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Michael Boyd of the Royal Irish Yacht Club is so successful in his multi-tasking as an impressive Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, and a very competent and frequently-competing skipper in in its annual 12-race Mainseries Points Championship, that we risk taking his achievements for granted.

Yet in August he excelled himself with a brilliantly consistent Fastnet Race, well-placed at both the Rock and the finish in skippering the First 44.7 Lisa to place second in class, and becoming far and away the leading Irish skipper to win the Gull Salver and become our “Sailor of the Month (Offshore)” for August.

But the duties were only beginning for the RORC Commodore as the Fastnet finishers in this record fleet crossed the line. In Plymouth he recorded an early-morning video just after finishing which so eloquently expressed the deeper meaning of this great race that he spoke for all competitors in a memorable display of quiet yet very committed enthusiasm.

In this current weekend, Boyd and his crew – with includes some other noted Irish offshore racing names – are shaping up to place well in the RORC’s penultimate race of the 2017 season. But we would remind everyone that September finished on Thursday, Afloat.ie then take two days for the adjudication process, and our current batch of awards refer only to achievement in August.

Published in Sailor of the Month
Tagged under

It has been confirmed by the Irish Cruiser-Racing Association (ICRA) that it’s extremely unlikely that Ireland will be mounting a defence in July 2016 of the RORC Commodore’s Cup, which we so convincingly won in 2014 with the team of Catapult, Antix and Quokka 8. Apparently the defence has foundered on the difficulties of finding a person or group willing to take on the campaigning of a third boat which would be suitable to back up Anthony O’Leary’s 2014 Ker 40 Antix (ex-Catapult), and Michael Boyd’s new JPK 10.80. Michael Boyd and Anthony O’Leary had lined up a possible charter of Quokka 8 on a speculative (and expensive) retention fee in the hope that a team of optimal make-up could take shape, but no-one has proved willing to take up the costly full-charter option to make her the third boat. W M Nixon reflects on this unhappy follow-up to a good news story which helped lift Ireland out of the gloom of the recession in 2014.

The Commodore’s Cup 2016 as a Sail Training exercise? It’s one of the less crazy scenarios which is emerging from the conclusion that a realistic and highly-powered defence of Ireland’s 2014 win is simply not on the cards. The word is that the two front-line boats have been unable to find people with mega-resources and a crew willing to take up the third slot with Quokka, or possibly another boat altogether. Thus all bets are off.

To outsiders, it all sounds like a bit of the old hissy-fits, and more. Surely something could have been done? But those who have been in the midst of the Commodore’s Cup cauldron have some idea of both the stress involved (which is huge at the front of the fleet), and just how very much it is more important than ever to have a finely balanced team.

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The big day – the Irish team park their tanks on the Royal Yacht Squadron lawn in Cowes after winning the Commodore’s Cup, July 2014

It all looked so easy once 2014’s win had been stitched up. But as the post-series review here on August 2nd 2014 revealed, the stresses and strains – particularly on Anthony O’Leary who did the heavy lifting in putting the team together and keeping the show on the road – were beyond most people’s imagining.

With hindsight now, it is easy to say that it was somewhere back towards Easter this year that the writing on the wall began to appear about how Ireland was going to have to opt out of the 2016 series. The new wave of Fast40+ boats on the Solent in the RORC Easter Challenge had been giving the already senior Antix a very hard time. If Anthony O’Leary and his crew were going to give of their best in campaigning their own boat in what is rapidly emerging as the hottest class in Europe, then they didn’t really need the distraction of rustling up a Commodore’s Cup team to add to their struggles.

For sure, back in 2014 the Commodore’s Cup was top billing. But the remorseless growth of the Fast 40s is making them the top show in town for 2016. They’d seven or eight of them in serious contention last year. At Easter, it was 10 and 11 boats, many of them barely out of the wrapping. In two weeks time, when they have their next major three day event on the Solent from May 20th to 22nd, we will be looking at a dozen and more boats so hot you could fry an egg on them.

Numbers like this, at this level of competition, inevitably attract the heavy hitters among owners and top professional sailors, providing a challenge which you either take head on, or opt out of altogether. For the amateur crew of Antix, it’s a case of take it or leave it. In taking it with full commitment to Fast40+ racing, they simply have to accept that they can’t overload themselves by the extra effort of running Commodore’s Cup involvement, though perhaps they could contemplate being in an Irish squad if by some miracle the perfect team package is put completely and exactly in place by some sort of offshore racing fairy godmother.

But you don’t get fairy godmothers in the rough tough world of offshore racing. The perfect dream package isn’t there, and it won’t be. So Antix and her crew of dedicated amateurs are going to be in the David and Goliath situation of throwing themselves totally into the fray of the Fast 40s, and we can only hope that the original David and Goliath scenario is replicated, for this is definitely the big boys’ game.

And yet, and yet……there’s no such thing as an inevitable outcome. Who knows what might emerge from the first proper gladiatorial confrontation of the Fast 40s in their newly confident expanded numbers? We may be saying this morning that an Irish defence is over and out. But surely it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that in the heady post-regatta atmosphere at the RORC’s Cowes base in a fortnight’s time, somebody might say: Why don’t we as a crew take a boat and join up with Antix and the new JPK 10.80 to race for Ireland?

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The JPK 10.80 Courier du Leon wins the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race

Stranger things have happened in putting Commodore’s Cup teams together in the past. In 2014, so speculative was the buildup that Anthony O’Leary admitted afterwards that until the American Ker 40 Catapult was actually unloaded from a Transatlantic ship on European soil, he wasn’t a hundred per cent convinced she was going to appear at all.

Yet ironically, there was Catapult on the quay as hoped for, after various dockside and clubhouse meetings and negotiations in Key West way back in January. But the whereabouts of the team’s third boat Quokka 8, which had been chartered by Michael Boyd and Niall Dowling, was now a matter for concern.

She’d been campaigning in the Caribbean through the winter, but had been scheduled to be shipped back in plenty of time for the start of the new RORC offshore season. But the ship she was aboard was re-routed, then re-routed again. She arrived back this side of the Atlantic barely in time for the team’s first get-together at Volvo Cork Week in July 2014. But then it all became sweetest fantasy, as Quokka won Volvo Cork Week overall, following which the Irish team won the Commodore’s Cup going away.

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Quokka 8, overall winner of Volvo Cork Week 2014

So who knows what might just somehow develop. But meanwhile the critics are sharpening their knives, and there’s much muttering about it being disgraceful that Ireland doesn’t look like defending a trophy we were so pleased to win just two short years ago.

Thus a suggestion is floating around that ICRA should be prepared to allow just about any old team to go and join the scrap for the Commodore’s Cup 2016. Why not, they suggest, just allow three J/109s to go along to represent the Ould Sod, and give their crews a real taste of sailing at the sharp end?

Certainly the Commodore’s Cup as a Sail Training event has a distinct Quixotic appeal. But underneath the whole story is the reality that while in places like the Solent the top end of high-profile sailing is invariably dominated by professionals, within and around Ireland we don’t really do professional competitive sailing at all.

We’re compulsive and obsessive amateurs, and that’s the way we like it. If our sailing isn’t fitted in to cherished little slivers of free time carved out of the day job, then we don’t really think it’s genuine sport at all. Thus while it’s fine and dandy every so often to take on the Solent heavies and maybe just occasionally show them the way, we’d just as soon save our limited holiday time for a proper tilt at the West Cork Regattas or events like the ICRA Nationals, where we’re racing against people we know, and not shelling out money for exorbitant Cowes rentals. Like it or not, that’s the way we are.

Meanwhile, it’s rumoured that the 2018 Commodore’s Cup will be based of teams of just two boats each. Now they tell us…….But that’s not teams. That’s multiple doubles matches.

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A demanding animal to sail. The tiller-steered Ker 40 Antix is not for the faint-hearted

Read also: ICRA Statement on 2016 Irish Commodore's Cup team

Published in W M Nixon

The Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) in London says a 'correction is needed' over information contained in an article following an ORC presentation at the ICRA Conference in Limerick, a week ago. Michael Boyd, the Commodore of RORC, says the offshore body 'read with interest', and 'some confusion', the press release by the ORC. Boyd says he feels 'very strongly' that information put forward by Dobbs Davis, Chairman of ORC’s Promotion and Development Committee, 'needs correcting'.

In a statement issued by RORC, who administer the rival IRC system, the club says: 

First, the numbers presented are wrong. Dobbs quotes the number of ORC certificates in total up until the end of the year, but only quotes the number of boats in IRC until the end of August of 2015. These are very different figures. Dobbs quotes 4958 for IRC in 2015 but the real number of certificates for the whole year is 7721. That makes the graph look very different and makes IRC the largest individual system in 2015 with ORC Club behind it at 7404 and ORCi trailing at 2492.

It should also be noted that both IRC and ORC are International Rating Systems recognised by World Sailing and IRC is currently in discussions with World Sailing about having its own World Championship. Rather than having two world championships for offshore boats, we are supporting the WS initiative to have one jointly scored IRC/ORC world championship which will allow the event to travel to other continents.

IRC is expanding with new territories in India and Taiwan, growth in Japan and China and very encouraging numbers for the start of the year from many Northern European countries.

IRC is also flexible and not limited to using time-on-time scoring - as has also been suggested. A simple time-on-distance calculation can be applied to create a time-on-distance value, should race organisers want to use it. Similarly, crew number or crew weight can be applied depending on the race organiser’s needs and wishes.

IRC is doing a great job for our sport – you only have to look at the style of boats that have developed since the demise of IMS (the basis of ORC) to understand that IRC is a progressive rule – with the latest generation of boats being fast, safe and fun to sail. Our goal is to ensure that we provide a first class service and develop a product that is constantly evolving to make sure that racing under IRC is as fair as is possible.

- Michael Boyd, Commodore, ROYAL OCEAN RACING CLUB

Published in RORC

Michael Boyd, the Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club and current holder of the Commodore’s Cup, will return to compete in the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland race, marking the 20th anniversary of his win, with many of the same crew from his 1996 winning yacht, Big Ears.

The 18th Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race is set to be one of the most heated editions in the race’s history say organisers with a number of prestigious international sailing champions announcing they will contest this year’s edition.

 

Michael Boyd's choice of a J/35 as his first serious offshore racer was a shrewd decision 20 years ago. He won the Round Ireland in style with Big Ears and more recently the J/35 model has been one of the few exceptional boats to be inducted into American Sailing's Hall of Fame. In the 1996 race Boyd and his crew, minus one removed to hospital off Kerry with fractured ribs, played every tiny gain to beat Roy, Dickson's Beaumont Spirit on Channel handicap, the deciding system for determining the overall race winner.

Twenty years later, the race received a major boost before Christmas with Volvo Cars Ireland coming on board as title sponsor this year after four years without sponsorship.

Phillip Johnston has also confirmed that he will be entering the impressive Open 60 Artemis-Team Endeavour, the current holder of the Round Great Britain and Ireland Race, under skipper Michael Ferguson.

The current holder of the Fastnet Race's Roger Justice trophy Rónán Ó Siochrú has also confirmed that he will be back to contest the Round Ireland for the fourth time.

At the end of 2015 internationally renowned sailor and US businessman, George David also announced his intention to enter his yacht Rambler 88 into the 2016 race. The canting keel maxi yacht would be a strong contender to break the Volvo Round Ireland Race record of 2 days 17 hours 48 minutes 47 seconds which is held by Mike Slade in ICAP Leopard 3 achieved in 2008.

Meanwhile, following the announcement that 2016 will be the first time that multihulls will be invited to compete, Team Concise have already indicated their intention to enter their world-class fleet. Ned Collier Wakefield, Team Director and Skipper for Team Concise, has indicated that they intend entering their 3 boats into the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland – the MOD 70 and their 2 Class 40 boats.

The Race only officially opens for entries next Monday (18th January 2016), however with the quality of entries already at such competitive levels, Race organisers expect the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland to be one of the most competitive and exciting races ever, attracting serious quality sailors and some of the finest yachts from across the world.

Race organiser Theo Phelan:

“We have further expressions of interest from some really exciting names that we hope to be in a position to announce in the coming weeks. Already the competition is heating up and we expect many previous race entrants to return to contest what is set to be one of the most exciting races ever.”

“The new Volvo Cars title sponsorship is a paramount development in the expansion of the race, which allows us to plan ahead for the significant growth of the race in the coming years.”

The 2016 Volvo Round Ireland departs Wicklow Bay on Saturday 18th June 2016 with the first start at 13.00 hours.

Published in Round Ireland

#rorc – A good mix of 89 British and French yachts started the Royal Ocean Racing Club's De Guingand Bowl Race on Friday evening, heading (eventually) to a sunny Cherbourg writes Race Reporter Louay Habib. Racing under the IRC rating system, the French JPK 10.80 'Courrier du Leon' sailed by Géry Trentesaux was the overall winner. This was his third win in the RORC Season's Points Championship, and he retains the overall lead for the 13 race series.
"It was a great race with a beautiful start, we were under spinnaker all the way to Brighton." commented Géry Trentesaux. "We had a good upwind course around the Isle of Wight to the Needles, I think that we did very well upwind. Courrier Du Leon is a good offshore boat, not especially fast in the light downwind but upwind the boat has good performance. I have been sailing with good crew for 20 years and we have three Figaro sailors on board for this championship, who are great all-round sailors and comfortable in a smaller boat. This race did suit the smaller yachts, as we arrived in Cherbourg at maximum speed with the tide; but judging the tide in the Channel is very difficult as the wind can vary so much. The course was excellent for this race, perfect for the conditions."
Le Havre skipper Noel Racine, racing JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew, was the winner of IRC Four and second overall. Louis-Marie Dussere, also from Normandy, racing JPK 10.10, Raging Bee, was the winner of the IRC Two Handed Class. Raging Bee now has a commanding lead in the two handed division for the season. Michel Peretie's French A40, Stamina III, was the winner of IRC Two, taking line honours for the class.
British success in the De Guingand Bowl Race came for Nick Jones from Chichester, Sussex, racing First 44.7, Lisa. Nick and his team won IRC One and was placed third overall. Two British yachts returning to RORC racing this season were also victorious. Philip Rann's Frers 92, Bristolian, skippered by John Burnie, was the winner of IRC Zero and placed fourth overall. Tony Lawson's Concise8, skippered by Jack Trigger, won the Class40 division, and Hampshire skipper John Allinson, racing J/109 Jumbuck, was third in IRC Three, beating seven other J/109s to Cherbourg.
The race committee led by RORC Racing Manager Nick Elliott, set a 146-mile course for the De Guingand Bowl Race. Starting between two committee boats, east of Cowes, the fleet headed east out of the Solent past No Man's Land Fort, Owers and Rampion Met Mast before returning to Owers then past St.Catherine's Point. Along the south side of the Isle of Wight the fleet encountered a variety of wind conditions, on their way to the Needles Fairway Buoy, before heading south to cross the English Channel. IMOCA 60, Artemis Ocean Racing, skippered by Mikey Ferguson, took line honours for the race, completing the course in under 13 hours. Most of the fleet took 20 hours or more to complete the race.
Nick Jones', skipper of Lisa, winner of IRC One and third overall had good reason to finish the race quickly. "When you have Géry Trentesaux closing in from behind in a little boat and the Maxi Bristolian long disappeared over the horizon, you don't really expect to come third overall, so it was a bit of a surprise to get on the podium. Judging the tide across the channel was key, we have done it so many times before but you have to factor in the wind strength. We had about 12 knots at a 50 degree wind angle and we were confident that this was stable, but we hedged our bets a little earlier on. But hour by hour we changed our tactics and eventually put the bow down and went for it. As I say, a bit of a surprise to do so well overall but I personally I had another incentive, my wife Suzie couldn't be with us as she is about to give birth to our first child but I have managed to make it home before the arrival.
After the race, an informal Prize Giving was held at the Yacht Club de Cherbourg attended by over 200 sailors. Bottles of Champagne were given to prize winners by RORC Commodore Michael Boyd. Racing for the RORC Season's Points Championship continues with the East Coast Race from Burnham to Ostend on the 12th June.

Published in RORC

#rorc – With over 400 yachts crewed by thousands of sailors from over 30 different nations, the 2015 Royal Ocean Racing Club's (RORC) Season's Points Championship has the largest fleet of offshore racing yachts anywhere in the world. This year, under Irish Commodore Michael Boyd, the RORC is celebrating its 90th anniversary and a record attendance is highly likely.

The first race of the series in the English Channel was the Cervantes Trophy Race, which started on 2nd May 2015. Organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club in association with the Société des Régates du Havre and the Royal Yacht Squadron, the 114 yachts entered were set a 135 nautical mile course from the Squadron Line to Le Havre.

The first leg took the fleet downwind to Anvil Point and the DZB Buoy, with 20 knots of wind from the east. It was a terrific start to the race and with spinnakers set most yachts were enjoying double digit boat speed. The wind was funnelling through Hurst Narrows and the increased wind speed caused a good few broaches, but back under control, the competitors continued downwind to Anvil Point where it was spinnakers down and on to the wind for the 100 mile leg towards Le Havre. The forecast was showing a massive shift in the wind direction from easterly through the south to settle in the southwest. With this in mind most of the boats stayed on port tack and headed for the Cap de la Hague in anticipation of the change. With the forecast changing and rain squalls running up the channel the crossing of the Baiy de la Seine and negotiating the tricky tidal streams and shifty winds was to prove a crucial part of the race.
Géry Trentesaux's new JPK 10.80, Courrier Du Leon was the overall winner, taking under 20 hours to complete the course. "This is the first time we have raced the boat and we are delighted with the performance." smiled Géry. "We haven't really tuned up the boat but she will be a nice fast boat once we have had some time on the water. IRC 3 is a very competitive class and it looks like this will be a really good season. The Cervantes Trophy Race had a lot of upwind sailing and I was very surprised how fast Courrier Du Leon was on the wind. The key area of the race was the approach to le Havre, we stayed south and tacked just off Barfleur, which was perfect. Courrier Du Leon will be taking part in the North Sea Race and I am sure I speak for all sailors when I say, we will all miss Piet Vroon, who is not sailing at the moment due to a back operation. We all wish him a speedy recovery."

In IRC Canting Keel, IMOCA 60, Artemis Ocean Racing took Line Honours in 15hrs 23mins 58secs and the class win from Chris Le Prevost's IMOCA 60, Rosalba, sailed by Andy Greenwood. Derek Saunders' CM60, Venomous crewed by the Windward Sailing Team, was the winner of IRC Zero. Ned Collier Wakefield's Class40, Concise8 took the Class40 win, 22 minutes ahead of David Pearce's Forty Shades of Grey, with Bertrand Gregory's Rififi third.

In IRC One, there was an emphatic win for Nick Jones' First 44.7 Lisa, which won the class by nearly an hour on corrected time from Mark Emerson's Rodman 42, Phosphorus. Edward Broadway's Ker 40, Hooligan VII was third. In IRC Two, local sailor Gilles Fournier J/133 Pintia was the winner by just over ten minutes on corrected time and was also second overall Gilles was sailing with French legend Bruno Troublé who undoubtedly brought a lot of technical and tactical experience to the team. RORC Admiral, Andrew Mc Irvine's First 40, La Réponse sailed by Jason Owen was second in IRC One and Peter Rutter's Grand Soleil 43, Quokka 8, with RORC Commodore Michael Boyd on board, was third.

IRC Three was won by Courrier du Leon, just under ten minutes ahead of Eric Mordret's JPK10.80, Raphaello. Holders of the Fastnet Trophy, Pascal Loison's JPK 10.10, Night and Day was third, racing two-handed with his son Alexis. 25 yachts were racing in the Two Handed Class for the Cervantes Trophy. Night and Day was the winner by just under 20 minutes on corrected time from Rob Craigie's Sunfast 3600, Bellino. Louis-Marie Dussere's JPK10.10, Raging Bee, returned from the RORC Caribbean 600 to compete and placed third in the Two Handed Class, just 31 seconds behind Bellino.

Harry Heijst's S&S 41, Winsome revelled in the upwind conditions to win IRC Four, beating Noel Racine's JPK 10.10, Foggy Dew by just over six minutes after time correction. Ludovic Melnyk's JPK 9.60, Sous Mama Boulé racing Two Handed was third.

"The RORC Season's Points Championship is the premier offshore sailing series in the world" commented RORC Racing Manager Nick Elliott. "The 2015 series will see the fleet swelled by yachts competing for the RORC blue ribbon event, the Rolex Fastnet Race, which once again has struck a chord with Professional and Corinthian sailors alike."

At the beginning of May the yachts line up to get racing miles under their belts working towards the 300 nm offshore racing required to meet the experience qualification for the Rolex Fastnet Race, as well as scoring points towards the Season's Points Championship. The Cervantes Trophy had a terrific entry list and a big thank you to the Société des Régates du Havre that has once again hosted the finish, providing a fantastic welcome for all of the participants."
Racing for the RORC Season's Points Championship continues with the 181 nautical mile North Sea Race from Harwich to Scheveningen, which starts on Friday 15th May. For full details of results for the Cervantes Trophy Race and the racing schedule for the RORC Season's Points Championship visit http://www.rorc.org

Published in RORC

The RORC Caribbean 600 started from Antigua on Monday 23rd February 2015. The 600nm course circumnavigates 11 Caribbean Islands starting from Fort Charlotte, English Harbour, Antigua and heads north as far as St Martin and south to Guadeloupe taking in Barbuda, Nevis, St Kitts, Saba and St Barth's, finishing back in Antigua. 

Published in RORC
Tagged under

#caribbean600 – 66 yachts started the 7th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 yesterday, with hundreds of race fans watching the impressive fleet from Fort Charlotte and Shirley Heights. Irish crews are racing in several boats across the fleet, details of some are here. After a classic start in 15 knots of easterly trade winds, the fleet powered past the Pillars of Hercules, heading for Green Island where they will bear away and accelerate towards Barbuda, the only mark of the 600-mile course around 11 stunning Caribbean islands.

Lloyd Thornburg's MOD 70 Phaedo3, with Michel Desjoyeaux and Brian Thompson on board, had a conservative start with Petro Jonker's cruising catamaran, Quality Time crossing the line first. Phaedo3 lit the blue touch paper at Green Island, blasting through the surf at well over 30 knots. The lime-green machine reached Barbuda in less than two hours, well ahead of record pace and eight miles ahead of Peter Aschenbrenner's Irens 63, Paradox.

In the second start, 19 yachts in IRC Two and Three started the 600-mile race. For most of the crews racing in the smaller yachts it will be three or four days before they complete the challenge. Ed Fishwick's Sunfast 3600, Redshift, skippered by Nick Cherry, got a great start at the pin-end with Ross Applebey's Oyster 48, Scarlet Oyster, judging the inner distance mark to perfection. Andy Middleton's First 47.7, EH01 and Scarlet Oyster were the first yachts in IRC Two to reach Green Island and it is likely that these two will be neck-and-neck for the duration of the race. In IRC Three, Peter Scholfield's HOD 35, Zarafa was leading on the water at Green Island. However the Two Handed team racing Louis-Marie Dussere's JPK 10.10, Raging Bee was the leader in class after time correction.

Jonathan Bamberger's Canadian J/145, Spitfire and Joseph Robillard's S&S 68, Black Watch got the best start in the 15 strong fleet racing in IRC One. However, Jose Diego-Arozamena's Farr 72, Maximizer, revelled in the upwind start to lead on the water at Green Island. Oyster 625, Lady Mariposa, sailed by Daniel Hardy had a great leg to Green Island as did James Blakemore's Swan 53, Music which was leading after time correction.

The penultimate start featured 21 yachts racing in IRC Zero and Canting Keel, arguably the best fleet of offshore sailing yachts that has ever been seen in the Caribbean. A highly competitive start saw Piet Vroon's Ker 51, Tonnerre 4, win the pin, while Ron O'Hanley's Cookson 50, Privateer took the island shore route to perfection. Farr 100, Leopard sailed by Christopher Bake, also had a great start, controlling the boats to leeward heading for the Pillars of Hercules.

Hap Fauth's Maxi 72, Bella Mente had a sensational first leg of the race, rounding Green Island first out of the IRC Zero class, but all eyes were on George David's Rambler 88, as the powerful sled turned on the after burners. George David's new speed-machine could well break his own monohull course record; at Barbuda Rambler 88 was almost five miles ahead of the ghost track of the record set by Rambler 100.

Two of the world's most magnificent schooners were the last class to start. Athos and Adela started their match race in the pre-start and there is no doubt that the battle of the titans will continue throughout the race. Athos won the pre-start in some style, chasing Adela downwind and away from the line, before rounding up onto the breeze and crossing the line over a boat length ahead of her rival. However, Adela was far better suited to the beat up to Green Island and led as the two schooners continued their rivalry towards Barbuda.

Note: Liquid, Pamala C Baldwin's J/122 and Quality Time, Petro Jonker's Du Toit 51 catamaran retired at the start following boat damage. All of the crew are well.

Published in RORC

#rorc – Records are predicted to tumble for the seventh edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 this week, which has one of the most spectacular line ups of high performance boats racing anywhere in the world. Interviews with participating crews and practice action prior to the race start are contained in the above vid. A number of key Irish crews are competing including new RORC commodore Michael Boyd who features above. 

Published in RORC
Tagged under

#rorc – London's unique position at the crossroads of world sailing communications makes it a focus of attention in the winter months. Organisations of international standing will be having key administrative and decision-making meetings in the short non-sailing winter days, decisions which will impact on the coming season and the years beyond.

Sailing's world body, the International Sailing Federation, may take itself off in November to some choice destination resort for a week-long conference, with all expenses paid for the selected delegates. But the more specialist organisations rely to varying extents on voluntary workers with limited time and resources. Thus their constitutionally-required yearly gatherings tend to be compressed into just one day for an Annual General Meeting (AGM), with effective sub committees and executive officers being relied on to see that decisions made on that day are implemented through the coming year.

It has been a typical winter season in London with the AGM of the Royal Ocean Racing Club in December, and then January saw the annual log adjudication announcements of the Royal Cruising Club - it's a cruising achievement assessment process which goes back to 1896, while the club itself is far and away the world's most senior cruising organisation, as it dates back to 1880. The RCC meeting was then followed nine days later by the Annual General Meeting of the Old Gaffers Association, founded 1963 and now maturing very well as an international body.

There was nothing at all unusual in the fact of these three meetings being held. But it was unusual that, in all three gatherings, the leading roles were filled by Irish sailors. W M NIXON takes up the story.

When Michael Boyd became Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club on December 1st 2014, it was at the conclusion of a year in which Ireland had performed exceptionally well in the club's international racing programme, with a clear victory in the Brewin Dolphin Commodore's Cup series, while Anthony O'Leary's Ker 39 Antix from Cork became RORC "Yacht of the Year" after a season which included winning the club's National IRC Championship and being Captain's Boat in the Commodore's Cup squad.

But it was steady years of service on committees and in the secondary flag officer roles, rather than Irish success in the club's racing, which led to Michael Boyd's elevation to the top post, allied to his long personal involvement of participation in all the main RORC events, and many minor ones too.

And it was not the first time an Irish sailor has played a key role in this unique organisation. Back in August 1925 at its founding in Plymouth immediately after the first Fastnet Race, one of the seven skippers involved was Harry Donegan of Cork, whose 50ft cutter Gull had placed third overall in what was to prove a turning point in world sailing history.

Although the newly formed Ocean Racing Club was to more or less kidnap the Fastnet Rock to become one of its symbols, Donegan was the only skipper who had raced round it before. He had taken part in the time-honoured contests from Cork Harbour to West Cork, supporting Schull Regatta which dates back to 1884, while Baltimore regatta can probably claim similar longevity. And Harry Donegan knew West Cork well, having been producing privately distributed sailing directions for cruising enthusiasts to its harbours and anchorages since at least 1912.

But inevitably, with the RORC's initial concentration of keen and resource-rich boat-owners sailing from southeast England and focused on London, it was some time before there was another significant Irish presence in the administration of what was gradually developing as world offshore racing's central organization. However, by the 1960s, Denis Doyle of Cork was becoming much involved as a dedicated participant in the RORC offshore programme and on its committee, and by the 1970s he was a Flag Officer.

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Newly-elected RORC Commodore Michael Boyd at the Fastnet Rock

Yet it was not until 1994 that Ireland provided our first RORC Commodore, John Bourke of Dun Laoghaire. In addition to being a successful offshore skipper in his own right, he had frequently been Denis Doyle's navigator in Moonduster successes, he'd also been a navigator-tactician in Ireland's fourth-placed Admirals Cup tea in 1987's thirteen-team series (our best-ever AC placing, with the Dubois 40 Irish Independent helmed by Tim Goodbody winning the Fastnet overall), and he'd served as President of the Irish Yachting Association.

But John Bourke took over the lead role in the RORC when the times were changing rapidly. Rising costs and the increase in pure professional sailing meant that major international semi-Corinthian events like the Admirals Cup were in rapid decline. And the negative effects of the Fastnet Race disaster of 1979, when 15 lives had been lost, were still being felt in turnouts for RORC events, as much more stringent regulations had led to cost increases and more demanding qualifications for participation. Then too, changing perceptions of the requirements of family life meant that the relatively selfish pattern of offshore racing participants disappearing for frequent long weekends of racing were simply no longer acceptable.

Against that, the RORC had played a key role in co-ordinating and administering the new global International Offshore Rule for handicapping. Then when rapidly evolving boat design and building techniques meant that the IOR was no longer fit for purpose, the RORC was ideally placed to oversee the changeover to the International Rating Certificate (IRC) through experience gained with the administration of the Channel Handicap system, of which elements were kept secret in order to avoid computer-aided exploitation.

So by staying with what it did best, the RORC began to prosper again. As time passed, the sheer horror of the 1979 Fastnet was slowly healed in the memory, so much so that the simple reality is that nowadays, the mythology of '79 adds to the allure of the event. In other words, the entry limit of 340 boats for the Rolex Fastnet Race 2015 was virtually filled within hours of opening. The club really does have a problem of success.

Meanwhile, it has added to the complexity of its shoreside structures by merging with the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Cowes. So the RORC is now a club with two clubhouses. There's the historic townhouse HQ in St James's Place in the heart of fashionable London into which it was guided in its early days by ocean racing legend John Illingworth. And there's now a summer place right beside the Royal Yacht Squadron, a rambling building with a colourful history, as members of the Royal Corinthian YC had bought it in the first place from the noted London "hostess" Rosa Lewis, who transferred her boisterous hospitality operations to Cowes during the height of the summer season.

With the new setup possibly being perceived by some members and potential members from other areas and distant nations as too much of a London-Solent nexus, it's interesting to hear that the RORC membership is continuing to increase in a very encouraging way. Clearly, these are exciting times for an organisation of increased global standing, so it's fascinating to note that the two key players in today's RORC administration are keen sailors who took their first serious steps afloat at the same time at two ports just 54 miles apart on each side of the Irish Sea.

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Michael Boyd has his first offshore sailing experience aboard the first Asgard in 1969.

Michael Boyd (64) may work in a demanding London-based international consultancy, and his Irish home may be in the depths of the country in the hidden northern reaches of County Meath, but in sailing terms he's Dun Laoghaire through and through. His father Liam was a stalwart of the Dublin Bay 21 class, and his own first forays offshore were as a youthful trainee aboard the 51ft ketch Asgard under Captain Eric Healy's command during the early days of the historic vessel's six seasons as Ireland's sail training vessel from 1969 to 1974.

At precisely the same time, just across channel in North Wales, his contemporary the young Eddie Warden-Owen was cutting a swathe through dinghy sailing at Treardur Bay and Holyhead. Very quickly, with a GP14 called Gwladys, he was achieving national success, and that in turn led to a career in sail-making and then on to professional sailing at the very top level – his success as coach in making a formerly lacklustre Italian campaign into serious contenders in the America's Cup is now text-book material in advanced sailing courses.

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Michael Boyd's choice of a J/35 as his first serious offshore racer was a shrewd decision. He won the Round Ireland Race with the J/35 Big Ears in 1996, and more recently the J/35 has been one of the few exceptional boats to be inducted into American Sailing's Hall of Fame

As for Michael Boyd's sailing career, while it had to be fitted in with hyper-demanding international business commitments, he first really hit the headlines in 1996 with the overall win of the Round Ireland Race with his J/35 Big Ears. He was a regular and successful contender in RORC events, but these days his personal and family boat is through a partnership in the handsome Sparkman & Stephens-designed Maine-built performance cruising ketch Southerly, which is based at New Ross in County Wexford on the tidal section of the River Barrow, while his racing needs were met during 2014 by chartering the Grand Soleil 43 Quokka with fellow RIYC member Niall Dowling.

With Quokka, they were not only a much-valued part of the winning Irish Commodore's Cup team, but were top boat in Cork Week 2014 to win both the Hugh Coveney Cup and the historic 1859-vintage "Kinsale Kettle", a splendidly ornate and substantially-sized bit of Victorian silverware "which we were allowed to sit beside for just about ten minutes – there was no question of taking it home to Lobinstown".

The co-skipper of Quokka (they've chartered her again for 2015) is clearly an enthusiast who relishes our sport, and the ins and outs of sailing in all its ramifications. He makes an ideal person to be Commodore of the RORC at an important juncture in its development, and with Eddie Warden-Owen as the club's CEO, he has a kindred spirit with whom ideas can be developed and implemented at impressive speed.

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Eddie Warden-Owen, CEO of the rapidly-developing Royal Ocean Racing Club. He was starting to hone his renowned racing skills at Holyhead just 54 miles across channel from Dun Laoghaire where, at exactly the same time, Michael Boyd was starting his sailing career.

So when your reporter had lunch with the new Commodore just eight days ago, he should have kept the main man strictly on track for a serious discussion of the challenges that club and sport face. And so we did for a while. But when you're with somebody with Michael Boyd's personal enthusiasm for participation sailing, dusty discussions on administrative matters have to run in parallel with wide-ranging and entertaining talk of sailing, boats, sailing folk and the wonders of the sea – the man certainly knows his boats and places and people .

Underneath it all, there was a good impression of the necessary range of his activities – for instance, in the week he became Commodore, he had to be in France for the RORC's Paris Dinner linked to the annual Boat Show there, and he is keenly aware of the club's global spread and the significance of people like Piet Vroon of the Netherlands and the Gouy family of France with their truly international approach to the sport and their regular participation in the Round Ireland Race.

Looking to the west, the club has a strong presence in the Americas, which has been reinforced with the annual RORC Caribbean 600 every February since 2009. This year it will see an uplift in the entries by hundred footers, notably by Syd Fischer's "new hull/original deck and rig" Ragamuffin 100 fresh from the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, another event in which IRC is the key handicap system.

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Definitely a sport for life. Syd Fischer, 87-year-old legend of Australian sailing, with the new hull for his hundred footer Ragamuffin just a few months before the recent Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race. Ragamuffin made it in time for the race, she took third on line honours, and now she is being shipped to Antigua to race the RORC Caribbean 600 in February.

But although in Australia the IRC is administered by Hobart race organisers the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, for the biennial Rolex Fastnet in August and annual Rolex Middle Sea Race from Malta in October, the RORC's Rating Office, based in Lymington under the direction of Mike Urwin, is directly in charge. The Rating Office celebrated 30 years of the IRC Rule in 2014 with a growth in ratings issued after a slight decline during the years of economic recession, and the Lymington unit's unrivalled breadth of experience in the ways of bots and designers and offshore racing give it a special worldwide standing, yet another factor in the RORC's unique position in global sailing.

With their combined experience and proven administrative and international skills, the Boyd/Warden-Owen team are able to provide such formidable leadership for an organization which is central to our sport that they are able to do so in an under-stated way which is ideal for dealing with the highly-individualistic characters who are the leaders in their sport.

So when the London sailing-decision-season started in December with the new setup brought into being in the RORC, clearly things were moving in the right direction. Whether they continued to do so with the next item on the agenda, the Royal Cruising Club awards on January 8th, only time will tell. For this time round, I was the one in the hot seat adjudicating, and you feel the hand of history firmly on your shoulder when you're allocating a trophies which have been won in times past by the likes of Conor O'Brien.

But we'll return to that particular restrospective at the conclusion of this article – meanwhile, how did things go at the Old Gaffers Association AGM last Saturday? Sean Walsh of the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association became the first overall president from outside the southeast of England a year ago, so this was the first AGM under his guidance throughout, and it's not a task for the faint-hearted.

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Sean Walsh, President of the OGA, sailing in company with the 100ft Viking ship Sea Stalllion.

As the Old Gaffers Association, with its 5,000-plus members in nine countries, is run almost entirely on a voluntary basis, their AGM is virtually a day long affair, a conference really, which started with an intense General Management Committee meeting (the GMC is made up of the Presidents and Hon Secs of each of the many branches) which is a two hour affair which started at 11am and concluded with a brief lunch break before the fully-fledged AGM took up the entire afternoon and went on well into the evening, a four hours-plus session which was to satisfactorily cover an exceptional range of topics.

The OGA may have had fairly casual get-togethers and an annual race or two as its main activities when it was founded in 1963. But now it has evolved into an active group with an impressively developing website and a widespread season-long programme which still has to take account of the notable individuality of the membership and the astonishing variety of their boats.

They even have a very active trailer section in which characterful yet trailerable gaff-rigged boats can suddenly appear in significant numbers at remote sailing locations – the highest lake in Wales, for instance – and they're developing the concept of "Raids" in attractive cruising areas. In these, the fleet keeps together by a relaxed form of racing in which the boat which has got into the lead is only allowed to stay there for five minutes, then she's obliged to go to the back of the fleet. If using the idea for larger slower-manoeuvring boats, you'd probably make the time at the front of the fleet a bit longer, but nevertheless it's a concept of great potential.

As for activities on the sea, while the main focus of 2014 was the Cruise-in-Company in the Netherlands to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Dutch branch, in 2015 the focus will be on two cruises-in-company, one to St Malo in northeast Brittany to accommodate the large fleet numbers on the south coast of England and on both sides of the southern North Sea, and the other – aimed at the fleets in southwest England and on both sides of the Irish Sea – assembling at Kinsale on July 17th.

This fleet will go on westward for a week centred around the Glandore Classics, though with forays to the Fastnet Rock and other nearby ports. Glandore will then be followed by a further two weeks cruising towards West Kerry with a circuit of Skellig Michael the target, followed by more leisurely cruising homewards. In all, an epic three week venture which, like the OGA's successful Golden Jubilee Round Britain Cruise-in-Company in 2013, will probably see some boats joining and leaving at different intervals, though for most, staying the complete and very scenic course will be the target.

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Cine Mara from The Netherlands. Rik Janssen's steel-built version of a traditional Galway Hooker, seen in Dublin Bay during the OGA Golden Jubilee Cruise-in-Company in 2013, was one of the flagships for 2014's Tenth Anniversary Cruise-in-Company for the Dutch Branch of the OGA. She is expected back in Ireland for the 2015 Glandore Classics in July, and the subsequent Old Gaffers Cruise-in-Company to West Cork and Kerry. Photo: Barry O'Loughlin

What with their intense GMC meeting in the morning, closely followed by his four hours and more of moderating the AGM in the afternoon over an exceptional range of topics, Sean Walsh and his team had a busy day of it. But as with any successful body, by the conclusion of the meeting the administrative officers were themselves re-enthused by the energy and commitment of their members. And from the Irish point of view, it certainly means that from July 18th to 24th we're going to have a CH Marine Glandore Classics Regatta 2015 on an unprecedented scale.

By contrast, the Royal Cruising Club works on the notion that small is beautiful. It has only 400 full members, but with a big history going back to 1880 when it was founded in London by a Trinity College Dublin graduate called Arthur Underhill, and its Challenge Cup goes back to 1896, which makes it far and away the world's senior cruising trophy.

In the early days, there were those cruising people who sniffed at the very idea of a "cruising competition". But contests such as this encourage the keeping of proper logs, which is an integral part of seamanship. And in an activity which is remarkably difficult to quantify, qualify and annotate, the story of the many winners gives us an unrivalled narrative of the development of cruising and cruising boats over the past 118 years.

Certainly it's something which the RCC - after some initial and understandable reluctance back in the early days – now takes very seriously indeed, so much so that the identity of the judge is kept an almost complete secret until the announcements go public in early January, and only a couple of others in the communications side of the club know the outcome of his or her adjudications after they've been made in early December – even the Commodore is kept in the dark until the January revelation.

The use of "his or her" in relation to the judge reflects the nature of this extraordinary club, which seems to have always had women members paying an active role. So much so, in fact, that it wasn't until after I'd made the list public that it was pointed out to me that of the awardees, more than half were women sailors. I simply hadn't noticed – I was only trying to highlight the twelve best cruises out of an impressive total of 40 logs submitted.

Most of the awards are of a relatively private or specialist nature within the club, but the Challenge Cup is of public interest – in the early days of the BBC radio, its recipient would be revealed on the airwaves. And another main award, the Cruising Club of America Bowl – went to a boat of Irish interest, the 44ft steel-built gaff yawl Young Larry (Andrew & Maire Wilkes) which is well-known about Dungarvan, as Maire was noted West Waterford solo sailor Maire Breathnach before she teamed up with Andrew.

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The extensively-cruised steel gaff yawl Young Larry snugly moored in the pool just below the bridge in Dungarvan. Photo: Donal Walsh

This remarkable couple have also been recognised by the Irish Cruising Club, and in the spring they'll be presented with the ICC's Fastnet Trophy which is for exceptional achievements which have included a voyage circumnavigating North America, which of course included the east-west transit of the Northwest Passage. Having done and dusted the Northwest Passage, so to speak, in 2014 they returned to its southeastern approaches to cruise in detail the areas they'd to by-pass before, thus well-qualifying Young Larry for the CCA Bowl.

It's for a "cruise of any duration which includes a valuable contribution to Port and Pilotage information", and as Andrew and Maire's account of their cruise – which was via Ireland, Scotland, the Faeroes, Iceland, Greenland, Baffin island and Labrador before laying up for the winter in Newfoundland – is replete with sailing directions and anchorage information (sometimes obtained while in almost-too-close contact with polar bears), they fitted the Americans' requirements perfectly.

The Challenge Cup for the best cruise of the year has always had strong Irish associations, as in 1896 its first awardee (you don't "win" cruising trophies) was Dr Howard Sinclair of Belfast for a cruise round Ireland in his 23ft cutter Brenda. The pace and scale soon quickened, for in 1923, '24 and '25 it was awarded three years on the trot to Conor O'Brien of Foynes for his unprecedented global circumnavigation south of the great Capes in the Baltimore-built 40ft ketch Saoirse.

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The Baltimore-built Saoirse. Conor O'Brien of Foynes was awarded the RCC Challenge Cup in 1923, 1924, and 1925 during his unprecedented global circumnavigation south of the great Capes in this 40ft ketch

More recently, Peter Guinness – originally of Howth – was awarded it in 1960 for an extensive cruise with the cutter Rob Roy McGregor, and then John Gore-Grimes from the same home port took it in 1985 for an exceptional Arctic cruise in the Nich 31 Shardana, the same skipper being honoured again for a long voyage north of Russia with the Najad 441 Arctic Fern in 2003.

Those who think the icy northern wastes are best left to polar bears will be cheered to learn that for 2014, I awarded the Challenge Cup to a sweet little own-built 34ft junk-rigged schooner which skipped across the oceans in the warmer zones like a flying fish. Then when she reached the end of each ocean voyage, her husband-and-wife crew would cruise each coastline visited as though that was the only cruise they'd be doing all year – in other words, with total enthusiasm and genuine interest in the people they met in some very obscure places.

But then, when you've a Jay Benford-designed Badger class schooner which you built yourself, you can comfortably fit in anywhere without offending the sensibilities of the locals by a gross display of affluence. Charlotte Waters – who is an artist – and her master craftsman/furniture designer husband Dan Johnson built their little boat Hestur with very limited resources near their cottage at Ullapool in Wester Ross in northwest Scotland. In their first season of 2013, they cruised to the Canaries via northwest Spain, then through 2014 they cruised on to West Africa and journeyed far up the Gambia River just before the outbreak of ebola, then went safely on their way to Cape Verde, across the Atlantic to cruise the Caribbean in detail, then on to Bermuda, the Azores, southwest Ireland, North Wales and so home to Ullapool leaving a very minimal carbon footprint in a voyage very worthy of the world's most senior cruising award.

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Small and simple is beautiful and just right in a good cruising boat. Seen here far up the Gambia River in West Africa, this is the own-built Badger class schooner Hestur, whose owners Charlotte Watters and Dan Johnson of Ullapool in Scotland cruised extensively around and across the Atlantic. They have been awarded the RCC Challenge Cup for 2014. Photo: Charlotte Watters

Published in W M Nixon
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