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'Incredible'. That was the one-word reaction from Commandant Barry Byrne when he crossed the finish line off Roches Point in Cork Harbour this lunchtime, snatching line honours victory in the first race of the Beaufort Cup, the Cork Week series for Services personnel. Read Afloat.ie's earlier report here.

"I never dreamt that I could repeat 2016's success. It's an incredible feeling",  the Irish Defence Forces skipper said having taken first blood with his talented crew against some very stiff competition.

"I never dreamt that I could repeat 2016's success"

In the podcast below, with Afloat.ie's Louay Habib, Byrne (who finished second in the Round Ireland Race earlier this month on the same boat), talks about how he knew he could win, if he could just hold on to the top pack in the 15–boat fleet. 

Even with the early win in the bag that counts for double points, Byrne remains extremely cautious, however, given there are three days of inshore racing still to come.

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Photographer Tim Wright captured the action on the water for the first day of Volvo Cork Week regatta yesterday. As Afloat.ie reported here, racing kicked off with an early start for the 17 teams racing in 'The Beaufort Cup', which set off on a 150-mile offshore race from Cork Harbour, bound for the Fastnet Rock and back to the finish. 

Scroll down for the photos of the 120–boat fleet below. More of Tim Wright's work here.

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Local sailing knowledge was a distinct advantage on the opening day of Volvo Cork Week where a fleet of 120 boats is in action until next weekend.

Juggling local tides and the light breeze on home waters, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney took an early lead in the overnight race to the famous Fastnet Rock in the Beaufort Cup for military and rescue crews.

The former Minister for Defence helped initiate the competition that has a €10,000 charity purse at stake. Appropriately enough, Coveney’s boat this week is named Jedi.

While Commandant Barry Byrne of the Irish Defence Forces is leading the title defence from the 2016 regatta on Joker 2, Irish Olympian Peter O’Leary is racing with the Baltimore RNLI team who were the early leaders in the 130 nautical-mile race.

"Irish Olympian Peter O’Leary is racing with the Baltimore RNLI team who were the early leaders in the 130 nautical-mile race"

That was until the fleet ran into light winds at Roche’s Point and Coveney popped into the lead. Close behind him, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett as Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces is on the crew of Merdian and hoping to edge into the lead.

As the Beaufort Cup crews sailed out of Cork Harbour, their route took the 15 teams straight past the start of the bigger event where four classes were beginning their own four-hour coastal race around the scenic Cork coastline.

CorkWeek IRC oneForty Licks leads a group of IRC one boats along the shore in the first race of Cork Week Photo: Cork Week/David Branigan
While the light wind made for a tricky start, the clouds soon pulled back and a perfect breeze kicked in as spinnakers were hoisted close to the beach at Fountainstown for a spectacular-run eastwards to Power Head.

However, that race ended as it began with tricky conditions at the finish off Roche’s Point where once again, local knowledge was an advantage.

That played into the hands of Kieran Collins and his family crew on Coracle IV who won the day in Class 3 ahead of Paul and Deirdre Tingle’s Alpaca.

With nine countries and 28 clubs from around Ireland and the Irish Sea region represented in the fleet, visitors are also featuring in the results, notably Jay Colville’s Forty Licks from East Antrim, winner of Class One.

In IRC One, Frank Whelan's Grand Soleil 44 Eleuthera (Greystones Sailing Club) got the best start above to lead the fleet on the beat along the shore. However, on the return to Weaver's Point the breeze started to fade and the lower IRC rated boats made up their time. Jay Colville's First 40 Forty Licks (East Down YC) won the race in IRC One by just 26 seconds on corrected time from Jonathan Anderson's J/122 El Gran Senor (Clyde Cruising Club). Performance Yacht Charter's Grand Soleil 43 Jua Kali (RORC) was third.

Racing continues on Tuesday with more coastal courses before Wednesday’s mass start of the full fleet that plans to sail past Cobh and its spectacular hillside backdrop that is the perfect grandstand for this regatta.

Full results click here

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Volvo Cork Week, taking place in Crosshaven, County Cork, July 16th – 21st, has announced its collaboration with An Tasice's Clean Coasts programme and the MaREI Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy at University College Cork as they join the race to restore ocean health with Sailors for the Sea’s Clean Regattas programme.

The ocean is in crisis, every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic enters the ocean from land each year and 40% of the oceans are heavily affected by human activity, including pollution, overfishing and destructive fishing practices, and the loss of coastal habitats.

Clean Regattas is a certification system that enables sailors to protect their local waters with 25 Best Practices that make sustainability approachable and easy. This program is an effort by Sailors for the Sea raising the bar for environmental sustainability and ocean health around the world.

“Our collaboration with Clean Coasts on supporting Volvo Cork Week in their efforts to run a cleaner, greener regatta represents an important opportunity for us to engage the public on the issue of marine litter and tackling single use plastics” commented Aoife Deane, Communications and Public Engagement Manager, MaREI Centre.

Over the 40 years of its history, Volvo Cork Week has cemented its reputation as a world-class sailing experience, flavoured with the key ingredients of friendly competition, varied sailing and excellent entertainment. With over 110 boats from around the world set to compete in this year’s event, Volvo Cork Week is also dedicated to protecting the waters upon which they sail. According to Regatta Chair, Kieran O’Connell, “The Royal Cork Yacht Club is committed to protecting our waters and has implemented a number of Clean Regattas Best Practices to reduce our environmental impact, including the provision of reusable water bottles and hydration stations, compostable food and coffee containers, paper straws, energy conservation, online registration forms, and an information campaign on reducing single use plastics and marine litter.”

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Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney – who will also skipper a yacht in this week's regatta – has officially launched Volvo Cork Week 2018 at the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven this afternoon.

The biennial sailing event based around the coast of County Cork and inside Cork Harbour, runs this year from today to next Saturday 21st July.

The festival of sailing has been billed as an 'Aquatic Tourism Highlight for Cork Harbour' and has attracted a fleet of over 100 boats from eight different countries. It follows a change to its format as RCYC's Kieran O'Connell describes to Afloat.ie's Tom MacSweeney here.

Cork week launch1RCYC Admiral Pat Farnan welcomes competitors to Crosshaven Photo: Bob Bateman

On the water, the July regatta has attracted one of the largest big boat regattas for Class Zero/One boats of the season with up to ten 40-foot boats competing as mentioned by Afloat.ie here.

Another highlight will be the Beaufort Cup in which the Tanaiste will compete against some of the world's top Defence forces sailing teams including the US Marines and British Army.

120 teams from eight different nations will compete at Volvo Cork Week, enjoying up to six days of racing in the Celtic Sea and Cork Harbour on a variety of courses. This year, the biennial regatta organised by the Royal Cork Yacht Club is celebrating 40 years and Volvo Cork Week continues to provide fantastic racing, superb award-winning facilities and great fun ashore.

Cork week launch1Irish Sailing President Jack Roy with Cork Week Chairman Kieran O'Connell and David Thomas, MD of Volvo Car Ireland Photo: Bob Bateman

Volvo Cork Week provides racing for yachts racing under IRC, including the highly popular non-spinnaker and coastal classes. Once again Volvo Cork Week will include an offshore element to the Beaufort Cup with a race around the iconic Fastnet Rock. All competitors will take part in the scenic yet tactically challenging Cork Harbour Race. For 2018, Volvo Cork Week will also feature Southern Championships for One Design Classes: 1720 Class, the International Dragon Class, and the SB20 Class.

Cork week launch1Cork Week Launch in the marquee Photo: Bob Bateman

“There have been big changes for the format of this year's regatta, splitting up into a number of different series. This was done to ensure that we were catering for everyone's needs.” commented Volvo Cork Week Chairman, Kieran O'Connell. “We have teams from 32 yacht clubs and entries are up 30% on 2016, which shows that the new format is working for people.”

Cork week launch1Mayor of Cork County Patrick Gerard Murphy Photo: Bob Bateman

The Beaufort Cup starts with the challenging Fastnet Race on Monday 16th July followed by three days of short course racing to test the all round ability of the teams. Beaufort Cup entries feature 50% of the crew coming from active personnel in the Armed Forces and Emergency Services. 17 teams will be racing from Ireland, Great Britain and the United States of America. The inaugural Beaufort Cup was held as part of the 2016 edition of Volvo Cork Week, Commandant Barry Byrne skippered the Irish Defence Forces to victory, and the team is back to defend their title. The winner will once again nominate a charity to win €10,000.

“The Beaufort Cup is fully part of Volvo Cork Week, and any team competing is eligible for the boat of the week.” commented Barry Byrne. “The Beaufort Cup is challenging, and a test in a real environment of leadership, team work and resilience, which are all values of the services we represent. The inter-services rivalry is very exciting, something special that raises the level of the competition, whilst still keeping the friendly rivalry and banter, which is brilliant. The field has really toughened up this year, everyone competing has done their best to raise their game. It is a great fleet and the fastest growing element of Volvo Cork Week.”

Cork week launch1The Royal Navy Sailing Team with the Commodore of the Irish Navy Photo: Bob Bateman

Many of the teams racing at Volvo Cork Week have come from overseas. Tony Ackland's Swansea YC team racing Dark Angel will be defending their IRC One title. In IRC Two, Samantha Hickey's team racing Beneteau 36.7 Altair are from the Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. James Angus' will be racing in the 1720 Class with a team from the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club. For Volvo Cork Week, Performance Yacht Racing's Andy Middleton, will skipper British Grand Soleil 43 Jua Kali, with an international crew from England, Wales, Scotland, Holland and Poland. The team delivered the boat from the Isle of Wight to Crosshaven, and enjoyed a pint at the Royal Cork Yacht Club upon arrival.

“All of the crew bar one have sailed with Performance Yacht Racing in the past at various events but for all of them this is the first time they have been to Volvo Cork Week. “The delivery was very easy and we have a few days to get Jua Khali into race mode for the regatta.” commented Andy Middleton. “This will be my first regatta ever.” smiled Margriet van Lidth, who comes from Amsterdam. “I love sailing and decided that this should be my first regatta experience.”

The event village at the Royal Cork Yacht Club was the centre for fun and laughter for the regatta. On Sunday 15th July with a Family Fun Day with the Royal Cork Yacht Club open to the public to enjoy the superb facilities at the clubhouse in Crosshaven.

There will be a variety of live music every night with a spectacular fireworks display on Friday 20th July with one of Cork's finest Indie Pop Funk Bands; Gerald Ahern & The Midnight Sons.

Read WM Nixon's Cork Week 2018 Preview here. Read all Afloat.ie's Cork Week coverage here.

Cork week launch1Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney addresses the guests and below with one of the highly-prized Cork Week Trophies Photo: Bob BatemanCork week launch1

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Royal Cork Yacht Club's ability to attract a sizeable 'big boat' following for Volvo Cork Week is highlighted in today's Irish Times Sailing Column. 

David O'Brien writes that the ten boat turnout assembled in Crosshaven for next week's regatta is nearly double what has been on offer so far this season.

For much more on the great turnout for Class Zero in Cork Harbour next week click here.

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Over the 40 years of its history, Volvo Cork Week has cemented its reputation as a world-class sailing experience, flavoured with the key ingredients of friendly competition, varied sailing and excellent entertainment.

Cork County Council Chief Executive, Mr Tim Lucey said “Cork County Council through our Economic Development Fund is delighted to be a Platinum Sponsor of Volvo Cork Week 2018. I wish to congratulate The Royal Cork Yacht Club on organising this biennial sailing regatta based around Crosshaven and Cork Harbour. The strength and appeal of the Cork tourism offering are significant and this event provides an excellent opportunity to highlight what Cork has to offer.

"Volvo Cork Week runs, this year, from Sunday 15th to Saturday 21st July"

Cork County Council’s sponsorship will provide a platform to provide a direct Economic Impact to the Cork Region. Cork is the best place in Ireland to explore both of the best experiences in Ireland – Ireland’s Ancient East and the Wild Atlantic Way. Cork is truly a remarkable place with so much to do, see and experience. Go take a trip on the Dursey Island Cable Car, visit Mizen Head, Michael Collins House, Clonakilty, Spike Island, Cobh, Youghal Clock Gate Tower, Bridgetown Priory, Castletownroche, there is so much to do in our beautiful county.” 

Mayor of the County of Cork Cllr. Patrick Gerard Murphy said “ I wish The Royal Cork Yacht Club every success for Volvo Cork Week 2018 and I look forward to attending events during the week. Volvo Cork Week has cemented its reputation as a world-class sailing experience and this can be seen in the number of entries to this year’s event. I would like to welcome all the visiting participants, families, and supporters to our great county and commend you all for the hard work, passion and dedication that has brought them here. While this is a competition, I wish to remind all participants, families and supporters to take some time to enjoy all that is “Pure Cork”.

“Cork is Ireland’s Maritime Haven with a significant maritime history spanning over a thousand years, set in a beautiful soft coastal environment where the land, the people, and their culture will allow you to discover a quirky way to stimulate all of your senses, have a look at Purecork.ie to make your own individual itinerary.”

Volvo continue their strong partnership with the sailing regatta in Crosshaven again this year. “Volvo Car Ireland are proud to continue their association with Volvo Cork Week 2018 for a third time. Together with Johnson & Perrott, we work to support what we see as important events in the communities where our customers live, work, and engage in sporting activities as a central part of their lives. At Volvo Cars, everything we do begins with people, from our commitment to safety to our innovative style.” 

“The Volvo brand is evolving in Ireland and globally. Volvo has a strong heritage in designing stylish and dynamic SUVs offering the latest in technology and safety. The new XC40 is no exception. It’s the perfect car for an active lifestyle and our new range of cars will be on display at the regatta. May wind and sunshine continue, to delivery the racing conditions that this wonderful event deserves. Volvo wishes all competitors good luck for an enjoyable event on land and at sea in Crosshaven at Volvo Cork Week.” – David Thomas, Managing Director, Volvo Car Ireland.

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Time was when “A Soldier’s Wind” was a slightly patronising term used to describe exceptionally favourable conditions for smooth voyaging in the great days of sail, with a beam reach in a good Force 4 being held up as the ideal writes W M Nixon

It dated from the era of government troopships criss-crossing the globe under sail when empire-building was in fashion, sailed by naval crews detailed with the job of getting military task-forces to operational hotspots as smoothly and quickly as possible.

It’s a term you’ll hear rarely used these days, if at all, as the growing need for troopships coincided with the arrival of steam- powered vessels which, while they were far from being luxury liners, were more efficient than sailing ships in this role.

So “A Soldier’s Wind” has been largely consigned to history and vague memory. And its disappearance from the Irish maritime vocabulary has been hastened by some remarkable sailing soldiers led by the likes of Commandant Barry Byrne, who has given us an entirely new perspective on military prowess in top flight racing boats.

barry at finish2Barry Byrne at Joker II’s helm on Thursday July 5th, approaching the finish line at Wicklow to take second overall in the Round Ireland 2018, and clear first in the Services Division

But although Barry Byrne has moved this military seafaring on to a new level of active involvement and command, Irish soldiers going in for offshore racing is nothing new. Way back in 1995, we did the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race with our hefty Contessa 35, and after a ding-dong nearly all the way with Jim Donegan of Cork with his Hustler 36 White Rooster (which he won, but we beat him the following year in the Round Ireland), we found ourselves berthed for one of the few times time alongside Dens Doyle’s mighty Frers 51 Moonduster, which had taken line honours and in time was the overall winner too.

It was intriguing to find Moonduster – which could carry a racing complement of up to 15 - was being crewed to a significant level by Army Cadets. One of Denis’s many sailing friends was the Irish army’s Colonel Barney Goulding. Having seen that Naval Cadets from the nearby base at Haulbowline in Cork Harbour did not necessarily work out when invited to join Moonduster’s enormous panel as potential crewmembers because they came aboard with too many pre-conceived ideas as to how a boat should be sailed and run, Barney suggested that he be allowed to give a squad of Army cadets a try.

It worked out very well at a high level of mutual respect, as the young army people were accustomed to working as a close team, they were extremely fit, and they were keen to learn while not claiming any deep knowledge of sailing. As for Denis, he just liked to get things done as quickly as possible with a minimum of fuss, and he was a main with absolutely no highfalutin airs or graces.

And the system worked very well indeed at a racing level– the convincing performance by Moonduster every which way in the Dingle Race proved it. At the time, many defence forces worldwide had long used sailing - particularly offshore sailing – as a useful adjunct to their training programme, often with a fleet of Navy-owned yachts to provide it. But in Ireland, as ever, we were to come to it in our own individualistic way.

moonduster spinnaker3Denis Doyle’s Moonduster, brand new out of Crosshaven Boatyard in 1981. At first her large crew panel of 30 was mostly made up with Crosshaven sailors, but as they acquired boats of their own and fleet numbers grew generally, Moonduster used other sources including enthusiastic Army cadets to build fresh crews. Photo: W M Nixon

The Naval Service has a Yacht Squadron with its marina for officially-owned and private boats at their headquarters base at Haulbowline in Cork Harbour race, and sea training in craft of all sizes has been encouraged. But it all suddenly moved on to a new level in February 2016 when then Minister for Defence Simon Coveney suggested – or rather, gave firm instructions – that there should be an Inter-Services Challenge within the up-coming Volvo Cork Week 2016 in five months time.

It fell to a noted sailing soldier, Barry Byrne who originally emerged from that noted sailing nursery of Wicklow, to put together the structure of what became the Inter-Services Beaufort Cup, with a substantial entry and each boat (people were generous in making competitive craft available) carrying a crew which was made up of at least 50% services personnel, but in most cases the proportion was much higher than that.

Beaufort Cup 2016 racing4Racing under way for the inaugural Beaufort Cup Series, Volvo Cork Week 2016. Photo Robert Bateman

With a programme which included a separate race around the Fastnet yet also somehow incorporated the Beaufort Cup Series as part of Volvo Cork Week, its success exceeded all expectations, and the Irish Defence Forces Crew sailing the J/109 Joker II loaned by John Maybury of the Royal Irish YC on Dublin Bay, and skippered by Commandant Barry Byrne, had a popular overall win.

Suddenly, sailing was the hot ticket in military training thinking. Or so sailing enthusiasts liked to think. Certainly, we waited with some hopeful expectation to see what the powers-that-be might allow Barry Byrne to do next for the development of our sport in the broader context.

beaufort at fastnet5With the Fastnet Rock as the turning point for its offshore race, the Beaufort Cup added a new dimension to Cork Week

But the Army has a way of bringing everybody back to earth to remind us of its real purpose in life. Very quickly, the next item in the Barry Byrne military career was a six month tour of duty with the Irish contingent in the UN Peace-Keeping Forces in South Lebanon, based on the South West Headquarters as Deputy Director of the Tactical Operations Sector. Essential soldiering perhaps, but there’s not a lot of room for the development of sailing as an adjunct to military training in a dusty posting like that.

However, as all sailing now knows, Barry Byrne is very much back on the home scene again, with input to the second annual staging of the Beaufort Cup in Volvo Cork Week starting on Sunday July 15th. And meanwhile – also with Joker II – he and his Defence Forces crew have just had a magnificent Volvo Round Ireland Race, second overall and runaway winners of the Services Division.

But whether or not they’re going to be able to continue their run of success into the Beaufort Cup 2018 is another matter, for it has moved up several notches to become the glamour event of Cork Week, and there’s every indication that some crews will make full use of the rule that only 50% of their number be from the Service they represent.

winning beaufort crew6The winning Beaufort Cup crew, July 2016 – Barry Byrne second left, top.
Even Barry Byrne himself is having to resort to some civilian support as one of his round Ireland crew sustained three fractured ribs during that sometimes decidedly rugged race, and while the casualty heroically carried on after being strapped up by his shipmates, doctor’s orders prohibit him from the demands of the Beaufort Cup.

So Joker II’s crew for this series is: Comdt. Barry Byrne, Sgt. Paddy McGrath, Lt Marcus Ryan, Lt Col Wayne Tyrell, Lt. Richie O’Hagan, Comdt. (Retd.) Ian Travers, Cpl. (Retd.) Brian Phelan, Brian Byrne, Malcolm Moir and Louis Malloy.

There are several in this lineup who shared in the success of 2016, but for 2018 there are 16 other high-powered entries for the Beaufort Cup determined to knock Joker II off her perch. They’re all seriously competitive craft, and with no less than eight J/109s in the Beaufort lineup, and with people of the calibre of Nin O’Leary, Tim Goodbody, Andrew Algeo, and Olympic coach Rory Fitzpatrick in various crew lineups, it could be anybody’s game.

Simon Coveney himself may now be Ireland’s Foreign Minister, but he’s no slouch on the sailing race course when he can find time to get afloat, and his name is associated with the Irish National Sailing Schools’ J/109 Jedi entry for the Beaufort Cup, while another name of note is solo sailor Joan Mulloy of Westport, whose Figaro 23 will be fully crewed up for this event.

crosshaven looking northeast7Historic and hospitable sailing paradise – looking northeast over Crosshaven and Cork Harbour
With the PSNI and Atlantic Youth Trust among those entered, the breadth of the competition is clearly in evidence as we also have crews from the Centenary-celebrating Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy, and the British Army’s Royal Engineers and Royal Signals, with a J/109 and an Elan 344 respectively.

Their programme will be stamina-testing afloat and ashore, as it includes that race round the Fastnet, following which there’s a Gala Dinner at Naval HQ in Haulbowline, and then they’ve somehow to find the energy to throw themselves into the concluding days of Volvo Cork Week itself, which will find Crosshaven humming.

fleet cork week8The magic moment of being first at the weather mark is even better in Volvo Cork Week.

The Royal Cork Yacht Club sits comfortably in its role of the world’s senior yacht club approaching its Tricentenary, while at the same time being in harmony with its neighbourhood and community. This was much in evidence on the charming evening recently (it was appropriately Midsummmer’s Night) when international designer Ron Holland launched his memoirs, and explained how he first came to Crosshaven for a weekend in November 1973 to look into an enquiry from Hugh Coveney and sailmaker John McWilliam about a new boat design, and ended up staying in Ireland for forty years and building a global business.

johnnymac and morehead9Crosshaven sailmaking pioneer Johnny McWilliam and RCYC Vice Admiral Colin Morehead. Photo Robert Bateman

What with video presentations and personal memories in front of an audience of all ages, it could have been chaotic, but with Johnny McWilliam as MC and the RCYC’s CEO Gavin Deane in his usual efficient, unflappable, and obliging style, it was a historic evening of remarkable and entertaining memories which told us as much about the spirit of the Royal Cork as anything else.

Thus they take Volvo Cork Week in their stride, with Organising Committee Chairman Kieran O’Connell – he has been in the post since 2014 – knowing its complete workings inside and out, which is no easy achievement. For the expectations for Cork Week come laden with history, and the business of melding the Beaufort Cup and class championships for boats like the International Dragons, the SB20s and the 1720s into one big successful event doesn’t happen without special effort.

gavin deane10Gavin Deane, CEO Royal Cork YC. Photo: Robert Bateman
kieran oconnell11Kieran O’Connell, Chairman of Cork Week Organising Committee. Photo: Robert Bateman

Cork Week as we know it goes back to 1978, when it was inaugurated by the then RCYC Admiral Archie O’Leary, who felt he could significantly improve on an ISORA Week which had been staged at Crosshaven in 1976, while there were also memories of a small-fleet mini-week in 1970 as part of the RCYC Quarter Millennial Celebrations, with the overall winner being Jack McKeown’s S&S 34 Korsar from the Royal St George YC in Dun Laoghaire.

But as the massive History of the Royal Cork Yacht Club published in 2005 confirmed, extended regattas often using coastal courses to take in Kinsale dated back to at least 1859, and the still-very-much-alive pure silver “Kinsale Kettle” trophy of that year is ample evidence of this. Yet while the distant history is there and must be respected, the continuing refinement of the programme with new ideas in Cork, and taking aboard ideas from the success of others, is a useful way to go.

For until now this has arguably been the best season for many years for regattas in Ireland, a reminder of what we can do when the weather is obliging. The endless sunshine and drought may be a very real problem ashore, with the nation rendered somnolent to the point of being comatose. But people are energised afloat in a summer which until this weekend last saw rain – and not much of it – on the first day of the Wave Regatta at Howth at the beginning of June. And that was followed by two days of so much sun that it obliterated any grey day memories, and set the pattern for the East Coast regattas.

el gran senor12Is that hull black, or is it midnight blue? Either way, Scottish skipper Jonathan Anderson’s J/122E El Gran Senor got the better of Jamie McWilliam’s Ker 40 Signal 8 at last weekend’s Bangor Town Regatta on Belfast Lough, and is now on her way to Volvo Cork Week. Photo: Andrew Gallagher

As the land continued to dry, the sea breezes behaved in sunny textbook style to give great sailing which could be brought to a close at the proper time for the shoreside festivities to get under way, and last weekend saw this happening in the one day Royal St George YC Regatta on Dublin Bay, and the three day Bangor Town Regatta on Belfast Lough hosted by Ballyholme YC and Royal Ulster YC.

Leading boats from both events have headed on for Cork, and noted podium craft from Bangor include veteran Scottish skipper Jonathan Anderson’s J/122E El Gran Senor which seems to be all black – sails and everything – and managed to win Class 0 against Jamie McWilliam’s Ker 40 Signal 8 on Belfast Lough, where another class winner was Rory Fekkes slippy little all black F’nGr8. She’s also due to take to the line in Cork, as will Jay Colville’s successful First 40 Forty Licks from Strangford Lough.

Jonny Swann Harmony Half tonner 3424Johnny Swann’s classic Half Tonner Harmony Photo: Afloat.ie

From further down the East Coast, Johnny Swann’s classic timber-built Half Tonner Harmony out of Howth is also stepping up to the Crosshaven plate, while the West Coast – in addition to Joan Mulloy from Westport – has the ever-keen Liam Burke from Galway with the Farr 31 Tribal, and French interest is provided by Jean Francois Nouel from Pornic in Brittany with his Sun Fast 3200 Hakuna Matata, which at one stage was in the top three in last week’s Round Ireland, but had slipped by the finish.

fekkes boat13Rory Fekkes’ little black flyer Fn’Gr8 from Carrickfergus was once upon a time a sedate little Beneteau. Photo: Andrew Gallagher

Another noted visitor is the J/109 Mojito from Pwllheli (Vicky Cox & Peter Dunlop), the 2017 ISORA Champion. She’ll be racing against an interesting turnout of J/109s, for when the eight boats of this popular type in the Beaufort Cup are added to the others in the Open Division, we’ve a round dozen of well-tuned J/109s waiting to do battle.

There’s also a dozen International Dragons taking part for their Southern Championship. Of late, Irish Dragons have been seen at Mediterranean venues as much as they’ve been seen at home, but when the Mediterranean came to Ireland, they’ve followed it here.

For the general success of Volvo Cork Week 2018, we can only hope that something like the Mediterranean returns us for another six days after this weekend’s blip, though it has to be said there are some potentially very restless conditions out in the Atlantic. But whatever the weather, the racing for the Beaufort Cup will be an absolute zinger. Denis Doyle and Barney Goulding will be very pleased.

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I remember being part of a fleet of some 700 yachts, the sight of which, winding its way in a long parade out of Crosshaven every morning to the racing grounds, drew crowds to watch Cork Week.

Those days have gone and this year’s Cork Week, which will open on Sunday, has 110 boats, which is a 30 per cent increase on the number of yachts at the last event, in 2016.

The Chairman of Volvo Cork Week, Kieran O’Connell, who is also Rear Admiral Keelboats at the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven which runs the event, takes a practical view of the changes, focussing the event on the quality of the racing: “They were different times, people were travelling more with their boats, but those days have gone when people could take time off work and leave the family and go racing for a week.”

He is pragmatic in recognising that the event had, back in those years, become like a rock festival rather than a sailing event “and I think a lot of people may have been annoyed by that format and it saw a very steep decline in the numbers attending the event over a very short period of time.”

"Cork Week will begin on Sunday with an Open Day for the public at the RCYC in Crosshaven"

The Royal Cork YC, says Kieran, prides itself on being a club of sailors which runs regattas for sailors and what happened was taken note of and changes made. “It might have taken a while, but we identified that and now have a format that is working for sailors and the increased interest shows that the changes are bringing back the interest in competitive racing. The feedback we are getting is that sailors like the format and the options for different levels of participation which are being given to them.”

In this week’s MacSweeney Podcast, Kieran O’Connell talks frankly about the changes in Cork Week and why they were made and also discusses the development of the club’s Under 25 Keelboat Academy, members of which will race two boats in the regatta.

Cork Week will begin on Sunday with an Open Day for the public at the RCYC in Crosshaven when the club is inviting people to come and see what it and sailing are all about.

Listen to the Podcast below: 

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Joker II, Commandant Barry Byrne's winning J109 entry from this Round Ireland Race will meet teams from the National Services and a US Marines team at the Beaufort Cup at Cork Week starting on July 15th.  

The second ever Beaufort Cup, a race exclusively for teams associated with their national services, will take place at this year’s Volvo Cork Week. Hosted by The Royal Cork Yacht Club, the event invites services from Ireland, Europe and further afield, to compete for the Trophy. Defence Force Teams from a number of countries will compete and also other services such as Police, Fire, Rescue, RNLI and Coastguard service teams.

Following the huge success of the inaugural race in 2016, this year’s competition welcomes an American team made up of former marines and coast guards who were seriously injured while on service. The team of four includes Sgt Robert Aiken who began sailing through the initiative of the Warrior Sailing Program, providing maritime education and outreach for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans organised by the US Merchant Marine Academy. “I’m very thankful to the wonderful donors and staff for recognising the therapeutic value sailing has to offer those of us adjusting to new circumstances - both physical and emotional” said Sgt Aiken. 

The rest of this very exceptional team includes Brett Linville, Sergeant in United States Marine Corps for 8 years. Conducting combat missions in western Iraq between 2005-2006 as a machine gunner and team leader of 8 other gunners during various operations, Sgt Linville sustained a back injury from a fall during a mortar attack. Accrediting many attributes to the values instilled in him through the Marine Corps, he will also share a boat with Dawn Hart who has spent 12 years in the US Coast Guard. Having come on the racing scene in the US she says she has enjoyed “sailing and competing in regattas and taking advantage of as many opportunities as possible. I thought this was an amazing opportunity and an experience in which I could learn from other sailors.” 

This event develops valuable bonds between national team members and international colleagues alike, through a competitive, but also very sociable, event. The Beaufort Cup represents a fantastic opportunity to strengthen international ties through offshore sailing and closely fought inshore racing in the natural maritime amphitheatre that is Cork Harbour.

“The Beaufort Cup invites sailing teams from their associated national services, 50% of each team must be active in the service they represent. Racing will take place over five days in a mix of challenging offshore and tactical inshore racing. Teams will get the chance to enjoy the renowned social experience of Volvo Cork Week and the winning team will have €10,000 donated to a nominated charity of their choice while the winner will also be eligible for the ‘Boat of the Week’ prize at Volvo Cork Week 2018” says Kieran O’Connell, Chairman of Volvo Cork Week.

Published in Cork Week
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