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The Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) has announced scoring details for its annual Boat of the Year Award.

The overall prize was unable to be awarded last year due to COVID-19's impact on the cruiser-racer season.

For 2021 and onwards, a boat's 'Boat of the Year' score for a given year shall be the sum of the boat's Event Scores from the 'boat of the year events' listed by ICRA in that year. (See 'ICRA BOTY 2. EVENTS' below for 2021)

A boat's Event Score for a given event shall be its best Division Score from that event multiplied by the events Event Weighting.

A boat's Division Score shall be based on its overall series placing in an IRC division at the event:  3 points for 1st, 2 points for 2nd, 1 point for 3rd

ICRA BOTY 2. EVENTS

CATEGORY 1: CHAMPIONSHIP EVENTS; EVENT WEIGHTING X2

  • ICRA National Championships
  • Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Yacht Race

CATEGORY 2: NATIONAL REGATTA; EVENT WEIGHTING X1.5

  • Sovereigns Cup
  • Calves Week
  • WIORA

CATEGORY 3: REGIONAL EVENTS: EVENT WEIGHTING X1

  • HYC Autumn League
  • DBSC Thursday Series
  • ISORA Irish Coastal Series
  • RCYC Autumn League

ICRA BOTY 3. PRIZES

The ICRA Boat of the Year Trophy shall be awarded to the boat qualifying for ICRA membership with the highest Boat of the Year Score for that year. The trophy shall be presented at the ICRA Annual Conference, usually held in March.

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"Sailing is a lifestyle activity which evolves as an expression of a vehicle sport afloat". There you go. So now you know. And please note that it's "lifestyle" and not "lifetime", though the latter also applies. Yet you were thinking it was just boats and sailing………….

This definition is a Sailing on Saturday distillation of several attempts at pinning down our sometimes incomprehensible aquatic interests for a wider world, and it results from many nautical minds devoting themselves to some deep thought during the pandemic lock-downs.

The irony is that those who are good at sailing in its competitive aspects will probably seldom think at all – in fact, probably not at all - about what exactly they're doing in the broader sense. For them, focus on specific performance-improving actions is totally dominant, they just get on with it, with their absorption in activity so totally involving every aspect of their being in the moment, and in what they're doing, that it effectively excludes any mental space for self-indulgent semi-philosophical reflection.

Nevertheless, the effects of the pandemic, the way we handled it while it was at its height, the way various organisations in sailing and boating made the best of the situation as it obtained at different stages, plus the way we're coping as we somewhat unevenly emerge (and let's hope we are emerging, for a Civil War in Japan over the Olympics wouldn't surprise us at all) tells us much about ourselves and our sailing and boating interests.

Going down the mine? At such times, the lone sailor is unlikely to be reflecting on whether or not sailing is a lifestyle activity that evolves as an expression of vehicle sport afloat.   Going down the mine? At such times, the lone sailor is unlikely to be reflecting on whether or not sailing is a lifestyle activity that evolves as an expression of vehicle sport afloat 

Overall, the abiding impression in Ireland has been of a notably cohesive and responsible society. Oh for sure, there were those who selfishly transgressed - some quite spectacularly. But in general, and certainly among those in the sailing and boating community, the sense was of a shared responsibility to keep things under control in a self-policing way, without requiring some government agency to mount some sort of patrols.

Yet equally, there was an obligation – and it really was an obligation – to get in as much sailing as possible when it was permitted during periods of easing. But even here, there were those who indicated that they preferred to sit it out until the complete all-clear was confirmed, and sailors were good at understanding and respecting the wishes of their fellow-enthusiasts who saw it that way.

In terms of achieving activity afloat, it became a case of the smaller and more specialist the organization and form of sailing involved, the more nimble it could be in having sailing while complying with the regulations of the moment. Single-handed dinghies made hay, with the Lasers in Dun Laoghaire a particular case in point, while two-handed races found their time has come, with Howth's annual Aqua Restaurant Two-Hander in July having its best turnout ever.

Just add water – Drascombes gathered on one of Ireland remotest waterways, on the uppermost Shannon where it enters Lough Allen. Thanks to a mastery of communications, the compact Drascombe Association are well able for what are in effect pop-up eventsJust add water – Drascombes gathered on one of Ireland remotest waterways, on the uppermost Shannon where it enters Lough Allen. Thanks to a mastery of communications, the compact Drascombe Association are well able for what are in effect pop-up events.

But in a very different area of sailing interest, the Drascombe Association in Ireland had one of their busiest seasons. It's a curious reality that the more quaint the boat involved, the more up-to-speed at within-class communications are those involved with sailing them.

The diverse standing army of Drascombe fans may not be completely happy with their prides-and-joy being described as "quaint", so let us assuage them by commenting that when the time is right, all you need to do is add water for an efficiently organised smoothly-communicated Drascombe gathering to take place, and 2020's expeditions up the River Boyne and into the remotest corners of Lough Corrib were classic cases in point.

The larger class organisations such as the notably effective GP 14 Association of Ireland found themselves more restricted, particularly as their originally-planned seasons had involved bringing international fleets to Ireland. But they maintained good lines of communication to members, which leaves them well-placed to accelerate into action when sailing resumes full time.

Thanks to 136 years of race organisation experience, Dublin Bay SC was able to demonstrate how to get "the mostest boats out there the fastest" whenever restrictions were raised. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'BrienThanks to 136 years of race organisation experience, Dublin Bay SC was able to demonstrate how to get "the mostest boats out there the fastest" whenever restrictions were raised. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien

When many restrictions were lifted for two months last summer, Dublin Bay Sailing Club got the mostest afloat the fastest, and for sheer effectiveness in these unprecedented circumstances, it's the groupings which amount to virtual organisations which have proven themselves the most nimble in providing sport, but it sometimes seemed the fewer involved in the actual running of events, then the more effective it became.

Rudyard Kipling once wrote an odd poem called Winners, whose sentiments were dismissed by George Orwell as being vulgar. Be that as it may, its regularly drummed-home theme was in the two lines:

"Down to Gehenna, or up to the Throne,
He travels the fastest who travels alone".

It's natural to think of its sentiments as coarse selfishness. Yet in running the Irish side of ISORA, Peter Ryan has been largely travelling alone, but it has been for the most unselfish of reasons – the speedy provision of events which comply with regulations yet provide the necessary training buildup for the glamour event which we hope will signal that as good a sailing season as we can reasonably expect in 2021 is getting underway, and that's the National YC's Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race on June 9th.

The smile on the face of the tiger…..Peter Ryan of ISORA says little but does a lot - largely working on his own – such that suddenly the offshore fleet finds itself with viable training races.   The smile on the face of the tiger…..Peter Ryan of ISORA says little but does a lot - largely working on his own – such that suddenly the offshore fleet finds itself with viable training races.  

We're now in a sort of limbo for the next two weeks with "Training Racing" permitted, but full-blown sport afloat not permissible until Monday, June 7th, and even then there will still be restrictions ashore, which means that effectively only half of our "lifestyle activity" can be fully activated.

Quite what a "Training Race" involves could be a matter of debate, and there were those who commented that last weekend's vigorous 35-mile ISORA Training Race from Dun Laoghaire looked very much like proper racing under another name.

The inaugural ISORA Training Race 2021 last weekend reinforced the feeling that the best training for offshore racing is going offshore racing. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien   The inaugural ISORA Training Race 2021 last weekend reinforced the feeling that the best training for offshore racing is going offshore racing. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien  

"Not so" say those who took part. Many crews were very surprised by just how rusty they were at various sail changing exercises, which normally ran as smoothly as a frequently-rehearsed ballet movement in the old days. And then as further proof it was "just training", the result was changed after the first post-race announcement when it was discovered that Outrajeous, the J/109 part-owned by Irish Cruiser-Racer Association Commodore Richard Colwell, was racing with an outdated and higher rating than was actually the case. In real racing, you usually expect the results to be based on the rating you enter with, but in Training Racing, it seems you're cut a bit of slack.

(Richard Colwell writes: Reading your article this morning. A point of order required. Outrajeous did enter under our correct rating, it was provided to the organisers 5 days before the training event happened, but was NOT updated by the event organisers in their files till afterwards! )

Ben Colwell and his father Richard (ICRA Commodore) aboard the J/109 OutrajeousBen Colwell and his father Richard (ICRA Commodore) aboard the J/109 Outrajeous.

Nevertheless, when the venerable Dublin Bay Water Wags went out in Dun Laoghaire for their first two "Training Races" on Wednesday of this week – a weekly programme for which 21 boats have signed up – it looked for a while as though officialdom at the highest level was keeping an eye on them to see if their training is for real. For the Naval Service's LE George Bernard Shaw came into port in such a way that the word is the "Training Race Officer" had to cancel the first race because of "an obstruction on the course".

"What's going on here then?" We are assured that the Naval Service's LE George Bernard Shaw was not on a Training-Not-Racing Patrol when she arrived into Dun Laoghaire on Wednesday in the midst of the Water Wags' first Training Race of the season.   "What's going on here then?" We are assured that the Naval Service's LE George Bernard Shaw was not on a Training-Not-Racing Patrol when she arrived into Dun Laoghaire on Wednesday in the midst of the Water Wags' first Training Race of the season.

"Power gives way to sail…." The view from the bridge on the LE George Bernard Shaw as a Dun Laoghaire Water Wag nips across"Power gives way to sail…." The view from the bridge on the LE George Bernard Shaw as a Dun Laoghaire Water Wag nips across.

However, the whisper on the waterfront is that every so often the navy ships are in Dun Laoghaire on a mock gunnery exercise to see how quickly they could level the still-controversial DLR Lexicon in the same way as the Helga did in the GPO in 1916. And the experience gained in such training could of course be re-directed to eliminating the proposed superstition-rejecting 13-storey apartment block supposedly approved for the Dun Laoghaire waterfront.

Be that as it may, sending a gunboat to check out whether or not the Water Wags really were on a Training Race would be an absurd waste of resources at a time when the Russians are clearly softening up the country – through preliminary cyber-attacks – for some sort of invasion. For as one experienced Water Wag sailor observed:

"In a fleet as diverse in sailing style as the Water Wags, it is always easy to discern a significant number of boats which are quite clearly involved in some sort of training exercise, rather than in any serious racing".

Nevertheless, the Water Wags can now cherish an unprecedented entry to their lengthy record of racing, which goes back to 1887:

Wednesday, May 19th 2021:

Training Race 1: Cancelled mid-race due to intervention of gunboat.

Training Race 2: Cancelled mid-race due to lack of wind.

Ominous sunset. Despite the calm which stopped the Water Wags second attempt at a Training Race on Wednesday, the late evening sky gave every sign of Thursday's approaching storm.Ominous sunset. Despite the calm which stopped the Water Wags second attempt at a Training Race on Wednesday, the late evening sky gave every sign of Thursday's approaching storm.

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A Dublin Bay-based race boat crew that have made modifications to their deck layout for the 2021 season require a flush-mounted deck compass to fit a 99-mm opening before the sailing season starts (hopefully) next month.

The Plastimo 95 model compass or similar would fit the bill, they say but it is proving hard to source.

Anyone with one of these vintage models in their spares box and willing to trade can get in touch through Afloat by email [email protected]afloat.ie (subject line; compass) and we'll be happy to make the connection.

Update on 29/4/2022 14.30hrs: Thanks to a generous reader a suitable compass has been found! 

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ICRA Commodore, Richard Colwell has welcomed two new Committee members, Saoirse Reynolds and Daragh Connelly to the ommittee of the national cruiser-racer body.

As Afloat reported previously, stepping down from their ICRA roles are Johanna Murphy who’s term as Commodore of SCORA is over and who is now focussing her energies on being President of Cobh Chamber of Commerce whilst race management expert, Cxema Pico steps down as ICRA Secretary. Cxema is one of Ireland’s foremost racing and rules experts and will remain very much involved in race management both domestically and internationally.

Daragh Connelly

Daragh Connelly began sailing aged 7 in Galway Bay Learning the basics of sailing on a traditional Galway Hooker with his grandfather, a keen sailor. Daragh moved to Cork and entered dinghy programme aged 12 in the Royal Cork Yacht Club moving through the stages and competing in the busy mirror circuit fleet and later moving into the laser fleet. Having been through the youth programme in RCYC and then qualifying as an instructor, Daragh spent his late teens and early 20s instructing and setting up an Adult Sailing programme on Nantucket Island with Nantucket Community Sailing and competing in J24s and International One Designs. Returning to Ireland, Daragh spent 15+ years competing in keelboat events onboard the multiple boats known as Yanks$Ffrancs and more recently has been sailing on Heroes & Villains in the competitive 1720 fleet. Daragh is Rear Admiral for Keelboats and sits on the Executive Committee in Royal Cork Yacht Club where he is also an active member of the Cork Week Committee. Daragh is also is chair of SCORA with the goal of promoting coastal and offshore sailing on the South Coast of Ireland.

Saoirse Reynolds

Saoirse Reynolds provides a hugely important link to the younger sailors and is a most welcome addition to the ICRA Committee. Saoirse started sailing dinghies in Dun Laoghaire when she was about 9 and got into sailing bigger boats through family friends and the Rona Sailing Project in Southampton. She started racing at the age of 16 when an injury forced her to stop playing my other sports. Saoirse started instructing around this time also. She has raced lots of different boats over the past few years including RS200s, A35s, J109s, a J122, SB20s and J80s.

Saoirse Reynolds - important link to younger sailorsSaoirse Reynolds - important link to younger sailors

She has competed in ICRA Nationals, Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regattas, Cowes Week, many ISORA races, the D2D and the Fastnet Race over the past couple of years. More recently, she is a regular crew on the J97 Windjammer and also sometimes on the J122 Aurelia. Saoirse is a mentee with the Magenta Project, an organisation founded by members of Team SCA from the Volvo Ocean Race. The aim of the programme is to accelerate female sailors to the top of sailing and is also being mentored by successful RORC sailor Deb Fish. Saoirse is hugely involved in the K25 programme having come through its ranks and acts as a link and mentor in conjunction with Brian Raftery who heads this initiative

ICRA Committee member, Denis Byrne has stepped in as ICRA Secretary.

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The Irish Cruiser Racing Association's (ICRA) Under 25 programme got a good response but more needs to be done to stop the decline in IRC spinnaker racing numbers. That's the verdict from the Dun Laoghaire Harbour waterfront where boats from 30 to 50 feet struggle to find crews for regular racing duty.

Half of all cruiser racers (and maybe more) race 'under crewed', such is the shortage of skilled crew on Dublin Bay, Ireland's biggest yacht centre.

A typical 'Cruiser One' 35-footer needs a crew of nine, and being short of crew impacts performance in two main ways; lack of weight upwind in a breeze and mark rounding manoeuvres - hoists and drops of spinnakers, particularly.

Mark rounding in breeze depends on crew work Photo: AfloatMark rounding in breeze depends on crew work Photo: Afloat

Trying to find crew or race a boat not full crewed can be a frustrating experience, as many owners have been telling Afloat.

Sailing is perhaps the ultimate team sport where it is necessary for each person in a manoeuvre to perform their job exactly right at exactly the right time – especially under spinnaker (above and below) Photo: Afloat

For every 35-footer, you need a crew panel of approximately 20 people to ensure that you are fully crewed for every event in a season, requiring considerable people management.

It's one of the reasons why the IRC spinnaker fleets at the heart of the cruiser racing scene are shrinking as owners are finding alternative ways to race their boats without the hassle of a crew search every time they want to go sailing.

A spinnaker drop on a Cruisers Zero class yachtA spinnaker drop on a Cruisers Zero class yacht

Another reason is the cost of maintaining a full spec IRC racing boat.

Two such alternatives are white sails and coastal racing, where there is either no spinnakers used or fewer manoeuvres meaning less cost and crewing requirements.

Peter Ryan of ISORA, who runs coastal and offshore racing from Dun Laoghaire, has seen an uptake in this form of racing that has been well documented in Afloat. Ryan says, "we don't try to take people away from racing inshore in the Bay; they're just joining us because we offer an accessible alternative."

Coastal racing is growing in popularity in Dublin Racing along the Dublin and Wicklow coast is growing in popularity, one reason is that fewer crew and manoeuvres are needed Photo: Afloat

The problem is not new by any means, but this migration is now seriously affecting IRC spinnaker numbers on the Bay both for club racing and regattas.

ICRA has launched an Under 25 crew programme to introduce more young people to cruiser-racing.

The scheme envisages extending Howth and Sligo Yacht Clubs' experience where the then Commodore of ICRA more or less 'donated' his J24 keelboat or entrusted it to a group of U25s to maintain and campaign it with supervision and some success.

The idea is to try and get other clubs to do the same, e.g. get an old J24 (the cheapest 'cruiser/racer' boat money can buy, even though this is pushing the boundaries of the definition of cruiser-racer) and get the U25s of any given club the chance to raise the 'operating' money and then-campaign the boat as an entrée to the national cruiser-racer fleet.

Unfortunately, its launch coincided with Covid, so it is so far hard to judge the project's success, but ICRA Commodore Richard Colwell told Afloat in February; "We are now seeing the positive result of what started many years ago at Howth Yacht Club in focusing on the Under 25s, which was then taken up by ICRA and by clubs around the country. It is really encouraging."

Afloat took some soundings at Dun Laoghaire and found the concept itself has been enthusiastically received. There are reservations, though, about whether this can tackle the ongoing crew problems on the capital's waters.

After the bloodletting in Irish cruiser-racer administration of some years ago, there is a reluctance in this tight-knit community to criticise the efforts of volunteer committees, especially now that ICRA appears to be back on an even keel. Still, there was no shortage of 'off the record' comments about what is needed to support cruiser-racing activity on the Bay.

A repeated view is that the often mooted crew training programme (going back as far as 2013) should be put in place instead of trying to get under 25-year-olds to buy boats.

ICRA aims to foster young people's partnerships to pitch in together and buy a cruiser/racer boat and eventually campaign. It's a lovely idea, but it is battling with a 'boat ownership' model that is seriously under threat.

The problem is that U25s and young people, in general, have many 'calls' on the purse strings (going out, travelling and a mortgage (if that's even a possibility).

The money behind the scheme or the budgetary 'effort' asked from the participating clubs is geared towards the very low end of cruiser racing. But, on Dublin Bay, sailors of this age group are pretty much spoilt for choice in the lively DBSC five cruiser division scene.

A J109 with a nine man crew on Dublin BayAbove and below) Top Dublin Bay J109s race with a crew of up nine

Dublin Bay J109

Keen U25s have no problem crewing on 'exciting' DBSC boats such as J109s, A35s etc., without making any financial commitment.

Trying to convince such a cohort to 'downsize' to a more basic starter boat and pay for this privilege is one thing but doing so also has the knock-on effect of removing young blood from the - already short - existing crew panels of larger yachts.

A further issue is that the leading clubs at Dun Laoghaire and Howth have either 1720s and J80s already in situ as club sportsboats. However, the 1720s don't comply with the definition of cruiser-racers and J80s, like J24s, only barely meet the criteria.

"A targeted boat closer in spirit should be, say, the Ruffian 23. In ICRA's mind, however, they'd like to see U25s teams at ICRA Nationals, e.g. boats have to be towable", one Dublin Bay sailor told Afloat.

Although Bay sailors are pleased to see some action taken on the matter, there's quite a few who don't think it can work in Dun Laoghaire. "It's tough to see any outcomes", Afloat was told. Another owner went further by saying, "it was like giving out money but addressing nothing".

Some harbour sailing professionals say ICRA might be better served by investing in coaching (including the U25s) who are keen on taking up racing or improving skills.

Equally, though, boat owners also need to up their game and be prepared to invest in such training. It's often the case that those most desperate for crew don't bother to train or create a 'team spirit on board, so in some sense, they have only themselves to blame for the situation.

Successful skippers, on the other hand, have no problem attracting crew. These boats allocate positions based on skills and are models for others to follow.

"People have got lazy", one skipper told Afloat, (admitting he's lazy himself). "To retain new crew, owners need to pay attention to training, welcome crew as a full member of a team and be prepared to promote them. I'm sometimes appalled how some skippers treat crews", he added.

"Until it is fully recognised as a team sport there, will continue to be a shortage of crew.  I don't know why more skippers don't view Tuesday evenings as an opportunity to introduce/train crews away from the full-blooded Thursday racing. How often in sailing do you hear a crew saying we are training that day or evening?", was another comment from an experienced IRC crew member.

While there is ad hoc crew training available, it's a widely held view that the whole cruiser crew coaching area needs to be taken by the scruff of the neck.

It is an opportunity for ICRA - or somebody - to put a system in place and get buy-in from owners.

If successful, it could lead to more people getting more fun from sailing and reverse the decline in IRC numbers to boot.

Covid has changed a lot of things over the past 12 months. People are starting to appreciate what's on their doorsteps a lot more and make the most of outdoor activities.

This attitude has lead to a renewed interest in sailing, racing, and 'socialising' around a joint project. For example, the U25 section of the National Yacht Club has never been as active.

Cruiser racing as part of a crew is a fun team sport Photo: AfloatCruiser racing as part of a crew is a fun team sport Photo: Afloat

ICRA has started the move to drive down the cost of cruiser-racing by fostering partnerships of young people. Cruiser racing is the most popular form of the sport in Ireland. It is now also recognised as a potential Olympic sport. Through its newly forged relationship with Irish Sailing and its access to significant state funding, ICRA has a golden opportunity to improve access and retention.

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First elected in November 2018, Richard Colwell will continue to lead the Irish Cruiser Racing Association following today's AGM into what is hopefully a busy 2021 summer sailing programme.

Speaking at today's online meeting, ICRA Secretary Denis Byrne announced some changes to the 11-person 2021 committee. 

Colwell paid tribute to the work of Cove Sailing Club's Johanna Murphy from Cork Harbour, the outgoing South Coast Offshore Racing Association (SCORA) Commodore and also to Race Judge Cxema Pico who have both retired from the committee.

Coming onboard is the new SCORA Commodore Daragh Connolly from Royal Cork and also Saoirse Reynolds from the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

John Leech of Lough Derg continues as Treasurer and Dave Cullen of Howth continues in the Communications role.

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The Irish Cruiser Racing (ICRA) National Championships returns to Cork Harbour as part of Cork Week Regatta in 2022.

The venue was announced at this weekend's ICRA 2021 Conference online. 

The cruiser-racer fleet had planned to race in Cork in 2020 as part of Royal Cork's Tricentenary event that was not held due to COVID, so the decision to return in 2022 was an easy one, according to ICRA Commodore, Richard Colwell. 

ICRA Racing returns to Cork Harbour after a six year gap in 2022ICRA Racing returns to Cork Harbour after a six year gap in 2022

The 2022 racing is expected to offer a variety of inshore and coastal courses both inside and outside the harbour.

This year the ICRA Championships races or national honours on Dublin Bay at the National Yacht Club in September.

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Key Irish sailing regattas depend on a Government Level Two status being in place this summer in order to proceed, the Irish Cruiser Racer (ICRA) conference heard yesterday.

Over 100 sailors and regatta representatives gathered online to hear the latest regatta news from the East, South and Southwest coasts.

It was a heartening gathering that revealed how much clubs had achieved despite all the obstacles thrown up by COVID-19.

ICRA's Dave Cullen struck an optimistic note when he noted this weekend's reduction in pandemic numbers and advances in the vaccine roll-out, while each of the regatta organisers who joined the conference via Zoom were bullish about plans yet also spoke of the current 'challenging' situation.

The fate of the competitive sailing season hinges on whether Level Two will be implemented in time or if sailing can be seen by Sport Ireland's Expert Group as a 'low risk, outdoor non-contact activity' deserving of a special case, especially given the view there is no difference in risk in sailing between training and competition mode.

Cruiser racing off Cork in the Elan 333, Artful DodgerCruiser racing off the Cork coast in the Elan 333, Artful Dodger Photo: Bob Bateman

For the moment, the assumption is that 'it's all going ahead'  but there appears to be quite a lot of contingency or 'Plan B' work behind the scenes as Covid-19 impacts the 2021 season too.

It's worth remembering it was only this time last year that few of us had even heard the phrase 'social distancing'. Much of the regatta planning for 2020 was completed before we knew anything about what it was like living with our new best friend. We are more informed going into 2021 and rightly or wrongly, in Northern Ireland, Bangor Town Regatta has already chosen to cancel its June races.

Howth yacht Equinox is a regular Sovereign's Cup competitor at Kinsale Photo: AfloatHowth yacht Equinox is a regular Sovereign's Cup competitor at Kinsale Photo: Bob Bateman

June's Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race and Kinsale's Sovereign's Cup Regatta (where 14 entrants are common to both events) are perfectly timed to feed Dublin boats to the south coast but each event is now awaiting the Government's April 5th advisory in order to firm up arrangements.

Both events have achieved their 50-boat entry limits and are operating waiting lists.

Sovereign's Cup

O'Leary Insurance Sovereign's Cup Chairman Anthony O'Neill from Kinsale Yacht Club told the conference that he remained 'hopeful' and was continuing to plan for the 23rd June but in the event that restrictions were not lifted then, the event would, unfortunately, have to cancel and look to other plans if restrictions permit. The event hit its 52-boat target within three weeks and has eight boats on a waiting list.

Dun Laoghaire Dingle Race

Likewise, Race Chairman Adam Winkelmann, said that the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race from the National Yacht Club would not be moved to another date this season and if it could not go ahead on June 9th the decision had already been taken to scrub the biennial event and aim for the 2023 edition instead. The 280-miler has achieved its 50-boat limit, 90 days before it starts as Afloat reports here.

Dun Laoghaire Regatta

July's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Race Officer Con Murphy outlined contingency plans for his Dublin Bay event that has already been split over two weekends to reduce fleet sizes. Murphy said the fleet could take extra steps to have staggered early start and finish times if needed to further avoid the mixing of boats and crews ashore at Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

ICRA & WIORA

Autumn events such as ICRA's own national championships at the National Yacht Club that has moved out to September 3rd to 5th look the best prospects of being uninterrupted. ICRA's Ric Morris is confident of the Nationals proceeding at this point after the loss of the 2020 event. Likewise, WIORA week that is scheduled for August 25 to 28th at Tralee Bay Sailing Club is also 'cautiously optimistic', but the County Kerry club will initially taking entries without any payment, according to the organiser Liam Lynch.

ISORA

ISORA's Peter Ryan laid out a full season of races for his offshore crews under new sponsor Musto and is planning a 16-race Irish Sea series that, as Afloat previously reported, includes cross-channel races from May 15. Ryan says the series will again be deploying technology to give it the biggest amount of flexibility both in terms of its onboard trackers and its crew manager app. ISORA's approach, Ryan says, is to 'start racing and keep going till we're told to stop'.

Organising clubs, the conference heard, are 'planning for the best and preparing for the worst' as they await next month's Government announcement. As Peter Ryan observed, 'there's a great interconnection of events this season but one trip will upset the whole apple cart'.

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There will be more boats on the water in the season ahead, crewed by young sailors supported by the Irish Cruiser Racing Association's Under 25 programme which has been so successful that ICRA is now working with the national sailing organisation on developing a further stage of the project, to encourage those finishing it to buy their own boats and increase the size of cruiser fleets at clubs around the country.

"We are now seeing the positive result of what started many years ago at Howth Yacht Club in focusing on the Under 25s, which was then taken up by ICRA, by clubs around the country. It is really encouraging," Commodore Richard Colwell told me in advance of the annual general meeting of ICRA on Saturday, March 6.

Despite the unpredictability of the challenges sailing faces due to the continuing Covid 19 pandemic, he is hopeful that the season ahead will be a good one.

ICRA Commodore, Richard ColwellICRA Commodore, Richard Colwell - ICRA is encouraging young crews to buy their own boats and increase the size of cruiser fleets at clubs around the country

"There may still be difficulties early in the season, but later in the Summer I am hopeful that there will be more opportunities and our national championships are well placed in September," he says on this week's podcast, where we follow up on the theme highlighted in last week's edition. This was where Daragh Connolly, the new Commodore of SCORA, the South Coast Offshore Racing Association, described the growing interest of young sailors in cruiser racing and going offshore.

Anthony O'Leary's Antix Beag, from Royal Cork, a customised 1720 sailing Photo: Bob BatemanAnthony O'Leary's Antix Beag, from Royal Cork, a customised 1720 sailing Photo: Bob Bateman

I started the Podcast by asking Richard Colwell how hopeful he is for the season ahead:

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, RTÉ and Met Éireann's Evelyn Cusack will head the line-up of speakers and presentations at the ICRA AGM which the Commodore will start at 10.30 am with an update. The conference will be on Zoom, due to pandemic restrictions and registration for it is open.

This will be followed at 10.40 am by Evelyn Cusack's half-hour presentation on forecasting the weather. And at 11.10 am, international yacht designer Mark Mills will give a brief talk on his line of work.

After a short break, there will be briefings on the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race by Adam Winkelmann, Sovereigns Cup by Anthony O’Neil, Dun Laoghaire Regatta by Con Murphy, ICRA Nationals by Ric Morris and ISORA from Peter Ryan.

Published in Tom MacSweeney

ICRA will hold its annual conference and AGM online on Saturday 6th March from 10:30 to 13:00 due to COVID restrictions.

The implications of the pandemic on the 2021 cruiser-racer season will be discussed, according to association spokesman, Dave Cullen. 

ICRA has already moved its 2021 National Championships out from May to September and this May's Scottish Series has been totally revamped as a purely on the water event in a bid to stage Scotland's biggest sailing event after 2020's cancellation.

Weather forecasting and sailing

Having ironically been unable to attend last year’s event as Headline Speaker due to the weather, RTE and Met Eireann’s Evelyn Cusack will join ICRA this year covering the topic of “weather forecasting and sailing”.

Evelyn Cusack will speak at March's online ICRA conferenceEvelyn Cusack will speak at March's online ICRA conference

While the event will naturally be shorter due to being online, the conference will have a number of experts offering advice on all aspects of racing and yacht preparation and will be followed by the AGM.

The full ICRA agenda and registration details will be issued shortly and published on Afloat.

Published in ICRA
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