Displaying items by tag: Royal Cork Yacht Club
Ireland's Tokyo 2021 representative Annalise Murphy is set to rejoin the national Laser dinghy racing scene after a seven-year hiatus when she sails next week at the 2020 Laser national championships at Royal Cork Yacht Club.
The Rio Olympic silver medalist makes her return in Cork Harbour, the same venue she last sailed at a nationals in 2013, months before her European title win on her home waters at Dun Laoghaire Harbour.
Murphy is not the only Irish Olympic campaigner competing either as the battle for National honours heats up at Crosshaven from August 20th to 23rd.
As Afloat reported previously, due to COVID-19, the three fleet 2020 championships, one of the biggest dinghy events of the 2020 calendar, will now be split between two venues in the Harbour and be run separately.
The National Yacht Club ace will confront Aoife Hopkins and Eve McMahon, both unsuccessful rivals in the controversially cut-short trial for Tokyo 2021 who will also be competing in a mixed Radial fleet of 60 plus sailors. There is no entry – so far – however for Lough Derg's Aisling Keller, another 2021 trialist and the 2018 Irish champion who secured Ireland's berth for Tokyo.
Murphy's clubmate, Rio rep Finn Lynch, who is still bidding for a Tokyo nomination in the men's class will be in action in the 30-boat standard rig division as are other 2021 trialists Ewan McMahon of Howth and Belfast Lough's Liam Glynn.
The entry list is here
Royal Cork Yacht Club is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to stage next week's Laser dinghy National Championships, one of the flagship events of its tricentenary celebrations in Cork Harbour.
With the postponement of Phase 4 COVID 19 restrictions, the hosts are not in a position to locate all sailors in the proposed format of three fleets.
In order to ensure that they can hold a safe event, the AIB Sponsored Nationals will, therefore, be split into two events, according to an update from the Laser class.
The position now for the event is that the Radials and Standards will be based in Crosshaven, while 4.7s will be based in Ringaskiddy, where a new slip will give easy access to the lower harbour.
- Standard and Radial Nationals hosted by the RCYC
- Laser 4.7 Nationals hosted by Monkstown Bay Sailing Club (MBSC)
"The 4.7 Nationals are now being hosted by MBSC, an entirely separate event with separate documentation, organisation committees, a separate venue (Paddys Point, Ringaskiddy) and a separate race course", Royal Cork's Alex Barry told Afloat.
It is expected further details will be available in the next few days. The event starts on August 20th.
It will be the first time the Irish Optimist fleet will compete this year due to COVID and participant numbers at the event have been limited by organisers.
The event starts on Thursday but there has already been some pre-championship tuning going on at Crosshaven.
Photo slideshow below by Bob Bateman
A win for Michael McCann in tonight's fifth and final race of the Union Chandlery July League at Royal Cork Yacht Club gives him the overall win of the IRC Spinnaker Division. McCann sailing the Etchells, Don't Dilly Dally had a single point lead over Annamarie and Denis Murphy's Grand Soliel 40, Nieulargo in a 14-boat fleet.
In a 12-boat White Sail division, the Grand Soliel 37 Prince of Tides (Frank Caul and John Molloy) wins by two points overall from the Sun Light 30 Expression.
Full results are here. Bob Bateman's Photo slideshow is below
With only the lightest harbour breeze available Race Officer John Crotty set the mixed dinghy fleet off on a course that involved all points of sailing from a beat,a run and reaches before heading home for refreshments on the RCYC lawn at Crosshaven.
Other cash prizes went to second overall to Tom, Cloe and Patrick Crosbie. Third place went to Andrew Crosbie, all sailing National 18s.
Chris Bateman won the Lasers and Shane Collins, the Topper division.
Knox Kohl was the youngest sailor and first female home was Sophie Crosbie.
The youngest crewed boat was sailed by Ethel and Olin Bateman and the oldest combined Crew was Tommy Dwyer and Willy Healy
RCYC AIB PY1000 Photos
See the full slideshow of images from the event below by Bob Bateman
At times of sadness, we are helped by ceremonial. For sure, no-one would dream of comparing the enormous grief visited upon those who have been and will be bereaved by COVID-19 with the quiet sense of loss caused the absolutely correct and timely decision to cancel Volvo Cork Week 2020. Yet it was to be the high point of the Club’s keenly-anticipated international Tricentennial celebrations. So at the beginning of the week in which it should all have been happening, something was needed to mark the moment, some small but poignant ceremonial to signal that the club and its members, while saddened by the cancellation, are capable of moving on, and are indeed moving on.
It happened at noon on Sunday. Key figures in the running of the club and the planning of the Tricentenary assembled in a small enough group on the club lawn to maintain social distance, and with them were two young Optimist sailors to symbolise the class whose National Championship at Crosshaven on August 13th to 16th will see the club return to national action after a month and more in which down-home club activity has been steadily building following the total Lockdown.
Daragh Connolly, Rear Admiral Keelboats, fired three cannon shots, and the Optimist sailors sent aloft the flags ’N’ over ‘A’ to signal that Volvo Cork Week 2020 was cancelled. It said everything that needed to be said. And then Admiral Colin Morehead and George Mills of Volvo Car agents Johnson & Perrott signalled the announcement that Volvo Cork Week 2022 will be staged from July 11th to 15th 2022. The Crosshaven tradition of superb events run ”by sailors, for sailors” is very much alive and well. And in the days and weeks ahead, the club will see a steady but measured continuing resumption of activities to mark the Tricentenary in a heartfelt yet subdued manner in keeping with the current circumstances.
Royal Cork's weekly league racing is underway with some fine sailing breezes to get the first races of the season underway last Thursday and Friday.
Among the fleet of mixed keelboats is a 'Cork300' branded RCYC 1720 sportsboat marking 300 years of club activity in Cork Harbour.
As Afloat's WM Nixon points out here the sheer joy of sailing re-asserting itself in Cork Harbour is a tonic for all involved at Crosshaven.
As well as sportsboats, other one-design keelboats that included an Etchells, there was a good turnout of cruisers for the round the cans racing format.
Photos below by Bob Bateman
There are three Royal Cork Yacht Clubs. One is the globally-recognised historic institution which is directly descended from the Water Club of the Harbour of Cork founded three hundred years ago, the oldest yacht club in the world. The second is a remarkably successful competitive sports organisation which produces sailing and offshore racing athletes to Olympic standard. And the third is a friendly neighbourhood sailing club in a charmingly extended clubhouse, a club which is integral to its community of Crosshaven, and a quietly important part of the everyday life of its ordinary sailing members, while at the same time being the flagship expression of the Harbour of Cork in its recreational mode.
This year, the globally-recognised historic institution was naturally taking world centre stage as the focal point of a major international celebration of its seniority in our sport. But as that has been largely cancelled in a timely, mature and exemplary response to the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus, the other steady, rocklike and ever vital third version of the Royal Cork has emerged, gallant and unbowed, to continue the Club’s time-honoured role of serving its own people and place, playing the key role in providing the people, the boats and the enthusiasm for Crosshaven sailing to resume in a carefully-planned way at an area level.
The club and its antecedent organisations may have had several homes over the centuries. But ever since the Royal Munster Yacht Club moved from its up-harbour Monkstown base to quietly take over the new premises of the Cork Motor-Boat Club at Crosshaven in 1923, a location has developed where sailors of all levels and ages – from young absolute beginners to seasoned international campaigners – can get in their sport from a base which is secluded from the many other busy activities of this magnificent harbour, yet at the same time provides speedy and convenient access to the great sheltered stretch of water and the open sea off it, with fine coastal cruising areas within easy reach.
The centralisation at Crosshaven became complete with the amalgamation – led by Clayton Love Jnr - of the Royal Munster at Crosshaven and the more senior Royal Cork from Cobh, in 1967 at Crosshaven in time for a two year Quarter Millennial Celebration in 1969-70. And while the more recent development of new marina and berthing facilities all round Cork Harbour have seen additional organisations moving into the mainstream of sailing provision, the Royal Cork at Crosshaven continues to be in a league of its own in the breadth of its activities, influence and leadership role.
It is something which Irish sailing at large tends to take for granted as being the way things in Cork harbour - and particularly Crosshaven - have always been within living memory. So it can be salutary to hear the views of perceptive visitors when they first discover the vibrant Crosshaven mixture of international sailing centre and down-home community-focused training and sailing centre.
Once such was world sailing pioneer Robin Knox-Johnston, who first became acquainted with the Crosshaven scene when it was a stopover on a five-stage two-handed Round Britain and Ireland Race. Having done several such events involving a number of ports in different countries, he was accustomed to the fleet in which he was racing being the complete focus of attention in each visited port.
But while Crosshaven was tops in warmth of welcome and efficiency during their 2-3 day stopover there, his abiding impression is of a second parallel club which burst into life each morning as shoals of RCYC junior sailors in a variety of classes from Optimists upwards went afloat in waves of sail for a day’s training and racing. The young crews did take in the wonder of the fleet of internationally-renowned ocean-racing specials which were visiting their club. Yet they were equally determined to get out and get sailing themselves regardless of the sailing Gods in port, and that was what particularly impressed Robin Knox-Johnston.
This flurry of the junior trainees going afloat each weekday summer morning is of course repeated at many clubs throughout Ireland. But it is the Royal Cork’s comprehensively organic and evolving waterfront along the Owenboy River which gives the many aspects of a classically healthy sailing club such a special dynamic, with a natural interaction between the different levels of interest and ages of those involved.
It is this easy continuation and interaction between the generations and the different levels and types of sailing and boating interest which gives the Royal Cork a formidable core strength. That strength has withstood whatever adverse events have come the club’s way over three centuries, and provided it with the inner confidence to face the demands which the Tricentenary would pose.
For although Cork Harbour and the socio-economic circumstances around it in 1720 were ideal for the highly-innovative creation of the world’s first yacht club, the times have moved on. Other places have found that their own success enabled them to move sailing development ahead, and there has been an undoubted tendency for the centre of gravity of the international sailing scene to move away from sometimes wet and windy islands off the northwest coast of Europe, towards places with a warmer and more reliable climate.
Yet despite that, while it may have been through thin times, the spirit of sailing never went from Cork, and as the sport in its modern form developed through the 1900s, the Water Club evolved into the Royal Cork Yacht Club, acknowledged in its ultimate seniority by organisations as venerable and distinguished as the Royal Yacht Squadron and the New York Yacht Club, and gallantly sailing on among the clubs of the world as “neither the biggest nor the wealthiest, but simply the oldest and the best”.
Thus as the countdown of five years and more to its Tricentenary in 2020 took shape, the RCYC faced its year in the global sailing spotlight with quiet confidence and thorough planning. The way that other leading international clubs responded favourably, supportively and co-operatively to its proposals augured well for a very special year indeed, and with Colin Morehead installed as the 42nd Admiral at the AGM on January 21st 2020, everything was settling into place as planned.
And then came COVID-19. It took some time for some major administrators and indeed for many governments to grasp the totality of what was happening as the pandemic spread. But the Royal Cork Yacht Club gave both the sailing community and the world at large a clear example in its precise response. Just two months after its anticipation-filled AGM in January, on March 27th the RCYC confirmed that as indicated on March 15th, all events in June and July relating to the Tricentenary – which included some very major international events in July – were cancelled.
In business administration, they say that any decision - even a wrong decision - is better than no decision at all. But there were many who reckoned the RCYC, through its senior officer board of Admiral Colin Morehead and Vice Admiral Kieran O’Connell (Chairman of the pillar event, Volvo Cork Week) were being hasty. Yet they were proven right twice over both in making a timely decision, and in making what has proven to be absolutely the right decision.
The fact that the Royal Cork took this momentous step, this highest of high-profile decisions so soon, made it much easier for other sailing clubs and organisations to follow suit. And as the rightness of what was an extremely painful but very necessary decision at the time becomes ever more apparent, the Royal Cork’s unique local, national and international positions makes its emergence from the Lockdown of greater relevance than other clubs.
For although clubs and organisations more inherently nimble than the Crosshaven club may have seemed to pioneer the lockdown exit in a speedier fashion, the RCYC’s status as a role model is unrivalled, and any action it takes in these extraordinary circumstances has to be carefully considered.
Thus it’s reassuring to know that as soon as the clampdown had been imposed, the club’s decision-makers were closely monitoring developments, with the Admiral setting the tone with his clear belief that whatever happens, 2020 is still the Tricentenary year - you simply cannot postpone such a thing - and it is their clear duty to do their very best for whatever visitor-involving events that might still possible in August and September.
But meanwhile, as local Lockdowns ease, their first duty is to their own members and the gradual restoration of the RCYC programme of junior training and club events, particularly club racing, and this has been under way at a quietly-accelerating socially-distance conscious pace since June 9th, with the pace accelerating at the end of June such that as of this weekend the club has already staged seven races for adult classes, while the juniors have had less formal contests as part of their curriculum.
The calm competently managerial style of Colin Morehead has been at the heart of it all, and when we remember that he had spent three years and more in detail planning of the Tricentenary before becoming Admiral on January 21st this year, it’s clear that here is a strong and able character capable of a heroically philosophical approach to a major setback, yet the description of him as “stoical” seems somewhat inappropriate, for he has accepted and dealt with the change in the RCYC’s plans with a good-humoured attitude which has helped to cheer up everyone.
But then, Colin Morehead is Cork sailing blueblood through and through, and calmness in the face of sailing administration adversity is bred into him. His grandfather married Alice Donegan, daughter of the quintessential Cork sailing polymath Harry Donegan (1870-1940) of the legendary inaugural Fastnet Race veteran Gull, while the Morehead's themselves were a long-established sailing family. Colin’s father Robert raised his family in a Lee-side house in Blackrock where boats were never far away, while summer holidays with the grandparents in Currabinny meant total involvement with the Crosshaven sailing scene, in Mirror dinghies, a Laser later, and crewing in his father’s Sadler 25 Blue Jay, those he raced against including one Robert Bateman, racing the David Thomas Quarter Tonner Robin, which became Irish Quarter Ton National Champion (ECHO) before her owner-skipper started to devote all his time afloat to sailing photography.
As for young Colin Morehead, in the summer after leaving school he spent three months Solent-based as a crewman on the mighty former J Class Velsheda, which in those distant days of the 1980s was a long way from the immaculately restored classic she is today. Her then-owner was Terry Brabant, a Southampton scrap-metal merchant who was gallantly obsessed with getting the long-decommissioned Velsheda sailing again, and the result was mixed - to say the least - but she was definitely fully-rigged, and a colossal sailing challenge.
Yet Colin Morehead emerged unscathed and toughened from an experience with left him with some extraordinary memories, and he went on to work with AIB in a number of posts which took him to Dublin for several years – he crewed with Harry Byrne at Howth in the successful Club Shamrock Rapparee and with a colleague who had a GRP Folkboat based in Dun Laoghaire - and he’d a period with the bank in the Channel Isles where he met his future wife, Irene McEvoy from Clare, and they now have two children, Robert (16) and Katie (11) – while he kept up his sailing with crewing on a Contessa 32. Then after the mandatory stint with the AIB outpost in the Isle of Man, he found his way back to AIB in Cork around the turn of the Century (he now manages the Cobh Branch) and made a gentle return to Crosshaven sailing by buying George Bushe’s last boat, a GRP Seamaster 23 to which the great yacht-builder had added many super-useful extras, making an already good little boat very good indeed…
But the boom times were rolling, like everyone else he up-graded – in Colin Morehead’s case to a Bavaria 33 – and found himself Captain of the Whitesails Class. It was now that the Royal Cork became fully aware of his infectious and effective enthusiasm, which saw him introducing all sorts of imaginative handicap systems which gave everyone a chance. This was soon resulting in unprecedented regular turnouts of more than thirty boats, and an annual prize-giving dinner which filled the club with just this one class alone, for everyone picked up a gong of some sort or other.
But then came 2008 and the economic crash, and everyone had to pause for breath. Boat-less for a while, as the first green shoots appeared Colin Morehead got himself a little Orkney motor-boat just to get afloat. But he craved sailing, and as his “Recession Buster” he traded across to the 1991-vintage First 210 Bene Bebe. She was meant to be a stop-gap sailing cruiser, but as anyone who has sailed this long-lived Beneteau marque in one of its many manifestations will know, this is one big-hearted little boat, and for a Cork harbour enthusiasts she meets all your needs, so he still has her and is well content.
But his imaginative work with the White Sails Class had been noted, and he was asked by RCYC Admiral Pat Lyons to take on the Royal Cork’s implementation of the of the Irish Sailing Association’s Try Sailing initiative, which he did with such success that for 2016 he was the recipient of the ISA President’s Award. Yet by the time he received that at the ceremony in Dublin in February 2017, he was already well-drawn into chairing the RCYC Cork300 Committee, and plans for 2020 with many international ramifications were well in place with considerable detail and commitment when he became RCYC Vice Admiral in 2018, on line to become Admiral for the Tricentenary in 2020 with its huge and complex international and national programme centred around Crosshaven.
For the rest of us, the sheer random destructiveness of the pandemic in this year of all years in the Royal Cork Yacht Club is still almost impossible to grasp, yet for those right at the eye of the storm, an almost preternatural calm seems to have taken over. They’ve led the way in accepting that the international aspect of the celebration simply won’t take place - for it’s something that just can’t be postponed for a year or even two years - and almost immediately they’ve re-focused on the core of the club with the clear message that the Tricentenary is still very much being celebrated, there’ll be major events such as the Optimist Nationals and the Laser Nationals in August, and in the meantime, all energies are being devoted to getting the club racing and home events programme running smoothly with numbers steadily building up as people adjust to the new circumstances.
Thus as of today (Saturday) the Royal Cork at Crosshaven has already completed the Admirals Chace in Cork Harbour last Saturday, and eight significant club racing days and evenings too, while the junior programme has been under way in controlled form since June 9th.
Naturally, it was all being done in a tentative sort of way initially, but Wednesday and Thursday of this week have clearly crossed a threshold, with Wednesday seeing the National 18s racing with relish in three contests, albeit in grey conditions so of course the winners on a scorecard of 2,1,2 was 50 Shades, sailed by Nick Walsh, Eddie Rice and Rob Brownlow.
As for Thursday, for a while, it looked like an evening of calm air ghosting as the fleet went out. But a brisk a brisk and sunny nor’westerly swept in, and suddenly everyone found they were sailing again without a care in the world other than the immediate concerns and demands of boat racing, with Bob Bateman’s photos saying it all.
The White Sail fleets were at it last night, both at Crosshaven and across the harbour at Cobh, so club sailing is rapidly getting up to speed in Cork Harbour. And there is indeed a Royal Cork Yacht Club Tricentenary Celebration under way, even if tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon will see a brief occasion of some formality at Crosshaven to send up the signals at RCYC that Volvo Cork Week 2020 is cancelled.
At the beginning of this week, that such an event was scheduled to take place at all seemed a matter of some solemnity. But since then, we’ve had the sheer joy of sailing re-assert itself in Cork Harbour. Life very much goes on, albeit in a modified form such that we conclude with a video issued by the RCYC on Thursday and fronted by Admiral Colin Morehead himself, guiding us through the new ways of using that much-loved clubhouse.
As Afloat reported previously, another County Cork marina at Kinsale Yacht Club was also awarded the standard.
The programme aims to raise environmental awareness and promote sound environmental management of beaches, marinas and inland bathing waters around the world.
The 80 Irish beaches and 10 marinas that have achieved this accolade in 2020 must adhere to specific criteria related to water quality, information provision, environmental education, safety and site management.
"The award is really important to the Club as it is a vital part of our overall sustainability strategy", Gavin Deane, RCYC General Manager told Afloat.
On the West Coast, Kilrush Marina on the Shannon Estuary, and facilities in County Kerry at Fenit and Portmagee were also Blue Flag winners.
Other Blue Flag marinas for 2020/21 are:
- Greencastle Marina
- Rathmullan Marina
- Fenit Marina
- Kilmore Quay Marina
- New Ross Marina
- Quigleys Marina, Killinure Point, Co. Westmeath
Time was when fifty years seemed a long time in the life of any sports organisation, and indeed in life itself. Golden Jubilees were a big deal, to be celebrated with much fanfare. In fact, even 25 years of organisational continuity were worthy of festivities. But then, the general mindset was programmed by the fact that many sports only became properly codified towards the end of the 1800s, while the organisations which grew from them were generally only finding their feet around the turn of the century in 1900.
The new Century was barely under way before it was riven by two World Wars, in 1914-1918 and again in 1939-1945. In between them, in Ireland in the period 1919 to 1922 we managed to fit in a War of Independence, Partition and a Civil War. None of this was remotely comparable in scale to the major geopolitical changes and industrial carnage of the global conflicts, but they caused major disruption and tragedy at a local and personal level, such that just one decade of civilised life and gentle progress began to seem like a long time, a major achievement.
Yet despite the Troubles in Ireland between 1969 and 1998, the general mood since the end of World War II in 1945 has been one of peace and progress, however deceptive that may become under close analysis. The effect of all this – allied to markedly increased longevity until too many people started getting obese in recent years – is that fifty years no longer seems such a very long time.
We see it in Irish sailing in particular by noting the number of people around us who can remember participating in the Quarter Millennial Celebrations of the Royal Cork Yacht Club in 1969-1970, and were looking forward to being involved in the RCYC’s Tricentenary this year.
Back in 1970 – which after all was only 25 years after the end of World War II - fifty years still seemed a very considerable length of time, making the Royal Cork’s 250 year of existence all the more remarkable. That was something which was underlined ten years later, when much fanfare accompanied the Irish Cruising Club’s Golden Jubilee Cruise-in-Company in 1979, with a large international fleet sailing westward from Crosshaven to the incomparable cruising grounds of southwest Ireland, made popular over the years by the key ICC founder, Harry Donegan of Cork.
But nowadays, fifty years is something we just take in our stride. And perhaps it is this modern compression of the half-century which has helped us to cope with the unbelievable reality that the visionary and meticulous plans for the Tricentenary of the RCYC have been up-ended by a worldwide pandemic, a lethal disease which originated in a wet market in the depths of China, and has spread so totally and ruthlessly across the world that we will probably never really know the true extent of its fatal effects.
Preventing those dreadful effects from being even worse has become a national project. Yet before the need for this became totally clear, even the most utterly pessimistic observer could not have imagined how totally the necessary safety measures would effectively wipe out the RCYC celebrations.
Sailing is of itself a very healthy sport, and the people who participate in it are usually from a vigorous cohort of the population. But that in turn means that our post-sailing socialising is unusually intense. So we know that the resumption of sailing is requiring a complete re-set of the way we go about our activities afloat, and how we access them. But meanwhile, the thoughts of the sailing community are very much with the sailors of Cork, and the way that their hopes and plans were caught precisely in the target cross-hairs of the spreading pandemic.
Yet the way that the Royal Cork YC has responded to this unbelievable reversal of fortune has been an inspiration to us all. The inevitable cancellations have been timely and efficient, and the members have rallied round in a spirit of mutual support, while Admiral Colin Morehead has been the very model of calm philosophical acceptance and example as he leads his members in handling this extraordinary challenge.
Colin Morehead himself had been working on the plans for the Tricentenary for three years and longer, and while he was doing that, it was Pat Farnan as Admiral who led the club to such good effect through the busy countdown years that RCYC entered 2020 already feted as “Club of the Year”.
It was all systems go, and then it was all systems on hold as the grim news came from the east, and then with gruesome inevitability, it was all crowd-gathering events on cancellation. Yet it was done with a dignity and graceful acceptance which set the standard not just for Irish clubs, but for world sailing generally.
It is impossible to overestimate the beneficial effect which the gallant –indeed noble – manner in which the RCYC has dealt with the circumstances has contributed to the general good. Then too, the broad benefit of the community spirit within the club has manifested itself in many ways, with the National 18 class leading the charge in the full development of eRacing, while members with a real feeling for the extraordinary history of the club have got together to produce an online series - Way Back When – which features on the RCYC website, and explores many areas of club activity and Crosshaven history, all with an attractive personal touch.
Limited club sailing has of course finally resumed this week in controlled circumstances with emphasis on the juniors, while family sailing – always central to the Cork scene – has been returning as the restrictions are eased, though there’s still a long way to go, and everyone is mindful of the need for careful monitoring at every stage.
What with the fresh look at the club’s past through the Way Back When series, coupled with the fact that the Club’s monumental history - based by historian Alice St Leger on RCYC archivist Dermot Burns’ unrivalled collection of records and artefacts going back to 1720 and beyond - was published to several awards and much acclaim in 2005, provides an enduring base of shared awareness. This, when combined with the eRacing, the Webinars, and now the ordered resumption of sailing in gradual socially-distanced steps, tells us all that the RCYC is very much alive and well.
In fact, nothing has become the Royal Cork Yacht Club so much as its graceful acceptance of the inevitability of cancelling much of its Tricentenary celebrations. It tells us much about how the Club and its members have matured and thrived over the centuries into the unique institution which has been a club for long enough to be planning a Tricentenary in the first place. As sailing resumes on a broader scale, the RCYC will find that their standing in world sailing is greater than ever.
As it is, they should take every encouragement from the progress that they and their magnificent harbour have made in terms of facilities and activity since 1970, which becomes abundantly clear from most of 1970’s monthly editions of Irish Yachting & Motorboating, Afloat.ie’s direct predecessor, which in 1970 was dominated by the RCYC Quarter Millennium.
We really started to roll with the May issue, in which the lead item in Seascape, the opening collection of stories of particular interest to the Editor, led with the building of Francis Chichester’s 53ft Robert Clark-designed Gipsy Moth V in Crosshaven Boatyard. I hadn’t forgotten just how much Chichester had loathed the committee-designed Gipsy Moth IV in which he circled the world in 1966-67 with one stop at Sydney, but I had forgotten - until re-reading the story fifty years down the line - that he’d been so impressed with the improvements Sydney yacht designer Warwick Hood had made to the boat during the Sydney stopover that he at one stage contemplated getting Hood to design Gipsy Moth V.
However, in the end he went back to Robert Clark, designer of Gipsy Moth III which had been built by Tyrrell of Arklow, and as Clark by this stage had formed a working relationship with Crosshaven Boatyard through Denis Doyle, that’s where Gipsy Moth V was built.
When we all went back to Crosshaven in July through various offshore races finishing in Cork Harbour, Gipsy Moth V was afloat and Francis Chichester was in the village and having himself a fine old time among the crews who took part in the week-long Quarter Millennia Offshore Regatta which followed the feeder races.
This relaxed state of affairs came to an end when Mary Doyle took the nautical knight up to Cork Airport to meet an incoming flight with the formidable Sheila Chichester on board. The plane pulled up on the apron outside the Terminal Building, and almost immediately a distinctive red trouser leg emerged from the opening door. Chichester whispered to Mary: “Oh dear. That’s the trouser suit we were knighted in at Greenwich. I think the fun is over for a day or two.”
Meanwhile, everyone else continued to have much sport and fun throughout the Cork summer of 1970, but in looking back at those magazines of the time, the abiding impression is of the greyness of it all, mainly because black and white photos were still totally dominant, but also there’s the primitive nature of the facilities.
The Royal Cork clubhouse was only a tiny hint of what it has become today, though I do rather miss the old bar – originally from the time of the Royal Munster YC – which was in the shape and spirit of the great aft cabin of a mighty ship from the Golden Age of sail, but it wasn’t remotely commodious enough for today’s level of business.
As to getting afloat, it had been by a long jetty across mud – incredibly adhesive mud, as revellers would learn from time to time - and then by dinghy or club launch to your moored yacht out in the Owenboy River. However, by the time of the special regattas of 1969 and 1970, a large floating pontoon had been assembled at the club, and there was limited -though for many boats tide-sensitive - rationed berthing there.
Yet it wasn’t until 1972 that Ireland saw the first salt-water marina, and that was a local council amenity at Coleraine on the estuary of the River Bann on the North Coast.
But then 1974 the Royal Cork installed the beginnings of its marina, a new-fangled and very popular Autumn league followed that same year as a consequence, and since then progress has been taking place on almost every coastline - despite what some still-deprived areas might think - and it is Cork Harbour which has been leading the way.
This has been fulfilling an historic tendency. After all, the Water Club of the Harbour of Cork came into being partially because the landowners around the harbour sometimes found the most convenient way to get about his complex area of water and into the city was by boat, and it didn’t take long for working boats used for personal transport to be developed into something more luxurious.
Then the age of steam brought a new wave of harbour transport, with routes criss-crossing the harbour, and steamer piers and landing stages being installed at strategic locations, with many of them – or the remains of them - still in evidence. Local railways did provide an alternative, and so too did roads and cars as both improved, but the steamers survived for a remarkably long time.
When John G Sisk, who recently featured here as the first owner of Sarnia, was a schoolboy in Cork during the upheavals and dangerous strife of the early 1920s, for his safety he lived in his parents’ house in Myrtleville, travelling home by the harbour steamer to Crosshaven each evening and then continuing by pony and trap the two miles to the house.
Being John G Sisk, he optimised this situation. He knew that he would spend some time on the early morning steamer going back up to Cork city next day, so he was able to spend his evenings roaming freely in boyish adventures in the fields and beaches of Myrtleville, knowing he’d a clear time-slot for his homework on the morning ship to school.
All round Cork Harbour you can see the remains of the old steamer call-points, and there are many other little local ancient harbours too, some so old their original uses are forgotten. For a while, indeed, it seemed that the great days of Cork Harbour as an amenity, every bit as much as it’s a commercial asset, had been forgotten too.
But that has changed in the past fifty years, and particularly the past twenty. The Port of Cork and the Council have been beavering away installing landing and berthing facilities at key locations through this myriad island-filled harbour, transforming it for mini-cruising, for although there are real beaches in some choice locations, elsewhere mud is still king, and getting neatly and cleanly ashore at a safe berth makes all the difference in visits to the islands and remote locations.
The two people who lead the movement in making the best possible use of everything that Cork Harbour now has to offer are Monkstown’s Jack O’Keeffe, who’s busy with Drascombes when he’s not busy with kayaks when he’s not on some project involving Meitheal Mara (with it sometimes being a combination of all three), and Eddie English of Cobh. Eddie’s webinar this week, providing a guide to every hidden corner of this fantastic history-laden harbour, was required viewing, an eye-opener for anyone whose knowledge of Cork Harbour is restricted to biennial participation in Cork Week.
Jack O’Keeffe put together the remarkable “Corkumnavigation” of Cork city by kayaks and paddleboards last weekend, a real adventure which took the participants from crowded city-centre quaysides with visiting naval vessels looming over them, right into what seemed like the deepest heart of the countryside with trees closing overhead above clean narrow and winding waterways, while at other times they were going through a cityscape which might have been Venice.
Next weekend, Jack is leading a Drascombe flotilla around the harbour, and he’s to give an illustrated talk on the Inner Harbour to Meitheal Mara shortly, so it was time to update available data. It’s thanks to him that we have the interim gazetteer of landing and berthing facilities around Cork Harbour, for it’s such a complex place with so many small local developments taking shape that it needs constant monitoring by people like Jack just to keep up.
No better man. On Wednesday evening, I was supposed to be phoning him at home to discuss how this was all coming together, the idea being that he’d be comfortably at his desk slurping a cup of tea or something stronger, and comfortably able to take the ideas forward. But while there was a semi-liquid noise when I got through, it was a squelching rather than a slurping, and he seemed slightly breathless.
“Don’t mind me” he said. “I’ve just heard about a tiny hidden Cork Harbour beach I didn’t even know about, and I just had to go and see for myself. I’m nearly there, and I think I can see a little patch of sand. If you don’t get some photos from me later tonight, you’ll know it was quicksand….”
The photos arrived. But what with Jack boldly going where no skipper had ever gone before, and the unquenchably enthusiastic Eddie English taking his First 36.7 Holy Grounder into places where most of us wouldn’t take a paddleboard, we’ve serious Cork Harbour information overload. So you’ll just have to go and see for yourselves, confident that if Lockdown continues in some limited form, there’s already an entire cruising universe within Cork Harbour without having to even think about going out to sea.
And in all its glory, the place is another expression of the continuing spirit of the Water Club of the Harbour of Cork as expressed through the Royal Cork Yacht Club and all the other clubs around this unique area of sheltered scenic water. In this time of travail, we wish them well, and thank them profoundly for the fine example they’ve set for sailors everywhere.