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The six Saturdays of the KBC Bank Autumn League at Howth Yacht Club experienced some days so perfect that by the time it concluded with the mother of all festive prize-givings last night, everyone had forgotten that somewhere in the series there was one day of little wind with rain and even some fog writes W M Nixon.

Yet despite the conditions, that particular day’s programme was completed. And as for the other five late season Saturdays, they served up an ideal variety of good racing conditions, including days of Autumnal perfection when the sunshine had an almost surreal luminosity.

aut league fleet2On some days, the sunshine was almost surreal, and not a cloud in the sky. Photo: W M Nixon

The League’s Organising Chairman Eddie Bourke and his committee knew they were heirs to a well-established sailing tradition, as Howth’s Autumn series was first sailed in rudimentary form in 1979, and will be looking at its 40th Anniversary next year. KBC Bank came aboard as sponsors for 2018, and a core team from the bank, led by Investment Manager David Murphy, joined the party in Howth last night, where the distribution of many trophies was presided over by Commodore Joe McPeake.

Bringing such a complex event to its successful traditional conclusion involves multiple factors. And even when everything is properly in place to stage racing on two different course areas, the great imponderable of the Irish weather is the focus of close attention for six weeks in a row. But as the photos reveal, even after the many cloudless days of June and July, the tail end of 2018’s summer still had some strong sunshine left in its locker, and it generously distributed it at Howth through September and October Saturdays.

mcpeake bourke murphy3The men who made it happen – Commodore Joe McPeake (left), Organising Chairman Eddie Bourke, and David Murphy of KBC Bank

Add to that a good selection of sailing breezes – mostly westerlies – and you have everything in place for the perfect rounding out of one of Howth Yacht Club’s most successful seasons, with boats which had brought HYC success in major national and international events featuring at the head of many classes in the KBC Autumn League. That said, it speaks volumes for the underlying quality of the home fleet that the stars of the national and international scene didn’t always have it their own way during these past six weekends.

However, in IRC Class 1 it was a case of repeat and convincing success with Pat Kelly’s J/109 Storm winning overall - her scoreline was 1,3,2,1,1,1 - from the Breen-Hogg team in the First 36.7 Flashback.

But IRC 2 was different. Here we had Checkmate XV (Dave Cullen) and Harmony (Johnny Swan), the Howth boats which had been first and second in the Half Ton Classics in Belgium in August, while Checkmate had also been Supreme Champion in the popular Wave Regatta in Howth in June.

big picture harmony4Half Tonner hotspot…..The Big Picture gets in ahead of Harmony at the weather mark. Photo: W M Nixon

harmony checkmate lambay rules5Things get crowded at the sharp end of IRC 2 with (left to right) Harmony, Checkmate and the J/97 Lambay Rules. Photo: W M Nixon

Yet in the Autumn League, it was another classic Half Tonner, Michael and Richard Evans’ The Big Picture, which emerged as tops, for although she and Checkmate tied on 14 points for the overall IRC Class 2 lead, The Big Picture’s scoreline of 1,1,3, 2, 1 and 6 included more firsts, so she shaded it with Checkmate second, Nigel Biggs’ Checkmate XVII third, Harmony fourth and Stephen Quinn’s J/97 Lambay Rules fifth in a ferociously competitive class which also included the Howth-based J/80s, where Robert Dix in Jeannie won from Dan O’Grady in Jammy.

J 80s hyc6Busy times for the J/80s, with Jam Jar (left, Roger Cagney & Philip Watson) closing on Red Cloud (Nobby Reilly) as they round the weather mark. Photo: W M Nixon

IRC Class 3 had a fascinating lineup, as it included “Sailor of the Year” Conor Fogerty racing his pet boat, the vintage Silver Shamrock which was World Half Ton Champion under the command of Harold Cudmore at Trieste in 1976. The news is Silver Shamrock still has winning ways, as she took IRC 3 in convincing style with a score of 1,4,3,1,2,3,2 to have 12.0 pts to the 14.5 of Insider (S & D Mullaney) and the 17.0 of Vincent Gaffney’s Laser 28 Alliance II.

silver shamrock bow7Sweet sailing for Conor Fogerty’s Silver Shamrock, World Champion 42 years ago. Photo: W M Nixon

IRC Classes 4 and 5 were the non-spinnaker divisions, with Stephen Harris and Frank Hughes’ First 40.7 Tiger winning IRC 4 by one point from Colm Bermingham’s Elan 33 Bite the Bullet, third slot going to Dermot Shekan’s Castro-designed Toughnut. IRC 5 saw another vintage Shamrock win, with Steff Ennis & Windsor Lauden taking first with their Club Shamrock Demelza, while second place went to Terry McCoy of Skerries with First 38 Out & About, third going to Gordon Knaggs with the First 32 Jokers Wild.

silver shamrock stern8It is Silver Shamrock’s pintail stern which now seems the most archaic part of her. Photo: W M Nixon

In the three One-Design classes, the slowly-reviving Squibs mustered eight starters, with Fantome (R MacDonnell) winning overall with 12.6 points to the 15 of Derek Bothwell’s Tears in Heaven, with Fergus O’Kelly on the Taste of Racing scheme with Aurora coming third on 21.

The Puppeteer 22s had the best turnout of the ODs, with 15 boats coming to the line. Algy Pearson and Alan Blay with Trick or Treat were in sparkling form, discarding a fourth to finish with a scoreline of 1,4,1,1,1,1 to give them just 9 points to the 14 of Scorie Walls in Gold Dust, with Andrew and Robin Hegarty’s Eclipse taking third on 19, the same points as Neil Murphy’s Yellow Peril but the Peril was eclipsed, as you might say, on the countback, and the Hegartys were declared third.

The venerable Howth 17s had a regular turnout of fourteen boats for the entire series, a miraculous recovery from the damage wreaked on them in their winter storage shed by Storm Emma at the beginning of March. And the class is in great racing heart, for although Deilginis (Massey family & Mikey Toomey went into the last race with the series already won, it was done by steadiness through nearly always being in the top ten, for in this seven race series, each race was won by a different Seventeen.

deilginis racing9Overall Howth 17 Champion Deilginis crosses ahead of Sheila at the turn. Photo: W M Nixon

Nevertheless Deilginis’s scoreline of a discarded 5, followed by3,2,2,2,1,3, put her on 13 pts to the 17 of Rita (Marc Lynch and John Curley, while Peter Courtney was third on 27 with Oona, and Brian & Conor Turvey were fourth with Isobel on 28, level on points with Ian Malcolm’s Aura, but winning on countback.

Results of the HYC Autumn League are here

Next up on the Howth agenda is the Brass Monkeys series for cruisers, starting on Sunday November 4th when there’ll also be the first race of the annual Laser Frostbite Winter Series, which dates all the way back to 1974. But for now, memories of the fantastic sunshine which blessed much of the KBC Autumn League is a memory to cherish.

Published in Howth YC
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The Kelly family's 'Storm' has won the J109 one design Irish Nationals for the last two years and this weekend the north Dublin crew hope to retain overall honours on home waters as Howth Yacht Club hosts the 2018 championships off Lambay Island.

"We are obviously going for three in a row but we are expecting the competition to try and upset us on our home patch", Ronan Kelly told

There is a current entry of 11 J109s (two from Howth and nine travelling from Dun Laoghaire). Entries so far for the six-race event are here.

The class has secured great support from sponsors: Capitalflow, North Sails Ireland, Bushmills, Porterhouse Brewing Company and UK Sailmakers Ireland; to have a daily prize giving and race winners, in addition to the overall prizes on Sunday.

On Saturday evening after racing, HYC has organised a free BBQ for all competitors (compliments to Capitalflow sponsor) and a short de-brief on the racing from North Sails.

Published in J109
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Weather conditions for the first race of Howth Yacht Club's KBC Autumn League provided a gentle start for the 600 sailors competing in the eight classes on Saturday afternoon. Light winds and warm temperatures prevailed for much of the day, reminiscent of many previous years and the first day of the six-week series that always promises more challenging wind and sea-states. The southerly/south-westerly wind rarely gusted more than 11 knots after it had weaved its way through the Dublin Mountains, across Dublin Bay, around Howth Peninsula and then brushing across the flat and sparkling waters of the two race courses.

The race management teams had indicated onshore that racing would be round-the-cans this week and most classes enjoyed a 2-hour race in the gentle but somewhat shifty conditions.

Flashback leads Class One

In class 1, Don Breen and Paddy Gregory’s team on 'Flashback' read the conditions perfectly, finishing ahead of the chasing J109s led by Simon Knowles and Colm Buckley’s 'Indian' and 2018’s all-conquering ‘Storm’.

Big PictureGreat breeze for the first race off Ireland's Eye Photo: Conor Lindsay

First Blood to 'The Big Picture' in Class Two

A move by event organisers not to change pre-existing splits between the cruisers classes meant that class 2 is the largest fleet with 21 boats on their start line and creates internal rivalries including those between the Half-Tonners, X-302s and Corbys. As with many of the competing boats, the Autumn League allows teams to utilise a near-complete season of racing experience to demonstrate the very best of teamwork and refined skills. This might suggest that the regularly raced boats would come to the fore, and indeed they did, with Michael and Richard Evans’s Half-Tonner 'The Big Picture' winning both IRC and ECHO races - taking ‘first blood’ in the series.

Silver Shamrock's Day in Class Three

Winning the Class 3 division will be no easy matter either, with two K25 teams, Conor Fogerty’s classic ‘Silver Shamrock’, Vince Gaffney’s ‘Alliance II’ to name but a few, all on form and vying for contention. However, it was to be ‘Silver Shamrock’s’ day, winning by 2 minutes from the K25 team on ‘Kilcullen’ and doing the ‘double’ with a win on ECHO also.

The Non Spinnaker divisions are split between Class 4 and Class 5 and it was to be the Harris/Hughes team on their Beneteau 40.7 ‘Tiger’ that used the conditions to best advantage in Class 4, ahead of the well-sailed Sigma 38 ‘Spellbound’ which won on ECHO and the always-contending ‘Bite the Bullet’. Boats in Class 5 will have to be up early to get ahead of Windsor and Steffi’s Club Shamrock ‘Demelza’, the 1979 classic won both IRC and ECHO races.

One Designs

A change in dynamics in Howth’s one-design classes might suggest that the often cyclical changes in the number of boats racing is again at play, with a reduced-size Puppeteer class balanced by a re-emerging Squib class and the ever-vibrant Howth Seventeens.

A familiar pairing of red Puppeteers topped their fleet this week, with Trick or Treat followed over the finish line 25 seconds later by Dave Clarke and Liam Egan’s ‘Harlequin’. Frank Dillon replicated his form in the handicap division by steering ‘Flycatcher’ to victory.

Six of the eight entered Squibs raced and former Commodore Derek Bothwell secured the first win for his boat ‘Tears in Heaven’ and the handicap race was won by ‘Absolutely Fabulous’. Derek also gave his other Squib (‘Aurora’) to the Taste of Racing project for this event and Fergus O’Kelly is bringing some of this year’s graduates racing on it for the series.

The light winds suited Marcus Lynch and John Curley in their Howth Seventeen ‘Rita’ and second placed ‘Aura’ (Ian Malcolm) whose 120-year-old boats showed a clean pair of heels to the rest of the fleet from the first windward mark. The Seventeen’s unique handicapping system is designed to ensure that those boats that have difficulty competing on scratch will exclusively win the handicap prizes. Tom Houlihan’s ‘Zaida’ won this week’s race.

"the cruiser racing classes are invited to take part in an ORC trial which is being run alongside the other divisions"

This year the cruiser racing classes are invited to take part in an ORC trial which is being run alongside the other divisions. Interested teams can still sign up by forwarding their IRC certs so that their measurements can be incorporated in this trial rating.

Event sponsors KBC Bank provided a colourful backdrop to the day and they will be presenting prizes to this week’s winners after racing next Saturday. The apres sail party is complemented each week by drinks promotions and live music. The club also provided a delicious range of (free) tapas to competitors when they came ashore.

Results are here

Published in Howth YC
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KBC Bank has announced its title sponsorship of Howth Yacht Club’s Autumn League. The Autumn League, which is now in its 39th year, is a large multi-class keelboat regatta and is one of the largest sailing events of its type in the Irish sailing calendar.

Every year, the autumnal six-week keelboat racing series attracts over 100 keelboats and more than 600 sailors from Ireland and abroad, with the age of entrants ranging from 18-80 years. The Regatta will take place over six Saturdays, commencing on the 15th of September and runs until Saturday the 20th of October. 

David Murphy, Dublin North Investment Manager, KBC said, “At KBC, we believe it is important to support initiatives and events that play an important role in communities and towns across Ireland. Howth Yacht Club was founded in 1895 and has played a central role in the growth of the harbour town’s reputation, attracting keen sailors from all over the world. The Howth Yacht Club Autumn League has been running for nearly forty years and has deep roots in the community, so we are delighted to come on-board this year and support the continued success of the regatta.”

Eddie Bourke, Chairman of Howth Yacht Club, said, ‘Howth Yacht Club are delighted to welcome KBC Bank onboard as partners for our Autumn League. Their involvement will add substantial value to the event, benefiting the hundreds of participating competitors by presenting a vibrant and memorable 6 weeks of racing and entertainment ashore.’ 

In addition to competing for a range of Autumn League silverware, race winners will also enjoy weekly prizes. The overall winner, calculated as the boat that wins on scratch or IRC by the largest margin, will be presented KBC Bank on Saturday 20th of October.

Published in Howth YC
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With a convincing win in the final spectacular race run in glorious sunshine and big seas off Nieuwpoort, Checkmate XV (1985 Humphreys) and her crew of owner David Cullen, Darragh O'Connor, Nin O'Leary, Jonathan Sargent, Aidan Beggan, Niki Potterton and Franz Rothschild of Howth Yacht Club claimed a well deserved overall victory in the 2018 Half Ton Classics Cup. For Checkmate XV this was the third time she had earnt the right to have her name engraved on the Half Ton Classics Cup (equalling the legendary Swuzzlebubble's record) and for David and his team is was their second win, the first also being here in Nieuwpoort in 2015 as reported here.

In a unique one-two for Ireland, Cullen's clubmate Jonny Swann in Harmony took second overall, to underline the high standard of Half-Ton racing in Ireland at the moment.

The final race was a cracker, sailed in a 14-16 knot westerly, huge seas and glorious sunshine. The first start was recalled so Race Officer Paul Charlier pulled out the U Flag and on the second attempt, everyone behaved. It was nip and tuck all the way with Robbie Tregear's Per Elisa (1992 Ceccarelli) initially heading the fleet from Philippe Pilate's General Tapioca (1978 Berret), Checkmate XV, Toni Stoschek & Janne Tukolas' Superhero (1988 Andrieu), Tom Florizoone's Red Cloud (1981 Joubert), Paul Wayte's Headhunter (1984 Van de Stadt) and Jonny Swan's Harmony (1980 Humphreys). But the Irish team dug deep and by the final turn for home Checkmate XV had a decent lead with Per Elisa, Harmony and General Tapioca now hard on her heels. At the finish Checkmate XV took the race by 52 seconds, with Harmony second from Per Elisa and General Tapioca fourth. Sadly a technical issue with the committee boat's anchor made a second race impossible and so the championship closed with eight races completed. 

Checkmate XV winnersThe Checkmate XV team with the Half Ton Classics Cup Trophy Dave Cullen and Darragh O'Connor, Nin O'Leary, Jonathan Sargent, Aidan Beggan, Niki Potterton and Franz Rothschild of the Howth Yacht Club Photo: Fiona Brown

In his thank you speech at the prize giving David Cullen made a few special presentations of his own before reflecting that "Being a Half-Ton owner is a bit like being a heroin addict, you don't really enjoy it but its very hard to stop! And a lot of that comes down to the camaraderie in this room and in this class." It was a sentiment that clearly hit the right note with the assembled crowd and he then went on to particularly thank Class Chairman Philippe Pilate and Class Secretary Bert Janssen for all their work in driving and supporting the Class.

"Being a Half-Ton owner is a bit like being a heroin addict, you don't really enjoy it but it's very hard to stop!"

In the Vintage IOR Division, Albert Pierrard & An Callens' A+ (1985 Nissen) had a superb last race loving every minute of the downwind sleigh rides, with Waverider second by 47 seconds and Nicolas Lejeune's Skippy's Ton (1984 Briand) third. At the Prize Giving it was confirmed that the first ever winner of the new Vintage IOR Trophy was the local Belgian boat Waverider sailed by owner Jaques Lemaire, Michael Gendebien, Thibout de Kenchous, Michel Lefebure, Stephove Putseys, Winnie Berteloot and Pascal Aboosha. Ivan Van Burm's Fantasy (1980 Humphreys) took second place by a mere half point from A+ in third.

Checkmate XV hoistingThe champions prepare for a hoist in race one Photo: Fiona Brown

Alongside the main trophies two further special prizes were also announced. The first was the Half Ton Classics Cup Corinthian Trophy, which goes to the top performing all amateur crew and was won by Rampage (1985 Briand) sailed by owner John Hicks, Rod Wootton, Will Parkinson, Mike Chamberlain, Becky Leach, Jane Hicks and Joe Cable from Cornwall, UK.

The final prize presented is always the Spirit of Half Ton Trophy and it goes to the team who best embody that certain hard to define something that sums up the true heart of the Half Ton Class. For rescuing and totally rebuilding their boat against all the odds after she was almost completely destroyed when a crane fell on her some three years ago, this year the Spirit of Half Ton Trophy was presented to Nicolas Lejeune and Waverider. Waverider is a truly special Half Tonner; designed by Laurie Davidson in 1977 she won two consecutive Half Ton Cups in 1978 off Poole and in 1979 off Scheveningen. Her reconstruction has been a work of love and dedication by Nicolas and his friends and family, with the support of boat builders and fellow Half Ton sailors Tom Florizoone (Red Cloud) and Ian Van Burm (Fantasy). Waverider is a wooden boat so first she had to be put into a jig and left to settle back into shape before the rebuild could start. That work could only begin a few months ago and took the team until the night before the regatta to complete. The very first time the sailed the boat after her relaunch was the first race of this championship, so this was a hugely popular win and the entire team came to the stage to raucous cheers and applause.

There were thank yous to the many volunteers and sponsors who have made the event possible and every team taking part was called forward to receive gifts and prizes before Master of Ceremonies Bert Janssen confirmed that the next Half Ton Classics Cup will be held in 2020 and will be hosted by the Royal Ocean Racing Club in Cowes (dates to be confirmed). Finally Commodore Baudouin Meyhui of the Koninklijke Yacht Club Nieuwpoort thanked the competitors, wished them safe journeys home and hoped that they would all be back in Nieuwpoort again very soon.

Final Overall Results here

1. Checkmate XV - 2, 6, (6), (11), 2 , 1, 1.5, 1 = 13.5
2. Harmony - 6, (8), (8), 1, 3, 2, 3, 2 = 17
3. Per Elisa - 1, 1, 1, 4, (4), (20), 12, 3 = 22
4. Waverider - 4, 3, 2, (10), 5, 3, 7.5, (9) = 24.5
5. Red Cloud - 3, 4, 4, 3, (6), 4, 9, (5) = 27

Final IOR Vintage Division Results
1. Waverider - 1, 1, 1, (2), 1, 1, 3, (2) = 8
2. Fantasy - 2, (6), 2, 1, 3, 5, 4.5, (5) = 17.5
3. A+ - 3, 3, (4), (4), 2, 3, 6, 1 = 18

Published in Half Tonners
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Howth Yacht Club's Dave Cullen has clinched the overall lead of the Half Ton Classics Cup 2018 in Nieuwpoort, Belgium going into the final day of the competition.

Day four's Long Inshore Race proved to be both an incredibly closely fought battle between the top boats and a game changer in the overall standings. With the race carrying a weighting of 1.5 points and being non-discardable, and with only two further races still to sail the pressure was on everyone to achieve good results.

The morning dawned overcast once again, but as the boats arrived in the race area the wind was already at 8-10 knots from the south west and building. Race Officer Paul Charlier set a course which would take the boats back and forth along the Belgian Coast going as far west as the Nieuwpoortbank Buoy and as far east as the Binnenstroombank Buoy off Oostend, giving a course of 32 miles, which took the leading boats over five and a half hours to complete.

Having started cleanly at the first attempt and with only a short distance from the line to the laid weather mark the fleet converged in a tightly bunched pack. Philippe Pilate's General Tapioca had a small lead as they approached, but underestimated the tide and understood so had to tack onto port to get round. Behind them David Cullen's Checkmate XV had judged the starboard layline perfectly and Tapioca had to tack back before she had really got pace up to avoid them. Tapioca just made it round the mark by bearing away hard to keep their transom clear, but then made the mistake of staying low when in fact the tide made the leg a starboard one tack beat. Checkmate held high, rapidly rolling Tapioca with Toni Stoschek & Janne Tukolas' Superhero, Albert Pierrard & An Callens' A+ and Jonny Swan's Harmony right on their tail, followed by a big gaggle of boats including Patrick Dubus' Ballarine (who hit the laid mark), Tom Florizoone's Red Cloud and John Hicks' Rampage.

Those who spotted Tapioca's mistake and held high on the short second leg made it across to Westroombank in one starboard tack, but those who went low were forced to tack in on port making for plenty of excitement in the final approach. Checkmate had a couple of boat lengths lead and was followed round by Superhero with Tapioca now down to third, Harmony fourth, Robbie Tregear's Per Elisa fifth and A+ sixth.

The next leg was a tight reach to Middlekirkbank with the building ebb tide making it tighter still, and judging the compromise between hight and pace was the key to success. While Checkmate hit the middle ground to defend her position Harmony, Tapioca and Per Elisa stayed low as others went high. As they came round Middlekirk Checkmate had successfully defended her narrow lead, but the decision to go low had paid off and Harmony was right behind her with Tapioca third and Superhero fourth. Red Cloud had sailed an excellent leg to pull up into fifth with Per Elisa sixth and A+ seventh.

Next up was a port one tack beat to D1 where they tacked round onto a predominantly starboard tack beat over to Neiuwpoortbank. Choosing where to put in the short tacks on the leg to Nieuwpoortbank was critical with a number of boats loosing out and others gaining significantly. As they turned downwind A+ had picked the tacks perfectly to lead, but with Tapioca, Checkmate XV and Harmony yapping at their heels.

On the leg to D1 Rampage was making good time until their guard wire snapped and all the hiking crew found themselves taking a surprise dip. Fortunately everyone managed to hold onto something so no one lost contact with the boat and they were rapidly able to self recover and continue racing, although General Tapioca and several others were in immedate radio contact and standing by to offer assistance if needed.
From Nieuwpoortbank the fleet bore away onto a fast reach for WK3 before bearing away again onto a long run back past Nieuwpoort to Binnenstroombank off Ostend. With the wind now gusting up to 20+ knots it was a spectacular surfing leg with a few thrills and spills along the way. One unexpected thrill and near spill happened to Jan-Jakob Muyls' Farther Bruin (Farr 1977) as they came to the leeward mark. A tourist boat had come out from Ostend and decided to watch the racing, but got a little too close to the mark blocking their way and avoiding action had to be taken. Quite what the tourists all thought of the mad Belgian's apparently piroueting in front of them we do not know, but for sure they were not happy with the ferry captain!

The final beat west back to finish at the Westroombank against the tide gave the option of sailing up the middle of the beat over the bank or going left and hitting the shallows inshore. A+ chose the shore and more than 20 gruelling tacks later they had passed five boats.

At the line General Tapioca led the fleet home followed by Checkmate XV and Harmony, but on corrected time Checkmate XV had taken a comfortable victory by a minute and fifty two seconds. It wasn't until the boats were ashore that second place could be confirmed with Harmony beating General Tapioca by just two seconds. The stonger winds suited the Vintage IOR boats which still sail in close to original IOR configuration and despite their encouter with the tourist boat Farther Bruin sailed a superb final leg to take fourth place overall and first Vintage from Jacques Lemaire's Waverider in fifth. Red Cloud was sixth, Superhero came home seventh and overnight leader Per Elisa was eighth, her worst result of the regatta.

With the Long Inshore having a points weighting of 1.5 its results have shaken up the overall leader board. David Cullen's Checkmate XV now moves into the lead with 18.5 points. Tied on 23 points are yesterday's overnight leader Robbie Tregear's Per Elisa and Jonny Swan's Harmony with Per Elisa taking second place on count back. Jacques Lemaire's Waverider is just 1.5 points behind them in fourth with Tom Florizoone's Red Cloud in fifth on 27 points and Toni Stoschek & Janne Tukolas' Superhero now dropping from second to sixth on 28.5 points, still well within striking distance of the podium.

In the Vintage Divison for boats still sailing in largely IOR format (limited modifications to their rigs and foils are permitted) Waverider continues to lead the fleet and now has an almost unassailable lead of 9.5 points. Ian Van Burm's Fantasy is in second place, 3.5 points ahead of A+ and four ahead of Nicolas Lejeune's Skippy's Ton. The Vintage fleet is newly introduced for 2018 and is proving a popular new addition with some terrific racing amongst the fleet and a super camaraderie amongst these owners who enjoy the challenge of maintaining their boats as close to original as possible.

After racing the crews came together for the traditional Half Ton Classics Cup Gala Dinner at the Koninklijke Yacht Club Nieuwpoort. But before that they all took part in another Half Ton favourite - The PopPop Boat World Championships. PopPop boats are traditional little tin boats which are steam driven using a tealight to heat a tank of water to drive a propeller. They get their name from the distinctive noise that the tiny single cylinder engine makes and they race along a special twin track course. Despite nearly eight hours afloat today the teams threw themselves into the competition and the usual attempts at cheating ensued, but ultimately fair play was achieved and the Rampage crew narrowly beat the Checkmate XV crewed to be declared 2018 PopPop Boat World Champions.

The championship concludes tomorrow, Friday 24 August. Although technically three races remain to be sailed, the fact that racing can't start before 10.30 and that there is a final race start cut off time of 13.00 means that in reality only two races are really possible to decide this closely fought series and decide who will take home the Half Ton Classics Cup this year.

Provisional Top Seven After Seven Races

1. Checkmate XV - 2, 6, 6, (11), 2 , 1, 1.5 = 18.5
2. Per Elisa - 1, 1, 1, 4, 4, (20), 12 = 23
3. Harmony - 6, 8, (8), 1, 3, 2, 3 = 23
4. Waverider - 4, 3, 2, (10), 5, 3, 7.5 = 24.5
5. Red Cloud - 3, 4, 4, 3, (6), 4, 9 = 27
6. Superhero - 5, 5, 5, 2, 1, (6), 10.5 = 28.5

Full results:

Published in Half Tonners
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Dave Cullen's Checkmate XV from Howth Yacht Club lies second after the opening day of the Half Ton Classics Cup in Nieuwpoort, Belgium brought overcast skies, fickle light winds and a big challenge for both the competitors and the Koninklijke Yachtclub Nieuwpoort's Race Committee.

The 18-strong fleet is a fascinating mixture of relatively unchanged vintage boats from the golden era of the Half Ton class, and up-dated craft which continues to retain the best characteristics of a boat size and type which continues to have enduring appeal. The ingenious use of handicap systems and clever class sub-divisions provides for realistic racing, and the spirit of the class, energised by shared enthusiasm, provides a rewarding sailing experience.

This has attracted both Checkmate XV and another Howth boat, Jonny Swann’s Harmony, to travel to Belgium for the five day championship, which next year will be staged at La Trinite on France's Biscay coast. Just one race could be completed yesterday, and after emerging cleanly from the start, Checkmate finished second to Per Elisa (Robbie Tregear) with Red Cloud (Tom Florizoone) third, while Harmony was sixth.

The Half Ton Class brings together the owners of vintage IOR boats built to the Half-Ton rule to race under IRC handicap and features a wonderful mixture of "as original" and significantly updated boats as well as both family crews and top professional sailors. This year's event features sailors from across Europe and as far afield as Hobart, Tasmania.

On arrival in the start area, there was very little wind with just the occasional zephyr of breeze rolling down the course from the north-west. Fortunately, as the start time approached the bands of breeze began to join up and a relatively steady 4-5 knots established itself across the course, allowing racing to get underway at 14.00 as planned.

The fleet was extremely eager and a number of boats were over the start line and had to return. The Ron Holland Golden Shamrock design Half Duke, racing this week with an all girl crew and representing the NGO "Mothers & Midwives Support", and Jacques Lemaire's 1977 Davidson designed Waverider both had to struggle back to the line as their fellow competitors headed off towards the windward mark. Also over the line but failing to return was the Italian team aboard Blue Berrett Pi.

With the wind still very patchy and shifty it was a tough beat as first one group and then another would appear to have the advantage. At the first mark, it was Toni Stoschek & Janne Tukolas's 1988 Andrieu designed Superhero which headed the fleet with David Cullen's Checkmate XV, a 1985 Rob Humphreys design, in second and Robbie Tregear's 1992 Ceccarelli designed Per Elisa third. Further back down the fleet Waverider was already making a good recovery from their disastrous start and had begun to pick off the backmarkers.

As the leaders came round the first mark the wind dropped to just 2-3 knots and they found themselves gybing and ghosting along on a close reach parallel to the spreader leg just to maintain any speed at all. Despite the painfully slow going, Per Elisa managed to keep a steady pace, picking their way around the flat patches before timing their gybes perfectly to claim a generous lead at the leeward mark. Checkmate XV was second to round with Tom Florizoone's 1981 Joubert designed Red Cloud in third. Behind the leaders, Superhero was now just ahead of the chasing pack.

Towards the end of the run, the wind had started to increase again from behind, bringing the backmarkers up with it. Taking full advantage of this opportunity was Waverider who finished the second leg into the top half of the fleet.

With the wind remaining very unstable the race committee wisely decided to make leg three just a short beat to the finish. As they came through the line the teams were pleased to see the signals confirming that no attempt would be made to run a second race and instructing them to return to the marina.

Back ashore and with the handicap times corrected Per Elisa was confirmed as the overall race winner by a minute and twenty-seven seconds from Checkmate XV with Red Cloud third.

As they'd crossed the line in seventh place on the water, the Waverider crew could be seen checking their watches and hoping for a good result, but it wasn't until the prize giving that they got confirmation of fourth place overall and first place in the new Vintage IOR Division for non-modified (except for mast and keel) Half Tonners. Their result was all the more impressive when you bear in mind that a couple of years ago Waverider was severely damaged when a crane collapsed on top of her. A wooden boat, the accident took her completely out of shape and for many she would have been a write-off. But not for Jacques Lemaire and his family and friends who first got her into a jig to settle back into shape over an extended period before being able to spend all their spare time over the last few months rebuilding her ready for this event.

At the daily prize presentation, Waverider's Jacques Lemaire and his crew received not only the daily Vintage IOR Division prize of a Harken Winch handle, but also a rousing cheer for their welcome return to the fleet. Per Elisa's Robbie Tregear received the overall daily prize of a Spinlock Deckvest Lifejacket and an equally hearty round of applause.

As well as great racing, the Half Ton Class is renowned for its camaraderie and love of a good party, and so the day concluded with a fabulous fillet steak BBQ.

The forecast for day two is for further light winds, but it is hoped that conditions will once again be sailable. The Race Committee will brief the competitors at 08.30 and, conditions permitting, will start the first of up to three races at 10.30.

The championship continues until Friday 24 August and will feature a mixture of windward/leeward, short coastal and long coastal courses, with a maximum of three races being sailed each day.

Provisional Top Five After 1 Race

1. Per Elisa - 1
2. Checkmate XV - 2
3. Red Cloud - 3
4. Waverider - 4
5. Superhero - 5

Results here

Published in Half Tonners
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Howth Yacht Club will find itself in double focus this coming weekend, with the Club's historic 1898-founded Howth 17s staging their Annual Championship off the peninsula port, while down in the Solent on Sunday 12th August, leading HYC member Conor Fogerty – the current Sailor of the Year on the strength of his success in the OSTAR – starts in the Two-Handed Division in the RORC  Round Britain & Ireland Race with Simon Knowles as co-skipper writes W M Nixon.

conor and annalise2Conor Fogerty, the current Volvo Sailor of the Year, with the 2016 winner, Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy. Photo: Brian Turvey
The Club has been on a real roll since Fogerty was awarded the supreme title early in February. Before the month was out, he and a full crew, including regular shipmate Simon Knowles, had for the second time (previous was in 2016) won Class 4 in the RORC Caribbean 600 with the much-travelled Sunfast 3600 Bam!

And Howth's Caribbean 600 success didn't stop there, as clubmate Michael Wright had chartered the 45ft Pata Negra to race Class 2, and they recorded a second. Then it was back to Howth and into planning and organisation of the new-style Wave Regatta scheduled for the first weekend of June, with Michael Wright's leading hospitality organisation the primary sponsor.

pata negra3The Michael Wright-chartered 45ft Pata Negra, on her way to second in Class 2 in the RORC Caribbean 600 2018

Classic Half Tonner Checkmate XV

With the weather coming into line in the nick of time to provide summery sailing, it was a very well-supported success, with local skipper Dave Cullen's Classic Half Tonner Checkmate XV taking the overall honours. But this was no flash in the pan gained solely by having rock stars in the crew, for in July Checkmate XV went on to win the Howth Aqua Two-Handed Race, with Dave Cullen crewed by Aidan Beggan, they'd also taken the bullet in all three Dun Laoghaire regattas, and later this month they'll be racing the Half Ton Classic Worlds in Nieuwpoort in Belgium, starting August 20th.

Checkmate xv halfton4Dave Cullen's Checkmate XV getting a perfect start in a staging of the Half Ton Classics Worlds. They'll be going again at this year's championship at Nieuwpoort in Belgium, which starts on August 20th

Meanwhile, other areas of Howth sailing had been having highlights and lowlights since the Fogerty circus set the world alight in February. The Howth-based J/109 Storm (Kelly family) won both the Largs Regatta and the Scottish Series across in Scotland in May, while in July Jonny Swann of Howth with the Half Tonner Harmony was the overall winner of the all-comers Harbour Race in Volvo Cork Week, with clubmate Paddy Kyne third overall in the X-302 Maximus.

Historic 120-year-old Howth 17s

But at home, there had been some concern about the future of the historic 120-year-old Howth 17s, the "soul of Howth sailing", as several of them had been severely damaged when Storm Emma destroyed their winter storage shed on the East Pier at the beginning of March.

Yet miraculously only one boat – Anita – was deemed a total loss. Fingal's own ace boatbuilder Larry Archer has worked miracles in bringing the other damaged boats back to full health, with only one still to go afloat again. And as for Anita, in classic yacht terms she wasn't a total loss as they always had her original lead ballast keel, so now she is being re-built in Douarnenez in Brittany using the subsidised support of the French government's boatbuilding apprentice scheme at the Paul Robert-headed L'Atelier d'Enfer.

This does indeed mean "The Workshop of Hell", for that was the name given to the part of the old port in which it is located when the area was massively noisome and malodorous with the activities of at least 25 fish-processing companies. But as far as Howth 17 sailors are concerned, they can call it anything they like so long as work on re-building continues to progress smoothly with HYC Rear Commodore Ian Malcolm liaising the project, and Anita expects to re-launch next June.

howth seventeen isobel5The Howth 17 Isobel (Conor & Brian Turvey) returning to her home port. In 2018 she has been celebrating her 30th birthday with wins including the National YC Regatta, Clontarf Regatta and the Single-Handed Race. Photo: W M Nixon

Back home, the class seems to have been energised by the shock of the events in March, and the 2018 season has been good, getting average turnouts of 14 boats week in, week out, with many young people joining the class to enjoy its unique flavor which includes the annual race round the Baily Headland to Clontarf Regatta, and racing to Malahide in the Jack Gibney Classic, as well as racing across Dublin Bay to the National YC Regatta in Dun Laoghaire.

Newer owners such as HYC Vice Commodore Ian Byrne have been encouraged by that very special experience of getting their first winning gun in this unique class, and he did it in boat No 14, Gladys, which also provided the same experience many years ago for renowned chef Aidan MacManus of the famed King Sitric restaurant in Howth.

aidan and neven6Cooking up for a storm…….chefs Aidan MacManus and Neven Maguire of TV fame. As an experienced offshore racing campaigner, Aidan MacManus has been preparing ready meals for the Round Britain & Ireland challengers, fellow Howth sailors Conor Fogerty and Simon Knowles

After his years with the Seventeens, Aidan went into offshore racing ownership in partnership with Kieran Jameson in the Sigma 38 Changeling, and one of the many major events they completed together was the Round Britain and Ireland Race. This week, his experience in that 1800-mile marathon is being put to good use, as he is preparing a store of ready meals to sustain Conor Fogerty and Simon Knowles as they campaign Bam! round the same course.

Round Britain and Ireland

The RORC Seven Star Round Britain and Ireland – held every four years – was an event of outstanding success for Ireland last time round, as 2014's saw Liam Coyne of the National YC and Brian Flahive of Wicklow win the Two-handed Division and several classes with the First 36.7 Lulu Belle, a great achievement in a notably rough contest.

For 2018, the turnout in the two-handed division has significantly increased, and Conor Fogerty and Simon Knowles certainly have a job of work on their hands. But the fact that the key area of on-board catering has been overseen in advance by a master-chef who has personal experience of the race gets certainly them off to a flying start.

Published in Howth YC
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#Squib - Every kind of weather was experienced by the National Squib fleet in Howth at the 50th anniversary of the East Coast of Ireland Championships sponsored by Provident CRM.

In Race One on Saturday 28 July, in a shifting Force 3-4 westerly wind, Colm Dunne and Fiona Ward from Kinsale in Allegro won from Peter Wallace and Martin Weatherstone from Belfast in Toy for the Boys and Robert Marshall from Killyleagh in Slipstream.

Race Two in similar conditions but with thunder squalls, Gordon Patterson and Ross Nolan in the historic Fagin won from Allegro and newcomers Simon Sheahan and A Quinn from Howth in 123 O’Leary.

Race Three had to be postponed as a heavy rain squall blew across the start line. Some minutes later, the fleet got away for the race won by Toy for the Boys with Fagin second and Noel Colclough’s Periquin from Dun Laoghaire third.

Overnight the leaderboard was Toys, Fagin, Allegro, Slipstream and Periquin, in that order.

On Sunday morning 29 July, the Squibs were greeted by calm and a sea mist giving them limited visibility. However, the breeze soon arrived, so the sailors went afloat.

Race Four, in a big lumpy sea with a 14-knot north-westerly wind, was won by Slipstream. As Fagin approached the finish line ahead of Toys and Periquin, Patterson and Nolan considered sitting on Toys to allow Periquin to take second place, which would have sent ‘Toys’ down the leaderboard, but they didn’t risk it.

In the final race, in which the tide had turned and the lesser sea state remained difficult, the wind dropping off 10 knots, Allegro showed speed and skill to run away with the race from Ian Travers and Keith O’Riordan in the multicoloured Outlaw from Kinsale, and Ronan MacDonell and Tonia McAllister from Howth in Fantome.

This Squib 50th anniversary event was held at Howth Yacht Club which at one time hosted the largest Squib fleet in the country with forty boats.

Having declined to a handful of Squibs in 2012, this North Dublin club can now boast a growing fleet as is indicated in the result sheet below.

At present there is an interesting rivalry between the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club, Killyleagh Yacht Club on Strangford Lough and Kinsale Yacht Club, with the North and South Dublin Squibs currently in the second division.

Published in Squib
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Howth Yacht Club’s Junior Organiser Sara Lacy has been working through a highly productive eighteen months of research and implementation since being appointed to the post on her election to the General Committee in December 2016 writes W M Nixon. Several strands of development are successfully being brought on stream to provide a major increase in the number of junior trainees benefitting from the club’s many facilities and availability of training craft.

The HYC Junior Organiser came to boats in Dun Laoghaire as learner sailor Sara Kenny, but crossed Dublin Bay on marrying into the long-established Howth sailing dynasty of the Lacy family. She and husband William have three children - two girls aged 13 and 15, and a boy of 17 - and that, combined with a high-powered background as a fine art valuer and auctioneer, gives her the ideal skills set to provide the initiative which has got Howth junior sailing moving again.

sara lacy2HYC’s Junior Organiser Sara Lacy, helming the family’s cruiser in Galicia

This initiative has seen the club’s Junior Training Programme becoming much more user–friendly and responsive to the needs of beginners and their parents alike. In tandem with it, HYC Commodore Joe McPeake inaugurated the Quest Howth project, a sailing school run by Jeannie McCarthy. It’s based within the club premises, yet is open to all. The variety of courses and summer sailing camps which Quest provides is visionary in its scope, and during this past month has included programmes on Learning to Sail in several languages, notably German, Spanish, French and Irish.

"Several strands of development are successfully being brought on stream to provide a major increase in the number of junior trainees"

howth j80 quest3The new STEM initiative has given the use of the Howth J/80s as floating classrooms an entirely new meaning. Photo: Quest Howth

The junior-orientated buzz of activity around the club has been further increased in recent weeks with the introduction by Sara Lacy and Sarah Robertson of a pilot scheme of the STEM learning programme for three local schools. STEM is based on the practical learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. These may seem ordinary and everyday subjects in a classroom setting, but in a boat and sailing-related programme as being developed by Sarah Robertson’s Hands-On Learning project, they take on a lively and absorbing new meaning.

plane sailing4Mystery photo… could be a demonstration that plane sailing is not plain sailing in the STEM course in Howth. Photo: Sara Lacy

Sarah Robertson was originally Sarah Lovegrove, the daughter of noted sailing administrator and active participant David Lovegrove, and she learned her own sailing in Howth. But with international sailing and training experience since gained at several major training centres, she finds that her own home port is providing the perfect demographic and topographical setup to develop the Hands-On Learning practical experience with sufficient detail, research and feedback to envisage developing it at a countrywide level.

learn to sail children“Purchasing power” may mean one thing in today’s consumer world, but when lifting loads with different combinations of pulleys in the STEM course, it means something else altogether. Photo: Sara Lacy

While boats and equipment are of course essential to the development of this impressive initiative, Sarah Lacy and her team are giving the multi-directional expansion of Howth’s junior sailing the essential human touch, and her summary of their experience in recent weeks tells us much about why, for this season, it looks very much as though the young people going happily through the Howth YC Junior Training Programme in all its various aspects will have seen total numbers trebled or even quadrupled over 2017’s figure, with the STEM scheme on its own drawing in 156 eager learners this week.

Quest j80 howth6The ultimate ambition – a new group of young people introduced to the full possibilities of sailing through Howth’s J/80s. Photo: Quest Howth

In her summary of STEM’s working last week, Sarah Lacy captures the mood and flavour of a fascinating project:

“We invited three Nationals Schools from the Howth Peninsula - Scoil Mhuire, St Fintans NS and The Burrow - to participate in the STEM scheme, wherein all we had 152 children in groups of 30 at HYC through last week. The children attending were in 5th class - roughly age 11. Each school provided volunteers, teachers and parents to assist on the day, and experienced Club members such as Scorie Walls, Terry Harvey, Gerry Sargent, Lara Jameson, Holly Quinn, William Lacy Jnr, and Helen Brosnan all manned their stations to teach the children in the very enjoyable ‘hands-on learning’ method.

Many topics were covered in a practical variety of ways with ecology being a subject of special interest, while you could almost hear the penny drop on the realisation of the how the tides work quietly yet inevitably on seeing the marking on the pylon as they passed it a number of times during the day, putting another marker to show the rise, and noting the time.”

hyc j80 kids7As the summer progresses and the sea warms up, practical demonstrations take on a new direction. Photo Quest Howth.

As the courses get underway punctually at 9.00am each morning, following lunch the afternoon is then clear to transfer the teaching and learning afloat to Quest Howth with Jeannie McCarthy and the HYC J/80s. The fresh set of experiences this provides is brought promptly to a conclusion at 4.0pm with a diverse group of happy people enlightened and exhilarated by a day of very special learning, an introduction to sailing which is so neatly geared to consumer needs that it gives real hope for lasting success and an enduring increase in sailing numbers.

Published in Howth YC
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