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Displaying items by tag: IDRA 14

Every so often a photo flashes across the screen, its origins unknown and its destination a mystery, yet its reality is abundantly clear. This header pic is one such. I've no idea how it came to pop up, or who sent it, or indeed who took it something like seventy years ago.

But everything points to it being an early IDRA Dinghy Week at Dunmore East, which would make it 1950 or 1955, and the guess is it was 1950 when Teddy Crosbie won the Helmsmans Championship, racing in the hot new boats of the IDRA 14 class which in 2021 will be celebrating their 75th Anniversary.

They spent that week in 1950 afloat on temporary moorings, something for which designer O'Brien Kennedy had been asked to make them well able, for when the design was commissioned in 1946, clubs such as Waterford Harbour SC at Dunmore East had little enough in the way of dinghy parks with their own launching slips.

That said, WHSC were well up to speed with IDRA 14s and their own class of National 18s built to the Yachting World-sponsored Uffa Ace design of 1938 – in the photo, there's a handful of them berthed at the quayside to the right.

Flica's barometer, set in a section of her broken mast salvaged after it came down on August 15th 1957 at the Cobh People's Regatta.Flica's barometer, set in a section of her broken mast salvaged after it came down on August 15th 1957 at the Cobh People's Regatta.

But of course the eye-catching focus of the entire picture is Aylmer Hall's 1929-vintage Charles E Nicholson-designed – and C & N built – 12 Metre Flica, the Queen of Cork Harbour, where they still talk in hushed tones of the time she was dismasted during the Cobh People's Regatta. It certainly was an awful lot of mast to come tumbling down, and equally it seemed un-climbable without assistance.

That made it a useful challenge. In Dunmore East in those days, the three McBride brothers from Waterford – Oweny, Davy and Denny – were inescapable features of the summer sailing scene, and Davy got himself aboard Flica, where he was soon delivering contentious opinions in the classic Davy style. So to get themselves some peace, Flica's ship's company challenged him to climb the mast.

He did better than that. Instead of shimmying up the spar itself, he went up the forestay hand-over-hand, and scrambled up the last bit of the mast to the masthead itself. Then he came down the backstay hand-over-hand, and barely paused for breath before he resumed telling the Corkmen why Dunmore East and its sailors were infinitely superior to anything that Cork Harbour could hope to offer.

The downward spiral. A stalled restoration project on Flica, seen at Birdham in Sussex in 2013. Photo: W M NixonThe downward spiral. A stalled restoration project on Flica, seen at Birdham in Sussex in 2013. Photo: W M Nixon

Alas, Davy McBride is no longer with us, and Flica is barely hanging in by a thread. It was around 2013 that we found her in the shed at Birdham Pool on Chichester Harbour, paralysed in a very stalled restoration project. Since then, she has been more or less evicted from Sussex, and was last heard about a year ago looking very sorry indeed in a field in Essex.

Barely alive: The International 12 Metre Flica of 1929 vintage and several times the Solent championship, as seen in Essex in 2020Barely alive: The International 12 Metre Flica of 1929 vintage and several times the Solent championship, as seen in Essex in 2020

The stern is the part of Flica most other 12 Metre sailors saw in the Solent in the 1930s, but mercifully few have seen it like this.The stern is the part of Flica most other 12 Metre sailors saw in the Solent in the 1930s, but mercifully few have seen it like this.F

It would be a miracle if some philanthropist with bottomless pockets could take her on for one of those zillion euro 12 Metre restorations in which classic boatbuilders Robbe & Berking on the Danish-German border specialize. For our header photo reminds us of a simpler time when Irish sailing was more cohesive, all the boats were beautiful, Dinghy Week would see the cruiser fleets going along to provide accommodation for the small boat racers, and everyone knew everyone else.

Published in Historic Boats

You know how it is. You're wondering if the slightly odd flavour of the evening cuppa is a hint of the imminence of the C-Monster's indicator of taste-loss. All this, too, just as it's increasingly clear that your already-proposed personal date with the jab before the end of March now seems less and less likely to be on schedule. And then the phone rings, and this guy shoots straight from the hip:

"The IDRA 14s are working on plans to celebrate their 75th Anniversary in 2021".

"Quite so. And we'd an item on it on last November. But you celebrated your 70th in 2016 at Clontarf in great style, and made a big deal out of it at the time here.

"Yeah. The class all liked that. They liked it a lot. That's why they want to do something similar again this year. We need something special to mark the end of Lockdown"

"But you can't expect to celebrate major anniversaries every five years just because you feel like it. And anyway, it's rash to assume that Lockdown will be over any time soon."

"Why not celebrate? Our sailor Julie Ascoop in her IDRA 14 Slipstream won Dublin Bay SC's Halfway Trophy for the most successful yacht in 2020's difficult conditions. The class is on a roll. We expect to have other things that will come right for celebration in 2021. So please just go ahead and write about it – you'll think of something."

For sure, we can think of something. Several somethings. But none of them would be publishable on a maritime internet page with a family readership. However, thanks to McGuirk Lending Libraries, it so happens that we'd just finished re-reading IDRA 14 designer O'Brien Kennedy's 1997-published autobiography Not All At Sea! (people really did use screamers in book titles in those days), and found that we could relate to it in a much more meaningful way than when it was first published, as Kennedy's life-path had him in or on the edges of much of 20th Century history.

OBK's autobiography, published in 1997 when he was 85. Now a collector's item, it promised to tell "a naval architect's story, his life and loves, his ships and boats…." It does that and more, giving us an unusual and fascinating angle on a special time in Irish historyOBK's autobiography, published in 1997 when he was 85. Now a collector's item, it promised to tell "a naval architect's story, his life and loves, his ships and boats…." It does that and more, giving us an unusual and fascinating angle on a special time in Irish history

He was born in 1912, on 12/12/12 to be precise. His father and uncle were senior solicitors with a solid, long-established and well-staffed law firm in Dublin, which meant they weren't personally expected to spend excessive hours in the office. In fact, both would much rather have been engineers or mechanics, and they'd personal workshops at their houses in north Wicklow and south Dublin, from which they took leisurely holidays to deplete the fish population of Lough Melvin up towards Donegal.

It was a comfortable lifestyle in which weekend picnics in sometimes surprisingly impressive cars to the Wicklow Hills were a regular feature of summer life, even at a time when the popular history books would have us believe that Ireland was in a state of turmoil with a War of Independence and a Civil War going full blast.

Be that as it may, the Kennedy children roamed free in the hills, and young George O'Brien Kennedy – everyone called him Brian – was also drawn to water, and particularly to boats, so much so that while still in boyhood, he built a little slip of sailing boat – Rusheen – which opened up new possibilities during the annual Lough Melvin visit, the quality of the boat revealing that the son had inherited his father's considerable workshop skills, and added some extra of his own.

He designed and built his first boat, the performance dinghy Rusheen, while still a schoolboy. She is seen here sailing on Lough Melvin, where the family spent part of several summersHe designed and built his first boat, the performance dinghy Rusheen, while still a schoolboy. She is seen here sailing on Lough Melvin, where the family spent part of several summers

Schooling at one of those English boarding schools meant to produce servants of the British Empire failed to dent his enthusiasm for becoming a boat and yacht designer, so in attempting to find some respectable route into this precarious profession, his family had him signed on in November 1932 as a "Gentleman Apprentice" with the Thornycroft shipyard in Southampton.

It was a very shrewd move, as Thornycroft's were of the right size to build an interesting variety of small ships which were definitely ships nevertheless, and with the location on the Solent, Brian soon found himself a houseboat to live aboard on the River Hamble, and was active in the Hamble River Sailing Club while being near several leading yacht-building firms.

Brian Kennedy's professional career began as a "Gentleman Apprentice" at the Thornycroft yard in Southampton in November 1932.Brian Kennedy's professional career began as a "Gentleman Apprentice" at the Thornycroft yard in Southampton in November 1932.

His father had been a moderately interested sailing enthusiast to the extent of being Captain of the Dublin Bay Water Wags for a year, but for the son this was the paramount sporting interest, and he was soon creating designs and – in his spare time – building boats for the leading development class, the International 14s.

Despite the effort that the demanding work in the shipyard and the spare-time building of boats required, he still had ample energy for motor-bikes and sports cars which were no strangers to crashes of varying levels of drama, while his love-life was the chaotic one of an attractive young man to whom things just seemed to happen, with one emotionally-confusing situation after another, and often several at the same time - he's completely frank about it all in the book.

The outcome was that when he finally returned full-time to Ireland in the early 1960s to pioneer the boat hire industry on the Shannon, he already had a first family living in East Sussex, and he brought with him his second wife and supportive business partner Christine and their growing family - he was to be married to Christine for 48 years until her death in 1994.

Meanwhile, much had happened on the professional front since finishing his time at Thornycroft, for by 1938 he already had a reputation as a dinghy designer with two International 14s and a less extreme 14-footer called Fuss, and he'd set up on his own as a boat-builder beside Poole Harbour, calling his company Small Craft.

But the outbreak of World War II in 1939 saw him recruited into several key design jobs in the Southampton area, working on projects as diverse as naval destroyers, the wings for Spitfire warplanes, and the design and building of the ubiquitous 112ft Fairmile ML which was the backbone of many RNVR patrols.

The 112ft Fairmile ML – Brian Kennedy worked for designer Norman Hart during part of World War II, surveying the construction of dozens of these craft. Post-war, many of them were – with varying degrees of success – converted into motor yachtsThe 112ft Fairmile ML – Brian Kennedy worked for designer Norman Hart during part of World War II, surveying the construction of dozens of these craft. Post-war, many of them were – with varying degrees of success – converted into motor yachts

However, as the war drew to its ever more violent conclusion, he realised that he was very much a man of peace and social idealism, and he reveals that in adulthood, he was a lifelong member of the Communist Party of Ireland, while in his later years living in the Carrick-on-Shannon area, he was a founder and active member of the local branch of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

But in the years immediately after the end of World War II in 1945, his focus was on re-vitalising his yacht design career. During his time in racing his own-designed International 14s in the late 1930s, he came to know Douglas Heard, who regularly visited from Ireland to race in the same class. Thus he was invited back to Dublin in 1946 by Douglas - as President of the newly-formed Irish Dinghy Racing Association - to discuss with the new Association the design of what was to become the IDRA 14, broadly based on the pre-war Fuss concept, but with local twists.

The basic design also resulted in the Waldringfield Dragonflies and the most numerically successful of all, the Yachting World Dayboat, of which more than 700 were built, the best-known in Ireland being the Crosshaven-based PaPa 2 owned by Nigel Young of North Sails, who lovingly restored one of the seven boats built to the design by his father, Don.

The newest IDRA 14 and her hull sister - a Waldringfield Dragonfly – at the IDRA 14 70th Anniversary Regatta at Clontarf in September 2016. Photo: W M NixonThe newest IDRA 14 and her hull sister - a Waldringfield Dragonfly – at the IDRA 14 70th Anniversary Regatta at Clontarf in September 2016. Photo: W M Nixon

Nigel Young of North Sails and his son James (11) racing the O'Brien Kennedy-designed YW Dayboat PaPa2 at Crosshaven. Photo: Robert BatemanNigel Young of North Sails and his son James (11) racing the O'Brien Kennedy-designed YW Dayboat PaPa2 at Crosshaven. Photo: Robert Bateman

As peacetime gradually gathered pace in the late 1940s, it seemed that Brian Kennedy's talents had finally found the outlet they deserved, as he'd gone into partnership with Ian Carr to set up the Lymington Slipway Company to build boats right in the heart of the developing Hampshire sailing centre. Though the site of the yard was less than perfect, they soon had a winner with Brian's design for the 26ft Lymington Slipway 5-tonner, a pretty and able little performance cruiser of which they built eighteen, with one of them winning the Round the Island Race in 1948.

One of Brian Kennedy's most successful designs was the 26ft Lymington Slipway 5 Tonner of 1947 – eighteen were built, and one of them won the Round the Island Race in 1948 One of Brian Kennedy's most successful designs was the 26ft Lymington Slipway 5 Tonner of 1947 – eighteen were built, and one of them won the Round the Island Race in 1948

In fact, 1948 was peak year, as Ian Carr himself had ordered the 32ft Binker into which Brian poured all his ideas for a competitive RORC racer, and she succeeded so well that she won the 1948 RORC Channel Race overall. Meanwhile, in 1947 through his continuing links with Thornycroft's, Tom Thornycroft had given him the rough drawings and some ideas for a 26ft two to three-person keelboat aimed at the demand for a new British-designed two-man boat for the 1948 Olympics.

The 26ft National Swallow Class was the two-man boat at the 1948 Olympics. Although the design was credited to Tom Thornycroft, the MD of the Thornycroft Shipyard in Southampton, it emerges that the actual design work was done by Brian Kennedy. At the 1948 Olympics, the Swallow allocated to Ireland was raced by Alf Delany and Hugh Allen, the latter already connected to Brian Kennedy as he was owner of IDRA 14 No 4 DuskThe 26ft National Swallow Class was the two-man boat at the 1948 Olympics. Although the design was credited to Tom Thornycroft, the MD of the Thornycroft Shipyard in Southampton, it emerges that the actual design work was done by Brian Kennedy. At the 1948 Olympics, the Swallow allocated to Ireland was raced by Alf Delany and Hugh Allen, the latter already connected to Brian Kennedy as he was owner of IDRA 14 No 4 Dusk

Dusk has been one of the key boats in the IDRA 14 story – she went to Crosshaven in 1954 to become a major player in the Cork Harbour fleet, and is seen here being sailed for what was then the Royal Munster YC by Donal McClement (on trapeze) and the late Dougie Deane in 1961. Later, she returned to Dublin Bay, and in 1993 underwent a complete restoration by Tom and David O'Brien of Dun Laoghaire. Photo: Tom BarkerDusk has been one of the key boats in the IDRA 14 story – she went to Crosshaven in 1954 to become a major player in the Cork Harbour fleet, and is seen here being sailed for what was then the Royal Munster YC by Donal McClement (on trapeze) and the late Dougie Deane in 1961. Later, she returned to Dublin Bay, and in 1993 underwent a complete restoration by Tom and David O'Brien of Dun Laoghaire. Photo: Tom Barker

Brian put manners and his own trademark on those rough sketches, and despite fierce competition from the likes of an Uffa Fox boat – the Flying 20 - the Kennedy/Thorneycroft design was selected in the trials early in 1948, and went on to become the National Swallow Class, with Stewart Morris winning the Gold at the Olympics at Torbay. However, you have to read Not All at Sea! very closely to gather that, ultimately, this attractive boat was yet another O'Brien Kennedy design.

This is possibly because, before it was out, the seemingly golden year of 1948 was turning sour. The yard was financially stressed, so when Ian Carr received a good offer from a Portuguese sailor for Binker, he promptly sold her, and far from being one of the hot prospects for the 1949 Fastnet Race as Brian had keenly anticipated, this very promising and innovative boat was completely gone from the spotlight.

The innovative 32ft Binker won the RORC Channel Race of 1948 overall, but was sold into Portuguese ownership almost immediately afterwards and cased being a front-line competitorThe innovative 32ft Binker won the RORC Channel Race of 1948 overall, but was sold into Portuguese ownership almost immediately afterwards and cased being a front-line competitor

It didn't take long for the Lymington Slipway wheels to come off entirely after that, with Brian acutely aware that in the still-straitened circumstances of the post-war austerity, his chance of continuing the career breakthrough which had seemed so promising was no longer available to someone whose family circumstances demanded a steady income.

So he took up the offer of a job as manager/designer at a mid-sized shipyard in India which specialised in harbour tugs, and for the next eleven years he and Christine were India-based, with Brian able to get a more lucrative job in another yard, and from time to time he was able to design and build yachts and racing as a sideline.

Christine and Brian Kennedy sailing a 14ft Merlin, which he'd built to his own design, on Lake Khadakvasla in IndiaChristine and Brian Kennedy sailing a 14ft Merlin, which he'd built to his own design, on Lake Khadakvasla in India

But despite his successes in the Solent area followed by progress up the career ladder in the marine industry in India, his longterm hope had always been to return to Ireland, and as Christine had a particular talent with horses, they felt the newly-promising Ireland of Sean Lemass in the early 1960s offered real possibilities for a boat hire business on the Shannon, possibly backed up by an equestrian enterprise developed by Christine.

The first base for their new company K-Line was at Shannon Harbour, where the Grand Canal reaches the Shannon in County Offaly. There, amidst multiple existing facilities, they created quite a comprehensive setup with a boat-building shed and the offices for a boat-hire operation, where they could also offer boat building, maintenance and repair services.

Pioneering the Shannon Hire Boat industry. While the initial base for K-Line and its associated boatyard was at Shannon Harbour in OPW premises, the wish was always to have a base they owned outright, and this advertisement was issued to signal the move to their own facilities at Drumsna on the North Shannon.Pioneering the Shannon Hire Boat industry. While the initial base for K-Line and its associated boatyard was at Shannon Harbour in OPW premises, the wish was always to have a base they owned outright, and this advertisement was issued to signal the move to their own facilities at Drumsna on the North Shannon

It was a busy time, but they always had a feeling of constraint as ultimately the entire location was in the control of the Office of Public Works, and they longed for their own site. Meanwhile, in between intervals of other work, Brian continued developing sailing boat design ideas, and in the mid-'60s he focused on an updated version of the Lymington Slipway 5 Tonner which became the 27ft Kerry Class, and won a design competition in Irish Yachting & Motorboating, the ancestor of, the ancestor of

The final version of the plans for the 27ft Kerry, which made her debut by winning a design competition in Irish Yachting & Motorboating. In all, 26 were to be built, and they have included impressive ocean voyages in their extensive record of achievementThe final version of the plans for the 27ft Kerry, which made her debut by winning a design competition in Irish Yachting & Motorboating. In all, 26 were to be built, and they have included impressive ocean voyages in their extensive record of achievement

Brian Kennedy's decidedly original mind was always ready to embrace and develop offbeat ideas, some of them so offbeat that they became a different tune entirely. For instance, as airliners grew in size, he had a bee in his bonnet that they were a menace on the ground with the pilot right at the front, completely unaware of the exact location of his mighty machine's wing-tips.

With his experience with the Spitfire team, Brian knew something of aeronautical design, and spent time sketching out a "ground-safe" airliner in which the aircrew were located right aft in a pod located in the tailplane, giving them a comprehensive overview forward, like the aft-located helmsman on a sailing yacht.

It was literally never going to fly, not least because aircrews cherish their location right in the position of least motion in the nose of the plane. But meanwhile back on earth, or on the waterside rather, he was much taken with the notion that in orthodox wooden boat-building for sailing craft, much complicated effort goes into creating the backbone of the boat before you can even begin to put the frames and planking into place.

So the first two boats of the Kerry Class were built with a unique system whereby the entire backbone was moulded in fibreglass, and then the wooden clinker planking was bolted to it with the frames subsequently inserted. The boats which eventually emerged were excellent little seaworthy craft, and as he'd acquired backers in the form of a large milling company with money to spare, he was fortunately persuaded to create a beamier all-fibreglass version which was to go into series production.

But by the time that was running with reasonable smoothness, the company's operations had been moved north along to the Shannon to the Jamestown-Drumsna area just south of Carrick-on-Shannon, and Brian Kennedy had achieved success in racing one of his little Kerry sloops in the Round Britain and Ireland Two-handed Race of 1970.

Crewed by the American-Scottish Euan Miller, he set out with the boat virtually straight out of the wrappers. But they were better prepared than some, the Kerry, as everyone knows, is a gallant little-sea-goer, and the placing of fifth was an encouragement to develop the production line in a former railway building in Drumsna, where they'd taken on the services of Donal Conlon of Carnadoe, who had honed his boat-building skills to international standard through training on the building and maintenance of the growing hire-boat industry in Carrick-on-Shannon, and readily learned more from Brian's Solent-trained experience 

Prototype_kerryChristine and Brian sailing the proto-type Kerry. The all-fibreglass production version was to have more beam

In all, 27 boats of the Kerry Class were to be built, and while Kennedy International Boats - as it was now called - wasn't exactly a goldmine, Christine had come up trumps in developing a business looking after the upholstery of the growing charter fleets, while Brian increasingly found himself relied on as a marine surveyor for all sorts of hire and charter operations on river and sea by both Bord Failte and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, which for many years was to provide a useful extra income stream.

As well, with his fascination with innovation and experiment, he found any technical challenge with a marine flavour irresistible, and in 1976 Kennedy International Boats found themselves installing buoyancy and carrying out the first sailing tests on Tim Severin's 36ft oxhide-clad ocean-going currach St Brendan. As a result, St Brendan sailed for the very first time on Lough Boderg on the Shannon, which isn't something you'll discover in any of the official accounts of Severin's epic Transatlantic voyage, but so it goes.

All this busy-ness around Jamestown and Drumsna in the 1970s convinced Brian that now was the chance to let his design creativity roam free for his personal dreamship of a racing boat, and he designed and then built – with Donal Conlon - the Half Tonner Brainstorm. In some configurations, she did well in the racing, but in one competition, she was always the undisputed world champion - this was undoubtedly the most appropriately-named boat that ever sailed the seas.

O'Brien Kennedy's highly individualistic Half Tonner BrainstormO'Brien Kennedy's highly individualistic Half Tonner Brainstorm

Almost every idea that went into this "one-masted schooner" was ultimately soundly-based, but the combination of so many innovative ideas at once could at times be over-powering. And being Brian Kennedy, he was constantly changing things – in his half dozen years of campaigning her, she had four different keels. So though he ultimately reckoned that Keel Number 3 was the best, by that time he'd changed so many other things that, as the learned reviewers might put it, "the scientific data lacked the expected rigour".

Yet here he was, approaching his 70th birthday, and he'd never been happier, as he kept Brainstorm in Dun Laoghaire with the Royal St George Yacht Club and got so much fun from test-racing in Dublin Bay that he would frequently drive up from Drumsna for the Thursday evening DBSC racing and return home the same night, and then he'd be back for the Saturday race as well.

O'Brien Kennedy's highly individualistic Half Tonner BrainstormBrainstorm in Dun Laoghaire in 1976. Photo: W M Nixon

But even an eternal schoolboy enthusiast like Brian Kennedy eventually starts to slow down, and by the 1980s, a couple of health scares for both himself and Christine led him to find a new base for Brainstorm for cruising from Derryinver in north Connemara, where his son Simon based a fishing boat.

Meanwhile at Jamestown, it was time for the temporary mobile-style accommodation which had been home to become more permanent, and with classic Kennedy charm and a personal meeting with the Roscommon County Planning Officer (the planning negotiations were taken up almost exclusively by a discussion of fly-fishing in the west) he secured permission for an ingenious bungalow built in a community effort. Initially, it was a little too near the main Dublin-Sligo Road for total peace, but then didn't the powers that be build a completely new road far away, and peace descended.

From his childhood near Bray, Brian had clear memories of the locally-based cat-rigged 12ft Droleens of 1896 origins, and he restored the design, with some new Droleens being built, the most recent being this one by Michael Weed of Gweedore in Donegal From his childhood near Bray, Brian had clear memories of the locally-based cat-rigged 12ft Droleens of 1896 origins, and he restored the design, with some new Droleens being built, the most recent being this one by Michael Weed of Gweedore in Donegal

He continued to design to the very end, steel construction becoming a renewed enthusiasm, as he reckoned the ability of steel to take a dent, rather then be holed like fiberglass, made it a much better proposition for Shannon hire boats. However, he also harked back to the memories of his childhood, and particularly the Droleen cat-boat clinker dinghies which he vividly recalled being launched off the beach at Bray, and he created a workable design which has seen a new Droleen built as recently as last year by Michael Weed of Donegal

In his eighties and on his own for the last three years of his life, he set to at getting his almost bottomless well of memories in order for his Memoirs, but he was also designing boats to the very end, the last creation – which he never saw - being Wally McGuirk's 40ft steel cutter Swallow, which Wally built himself in a vacant gap which he managed to find down the West Pier in Howth.

Brian Kennedy's last design, the 40ft Swallow built-in steel by her owner, Wally McGuirk of Howth. In the final version, the keel was deeper and the centreboard was taken out of the equation.Brian Kennedy's last design, the 40ft Swallow built-in steel by her owner, Wally McGuirk of Howth. In the final version, the keel was deeper and the centreboard was taken out of the equation.

Clean simplicity of line was the keynote to Swallow's design, and it was successfully achieved, seen here as she shapes up to pass through the Eastlink Bridge at the CAI Three Bridges rally in Dublin. Sadly, Brian Kennedy didn't live to see the boat completedClean simplicity of line was the keynote to Swallow's design, and it was successfully achieved, seen here as she shapes up to pass through the Eastlink Bridge at the CAI Three Bridges rally in Dublin. Sadly, Brian Kennedy didn't live to see the boat completed

Brian Kennedy died in August 1998, aged 85, a year after his memoirs were published by Morrigan of Mayo in 1997. And just as you'll never see a boat like Brainstorm, so you'll never read a book like Not All At Sea! - that is if you can manage to get hold of a copy, as they're now rare.

In fact, the special rarity is something that is better appreciated with the passage of time. Thus it wasn't until 2010 that a "gala re-launch" was held for the book in that stronghold of IDRA 14 enthusiasm, Clontarf Yacht & Boat Club. A highlight was a film show, based on a historic RTE documentary about Brian Kennedy made many years earlier. It's a priceless record that currently seems to have slipped under the radar again, but we're assured it will be found for the upcoming 75th, and meanwhile, in 2016 a Gala Autumn Dinner at the Royal St George YC had rounded out the IDRA 14's 70th Anniversary in 2016.

Brian Kennedy – the all-singing, all-dancing version for a memorial film show in Clontarf Yacht & Boat Club in 2010. We're assured that this show will be re-discovered for the IDRA 14s' 75th Anniversary Celebrations later this year.Brian Kennedy – the all-singing, all-dancing version for a memorial film show in Clontarf Yacht & Boat Club in 2010. We're assured that this show will be re-discovered for the IDRA 14s' 75th Anniversary Celebrations later this year

Now, certain parties want to do it all over again. If madness is the persistent repetition of certain actions in the hope that they'll succeed despite having repeatedly fails in previous attempts, then you might argue that the ultimate sanity is in the repetition of actions that have been shown to succeed in the past.

But in this instance, we can't possibly comment. Let's see what comes up. And while Brian Kennedy is now remembered as the designer who created a 14ft racing dinghy which is still keenly raced and which did much to spread the concept throughout Ireland of a true One Design class, there's no doubting that he personally was a pure one-off.

Published in IDRA 14

Virtual meetings, which are part and parcel of life now, are nothing new to the team of IDRA 14 dinghy sailors who have just completed the task of formatting the IDRA 14 Class rules to comply with those of World Sailing. The IDRA 14 Class Association Rules 2020 document was launched online recently with all the committee work leading up to the launch, being achieved through online meetings.

Starting as far back as 2018, the team of three on the IDRA 14 Class Rules committee met virtually, on a fortnightly basis, via Skype and used Google Docs to complete the intricate work of transposing the 1983 IDRA 14 Class Rules from various class documents and drawings to the latest World Sailing template. Meeting remotely meant that they could get on with the job without having to spend time organising a venue and travelling.

Having a set of Class Rules in line with the World Sailing Class Rules template 2009 (updated 2012) is very important for any competitive class. It means the Class Rules can now be read in conjunction with World Sailing's Equipment Rules of Sailing for 2017-2020, known as the ERS. The Equipment Rules of Sailing (ERS) govern the equipment used in the sport. They are revised and published every four years by World Sailing. The ERS provides sailors, measurers, boatbuilders and sailmakers alike with standard definitions and methods of measurements that when used in Class Rules avoid misinterpretation and potential conflict.

The IDRA 14 dinghy class prepare to start a race - 2021 sees the historic class celebrate its 75th anniversaryThe IDRA 14 dinghy class prepare to start a race - 2021 sees the historic class celebrate its 75th anniversary

The IDRA 14 Dinghy Class will be celebrating its 75th Anniversary next year. The class has kept its appeal as an exciting two crew dinghy with trapeze and spinnaker and a fibreglass version of the boat being included in the class rules over the years.

This family-friendly class is known for competitive and affordable racing, with a great team spirit throughout the class. The class members were very much on board with the move to reformat the rules and held two Information and Question & Answer sessions at the start of the process. These two meetings were held in Clontarf and Dun Laoghaire, as IDRA 14 racing takes place in Sutton Dinghy Club, Clontarf Yacht & Boat Club and in Dublin Bay Sailing Club, with most of the Dun Laoghaire boats raced from the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club.

At the information sessions, it was made clear that the aim was not to change the class rules but to make sure that they were compliant with the latest version of the World Sailing ERS and to sort out any anomalies.

When the IDRA Class Rules Committee got started on their Skype meetings, it soon emerged that each of the three IDRA 14 sailors had their own area of specialisation.

Alan Henry, an engineer and numerous times class national champion, had consistently innovated and pushed the boundaries within the class. Donal Heney's expertise was boat building as he played a central role in the building of IDRA 14 166, in 2016 (the first wooden IDRA to be built in over thirty years). Julie Ascoop, a civil engineer and also former class national champion, specialised in standards and specifications. "Each brought a different experience to the job which made for a very good team", Julie commented.

A computer render of the traditional clinker built IDRA 14 dinghy hull(Above and below) Computer renders of the traditional clinker-built IDRA 14 dinghy hull

IDRA 14 hull Computer drawing

Each team member took on homework to be completed before the next online meeting. This entailed tasks such as measuring a part of the boat, taking photos or checking approaches taken in the rules of other classes, such as the Fireballs or 470s. Using Google Docs during their meetings meant that when a committee member was inputting text in the new document, the others could work on the same document at the same time thus addressing the issue of revision control.

The task involved sorting out quite a few anomalies, one of which first appeared to be quite dramatic: the current masts were 8cm longer than the measurement in the 1983 Class Rules. "That had us spooked", Alan said, but when the team discussed it with Class historian, Ian Sargent and his brother Charles, the IDRA Class Commodore, it was quickly established that the mast measurement had been changed at a past AGM and, after some searching, the relevant rule amendment document was produced. If someone had used the old rules when purchasing a new mast they would have found themselves at a serious disadvantage, Julie explained. This highlighted the issue of maintaining the current set of rules and avoiding spurious versions. A process of updating and maintaining the class rules has now been developed, and the current version is now held online so that it can be easily accessed.

Donal explained that another challenge was that the original offset table, a set of measurements defining the IDRA 14 hull shape, had gone missing.

The IDRA 14 Class was very fortunate to get naval architect Ruairi Grimes involved who produced a digitised version of the original IDRA 14 drawings and set up a 3D model of the IDRA 14 hull from which the offset table could be derived.

Ensuring that these new drawings were a true representation of the original IDRA 14 was crucial so it was decided to compare the original drawings and the digitised version. To this end, the digital version was printed at the exact same scale as the original Class Rules drawings. The newly generated drawing was placed over the original and with the aid of a lightbox, it was established that there was only one flaw in the computer-generated drawings, which was duly corrected.

Voting at the IDRA 14 class egm, pre COVIDVoting at the IDRA 14 class egm, pre-COVID

The IDRA Class Rules Committee managed to complete the vast majority of the work through virtual meetings and was extremely lucky that the information meetings, the meeting with the class measurers and the EGM all took place before March 2020. By the time the country was in the grip of Covid restrictions, all that remained to be done was just to implement the decisions made at the Class Rules EGM.

As well as passing the IDRA Association Class Rules 2020 at the January EGM, the class members accepted 18 of the 22 proposals which the Class Rules Committee had come up with arising from the anomalies they had identified during their class rules work.

Julie Ascoop sees a lot of benefit for the class in having the IDRA Class Rules compliant with the World Sailing Class Rules. "The main thing is that it's now in the right format and uses the correct definitions", she explains. "A sailmaker, for example, will know the relevant ERS numbers for each particular measurement of the sail and will have all the information to hand in a format that's familiar", Julie said. It will also make it much easier to update the class rules at any point, something which might be required if there are any future developments in technology or racing equipment.

The IDRA Class Association Rules 2020 can be downloaded below.

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After the near gale force racing conditions and white-knuckle sailing experience of 2017, this year’s IDRA 14 Nationals held at Carlingford Sailing Club 9th–11th August proved a more nuanced and tactical racing experience for the 15 boats that competed over the 3 days of the Championship.

The Club has views of the Lough and Cooley and Mourne mountains nearby and the weather over the three days racing was generally good, which made the event for the competitors and family and friends that accompany these events very enjoyable. Carlingford Lough is known for its unusual wind patterns, particularly where the wind comes from the west rolling down the mountains, and so it proved on the first day’s racing where the wind was light and with significant holes and changeable in direction. Despite this, Race Officer Ian Sargent managed to complete one race after moving the race area northwards which was won by 14/134 “Dubious” of Sutton Dinghy Club, last year’s winner - but this year helmed by Simon Revill with Alan Henry as crew. New to the IDRA fleet, Ryan Cairns and Ian Byrne (Clontarf Yacht & Boat Club) 14/128 “Dr. J.P. Frog” were second.

Day 2 of the Championship brought more stable northerly winds coming down the Lough, and 3 back-to-back races were held close to the clubhouse. Newly-partnered Catherine Martin and Brian Murphy in 14/122 “Diane” of Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club raced superbly, keeping tight to the shore to avoid the strong tide and won two of the three races, while Revill and Henry kept in the chase achieving three-second places. Alan Carr and Dana Kilroy in 14/38 “Starfish” (Sutton Dinghy Club), always in the mix at National Championships, lay in third position at the end of the day.

"The Championship proved a great result for Sutton Dinghy Club taking first and third places"

Day 3 brought more stable, sea-like conditions with southerly winds blowing Force 4, gusting 5 which brought some challenging moments with Revill flying full spinnaker capsizing in Race 5, letting the fleet blast through. Unfortunately, Cairns suffered gear failure and retired. Race 6 ended with Revill taking the final win of the series and the Championship, with Martin and Murphy taking second only two points behind, with Carr and Kilroy third.

The Championship proved a great result for Sutton Dinghy Club taking first and third places, but the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club squad were delighted with three of their members being in the top 5 including Catherine Martin and Brian Murphy taking second (the highest result in 9 years for the Club!), Pierre Long and John Parker fourth and Julie Ascoop and Sinead Mangan fifth - no doubt a reflection of the intensive racing these sailors are enjoying in the DBSC series at Dun Laoghaire. The event ended with an evening dinner and prizegiving at the clubhouse, where Simon Revill and Alan Henry were awarded their trophy and announced that after 9 years racing together they would be parting ways.

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IDRA14’s, Vagos and Finns from the DBSC, Fireflies from the universities, Magno’s and Pico’s from the INSS, and Waszp’s toing and froing from the National YC – Dun Laoghaire harbour on Saturday represented all that is good and healthy about dinghy sailing in Dublin Bay, as the DBSC dinghy fleets gathered for the final Saturday races of the season.

A light breeze and glorious warm sunshine greeted the sailors as they made their way to the race area. A full turnout of eight boats in the IDRA14 fleet continued a season long trend – a trend which has seen a 67% average turnout for Saturday racing.

Racing has been both competitive and good natured, with tight competition on the water matched by a strong spirit of friendship and cooperation off the water. Saturday racing within the harbour walls has provided great opportunities to introduce new members both to the class and to racing in Dublin Bay. This was also evident on Saturday when Charles Sargent brought his granddaughter Eimear (pictured above) out for her first active racing in an IDRA14.

On the racing itself Frank Hamilton and Marjo Moonen in 14/140 proved to be an unstoppable force as they recorded three straight wins (results are here) to put them in pole position for the Saturday title. In the PY fleet, Richard Tate made a successful return in his Finn to also record three straight wins.

Brian Murphy of the IDRA14 fleet in Dun Laoghaire told 'we would like to extend our thanks to DBSC, the committee boat personnel, and the patrol crew personnel for what has been a very successful 2017, and we look forward to more competitive Saturday racing with an ever growing fleet in 2018'

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Alan Henry & Simon Revill made it “three in a row” in the picturesque waters of Galway Bay on 17/19th of August, winning the IDRA 14 National Championship for their third consecutive year.

18 boats gathered in GBSC on the Wednesday with a poor forecast for both wind & rain. Since we were last here six years ago, the Club location has been designated as part of the new western seaboard tourist trail – the “Wild Atlantic Way”…. it was to live up to its title during our visit!!

Wednesday’s practice race had no takers and was cancelled as we all ansiously awaited the outcome of the well-forecasted gales due to hit the west coast. The Club have an excellent automatic continuous print out of the weather / wind / barometric pressure etc. from the nearby Marine Institute, which provided excellent live information.

Thursday arrived with wind of 18 kts with gusts of 23 kts, on a moderate sea. It was decided to go for the two scheduled races, so 17 boats took to the water … but not all made it to the starting line! Race 1 proved to be exciting as the weather took its toll, with thrills and spills galore. Alan Henry & Simon Revill in 14/134 won the race, beating Alan Carr & Diarmuid Brodie 14/38 into second place, followed by Charles Sargent & grandchild Caoimhe Fleming 14/126 in third place. Pierre Long & John Parker 14/161 came in 4th with Lochlann Hackett & Jacob Maguire in 5th and Brian Murphy & Hazel Rea 14/122 in 6th. Sadly 14/163 Philip Hackett & Fiachra Collins recovered from a capsize and struggled to the finish line only to discover they were out side the time limit, and the remainder of the fleet had retired earlier. Race Officers David Vinnell and Ian Sargent postponed the second scheduled race, so all returned ashore.

As is typical IDRA 14 fashion the shore events were supplemented by the usual large entourage of camp followers, and everyone enjoyed the Clubhouse facilities until the early hours. Meanwhile those in tents became more concerned as the expected gale arrived .

On Friday morning we awoke to find the campsite being hammered by the winds, and some tents had collapsed. It was obvious that sailing was impossible so Race Officer Ian Sargent (David Vinnell had to stand down as Race Officer to undergo a scheduled heart operation, from which we are delighted to say he is recovering well) and GBSC Rear Commodore Alan Donnelly made an early decision that racing would be cancelled for the day – a decision welcomed by all competitors! The early cancellation gave time for repairs to be carried out to boats and tents – some of the replacement equipment had to come from Dublin!! For others it gave a whole day to discover the many lovely tourist sights in the area.

Saturday arrived with three races scheduled - but the heavy winds continued to persist, and it was decided to have hourly postponements as the forecast was for the winds to drop. Everyone got a bit frustrated but all knew we had to try to get some sailing, since the forecast for Sunday wasn’t looking promising. Finally after seven hourly and one half-hour postbonements, the printout from the Marine Institute at last showed the winds to be easing, and with delight it was announced that racing was to commence at 16.00 hrs. Four boats decided not to participate and stayed ashore, whilst the remaining fourteen went out to the starting line. Wind conditions were much improved from the Thursday …. but the seas were the same!

A windward–leeward course was set and racing started on time. Apart from some equipment failure, there were less capsizes and and the racing was excellent. Three races were held in quick succession - with minimum turnaround time, racing was completed in just over two hours. Alan & Simon won races two & three, and Pat O’ Neill & Oisin O’Connor 14/15 won the last race. Alan Carr was consistent with two seconds and a fifth, as was Pierre Long with three third place finishes. The competitors happily made their way ashore knowing that with four races in total completed, there was a discard available – very much appreciated by some who had unhappy experiences on the Thursday!

This 2017 Championship was remarkable as for the first time since spinnakers were re-admitted to the Class in 1974, NOBODY flew one this year – mind you, they would not have got many to bet that they could do so successfully in the prevailing conditions. It was also great to see the number of young people particiipating this year – the Class hopes this trend continues.

The well attended Championship dinner and prizegiving on the Saturday night was a suitable finale to the event, rounded off with wonderful live music provided by some of our youth members. The stalwarts at the bar were rewarded with a long night of activity that only ended at daybreak – keeping up Class tradition!

The IDRA 14 Class would like to thank GBSC for their hosting of the event, and in particular Alan Donnelly for his tireless work in making the event a success. With their revamped clubhouse facilities they are a very attractive venue for events, and we would strongly urge other Classes to visit.

Ian Sargent, IDRA 14 Class Association

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Seven IDRA 14s made the trip North over the weekend for their annual Northern Championships, with the usual entourage of “camp followers” young and old to enjoy the hospitality and beautiful scenery for their 22nd consecutive year at Carlingford Lough Yacht Club, at Killowen Point near Rostrevor.

Carlingford Lough lived up to its reputation for day one of the event, with wind coming over the Cooley Mountains wreaking havoc on the race course.

Continual mark moving under the guidance of Philip O'Conor and Colin "The Haircut" Matthews did however mean the two schedules races were successfully completed, with Ronan Melling and Louise Coulter in 14/160 “Dragon” being the only ones to capsize!

Day 2 on Sunday - yet again everything was thrown at sailors today as two races were completed under the watchful eye of Tim Gibbons. The second race incorporated the traditional Glenny Cup race to Warrenpoint and back, with local CLYC boats racing alongside the visiting IDRAs. What started out as a light shifty beat to the first mark finished with an exhilarating sleigh-ride reach from Warrenpoint all the way back to Killowen.

IDRA 14 Results:
1. 14/134 Alan Henry/Simon Revill SDC
2. 14/38 Alan Carr/Dana Kilroy SDC
3. 14/140 Frank Hamilton/Jenny Byrne DMYC
4. 14/126 Charles Sargent/Caoimhe Fleming SDC
5. 14/160 Ronan Melling/Lorraine Smith CYBC
6. 14/71 Donal Heney/Louise Coulter CYBC
DNC 14/124 Stephen Harrison/Stephen Johnston DMYC

Warrenpoint Trophy (Handicap): 14/126 Charles Sargent/Caoimhe Fleming SDC


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A very special Golden Jubilee coming up in May provides links to an Irish Olympic Sailing Silver Medal, the Fireball World Championship, and the America’s Cup. W M Nixon finds the widest connections go even further than that to include a pioneering world voyage.

It was in May 1967 that the irrepressible Carmel Winkelmann oversaw the first results of a junior sailing initiative at the National Yacht Cub, her home club in Dun Laoghaire. It became a movement which went on which to have nationwide and worldwide ramifications, so much so that within Ireland we’re looking at an unbroken line in Irish sailing which is continued through the club which currently holds the title of ISA Training Centre of the Year, which for 2017 is Foynes Yacht Club on the Shannon Estuary.

That a successful club at the heart of the Atlantic seaboard can trace an almost magic thread back to something which happened at a club on Dublin Bay a long time ago is quite a story in itself. Particularly when the Atlantic seaboard club itself is imbued, as Foynes is, with the spirit of legendary circumnavigator Conor O’Brien. However, when the story is shaping up to continue with the Golden Jubilee as the latest chapter, it gives us an opportunity both to celebrate, and take stock of what it has all meant.

Annalise foynesFoynes Yacht Club, heirs to an Irish tradition of junior sail training which was first formalized by the National Yacht Club 50 years ago. At the Irish Sailing Awards ceremony when Foynes were announced as winners of the ISA Training Centre of the Year Award were (left to right) Simon McGibney (Foynes Senior Instructor), Sailor of the year and Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy of the National Yacht Club, Elaine O’Mahoney (Foynes Sailing Academy Manager), Pat Finucane (Sailing Academy Principal) and Conor Dillon (Instructor). In a club which is imbued with the spirit of world-girdling Foynes sailor Conor O’Brien, it’s particularly appropriate that Conor Dillon’s sailing CV includes winning the Two-Handed division in the Round Ireland Race, sailing with his father Derek Dillon on a 34-footer. Photo: Inpho
But business first. Anyone who has ever taken part in the Junior Training Programme at the National Yacht Club is hereby alerted – if you don’t know already – that on the evening and night of Saturday May 20th, there will be a very special celebration at the clubhouse. The organisers Carmel Winkelmann and Ann Kirwan are particularly keen to trace those who have moved away, but would find much nostalgic pleasure with the meeting of old friends by returning on this day of days. So if that applies to you, or you know anyone to whom it does, please make contact with the key club administrator whom everyone refers to as “Oonagh at the National”, the proper line of contact being [email protected], tel 01-280 5725.

nyc slipway 3Bright morning of Optimism. The National Yacht Club slipway in 1967, long before the days of an extensive front-of-club platform, with the new dinghies of the Optimist Class being launched out of the cramped boathouse under the club, and down a steep and often very crowded slipway

To grasp the significance of what is being celebrated, please try to visualize the National Yacht Club as it was fifty years ago. The building itself, standing directly in the harbour, has the air of a fishing lodge in the West of Ireland on its seaward side, and a hint of neo-classicism when seen from the town. But in the early 1960s it was very limited in its shoreside facilites for sailing dinghies. There was a boathouse entered through fine granite arches under the clubhouse itself, but to use it, masts needed to be lowered. It was served by a very steep and easily-crowded slip, while there was access to another slip on the east side of the cub which served a small area where dinghies could be stored. But while there was space for the established classes of Fireflies and some IDRA 14s, some room was also needed for the small tenders for larger yachts moored in the harbour, while the racing keelboats were served by club launches which might be substantial dinghies driven by vintage Seagull outboards.

The concept of a proper dinghy park was still only in its infancy, relatively speaking, for craft such as Dun Laoghaire’s Firefly and IDRA fleets which had been active since the late 1940s. Thus if anyone had a centreboard boat which could reasonably be expected to lie to moorings, she was obliged to do so, and the fleet of small craft lying off the club included the 17ft Mermaids and the 14ft Water Wags.

nyc slipway 3It could get very crowded on that steep slipway. Paddy Kirwan at the centre of a group making do with limited facilities

To compound the space problems afloat and ashore, during the 1960s the area in the southeast part of Dun Laoghaire Harbour off the National Yacht Club was the focal point for the cross-channel ferry berths. The railway-system serving Mailboat with its emphasis on foot passengers continued to use the Carlisle Pier to the west of the club, but the East Pier was known for a period as the Car Ferry Pier as a busy new roll-on roll-off terminal, which admittedly always had a temporary look about it, had been constructed there to accommodate the new trend in cross-channel travel.

Thus not only was anyone sailing a dinghy from shore at the National YC dong so out of decidedly limited facilities, but they immediately sailed into an area cluttered with a collection of moored boats of all shapes and sizes, and that in turn was set in an area which might have ferry ships berthed close by, or manoeuvring on either side.

john lavery5Learning curve. Gina Duffy and John Lavery on a close run in 1967. The latter has won many major championships, including the Fireball Worlds in 1995

The comparisons with today’s National Yacht Club with its spacious platform facing out over a much clearer harbour area, and beside it an installation of convenient berthing pontoons, could not be greater. But back in the 1960s, an equally important change was happening – there was a complete re-appraisal of what the most junior sailors really needed in boats and instruction to get the best from the sport.

For sure there were the Fireflies, but in terms of lower age limit they were really aimed at adolescents on the cusp of rapidly growing youth. The other available classes were even more adult-oriented. In fact, the underlying problem was that children going sailing were treated as miniature adults who would somehow pick up the skills of the game through a sort of osmosis, whereas for a crucial period of their lives they would have most benefitted from being treated as a different species, with different boats to meet their needs.

Yet even here, adult views dominated. The grown-ups thought that young people’s boats should at least look like small yachts. Thus a dinghy which was promoted for children by several clubs was the 11ft Yachting World Cartop Heron, which had originally been conceived as a DIY-build which could fit on the roof-rack of the average family car, and was designed with a gunter rig such that all its spars could be stowed within the boat.

It had some good ideas, and with a pretty sheer it fulfilled the adult expectation of what a miniature yacht should look like. But it was surprisingly heavy for its avowed rooftop requirement – you’d have needed a weight-trained family to get it on the car roof. And anyway, it was too large for really small kids who genuinely had the sailing bug.

slipway with ferry6The southeast corner of Dun Laoghaire Harbour was very different in 1967, with the East Pier re-designated as the Car Ferry Pier. Yet despite the limitations, the Optimist class quickly caught on after its introduction in 1967

So a revolutionary approach was needed, and it came thanks to one of the National YC’s international sailing stars, Johnny Hooper. He had achieved Ireland’s first Olympic Race win with Peter Gray in the Flying Dutchman in the 1960 Rome Olympics when the sailing was at Naples. But as an FD campaign towards the 1984 Olympics was prohibitively expensive with the venue in Japan, he returned to his first love of International 505 Racing, and it was at a big 505 championship in Scandinavia in 1965 or thereabouts that he first became aware of the game-changing possibilities of the Optimist for junior sailing.

Scandinavia being rightly renowned for the elegance of its yacht, it speaks volume for the versatility of the Florida-originating Optimist, the “simple little boxboat that sails surprisingly well”, that Scandinavia should lead the movement towards a world body for a boat which, whatever the traditionalists might think, the kids were clearly loving. Founded 1965, the International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA) had Viggo Jacobsen of Denmark as its first President with his wife Edith as Secretary, and in that same year Johnny Hooper set about introducing the idea of the Optimist to Ireland.

Now if some ordinary Joe had happened to by impressed by an Optimist at some foreign location, and had even brought one home to persuade his fellow sailors that they were looking at the future, the idea probably would have fallen very flat indeed.

But that’s not the Hooper way. Instead, from his highly respected position he quietly targeted fellow National Yacht Club members who were themselves active sailors, but also had children who would benefit from the Optimist experience, and in time a group emerged which was to include initially Johnny Hooper with his wife Bernie giving the longterm involvement, Peter Gray, Paddy & Barbara Kirwan , Don Douglas, Franz & Carmel Winkelmann, Michael McGrath, Arthur Lavery and several others, many of whom had reasonable DIY skills and could see the possibility of building an Optimist in the basement of their Dun Laoghaire homes without too much disruption of the household. By the Autumn of 1966, the project was under way.

paddy boyd7The first of the new fleet sails. Paddy Boyd (left) Ann Kirwan (centre) and Vivienne Lavery right) getting to know their boats

While Johnny Hooper had introduced the idea, he stood back from its continuing implementation, for the Hooper modus operandi was to give an idea enough strength to soon have wings of its own. That certainly happened in the National Yacht Club, for very quickly a manageably small committee was in being, and the formidable Carmel Winkelmann became its secretary. The NYC Junior Programme became her baby, and it always has since been seen as such, even though the number of people involved in administering the programme over the fifty years, as the NYC facilities have expanded and developed to meet the needs of a modern membership, will now run into the hundreds.

In fact, properly organized junior sailing with boats specifically designed for young people’s needs is now so central to Irish sailing that it takes a huge leap of the imagination to visualize the scene as the first small group of National Yacht Club Optimist Dinghies – most of them locally-built either by amateurs or professonals – began to emerge in May 1967 with numbers increasing as each weekend passed. New they may have been, but they reflected their era, with a public Blessing of the Boats outside the Brindley household as a new batch of boats appeared.

johnny smullen15 1Olympic sailor Johnny Hooper speaking at the Blessing of the Boats as a new batch of home-built Optimists awaits transfer to the National’s limited space.

ann kirwan9Dun Laoghaire was a different place in those days, with Water Wags and Mermaids expected to lie to mooring. Vivienne Lavery and Ann Kirwan testing their skills with the new Optimists – Ann’s boat (476) was one of the few professionally-built in the first batch of Optimists, she was created by the legendary Skee Gray
But though most young sailors in theory had his or her own boat, before anything approaching full fleet numbers was approached they’d a habit of letting anyone sail some boat or other in the early stages, so much so that although Ann Kirwan was part of it from a very early stage, she admits that even she can’t claim total accuracy when identifying the helm of a known boat.

bray regatta10Going abroad......the new Dun Laoghaire Optimists make their debut at Bray Regatta: Paul, Adam and Lucy Winkelmann with Paddy Kirwan putting in his renowned act as a South American Air Marshall at Bray Sailing Club.

This habit of inter-changing sailors became even more marked in that first year when the early class discovered that the most useful base for their day-time sailing was the little-used Irish Lights service barge moored in the western part of the harbour. Over there, NYC Optimist sailors found much clearer sailing water, and they were well away from the comings and goings of the two cross-channel ferries off their home club, not to mention excessive parental control. In effect, the barge became their day-time base, and they ate their packed lunches aboard it while deciding who would take which boat for the first stage of the afternoon’s sailing. Fifty years down the line, we might well wonder if the Commissioners of Irish Lights are aware of the key role their humble barge played in launching Ireland’s Junior Training Programme.....

david ryan11Vivienne Lavery and David Ryan getting away from the slip.

Once launched in its viable form in 1967, there was no stopping it, and the names which have emerged just from the National’s junior programme alone (for virtually all clubs now have one) take us over an extraordinary range, and up to the heights of Olympic participation, the winning of major world dinghy championships and associations with the America’s Cup.

It’s Johnny Smullen who provides the latter. The California-based Johnny Smullen in San Diego is now of world stature in anything to do with yacht and boat-building or indeed in marine construction generally, and his talent has been recognized at the highest level as he has worked on major projects for the very demanding Dennis Conner, aka Mr America’s Cup.

Johnny will have inherited his feeling for classics from his father Cass, a great sailor who was such an enthusiast for the Dublin Bay 21s in their original rather spectacular gaff-rigged form that when the class contemplated changing to a more easily-handled and convenient Bermudan rig in 1963, Cass claimed that he could easily rig a gaff-rigged DB 21 in 15 minutes flat. And that included setting the jackyard topsail to perfection. So he brought a DB 21 close into the clubhouse (as you could in those days), and in front of a drink-sipping crowd of observers on the verandah, he did the job within 15 minutes. But they still went ahead and converted to Bermudan rig.

Son Johnny meanwhile was enlisted in the NYC Junior Programme as soon as he reached he lower age limit, and when the 40th Anniversary was being celebrated back in 2007, he sent on his memoirs which well capture the flavour of it all:

San Diego, 17th May 2007

The way I saw it.

I am eight years old and my parents are wondering what to do with me for the summer, it went something like this: “Get him out from under our feet”. I was equally happy to stay at home and play in the back garden, invent stuff and dream up ways to frighten my sisters. Chasing them with worms was a good one.

I was enrolled in the adventure of my life.

At first I was lead to believe it was going to be a fun thing with the opportunity to meet new people and friends, maybe making me more sociable as I was quiet child in a world of my own. I bought into this and showed up for the first day. It was great, lots of people all different shapes and sizes, so there we were all sitting around playing with stuff and one-upping on how my father is better than yours, especially at snooker. The chatter fell silent when along came this very tall white-haired lady with an incredibly loud voice. It was at this point I became suspicious as I had just watched Paths of Glory and A Bridge Too Far, I had seen how the enemy rounded up people and put them in trucks and brought to places, unfriendly places.....

We arrived at Sandycove harbour where we were lined up on the pier. I though this was it, we were then forced to line up at the steps and walk down into the freezing water fully clothed and flail around, there were guards (instructors we were led to believe) everywhere, and just to make sure the torture was effective they made us hold our heads under water for 30 minutes, well 30 seconds, but it felt like minutes. Then we were all forced to walk back to the NYC where our fate was to be determined. Freezing and scared, I was cursing my family and wondering what I had done to them.

johnny smullen15 1He survived.....eventually Johnny Smullen became a keen Mirror dinghy sailor, but he was pessimistic enough to call his boat Splinter

We arrived back at Camp NYC and were lined up and made to wear large cumbersome protective coats, some were yellow, purple, some orange, I guessed they were labelling us, something to do with our religion. Some of these jackets had large protective collars probably to help protect us from the beatings to come, I thought. Our names were branded onto the “Life Jackets” as I started to call them, knowing they would play a key role in our protection.

We were divided into groups and lead away by the guards into this large damp room with arches and a dank smell of cotton, hemp and mould. This was where we were to remain for all the rainy days to be brain-washed, they started by teaching us knots. I was convinced this was going to be how to tie the very knot that would be the doom of us, I compared it to carrying the cross of Calvary. I decided then to be really bad at it in the hopes that one of my knots would slip open and I could dash to my freedom. We also had to jump up, and hand-over-hand along the light blue steel beam that ran across the dark room, this was to make our arms really strong, they had a plan for strong arms – I will tell you about that a little later.

Food consisted of a march up to Wimpeys for a spice burger and chips all drowned in vinegar to disguise the taste, if there was good behaviour we got to go to the Miami Café. The day was long (except Thursdays when we had to get out early) and after a week in Boot Camp we were all tired and weary. What had I done to my family to deserve this?

The second week came along and we were introduced to the ships, rather large wooden craft resembling a landing craft with the flat bow (I was always looking for the hinges). This is where the strong arms came into. We were grouped into six per team, and the guards waited until low tide when we had to carry the ship down a rickety wooden slip (there’s a reason for calling it a slip). Upon its surface there were large wooden rollers but we were forbidden to use those rollers, and to make sure they filed a fat spot on the rollers, deeming them useless. We picked up the incredible heavy boat, all six of us, one on each corner holding a knee, and two in the middle by the oar locks. Later I was to learn the place to be was up at the bow (by the door), it was lightest. I was adapting to this cruel camp. As we descended down to the icy water again fully clothed, we came across a bright green pungent slime. I had what I thought were special sailing shoes, but as soon as I touched the slime I was down. Down hard. The guards started yelling, I knew I had to get up quickly....remember Calvary!....We reached the bottom and stopped, the guards yelled again and made us wade right into the icy deep, still fully clothed. With the landing craft now floating, we had to master manoeuvring, the craft were lined up alongside the slippy slip, that’s the reason they call it a..................

I stepped on the gunwhale. Now at this point I did not understand the physics like I do today, and when you apply a load to any point of the gunwhale of a flat-bottomed craft two things will happen (once only). The opposing gunwhale will come up as you travel down, and because I am as tall as the craft is wide, somewhere in the middle he two surfaces will meet, your face and the opposing gunwhale. After the initial shock, the second shock comes from the icy cold water. Then I found out what the large collar was for as the guards hauled me out of the abyss semi-conscious. Once inside the craft, we were grouped into two and handed oars. Let the games begin.....

After a week of rowing and shipping oars and coming alongside we were all adapting well to boating, there’s nothing to it. Just as we are enjoying ourselves, we are reminded that this is a work camp with launch and retrieval exercise twice a day. The launch and retrieval is carefully timed at 6 and 12 hours intervals to make sure it was low tide and we’d the longest slimiest walk up the rickety slips, observed closely by the guards from the window of the snooker room glaring down at us. Boating is turning out to be challenging but fun, and the new friends are all pitching together to eventually plan an assault on the guards to free ourselves.

The third week came along and there were large wooden poles with white canvas and a stick with notches cut out of it, why on earth did they have to make it harder? It was perfectly simple with the clean decks and oars and oar locks, now the boats are so heavy with this rig up, my bow lifting position is not that smart as we carry down the slip with the sail pressed hard against my face. After countless days of theory brainwashing in the damp room, we have to pass a few tests to prove worthy to sail, if called upon, out to the US Aircraft Carrier John F Kennedy anchored out in Dublin Bay. The first test was to take the stick with the notches and stretch out the canvas and hook onto a rope loop, without falling over this was harder than carrying the feckin’ boat, the second was to line up two pins while hanging over the transom full of chips and spice burgers. If it had hair....

Most of us mastered that task after a few tries, and it wasn’t long before we were sailing out to the sterns of the ferry Hibernia or Cambria, whichever was in port at the time. This went on for a few weeks and as we settled into the routine it got easier as we went on.

During the time in the damp boathouse, usually when it was blowing dogs off chains outside and while I was trying to get the batteries out of the loudhailer, I noticed a beautiful varnished clinker planked boat, it was almost new, and a very wise man was looking after it. This Man was tough as the rivets holding it together and knew everything about the seas. I knew if I paid attention he would help get me through the summer, he did and he is almost responsible for what I do today. Thank you Jack!

The discipline of Boot Camp had turned us into great sailors, great card players, snooker wasn’t until the third stage we found flagons. But not on the night of May 17th 1975, I was at home doing my homework that night....

Ah.....the memories, I hope I have stirred a few, it was the most wonderful time of my life and I wish I was there to get drunk with all of you and play cards till the wee hours, but meanwhile thanks

To Carmel, thank you very much; I always have my lifejacket.

To Jack Brennan, I am always thinking of you up there, and thanks for teaching me how to tie my shoelaces.

To all the instructors Paul, Ann, Jimmy, I never believed the story of the rabbit and the tree, but thanks anyway

And to all my dear family and friends

Lots of love, Johnny Smullen

PS It was me that stuck the coke bottle in the cannon at the front of the club....

johnny smullen15 1Johnny Smullen and Dennis Conner inspect the hull of the 1925-built Cotton Blossom

johnny smullen15 1Cotton Blossom II after restoration by Johnny Smullen

Inspired by Jack Brennan and other master craftsmen, Johnny has gone on to become a shipwright of such skill from his base in San Diego, California, that he in turn inspires others, one of his most famous projects being the complete restoration of the 49ft Q Class sloop Cotton Blossom II of 1925 vintage.

When a complete restoration is contemplated, Johnny doesn’t mess about. The word is that when he and Dennis turned up to finalise the deal on Cotton Blossom and bring her back to San Diego, they found the previous owners sorry enough to see her go, and rather proud of the style in which they’d maintained her. But after they’d gone to sort the details with the new owner, they went to take a last look at the boat. It’s said they found that Johnny had already delivered his opinion on the existing rig by cutting the shrouds and stays at the deck with bolt-croppers, and cutting the old mast off at deck level with a chainsaw.

Maybe that’s an apocryphal Johnny Smullen from taking delivery of another boat. Yet when you see Cotton Blossom in her restored form, it’s clear what Johnny says should indeed be Holy Writ. This is a project of world standard. But what’s even more remarkable is that despite everything the Sailing Boot Camp at the NYC might have inflicted on him all those year ago, Johnny’s love of boats and sailing is such that he has his own personal sweet classic, the lovely 36ft International One Design Altair. She’s sailed as often as possible, and though he can’t make it back to Dun Laoghaire next month for the Golden Jubilee as there’s very major project under way, Altair will be racing with the San Diego classics under the National Yacht Club burgee.

johnny smullen15 1Johnny Smullen’s own pet boat Altair reveals his abiding love of sailing.
John Lavery’s father Arthur was another of those pioneering Optimist dads back in the late 1960s, and John and his sister Vivienne were both in that first batch of trainee sailors. He ended up winning championships in more classes then you could quickly count, but the peak of it all came in September 1995 when he and David O’Brien of this parish won the Fireball Worlds in Dublin Bay.

In fact, the graduates from 50 years of a junior training programme at the National YC can be found in successful positions in many boat classes in many places, but it is the club’s outgoing attitude to those who wish to learn to sail which deservedly provided its most outstanding success. A long time ago a Mrs MacAleavey, a widow with no sailing connections, was looking for a club which would make her increasingly boat-mad daughter Cathy – who had recently bought a clapped-out 420 – feel encouraged in any way to learn to sail. Despite the fact that it was still in process of recovering from a fire in the clubhouse, the NYC showed itself the most welcoming along the Dun Laoghaire waterfront, so much so that Mrs McAleavey felt sufficiently encouraged to buy her daughter a new 420, and that in turn led on eventually to Cathy representing Ireland in the women’s 470 in the 1988 Olympics.

The three children she had with husband Con Murphy went on to get their introduction to sailing through the National YC’s junior programme, and daughter Annalise emerged with the talent and the burning ambition which resulted in a heart-breaking fourth at the 2012 Olympics in the Women’s Laser Radial when a medal had seemid almost certainly within her grasp. But memories of that were entirely laid to rest with the Silver Medal in the 2016 Olympics Rio after a difficult final race in which the lone sailor seemed to stay as cool as you please, while the nation at home watched with bated breath.

annalise murphy16The medal-winning moment as Annalise Murphy crosses the finish line in Rio to win Silver.

That it was ultimately a very personal achievement is something respected by her club, and they claim to have done nothing more than provide the first steps on the pathway, and a general spirit of encouragement. But nevertheless the success is all of a piece with the Golden Jubilee which will be celebrated on May 20th, and Carmel Winkelmann continues in her mission of providing a background of training for young sailors of all types, whether they aim only to be a competitive club sailor, or whether they aim for the ultimate heights.

Thus one of her projects in recent years was to find real support for young Finn Lynch, who had reached that difficult stage of being a top junior sailor, yet still had to find his feet as an adult. Thanks to support raised by Carmel, he became Ireland’s representative in the Men’s Lasers at Rio despite going through the final stages of the selection with a training injury recovery problem which may have had an adverse effect on his performance in as the youngest sailor in Rio, aged just 20.

Whether or not he would have been better off not being in Rio at all is neither here nor there. When you’re 20, four years can seem an appallingly long time. The Tokyo Olympics in 2020 must have seeemed aeons away for a young sailor who had shown many flashes of real talent. It was better for him to be in Rio while learning a lot, rather than kicking his heels in frustration in some dead end. And when he needed material help to see through the campaign, it was Carmel Winkelmann who was there to make to ensure that support was available. That will be something else for celebration on May 20th.

carmel winkelmann17Carmel Winkelmann and Finn Lynch at the National Yacht Club, June 2016. Photo W M Nixon

Published in W M Nixon

There could well be as many opinions as to what constitutes a true classic or traditional boat as there are owners of these often highly individual craft. As part of the celebration of the Bicentenary of Dun Laoghaire Harbour – where the first stone was officially laid by the Viceroy on 31st May 1817 - the organisers of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017 (it’s from July 6th to 9th) will be including a Classics, Traditional and Old Gaffer section. This will, in addition to putting extra emphasis on older classes already regularly involved such as the Glens, the Mermaids, the Howth 17s, the IDRA 14s and the Water Wags, be extending a welcome to older boats of other types, and to classic classes from Ireland and around the Irish Sea. W M Nixon reports on progress in this special feature of a very attractive new dimension to Ireland’s biggest sailing event.

If you want anything done in introducing a new twist to sailing, make Cathy MacAleavey the organiser of the special sub-committee in charge of moving things along. And if you want to be sure things are going in the right direction as regards classics and traditional craft, make sure that that Hal Sisk is being consulted and will be personally involved in one or maybe all of his classic craft, for the contribution he has made to the appreciation of our boat heritage in Ireland is unmatched.

Former Olympic sailor and round Ireland record holder Cathy is now herself very much a mover and shaker in the classics, as she has built a Water Wag and a Shannon One Design working alongside the great Jimmy Furey of Leecarrow in Roscommon, and races regularly in both classes.

On being appointed to this completely new post last Autumn by top honcho Tim Goodbody, Chair of the overall Organising Committee, one of the first things she remembered was that while taking part in the Glandore Classics some years ago, she’d been much taken with the Fife One Designs from the Menai Straits, little gems some 24ft 6ins LOA whose design origins go back to 1926, and have been thriving as a class since the 1930s.

Royal Anglesey Fife yachtsThe Royal Anglesey Fifes racing in the Menai Straits. Although the class was first designed in 1926, and gained full strength early in the 1930s, this will be their first visit to Dun Laoghaire. Photo: Ian bradley
These days they hunt as a pack and many of them are well organised for road trailing, so on the assumption that they would be heading to the Glandore Classics 2017 on July 23rd, she sent an email to class chairman Richard Tudor suggesting that they might like to take in Dun Laoghaire on the way. It turns out that they won’t be at Glandore in late July as they’re expected to take part in the four yearly Celtic Festival in the Menai Straits at much the same time. But their diary was reasonably clear for the 6th to 9th of July and the Dun Laoghaire festivities, and they’re coming to race for the new Kingstown Cup big time.

This is doubly interesting, for they’re very much a William Fife design and only six inches shorter than the Alfred Mylne-designed Glens, yet the two comparable classes have never raced in the same event. Needless to say the chances of an inter-fleet race in Dun Laoghaire is now high on the agenda.

Alfred Mylne Glen Class  yachtAn Alfred Mylne-designed Glen Class OD on her home waters of Dublin Bay in the kind of conditions everyone hopes for in July 2017.

 Glen yacht dublin bayThe Glen class neatly demonstrate their need for traditional moorings in their allocated area off the Royal St George YC

Howth 17 traditional yachtThe 1898 Howth 17s will be coming in force from Howth, but they’ve adapted the programme to suit their needs, with a race from Howth to Dun Laoghaire on the Friday, a full day’s racing on the Saturday, a morning race on the Sunday, and then a race home after the prize-giving ceremony.

So at a stroke, Cathy had given wings to the new event. But at the same time she was casting a fly over Hal Sisk, against whom she regularly races in the Water Wags, but who had his 1894 Watson-designed, Hilditch-built 36ft classic gaff cutter Peggy Bawn on the market, as more than ten years have elapsed since his team completed the wellnigh perfect restoration of this boat in 2005.

Peggy Bawn had been based in Dun Laoghaire Harbour continuously since 1919, and then after her restoration, she became a much-admired feature in classic regattas on both sides of the Atlantic. To say that Hal Sisk has done his duty by her is under-stating the case, yet when Cathy approached him about making Peggy Bawn the centrepiece of the VDLR Classics Regatta, he said he’d already decided to do so, and was looking forward to it very much.

Peggy Bawn yachtPeggy Bawn in her newly-restored form in 2005. Anyone contemplating a similar project should spend hours studying this image……Photo W M Nixon

While all this was going on in the background, one of the members of Cathy’s sub-committee, Guy Kilroy, was constructing a database of all the classic and traditional classes within Ireland or within reasonable reach. Although most of them are very location-specific and few have the trailers for a long road journey, you just never know who might be swept up in the general enthusiasm for an event which is really beginning to buzz, and certainly the exotic Shannon One Designs will be turning up in strength.

Meanwhile, there’s the mysterious territory which is the Old Gaffer’s Association, which came into being in 1963 when people realised there wasn’t any organisation looking after the needs of boats which weren’t really classics in the strictest sense, yet fitted into so many other categories that they almost defied definition.

Ironically, the OGA was founded in the very year that Dublin Bay’s perfect exemplars of the gaff-rigged racing cutter, the Dublin Bay 21s, changed over to Bermudan rig. Yet as the 2013 Golden Jubilee Round Britain and Ireland cruise of the OGA showed, the Old Gaffers thrive as never before. And as it happened, in 2015 and 2016 the President of the overall Old Gaffers Association was Dun Laoghaire’s own Sean Walsh, owner-skipper of the very gaff-rigged Heard 28 Tir na nOg.

But Sean was due to stand down as President in London in January 14th 2017 – last weekend, in other words. Fortunately, there was just time to convene a meeting of key people before that happened, and a gathering in the NYC of Sean Walsh, Dublin Bay OGA President Denis Aylmer, Ian Malcolm of the Howth Seventeen and Water Wag classes, and Cathy MacAleavey and her husband Con Murphy, did a lot to improve mutual understanding and clarify the in-port needs of Old Gaffers, which are different from those of Classics, which are in turn very different from those of easily-manoeuvred modern craft with auxiliary engines.

old gaffers association dun aloghaireA meeting of minds. At the key gathering to assess the needs of the Old Gaffers Association were (left to right) Denis Aylmer (President Dublin Bay OGA), Sean Walsh (President, OGA), Ian Macolm (Howth 17 and Water Wag classes), Cathy MacAleavey, and Con Murphy. Photo: W M Nixon

Even before Sean and his team had left for London for the OGA changeover, the word had come through from Paul Keogh, skipper of the Clondalkin community-owned-and-built full-size Galway Hooker Naomh Cronan, that he and his crew would be delighted to take part in Dun Laoghaire in July.

This was another key decision, for the Naomh Cronan is now the only full-sized traditional Galway type on the Irish Sea. But while the great hooker voyager Paddy Barry now sails the seas in a 45ft Frers-designed cutter, it was also confirmed that he too would be taking part, as crew aboard Sean Walsh’s Tir n nOg.

Galway Hooker Naomh CronanThe Clondalkin community-built Galway Hooker Naomh Cronan. Her commitment to the Dun Laoghaire Traditional regatta has greatly encouraged the organisers. Photo: W M Nixon

Heard 28 Tir n nOg yachtSean Walsh’s Heard 28 Tir n nOg in racing mode. In Dun Laoghaire in July 2017, his crew will include legendary Galway hooker voyager Paddy Barry. Photo: Dave Owens

So the main building blocks of a great event are now going into place, and it’s a matter of building on this sound foundation. With the organisers fully aware of the need to provide proper liaison officers for each special group or class, the need for designated berthing between the Carlisle Pier and the East Pier is also being addressed, as it is the most suitable space, and has the bonus of providing the best possible public view of some of the most interesting-looking boats around.

Thus invitations are on their way to the likes of Scott and Ruth Metcalfe with their characterful schooner Vilma on the Menai Straits, and Mike Clark with his traditional Manx nobby White Heather at Peel in the Isle of Man.

Menai Straits-based schooner VilmaThe Menai Straits-based schooner Vilma (Scott & Ruth Metcalf) is exactly the kind of vessel the Dun Laoghaire event is aimed at. Photo: W M Nixon

Manx Nobby White HeatherMike Clark’s Manx Nobby White Heather
At the other end of the Isle of Man is Joe Pennington with his restored Manx longliner Master Frank, an asset to any regatta, while across in Strangford Lough Dickie Gomes may have his 1912-built 36ft Kearney yawl Ainmara on the market after 51 years of ownership, but if she doesn’t move he says he is on for Dun Laoghaire.

For several years. Ainmara was Dun Laoghaire-based, but the Dun Laoghaire class which everyone would most particularly welcome back would be the Dublin Bay 24s which raced in the bay from 1947 to 2004. Here’s a rough-cut vid from their final race in the bay in 2004, since then they’ve been taken to Brittany in hope of restoration, but only one has had the complete job done. Originally called Periwinkle, she is now re-named Grace, and is based at Douarnenez, but if she could be persuaded back to Dublin Bay for July 2017, who knows what doors might be opened.

Dublin Bay 24 yacht Grace PeriwinkleThe restored Dublin Bay 24 Grace (ex-Periwinkle) is now reported to be based in Douarnenenz, but she would be very welcome back in Dublin Bay

Boats of a very different kind came centre stage many years ago in another Hal Sisk initiative, the Bantry Boats built to the design of the ship’s longboat left behind in Bantry after the unsuccessful French invasion of 1796. From the new involvement came the Atlantic Challenge, and you’ll find Bantry Boats at many ports, though there are few enough of them in Ireland. But the Dun Laoghaire festivities would provide an ideal opportunity for them, as the final day of the regatta, Sunday 9th July, is also being pencilled in for a full-on traditional rowing competition for the East Coast Skiffs.

Pembrokeshire Bantry Boat The Pembrokeshire Bantry Boat sailing off the coast of southwest Wales. Some racing for these very special craft is another proposal for the Dun Laoghaire regatta

In fact, with so much effort being made to provide proper waterfront facilities in Dun Laoghaire, it’s a case of the more the merrier, and another interesting vessel whose management have indicated positive interest is the Conor O’Brien ketch Ilen, currently nearing completion of her restoration through the Ilen Boat Building School of Limerick at Liam Hegarty’s boatyard at Oldcourt near Baltimore.

Ilen is due to be launched in April and will be in full commission by July. The very fact of having a complete suit of new sails will make her look better than she ever has since she was built in 1927, and if she does turn up to Dun Laoghaire welcome, it will be a very different boat from the tired-looking vessel at the end of her working days in the Falkands, the vessel which was finally, thanks to Gary MacMahon’s initiative, returned to Ireland in 1998.

In other words, so many ideas are flying around about the fresh shapes and new vitality that the Kingstown Bicentenary can add to the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta that all things are possible.

Conor O’Brien ketch IlenThe Conor O’Brien ketch Ilen towards the end of her working days in the Falkland Islands. In fully restored form, she is expected to launch in April of this year, and may well include the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta in her 2017 programme. Photo courtesy Ilen Boatbuilding School

#OnTV - Clontarf’s new-build classic wooden dinghy Wicked Sadie will feature on RTÉ One’s Nationwide programme this evening at 7pm.

Nationwide’s team spent two days filming ‘Number 166’ and the build crew, both on the water and off, before her official maiden sailing.

The IDRA 14 was launched this past June after a three-year-long project by the Clontarf Yacht & Boat Club team, as previously reported on

“Wicked Sadie couldn't have come into existence without the physical and moral support of so many,” said the build crew in a statement, as they encouraged supporters to tune in and “see the results of all of your hard work and incredible support”.

Watch Nationwide this evening (Wednesday 26 October) at 7pm on RTÉ One to see the sneak peek of Wicked Sadie as she readied for launch.

But not to worry if you miss it as the programme will be available later for catch-up on RTÉ Player for the next 30 days.

Published in IDRA 14
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