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Saturday night's gathering of 242 cruising enthusiasts for a black-tie celebration at the Irish Cruising Club's Annual Gala Dinner in Cork, involving an international guest list to bring in officers from kindred clubs on both sides of the Atlantic, provided an ideal opportunity for lifeboat superstar fund-raiser and ICC member Rose Michael of Malahide to add to the RNLI's 200th Anniversary fund-drive.

Most of those present will have already given to the lifeboats in this very special year. But the buzz on Saturday night was such that RNLI envelopes placed on each table were soon showing signs that - contrary to the contactless payment propaganda - cash is very much alive and well, even if on other occasions Rose has shown she's a dab hand with the pay-machine. Nevertheless, on this occasion, the folding banknotes did the business, and €4,140 was officially handed over by ICC Commodore Alan Markey.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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The Annual Dinner of the Irish Cruising Club in Cork on Saturday night was outstanding for many reasons, with the most important being the first awarding of the Friendship Cup. This was presented to the ICC last year at the 2023 Annual Dinner in Sligo by then Cruising Club of America Commodore Chris Otorowski as an inter-club gesture, to be used to honour the ICC member who had contributed most to goodwill and co-operation among cruising people and their various areas and organisations.

When you reflect on the sheer breadth of this categorization, it’s an award which is by no means as simple as it sounds. But for its first time out, the Irish club were lucky in that their member Peter Haden - of Ballyvaughan in the southwest corner of Galway Bay - has long been cruising his sensible 35ft Westerly Seahawk Papageno in Galicia in northwest Spain, and while doing so has perfectly illustrated what the Friendship Cup is all about.

SPECIAL HOSPITALITY EXPERIENCE

For he is well qualified to know what is needed in giving and receiving hospitality in cruising as in other areas, as for years he and his wife Moira were mine hosts at the unique Gregan’s Castle Hotel in the valley above Ballyvaughan, in a prime site at the gateway to the Burren.

Gregan’s Castle Hotel is now run by their son Simon and his wife Frederieke (known to everyone as Freddie), and this change of the watch has enabled Papageno’s skipper to devote more time to his cruising while further developing friendships and co-operations along this part of the Spanish coast, with its very attractive Galician rias.

PETER HADEN’S UNIQUE CONTACTS IN GALICIA

As a result of this, Peter Haden is the go-to source for inside info and contacts on this very special cruising area. As well, he is the ready and willing organiser of ICC rallies in Galicia, to such an extent that they are a regular part of the club’s programme, even if they’re a mixed blessing in that some boats, having voyaged out from Ireland across the Bay of Biscay to take part, then decide – like Papageno and her skipper – to stay on.

 Nick Chavasse, Commodore Royal Cruising Club (right), giving the main speech at the ICC Annual Dinner in Cork on Saturday. Photo: ICC Nick Chavasse, Commodore Royal Cruising Club (right), giving the main speech at the ICC Annual Dinner in Cork on Saturday. Photo: ICC

But happily the ICC fleet in Ireland is of sufficient strength to maintain several healthy centres at home while keeping others going abroad. Thus the very numerous attendance at the Dinner enthusiastically applauded this new honour, with the cup being presented by the Cruising Club of America’s Bob Medland, while the main speaker was Nick Chavasse, Commodore of the 1880-founded Royal Cruising Club.

Central to this very special event was the ICC’s new Commodore, Alan Markey of Howth, quietly and strongly supported by his wife Helen. They were successfully demonstrating that he could maintain the remarkable pace set by his predecessor, David Beattie of Lough Ree and Dublin Bay, who gallantly soldiered on in the top role with his supportive wife Aoife through a double period as Commodore – four years instead of the usual two – in very skillfully guiding the ICC through the pandemic with the special back-up of Vice Commodore Derek White of Strangford Lough and his wife Viv.

CENTENARY ON THE HORIZON

Now we’re into a new era, with the Irish Cruising Club’s Centenary in 2029 rapidly rising on the agenda. Meanwhile, a new first has been established. Among those attending at February’s ICC AGM in Howth YC was senior sailor Jimmy Markey, who was celebrating forty years of membership, as he joined the Cruising Club in 1984.

AN ICC “FIRST”

Alan Markey, who cruises the Lombard-designed Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 36i Altaria from Howth, is the son of Jimmy and Marie Markey. Thus February’s 2024 AGM is thought to have been the first time that a long-standing Irish Cruising Club member has been present when his own son became Commodore. And the international success of the gathering which Jimmy’s son presided over in Cork – organized by ICC Rear Commodore (South) Seamus O’Connor and his local committee – spoke volumes for the voluntary work which has the ICC in such good health as its hundred year celebrations approach.

Alan Markey, Commodore ICC, is believed to be the first in the role whose own father was attending the AGM as a member when he was elected in February. Photo: ICCAlan Markey, Commodore ICC, is believed to be the first in the role whose own father was attending the AGM as a member when he was elected in February. Photo: ICC

Published in Cruising
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Ed Wheeler’s extraordinary career in sailing has ranged from racing the first International Cadet dinghy to be seen on Belfast Lough in the early 1950s (he won Ballyholme YC’s famous Lufra Cup for the big-fleet end-of-season pursuit race) to solo voyaging for thousands of miles along the Australian coast in a 28-footer. And now he is the latest awardee (for the second time) of the Irish Cruising Club’s premier trophy, the Faulkner Cup, for exceptional passage making over 3,500 often rough miles in 2023 with the Contessa 35 Witchcraft, from Strangford Lough to Madeira for the ICC Conor O’Brien/Saoirse Centenary Rally, and then home via the Azores, often with a newby crew.

In addition, he has served for years as Chairman of ICC Publications, and also put in long service to Royal Ulster Yacht Club, concluding in December 2023 when he stood down after many years in the senior executive role of Vice Commodore. During that time, he put Bangor Town Regatta firmly on the sailing map, yet in addition found the time to write hugely entertaining logs of his varied cruising experiences.

Ed Wheeler brings his Contessa 35 Witchcraft across the finish line at RUYC regatta. Though now mainly a cruising and voyaging boat, in 1993 this versatile Doug Peterson design achieved the possibly unique distinction of winning Royal Ocean Racing Club cups in the same year as she was awarded trophies by the Irish Cruising Club, and the Royal Cruising ClubEd Wheeler brings his Contessa 35 Witchcraft across the finish line at RUYC regatta. Though now mainly a cruising and voyaging boat, in 1993 this versatile Doug Peterson design achieved the possibly unique distinction of winning Royal Ocean Racing Club cups in the same year as she was awarded trophies by the Irish Cruising Club, and the Royal Cruising Club

Published in Sailor of the Month
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Last night’s Annual General Meeting of the 1929-founded Irish Cruising Club in Dublin was more than the usual agenda-guided review of a year of activity afloat, a time-honoured long look at twelve months of varied cruising and voyaging on waters near and far, combined with the continuing dissemination of information on everything to do with this specialised and sometimes bureaucratically complex version of sailing.

For like every other sailing organisation, the ICC – whose membership extends well beyond the island of Ireland – had to deal with the changing fallout from the pandemic and its two long lockdowns.

NEW COASTLINES AND FRESH ISLANDS

Cruising’s very basis is in the freedom of movement to travel along new coastlines and sail unhindered to fresh islands. So for a while, the pandemic situation looked like bringing everything to a complete stop. But soon enough the impositions had some easing, and busy brains were finding ways of going cruising while being squeaky-clean compliant.

In this fluid situation, a steady and experienced hand was needed on the helm, and the club’s day-to-day situation was greatly eased in the “lost years” by the willingness of David Beattie to serve as Commodore for four years instead of the usual two, thereby providing continuity with his exceptionally useful ability either to do something with a maximum of efficiency and a minimum of fuss himself, or else delegate its fulfillment to someone equally reliable.

David Beattie’s willingness to serve two consecutive terms as Irish Cruising Club Commodore has brought the club through a difficult international cruising period in good healthDavid Beattie’s willingness to serve two consecutive terms as Irish Cruising Club Commodore has brought the club through a difficult international cruising period in good health

It was the first time since the 1940s - when the club was much smaller - that anyone had remained in the top position for more than two years. Yet Commodore Beattie filled the role for those four long years with speed or patience or whatever special mindset each situation required. And while he was able to be totally reliant on the support of his wife Aoife Nolan Beattie, and Vice Commodore Derek White who is based on Strangford Lough, it was his personal example which has been the leading inspiration for the club to have reached 2024 in such good health.

FOUR YEARS OF INSPIRED LEADERSHIP

One of the reasons must be that he is all things to all folk, yet in a genuine way. He lives on the shores of Lough Ree where he has his own little port, and proudly asserts himself as part of the ICC’s Western Chapter, emphasising this by cruising Ireland’s inland waterways with his characterful traditional 47ft Dutch lemsterak Schollevaer.

“And now for something completely different” – the 47ft one hundred and eleven-years-old traditional Dutch lemsterak Schollevaer is David Beattie’s boat for the inland waterways and lakes“And now for something completely different” – the 47ft one hundred and eleven-years-old traditional Dutch lemsterak Schollevaer is David Beattie’s boat for the inland waterways and lakes

But down at the coast, he’s at the heart of things as a Trustee of the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, and his burgee as Commodore of the ICC is hoisted aboard the much-travelled steel cutter Reespray, wherever she may be. He discovered her as a stalled attempt to re-created Joshua Slocum’s world-girdling Spray, and brought the project on to a successful conclusion to provide a hefty sailing cruiser which has covered many of the coasts of Ireland, in addition to much of southern Europe.

MODERN OUTLOOK, HISTORIC BOAT

Naval architecture anoraks will be aware that when Captain Joshua Slocum set out to re-build the world-girdling 36ft Spray in 1892, he was doing so on the lines of the hulk of a shorebound boat which was known to be more than a hundred years old in the first place. Thus the fleet-leading Commodore of the ICC was showing the way for his members through one of the most difficult four year periods of its existence with a boat whose basic hull design was somewhere north of 220 years old.

Joshua Slocum’s Spray in Sydney Harbour in 1896 – her already ancient lines have proved unusually timelessJoshua Slocum’s Spray in Sydney Harbour in 1896 – her already ancient lines have proved unusually timeless

Yet this alliance of the very ancient with cutting-edge communications technology is part of the makeup of many leading cruising people. As travel restrictions eased and David & Aoife Beattie were able to reinforce the ICC’s long-established fraternal links by representing the ICC at events afloat and ashore with organisations like the Cruising Club of America, the Royal Cruising Club, and the Clyde Cruising Club, they could find any amount of cruising buffs who thought it perfectly natural that a hull shape more than 250 years old should be allied with some very 21st Century communications technology.

Despite that, the human presence – preferably with warmth, humour and tolerance - is central to the good health of any organisation, and while Zoom was invaluable at the height of the lockdown, the opportunity to give thanks in a personal capacity at the end of David Beattie’s double-service saw a good turnout at the 2024 AGM in Howth Yacht Club last night.

Howth Yacht Club agreed to be part of Dublin for the night that was in it. Photo: HYCHowth Yacht Club agreed to be part of Dublin for the night that was in it. Photo: HYC

ROYAL CORK ADMIRAL AWARDED

Certainly the spirits of Harry Donegan and his Fastnet Race pioneering cutter Gull were very present in Howth last night, with the Royal Cork’s new Admiral Annamarie Fegan at the ICC gathering with her husband Denis Murphy. Their Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo was winner of the Gull Salver for the top-placed Irish boat in the Fastnet Race, but now they’re gearing themselves for another go at the Round Ireland in June, despite Denis admitting that in the 2022 circuit, the waters off the Blaskets provided them with the roughest sailing Nieulargo has ever experienced.

And yes, I know that we try to claim here that Howth deserves the right to be considered as a place apart rather than a unit of Dublin. But as it was the ICC’s founding father Harry Donegan of Cork who insisted that the AGM should be held in the national capital in the Dublin area for all that his home town of Cork was the true cruising heartland, the least we can do is respect the great man’s generous viewpoint.

That said, it rather seemed like a Howth takeover, as Peninsular Person Alan Markey rose from Vice Commodore to the senior post as Commodore in succession to David Beattie, and fellow Howth sailor and hill dweller Donal Gallagher has for some time been in the role of Honorary Secretary. While both have their own cruising boats, they are also involved with the ancient Howth 17s, something which has been a fact of life in the Irish Cruising Club officer lists for nearly all of the club’s existence, for a class can acquire numerous extra links if it lasts for 125 years.

The only other major change was Kieran Guilfoyle of Dun Laoghaire, owner of the classic Nich 36 Samphire, taking over from Paddy Blaney of Dublin and Lough Derg as Honorary Treasurer for the very good reason that the previous incumbent has gone cruising round the world in his Hallberg-Rassy 54 Maelduin.

International fellowship. Incoming Irish Cruising Club Commodore Alan Markey (left) with Cruising Club of America Commodore Chris OtorowskiInternational fellowship. Incoming Irish Cruising Club Commodore Alan Markey (left) with Cruising Club of America Commodore Chris Otorowski

In reviewing a successful year which has seen a renewal programme continuing for the ICC’s much-valued Sailing Directions for cruising the coasts of Ireland (directed by Norman Kean of Courtmacsherry), the outgoing Commodore highlighted the Conor O’Brien Centenary Rally in Madeira, 1,300 sea miles from Dublin Bay and the first port of call after Dun Laoghaire in O’Brien’s 1923-25 circumnavigation with Saoirse.

As the re-build of Saoirse herself at Oldcourt near Baltimore is still barely out of the wrappers, the Gary Mac Mahon/Liam Hegarty restoration of the 56ft 1926-built O’Brien Trading Ketch Ilen served as a more-than-adequate flagship, with 28 boats getting to Madeira from every point of the compass for an excellent gathering organized by Southern Area Rear Commodore Seamus O’Connor of Bantry.

The 56ft restored 1926 trading ketch Ilen – seen here under sail at Baltimore – made a fine flagship for the Conor O’Brien Centenary Rally in MadeiraThe 56ft restored 1926 trading ketch Ilen – seen here under sail at Baltimore – made a fine flagship for the Conor O’Brien Centenary Rally in Madeira

Apart from a brief period of relative sailing bliss from late May until the third week of June, the summer of 2023 often provided harsh cruising conditions, and those making the many and varied passages to and from Madeira experienced at least their fair share of this, with the 2023 Cruising Awards adjudicator Peter Fernie of Galway – appropriately, he lives on an island near Oranmore - found himself dealing with some rugged ventures, which he does so with typical wit and style to produce the following awardees, for nobody wins a cruising trophy - you are awarded them.

The tops. The vintage Contessa 35 Witchcraft (Ed Wheeler) seen here racing at the RUYC Regatta in Belfast Lough. Modified to be a true cruiser-racer, she has figured regularly in the Irish Cruising Club awards list since 1991The tops. The vintage Contessa 35 Witchcraft (Ed Wheeler) seen here racing at the RUYC Regatta in Belfast Lough. Modified to be a true cruiser-racer, she has figured regularly in the Irish Cruising Club awards list since 1991

FAULKNER CUP (best cruise): Ed Wheeler, vintage Contessa 35 Witchcraft from Strangford Lough to Madeira rally, returning via Azores through sometimes atrocious weather, and logging more than 3,500 mile in all with the skipper returning “half a stone lighter and much fitter”.

Ed Wheeler at the helm – he returned from 2023’s cruise “half a stone lighter and very much fitter”Ed Wheeler at the helm – he returned from 2023’s cruise “half a stone lighter and very much fitter”

STRANGFORD CUP (alternate best cruise): Maire Breathnach and Andrew Wilkes of Dungarvan with replica Bristol Channel gaff pilot cutter Annabel J, northwards to Iceland which is left to port while calling at several interesting ports and coming through even worse weather than that experienced further south.

FORTNIGHT CUP (best cruise in 16 days): Colin & Alan Leonard (Starlight 35 Ariadne) In this era of weird working times, the classic cruise of two well-used weeks of leave is increasingly rare, but Colin Leonard and his father Alan were constrained by time, yet managed an interesting Hebridean cruise from Strangford Lough to the Outer Hebrides including St Kilda with their attractive Stephen Jones-designed Starlight 35 Ariadne.

Annabel J is no stranger to negotiating the high Arctic as seen here, but 2023’s weather restricted her crew of two to a circumnavigation of IcelandAnnabel J is no stranger to negotiating the high Arctic as seen here, but 2023’s weather restricted her crew of two to a circumnavigation of Iceland

FINGAL CUP (log the adjudicator most enjoyed): Daragh Nagle is one of the outport members, based in British Columbia and cruising the Pacific coast with his Moody 376 Chantey V, and his explorations up several rivers to destinations of unexpected character provided much entertainment for crew and log-reader alike.

ROCKABILL TROPHY for seamanship: Paul Conway & Gillian Fletcher, Contessa 32 Cevantes. Seamanship often involves a maritime version of the old military dictum that no set plan survives the first contact with the enemy. Their plan was to complete a three year detailed cruise to the Baltic with a return to Ireland via a leisurely meandering of the Dutch waterways and Brittany, but the reality with one named storm after another was hopping from one hurricane hole to another along the south coast of England, yet in due course Kilmore Quay was reached and home at Greystones was within manageable distance with a weather shore.

GLENGARRIFF TROPHY for best cruise in Irish waters: Conor O’Byrne of Galway with Sadler 26 managed to carve a worthwhile cruise out of an extended visit to Kerry and West Cork, with the unpredictable yet almost always bad weather making such significant gaps in his crew schedule that he completed it with an excellent solo passage from Catletownbere back to Galway.

PERRY GREER BOWL for best first log: New member Tony Linehan bases his Jeanneau SO 409 Sea Witch in Greece, which means he was the most easterly participant in the Conor O’Brien Rally in Madeira. Getting there was no cakewalk as the boat perforce had been laid up ashore for two years, and it made for one very long shakedown cruise brought to a successful completion with the growing ICC flotilla in Northwest Spain.

Outward bound for the Azores – Frank Cassidy’s Ocean Blue takes her departure from KinsaleOutward bound for the Azores – Frank Cassidy’s Ocean Blue takes her departure from Kinsale

WILD GOOSE CUP for log of literary merit: Frank Cassidy of Dun Laoghaire is the moving spirit behind the current re-birth of the Cruising Group in the National YC, and with his ICC hat on he shows that he can also turn a shapely sentence or three while he’s at it, and his cruise from Kinsale to the Azores with the hefty Pacific Seacraft 12.8 Ocean Blue delivered the goods.

MARIE TROPHY for best cruise by boat under 30ft: Paddy Barry and Drascombe Lugger. As Peter Fernie points out, with 55 ICC boats under the 9.14 metres limit, you’d expect this trophy memorialising the first awardee of the Faulkner Cup (she’s still with us) to be hotly contested, but though it attracted few enough entries, the clear winner was well down the size scale. The great ocean voyager, high latitudes cruiser, and traditional boats enthusiast Paddy Barry turned 80 in 2022, so now he’s settling in with a Drascombe Lugger, and his imaginative use of the boat’s full potential saw him cruising – at different times – in Connemara, Waterford, Kerry and Galway.

“Try this for size” – renowned voyager Paddy Barry is now focused on a Drascombe Lugger“Try this for size” – renowned voyager Paddy Barry is now focused on a Drascombe Lugger

The Maimie Doyle-designed Marie of 1894 vintage is seen here sailing in Strangford Lough in 1966 while owned by Michael McKee, ICC Commodore 1998-2000. The first awardee of the Faulkner Cup in 1931, she still sails, and is honoured in the Marie TrophyThe Maimie Doyle-designed Marie of 1894 vintage is seen here sailing in Strangford Lough in 1966 while owned by Michael McKee, ICC Commodore 1998-2000. The first awardee of the Faulkner Cup in 1931, she still sails, and is honoured in the Marie Trophy

It makes for an interesting contrast with his sailing mate Mick Cotter when they graduated together as engineers from UCD. Their first “learner boat” together was a 505 dinghy which – with trapeze and all, yet totally unaccompanied – they blithely sailed from Roundstone very quickly out to Kilronan in the Aran Islands. And with the ideal tow vehicle in a little MG sports car, they’d then take the entire combo as the perfect babe magnet to the Rose of Tralee festival.

But now with both as ICC members, Mick Cotter has the 105ft Wolfhound which works for her living on the charter circuit when he’s not cruising her himself, while Paddy is learning how to keep water out of the tent as he cruises his 19ft Drascombe.

Such contrasts are part of the colourful tapestry of the Irish Cruising Club as it starts to focus on its approaching Centenary in 2029. Its history is such that it has already produced two books, one for the Golden Jubilee in 1979, and the other for its 75th in 1994.

But the total overview for the Centenary is something else altogether, a prodigious task. Fortunately, super-sailor Maire Breathnach of Dungarvan, who already produces the professional-standard ICC Annual in style, has agreed to take on the challenge of over-seeing this new encyclopaedic work about an organisation that reflects all that is best in Irish sailing.

Game for the challenge. Maire Breathnach – seen here at the helm off Cape Horn – has taken on the challenge of the ICC’s history for its Centenary in 2029Game for the challenge. Maire Breathnach – seen here at the helm off Cape Horn – has taken on the challenge of the ICC’s history for its Centenary in 2029

Published in W M Nixon
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David Beattie enthusiastically follows many maritime interests. But it was a special blessing for the Irish Cruising Club, that he should become their Commodore as the Pandemic began to tighten its grip, for he has been willing to serve as Commodore for four years instead of the usual already demanding two years in the top role. Very ably supported by his wife Aoife, despite much of her time being taken up as a front-line health service specialist fighter of the scourge, this extension of a role which is extremely challenging at the best of times provided continuity and a lead in going cruising whenever localised regulation relaxation permitted it.

Their diligence in representing Irish cruising in events near and far was much appreciated by the world cruising community, and this was well demonstrated last weekend in Sligo when the ICC’s first truly post-pandemic Annual Dinner was attended by 230 seafarers, including the Commodores of all the leading international clubs.

One of them, Chris Otorowski of the Cruising Club of America, which celebrated its Centenary in 2022 with David and Aoife Beattie in attendance, has already spoken for all in his April 2023 newsletter to his many members, which reports on Sligo: “These Irish are a great bunch, and they value the CCA, as we value them”.

Published in Sailor of the Month

The 1929-founded Irish Cruising Club occasionally brings its members and their boats together for Cruises-in-Company and Rallies in home waters and abroad. Yet although there's an AGM in Dublin early in the year, and specialist Sub-Committees meet from time to time to work on key activities such as the up-dating of the publicly-sold Sailing Directions for the Irish coast, the reality is that much of the club's activities consist of boats on their own, on solitary voyaging near and far in the time-honoured manner of classic cruising.

Thus over time, an additional gathering has evolved, whereby members and some special guests can gather and socialise with a nautical flavour for a weekend of activities built around a choice venue, and this past weekend saw 230 cruising enthusiasts getting together at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Sligo, with guests including Commodores or Flag Oficers from the Royal Cruising Club, the Cruising Club of America, the Clyde Cruising Club, and the Ocean Cruising Club.

In a prodigious yet seemingly effortless team effort very ably led by ICC Commodore David Beattie and his wife Aoife, everything went with exemplary smoothness. But while there were many activities on offer, the highlight has to have been an extended and very hospitable visit to nearby Lissadell House. It may be known to most for its associations with W B Yeats and Constance Markievicz (nee Gore-Booth), but is equally well-known to cruising people as the home of Henry Gore-Booth, who was so enthusiastic about High Latitude cruising that he spent seventeen summers in the latter half of the 19th Century cruising the Arctic in the ketch Kara, which had been built very much to his personal concepts and specifications.

After seeing the inspiring and very detailed model of Kara in Lissadell, it was back to more everyday cruising under sail with the Saturday night dinner, which - after fraternal greetings exchanged between the great and the good of the distinguishd cruising clubs - was concluded with the presentation of the occasionally-awarded Fastnet Trophy for special services and achievement in cruising and sailing. It went to Afloat.ie's W M Nixon, who has somehow managed to survive sixty-three years of writing about sailing, and sixty years of membership of the Irish Cruising Club, without yet being found out.

Published in Cruising
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“The Freedom of the Seas” is a grand hifalutin notion altogether, particularly when you try to explain the special joys of cruising to a sailing enthusiast who can only measure pleasure afloat through successful racing results. But as the exchanges of information at last night’s Annual General Meeting of the 1929-founded Irish Cruising Club in Dun Laoghaire’s National Yacht Club tended to agree, the Freedom of the Seas has its limits when a worldwide pandemic is creating different barriers and restrictions under the various legislatures that are controlling the shores at those distant places you hope to visit at the end of a freedom-loving voyage.

For although the lone boats sailing the high seas and flying the ICC burgee will frequently be doing so without another boat in sight for days on end, when they do get to port their first thoughts will include plans of socialising with like-minded souls. But with social-distancing or indeed total non-meeting regulations in place ashore at various times during the past two years, successful clubs – for all their venerable history in many Irish cases – have had to display a youthful flair for innovative thought and nimble action in order to continue functioning in some meaningful way.

Thus while Honorary Editor Maire Breathnach of Dungarvan has continued to produce the much-admired ICC Annual on time despite the changing scenario of permitted activity, the club has now reached the stage that if some members never hear the word Zoom again, it will be too soon. The lack of straightforward personal gatherings - afloat during the summer, and ashore during the winter - had become irksome, and even with activity returning, the fact is that those who were serving the club in the various officer roles were necessarily doing so like people with one arm tied behind their backs.

The ICC Foredeck Quintet at work on composing their latest piece, “The Sea Air”, on board Mick Brogan’s Gaway Hooker Mac Duach, while also providing an appropriate cover for the latest ICC Annual. Photo: Micheal McLoughlinThe ICC Foredeck Quintet at work on composing their latest piece, “The Sea Air”, on board Mick Brogan’s Galway Hooker Mac Duach, while also providing an appropriate cover for the latest ICC Annual. Photo: Micheal McLoughlin

It simply wasn’t fair to those devoting their time and energy in the key positions, so at last year’s totally on-line AGM, former Commodore Stanton Adair of Belfast Lough proposed that, as far as “officer churn” was concerned, 2020 simply would not exist in terms of ICC positional rotation. It was a brilliant idea of breath-taking simplicity, and it means that popular current Commodore David Beattie of Lough Ree and Dun Laoghaire and his supporting officers will have an extra year of normal sociable activity to compensate for the two years in which they have gallantly given of their enthusiasm, despite functioning in effect behind a screen, while jumping hurdles at the same time.

CRUISING CONTINUED FOR THOSE PREPARED TO NEGOTIATE THE RESTRICTIONS

But although the structured clubbable activities have been a no-go for a couple of years now, cruising has continued for those prepared to negotiate the various regulations and constricted means of travel, as was revealed in the adjudication on the various ICC awards delivered last night by highly-experienced cruising skipper John Duggan, originally of Malahide but now Portuguese-based and renowned for his stylish cruises to the Azores and round Biscay from his Cascais base.

The special and often challenging circumstances of cruising in 2021 are underlined by his award of the Round Ireland Cup - one of the club’s defining trophies - to Ed Wheeler of Strangford Lough. Ed made an entertaining circuit – some of it single-handed - in the robust Contessa 35 Witchcraft, but the title of his winning log says just about everything about cruising in home waters in 2021 that needed to be said – it is titled “Round Ireland With the Pubs Shut”.

Thirsty work. The Doug Peterson-designed Contessa 35 Witchcraft conveyed Ed Wheeler on an award-winning circuit of Ireland, but failed to find a single open pub. Photo: Kevin DwyerThirsty work. The Doug Peterson-designed Contessa 35 Witchcraft conveyed Ed Wheeler on an award-winning circuit of Ireland, but failed to find a single open pub. Photo: Kevin Dwyer

On a more serious note, two of the premier trophies – the senior award of the 1931-inaugurated Faulkner Cup, and the self-explaining Atlantic Cup for ocean voyaging, go to Rob Henshall of Fermanagh. He has extraordinary seagoing credentials, for in the early 1990s he went round Ireland twice totally unaccompanied on firstly, a Bic windsurfer, and then secondly, a year or two later, in a Laser.

TAKING CHANCES ON MARITIME BARGAINS

In a subsequent year, when the US dollar was down through the floor, he reckoned it was his economic duty to nip across to America and buy a hefty big bargain-basement ketch. In order to maintain the frugal nature of the enterprise, he then had to sail his new ship back to Ireland immediately despite it being Autumn with the last of the hurricanes still rumbling about, but he did the job with exemplary efficiency single-handed.

However, in 2021 his luck ran out, for although he’d sensibly down-sized to the well-maintained vintage Contessa 32 Maria based in Portimao in southern Portugal, a rough homeward voyage via the Azores revealed a potential weakness known to some Contessa 32 owners. In the manner of the time in which they were built, the shroud-supporting chainplates of the Contessa 32 simply consist of some hefty stainless steel rod bent into a “U” shape and threaded at each end in order to facilitate easy installation through the reinforced deck abeam of the mast.

The very fact of creating the U-bend weakens the steel, but the overweight nature of the fitting is intended to compensate for this. Yet high quality stainless steel can further hide any hidden weakness and developing fatigue simply by being shiny and cleaning up well. The result of all this in Maria’s case was that the chainplate supporting the port-side cap shroud simply gave way at the apex of its curve while Maria was bashing into heavy winds while still at some distance from Ireland. The mast came down, and after Rob had failed – after much exhausting effort - to get the engine to re-start when he’d had to re-fill the fuel tank in heavy seas, he’d to make a mobile phone call to get a tow into Courtmacsherry.

You win some, you lose some. But when the wheels come off, Courtmacsherry is a good place to beYou win some, you lose some. But when the wheels come off, Courtmacsherry is a good place to be

“Courtmac” is one of those places where the whole village seems to turn out to aid distressed mariners in the most understanding ways possible. Consequently, Rob Henshall was inspired to write a heartfelt and sometimes painfully honest account of his experiences, and he has done so in such a way that he receives both the Faulkner Cup for best log and the Atlantic Cup for an ocean voyage. 

MAKING MOLEHILLS OUT OF MOUNTAINS

Nevertheless the “Maria event” is not something which anyone would want to experience personally, but the Irish Cruising Club is renowned for the variety of its activities, and if it’s a sense of enjoyment and achievement which you want to savour, then the intrepid Paddy Barry provides it with his account of an island-hopping and mountain climbing expedition to the islands and remoter areas of Scotland, places where regulations were different to Ireland, and anyway officialdom was seldom to be found.

“The Conor O’Brien Of Our Times” – the ever-enthusiastic Paddy Barry continues to sail the seas and climb the mountains a very long time after being awarded the Free Bus Pass.“The Conor O’Brien Of Our Times” – the ever-enthusiastic Paddy Barry continues to sail the seas and climb the mountains a very long time after being awarded the Free Bus Pass.

“Time was when you’d have this place to yourself”. The veteran ketch Iroise with company in Village Bay, St Kilda. Photo: Paddy Barry“Time was when you’d have this place to yourself”. The veteran ketch Iroise with company in Village Bay, St Kilda. Photo: Paddy Barry

With his mountaineering and voyaging, Paddy Barry is the Conor O’Brien of our times, but despite the fact that he has now long outlived O’Brien, he is still at it. In 2021 he availed of his partnership interest in the curious French-built ketch Iroise – an Irish-based relic of the early days of Glenans in West Cork – and took off for an award-winning and energetic programme which took in St Kilda and the Orkneys. Admittedly they did find themselves returning south via the civilized route of the Caledonian Canal, but the rugged theme of the venture was maintained, for when they found themselves berthed in the canal beside Ben Nevis, they just had to climb the great big thing to add to many other peaks achieved.

MIS-BUILDING NUCLEAR SUBS IN BARROW

Other noted long-distance cruisers making the best of changing regulations included Annual editor Maire Breathnach and husband Andrew Wilkes, who were awarded the Fingal Cup for the log the adjudicator most enjoyed with their mighty 64ft gaff cutter Annabel J.

Having already been forced to spend one entire season confined to the Canary Islands (where Andrew passed the time by restoring an abandoned Nicholson 43), they came back north to work their way under sail through changing vax requirements in Britain and Ireland, such that at one stage – while bound for Kircudbright in southwest Scotland - they found themselves anchored off Piel Island near the super-secret nuclear submarine-building port of Barrow-in-Furness under the Cumbrian Mountains of England’s Lake District.

A haven of sanity beside the nuclear madness of Barrow-in-Furness – Piel Island off the coast of Cumbria.A haven of sanity beside the nuclear madness of Barrow-in-Furness – Piel Island off the coast of Cumbria

That the first recorded ICC visit to peculiar Piel Island should be made by a massive gaff cutter of deep draft like Annabel J is all of a piece with ICC activity in 2021. But then Piel, in particular, is bound to be peculiar, as Barrow-in-Furness is one decidedly odd place.

Perhaps it’s in line with the intention to keep it hyper-secret, but they build the various bits and pieces of the nuclear submarines in different compartmentalised areas of the yard, and then assemble them in one uber-secret main workshop. Thus in 1988 in that ultimate workshop, they managed to add and firmly attach an entire hull section of a new nuclear submarine upside-down. No wonder the damn things cost so much…..

THE NEW PUB ON RATHLIN ISLAND

Such is the charm of the ICC Annual that it provides entertainment in itself, and leads on to other thoughts. Thus one of the pleasantest logs is by noted Dun Laoghaire sailor Dick Lovegrove, who admits he was somewhat nervous in resuming cruising with his successfully-raced Sigma 33 Rupert. So to make sure all the bits and pieces – both boat and crew - were still working properly after a two-year layoff, he made do with a modest venture to Rathlin Island from Dublin Bay, thereby taking advantage of less stringent regulations in the north.

Rathlin Island makes for a perfect destination, as it’s definitely very much an island, yet the harbour with its marina is much improved over the primitive shallow berthing of times past, while the pub is now palatial by comparison with the tiny place familiar to anyone visiting Rathlin three decades ago.

Rathlin Island – renowned for its replacing of licensed premises……..Rathlin Island – renowned for its replacing of licensed premises…

Back in the day when the new pub was being built, the Irish Lights Commissioners made their annual visit, as Rathlin has three very important lighthouses. After they’d made their inspection and their launch was quietly pulling away from the pier, Commissioner Patrick Jameson made a final attempt at conversation with a typically taciturn islander up on the pier:

“I say” called Patrick, “what’s that building going up over there?”

“It’s the new pub”.

“Oh really. That’s absolutely fascinating. And what happened to the old pub?”

“It got wore out”. 

ICC AWARDS 2021:

  • Faulkner Cup & Atlantic Cup: Rob Henshall (Maria, Contessa 32)
  • Strangford Cup: Daragh Nagle (Canadian-based, British Columbia cruise with Moody 376 Chantey V).
  • Round Ireland Cup: Ed Wheeler, Contessa 35 Witchcraft
  • Fingal Cup: Maire Breathnach (Annabel J, 64ft gaff cutter)
  • Wybrant Cup: Paddy Barry (Iroise, vintage ketch)
  • Wild Goose Cup (log of literary merit): Bob Fannin Jnr (Nich 31 Capa III, Netherlands to Dun Laoghaire)
  • Marie Trophy (under 30ft LOA): Conor O’Byrne (Galway to West Coast Scotland in Sadler 26.
  • Glengarriff Trophy (cruising in Ireland): Jim O’Meara, Jeanneau 37 Second Chance
  • Perry Greer Bowl (First log by new member): Vincent Guenebaut, Cork to Connemara in Oceanis 321
  • John B Kearney Cup for Services to Sailing: Hal Sisk for numerous world-standard restoration projects

Hal Sisk on Dublin Bay aboard the 36ft 1894 cutter Peggy Bawn, one of his many successful restoration projects, back in 2003 when the Jeanie Johnston still occasionally put to sea under sail. Photo: W M NixonHal Sisk on Dublin Bay aboard the 36ft 1894 cutter Peggy Bawn, one of his many successful restoration projects, back in 2003 when the Jeanie Johnston still occasionally put to sea under sail. Photo: W M Nixon

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The Irish Cruising Club celebrated the completion of its successful 90th year at its Annual General Meeting in the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire last night and saw a significant change of the watch with Stanton Adair of Belfast Lough retiring after his three-year tenure as Commodore. His successor is David Beattie of Lough Ree, who may live on the shores of one of the great Shannon lakes, but he has strong sailing links with Dublin Bay and the open sea.

Having started his seafaring career as a youthful trainee with the Asgard programme, he has since sailed and voyaged the waters of Europe extensively in command of his vessel Reespray, an interesting steel-built take on the design of Joshua Slocum’s pioneering world-girdling 36ft Spray, which went round solo in 1895-1898. While cruising Reespray, David Beattie’s involvement with the complexities of running the truly all-Ireland ICC has increased steadily to bring him into the demanding role of Commodore.

David Beattie Joshua SlocumDavid Beattie (left), the new Commodore of the Irish Cruising Club, has cruised extensively with his Bermudan cutter-rigged steel-built version of Joshua Slocum’s world-girdling 36ft Spray. Joshua Slocum (right) was Canadian born, but became American and wrote his name forever into world sailing history with his solo global circumnavigation with Spray in 1895-1898

beattie reespray4New ICC Commodore David Beattie aboard his 36ft steel cutter Reespray whose hull is based on the design of Slocum’s global circumnavigating Spray, which in turn was a rebuild in 1894 of a 1790s oyster boat, giving Reespray hull design origins more than 225 years old. Photo: Peter Redden

Demanding it may be, but it is a challenge which Stanton Adair relished and with the enthusiastic support of his wife Pat he has been an encouraging presence at ICC events afloat and ashore throughout Ireland and in ICC Cruise-in-Company ventures overseas. Then in winter, he and Pat very ably represented the Club on the international stage at official events of sister clubs and associations which have been linked with the ICC since its modest but inspirational foundation at a gathering of five Irish cruising yachts at Glengarriff in West Cork in July 1929.

The highlight of Stanton Adair’s Commodoreship would be difficult to pinpoint in the cascade of achievement during the last three years, but it certainly put activity onto a new level in 2017 when 60 boats gathered in Galicia in northwest Spain for a Cruise-in-Company organised in style by Peter Haden, whose home port is Ballyaughan on Galway Bay.

celtic spirit5Michael Holland’s 70ft ketch Celtic Spirit revelling in perfect sailing conditions in Galicia during the Irish Cruising Club’s Cruise-in-Company in July 2017, a highlight of Stanton Adare’s three-year tenure as ICC Commodore. Photo: Trish Phelan

Among those taking part in the Spanish venture were Norman Kean and Geraldine Hennigan from Courtmacsherry in West Cork. Their able Warrior 40 Coire Uisge is usually a much more familiar sight on remote parts of the Irish coast as they pursue their role as Honorary Editors of the ICC’s invaluable Sailing Directions. But even out in Spain they couldn’t take a complete holiday and made detailed and very useful surveys of a couple of tricky channels which until then had been only partially surveyed by established guides.

Since then, Coire Uisge has been active back in Irish waters (she has been awarded the Round Ireland Cup for 2019), and with the busy use of drone photography, her crew have been able to accelerate the process of researching detailed anchorages and channels, such that the new 15th Edition of the already excellent ICC Sailing Directions for the South & West Coasts of Ireland has just been published.

norman kean geraldine derrynane6At their work – Norman Keane and Geraldine Hennigan doing some sea level surveying at Derrynane in Kerry in the summer of 2019.
tra gheall inishbofin7It could be the South Seas. Active drone work reveals hidden secrets of the Irish coast with ICC Survey Yacht Coire Uisge anchored off Tra Gheall at Inishbofin in County Galway. Photo: Geraldine Hennigan

As much of this work is done voluntarily, the income from the sale of the Directions helps to swell the ICC coffers, and the Club puts this to good use by funding bursaries in sail training. This is something which has been going on for some years now, but last night it seemed particularly appropriate, for not only is incoming Commodore David Beattie a seasoned sailor who honed his voyaging skills when young in Ireland’s Asgard Sail Training Programme, but so too is the skipper who was awarded the Club’s premier trophy, the Faulkner Cup.

This has gone for the second time in four years to Daragh Nagle, who originally hails from Portmarnock, but has long since been based in Victoria on Vancouver Island in Western Canada, where he and Cathy venture into the Pacific with their Moody 376 Chantey V. She’s a sensibly-sized boat of 1987 vintage which rounded out extensive ocean cruising in Hawaii to take the Faulkner Cup in 2016, and has done it again with a fascinating cruise to Alaska in 2019.

Adjudicating between high-achiever logs of widely disparate type is – as 2019’s judge John Clementson of Strangford Lough puts it – “like comparing an apple with an orange. Each has its best bits, but they are quite unlike each other”.

By being another of the ICC’s double-jobbers – for he also runs the Club’s website – John Clementson is no stranger to daunting tasks, and he set himself the target of reading each of more than two dozen submitted logs at least four times, which gives you some idea of the standards this unique Club sets itself.

All the awarded logs and many others appeared in timely fashion at year’s end in the ICC Annual, which is edited by several-times-award-winner Maire Breathnach of Dungarvan. Except that, during this arduous production process in late 2019, she wasn’t in Dungarvan - she was at sea bound eventually for the Canaries in the 64ft gaff cutter Annabel J which she and her husband Andrew Wilkes cruise extensively, often with just the two of them on board. 

annabel j waterford8Editorial Office. The 64ft gaff cutter Annabel J in Waterford City before departing south for another ocean voyage Photo: Norman Kean

They personify a remarkable aspect of some contemporary cruising folk who are at the top of their game. They are so completely au fait with modern communications technology that they can create a hard copy 200-page profusely-illustrated professional-standard book while living aboard and sailing along across seaways wide and narrow. Yet they do that sailing in a boat which is basically rigged out authentically in a labour-intensive style which was at its height much more than a hundred years ago.

Yet while a comparison of Annabel J with Michael Holland’s Celtic Spirit displayed earlier gives some idea of the variety of craft within the ICC fleet, the members are united in their shared affection for an organisation which at times seems the only good deed in an otherwise wicked world. Regular followers of Afloat.ie will have received some idea of this mood in last weekend’s early taster of the ICC awards, as it was new member Frank O’Beirne’s account of his cruise to the Hebrides with the 1963 classic Nicolson 36 Samphire.

For that, he received the Perry Greer Bowl for the best first log by a new member. But it was only when he and his shipmates first brought Samphire into Dun Laoghaire from her longtime sojourn on the Solent that they really found he had struck gold, for Samphire was an ICC treasure. Having originally been built for then ICC Honorary Secretary Peter Morck of the Royal St George YC all of 57 years ago, she was to go on to provide the first taste of seafaring for several current though now rather senior Dun Laoghaire-based ICC members. Yet when Frank and his mates made their very sensible purchase of a beautifully-restored boat, they’d no idea at all of her historic links with their adopted home port.

Thus the sense of being one big family is irresistible, albeit a family of some widely disparate types. For while some members live for sociability and regular Cruises-in-Company and Meets such as several leading Cork members organized in Glengarriff on July 13th 2019 to mark the exact 90th anniversary of the Club’s foundation (Seamus O’Connor received the Waterford Harbour Cup for that successful celebration), there’s no doubting others prefer the wide-open spaces and maybe the lure of the Arctic to seek nature in the raw and sailing fulfilment.

ilen squaresail9Unusual yet very convenient rig for some points of sailing. Ilen sailing into a Greenland fjord and going well despite setting just her squaresail with the Salmon's Wake logo, and the jib topsail. Photo: Paddy Barry

Chantey V’s voyage to the awe-inspiring coast of Alaska was undoubtedly on those lines, as too was the venture awarded the Strangford Cup, which is for an alternative best cruise and was put up many years ago by an adjudicator faced with two magnificent voyages of equal merit. Thus it was just the job for the deservedly famous voyage to Greenland from Limerick by the restored 56ft Conor O’Brien ketch Ilen of 1926 vintage.

It was a venture in which several ICC members were involved, but it was Paddy Barry who was aboard for the entire cruise, and his account of it is vintage Barry material, as he has his own entertaining writing style, and unlike some log-keepers, he does tell you something about the people and places visited outside of the actual boat on which the cruise is taking place, while revealing that, for convenience, at times Ilen sailed under some unusual sail combinations

ilen greenland10Big country. Up in the mountains of West Greenland, with Ilen the dot far below at the exact centre of this photo. Photo: Paddy Barry

As for interacting with people ashore, it is a fact that some of the most entertaining logs centre around things going wrong. Your dyed-in-the-wool cruising person aspires to everything running so smoothly that all goes according to plan. This may be very satisfying for them, but it can lead to minimal interaction with people along the way. We are reminded of the noted Victorian explorer who, on being greeted by a female admirer who gushed: “You must have had hundreds of adventures!”, he coldly replied: “Madam, I would regard having adventures as evidence of incompetence”.

Be that as it may, there’s an endearingly frank account by Daria Blackwell (awarded the Wild Goose Cup) of Clew Bay in Mayo about the problems encountered with her husband Alex as they brought their Bowman 57 Aleria back to Ireland from northwest Spain.

Aleria is a lot of boat for two people to handle, yet they’ve done remarkable cruises with her. But in July 2019 in crossing the Bay of Biscay homeward bound, the wheels came off – or at least came loose – when they lost auxiliary engine power through what turned out to be a disintegrated flexible coupling.

aleria sailing11The Bowman 57 ketch Aleria (Alex & Daria Blackwell) was quite a challenge for two to sail in safety after engine failure in light wind conditions close to shipping lanes

In the days when many vessels were still sail-powered, you could cruise in reasonable safety without an engine, and that great offshore racer Denis Doyle of Cork somehow did without an engine in his Robert Clark-designed and Crosshaven-built 47ft Moonduster from 1965 until 1978. But in these days of ever-busier shipping lanes needing to be avoided, being without an engine leaves you like a sitting duck in calm, and Aleria experienced much calm and scary moments in struggling to get to Ireland under sail only.

Yet they did it, they got to Crosshaven, and in getting things sorted it meant they met up with interesting local characters, something shared by anyone who has arrived into somewhere other than their home port aboard a boat with problems. In Crosshaven, their experience was classic after they’d been docked at the boatyard marina in exemplary style:

“Within minutes,” recounts Daria, “a man arrived driving full speed down the docks on a snazzy motor scooter and screeched to a halt at our doorstep. It was Hugh, the mechanic. Within minutes, he had the problem diagnosed, a plan of action in place, and instructions on how to proceed. Hugh explained his pricing system to us:

* Normal price if owner stays off the boat

* Double the price if owner stays on the boat

* Triple the price if owner insists on helping

We booked into the B&B for the duration….and (having been well entertained by local ICC members) were on our way to the west coast within a week”.

The variety of craft featured in the ICC awards is remarkable. Some years ago, Cork member Stephen Hyde took a long sabbatical from his work as an architect to make a three-year cruise round the world in his Oyster 56 cutter A Lady. But more recently, he has been focusing on the 29ft 1896-built Scottish Loch Fyne type gaff cutter Cruachan, with which at least two generations of his family have been linked since 1963.

After a restoration job by Liam Hegarty in Oldcourt near Baltimore, Cruachan is in fine fettle, and she proved it in mixed weather in 2019 with an anti-clockwise round Ireland cruise which included an extensive visit to Scotland (they got to Inverness) and her birthplace at Ardrishaig on the Crinan Canal to meet descendants of the original builders, a fascinating cruise of many aspects which deservedly is awarded both the Glengarriff Trophy for a special cruise in Irish Waters, and the Fingal Cup for the log which the adjudicator most enjoyed.

cruachan racing12 The Hyde family’s 1896-built Loch Fyne-type gaff cutter Cruachan racing in Cork Harbour more than fifty years ago

cruachan fenit13Cruachan in Fenit Marina as she heads south, homeward to Cork via Ireland’s west coast after visiting her birthplace of Ardrishaig on Scotland’s Crinan Canal. Photo: Stephen Hyde

Scotland as usual featured significantly in many logs, including Frank O’Beirne’s account of the 57-year-old Samphire’s cruise to the Inner Hebrides which won the Perry Greer Bowl for best first log, while the Wybrants Cup for cruising Scotland went to global circumnavigator Fergus Quinlan of Bell Harbour in County Clare with his 12m steel own-build cutter Pylades finding her way to all sorts of offbeat places including the remote Fair Isle between Orkney and Shetland.

fair isle pylades14Fergus & Kay Quinlan’s Pylades in the harbour at Fair Isle. The little port may look reasonably sheltered, but conditions can be such that the island ferry Good Shepherd is brought ashore into a “rock nest” (right) Photo: Fergus Quinlan

Quick visits to the Mediterranean were achieved by both Jim Houston and Peter Fernie, with the former bringing back a magic image of local sails at Cesenatico on Italy’s Adriatic coast, while the latter secured a memorable night-time image of the mighty bridge at Istanbul which is named in honour of Selim the Grim, the severe Ottoman Sultan in 1512-1520.

They certainly don’t mess around with calling a spade a spade in remembering their rulers around the Mediterranean. Last autumn there was much attention on Malizia, the Monaco-based IMOCA 60 which transported climate activist Greta Thunberg to New York. As you might guess, the word “Malizia” has its roots in “malice”, and Malizia or “The Cunning One” was the first Grimaldi to rule Monaco a very long time ago, well before Selim the Grim was making everyone’s life a misery.

sails at sesenatico15In the harbour at Sesenatico on Italy’s Adriatic coast. Photo: Jim Houston
selim the grim bridge16 Telling it like it was – the bridge commemorating the Ottoman Sultan known as Selim the Grim at Istanbul. Photo: Peter Fernie

In home waters, it’s clear that round Ireland cruises are more frequent than ever, whereas for a while as cheap flights made sunshine bases more attractive, they almost became a rarity. Maybe it’s global warming, or maybe the Med has simply become too crowded, or maybe Dublin Airport’s dense crowds and ludicrous walking distances have become too much, but round Ireland cruising is now all the rage.

Donal Walsh of Dungarvan (he’s Maire Breathnach’s brother) likes circling Ireland so much he did it three times in 2019 with his very clever lifting keel Ovni 385 Lady Belle, taking in visits to Scotland while also exploring those places where the water gets very thin yet they’re enticing to visit if you can, such as Barrow Harbour close north of Tralee Bay. Lady Belle did that and more in such a busy and complete and competent season that Donal Walsh has been awarded the Rockabill Trophy for Seamanship.

lady belle eigg17A very clever and able cruising boat – Donal Walsh’s lift-keel Ovni 385 at Eigg in the Hebrides, with the conspicuous Sgurr dominating the skyline. Photo: Donal Walsh
lady belle barrow harbour18 Getting in where the water is thin – with keel raised, Lady Belle and Donal Walsh explore the shallow Barrow Harbour close north of Tralee Bay. Photo: Clare Morrissey

Certainly sailing round Ireland can always be challenging in our wayward weather, and even more challenging is another cruising special, the passage to remote St Kilda well out in the Atlantic a hundred miles westward of the Scottish mainland.

Yet it’s a challenge which was seen off by Galway Bay’s Conor O’Byrne in exemplary style with his little Sadler 26 Calico Jack. He used the sensible model of going as fast as he could when the going was good to reach his ultimate objective of St Kilda, and then cruised back in more leisurely style with all the Hebrides at his disposal.

calico jack cruise19An excellent example of good cruise planning – the Sadler 26 Calico Jack’s three-week cruise from Galway to St Kilda and the Hebrides used the proven technique of going as quickly as possible to the main objective and then having the time to explore on the way home.calico jack st kilda20 Little boat, remote place – Calico Jack at St Kilda. Photo: Conor O’Byrne

Admittedly he still had to make his way back past Malin Head and Bloody Foreland and the coast of Connacht to return to GBSC at Renville, but it was all done in such style that he swept the board for the Marie Trophy for the best cruise by a boat under 30ft, and had the Marie Trophy not been available, he would surely have been well in line for one of the major awards.

From another of the Atlantic seaboard home ports, Paul McSorley of Lough Swilly took part in the two-handed AZAB from Falmouth, and while his vintage Westerly Falcon 35 Viking Lord wasn’t among the silverware in either direction, by the time you add in the passages to and from Lough Swilly it becomes a major project, and he well deserves The Atlantic Trophy.

The ICC having been an increasingly significant part of the Irish sailing scene during the past 90 years, it interacts with growing relevance with other major organisations, and this was reflected last night in two awards, both to members.

clayton love21Clayton Love Jnr when Admiral of the Royal Cork YC – he receives the ICC’s John B Kearney Award for Services to Sailing

The John B Kearney Cup for Services to Sailing went to Clayton Love Jnr, who fifty years ago brought the Royal Cork YC at Cobh and the more active Royal Munster YC at Crosshaven together to ensure that the Royal Cork YC would be in good health to celebrate its 250th Anniversary in 1969-70, which it duly did to such good effect that this year it celebrates its Tricentenary, for which the Irish Cruising Club is awarding it the seldom-allocated but very special Fastnet Trophy.

Clayton Love Jnr’s services to sailing do of course extend far beyond Cork Harbour, as in the early 1960s he played a key role in setting the Irish Dinghy Racing Association on the path which sees it today as Irish Sailing, the National Authority, and he was also on the founding committee of Coiste an Asgard whose achievements were reflected last night in both the new ICC Commodore in in the award of the Faulkner Cup.

Another major player in the organisation and improvement of Irish sailing is Brian Craig of Dun Laoghaire, whose enormous contribution to the healthy development of our sport was recognised last night by the ICC’s Eastern Committee which awarded him the Donegan Memorial Cup “for giving a lifetime to the sport of sailing in all its forms both on and off the water”. It’s a citation perhaps of admirable brevity, but it only gives a hint of what Brian Craig has achieved, almost invariably in quiet style and behind the scenes. And as for cruising, he’s no slouch at that either – he has taken his Dufour 455 which he co-owns with his wife Anne to Iceland and many interesting places in between.

brian craig22Brian Craig of Dun Laoghaire, awarded the ICC’s Donegan Memorial Cup “for giving a lifetime to the sport of sailing on and off the water”. He has notable cruising credentials himself, having voyaged from Ireland to Iceland and many places in between.

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For 90 years, the Irish Cruising Club’s Sailing Directions have been the standard text on small-craft pilotage of the Irish coast.

As Afloat contributor Lorna Siggins wrote in her review for The Irish Times: “Approach any port without these navigational directions on deck at one’s peril.”

And now the latest editions for 2020 make spectacular use of drone photography to add a new dimension.

Norman Kean and Geraldine Hennigan went cruising around Ireland in 2019 gathering information on many recent changes, and taking 1,400 stunning drone pictures.

Norman will present some of his remarkable photography at the upcoming Irish Sailing Cruising Conference, where three lucky delegates will each receive a copy of either the East & North or South & West guide or the Cruising Ireland companion guide as spot prizes.

The new editions are available now from ICC Publications or your local chandlery.

Published in Cruising

When the Irish Cruising Club was established in Glengarriff at the head of Bantry Bay on Saturday 13th July 1929, the friendly gathering of the crews from a modest flotilla of five decidedly varied sailing yachts – mostly small craft by today’s standards - had several clearly defined purposes in mind writes W M Nixon.

Certainly, they wanted to engender greater interaction and cohesion among Irish cruising enthusiasts - and greater respect too, as the high-profile racing community tended to look down on them with some disdain, for they saw cruising people as being no more than ordinary sailing folk who simply didn’t race. So in order to give more credence to the organised aspects of their life afloat, they planned to produce an Annual filled with logs of the cruises they’d achieved each year in order to give a more complete picture of the new ICC’s activity.

But for many members, the new club’s most important objective was to be the researching and publication of detailed sailing directions and harbour guides for Ireland’s most popular cruising coasts. Until then, information about the more remote parts could only be found in Admiralty Pilot Books which were aimed at ships rather than smaller craft, or else it was in the realms of that precious commodity “local knowledge”, often jealously guarded by those who had it. In the growing mood of amateur enthusiasm for cruising, self-reliance was a central factor, and that was dependent on having ready access to inside information.

Ardbear anchorage2Local knowledge at its best. Thanks to the ICC Sailing Directions, anyone cruising Ireland’s Atlantic seaboard will know there’s this perfectly-sheltered anchorage hidden at Ardbear at the head of Clifden Bay. Photo: W M Nixon

Founding member Harry Donegan of Cork, who more accurately could be described as the leading ICC inspirer, had been one of the seven entrants in the inaugural Fastnet Race of 1925 with his 15-ton cutter when he’d finished third overall. But as a sailing polymath with much cruising experience, he’d been creating Sailing Directions for southwest Ireland since 1912, when he had also first aired the idea of an Irish Cruising Club. However, the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 put that notion on hold until 1922 when he was developing the idea further with his fellow cruising friend Billy Mooney of Howth. But the War of Independence followed by Partition and the Civil War had created little space for such ideals, so it was 1929 by the time the club finally came into being.

Yet through all the delays, the aspiration for the production of reliable cruising guides to Ireland by voluntary effort for general publication remained high on the list of priorities, and today with the entire coast covered in two comprehensive volumes edited by Norman Kean of Courtmacsherry with his wife Geraldine Hennigan providing invaluable backroom support, the two books have gone through more than a dozen editions, and they continue to give great service for visitors and locals alike.

Indeed, such a steady role is played by these Directions that there’s a danger we take them for granted, so it needs an outside view to puts their importance in perspective. We’ve received that twice already this year in the accounts, by leading Inland Waterways enthusiasts Paul Scannell and Mary Healy of Galway, of their first venture round Ireland last year in the 1977-vintage Broom Ocean 37 motor-cruiser Arthur - normally a boat associated with the Shannon, but one which is capable of a round Ireland cruise if you’re careful with reading the weather.

They told of their experiences at the Irish Sailing Cruising Conference at Lough Ree YC in February, making the point that having the ICC Directions is essential. And then in the recently-published Spring 2019 edition of the IWAI’s Inland Waterways News, with Paul’s fascinating account of their very thorough preparation, planning and execution of this voyage, there are again several references to the indispensable assistance they found in the ICC Directions.

ARTHUR OFFSHOREICC beneficiaries – inland waterways cruisers Paul Scannell and Mary Healy with their vintage 37-footer Arthur found the ICC Sailing Directions to be “indispensable” during their round Ireland cruise last summer.

That of course was the intention of those founding fathers 90 years ago in 1929. But in an era when the ICC has acquired a considerable extra glamour with the recent organisation by western member Peter Haden (he’s from Ballyvaughan in County Clare) of an extremely well-supported Cruise-in-Company in northwest Spain, it is timely to be reminded that the very useful work put in train by the club from the start is still being maintained. So much so, in fact, that as Norman Kean and Geraldine Hennigan were with the fleet in Galicia with their Warrior 40 Coire Uisge, while they were out there they did a spot of local surveying in order to provide better information about some previously under-utilised channels.

norman kean copper coast4Norman Kean and Geraldine Hennigan’s 40-footer Coire Uisge on a detailed pilotage study of Waterford’s Copper Coast. When in northwest Spain during the ICC’s recent Cruise-in-Company, they found themselves surveying local under-utilised channels for the benefit of fellow-cruisers. Photo: Norman Kean

In an era of centralisation and the seemingly inevitable spread of professional administration, the ICC is the very model of a de-centralised, all-Ireland organization based on voluntary effort. The office of Commodore rotates around the four regions, and is currently held by Stanton Adair of Belfast Lough, but both the Honorary Secretary Alan Markey and the Vice Commodore Tom Fitzpatrick are based in Howth, while other flag offices and committee places are spread throughout the four provinces in a way which partially reflects the membership distribution, yet also encourages the growth of membership numbers where previously they’d been sparse.

But it is the specialist positions which are the engines of the club, and best reflect its countrywide nature. The all-important Annual is currently edited by Maire Breathnach of Dungarvan, and she has raised it to a quality which comfortably rivals many professional publications, despite being for a membership of just 550.

As for communication with members, the ICC Web Editor is John Clementson who lives on the shores of Strangford Lough, but the editorship of the cherished quarterly newsletter – again of magazine standard – is done by Alex Blackwell, who is likewise a shoreside dweller, but this time on the Atlantic seaboard at Clew Bay in Mayo.

Maire breathnach5Editor at large…..Maire Breathnach at the helm off Cape Horn

All these tasks successfully maintain communication among a membership who still tend mostly to do their cruising in summertime in the northern hemisphere, but there are always some others somewhere on longer voyages. In other words, most of the activity of ICC members would be invisible were it not for the fact that they’re highlighted with the annual awards, presented each year at the AGM, which is the only event where ICC members are obliged to be in Dublin.

While fellowship, conviviality and a shared love of boats and sailing across oceans, or along coastlines familiar or new, is enough to bind the club in remarkable ties of friendship, there is one occasion every year when they get together simply to have a party, meet new members, and welcome flag officers from the international matrix of cruising clubs.

That occasion is the Annual Dinner, whose organisation rotates round the ICC’s four regions, and for 2019 it fell to the Southern Committee and Rear Commodore Lonan Lardner of Waterford to take on the mantle. It’s quite a challenge, but the cruising folk of the south have the advantage of having Killarney in their region, and there’s little that the smooth-running hospitality industry of Killarney didn’t know last weekend about looking after a dinner for 247 people.

In the midst of an active weekend of multi-activities which saw some ICC members disappear up mountains (don’t worry, they came back down again), others went on historical tours. As for our little group of special friends – with more years of combined membership between us than we care to count – we went off on a tour of the Ring of Kerry – mercifully uncrowded for it was the weekend after St Patrick’s Day – and took in harbours and happy watering holes, and saw the incomparable Derrynane at its pristine best (not one boat of any kind in the anchorage, first time I’ve ever seen it like that), and then relaxed in the history-laden comfort of Parknasilla.

derrynane summer6Derrynane in high summer. This tiny anchorage in West Kerry is unrivalled for its links with notable sailors, as those connected with it include Daniel O’Connell, Lord Dunraven of America’s Cup fame, pioneering world circumnavigator Conor O’Brien, and current Irish international offshore superstar Damian Foxall.
That set us up nicely for the scenic route back to Killarney from Sneem up to Moll’s Gap, and then it was into the scrum of the dinner. With 247 present and on top form, you’re going to meet and greet an impressive number of folk, but – when anything resembling conversation is possible - is never quite going to take the course expected.

Thus I found myself sharing an enthusiasm for rudders which fit neatly under the hull for maximum endplate effect with the charming Brad Willaur, Commodore of the Cruising Club of America, a line of thought inspired by my very high regard for the classic Jim McCurdy-designed 48-footer Carina aboard which Brad has raced with current successful owner Rives Potts.

carina 2011 fastnet7Carina rounds the Fastnet in the race of 2011, when she won her class. It’s indicative of the changeable nature of Ireland’s weather that this photo was taken just nine hours after Rambler 100 had lost her keel in much more rugged conditions in the same location. Photo Rolex/Daniel Forstercarina hull profile8Still looking good after 50 years – the 48ft Carina’s hull may look completely different from today’s offshore racers, but she’s still very much in the frame, and can even provide her crew with some on-board comfort whole continuing to win races. Photo: Rives Potts

When Carina first came to Ireland brand new in 1969, she was in the Transatlantic Race to Cork as part of the buildup to the Royal Cork’s Quarter Millennium, and she then went on to do the Fastnet of that year. The word is that she’s coming back for this year’s Fastnet as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations, but meanwhile I recalled that one of her crew for that 1969 Transatlantic passage was a very youthful Ron Cudmore, and sure enough there was Ron in Killarney, like us all not quite as young as he used to be, yet still very definitely Ron Cudmore.

But in terms of age defiance the total star of the show was his brother, sailing superstar Harold Cudmore, who was there to mark an extraordinary number of years as an ICC member, for in the days of his youth the ICC had a strong Crosshaven and family bias, and Harold got in as a mere lad. But nevertheless, he has defied the years so well that he looks about ten years younger than the number of years he has been in the club.

icc multiple membership10Kerrymen for the day. This quartet in Killarney last weekend could muster 229 years of ICC membership between them. They are (left to right) Dickie Gomes, Harold Cudmore, Jack Wolfe and Winkie Nixon. Photo: Alex Blackwell
jack wolfe11Senior of the seniors – at 95, Jack Wolfe is the ICC’s most senior member, and is probably the only person today who was with Conor O’Brien on the Saoirse in the 1930s. Photo: Rose Michael

He was celebrating with Jack Wolfe, who at 95 is the ICC’s senior member, with a unique direct link of having been aboard Saoirse with Conor O’Brien in 1938. That saw the conversation swing into the unlikely associations which the ICC membership brings up. Who would have thought, for instance, that rugged Arctic voyager and Irish traditional boat enthusiast Paddy Barry would have started sailing with fellow UCD engineering student and subsequent International Dragon and superyacht owner Mick Cotter?

Yet they did that by buying an oldish 505 dinghy and using it for camping cruising, one of their more noted ventures being a fast unaccompanied sail from Roundstone in Connemara out to Kilronan in the Aran Islands. On this being mentioned to Harold, he immediately recalled that the boat in question had originally been Joe Woodward’s Dotie Pet, one of the most successful of the Crosshaven fleet of 505s, and then almost exactly on cue, Joe Woodward himself emerged from the ICC Killarney melee with a request.

For a long time now, he has been a summer fixture of the Galician coast with his Salar 40 Moshulu III. But when he was clearing out the boat last season, he found a rather special Irish ensign. It seems that when Moshulu first arrived in northwest Spain many years ago, his first anchorage to get his breath before entering port was the Iles des Cies off Vigo. Having crossed Biscay, suddenly his little Irish ensign seemed totally inadequate. But it so happened that our beloved Sail Training Brigantine Asgard II was anchored nearby. So Joe hopped in his dinghy and went over and asked if by any chance they had a spare ensign of decent size. They had and more, and they lent him one. So though Asgard II may now be gone, Joe Woodward of Cork has one of her ensigns, and he’d very much like to see it being used for some useful and preferably charitable purpose.

In a hectic weekend like this, there’s bound to be the occasional hiccup, and I managed a beauty by crashing a flying boat. We were travelling down to Killarney in convoy with the legendary Dickie Gomes, voyager extraordinaire, and when a boring rainbelt moved in, my mother-in-law’s daughter cleverly suggested we let it pass through by visiting the Flying Boat Museum at Foynes. She knew that Dickie’s father used to be General Manager of Short Brothers & Harland in Belfast where they’d built the famous Sunderland Flying Boats after the company had been moved lock, stock and barrel from Kent from 1938 onwards in order to locate it further away from the Hitler unpleasantness.

short sunderland12Cruising boat with a difference – Short Sunderland flying boat getting airborneIt’s a fascinating setup, that Foynes museum, complete with a full-size replica Boeing B314 flying boat, aka the Pan Am Clipper, but there are also flight simulators in which you could be in any type, and we decided we were on which Dickie had flown from Belfast Lough.

Well, having been an ace Tiger Moth pilot in his youth, he made a lovely job of flying the simulator. But I crashed, and had to admit so in after dinner chat with Henry Clay, the Commodore of the Royal Cruising Club, whose family hails from Kent. He was interested. “Did you know” he asked, “that Short Brothers were also builders of Thames sailing barges?”

Neither of us did. Nobody in Killarney did except Henry. But the sailing barge Lady Daphne was built by Short Brothers of Rochester, Kent in 1923 at a time when demand for flying boats was very limited. The thought that the Short Sunderland Flying Boat is a relative - however remote - of the classic Thames sailing barges is something that takes a bit of getting used to.

thames barge lady daphne13The Thames Sailing Barge Lady Dahne was built in 1923 by Short Brothers at Rochester in Kent. She has been restored and is now a popular entertainment venue in London

Yet it was just one of many ideas you have to take aboard in short order at an ICC Dinner. However, an underlying theme is that everyone is thinking of the Tricentenary of the Royal Cork Yacht Club next year. The word is that at least 17 significant American boats are coming across. Heaven only knows how many will join from Europe for the Great Gathering. Most of us still can’t grasp just what 300 years really means. But there’s no doubt many people are determined to get their heads the very idea, for it is going to be something extra special in 2020.

cork 300 symbol14It’s increasingly in everyone’s thoughts, even if many of us still can’t really grasp the full meaning of 300 years of sailing history

Published in W M Nixon
Page 1 of 4

Royal St. George Yacht Club

The Royal St George Yacht Club was founded in Dun Laoghaire (then Kingstown) Harbour in 1838 by a small number of like-minded individuals who liked to go rowing and sailing together. The club gradually gathered pace and has become, with the passage of time and the unstinting efforts of its Flag Officers, committees and members, a world-class yacht club.

Today, the ‘George’, as it is known by everyone, maybe one of the world’s oldest sailing clubs, but it has a very contemporary friendly outlook that is in touch with the demands of today and offers world-class facilities for all forms of water sports

Royal St. George Yacht Club FAQs

The Royal St George Yacht Club — often abbreviated as RStGYC and affectionately known as ‘the George’ — is one of the world’s oldest sailing clubs, and one of a number that ring Dublin Bay on the East Coast of Ireland.

The Royal St George Yacht Club is based at the harbour of Dun Laoghaire, a suburban coastal town in south Co Dublin around 11km south-east of Dublin city centre and with a population of some 26,000. The Royal St George is one of the four Dun Laoghaire Waterfront Clubs, along with the National Yacht Club, Royal Irish Yacht Club (RIYC) and Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club (DMYC).

The Royal St George was founded by members of the Pembroke Rowing Club in 1838 and was originally known as Kingstown Boat Club, as Kingstown was what Dun Laoghaire was named at the time. The club obtained royal patronage in 1845 and became known as Royal Kingstown Yacht Club. After 1847 the club took on its current name.

The George is first and foremost an active yacht club with a strong commitment to and involvement with all aspects of the sport of sailing, whether racing your one design on Dublin Bay, to offshore racing in the Mediterranean and Caribbean, to junior sailing, to cruising and all that can loosely be described as “messing about in boats”.

As of November 2020, the Commodore of the Royal St George Yacht Club is Peter Bowring, with Richard O’Connor as Vice-Commodore. The club has two Rear-Commodores, Mark Hennessy for Sailing and Derek Ryan for Social.

As of November 2020, the Royal St George has around 1,900 members.

The Royal St George’s burgee is a red pennant with a white cross which has a crown at its centre. The club’s ensign has a blue field with the Irish tricolour in its top left corner and a crown towards the bottom right corner.

Yes, the club hosts regular weekly racing for dinghies and keelboats as well as a number of national and international sailing events each season. Major annual events include the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, hosted in conjunction with the three other Dun Laoghaire Waterfront Clubs.

Yes, the Royal St George has a vibrant junior sailing section that organises training and events throughout the year.

Sail training is a core part of what the George does, and training programmes start with the Sea Squirts aged 5 to 8, continuing through its Irish Sailing Youth Training Scheme for ages 8 to 18, with adult sail training a new feature since 2009. The George runs probably the largest and most comprehensive programme each summer with upwards of 500 children participating. This junior focus continues at competitive level, with coaching programmes run for aspiring young racers from Optimist through to Lasers, 420s and Skiffs.

 

The most popular boats raced at the club are one-design keelboats such as the Dragon, Shipman 28, Ruffian, SB20, Squib and J80; dinghy classes including the Laser, RS200 and RS400; junior classes the 420, Optimist and Laser Radial; and heritage wooden boats including the Water Wags, the oldest one-design dinghy class in the world. The club also has a large group of cruising yachts.

The Royal St George is based in a Victorian-style clubhouse that dates from 1843 and adjoins the harbour’s Watering Pier. The clubhouse was conceived as a miniature classical Palladian Villa, a feature which has been faithfully maintained despite a series of extensions, and a 1919 fire that destroyed all but four rooms. Additionally, the club has a substantial forecourt with space for more than 50 boats dry sailing, as well as its entire dinghy fleet. There is also a dry dock, four cranes (limit 12 tonnes) and a dedicated lift=out facility enabling members keep their boats in ready to race condition at all times. The George also has a floating dock for short stays and can supply fuel, power and water to visitors.

Yes, the Royal St George’s clubhouse offers a full bar and catering service for members, visitors and guests. Currently the bar is closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The Royal St George boathouse is open daily from 9.30am to 5.30pm during the winter. The office and reception are open Tuesdays to Fridays from 10am to 5pm. The bar is currently closed due to Covid-19 restrictions. Lunch is served on Wednesdays and Fridays from 12.30pm to 2.30pm, with brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 3pm.

Yes, the Royal St George regularly hosts weddings and family celebrations from birthdays to christenings, and offers a unique and prestigious location to celebrate your day. The club also hosts corporate meetings, sailing workshops and company celebrations with a choice of rooms. From small private meetings to work parties and celebrations hosting up to 150 guests, the club can professionally and successfully manage your corporate requirements. In addition, team building events can utilise its fleet of club boats and highly trained instructors. For enquiries contact Laura Smart at [email protected] or phone 01 280 1811.

The George is delighted to welcome new members. It may look traditional — and is proud of its heritage — but behind the facade is a lively and friendly club, steeped in history but not stuck in it. It is a strongly held belief that new members bring new ideas, new skills and new contacts on both the sailing and social sides.

No — members can avail of the club’s own fleet of watercraft.

There is currently no joining fee for new members of the Royal St George. The introductory ordinary membership subscription fee is €775 annually for the first two years. A full list of membership categories and related annual subscriptions is available.

Membership subscriptions are renewed on an annual basis

Full contact details for the club and its staff can be found at the top of this page

©Afloat 2020

RStGYC SAILING DATES 2024

  • April 13th Lift In
  • May 18th & 19th Cannonball Trophy
  • May 25th & 26th 'George' Invitational Regatta
  • July 6th RSGYC Regatta
  • August 10th & 11th Irish Waszp National Championships
  • August 22- 25th Dragon Irish National Championships / Grand Prix
  • Aug 31st / Sept 1st Elmo Trophy
  • September 6th End of Season Race
  • September 7th & 8th Squib East Coast Championships
  • September 20th - 22nd SB20 National Championships
  • September 22nd Topper Ireland Traveller Event
  • October 12th Lift Out

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