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The National 18 dinghy class will hold an extraordinary general meeting on Saturday, 27th February at Royal Cork Yacht Club to vote on three new proposals for the three man centreboarder.

The first proposal seeks approval to allow Morrison division National 18’s to carry mainsail aligned to modern design and construction materials. The new mainsail can be made in either Dacron or HMPE/aramid fibre laminate.

Full details of the egm are carried in a notice downloadable below. 

Published in National 18

The recently-published ISA Survey of Club Racing commissioned and supervised by Board Member Jack Roy has started the process of putting together a realistic picture of how we sail and go afloat for recreation, and it was analysed on publication here in Afloat.ie.

It’s logical to have made the beginning with club racing, as racing provides its own narrative and a straightforward set of entry numbers and results. But it will become more complex as the national authority tries to provide realistic figures for day sailing’s less competitive aspects. And of course, once we enter the world of cruising as defined by sailing and boating projects which include passage making, both coastal and offshore, together with overnight on-board stops, then it can become much more difficult to get meaningful data.

Yet with the ISA’s Cruising Conference for February 20th already booked out within a few days of being announced on Afloat.ie, clearly that is an area in search of services and support, a section of sailing which is difficult to quantify yet obviously of strong interest to a significant number of boat enthusiasts. W M Nixon takes a look at how the complexity of our sport’s many specialities makes it difficult to provide a clearcut picture for possible recruits to sailing.

Where would we be without the International Optimist Dinghy? The little solo-sailing boxes and their attendant support teams of mum and dad and the dog and the old 4X4 or station wagon or people carrier or whatever may seem to take up an awful lot of space and time, and all just so that one little person can go sailing.

But at least that one little person does go sailing. The ISA figures are brutally straightforward. In terms of genuine turnouts afloat at clubs throughout Ireland, in boat numbers the active Optimists are exceeded only by the Lasers, and this is arguably because Lasers aren’t age-limited, whereas the Optimists most definitely are.

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Optimist airborne. This is Ireland's second most popular class

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Ireland’s most popular dinghy class, the Laser is seen here at the Zhik Irish Nationals at Ballyholme

So we give a qualified cheer for the success of these two little boats. But it’s qualified because they’re single-handers which fail to provide any crew-relating sailing skills. Leading sailing figures as diverse as Des McWilliam of Crosshaven and Norman Lee of Greystones have been eloquent in promoting the notion that we should be doing more – much more – to encourage two-handed boats, and if we can persuade people into three-handed boats, well, so much the better.

Certainly that’s one of the reasons why our header photo says so much. A lone sailor in an Optimist or Laser promotes too much of a solitary, even an isolated image. And a two-handed boat like the GP 14, whose strong fleet figures in the ISA survey show the class’s vigour, is arguably just an act for a dynamic duo – it’s Strictly Come Dancing goes sailing…..

But getting three together to race a characterful boat like the National 18 with style – now that’s something special, that really is a superb combination of people skills interacting with sailing talent. And it’s a joy to behold. Yet anyone can see that for a complete beginner to sailing, this extraordinary silhouette of Tommy Dwyer’s National 18 against the November sky above the Hill of Howth will have an otherworldly air about it – “That’s not for me” is as likely a response as “Let’s have a go at that”.

Even those of us who have been in sailing for longer than we care to remember find the image decidedly thought-provoking, for we have some idea of what has been involved in creating the circumstances for this seemingly effortless balancing act, this lighter-than-air effect in the unlikely setting of a November afternoon.

Over the past year or so we have been recounting in Afloat,ie how the Cork Harbour National 18 Class, with very tangible backing from the Royal Cork Yacht Club, have been in the forefront of the development of the new ground-breaking Phil Morrison take on the long-established National 18, which is a developmental class which from time to time takes a leap in hull design, and moves forward in order to keep the spirit alive.

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The National 18s are part of the fabric of Cork Harbour sailing. Before the new Morrison boats arrived in July, the old fleet were seen here in May 2015 after their annual race to Ballinacurra in northeast Cork Harbour in company with the Dwyer brothers’ cruising ketch. Photo: W M Nixon

Acceptance of this is something which seems to be bred into Cork’s National 18 enthusiasts, many of whom have the advantage of being firmly of the opinion that a proper dinghy needs three people to sail it. But the social matrix which has built up around Cork Harbour over many decades with this concept at its heart is not something which will necessarily travel easily to other areas, and although the six boats of the National 18 flotilla which visited Howth for the Open Day got a great reception and gave many people from other classes a marvellous time afloat, it’s probable that the very different mood around sailing in Dublin means that something so technically and socially challenging as a three man dinghy is a step too far.

Sailing in the greater Dublin area seems to exist within a framework of independent balloons. While there are those who will happily move from one boat type to another and cheerfully spread their talents and enjoyment about, by contrast there’s the Dublin Bay Sailing Club Thursday Evening Phenomenon.

Thursday is when the DBSC cruiser classes go out to race. And there’s an entire cohort of people, mostly folk who work in offices in the city, who on a Thursday evening go straight to Dun Laoghaire, get aboard a pontoon-based cruiser owned by someone else, go out and race in some very specific crewing job, then come back in and have supper in club or pub with their shipmates, and then that’s it until next Thursday. Just one evening each summer mid-week is their entire sailing programme. Weekends are for something else. And as for the hassle and mixed joys of boat ownership and maintenance, that’s not their department at all.

It’s a very metropolitan, very citified yet specialized way of doing things, and Dublin is one of the very few cities whose location facilitates it. It will be fascinating to measure it, for Dublin’s way of sailing is steeped in history and tradition. But for now it’s refreshing to look at a place which has had a sailing tradition in times past, but somehow lost it, yet it’s coming back again, and one of the good news stories towards the end of 2015 is that the new Youghal Sailing Club has been accepted into the ISA fold.

Youghal at present is a difficult place for sailing, as the tidal power of the mighty Munster Blackwater sweeps straight through the estuary and along the old town’s waterfront, and the creation of any meaningful modern facilities will have the immediate difficulty of silting by incredibly adhesive black mud.

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With the sun out, and the tide in, Youghal looks to be an ideal location for the easy installation of a marina….....Photo: W M Nixon

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….but with the sun in and the tide out, the mud problem is revealed. Photo: W M Nixon

Thus, as dedicated Afloat.ie readers will have recently observed, no sooner had one group announced that a marina in Youghal was on the way than another longer-established group quietly suppressed the story, as they’re well aware of the engineering and dredging difficulties involved, and premature announcements will only slow any project in the long run.

In the fullness of time, a marina at Youghal will be a godsend for any cruiser plugging along the south coast. It’s not always the easiest coast in the world to make a passage along, sometimes it can seem an awfully long way to Cork from Dunmore East or Kilmore Quay even if you do make stopovers at Dungarvan or Helvick, and there are times when the hardiest seafarer is glad enough to get his boat secured to a good big pontoon.

But that’s for the future. Meantime, the locally-based keelboats are using either the restless anchorage off the town, or the more serene pool across the estuary at Ferry Point on the east shore, while the new club’s flotilla of GP 14s are stored in spare warehouse space during non-sailing time, and when they do go sailing it turns out their clubhouse is a moveable feast - it’s a caravan which can be towed to a choice of sailing locations.

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A moveable feast. Members of the newly-affiliated Youghal Sailing Club with their caravan HQ, Adrian Lee in doorway. Photo: W M Nixon

On the national stage, it is young Youghal GP 14 sailor Adrian Lee who has been among those flying the club’s flag, and there’s hope in the air. When we were there in May on a fine day that promised a summer which never arrived, we couldn’t help but think that when they do get their facilities and maybe even a clubhouse, they’ll look back to the days of the caravan and ad hoc racing arrangements with sweet nostalgia. For sometimes, it’s much better to be travelling than it is to arrive.

But for the rest of us, the message from Youghal is simple. The sea is for sailing. Use it or lose it. By all means get proper people surveys done which indicate the way numbers are shaping up and things are going. But really, if you want to persuade people to go sailing, the best way is by example, getting afloat as much as possible yourself. And maybe then you’ll find the time to welcome aboard newcomers too.

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Reviving Youghal sailing – on race days, the club’s caravan is simply towed down to the pier and the races are started from there. Photo: W M Nixon

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Youghal’s massive public slip provides launching for the YSC sailing dinghies, but during 2015 the boats had to be stored at the other end of town when not in use. Photo: W M Nixon

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The pace-setter. Adrian Lee of Youghal SC with his Duffin-built GP14. Photo: W M Nixon

Click to download: ISA Survey of Club Racing 

Published in W M Nixon

The Cork Harbour National 18s are inviting members of Howth Yacht Club to come sailing on the new National 18 in early November at  a demo weekend at the club.

A new design has recently arrived in Cork and the Munster sailors are bringing the new boat to Dublin for trials. The Class supports a thriving fleet, from the 75+ year old classic woodies through to the latest Morrison design, with an unrivalled history of keen competition and a 'lively bonhomie' amongst the multi–generational fleets in clubs around England, Ireland, the Isle of man, Scotland & Wales.

The Class has evolved a deep history, from the original clinker wooden Uffa Fox ‘Ace’ adopted in 1938, through to our latest iteration, the thoroughly exciting & modern Phil Morrison designed, two or three person, trapeze, dinghy being built by White Formula and formally launched at the 2015 Dinghy Show.

The weekend takes place at Howth Yacht Club on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th of November. To register your interest or for more information contact Willie Healy at 086 8554562 or Colin Chapman at 087 7566977.

Published in National 18

#dognosetrophy – 'Fast, very fast' that's the verdict on the new Phil Morrison National 18 that made its Cork Harbour debut for the 'Dognose Trophy' for mixed dinghies on Saturday afteroon writes Claire Bateman. Bob Bateman captured the action below.

The Dognose Trophy Race, (No. 5 Buoy a replica of which is a magnificent piece of silverware from the olden days), was sailed in a cloudy but very breezy southerly wind. What made this event different was the fact that the new National 18s participated.

Race Officer, Mike Dwyer, set up the committee boat off Whitegate assisted by his Godfather none other than T.E. Crosbie. They set a beat out to Dognose. Tom Crosbie in his beautiful red new 18 succumbed before the start and did not participate. The race got under way with a mix of the old and the new National 18s and a sole Laser participant.

The bulk of the fleet went up the left hand side of the course and Tommy Dwyer, hoping to catch the stronger tide in the channel, went up the right side. As the fleet met at the weather mark it was the two new lead boats were in the lead with Colin Chapman ahead. On the run they headed for Spike Island before gybing to make the No. 13 Buoy. In the gusty conditions Chapman capsized but did not take long to right the boat again but not before the dream boat of Tommy Dwyer got past him reveling in the conditions with her bow up and planing very fast. A 90 degree turn to port brought a two sail reach up to the Cove Sailing Club mark, a 180 degree turn back and spinnakers were hoisted again on a shy reach as they sailed past Cobh and past the No. 14 buoy before heading to the finish at Aghada where they availed of the facilities of the fine new pontoon to come ashore to partake in the usual get together after this old and well loved race.


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Published in National 18

#national18 –  There's great excitement around Cork Harbour this week with the delivery of the first four of the completely new Phil Morrison-designed National 18s to join the established fleet at Monkstown Bay SC.

In the near future, other boats will be arriving to make their debut as Crosshaven with the Royal Cork YC, as well as further augmenting the Monkstown group. By the time the class's big British and Irish Championship is staged at Royal Cork from July 26th to 31st, the necessary critical mass of the new boats should have been achieved to provide top quality racing. But there will of course also be special provisions made to ensure that boats of older types (the restricted class has been in existence since 1938) are continuing to get worthwhile sport.

The development of this newest and very exciting National 18 has been largely powered by the Cork Harbour National 18ft Class Association, and National 18 sailors in Britain have been particularly impressed by the way that the Royal Cork YC invested funds to help this community effort towards a brighter future from resources within the class association.

This weekend will see the four new boats getting their rigs tuned with some trial sailing planned, but we'll be very surprised indeed if there isn't a test race or two down Monkstown way on Saturday and Sunday.

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These boats will take a bit of getting used to, but there's no doubting the excitement in the air...

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Big smiles greet Colin Chapman's new Ultra Design National 18 one of the first eight National 18's new design to arrive at the Royal Cork Yacht Club for the 2015 season.

L. to R. Royal Cork Admiral Pat Lyons, Dom Long, President National 18 Class, Rear Admiral Dinghies, Celine McGrath and owner Colin Chapman. Picture Robert Bateman.

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Published in National 18

#national18 – Since being introduced to the public at the RYA Suzuki Dinghy Show in March of this year, the first of the new Phil Morrison designed National 18s has been undergoing sailing trials and completing the required EU stability tests. From the moment she hit the water for her inaugural sail at Brightlingsea it was clear that the boat was something special, say her promoters.

Afloat.ie covered recent developments in the class here when WM Nixon concluded the National 18s were taking dinghy racing onto a new plane.

British Olympian Rob White, whose company White Formula builds the boats, was among the first to helm her and couldn't keep the grin off his face. "She's seriously slippery," said Rob immediately after sailing "she feels really responsive and accelerates instantly in even the lightest puffs."

As well as impressing with her sailing performance the new National 18 also passed her EU RCD stability tests with flying colours. Named Hurricane after the very first ever National 18 launched in 1938, she is now on the South coast and has so far been seen in Lymington, Keyhaven and Poole Harbour. First impressions have been very favourable, and she has turned heads both in the dinghy park and on the water.

Production is in full swing on the dozen boats already on order. The next batch of four will go to Cork in June to start the Irish fleet with further boats following shortly thereafter.

A programme of test sails is currently being set up and further details of how members of the press and those interested in sailing the boat, including the more than 40 people who signed up at the Dinghy Show, can get involved will be published shortly.

Looking ahead, there will a National 18 English Championship at Bosham during the weekend of 4th and 5th July 2015. This will be followed by the British and Irish Championship, hosted by the Royal Cork Yacht Club from to 26th to 31st July, where 12 of the new boats will be competing alongside some 30 GRP Proctor 18s, and a fleet of wooden classics.

Current orders for new boats will keep builders White Formula busy through until late summer.

Published in National 18

#national18 – There are some special dinghy classes. There are some very special dinghy classes. And then there are the National 18s.

You can see any number of reasons why this unique class, celebrating its 80th birthday in just three years time, is in a league of its own. A three-man boat with one of the crew on a trapeze, its crewing set–up requires a level of sociability which is further emphasised ashore, where their après sailing is the stuff of legend.

At all the centres where it is sailed, and at places upon which the National 18s have descended for a championship, we know they've left behind a formidable reputation for determined but good humoured conviviality, combined with great sportsmanship.

Yet while it is easy to understand the class's popularity among its adherents when you see them in high spirits as a group, there's no getting away from the fact that in today's dinghy terms, 18ft is a lot of boat. The mood of the National 18s may often seem light-hearted. But keeping one of these boats in prime condition and well crewed is not something for the casually-interested.

It requires real commitment, yet that is something which National 18 sailors seem to have in spades. And now the class has taken on a new lease of life with the development of a fresh take on the National 18 parameters by legendary designer Phil Morrison. But rather than being launched as a commercial venture, the new boat is being developed from within class resources, which has involved several imaginative fund-raising ventures. W M Nixon found himself being drawn into one of them.

It's official, The Cork Harbour National 18 Class are brilliantly capable of running a booze-up in a distillery. And just to make it even more challenging for their supportive members and many friends, they ran this particular fund-raiser for the new Phil Morrison boat in the Jameson Distillery in Midleton in East Cork on the first Saturday night of Lent.

Of course, like all Ireland on St Patrick's Day three weeks later, they got a special dispensation for the partying to continue unhindered by thoughts of Lenten piety. There was plenty of time for that next morning. But meanwhile, right there in the heritage and high tech splendour of the Midleton facility where tradition and new science are dynamically allied, the National 18 crews went at it good-oh, and the class's Development Fund was greatly enhanced.

In fact, I'm told the financial targets were comfortably exceeded, but as Class President Dom Long and the ever-energetic Tom Dwyer didn't tell us the targets in the first place, we'll happily take their word for it. All I know is that it was one helluva night, and only the National 18s could have done it.

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Let's party! Colman Garvey's vintage National 18 welcomes guests to the Midleton Distillery for yet another event in a series of fund-raisers which have supported the development of the new boat from within class resources. Photo: W M Nixon

It's a class which – thanks to being a restricted design rather than a hidebound one-design – is able to wallow happily in its history as it thrusts towards new designs which keep up the spirits of its established sharpest sailors, while also encourage the vital new blood.

So how did it all come about? Well, thanks to a prodigious book written by Brian Wolfe of the boat's history, published in 2013 to mark the class's 75th Anniversary, we get some idea of the inevitable complexity of the story. The class started in 1938 in the Thames Estuary where there'd been several local one design or restricted "large dinghy" classes around the 18ft mark and soon – under a National Class imprimatur from the Yacht Racing Association – it spread to several other centres.

Needless to say, World War II from 1939 to 1945 brought any further growth and most sailing activity to a halt, but by 1947 things were looking up again, and in the straitened post war circumstances, the National 18 found its niche. Back in 1938, Yachting World magazine had sponsored a design to the class's rules by Uffa Fox, and that became the clinker-built Uffa Ace, which continued to be the backbone of the class for many years after the war.

It was Whitstable in the far east of Kent which produced most of the initial impetus for the class, and local builders Anderson, Rigden & Perkins made a speciality of it. In fact, ARP-built Uffa Aces were soon virtually the definitive National 18. Yet ironically we cannot confirm at the moment if the oldest National 18 still sailing – Richard Stirrup's 1938-vintage Tinkerbelle which races with the classics divison at Bosham SC on Chichester Harbour – is an ARP boat.

It's ironic because Tinkerbelle's first home port was Howth. It wasn't until I was writing the history of Howth YC for its Centenary twenty years ago that awareness surfaced that there'd been the nucleus of a National 18 class in Howth in 1938.
There were just three boats – John Masser's Wendy number 14, Tinkerbelle number 15, and Fergus O'Kelly & Pat Byrne's Setanta, number 16.

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Tinkerbelle (15) being sailed by Aideen Stokes in 1939, with John Masser's Nat 18 Wendy (later Colleen II) astern, and the Corbett family's Essex OD Cinders abeam.

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Tinkerbelle as she is today, the oldest National 18 still sailing. Her home port is Bosham on Chichester Harbour. Photo courtesy Richard Stirrup

Tinkerbelle seems to have been owned by a syndicate in which the Stokes family was much involved, though in the class history her earliest owner is listed as Bobby Mooney, son of the renowned Billy Mooney of Aideen fame. However, around Howth, Tinkerbelle was best remembered for being raced with considerable panache by a non-owner, Norman Wilkinson.

But when Norman returned from war service in 1946 determined to sail just as much as humanly possible, he found that the National 18s had faded away, and the only way he could get regular racing was by buying the 1898-built Howth 17 Leila, which he duly raced with frequent success right up to the end of his long life in 1998, by which time Leila was a hundred.

It's intriguing to think that, with one or two twists of fate in Howth, Norman Wilkinson might have been renowned as a star of the National 18s taking on the likes of class legends such as Somers Payne and Charlie Dwyer of Cork, where the class – having started with just two ARP boats in1939 - held fire for a while, but got going big time in the late 1940s and early '50s with several builders all round Cork Harbour creating them in local workshops.

That was one of the attractions of the National 18s. They were big enough to appeal to people who didn't fancy skittish little dinghies, yet they were small enough to be constructed by artisan boatbuilders who could produce lovely boats. But the owners – having laid out what were considerable sums of money at a time when Ireland seemed to be in a state of permanent economic depression – were disinclined to go the final stage of having the boats properly measured and registered with the class. This caused increasing problems, ultimately solved by a high level of diplomacy as the National 18s' popularity grew, and the opportunities arose for the Cork boats to go across the water to race in big-fleet competitions.

At one stage, class numbers were so healthy at many centres that in Britain they had Northern and Southern Championships, reflecting the primitive state of road movement of boats. Dinghy road trailers – particularly for hefty big 18-footers – were still in their infancy, so all sorts of ingenious methods were used to get boats to distant events, with a Whitstable boat on at least one occasion getting to Cork as deck cargo aboard a Coast Lines vessel on its regular route which took in Rochester in Kent and eventually Cork among several ports.

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The National 18s in their classic prime, with immaculately vanished clinker-built hulls, and setting lovingly-cared-for cotton sails. Here, Crosshaven's greatest National 18 sailor Somers Payne (Melody, 206) is being pursued by Alan Wolfe in Stardust 63), while up ahead Charlie Dwyer with Mystic (208) is doing a horizon job, with the legendary Leo Flanagan of Skerries lying second at the helm of Fingal. The photo was taken during a Dinghy Week at Baltimore, and it is memories like this which inspired Brian Wolfe (son of Stardust's owner-skipper) to undertake the mammoth task of collating and writing the class's history.

In Ireland, centres which saw interest in the National 18s included Dunmore East, Clontarf and Portrush, but as Dun Laoghaire was committed to the 17ft Mermaid, the only place on the East Coast with really significant National 18s numbers was Skerries, where the incredible Leo Flanagan set the pace driving his Jensen Interceptor ashore, and racing his no-expenses-spared ARP-built National 18 Fingal afloat in somewhat erratic style.

Leo was a ferocious party animal, and when the Skerries and Crosshaven National 18s united in going to the big class championship at Barry in South Wales in the mid 1950s, Leo was very disappointed to discover that, just as the party was really getting going, the club barman had every intention of closing at closing time. The very idea....Leo solved the problem by buying the entire bar for cash on the spot.

As far as Leo was concerned, sailing was for parties, so when he heard of the highly-organised Irish Olympic campaign towards the 1960 Olympics in Rome, he got himself to Rome, as Olympic sailing promised Olympian parties. To his distress, he was ordered out of the Olympic Village by the Irish squad, who wanted no distractions. But to their distress, the bould Leo then turned up next morning for the first day's racing, officially accredited and highly visible in his new role – he had become manager of the Singapore team.

It seems that in a harbourside bar the night before, he'd met the helmsman of the Singapore Olympic Dragon (as it happened, the only Dragon in Singapore), who was racing in the Olympics as a personal venture. As the biggest rubber concessionaire in Malaya, he could well afford to do so. But this meant he was also Team Manager, and when Leo met him, the Singapore skipper was much upset, because with his sailing duties and need to get a good night's sleep before each day's racing, he was simply unable to take up all the official invitations which any Olympic Team Manager received.

He felt he was badly offending his hosts, and completely failing the Singapore sailing community So Leo, out of sheer kindness, agreed to be the Singapore Olympic Sailing Team Manager, giving selflessly of his time, energy and great wit in the front line at all the best and most fashionable parties throughout the 1960 Olympic Regatta.

All of which has little enough direct connection with the story of the National 18s, but it gives you some idea of the style of the people who have been involved in a long tale which will soon have been going on for eighty years. Yet beyond the parties and the many scrapes they got into, there was also much serious sailing and boat development going on, for although the Uffa Ace was the most numerous design in the growing fleet, anyone could have a go provided they fitted within the class rules.

But by the mid-1960s, it was clear that the traditional concept of a clinker-built National 18 was losing its appeal, and in 1968 the Class Association asked Ian Proctor to design a National 18 to be built as a smooth-hulled fibreglass series-produced boat, with bare hulls to be available for owners who wished to finish the boats themselves.

However, being mindful of keeping existing wooden boats competitive, the new boats were built much heavier than their glassfibre construction really required. Yet they looked good, and the first one Genevieve (266) was delivered to class stalwart Murray Vines, who sailed with the Tamesis Club on the Thames. There, the river may have been pretty, but it was so narrow that when the Tamesis people secured a major championship, they took their entire race management team down to the coast to attractive sea venues where the National 18s could do their thing with style and space.

That said, it was far from style and space they were reared. Murray Vines' son Jeremy – who is proud owner of the very first production version of the Phil Morrison Odyssey design which the class has been developing for the past two years – recalls his own earliest experience of championship competition with the National 18s in 1949 aged 11. He and his brother crewed for their father in 18/51 in a championship on the Medway in Kent, and they lived afloat on the boat, for in those days many National 18s lay to moorings.

Perhaps as a reward, the father built the two young Vines brothers their own International Cadet Dinghy the following winter. But Jeremy has remained loyal to the National 18 class to the point of being the pioneering owner for the new version of the design despite being at a certain age which you can work out yourself from that data given for the Medway in 1949. That said, he has given himself more space for his sailing as he has moved his base from Tamesis to Lymington, and in addition to the National 18, he cruises and races the Dufour 34 Pickle, a sister-ship of Neil Hegarty's award-winning Shelduck which featured in this column a week ago.

That the new wave of glassfibre 18s was not going to outclass the existing boats was forcefully demonstrated in 1970, when the class held its first combined all-British & Irish Championship in Cowes, after twenty years of separate Northern and Southern events. Despite the new glassfibre boats, the classics from Cork Harbour – where they'd been in the midst of celebrating the Quarter Millennium of the Royal Cork YC - were dominant, with Somers Payne right on top of his form sailing Melody (206) to win going away, notching only 1.5 points to second-placed clubmate Dougie Deane on 14.

Cork Harbour boats took the first six places in a crack fleet of thirty-one of all the best from every top National 18 centre, and the spirit of it all was best captured by the Thames Challenge Cup for a family crew going to Royal Cork's Dwyer family – Charlie and his sons Michael and a very young Tom – who placed sixth in Mystic.

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The furthest flung fleet is at Findhorn in northeast Scotland, but the huge distance involved doesn't stop Royal Findhorn YC boats competing with the rest of the class. This is top RFYC helm Stuart Urquhart's Howlin Gael racing in the Solent, and every so often the class – including those from Cork – make the long trek to Finhorn for an annual championship.

However, in terms of championship success the movement towards overall victory by glassfibre boats had begun, and 1977 saw the last championship win by a wooden boat, with Mike Kneale's Maid Mary (183) from the Port St Mary fleet in the Isle of Man. This was a hotbed of National18 racing for a couple of decades, and after Mike had completely renovated the 23-year-old formerly only so-so Maid Mary, he clinched the 1977 title at Findhorn in northeast Scotland "just before you get to Norway", as I was told in Midleton last month. There, the Royal Findhorn YC is a byword for warm hospitality ashore and hot sport afloat, but despite a strong challenge by a formidable Cork contingent, the Manxmen won out.

But having done his duty by the classic wooden boats, for 1979 Mike Kneale and his team took a different tack – they commissioned a new National 18 design from ace ideas man Jonathan Hudson, which they composite-built around Airex foam whose use other Manx DIY boat builders such as Nick Keig had been deploying for long-distance multi-hulls.

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The Airex boat....Mike Kneale's innovative Woodstock on trials off Port St Mary in the Isle of Man in 1979.

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Woodstock from the Isle of Man sails back into Crosshaven in 1979 with all the look of a boat which has just won the championship.

Despite – or maybe because of – her composite materials, the new boat was called Woodstock. And as Brian Wolfe's history of the class recalls, when she appeared for the well-supported 1979 championship in Crosshaven, "there was much debate", not un-related to the fact that Mike and his crew of Rick Tomlinson and Ross Thomas swept the board, taking the championship for Mike's fourth time in a clean sweep with the top boat from the home Cork Harbour fleet being Albert Muckley's Eastern Promise (323) in second overall for East Ferry SC.

So where was Somers Payne? Well, after dominating the national championship leaderboards since 1958 with the wooden Melody, in 1979 Somers was making his first foray into campaigning a glassfibre boat, and while he may have been third, the writing was on the wall, and the class was moving to class.

And there was new life at Royal Cork. The Royal Cork YC's National 18s were having one of their periodic re-births, and while Woodstock may have won the title, her designer reckoned it was only by extra skill that they stayed ahead of a new wave of young talents whose helming skills had been honed in events like the Admiral's Cup and many national and international championships in all sorts of boats. Their zest for international competition was buoyed up by the knowledge that, back home in Crosser, they had ready-to-go racing in the National 18s which was not only great sport, but somehow much more fun than sailing in other boats.

This continued level of enthusiasm at all ages meant that when the National 18 pace showed any signs of slackening, the Cork Harbour division could be relied on to get things up and moving again. Thus when the changeover to glassfibre had become complete at the front of the fleet, with many other owners happy to race their vintage boats in a classics division, some of the Corkmen questioned why new glasfibre boats were still being built overweight in order not to out-perform boats which now saw themselves as a different part of the class in any case.

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The National 18 fleet in Cork Harbour was mustering serious numbers with the lighter GRP boats from O'Sullivan's of Tralee. Photo: Bob Bateman

So the Crosshaven people got the moulds from England, and encouraged the moving of them to O'Sullivan's Marine in Tralee (incidentlally just about as far west on land as you can get from Whitstable in Kent), where they were used to build a whole new wave of lighter boats which became the National 18 class as most of us have known it until this year. Now, the new moves into the Phil Morrison boat are providing a fresh direction for a class which nevertheless takes careful steps to ensure that older boats have their place in the sun with a chance of realistic racing against similar craft.

Although Jeremy Vines of Tamesis and Lymington is the owner of the first of the new boats (she's number 401, and is called Hurricane in honour of the very first National 18 built by Anderson, Rigden and perkins in Whitstable in 1938), he is untinting in his praise for the energy and vision of the Cork harbour division of the class in having the idea and then promoting the new Phil Morrison boat, and he makes a particular point of applauding the very tangible support which has been given to the project by the Royal Cork Yacht Club.

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Into the blue.....Hurricane (number 406) is unveiled a fortnight ago at the Dinghy Show.

It's almost unfair, in such a community-based grass roots project, to single out anyone for special praise, but I got the feeling that folk like Colin Chapman, Dom Long and Tom Dwyer have been right there in the thick of it from the beginning.

The prototype having been tested and approved every which way, the moulds were made and the first dark blue hull emerged early in the New Year in one of the workshops which Rob White runs at White Formula Boats at Brightlingsea in Essex. So having been built at Tralee on the shores of the Atlantic for more than a decade, National 18 production is now back on the shores of the North Sea, but the spirit of the class at every location, regardless of where it might be, seems keener than ever.

The first of the new boats - of which sixteen have now been ordered – was Jeremy Vines' Hurricane, number 406, which was unveiled at the recent Dinghy Show in London. For a new generation which has been raised on the Phil Morrison-designed RS 200, this latest variant on the continuing National 18 story will speak volumes, and with eloquence. But it says everything about the spirit of this exceptional class that she rings a bell with seasoned National 18 sailors too.

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The gang's all here. The new boat celebrated at the Dinghy Show with a group including many of those actively involved in its development, notably Colin Chapman, Tom Dwyer, Dom Long and Jeremy Vines.

 

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The movers and shakers are (left to right) Tom Dwyer of the Cork Harbour National 18s, designer Phil Morrison, Cork Harbour Class President Dom Long, Jeremy Vines (owner of the first boat to the new Morrison design), and Rob White of White Formula Boats

Published in W M Nixon

#national18 – The new Phil Morrison designed National 18 will be launched to the public at the 2015 RYA Suzuki Dinghy Show, which takes place over the weekend of 28 February/1 March at Alexandra Palace, London.

This exciting new hull design was unanimously adopted by the class at its 2014 AGM and with fifteen boats already on order for 2015, production is in full swing at White Formula, the new official builder for the National 18.

The naming ceremony for the first new boat will take place at 14.30 on the Saturday of the show at the National 18 stand B24. Designer Phil Morrison and builder Rob White will be in attendance and all are welcome to join the celebration and inspect the new boat.

The introduction of this new National 18 design is the culmination of an extensive development and testing programme. A prototype named 'Odyssey' was launched in October 2013 and has been trialled to rave reviews by upwards of 150 people at venues around England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. She is sleek, responsive and a joy to sail in all conditions. As well as being lighter, faster, easier to sail and more comfortable to crew than previous 18s, she is also easier to launch and bring ashore and capsize recovery is improved.

The N18 remains the only 3 person National dinghy class, and the single trapeze allows a wide range of age, weight, and experience to be competitive. She is spacious, and while three is the normal racing crew, two can manage or there is room for the whole family. The National 18 Class is thriving and has a long history of competition and bonhomie.

White Formula (Brightlingsea, UK) was announced as the National 18's exclusive build partner in September 2014. The agreement with White Formula brings attractive pricing for a range of options from bare hull to fully fitted complete boat ready to sail. Current owners will be able to transfer spars and sails, thereby reducing cost. There is also an enormous range of styling options for anyone wishing to apply a splash of colour.

Odyssey was constructed by The Boat Yard at Beer and many private contributors played vital roles in the funding, testing and development process. The development team worked closely with Phil Morrison to incorporate all the feedback following the Odyssey trials. Thanks must go to all the companies and individuals involved in that development and testing for their invaluable contributions.

Construction of the hull, deck and internal moulds was completed in January and the first hull, which looks spectacular, emerged early in February and is currently nearing completion ready for exhibition at the RYA Suzuki Dinghy Show.

A complete boat with carbon spars, foils and sails will cost £15995 inc VAT, a complete hull ready to accept current spars and sails will cost £9450, and a bare hull with centreboard £6240. 15 hulls are already on order.

The Class is determined to remain inclusive of all the generations of N18s which started with the classic Uffa Ace of 1936, then the Proctor GRP hull of the 1970s and subsequent lighter, faster derivatives.

For further information about the National 18 Class please visit www.national18.com or email [email protected]

Published in National 18
Tagged under

#national18 – The National 18 Class has adopted the exciting new Phil Morrison designed hull and production has started with twelve hulls already on order for 2015. News of the new N18 hull design story broke on Afloat.ie just over a year ago when the prototype was first sailed in Cork Harbour by Royal Cork sailors.

A prototype N18 named 'Odyssey' was launched in October 2013 and she has been trialled by upwards of 150 people as she has moved around England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. There have been rave reviews. She is sleek, responsive and a joy to sail in all conditions. She is lighter, faster, safer and more comfortable to crew than current 18s. She is easy to launch and bring ashore and capsize recovery is no longer an issue.

The N18 remains the only 3 person centreboard dinghy, and the single trapeze allows a wide range of weight, experience and age to be competitive. She is spacious, and while three is the normal racing crew, two can manage or there is room for the whole family. The N18 Class is thriving and has a long history of competition and bonhomie.

At the AGM in Abersoch in July 2014 the Class voted overwhelmingly to accept the Morrison design as the new National 18. The Class is now delighted to announce the selection of White Formula of Brightlingsea, Essex, UK as our exclusive build partner.

Construction of the tooling for the class moulds has begun with completion expected by the end of 2014. As part of this deal the Class has worked with White Formula to agree attractive pricing for a range of options from bare hull to fully fitted complete boat ready to sail.

Current owners will be able to transfer spars and sails, thereby reducing cost. There is also an enormous range of styling options for anyone wishing to apply a splash of colour.

In the mean time the development team have been working with Phil Morrison to incorporate all the feedback following the Odyssey trials. She has proved absolutely invaluable in getting us to this point and will continue to serve us well. Our thanks again to all of the private contributors and The Boat Yard at Beer who helped deliver the prototype. She will be hitting the campaign trail this winter in the 2014/15 SailJuice series and the Class welcomes any existing or potential members interested in participating as helm or crew.

Moving on to 2015, the first production boat will be launched in early February with a display planned at the RYA Dinghy Show at Alexandra Palace over the weekend 28 Feb/1 Mar. White Formula aim to deliver all currently ordered boats by end of May 2015.

A complete boat with carbon spars, foils and sails will be £15995 inc VAT, a complete hull ready to accept current spars and sails will be £9450, and a bare hull £6240.

The Class is determined to remain inclusive of all the generations of N18s which started with the classic Uffa Ace of 1938, then the Proctor GRP hull of the 1970s and subsequent lighter, faster derivatives.

Published in National 18

Irishsailing – After the remarkable across-the-board success of the 2014 Irish sailing season, 2015 will have to be very special indeed to be remembered with such enthusiasm. But it's a special year in any case, as two major sailing Bicentenaries – one in the Irish Sea, the other in the Solent – will have added and poignant meaning, as the Centenaries a hundred years ago could not be celebrated because of the First World War.

As for Irish sailing generally, life moves on, there are new sailors on the water, successful young sailors are graduating to the next stage of their rapidly developing careers, and established stars continue to plan fresh campaigns, for sailing is indeed a sport for life.

Then too, new fixtures successfully introduced in 2014 will require nurturing, tuning and encouragement if they are to fulfil their potential in the coming year, while at the same time there's always extra effort needed to give proper support to established fixtures, which have to live with the reality that they might wilt through being taken for granted. Both new and longer-established boat classes will need continued enthusiastic involvement, and our well-loved classics and traditional craft must be cherished and sailed, for lack of use is the real enemy of boats, whether old or new.

As for the major administrative initiatives introduced in 2014, they will need constant monitoring, but deserve full support from the sailing and boating community at large, for it was in response to a grass-roots initiative that the radical and very necessary reforms of the Irish Sailing Association were undertaken. Those appointed to undertake the root-and-branch reform of the national authority have done so with commendable dispatch, so it is now the duty of the rest of us to support their continuing efforts. And we can best do that by enjoying our boats and our sailing and time afloat in its myriad of interests, while encouraging others to do the same. W M Nixon outlines on what the coming year may bring.

One thing at least is certain for the coming season afloat during 2015 in most of Europe. It will not mark any significant sailing Centenaries. Instead, we are immersed in four years of remembering the Great War of 1914-1918 a hundred years on, with all the added twists of that period's longer historical narrative in Ireland. In such a context, it may seem frivolous to point out that sports like yachting have no great Centenaries to mark at all in 2015. But this minor off-screen fact is a reminder of the all-involving horror and obscenity of total warfare on an industrial scale. It obliterated anything like normal life.

Yet as recreational sailing had been going on in some sort of organised form for hundreds of years – albeit in a fairly rudimentary way in its earliest years in the 16th Century – there may well have been several important dates to be marked during the time of the Great War itself, but they were allowed to pass as there was no sport afloat, while civilian life ashore was very subdued.

And in Ireland, with the Troubles persisting for four years after the end of the Great War until 1922, the Bicentenary of the Royal Cork Yacht Club in 1920 was to be a muted affair – the official History of the Royal Cork Yacht Club (published 2005) tells us: "Plans for a special dinner to celebrate the club's bicentenary in 1920 had to be cancelled, probably because of the disturbed conditions in the country"

So the idea of celebrating the Centenary of the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes in 1915 at the height of the international war - other than in a rather solemn shorebound way - would have been unthinkable. But that in turn fuels the celebrations when the peacefulgood times roll again. Thus the Royal Cork Yacht Club, having been unable to celebrate its Bicentenary in 1920, went on to have a fabulous two-year Quarter Millennium celebration in 1969-70. And as the RYS couldn't have a proper party in 1915, there's no doubt that the up-coming Bicentenary in 2015 will be the nucleus of international sailing's megafest-of-the-year.

There are of course several clubs which pre-dated the Squadron when it was founded in 1815. And there are many whose members outshine the small membership of the RYS in the breadth and energy of their sailing. But for 2015, let's just acknowledge that the prestigious Squadron has been at the heart of sailing history for a very long time, while their clubhouse's location right on the Solent at Cowes is so central that when any great Solent-related events are under way, the Squadron is in the middle of the story.

Thus it was on the Squadron lawn that in July that the Irish team celebrated their epic Commodore's Cup victory at the end of July 2014. And it will be towards the Squadron and its Bicentenary that the fleet will be racing in 2015's west-east Transatlantic Race. And then it will be the firing of the cannons from the historic Squadron battery which will signal the start of the 46th Fastnet Race on 16th August 2015.

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Party time at the Royal Yacht Squadron – the Irish team and their management gather to celebrate victory in the Commodore's Cup at the Squadron Castle in Cowes on August 1st 2014

There'll be many Irish boats involved, and the best-placed of them at the finish will be the winner of the Gull Salver, currently held by Martin Breen's Reflex 38 Lynx from Galway Bay SC, which was skippered to success by Aodhan FitzGerald in 2013's race. It's a coveted trophy, instituted to honour the memory of Harry Donegan of Cork and his famous cutter Gull, which was one of seven boats which inaugurated the Fastnet Race in 1925, and placed third. Since then, Irish Fastneteers have frequently been in the great race's top places, and best of all was in 2007 when Ger O'Rourke's Cookson 50 Chieftain out of Kilrush, sailing under the burgee of the revived Royal Western of Ireland YC, came sweeping in to the finish line at Plymouth to win the Fastnet Race
overall.

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One of the greatest moments in Irish sailing history – Ger O'Rourke's Chieftain sweeps towards the finish line to become the overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2007. Photo: Rolex

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Just the spot for a great Tricentenary celebration - the very complete sailing facilities provided jointly by the Royal Cork Yacht Club and Crosshaven will become a world focus in 2020 with the Club's 300th anniversary. Photo: Bob Bateman

The realisation that 2015 sees this significant RYS Bicentenary is a timely reminder that the Royal Cork's Tricentenary is only five years down the line. They're five years which will be gone in a flash, and already behind-the-scenes moves are afoot to ensure that the national sailing programme will properly facilitate the extraordinary anniversary being celebrated in Crosshaven in 2020.

But meanwhile other Irish sailing centres have their own regular programmes to operate in the intervening four years, and in terms of numbers and scale there's no doubt the top event in Ireland in 2015 will be the biennial Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta from 9th to 12th July.

Anyone – and there were many - who took part in this unique "suburban sailfest" in 2013 will know that the VDLR has come of age. It's an event which is comfortable with itself while at the same time being always in development and evolution mode. Each staging of this remarkable Dublin Bay happening sees lessons being learnt and implemented even while the multi-class racing is under way on several courses. And in the two year gap before the next staging, the experience gained is closely analysed and the programme refined to further improve the sport in every area.

You get some idea of the sheer depth of racing experience in Dun Laoghaire by noting that the Chairman of the 2015 Committee is Tim Goodbody, with Martin Byrne as Vice Chairman while the Race Director is Con Murphy. And those three sailing megastars are just the peak of a mountain of race administration experience which is being drawn in from all over Ireland to ensure that the fleet of 400-plus boats gets the best sport possible.

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The first regatta in 1828 at the new harbour at Dun Laoghaire, which will be the setting for Ireland's biggest event in 2015, the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta from 9th to 12th July.

While there'll be keenly participating boats from all over Ireland as well as Scotland, England and Wales, the setup of Dublin Bay being right on the city's doorstep means that it's the locals who would pose an administrative problem for a less experienced team. As the dates for the VDLR approached in 2013, the weather forecast steadily improved, and thanks to the Regatta's "extra long weekend" format, the sudden arrival of summer meant that a host of boats from the greater Dublin area came in as last minute entries, their owners and crews managing to scrape the extra day-and-a-half needed off work. It's a scenario which would put an overstretched administration off course, but the VDLR team took it calmly in their stride, and the result was a successful summer festival of sunlit sails and great sport, with maybe two thousand taking part.

This year there's a more structured cross-channel involvement, as the venerable Royal Dee YC in Cheshire has leapt to life to celebrate its Bicentenary. Founded as the Dee Yacht Club in 1815 with the end of the Napoleonic Wars, it didn't get the Royal seal until 1947, but nevertheless claims to be older than the RYS. With growing fleets in North Wales and the Mersey, it has put together a Bicentennial Royal Dee Irish Sea Offshore Championship linked closely to ISORA, which will bring the fleet across to Ireland to take in four offshore day races sailed as part of VDLR 2015.

Irish National Championships which will be part of the VDLR 2015 programme include the J/109s, the RS Elites, the Beneteau First 21s, and the Wayfarers, while the Leinster GP 14 Championship is also included as an integral part of the Regatta.

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Party time in Dun Laoghaire – the Royal Irish YC during VDLR 2013. Photo: W M Nixon

As for Ireland's classic clinker-built vintage classes, one of the pleasantest surprises in VDLR 2013 was the large turnout of Mermaids, which had superb racing on the course area in the northwest corner of Dublin Bay. Despite having been born as the Dublin Bay SC Mermaid in 1932, this class of 17ft super-dinghies is no longer included in the regular DBSC programme owing to shortage of numbers for weekly turnouts. But it seems that as far as the VDLR is concerned, the Mermaid is now an event boat, and the fleets still thriving at other centres, together with some of the dormant Dublin Bay craft, bestirred themselves for the four days to enjoy good sailing for more than three dozen boats, something which is highly likely to be repeated in 2015.

The even more venerable Water Wags, founded 1887 with the current boats dating from 1903, continue to thrive in Dun Laoghaire, and the word is they expect to have at least twenty boats in action, while another wooden classic, the Mylne-designed 25ft Glen keelboat, is 50 years and more in Dun Laoghaire, and looks forward to having at least twelve boats racing in 2015.

All these specialized and historic classes are in addition to the numerous cruiser-racers which continue to be the backbone of Dublin Bay sailing. And while many of them will see the VDLR 2015 as a highlight of the year, in turning to consider the overall national programme, we find a sport which is shaking off economic recession to get on with an extraordinary plethora of local, national and international sailing events.

The problem is that most events of significance hope to locate themselves in the peak sailing period from late May to early September, so clashes are almost inevitable, and if you're interested in several different kinds of sailing, the overall choices can be bewildering in their complexity and logistical challenges.

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The Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival attracts an eclectic fleet – included here are a Shannon Gandelow, a West Cork Mackerel Yawl, the ketch Sile a Do, and an Heir Island Lobster Yawl (left).

For instance, the variety of events now available for the traditional and classic boats – usually but not necessarily under the Old Gaffer umbrella – would keep anyone busy for most of the summer. It starts with the Baltimore Wooden Boat & Seafood Festival from Friday 22nd May to Sunday 24th May, which you'd think very early
in the season for someone faced with fitting out an old wooden boat in Ireland's climate, but somehow they do it.

Then on the East Coast for the early summer Bank Holiday Weekend from May 29th to June 2nd, there's the Old Gaffer gathering in Dublin Bay at Poolbeg Y&BC with the annual race for the Leinster Trophy in the bay on Saturday May 30th, the event then morphs into the Dublin Port Riverfest in the Liffey on Sunday May 31st, and finally it all concludes with the race for the Asgard Trophy back in the bay on Monday June 1st.

The annual Lambay Race at Howth, a regular fixture since 1904, has seen its course becoming increasingly complex in modern times in order to satisfy the desire of modern racers for competition on every possible point of sailing. But in 2014, to celebrate the Centenary of the Lynch family's Echo, the venerable Howth Seventeens were sent on the traditional course north from Howth Harbour through the sound inside Ireland's Eye, then on round Lambay leaving it to port, and then back south inside Ireland's Eye again to the finish at Howth pierheads.

This was such an attractive proposition for Old Gaffers and Seventeens alike that on the day an extra Classics Division was added to cater for ancient craft, and it hit the spot. This option will be offered again for 2015's Lambay Race (it's on Saturday June 6th), and the word is that Dickie Gomes's 1912-built 36ft yawl Ainmara will be coming down from Strangford Lough to defend her title after 94 years. 94 years? Yes indeed - she won the Lambay Race in spectacular style in 1921 when still under the ownership of her designer-builder John B Kearney.

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After 94 years, Dickie Gomes's 36ft 1912-built yawl Ainmara (seen here on her home waters of Strangford Lough) hopes to return to defend the title in Howth's Lambay Race, which Ainmara won in 1921 while still in the ownership of her designer-builder John B Kearney. Photo: W M Nixon

The Old Gaffers attention then swings north as the Tall Ships are coming to Belfast from Thursday 2nd July to Sunday 5th July. This is going to be a serious biggie with those ships already signed up including a significant turnout of Class A vessels, which are square riggers and others of more than 40 metres in length. Belfast Lough lends itself particularly well to the Parade of Sail which follows a Tall Ships gathering, and in 2009 when they were last in the port they put in in a virtuoso display with the Dutch ship Europa in particular going to the trouble of getting herself over towards Whiteabbey in the northwest corner of the lough to allow her time get every stitch of sail set before proceeding seawards down-lough in colossal style, a much more impressive display than we've become accustomed to in Dublin, where the shape of Dublin Bay is such that it doesn't really provide the space for square riggers to set all cloth before getting out to sea.

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The Tall Ship Europa shows how it should be done in Belfast Lough in 2009, taking time out to set full sail before she starts to gather power to make the proper input into the Parade of Sail.

Like Dublin, Belfast has shown it can be hospitable to Old Gaffers, and it was a very welcoming main port during the OGA Golden Jubilee Cruise-in-Company in 2013, so for 2015 the OGA National President Sean Walsh hopes to up the ante by persuading his members from all round the Irish Sea to gather in Belfast, and to add spice to the mix, he hopes to persuade the Howth 17s to put in an appearance as well, to sail with local one designs like the 1903 Belfast Lough Waverley Class, which have been experiencing a revival in recent years.

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Old Gaffers in Belfast for their Golden Jubilee in 2013. The Irish Sea classic and traditional fleet will return to the same venue for the Tall Ships gathering in July 2015. Photo: W M Nixon

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The Belfast Lough Waverley Class Lilias (built 1903) sailing at the Titanic Centre in Belfast. In 2015, the Waverleys will be joined by some of the 117-year-old Howth 17s to participate in the visit of the Tall Ships. Photo: W M Nixon

The Seventeens have made long treks as a class before – in 1998, five of them were road-trailed to Carrickfergus to mark the class's Centenary, with the first five boats built by Hilditch of Carrickfergus. So though they'd trailed there, they then sailed the 90 miles back to Howth, just as the first boats had done a hundred years earlier. Then in July 2003, fifteen of the Seventeens took part in the Glandore Classics Regatta thanks to a brilliantly organised exercise in logistics using a flotilla of low loaders which could take three boats apiece.

For all of Ireland's classic and traditional boats in 2015, and an international fleet too, Glandore is very much up on the radar again, as a special effort is being made by a GHYC team led by Donal Lynch to encourage increased numbers in the CH Marine Glandore Classic Regatta from Saturday July 18th through Friday July 24th. It's a date which certainly allows Old Gaffers plenty of time to get down from Belfast, indeed some may even consider the option of making the voyage northabout to take in a round Ireland cruise while they're at it. And as that great magnet of the Irish Sea classic and traditional scene, the Peel Traditional Boat Weekend, isn't until Friday 31st July to Sunday 2nd August, it's just about possible to factor that in as well.

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Everything happening at once – the famous Pilot Cutter Jolie Brise was the star of the Glandore Classics in 2013, and as it was her own Centenary she celebrated by sailing round the Fastnet Rock – she has been a successful Fastnet Race participant several times. Photo: Brian Carlin

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The Glandore Classics attracts an international fleet, and 2013's regatta included a class of Fife One Designs from the Menai Straits, all of them keen to party and showing it. 2015's Glandore Classics is from July 18th to 24th. Photo: Cormac O'Carroll

All this is already happening for the oldies with August barely under way, yet for modern cruiser-racers the potential programme for any keenly-sailed Irish boat is equally complex, attractive and challenging. The season starts as usual with the Scottish Series from Friday 23rd May to Monday 26th May – there'll probably still be snow on the mountains of Arran. They've gone back to their roots by starting with a feeder race from Gourock to the main regatta centre at Tarbert on Loch Fyne. "Going back to the roots" is something of a theme for this year's staging of the Clyde Cruising Club's main racing event, as this is the 40th Scottish Series. Come to think of it, there are so many important 40th anniversaries happening in sailing these days that we have the admit that the decade which brought us the full horror of wide lapels and flared trousers also contributed some lasting elements of the international sailing scene, indeed it could be said that the modern era in sailing really began about forty years ago.

Back in Ireland, the ISORA programme will be well under way by June, while the Lambay Race on June 6th can be looked at with more interest by several boats, as the biennial National YC Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race doesn't start until Friday June 12th . Last time round, there was a total fixtures clash between the two events, but in times before that hyper-keen sailors such as the Tyrrells of Arklow with Aquelina have been able to fit in both, indeed one year they did it so well they won both too, and were rightly acclaimed as the Afloat "Sailors of the Month" for their success.

For 2015, defending champion in the Dingle Race is Brian O'Sullivan of Tralee with the veteran Oyster 37 Amazing Grace, which came good in the end in 2013 with a new breeze which knocked pending leader Antix (Anthony O'Leary) off the winning perch. But with the 2015 Dingle Race acting as a useful if rather indirect feeder for the Covestone Asset Management Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale from June 24th to 28th, there could be all sorts of sharp boats lining up to take the prize, for the Sovereigns Cup 2015 includes the all-singing all-dancing ICRA Nats 2015. 

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The welcoming port – Kinsale is one of Ireland's most popular destinations, and in 2015 its hosts the combined Sovereigns /ICRA Nationals from June 24th to 28th.

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Perfect sailing – racing in the Sovereigns at Kinsale in June 2013. Photo: Bob Bateman

Yet the timing of the combined Sovereigns/ICRA Nats is such that there's still plenty of time and space to get back to the Irish Sea for the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2015 from July 9th to 12th, a reminder that much of the cruiser-racer programme for 2015 is in a neatly balanced and user-friendly timescale for everyone except perhaps those who wish to do either the entire ISORA or SCORA programme as well, so the problem mostly is going to be getting time off work.

And for the hyper-keen cruiser-racers, particularly those whose boats are small enough to be conveniently trailerable, further temptation looms in 2015 with the WIORA Championship at Galway Bay Sailing Club from July 22nd to 25th. For the fleets in the Shannon, on Tralee Bay, and in Clew Bay, it's a bit more than a day's sail away, but they'll be there to challenge Liam Byrne of the home club who won it in 2014 with his Corby 25 Tribal at Mayo SC in Clew Bay, while some top boats from more distant centres are expecting to trail to Galway Bay to spice up the competition.

By this stage of the season a more relaxed pace might be welcome, but the lively turnout of 80 boats in 2014 for the new-style four day Cork Dry Gin Calves Week out of Schull in early August (Tuesday 4th to Friday 7th August in 2015) suggests that for racing sailors, the best relaxation is more racing, but in a holiday setting. And yes, it has been noted that a true West Corkian sailing nut could indeed do all of Calves Week 2015, and still be on the Squadron line for the start of the Fasnet Race nine days later.

For dinghies in 2015, the big story is the debut of the newest version of the National 18, and just how popular will the Bray-bult foiling Moths become, while established classes will frame their programmes to accommodate sailors whose time is limited, also having to fit in with a national scene where the number of Race Officers with the necessary skills is inevitably a finite amount.

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The big stories in Irish dinghy racing in 2015 will be the arrival of the new National 18s at Crosshaven, and the revival of Dinghy Week there in late August. Here, in the Autumn of 2013, To Dwyer and Nin O'Leary test sail the prototype of the new 18 on Cork Harbour. Photo: Bob Bateman

The new Third Generation (or maybe it's fourth or fifth generation) National 18 may have been designed in England by Phil Morrison, and is being built there too. But it was the very active Crosshaven fleet with the Royal Cork Yacht Club which led the charge towards a new boat, and when it came to stepping up to the plate to pay twelve substantial new boat deposits to move it all along after the prototype had been rigorously tested in Cork harbour last Autumn, it was the Crosshaven fleet that provided eight out of those twelve cheques.

So it's entirely appropriate that in August 2015, the dinghy focus will swing big time towards Crosshaven and a short form "Dinghy Week" from August 21st to 23rd. The old style Irish Dinghy Weeks – the last one was in 1970 – became victims of their own success, they just got too large. But the different classes became over-optimistic about their continuing individual growth prospects. Then the pendulum swung too far the other way, and dinghy classes were alone and their events shrinking. But a resurgence of club and championship dinghy sailing in Crosshaven during 2014, and a growing realization that over-reliance on single-handed dinghy classes does not necessarily produce a socially-adjusted national squad of junior sailors, resulted in some clear and creative thinking about developing two-handed boats, and reviving some old classes such as the Mirrors.

The form of this new Dinghy Week is still in the melting pot, but at least eight classes have responded with enthusiasm. Meanwhile, the National 18s in Crosshaven will be such a focus of interest during 2015 with the first of the new boats making their debut that we'll have a season-long dinghy narrative developing on Cork Harbour, and the revived Dinghy Week will be just part of it.

As for inshore keelboats, the big one in terms of number is the combined British and Irish Championship Squib Championship at Howth from 27th June to 3rd July. The handy little Squibs are something of an oddity, as they serve so well as a cherished local class in so many Irish sailing centres that many owners see them as that, and nothing more – handy little club sailors to be raced on home waters a couple of times a week.

This means that when a major regional or national event is held, the number taking part will often only be a fraction of the total Irish Squib fleet. But for those who do make the trek, the competition is fierce and the racing great – in Howth, the high point was in 1996, when this "Nationals" event attracted a fleet of exactly a hundred boats, and on one never-to-be-forgotten morning, there they were, every last one of them on the starting line.

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A hundred Squibs all in a row at Howth on Tuesday July 25th 1996. Photo: Mandy Murnane

The most recent Squib event of national stature was the Freshwater Keelboat Regatta at Dromineer on Lough Derg on the weekend of October 18th-19th, and the battle for the top places was between the Kinsale and Belfast Lough fleets, with James Matthews and Rob Jacob of Kinsale rounding out their year in style with a good win.

But with the Squibs in England undergoing a revival – they were the second-biggest One Design fleet in Cowes Week 2014, bested only by the legendary XODs – there's no doubt there's a strong challenge coming across channel, and any Irish boat getting into the top ten will be doing well.

As for that annual Autumn Freshwater Keelboat Regatta at Dromineer, while it may have been much hampered by the spinoff from some ferocious weather out in the Atlantic with frustration for some of the sixty boats hoping to take part, it's an event of enormous potential, and the many who wish it well and have enjoyed it in the past will be ready and willing to do their part to make 2015's regatta a success.

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The Squibs enjoying a lull in the strong winds during the Lough Derg Freshwater Regatta 2014. Overall winner was Mucky Duck (no 51, James Matthews & Rob Jacob, Kinsale YC). Photo: Gareth Craig

All these specialised and localized events planned for 2015 will be the continuing background music to the usual events of national sailing focus, everything from the selection of the Irish team for the Student Yachting Worlds to the Helmsmans Championships to the steady increase in pace while 2015 develops as the pre-Olympic year. As the year rolls along, other stories will develop too. So perhaps it's appropriate that we exit this review as we entered it. Just pause to remember now and again that, a hundred years ago, you simply couldn't have gone freely afloat like this for sport and recreation at all.

But we can't close on such a solemn note. Seasoned Solent sailors may have noted our header photo from Guido Cantini at the Panerai Classics Regatta was looking just slightly odd, for some reason difficult to pin down. Well, as it happens, the photo was sent to us back in September just as we were contemplating the excellent cleanup up done by Jason Hurley of Jason Hurley Design on the Mercedes-sponsored billboard photo of Howth 17s on the end wall of Howth Yacht Club. As with many photos taken over the RYS starting cannons, the Cantini pic included an obtrusive part of the Fawley Oil Refinery across on what Isle of Wight people call "the north island". Though Fawley has been there for yonks, it still has the look of a temporary structure. So we got Jason to treat as just that. But here for your edification is the true picture. You could get a taste for this sort of thing. What about brushing out Whitegate, lads? And as for Milford Haven.........

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The unvarnished truth. In real life, the view from the RYS battery at Cowes can be slightly marred by the clutter of Fawley Refinery across the Solent on "the north island". Photo: Guido Cantini/Panerai

Read also: 2015 Irish Sailing Fixtures List (provisional)

Published in W M Nixon
Page 3 of 6

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