in AchillLifeboat at anchor in Achill

Turning to the north from Clochmor there is the small maze-like harbour of Purteen on Achill Island and that gem of a beach, Keem Bay, usually sheltered. Beyond there lies the splendid Achill head and points north.

One might think that Achill Sound itself would be a logical route to the north. But it is shallow and strewn with big clumps of growing seaweed which are difficult to avoid. For obscure reasons, the newly constructed, opening bridge, mid-way along the sound, never opens! If you don't believe me, try it. The body of water to the north of the bridge includes the aptly named Bulls Mouth for which the Admiralty pilot gives a possible spring rate of 8 knots. It is a pity that the route to the north is barred in this way. The large expanse of water in the shelter of Achill Island, including the island of Inishbiggle would make wonderful extra cruising grounds. One could even sail all the way to the rear side of Mulranny.

To the south, the jewel in the cruising crown, the island of Boffin, is an easy days haul from Clochmor. This seems to be the destination of choice for the numerous boats of the Westport fleet. Boffin has everything, a safe harbour, good facilities, beaches and craic. Nearby Inishturk is a bit exposed as an anchorage.

About the same distance from Achill and just as rewarding is the Killary. Relatively few yachts seem to bother exploring its further reaches. Slightly further south is High Island, difficult of access but with a wealth of monastic relics and history to rival the more famous Skelligs. Cleggan and further south, Clifden, complete the range of destinations north of Slyne Head. I have never sailed into either but have always enjoyed visiting the busy Cleggan by road.

Map of Blind SoundMap of Blind Sound

The most unusual jaunt I took this year was to circumnavigate Achillbeg island. Indeed I think I can claim to be the first, and probably the last, proper yacht to achieve this foolhardy honour. My copy of the Irish Coast Pilot dates from 1954. (Tenth Edition) It describes Blind Sound, the channel separating Achillbeg Island from Achill Island as: 'a narrow channel which is navigable by boats with local knowledge' and adds 'except in a heavy sea' My current edition of the Irish Cruising Clubs Sailing Directions for the South and West Coasts, the gold standard for a cruising guide to the west coast, ignores Blind Sound altogether. Rightly so.

I have circumnavigated Ireland, I have circumnavigated the world. I have circumnavigated Dalkey Island, Lambay Island and The Aran Islands. But I had never circumnavigated Achillbeg. The problem lies with Blind Sound, the narrow neck separating Achillbeg and Achill Island. Having traversed Blind Sound many times in a 14-foot punt and by kayak and having perused its layout in all states of the tide and weather countless times over the years, I could claim to have some local knowledge. It is a horrendous place. One should not go anywhere near it in anything claiming to be called a yacht.

There are rocks all over the place and the tide rips through at about six knots. So I have always been tempted to give it a go, but never had the nerve.

But conditions were Ideal. Two guests were staying, Owen, a keen kite surfer and his wife Elaine. Would they like to go for a sail? I asked after brunch one day. We set off shortly after high water and with an, unusual, east wind. Owen steered. The tide was about an hour after high water so would be pushing us through as we approached from the Clochmor side. I stood on the bow and indicated the course direction to Owen on the helm. Elaine on the main sheet.

Past the big red beacon marking the entrance to Achill sound we whizzed, the tide against us but the wind pressing us on. The tide splits, and we picked up the stream ebbing out Blind Sound. Then, under the power cables running across to the lighthouse on Achillbeg. Owen, an electronic wizard, was a bit worried. I assured him that we would have enough room, and luckily we did! Then the serious bit. Standing on the bow, I could see the giant boulders slipping by underwater and the overfalls. Bit of a veer to port and then we were through. One for the record books. We hardened in the sheets and tacked back past the lighthouse. We felt like a group of mountaineers who had just conquered a new route on Everest.

At the end of Summer I hauled Accolade out again with the help of the fish farm, blocked up the trailer, and that was that. The country has gone into lockdown again; my sailing now consists of following the Vendee Globe on the computer. I keep a weather eye on the storms tracking into Achill and hope for the best. I look forward to returning next Summer. Maybe I can circumnavigate Achill. Stay safe.

Published in Island News
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There are choices in how to respond to maritime difficulties.

With skies darkening, wind and sea rising, the mind focuses on the immediate response to ensure that your yacht can manage what is going to hit it.

I've raced in various situations, pounding through seas, tossed around, wind tearing at the sails and one's clothing, sat on the rail, clinging to it for hours to add human ballast.

Eventually, the worst passes as does the weather system.

If the stomach has been held in place without spewing up, the sense of relief is strong, or so I've felt after encountering such afflictions.

This week I've been thinking about how our pastime of sailing can, perhaps, help us to endure more in the way of overcoming discomfort and physical, as well as mental challenges.

Sailing does provide one with more personal resources to fall back on, or so I believe.

There is overcoming fear. I've felt that at sea as bad weather approached.

I remember a number of Round Ireland Races with particularly bad weather and amongst them particularly the memory of rounding the Mizen and facing into a night where the skies were already darkening, where the forecast indicated unpleasant conditions ahead and it was right, Called up on watch at midnight where I saw the wind speed climbing and waves building as darkness crossed the sky, the sense of fear did permeate through the body. Instinct told me to be afraid of what could not be controlled. That had to be balanced with confidence in the boat and the ability of the crew to respond to what lay ahead.

I have been told that a good sailor must be able to think rationally and calmly when the conditions around are anything but. The conditions around racing in our sport are not great right now. The further restrictions announced this week are another blow to the hopes that had been held for running Winter League events in Cork Harbour and Dublin Bay.

Maintaining positivity is difficult in the prevailing circumstances, but the storms that afflict one at sea pass by and, hopefully, the future for sailing will be brighter next season.

Meantime, Scribbler, my Sigma 33, has been hauled into Castlepoint Boatyard in Crosshaven, her Winter home, tucked away, sails off, gear loaded into the attic to rest until 2021 dawns, hopefully with a new horizon clear of storms.

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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RYA Northern Ireland is giving sailing and boating clubs across the country the opportunity to access support for club membership and development by providing 'Rediscover Sailing Days'.

Following lockdown and a challenging few months, many clubs have seen increased interest and activity from their members, as well as attracting new members.

The Rediscover Sailing initiative will help to support sailing and boating clubs to encourage member activity, retain club membership, recruit volunteers, enhance the boating experience for members and assist with workforce development.

The initiative had been due to take place from May until September under the title of 'Discover Sailing', but due to Covid-19, this, unfortunately, had to be cancelled.

In previous years, the initiative has been a pivotal contributor to increasing the awareness of Sailing and boating in Northern Ireland, offering every one of all abilities the opportunity to try the sport.

This time there will be some added extras with workshops on boat maintenance and volunteer recruitment opportunities on offer, depending on the goals of the club.

RYA Northern Ireland's Active Clubs Co-Ordinator Lisa McCaffrey commented: "I am excited about the Rediscover Sailing initiative. There is still some uncertainty at the minute regarding Covid-19, but at the moment we are planning for the Rediscover Sailing Days, and these will meet all government guidelines. If things change, we will review the situation and adhere to all policies to ensure the safety of our clubs and their members. Clubs must connect with members at this time either to develop their Sailing, whether this is through activities or workshops.
I am looking forward to communicating with clubs again on potential participation opportunities; it is key for the future of our sport and its members."

If your club or centre is keen on organising a Rediscover Sailing Day there is more information here

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"I just want to go sailing and racing. Until we had to slam down the shutters this week, I didn't really realise just how much the ordinary club sailing programme and a special local annual series like the Autumn League means to me and people like me, and to sailing families throughout Ireland."

"I don't think those who advocate such across-the-board moves realise what a damaging effect stopping us going racing has on the physical and mental well-being of Ireland's grass-roots sailors. We never needed our sailing more than we do now."

The speaker is lifetime sailor Darragh Connolly, Rear Admiral (Keelboats) of the Royal Cork Yacht Club, and we were talking a couple of days after he'd had to announce that the remaining races of the Club's popular AIB Autumn League had been cancelled in compliance with Irish Sailing's directive, in light of our National Authority's interpretation of the Government's imposition of Level 3 in the COVID-19 Combat Programme.

Darragh Connolly, Rear Admiral (Keelboats) of the Royal Cork Yacht ClubDarragh Connolly, Rear Admiral (Keelboats) of the Royal Cork Yacht Club, this week had the unenviable task of calling an early close to the RCYC AIB Autumn League. Photo: Robert Bateman

It is clearly arguable that the Government Directive, as interpreted by Irish Sailing, is actually preventing people from doing something which is beneficial to their overall physical and mental health, an activity which in turn is very positive in enhancing their ability to reinforce their natural resistance to contracting COVID-19.

And for Ireland's many club sailors, it is particularly bewildering to have arrived at this situation in this week of all weeks, when Irish Sailing will have played the key role in having our Laser Performance Group and other top potential Olympians taking part (with laudable success) in major events in places like Poland and Austria, countries which - like Ireland - are currently coping with a rising coronavirus rate.

Busy start line in this week's Laser Senior Europeans in GdanskWho's for racing? The busy start line in this week's Laser Senior Europeans in Gdansk

The infection risk which our athletes are taking in travelling across Europe, and then competing in an event which will have numerous supporting officials, is surely significantly greater than a local club sailor has in joining her or his boat in its familiar berth for another two or three hours of healthy racing in a successfully-proven socially-distanced setup.

KNIFE-EDGE DECISION?

There are those of wide experience in sailing administration who reckon that it was actually a knife-edge choice as to whether or not Level 3 means that local sailing races were now off-limits. But being a minority sport like sailing, with a possibly problematic image of affluence and elitism, when the directives come down from above our national officialdom has to toe the official line, keeping the head down to go along with the mantra that we're all in this together.

Inevitably in such a situation, the simple hopes of the grassroots get trampled under foot. Yet if we stand back and take a cold hard look at the situation, the variations in the situation between those who would be actively racing in boats afloat if they could, and those who are most at risk ashore, is an enormous chasm. Applying a "one size fits all" approach to the crisis situation may help in terms of a benign public perception of different sports and activities and shared risk, but it flies in the face of reality. And in terms of the well-being of this clearly identifiable sector of the population who want to go sailing, it's actively harmful.

"Once upon a time in West Cork". In order to keep their sport going, the Irish sailing community have had to become accustomed to doing entirely without carefree assemblies like this one in Baltimore."Once upon a time in West Cork". In order to keep their sport going, the Irish sailing community have had to become accustomed to doing entirely without carefree assemblies like this one in Baltimore.

Put crudely, "We're all in this together" is a denial of the facts of the situation. Certainly, we're in the same storm, but we're in some very different boats. The incidence of coronavirus among those who would be regularly sailing actively - if they were allowed - appears to be vanishingly small.

We've been taking an admittedly random sample from a small population, but we know of only two sailors who came down with the bug (and both have recovered). One case is a fearless bow-man (of course) who was right in the thick of it in January on a hectic ski-ing holiday to Coronavirus Central – otherwise Ischgl in Austria - while the other got it on a group golf outing to Spain.

COASTAL LIVING IS GOOD FOR YOU

Shoot us down in flames by all means if you have knowledge of significant occurrences of COVID-19 in the sailing population as a result of being sailing. But the fact is that everything in our sport militates against it. For a start, though you can sail almost anywhere in Ireland, the majority of the sailing population lives in coastal districts. And the health benefits of this have been clearly demonstrated with brutal clarity in the Dublin area.

There, the lowest occurrence is in Blackrock in its breezy ozone-filled location on the shores of Dublin Bay, where the level of infection is only a fraction of the levels away up in the crowded northwest of the city, where it's about as far from the sea as you can get within city limits.

Seaside township of Blackrock has the lowest incidence of coronavirus in Dublin"Healthsville, Ireland" – the seaside township of Blackrock has the lowest incidence of coronavirus in Dublin.

Admittedly that's a rather vague and generalising analysis, but this week, much more specific figured were published comparing coronavirus incidence in coastal towns with that of inland towns in England and Wales. As many of the coastal towns have a notably older population than the inland centres, you'd expect a disease-favouring bias in the seaside retirement region. But even with that, the difference in the opposite direction is very marked. 

STAY ALIVE – STAY BY THE SEA

It's complex to make a full analysis, as the older demographic of most English coastal towns may mean less active socialising, and a greater readiness to cocoon completely. But nevertheless, the figures are quite stark - at this stage of the Pandemic, the COVID-19 death rate in England's large coastal towns is 63 per 100,000, while in inland towns of comparable size, the death rate is 102 per 100,000.

Of course, you can get some benefit from coastal living simply by throwing open the window from time to time (mock not, it is extremely important to do so), and getting outside and absorbing as much Vitamin D as possible in that ozone-laden air, for enclosed spaces are the virus's accomplice, and Vitamin D deficiency - a significant problem in Ireland – is offering Mr COVID-19 a welcoming open door.

You can meet some of the health requirements by taking a solitary or socially-distanced walk down Dun Laoghaire pier. But if you really want to find the optimal conditions for building up resistance to coronavirus, you'll find them as a member of the crew pod aboard a sailing boat racing in an Irish club event.

a busy Water Wag race in the harbourBetter than a spa treatment. While a walk down one of Dun Laoghaire's pier has enormous health benefits, even better for overall physical and mental health is having a busy Water Wag race in the harbour. Photo: W M Nixon

There's social stimulation, mental alertness, thinking and problem-solving of a kind totally different to what's required ashore, and there's exercise, team effort, very fresh air, and the effortless absorption of Vit D.

NO SPECTATOR CROWD PROBLEMS

And we're not a spectator sport. Nobody would pay to watch ordinary sailing, for the only worthwhile way to do so is by actively taking part. Thus sailing does not have crowds of undisciplined supporters and spectators who flout every social-distancing rule and mask-wearing requirements with total abandon when their team has won. In sailing by contrast, while clubs have been taking heroic steps to provide outdoor catering and space to maintain social distance, the reality is that many sailors have simply tidied up their boats at race's end, and gone straight home, having long since become accustomed to doing without the traditional après sailing.

Now all this is denied to us, even with the compliance with all rules, and the extremely low – if at all – incidence of coronavirus in the sailing population. In this situation, sailing administrators have been between a rock and a hard place in the face of the one-size-fits-all restrictions being imposed in pursuit of COVID-19 clamp-down.

BOATS SIT UNUSED, GOOD SAILING DAYS GO TO WASTE

The grass-roots sailors want to go sailing and particularly club racing. They know it is good for them. They can see elite international athletes getting in their sailing. They can see people who are learning to sail being allowed to go sailing. Yet in the face of this very blunt instrument, a blanket ban which covers activities of many very different kinds, boats sit unused. Good sailing days go to waste. Sailors go to seed. And our clubs, our remarkable clubs that are Ireland's greatest contribution to the development of sailing worldwide as we know it today, are facing a crisis situation.

You're not only having fun – it's actually very good for you. Paul Reilly and Dave Howard sucking up the Vitamin D and all the right kinds of ions as they race one of Howth YC's J/80s in the annual Aqua Restaurant Two-Handed Race in July. 2020's staging had an entry of 38 boats, the winners were Diane Kissane and Graham Curran in another J/80, and in a compressed season the memories of this special event – which was raced round Lambay – will become ever more preciousYou're not only having fun – it's actually very good for you. Paul Reilly and Dave Howard sucking up the Vitamin D and all the right kinds of ions as they race one of Howth YC's J/80s in the annual Aqua Restaurant Two-Handed Race in July. 2020's staging had an entry of 38 boats, the winners were Diane Kissane and Graham Curran in another J/80, and in a compressed season the memories of this special event – which was raced round Lambay – will become ever more precious. Photo: Lynne Reilly

In the seeming dead-end of this rock-and-hard-place situation, the good news is that Ireland's club administrators – the real backbone of our national sailing infrastructure – have been closely conferring of late to see if they can come up with a more imaginative and visionary way of dealing with the situation in order to get people sailing within sensible limits which takes account of the fact that in face of the virus incidence continuing to rise, the relative death rate continues to fall, or it does as long as supplies of the new medications continue to meet demand.

If all this seems a slightly selfish approach by a relatively fortunate sector of the population, nothing could be further from the truth. If the sailing community thought for a moment that totally giving up sailing would make a real difference to the spread of COVID-19, then they'd stop it today.

But instead, one of those trying to get sailing going again says that much of his motivation has come from meeting people in the front line of the battle against coronavirus who also happen to be keen sailors. He says their shared opinion is that being able to go sailing and get in a spot of racing even once a week is a real morale booster and a fabulous energiser after hours of working in ICU.

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Thank you, September. You did your best to provide us with good sailing as ingenious moves were implemented to run modified pandemic-compliant events which gave proper meaning to the season, and to our sailing traditions. It was neither your fault - nor ours - that in some places a situation beyond everyone's control caused a severe foreshortening of programmes carefully tailored to deal with circumstances which then seemed to change on a daily or even hourly basis.

For sure, some fortunate sailing centres managed to have limited sailing all month, scraping weekly sport out of the last of the daylight as the evenings rapidly closed in, and working the weekends with skill. But in other locations, the guillotine slammed down at mid-month, and people found that whatever good sailing they might have experienced now had to become recalibrated in the memory bank as highlights of their very truncated sailing year.

ROYAL CORK MAKES THE BEST OF IT

No club more thoroughly deserved a final full month of good fortune in September than the Royal Cork in Crosshaven, as they emerged battered but unbowed from what should have been their globally-focused Tricentenary. Most appropriately it was that renowned backbone-of-the-club, the National 18s, which saw September out with a flourish on its very last day, racing up and down the Owenabue River off the clubhouse on Wednesday evening as the twilight settled gently until this all-important month of September had only a matter of hours to run.

Twilight for the Gods…..the National 18s at Royal Cork managed their last evening race – an in-river event off the clubhouse – on Wednesday September 30th. The winner was Nick Walsh's Fifty Shades. Photo: Robert BatemanTwilight for the Gods…..the National 18s at Royal Cork managed their last evening race – an in-river event off the clubhouse – on Wednesday, September 30th. The winner was Nick Walsh's Fifty Shades. Photo: Robert Bateman

With some more good luck, the club will be able to continue its Autumn League this weekend, but meanwhile like other sailing centres, Crosshaven and Cork Harbour found that September presented unusually meaningful opportunities to stage events which celebrated the places of sailing and its people, and in Cork Harbour, the come-all-ye event which best does this is Cove SC's annual Cobh to Blackrock Race.

Even though the Royal Cork had experienced its 2020 highlight in being the finish point for the successful pop-up Fastnet 450 Race in August, the Cobh-Blackrock Race is an ancient piece of the harbour's fabric, and September obligingly provided the conditions for a fast race and a real sense of occasion with life going on regardless.

The Golden Oldie comes to town. The restored 1898 Cork Harbour One Design Jap, raced by Royal Cork Admiral Colin Morehead, reaches the finish of the Cobh-Blackrock Race. The CHODs are renowned for their pleasant steering characteristics - even on this gusty day, Jap's tiller is still in a very manageable fore-and-after position.  Photo: Robert BatemanThe Golden Oldie comes to town. The restored 1898 Cork Harbour One Design Jap, raced by Royal Cork Admiral Colin Morehead, reaches the finish of the Cobh-Blackrock Race. The CHODs are renowned for their pleasant steering characteristics - even on this gusty day, Jap's tiller is still in a very manageable fore-and-after position. Photo: Robert Bateman

DUN LAOGHAIRE'S COMPACTED SEASON DEALT SUCCESSFULLY WITH REALITY

In Dun Laoghaire, Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club's annual Kish Race is something that should in time be seen as a celebration of Dublin Bay, and in September 2020 is was shaping up that way as other events got the chop because of their inevitably high sociability quotient. Entries were flying up as racing round the Kish became more desirable than ever, but with a couple of days to go, the latest set of regulations wiped the race off the blackboard. That said, now that we know how much it can mean to the Dun Laoghaire sailing community, it's surely an all-comers cruiser-racer event which deserves more oomph in the future.

Meanwhile, as we write this there's still hope that some more racing will be squeezed out of Dun Laoghaire before the year is out. But for now, the image which best expresses the year and September in particular in its own special style is our header photo, which came our way on Thursday, September 17th from Cathy MacAleavey, and showed the finish of the previous evening's Water Wag Race, when 24 boats sailed in what might just turn out to be the last regular official race in Dun Laoghaire in 2020.

Thus what is already a richly atmospheric photo acquires extra meaning as Tim Pearson and his son Marcus in their 1995-built Little Tern cross first, narrowly ahead of Ian & Judith Malcolm in the 1915-built Barbara, while Martin and Triona Byrne in the 2019-built Hilda come in toward a third-place on port tack. There's a whole universe in that photo and it's one of the gifts which September's sailing has given us.

The Goodbody family's J/109 White Mischief was one of the most successful contenders in Dublin Bay SC's compacted but very busy season. Photo Afloat.ieThe Goodbody family's J/109 White Mischief was one of the most successful contenders in Dublin Bay SC's compacted but very busy season. Photo Afloat.ie

But another gift in Dun Laoghaire Harbour was the way Dublin Bay SC managed to keep things going from mid-July to mid-September, with evening and weekend racing for cruisers, keelboat and dinghies pushing comfortably over the hundred boat mark in a successfully-controlled operation which was a model of compliance.

HOWTH FINDS HEART IN LAMBAY

Round the corner in Howth meanwhile, although their time-honoured annual race round Lambay was to disappear in the cancellation of the Wave Regatta in which it now plays a central role, when the carefully-monitored Aqua Double-Hander was staged in July with 38 boats, it was raced round Lambay on a day of sublime sunshine which eventually may result in the summer weather of 2020 being remembered as even better than it actually was.

Howth 17's Leila and Anita in the race round LambayThis was September 2020 – the Howth 17's Leila and Anita in the race round Lambay. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Yet it was back to classic Atlantic westerlies in on some days in September when the heroically curmudgeonly veterans of the 122-year-old Howth Seventeen Class decided they'd race round Lambay on September 5th, with the winning 1907-built Deilginis seeing off the 16 miles course in a record time. This was in a race which was started in sunshine captured by rising photographic star Annraoi Blaney in a striking shot which will now be one of the style-setting photos of this brief but sweet sailing season.

They'd a longer burst of September sunshine in Howth at mid-month when the Autumn League got underway, each weekend's racing spread over both days but only one day of racing for each class, which helped social distancing as they'd 79 boats entered in all for what turned out, alas, to be just one weekend before the chop.

Simon Knowles' J/109 Indian in hot pursuit of the Classic Half Tonners Mata, King One and Big Picture in the first (and so far only) weekend of the Howth Autumn League"Just the best day's sailing ever". Simon Knowles' J/109 Indian in hot pursuit of the Classic Half Tonners Mata, King One and Big Picture in the first (and so far only) weekend of the Howth Autumn League. Photo: Judith Malcolm

If the Dublin Shutdown really does become just a three-week imposition, then it will be everything up and running again after midnight on Friday, October 9th. But we don't see anyone betting on that, and for now, the Howth recollections of September sailing are best summed up by J/24 National Champion Sam O'Byrne, who was racing in Howth with father-and-son superstars Darren and Rocco Wright on the winning Classic Half Tonner Mata in that one opening race, with Sam subsequently commenting: "It was the best and pleasantest day of sailing I've ever had, full stop".

BELFAST LOUGH CELEBRATES DIVERSITY WITH LUFRA CUP

Up on Belfast Lough the celebration of the local sailing waters used to happen on the 12th July, when folk ashore had marching business on their mind, but those afloat at Ballyholme traditionally had a day-long race right round the lough. This was easily done thanks to conveniently placed navigation markers at every corner, such that you'd to face a course which could seem very long indeed if you were racing it in one of the 18ft Waverley Keelboats, or the 22-footers of the Bay Class.

However, that's a classic of the olden days which no longer seems to be sailed, but another Ballyholme tradition which is still going strong to celebrate the local sailing water is the Lufra Cup, which Betty Armstrong of this parish was reporting a couple of weeks ago. Nobody knows when this pursuit race – they called it the Menagerie Race until Howard Finlay presented the Lufra Cup after his 12-ton Watson cutter of that name had won in 1943 to find there as no proper cup – and ever since the Lufra Cup has been Ballyholme YC's September Classic, a race officer's nightmare and a handicapping anorak's dream, with boats streaming across the starting line in an endless procession of different starting times, and the finish seeing half a dozen boats of very different types trying to get across that line first, with a 15-ton gaff cutter winning one year, and an International Cadet winning it the next with the 15-tonner's bowsprit right over her very junior helm as he crossed the line.

the Lufra Cup at Ballyholme, the 1893 Dun Laoghaire-built Marie was designed by Maimie Doyle, who later designed the transom-sterned Water WagsOnce a winner of the Lufra Cup at Ballyholme, the 1893 Dun Laoghaire-built Marie was designed by Maimie Doyle, who later designed the transom-sterned Water Wags. Photo: W M Nixon

This September it was won by Gareth Martel in his Beneteau First 40.7 Pippa, and he found himself the custodian for a year of a trophy which is a significant historical record in itself, for the inscribed list of winners going back 77 years is a history of the development of sailing of the last three-quarters of a century.

Every conceivable boat type seems to have figured at some stage, including Lasers sailed by Chris Boyd and Wic McCready, and the venerable 26ft gaff cutter Marie, designed by Maimie Doyle in Dun Laoghaire in 1893, built by her father J E Doyle, and now owned by Roy Ashton of Groomsport after a lifetime of epic sailing history which included being the first boat to be awarded the Irish Cruising Club's Faulkner Cup back in 1931.

LOUGH REE, CONNEMARA & GLANDORE

Thanks to September's sailing, we were reminded of such things, but equally, September 2020 brought together past and present and future in dynamic ways, a good example being the Jonny Swan-organised Homecoming Regatta at the 250-year-old Lough Ree Yacht Club which saw cruisers, dinghies, Shannon One Designs and SB20s finding brisk breezes and sunshine.

SB20 racing on Lough Ree with September 2020 Junior Sailor of the Month Ben Graf on the helmSB20 racing on Lough Ree with September 2020 Junior Sailor of the Month Ben Graf on the helm. Photo: Alex Hobbs

Then too, September reminded us that a thriving Flying Fifteen Class continues to develop in the heart of Connemara at Casla, with 27 boats appearing for an on-going league from all the hidden places in that totally inter-twined Land of the Sea, and Ronan O'Briain winning the two last races of September at the weekend.

A new tradition in the heartland of traditional boats? September racing for the growing fleet of Flying Fifteens at Casla in ConnemaraA new tradition in the heartland of traditional boats? September racing for the growing fleet of Flying Fifteens at Casla in Connemara

The Flying Fifteen is not a boat type you would automatically associate with the very traditional waters of Connemara. Yet equally not everybody would think that the International Dragon is a useful youth trainer. But Don Street of Glandore on the south coast is firmly of the opinion that they are, and as Don celebrated his 90th birthday with some style among his beloved Dragons in Glandore at the end of July, his opinions deserve respect, and his programme of youth training with Dragons continued into September with some helms as young as thirteen.

You may see the Dragons racing at Glandore, but veteran skipper Don Street also sees a useful sail training flotillaYou may see the Dragons racing at Glandore, but veteran skipper Don Street also sees a useful sail training flotilla….. Photo: Kathleen Hayes

However, as they lie to moorings off that most picturesque village, the Glandore Dragons have a set season, and last weekend they raced on Saturday morning, and then lifted in the afternoon to bring their season to a close. Meanwhile, for places with marinas, there are all sorts of possibilities of being able to fit in some sailing provided regulations don't become totally strict across the board.

But for now, let's just be very grateful that September has done the business to be such a very valuable part of this difficult 2020 season.

Published in Dublin Bay

Texaco has launched a support for sport initiative which sets aside a fund of €130,000 for distribution to sports clubs on a twenty-six, county-by-county basis, with successful applicants receiving €5,000 each.

At a time when many sports clubs may be experiencing financial strain, the initiative is one that Valero hopes will recognise the important contribution that sports clubs make to communities and throughout Irish society as a whole.

Open to sports clubs across the 26-counties of Ireland – irrespective of sporting discipline, size, membership, age, cultural appeal or gender – it is expected to attract all whose activities, goals and ambitions can, in the view of adjudicators, be materially advanced through the receipt and proper use of funding.

Speaking at the launch of the Texaco Support for Sport initiative, James Twohig, Director of Ireland Operations, Valero Energy (Ireland) Limited, described Irish sports clubs as a unifying element and a focal point for good in our communities. “In our cities, towns and villages, sports clubs are the magnets to which so many of us are drawn, homes-from-home where we meet and enjoy the friendship and camaraderie that sport offers and that all members and supporters share,” he said.

“By offering a new and innovative route to funding, we believe that the Texaco Support for Sport initiative will help uphold the unique values and characteristics that countless numbers of dedicated club members work so hard to preserve, whilst giving new expression to the cherished relationship that exists between the Texaco brand and generations of Irish sports enthusiasts,” James Twohig added.

Adjudication

Leading the adjudication process will be Texaco Support for Sport ambassador, acclaimed broadcaster and former Irish rugby international, Donncha O’Callaghan. “From my knowledge of sports clubs, gained at junior, senior and international level, I know how beneficial the Texaco Support for Sport initiative will be by bringing a much-needed benefit to clubs when it is least expected. Now more than ever, our clubs and volunteers need our support. I am really looking forward to reviewing the online applications, which provides clubs with the opportunity to showcase their importance to their local communities, and then seeing the recipients enjoy the benefit of this great initiative,” he added.

Application

Sports clubs can apply for funding from the Texaco Support for Sport from the 1 October 2020, the only requirement being that they be properly constituted and hold a valid Games & Sports Number (GS Number) issued by the Office of the Revenue Commissioners.

Those wishing to apply are invited to submit full details of their sporting activity, the purpose for which the funding is sought and the use to which it will be put. Full details of the scheme and its operation - together with registration, application, validation, adjudication and terms and conditions - are available to view at www.TexacoSupportforSport.com

Closing date for applications is the 31 December 2020 with adjudication taking place in January 2021.

Published in News Update
Tagged under

For everyone who gets on board a yacht to go racing as clubs return to competitive sailing, the core issue of a successful resumption is going to be personal responsibility.

That applies to cruiser/racer skippers and to every member of their crews. It also applies to solo sailors in their racing and will impact on race management teams. In sailing, the mantra ‘we are all in this together’ applies very strongly.

There is another aspect of ‘Responsibility’ as racing returns and clubs open and that is of club members in supporting their clubs. There are clubs around the country whose income has been hit by delayed membership renewals. Members have been waiting to see what level of sailing would be possible.

Now the situation is clearer.

Following extensive discussions, the statutory authorities dealing with COVID 19 have accepted that the sport of sailing has shown a lot of responsibility in seeking a return of the sport. Irish Sailing, clubs, individuals and commentators including myself, pointed to the difficulties on a crewed boat of applying social distance requirements. The easing of restrictions allows resumption of racing.

The Chief Executive of the national sailing authority, Harry Hermon, has stressed that personal responsibility is going to be of major importance in a successful restoration of racing.

Renew club membership

He has also warned that, if members don’t support their clubs by renewing membership, there could be a situation ahead, where some clubs won’t be able to continue. “Your clubs need your support now more than ever,” he said.

What does “pods” mean?

He is my guest on this week’s podcast where we discuss - What does the system of “pods” mean? What are the implications for offshore racing, involving overseas boats? What is the new situation for cruising yachts, motorboating and powerboating?

This week’s Podcast here

Published in Tom MacSweeney
Tagged under

Following the Commodore’s Conference on Zoom yesterday (Thursday) evening to analyse the lifting of COVID-19 Lockdown restrictions, the basic reality is that club racing is allowed to resume from next Tuesday (June 30th) provided that crews comply with much-relaxed social distancing requirements, while most clubhouses will be open and functional within the same limitations.

It’s a complex situation, and it’s unreasonable to expect a long list of official does and don’ts as sailing and boating try to get back towards some sort of normality. After all, everything to do with boats and their use is supposed to be ultimately about self-reliance afloat, it’s supposed to be what seamanship is all about. So if people lack the savvy to apply common sense to a changing public health situation and how it affects our sport, then perhaps they shouldn’t be going near boats in the first place.

For ours is a robust and healthy sport, with the action taking place in the brisk open air, just as fresh as fresh air can be, while the sailing population, in general, will surely prove to have been significantly less affected by the Coronavirus than the population at large. So maybe it’s time people just got on with it, and stopped waiting for cast-iron official directives before making any move, showing instead an ability and readiness to apply personal responsibility and a capacity for initiative.

J80 Racing on Dublin BayNow, after three and more completely blank months of negativity and bewilderment and severely constrained existence, it’s time for us to get out and about and sailing again Photo: Afloat

When sailing fans demanded to know when they could go sailing again as the Coronavirus receded and Lockdown was eased through its various phases, it soon becomes clear that there’s much more to their concept of “going sailing” than simply getting into a boat with one or two others who comply for a bubble or pod within COVID-19 regulations, and then just going for a sail within five kilometres from their home port, and returning to it at the end of a mini-voyage.

Yet anyone prepared to accept that as an interim stage in the process back towards normality could have got sailing of sorts. Not perfect by any means, but sailing nevertheless. And if they felt the need for some competition afloat, they could very quickly have arranged informal matches with just one other boat sailed by friends, through the VHF or over a mobile. And they could then talk of having had a “race” as they returned in a social-distance compliant manner to the marina or mooring.

If people had been prepared to accept that as the beginning of the process, they could have been “going sailing” and having had racing of sorts since May 24th. And certainly, the Sailing Schools who are in it for more than simply enjoyment have been organising sailing of the new type for weeks now.

But in today’s very structured world, it seems that the ordinary punters want much more than just “going sailing” in order to tempt them afloat again. The truth is, they want the full monty, with an intense highly-organised racing programme, and hearty socializing afterwards. And even with cruising folk, the freely sociable element is an important part and often essential of the mix.

Either way, this “all-or-nothing” attitude was becoming much too prevalent. So maybe it’s time we grew up. None of us in Ireland among current generations has ever experienced anything remotely like this Lockdown, with its inevitable implementation of what seemed very like a high-powered version of the Nanny State.

For sure, it was necessary at the time, and the nation is to be commended for generally accepting the onerous restrictions which were imposed. But now we have to accept that the threat is receding, and it’s time to become responsible adults again. For, after three months of Lockdown, there are signs of creeping infantilism throughout society, and an expectation of complying with detailed directives at every stage.

That isn’t the way life should be in the real Ireland. We should be showing more spirit. And while it’s clear that the official and governmental authorities are risk-averse as public and semi-public authorities are programmed to be, the yacht and sailing club Commodores are showing a spirit of adventure and entrepreneurship. For in effect, they represent the vital and key private enterprise sector of our sport, and they have to get their clubs back to a level of economically-viable activity just as soon as is humanly possible.

Thus there never has been a time when the yacht and sailing clubs of Ireland have more urgently needed the full, enthusiastic and understanding support and involvement of their members. And there has never been a time when it is essential for everyone to resume sailing – albeit within limits which may in some cases seem niggling – just as soon as possible.

Several clubs are showing commendable initiative in offering significant discounts and the opportunity for late entries in order to get the complicated yet truly remarkable Irish sailing infrastructure back up and running again. The least that the sailing community can do is be supportive in backing their efforts. Sailing is ultimately a complete community activity, and as with all community activities, in the last analysis, you only get as much out of your club and your sailing as you are prepared to put into it.

Dublin Bay Sailing Club Committee Boat FreebirdSailing is ultimately a complete community activity Photo: Afloat

Now, after three and more completely blank months of negativity and bewilderment and severely constrained existence, it’s time for us to get out and about and sailing again. And okay, maybe, for now, it’s not truly sailing as we know and love it in all its full sporting and socially-carefree complexity. But what’s now becoming possible is a massive step in the right direction, and every journey starts with one step.

Each club is providing clearcut guidance towards taking that step in accordance with the special setup and circumstances which obtain at each club. And as I happen to sail from Howth, which has been in the forefront of the process of getting sailing going again, it’s timely to conclude with the letter to members issued by Commodore Ian Byrne this (Thursday) evening:

Howth Yacht Club reopens

Dear Member,

Many of us have enjoyed the recent spell of good weather pottering responsibly in our wonderful sailing area. The Irish Sailing Return to Sailing Phase 3 plan brings us closer to a new normal, and their meeting today gave us guidance on getting back to racing.

Club racing can start from next Tuesday with full crews. In line with the Government strategy the guidelines are relaxed and emphasis has shifted to prioritising contact tracing with a recognition that, where physical distancing cannot be reasonably achieved in a sport, each individual must assess the risks and minimise them whilst trying to follow hygiene, etiquette and distance recommendations. The term ‘pod’ is used to describe a virtual household that is a crew, race committee, safety RIB etc. with each individual pod remaining socially distant from others on the water and ashore.

This also has positive implications for Junior courses and safety boat crews which the Sailing Committee will work on in the coming days.

You will already have received an email announcing that club racing fees are waived for 2020. Online entry is now available on hyc.ie. The Fingal League starts on Sat 4th July and our clubhouse will open next Monday with a special menu and our usual array of beverages served by Frank and the team inside or on the balcony in our comfortable, spacious and safe surroundings.

There is plenty of summer left to enjoy your sport through July and August. A perfect lead into Wave, Ireland’s best Regatta this year, on 11th Sep followed by the Autumn League on 19th Sep to 24th Oct. Almost 4 months of top class racing! There are a few good days to get the boat ready for next week so enter online and get racing.

Your class captain will have more details related to your class after the Sailing Committee meeting tonight including keelboat skipper responsibility to email crew and any changes details in advance each race day.

Ian Byrne
Commodore

Page 1 of 111

Royal Irish Yacht Club - Frequently Asked Questions

The Royal Irish Yacht Club is situated in a central location in Dun Laoghaire Harbour with excellent access and visiting sailors can be sure of a special welcome. The clubhouse is located in the prime middle ground of the harbour in front of the town marina and it is Dun Laoghaire's oldest yacht club. 

What's a brief history of the Royal Irish Yacht Club?

The yacht club was founded in 1831, with the Marquess of Anglesey, who commanded the cavalry at the Battle of Waterloo being its first Commodore. 

John Skipton Mulvany designed the clubhouse, which still retains a number of original architectural features since being opened in 1851.

It was granted an ensign by the Admiralty of a white ensign with the Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of Ireland beneath the Union Jack in canton.

Many prominent names feature among the past members of the Club. The first Duke of Wellington was elected in 1833, followed by other illustrious men including the eccentric Admiral Sir Charles Napier, Sir Dominic Corrigan the distinguished physician, Sir Thomas Lipton, novelist, George A. Birmingham, yachtsman and author, Conor O'Brien, and famous naval historian and author, Patrick O Brian. 

In the club's constitution, it was unique among yacht clubs in that it required yacht owners to provide the club's commodore with information about the coast and any deep-sea fisheries they encountered on all of their voyages.

In 1846, the club was granted permission to use the Royal prefix by Queen Victoria. The club built a new clubhouse in 1851. Despite the Republic of Ireland breaking away from the United Kingdom, the Royal Irish Yacht Club elected to retain its Royal title.

In 1848, a yachting trophy called "Her Majesty's Plate" was established by Queen Victoria to be contested at Kingstown where the Royal Irish Yacht Club is based. The Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland at the time, George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon suggested it should be contested by the Royal Irish Yacht Club and the Royal St. George Yacht Club in an annual regatta, a suggestion that was approved by both clubs with the Royal St. George hosting the first competitive regatta.

The RIYC celebrated its 185th Anniversary in 2016 with the staging of several special events in addition to being well represented afloat, both nationally and internationally. It was the year the club was also awarded Irish Yacht Club of the Year as Afloat's W M Nixon details here.

The building is now a listed structure and retains to this day all its original architectural features combined with state of the art facilities for sailors both ashore and afloat.

What is the Royal Irish Yacht Club's emblem?

The Club's emblem shows a harp with the figure of Nice, the Greek winged goddess of victory, surmounted by a crown. This emblem has remained unchanged since the foundation of the Club; a symbol of continuity and respect for the history and tradition of the Royal Irish Yacht Club.

What is the Royal Irish Yacht Club's ensign?

The RIYC's original white ensign was granted by Royal Warrant in 1831. Though the Royal Irish Yacht Club later changed the ensign to remove the St George's Cross and replace the Union Jack with the tricolour of the Republic of Ireland, the original ensign may still be used by British members of the Royal Irish Yacht Club

Who is the Commodore of the Royal Irish Yacht Club?

The current Commodore is Joe Costello and the Vice-Commodore is Pat Shannon.

The RIYC Flag Officers are: 

Who is the Chief Executive of the Royal Irish Yacht Club? 

Padraig McCarthy is the RIYC CEO.  Tel  01 280 9452 extn 7 email: [email protected]

What reciprocal club arrangements does the Royal Irish Yacht Club have?  

As one of Ireland's leading club's, the Royal Irish Yacht Club has significant reciprocal arrangements with yacht clubs across Ireland and the UK, Europe, USA and Canada and the rest of the World. If you are visiting from another Club, please have with a letter of introduction from your Club or introduce yourself to the Club Secretary or to a member of management staff, who will show you the Club's facilities.

What car parking does the Royal Irish Yacht Club have at its Dun Laoghaire clubhouse?

The RIYC has car parking outside of its clubhouse for the use of its members. Paid public car parking is available next door to the club at the marina car park. There is also paid parking on offer within the harbour area at the Coatl Harbour (a 5-minute walk) and at an underground car park adjacent to the Royal St. George Yacht Club (a 3-minute walk). Look for parking signs. Clamping is in operation in the harbour area.

What facilities does the Royal Irish Yacht Clubhouse offer? 

The Royal Irish Yacht Club offers a relaxed, warm and welcoming atmosphere in one of the best situated and appointed clubhouses in these islands. Its prestige in yachting circles is high and its annual regatta remains one of the most attractive events in the sailing calendar. It offers both casual and formal dining with an extensive wine list and full bar facilities. The Club caters for parties, informal events, educational seminars, themed dinners and all occasions. The RIYC has a number of venues within the Club each of which provides a different ambience to match particular needs.

What are the Royal Irish Yacht Club's Boathouse facilities?

The RIYC boathouse team run the launch service to the club's swinging moorings, provide lifting for dry-sailed boats, lift and scrub boats, as well as maintaining the fabric of the deck, pontoon infrastructure, and swinging moorings. They also maintain the club crane, the only such mobile crane of the Dun Laoghaire Yacht Clubs.

What facilities are offered for junior sailing at the Royal Irish Yacht Club?

One of the missions of the Royal Irish Yacht Club is to promote sailing as a passion for life by encouraging children and young adults to learn how to sail through its summer courses and class-specific training throughout the year. 

RIYC has an active junior section. Its summer sailing courses are very popular and the club regularly has over 50 children attending courses in any week. The aim is for those children to develop lifelong friendships through sailing with other children in the club, and across the other clubs in the bay.
 
Many RIYC children go on to compete for the club at regional and national championships and some have gone on to represent Ireland at international competitions and the Olympic Regatta itself.
 
In supporting its young sailors and the wider sailing community, the RIYC regularly hosts junior sailing events including national and regional championships in classes such as the Optmist, Feva and 29er.
 
Competition is not everything though and as the club website states:  "Many of our junior sailors have gone on the become sailing instructors and enjoy teaching both in Ireland and abroad.  Ultimately, we take most pleasure from the number of junior sailors who become adult sailors and enjoy a lifetime of sailing with the club". 

Who is Your Sailor of the Year 2020?
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At A Glance – Royal Irish Yacht Regatta 2020 Dates

RIYC Regatta 2020: Saturday 27 June

RIYC Junior Regatta 2020: Wednesday 29 July

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