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Displaying items by tag: VDLR

Welcome to Nautical Limbo Land. This weekend may see the annual start-of-season lift-ins – with masked-up socially-distanced protocols - at the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club, the National YC, and the Royal St George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. But as was discussed here a week ago, it will be somewhere around the 20th April before it's clear whether or not the inevitable behind-doors socialising of the Easter Weekend has led to a fresh peak in the currently almost-plateaued pandemic infection rate. And officially it's 26th April before limited activity will be permitted in specialised outdoor sports such as tennis, sailing and golf.

There are those – particularly lone sailors of every hue from paddleboarders to top Laser performers – who have been pushing their particular envelopes to the absolute limit afloat. But equally, there are those for whom sailing simply isn't worth resuming until it re-emerges – if it ever does – as the carefree sociable activity of yore, in which skills of seamanship and sailing techniques are as important as ever, but you no longer find your activities hampered at every turn by considerations of social distancing and bubble maintenance.

Out on his own - the lone kite-surfer in Dublin Bay is at much less risk of COVID infection than the passengers on the cross-channel ferryOut on his own - the lone kite-surfer in Dublin Bay is at much less risk of COVID infection than the passengers on the cross-channel ferry

A crisp email from a sociable skipper sums it up: "Whatever other crews may be doing, our lot aren't going racing again until we're all Pfull of Pfizer". Now that's telling it like it is. But the ultimate nationwide logistical challenges in fulfilling its demands scarcely bear thinking about.

Nevertheless "Get Pfull of Pfizer and Sail for Ireland" has quite a ring to it, and it makes for an inspiring aspiration. But as we've learned through the long and dreary unwinding of the Great Pandemic Experience, predictions of when and how we can resume specific activities are very difficult to make with any real accuracy, mainly because they involve the future. And it emerges that the supposedly smooth-running roll-out is neither smooth nor rolling, as yet another glitch emerges somewhere along the line in the supply chain and the supply train moving it.

There they are – gone…..Today (Saturday's) lift-in at the National YC is one of three similar club operations this weekend in Dun Laoghaire. Photo: Afloat.ie   There they are – gone…..Today (Saturday's) lift-in at the National YC is one of three similar club operations this weekend in Dun Laoghaire. Photo: Afloat.ie  

Time was when trains were a matter of romance and song, but this has all become so deadly serious that's it's just not on to envisage The Vacc-Supply Train as a topic for a hypnotically rhythmic railroad song on the lines of The City of New Orleans (Willie Nelson your only man), or the Rock Island Line, and even less so with The Orange Blossom Special.

So we keep the head down and plod on towards late April, sustained and encouraged by the knowledge that in the brief suspensions of Lockdowns last summer, Ireland was indisputably a world leader in providing local racing and offshore challenges which stayed within guidelines, and yet managed to keep our sport and many of our clubs alive and active, albeit in an often decidedly muted way.

Sister power…..the Murphy family's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo – with one of the sisters on the helm – cutting a dash in the first evening race of the truncated 2020 Royal Cork YC Club Programme on Thursday July 9th. In addition to club racing, Nieulargo won both the Kinsale-Fastnet-Kinsale and the Fastnet 450 Races to be "Boat of the Year". Photo: Robert BatemanSister power…..the Murphy family's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo – with one of the sisters on the helm – cutting a dash in the first evening race of the truncated 2020 Royal Cork YC Club Programme on Thursday, July 9th. In addition to club racing, Nieulargo won both the Kinsale-Fastnet-Kinsale and the Fastnet 450 Races to be "Boat of the Year". Photo: Robert Bateman

This was done through quiet and thorough behind-the-scenes planning and organisation in order to minimise the shore-crowd element of any event, sometimes to the point that a compliant event might be taking place afloat, but there wasn't a soul to be found ashore, with Dublin Bay SC setting the pace by moving their entire race administration activity aboard their Committee Boats.

Thus in the current febrile national sporting mood, with recreational control freaks ready to leap on anyone making plans for some sporting activity that starts to explore the limits of what's possible, we wouldn't dream at the moment of contacting those who successfully organised special events last year and will be expected to do the same this time round. And equally in the current fluid situation, now is not the time to challenge those who have flagged significant events for the early to mid part of the hoped-for season to confirm definitely whether or not those events will actually happen.

By moving their entire Race Administration operation aboard their Committee Boats, Dublin Bay SC succeeded in running a comprehensive COVID-compliant programme in 2020 which resulted in the club's acclamation as the Mitsubishi Motors Club of the YearBy moving their entire Race Administration operation aboard their Committee Boats, Dublin Bay SC succeeded in running a comprehensive COVID-compliant programme in 2020 which resulted in the club's acclamation as the Mitsubishi Motors Club of the Year

That said, from last year we have some knowledge of what can be made to work. Other things being equal, keep it local and keep it on the water – offshore if need be – and you're half way there. Beyond that, keep it young. We know that sailing is always reaching out to more senior age groups for introductory courses, but the fact is the potential infection rate tends to decline with a younger cohort, and young people have a greater need to be shown how to be doing something than older folk who, having reached a certain stage in life, should have sufficient reserves of character to think and act for themselves in a regulation-compliant way.

Even when a limited amount of post-race shoreside socializing was permitted last year, it was found that there were many who were more than satisfied to go quietly afloat, have their race, then stow the boat afloat or ashore, and simply go straight home again.

VOLVO DUN LAOGHAIRE REGATTA HITS THE SPOT

VDLR Chairman Don O'Dowd was ahead of the curve in leading his Committee into organising a re-structured two-part regatta to cope with post-pandemic conditions   VDLR Chairman Don O'Dowd was ahead of the curve in leading his Committee into organising a re-structured two-part regatta to cope with post-pandemic conditions

So in trying to move what's implicit in this behavioural pattern on to a larger scale, the clear message is that "local-ness" is the essence of it all, and the biennial Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta – while having a significant international element in its eclectic entry list – must be unrivalled in the number of participants who live right beside or within easy distance of Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

With the regatta being served by four club and forecourt complexes - three of which are notably spacious - together with the shore space at the marina, any crowd pinch-points can be easily controlled, and yet you're dealing with overall crowd numbers which would swamp many a smaller venue in a non-compliant way.

The Water Wags and other One-Designs will have their Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta from July 2nd to 4thThe Water Wags and other One-Designs will have their Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta from July 2nd to 4th

Beyond that, Chairman Don O'Dowd and his Organising Committee put themselves even further ahead of the curve more than a year ago, when they announced a pandemic-induced re-framing of the regatta format into two extended weekends, one devoted to One Designs (2-4th July) and the other to Cruiser-Racers (8th to 11th July).

In these difficult times, classes have leapt at the convenient opportunity to make the VDLR one of their regional championships, or even the national championship itself. Overall, entries are already running beyond the 300 mark, and with Early Bird Entry still available until April 16th, this has a refreshing air of certainty about it, a classic case of a problem situation being turned into an opportunity to create something exciting and new.

Cruiser-Racer action in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta – this year, their Regatta will be the long weekend of July 8th to 11th. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien   Cruiser-Racer action in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta – this year, their Regatta will be the long weekend of July 8th to 11th. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien  

Nevertheless we'd argue that in mid-April with some disturbing international pandemic statistics emerging, it is pointless and indeed irritating to constantly chivvy organisers of other proposed events as to whether or not their fixture is going to take place.

You'll know the events we mean. And we'd argue that any owner-skipper who – in the current exceptional circumstances – finds it beyond his or her capabilities to firm up a challenge crew at just three weeks notice (or perhaps even less time) may well be somewhat out of their depth in the first place. Meanwhile, others find their way as best they can through a changing sea of circumstances. 

Once upon a time…..in times past, as at the Kingstown Harbour Centenary VDLR Regatta in 2017, social distancing was unknown, but for 2021 things will have to be done differently. Photo: VDLROnce upon a time…..in times past, as at the Kingstown Harbour Centenary VDLR Regatta in 2017, social distancing was unknown, but for 2021 things will have to be done differently. Photo: VDLR

Published in W M Nixon
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#VDLR - Trearddur Bay Sailing Club brings its centenary year celebrations to Dublin Bay this summer as a number of its Myth class and Seabird Half Raters will be making the trip across the Irish Sea for the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta.

Myths are one of the original classes raced since the Holyhead club’s inception in 1919, with three of the 14-footers joining a fleet of five 12-foot Insects — three of the latter, the first boats built for the club, having been restored for the centenary.

While no original Myths remain from those days, the open boat class has seen a resurgence in recent years, and a modern Myth fleet at Trearddur Bay has grown to over 40 vessels.

Designed along the lines of the International 14 but inspired by what the club calls “a hotch-potch of ideas”, Myths are distinguished as much by their tight specification as their turkey red sails and either white-painted or varnished hulls that comprise five different types of wood.

With the Myth class now in its 99th year, its lasting legacy is no doubt also connected to the boat’s particular suitability to the environment of Trearddur Bay — not to mention the absence of an age barrier when it comes to racing, as young and old can compete on equal terms.

They are matched by the Seabird Half Rater — which was adopted in 1922 and is one of the oldest one-designs still sailing in British waters — at a club which currently has a strong dinghy scene with Mirrors, Fevas and Optimists among a full member list of more than 1,100 that sails every August.

Due to the uniquely short season, Trearddur Bay’s members regularly sail and race at other clubs, so some of the contingent will likely be no strangers to the waters of Dublin Bay as they join the likes of Olympic medalist Mike McIntyre at the biennial regatta — and Ireland’s largest sailing event — from 11-14 July.

The entry form for the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2019 is available HERE. Early bird entry fees are available up to Sunday 31 March.

Published in Volvo Regatta

#VDLR - Howth Yacht Club has put out the message that one of its member yachts, the XC45 Samatom, is seeking crew for the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta from 6-9 July.

Anyone interested in joining the crew for the weekend’s sailing on the yacht, which has recently been fitted out with new North Sails, is requested to contact Criostoir McCormack at 086 608 2511.

Crews are also needed on various boats taking part in the pre-regatta Lyver Trophy offshore race from Liverpool to Pwllheli next weekend, and in the regatta itself the week after.

Get in touch with Peter Ryan at [email protected] who will pass your details along.

Published in Volvo Regatta
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The Irish National Sailing School J109 yacht is available to charter for Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta and other Irish sailing events this season. 

Jedi is a highly competitive J109 yacht and part of DBSC's ultra–competitive Class One fleet of 20 boats on Dublin Bay. 

Regular readers of Afloat.ie will know the J109 class in Ireland needs no introduction, the cruiser racer offers exciting and exhilarating sailing yet in a very user friendly and comfortable package.

Jedi is, according to the INSS's Kenny Rumball, 'a perfect example of the J109 having undergone an extensive refit over the winter of 2016-2017 to make her possibly the most IRC optimized J109 available in Europe'

Download the INSS spec sheet below

Published in INSS
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#vdlr –With an entry list the envy of regatta organisers everywhere, July's Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta (VDLR) has received a massive entry of  302 boats so far with three months to run to its first gun. Over 63 different yacht clubs are represented in a fleet that will split into 20 different sailing classes for the four day extravaganza at the Irish east coast port. Enthusiastic insiders say the tenth anniversary of the event may yet hit its all time high of 500 boats by July 9 but a more modest reckoning of 400 plus will certainly match the 2013 and 2011 editions of Ireland's largest sailing event.

Run by the four waterfront clubs of the DMYC, RIYC, NYC and RSt.GYC's this year's event is under the stewardship of former Fastnet race winner Tim Goodbody and Dragon Edinburgh Cup winner Martin Byrne. An overview of the biennial event was published by Afloat.ie last weekend in WM Nixon's blog here.

The bulk of entries come from the Dublin Bay area itself but there is also strong interest from along the east coast from Greystones, Arklow, Howth and Skerries. Most encouragingly, the event is proving to be a draw for boats from further afield too with entries from across the Irish Sea some of the first to sign up.

As previoulsy reported by Afloat.ie, the following events are confirmed as part of the event:

Royal Dee Yacht Club Irish Sea Offshore Championship
J109 Irish National Championship
RS Elite Irish National Championship
Beneteau First 21 Irish Championship
Wayfarer Irish National Championship
GP 14 Leinster Championship
J24 Leinster Championship

In encouraging news for dinghy sailing (that has separately been given a shot in the arm this year by local DBSC organisers), it looks like VDLR will also see a lift for centreboard classes. 2015 will see a record number of dinghies classes participating. In addition to the regular one designs such as the Mermaid, Flying 15, Squib, Fireball, IDRA 14 – organisers are welcoming the GP14, Wayfarer, RS200/RS400, Laser classes to the regatta with their own starts.

It is the first visit to the Regatta for the GP14 fleet and organisers are very much looking forward to welcoming the class, all of whom will be from visiting clubs from around the country. An expected entry of 40 GP14's are expected and they will be hosting their Leinster Championships as part of the Regatta.

The Wayfarers are returning after running their a successful UK Nationals within the 2011 Regatta and this year they will be running their Irish Nationals, an expected entry of 20 visiting Wayfarers are expected.

Big entries are also expected from both the Laser and RS fleets. It still remians to be seen if the PY class can muster sufficient numbers

VDLR had issues recently with its online payment. To accommodate anyone who has had difficulties it has extended the early bird discounted entry fee offer deadline to Friday, April 17th.

Published in Volvo Regatta

#vdlr – The "suburban sailfest" which is the biennial Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta this year (Thursday July 9th – Sunday 12th July) is marking its tenth anniversary with the sixth edition. It's a classic Irish mix of sailing sport at all levels aboard a wide variety of boats from many and often very distant places, combining to sail with the large home fleet in Dublin Bay in thirty different classes. And on each of the four days, colourful action afloat is followed ashore by a hectic pace of post-sailing celebrations in four waterfront clubs.

Three of these are venerable institutions with their origins in the midst of the 19th Century, and their homes in historic harbourside buildings each of which is, in its own way, an architectural masterpiece. And even the "newest" of the four waterfront clubs, the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club, is this year celebrating its Golden Jubilee.

The VDLR 2015 has much to live up to, but in the spirit of this youthful event in a mature setting, the people running it bring the necessary level of enthusiasm and expertise allied to unrivalled experience to maximize the enjoyment of a unique experience. W M Nixon casts an eye over something special.

"You have to remember that it's a regatta, not a championship. Enjoyment of sport comes first, and the purity of fierce competition second. But of course we're going to provide the best possible starts. And the intention is to have those starts leading into the best possible courses in the conditions prevailing."

"Yet the way we see it, people should be racing just as soon as possible after leaving the harbour. There's nothing which impairs simple sailing enjoyment so much as having to wait around in a perfectly good but maybe slightly fickle sailing breeze, hanging about in frustration while an overly-pernickety Race Officer dithers over setting the absolutely perfect start line".

If these were the words of some club's entertainment officer concerned with creating a good mood at some event no matter what happens in the racing, we'd treat them with some caution. But the speaker is not only a former and very actively sailing Commodore of two of Dun Laoghaire's most august yacht clubs, he's a helmsman/owner who has won championships to the top level in boats like the International Dragon and the International J/24.

He was also, in 1987, the lead helmsman on a 40-footer racing in the Irish Admiral's Cup team with such competence that he out-performed the legendary Lawrie Smith on a sister-ship during a tacking duel in the AC inshore events in the Solent, and then went on to be a lead helm when that boat won the Fastnet Race overall to conclude the series. More recently, he continues at the top level as one of the most successful owner-skippers in his Sigma 33 Offshore OD.

Welcome to the world of Tim Goodbody, sailing enthusiast extraordinaire, and the Chairman of the Organising Committee for Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2015. With all due respects to the three previous incumbents of this demanding post, he is the one with the most comprehensive record of personal sailing achievement in racing. So when he talks of "getting people out and racing just as soon as possible after leaving the harbour", we can be quite sure that the standards of start-line and course setting will be world class, as his stellar and continuing sailing career is allied to a formidable CV of involvement in sailing administration afloat and ashore.

Thus he was instrumental in devising the courses now used by Dublin Bay SC, and when Commodore of the Royal Alfred YC more than thirty years ago he led the way in developing the Superleague which set the standard as a season-long racing series at the time. Then as Commodore of the Royal Irish YC, he deftly combined the necessary roles of curator, committee man, accomplished owner-skipper and a public face of Dun Laoghaire sailing generally and one of Ireland's oldest and most distinguished clubs in particular.

With entries from 55 different clubs from all round the Irish Sea and further afield already in as the boats listed went through the 200 mark yesterday, a surge is expected ahead of the closing of the special early entry discount next Tuesday March 31st, and the VDLR 2015 administrative machine is fully in action to maximise an event which sees the old granite pond which is Dun Laoghaire Harbour embrace 21st century sailing.

It's pretty good going when you think that in two years time this totally artificial harbor will be shaping up to begin celebrating its Bicentenary, which can go on for as long as you wish, as the harbour was started in 1817, but it hadn't been sufficiently completed to stage a regatta until 1828.

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The first regatta at Dun Laoghaire in 1828

Back then, some early yachtsmen staged match races between their often enormous yachts which tended to be based on the designs of the Revenue Cutters which were the fastest sailing vessels of their day. The prizes were appropriately enormous money purses of which a large proportion went to the sailors, so the professional crews raced with real aggression, and all sorts of devilish sabotage on the opposition was par for the course.

However, yacht racing was still in its infancy and while some owners were keen to do it, others – such as the Marquess of Anglesey who was one of the inspirers of this first event – were happier just to sail around displaying their extraordinary vessels to crowds which had never seen anything quite like it before.

The holding of more regular regattas in what was then Kingstown became part of the annual social season. Though the Royal Irish YC was the first club into being in 1831, it soon languished and it was the establishment of what eventually became the Royal St George in 1838 which made such annual regattas a key part of the annual high society season.

In other words, the events and personal displays ashore and along the waterfront were seen if anything as more important than the racing afloat. Then as now, the true sailing enthusiasts found this an annoying state of affairs, so they took to devising ways of making the sailing more important, rather than just a background to the various dramas and entertainments taking place ashore.

Doubtless the idea had been tried earlier, but in 1860 there was certainly an attempt at an early regatta week. By this time the Royal St George clubhouse had greatly expanded, and the Royal Irish was re-invigorated in its relatively-new1851-built clubhouse. Several days of racing were held with the local large-yacht flotilla enhanced by craft from the south coast. And then, as many of the vessels were headed back to Cork Harbour afterwards, the Admiral of the Royal Cork, Thomas G French, suggested an offshore race between Dublin Bay and Cork Harbour which duly took place, one of the world's very first genuine passage races.

In all, 15 yachts took part, but not all did so with the same urgency. Seven went away promptly as though it was really a race, but the remaining eight crossed the start line at different times within the next hour.

Ironically, the finish times two days later came down to a matter of minutes. The 90-ton schooner Kingfisher was first into Cork Harbour but a beat to the Royal Cork YC finish line at Cobh against the ebb was not at all to her liking, and the 80-ton cutter Peri took the lead. But then in tricky conditions in the harbour the even smaller 39-ton cutter Sybil managed to take the lead under the command of amateur skipper Henry O'Bryen, and hung onto to it to scrape across three minutes ahead of Peri with Kingfisher two minutes later.

Thus all the excitement and interest focused on the in-harbour stages. Back in Dublin Bay, this was proving the case with the new harbour, with one of the stars of Kingstown sailing drama at this period being Belfast linen magnate John Mulholland's legendary 1865-built schooner Egeria, which made a speciality of sweeping up to the finish lines right in close off the clubs with all sails set.

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The successful 1865-built schooner Egeria, owned by John Mulholland from Belfast, was renowned for racing right up to the waterfront in Dun Laoghaire with all sail set

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Classic Dun Laoghaire regatta scene by Richard Bridges Beechey. Courtesy RStGYC

The marine artist Richard Breeches Beechey made a speciality of recording these Dublin Bay dramas, and the enthusiastic owners were there to act their roles, no more so than John Jameson of the eponymous whiskey firm, whose successful cutter Irex was a star contender at major regattas all round the coasts of Britain and Ireland. When Irex was back in Dublin Bay, the crowds gathered, for in those days of much more limited entertainment, big boat racing was a must-see spectacle.

Yet at the same time there was something of a revolution going on in sailing, with the racing sport being codified in a movement largely led by the Royal Alfred YC, while small boat racing came centre stage when the Dublin Bay SC was established in 1884, with the one design concept making its appearance with the 13ft Water Wags in 1887.

This was all well and good for the underlying health of sailing. But for traditional yacht clubs with impressive premises which were ultimately there for the great and good to get involved with high end yachting at the height of the summer season, it was a mixed blessing, as each club's annual regatta tried to be all things to all sailing men and the few sailing women, while at the same time keeping the pavilion members happy.

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In an age of less sophisticated entertainment, robust waterfront sports were an integral part of the Edwardian era regatta at the Royal St George YC. Photo courtesy Theo Harris

With yacht sizes decreasing, the spectacle and style which under-pinned a classic regatta were increasingly lacking, and while each club's stand-alone annual regatta continued as the centrepiece of its summer programme until well into the late 20th century, the increasing length and variety of the sailing season, and the easy accessibility of other sailing events for specific classes, meant that the traditional Dun Laoghaire regatta was becoming a threatened species.

So in the late 1940s when the newly-formed Irish Dinghy Racing Association was finding success with its annual Dinghy Week at popular sailing venues all round the coast, inevitably there began to be talk of a Regatta Week among the clubs in Dun Laoghaire, with the inevitable comparison to the success of Cowes Week being used to encourage the idea.

You will still hear the comparison to Cowes made from time to time, so let's get something off our chest. There is simply nowhere quite like Cowes. It's on an island, at the epicentre of a very interesting stretch of sailing water. And relatively few people live there. So when the annual Cowes Week is staged, almost every participant is a visitor. To a great extent, this is what makes it special.

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The VDLR is ideal for a spot of family racing in all classes including the venerable Water Wags, but this serene mother and daughter crew combination aboard the family Wag is just ever so slightly different. Both are Olympic sailors. That's Cathy McAleavey (470 in 1988) on the spinnaker trim, and her daughter Annalise Murphy (Laser radial in 2012) is on the helm. Photo: VDLR

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The Howth 17s – established 1898 – make the biennial pilgrimage across Dublin Bay to race in VDLR. Photo: VDLR

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The Shipman 28s may be seen as handy little cruisers at other sailing entres, but in Dun Laoghaire they race as a one design class. Photo VDLR

But at many other sailing places in general, and in Dun Laoghaire in particular, you're right at the heart of a large and affluent resident population. The underlying atmosphere is inherently different, and any successful Dublin Bay event with a regatta flavour has to bear this quietly in mind if it's going to be a success.

Be that as it may, by the mid-1950s a Dun Laoghaire Regatta Week had been rather tentatively introduced, but the Irish economy was so depressed throughout that dismal decade that it was never a runaway success, and without any specifically Irish sailing media to record it, we know virtually nothing of what happened, and in any case it didn't last.

Yet boat numbers were increasing, so for a while the traditional annual Club Regatta had something of a heyday with the perfect balance between fleets afloat and the lack of too many distractions by other sports and interests ashore. For a brave new era, the annual regatta with the clubhouses bedecked in bunting was quite the thing.

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You don't absolutely have to go to Lancashire if you want to recruit a tattooed crew, but it helps. This is Scenario Encore from Blackpool & Fleetwood YC at VDLR 2013. Photo: VDLR

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Ever get the feeling that everybody wants to be in the same place at once.......? Photo: VDLR

However, sailing was developing, and there came a new emphasis in the 1970s on offshore racing This in turn led to events like ISORA Week which could be tailored to match the established regatta programme. But then life patterns changed again, offshore racing was seen as almost anti-social, and club officers cast around for a re-shaping of the programme which would provide a compact event which had contemporary appeal for busy people who had many other interests to attend to and obligations to fulfill.

It was three or four years after the turn of the Millennium that the four Dun Laoghaire clubs tasked a working party of their junior flag officers with devising a regatta format which would suit the needs of the 21st Century. Somewhere out there, there has to be an individual original thinker who first proposed the key concept of a four day event evenly spread across all the clubs. We salute him or her, whomsoever they may be. But it went through so many modifications and mutations that the Dun Laoghaire Regatta, as it was first launched some time in late 2004 with the first one scheduled for 2005, had become a completely novel fixture, something carefully tailored to Dun Laoghaire as it has become today, taking into account the way of life of the people who sail from this great and unique port, and the expectations of the people who come to sail with them at their biennial suburban sailfest.

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Perfect racing for the SB20s at VDLR 2013. Photo: VDLR

Even in its earliest forms it was such a novel concept that it clearly required someone very special to head up its nascent organising committee, but that was soon put on the right track with Brian Craig of the Royal St George YC put in charge as Chairman. Craig – the quintessential can-do backroom boy who so doggedly remains a behind-the-scenes figure – realised that careful diplomacy was needed if his new committee was going to avoid treading on established toes in the four existing club administration structures.

So he advertised for an administrative secretary with significant experience in office organisation and sailing, yet without any direct personal links to any of the Dun Laoghaire clubs. You'd have though this an almost impossible order with its very specific and unusual job-spec requirements, but they filled the bill precisely with Ciara Dowling. She'd grown up in the Irish countryside with no connection to boats or sailing, yet on any visit to Dun Laoghaire she'd felt drawn to the sport. However, it was while working in London as an office manager in her mid-twenties that she got involved afloat through a corporate outing for a rough day's sailing in the Solent, and was soon hooked while everyone else was sea-sick.

Working in sailing of any kind became her ambition, but it didn't always work out smoothly, yet she managed to put in a formidable amount of sea time and during a period back in Ireland she got signed up for one of the Irish crews (skippered by Tom McWilliam) in the Teachers Round Britain Challenge. By this stage she was finding sailing berths in Dublin Bay while moving between Ireland and London wherever there was boat-related work to be found, but at the time the notice for the Dun Laoghaire Regatta secretary was posted she was living in Howth and had become a member of Howth YC, but was not a member of any Dun Laoghaire club. That seemingly impossible job-spec outline had been hit on target.

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Ciara Dowling with her gentlemen friends. The VDLR Secretary with the Chairmen who are (left to right) Tim Goodbody (2015), Adam Winkelmann (2011-2013), Phil Smith (2009), and Brian Craig (2005-2007).

Running what is now the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta is not a full-time job, but as it rolls on through its biennial reincarnations, Ciara Dowling's unrivalled experience of the VDLR in particular and event management in general gives Dun Laoghaire sailing a very smooth management team for an event which can be constantly modified to suit changing tastes, while also competently dealing with a rush of last-minute entries if a good weather forecast comes along, as happened in 2013.

With the discount deadline looming next Tuesday, we'll leave fuller consideration of the fleet for a future date, but be sure that there are plenty of hot boats already in, boats of the calibre of Conor Phelan's Ker 36 Jump Juice from Cork which was pace-setting in Dublin Bay at the ICRA Nationals last year, and also already in the listings in what promises to be a very hot J/109 championship is Liam Shanahan's Ruth from the National, ISORA hotshot and oh-so-nearly winner of last year's Round Ireland.

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The VDLR is one of the biggest annual gatherings for the historic IDRA 14 class. Photo: VDLR

And though the mood of the regatta is such that the organisers are very wary of declaring an overall winner, the feeling on the waterfront was that 2013's had been Nigel Biggs' classic Humphreys Half Tonner Checkmate, which has of course recently been sold to Dave Cullen of Howth and is a certain contender this summer.

It takes a while to get your head round the notion of 30 classes (or maybe now it's 31 with the RS Elites throwing their hats into the ring yesterday), and they'll be racing in six different areas under the direction of Race Officers of the quality of Jack Roy and Harry Gallagher.

In all, there are 150 volunteers involved, with a veritable fleet of support RIBs, so every day what mounts to a small navy is going to set out to go to sea to provide what is hoped will be some very special sport.

Tim Goodbody has only been in the chairman's job since the end of last summer, which he feels gives little enough time - he would recommend that any successor gets his feet under the table immediately after the St Patrick's Day holiday in the previous year. In other words, he reckons an absolute minimum of 15 months is required to maximize the success of this unique event.

But as he gets to grips with it, he is effusive in his praise for the support of the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company, while the continued backing of Volvo through their people at Spirit Motors has kept the show on the road. The regatta's founding in 2005 saw it come into being just as the economy was starting to overheat, yet Volvo came aboard in 2007 and has stayed on as a great pillar of support.

But in the end, the success of it all will come down to you - the competitors. Let us hope that what we've outlined as the long and varied story of regattas in Dun Laoghaire will add to the richness of your experience, and the deeper meaning of an event of this type being held in Dublin Bay. It's no exaggeration to assert that racing in VDLR 2015, no matter what boat you may be sailing, is sailing the dream while being an active part of living history with a future dimension.

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It has been described as "Leopardstown-on-Sea", but it's much better than that......Photo: VDLR

The 2015 Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Programme (with a full entry list) will be published in late June as a supplement to Summer Afloat magazine

Published in W M Nixon

#vdlr – Up to 15 entries have already been received for what is expected to be Ireland's biggest sailing event in 2015. Among the early entries for Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta (VDLR) is a number of Scottish, English and Northern Ireland boats that responded almost immediately to the online publication of the July regatta's Notice of Race.

Among the first was Clyde Cruising Club's Wildebeest V skippered by Craig Latimer. Fairlie Yacht Club's  MAT 1010 Now or Never 3 sailed by Neill Sandford is also in for VDLR 2015.

Class bands have yet to be set for cruiser classes but already expressions of interest received at Dun Laoghaire Race HQ indicate a strong take up from overseas entries for the 2015 biennial, organised by all four Dun Laoghaire waterfront yacht clubs.

Other boats that have expressed interest or already entered are Stuart Cranston's Sigma 35
from Down Cruising Club. The GBR registered Beneteau First 36.7, Animal skippered by Kevin Aiken is coming and so is the Élan 333, Movistar Bleu from Killyleagh under Raymond Killops. Guy Cowper's Stratisfear, a Corby 36, from Royal Dee is also heading west for Dun Laoghaire. 

At this early stage, as Afloat.ie reported earlier, the following events have also been confirmed as part of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta line–up.

• Royal Dee Irish Sea Offshore Challenge

• J109 Irish National
Championship

• RS Elite Irish National
Championship

• Beneteau First 21 Irish
Championship

• Wayfarer Irish National
Championship

• GP 14 Leinster Championship

• J24 Leinster Championship

Published in Volvo Regatta

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

#vdlr2013– The Irish Fireball fleet faces into seven days of intense racing with the advent of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta and their Nationals on successive weekends. In a year when numbers at regattas have been under pressure, there is a (relatively) healthy entry of 10 boats for the biennial regatta in Dun Laoghaire which had its first hosting in 2005. The Irish Fireball class has been ever-present at the regatta and in times past we have used the Saturday and Sunday racing as one of our own regattas. This year, the event is an "extra" on our regatta schedule, and we have managed to get enough boats to warrant our own start. For those who are unfamiliar with the Dun Laoghaire event it provides racing for everything from Class 0 IRC to the locally designed Waterwags who race inside the harbour. A visit to the website this morning indicates that the entry is close to 400 boats. The picture above shows a portion of the Dun Laoghaire amphitheatre, with the Fireballs racing alongside the other dinghies classes in the area to the right of the harbour – the Salthill Course.

A ten race programme has been scheduled with two races down for Thursday afternoon, with a 15:25 kick-off, followed by a three-race programme for both Friday and Saturday, with two races to close on Sunday. Race Officer for the Salthill Course is Harry Gallagher, National Race Officer, who is one of the Fireball Class' favoured Race Officers. Harry has been Race Officer for two of our recent Nationals, both in Westport and is the regular Race Officer for the dinghies at the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta.

Four days after the close of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, the Fireball fleet will reassemble a little bit further up the coast, to the north of Dun Laoghaire, in Skerries, hosts of the 2000 Fireball Europeans. The Skerries club has long been a base for the Fireball fleet but like everywhere, the numbers of the fleet have ebbed and flowed over the years. In recent years they had a very active fleet of five to six Fireballs, with the McGrottys and O'Tooles the names most synonymous with the Class. Numbers are on the low side at present, but the Class has adopted the policy of taking Fireball regattas to venues where the fleet is established.

Skerries provides very easy access to the Dun Laoghaire based fleet and they have been a very welcoming club whenever we have sailed there – most often with the Fireball Leinster Provincial Championships. Access from Northern Ireland is also easy with the travel time from Belfast of the order of 2hrs, or slightly less.

A nine race series is scheduled for the Nationals with racing due to start at 12 noon on the Friday afternoon. Race times thereafter will be determined by the weather conditions.

An 'educated guess" is that our Race Officer might be Liam Dineen, another National Race Officer with whom the Class is very familiar. Like Harry Gallagher, Liam is sensitive to the needs of the competitor and runs his racing accordingly.

Defending Champions Noel Butler & Stephen Oram will doubtless be there and I am aware of at least one combination that we haven't seen this year so far getting together for the event. This combination could well give the defending champions a run for their money but assuming that the regulars we have seen this season are all present, there should be good racing. Names that immediately come to mind to challenge Butler & Oram are Kenny Rumball & Dave Moran, Connor & James Clancy. Based on our recent Ulsters, the likes of Gavin Doyle and Dave Sweeney and Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly have the capacity to upset the established order. And on home waters, it would be churlish to ignore the aspirations of Team McGrotty – Niall certainly and Simon, if studies allow!

While we are all enjoying great weather here on Ireland's east coast (like much of the UK), a victim of the sunshine has been the wind. XCWeather is forecasting a range of 2-9knots from a variety of directions for the duration of the Dun Laoghaire event

Thus a busy period for the Fireball fleet, theoretically 19 races in six and a half days of racing (Volvo Dun Laoghaire Thursday is a half day!).

Published in Fireball
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