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Only in Ireland could it be like this. We hear that of many things in this curious island of ours. But the varying sailing, location and personal backgrounds of the sixteen helmspersons competing in this weekend’s All-Ireland Helmsmans Championship at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire really does bring it all home. The Irish Sailing community is a very odd and idiosyncratic bunch - there’s no doubt about it – and their interests afloat and ashore are many, with the Select Sixteen reflecting this.

Plus that, we could comfortably devote an entire blog to the stories of the many different classes which have produced their representatives of national standard to compete for the big salver in Dun Laoghaire’s Flying Fifteen this morning, without devoting a single word to what those people are, and how they got to be top of their particular sailing pyramid.

chris doorly dave gorman2They’ve drawn the short straw….crew Chris Doorly (left) and helm Dave Gorman are in the uniquely demanding position of current Irish Champions in the Flying Fifteen Class, the boat of choice for this weekend’s All-Irelands at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. Photo: Afloat

For sailing is first and foremost a vehicle sport, and it’s a distinctly oddball sailor who is not at least slightly fascinated by the boats he or she sails, and their potential for improvement. Yet while being something of an intelligent boat nerd undoubtedly helps, it’s the realisation that sheer sailing talent and having the right mind-set which gives that edge in the heat of competition, and it has been fascinating to see how top helms from other classes have been carefully picking crews to ensure that they’re better armed to take on the established skills of Flying Fifteen National Champions.

We ran the provisional list last week in giving a 72-year history of the event, but this morning’s up-to-date entry lineup shows some fine-tuning of personnel which adds an extra spice to the championship. 

Helm

Class

Club

Crew Name

Cathy MacAleavey

Water Wags

National Yacht Club

Con Murphy

Robert Espey

RS400

Ballyholme Yacht Club

Stephen Milne

David Gorman

Flying Fifteen

National Yacht Club

Chris Doorly

Sean Craig

Laser Radial

Royal St. George Yacht Club

Alan Greene

Peter Kennedy

2018 Champion (SB20)

Strangford Lough Yacht Club

Stephen Kane

Darren Wright

ICRA IRC 2

Howth Yacht Club

Matt Alvarado

Rory Fekkes

ICRA IRC 3

Carrickfergus Sailing Club

Paul Fekkes

Jonathan Horgan

Shannon One Design

Lough Derg Yacht Club

Carden Kent

John Sheehy

Team Racing

Royal St. George Yacht Club

Darragh O'Connor

Ronan Wallace

Laser Standard

Wexford Harbour Boat & Tennis Club

Brendan Wallace

Michael O'Connor

SB20

Royal St. George Yacht Club

Davy Taylor

Gordon Patterson

Squib

Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club

Ross Nolan

Paddy Dillon

Mermaids

Rush Sailing Club

Johnny Dillon

Shane MacCarthy

GP14

Greystones Sailing Club

Stephen Boyle

Colm O'Flaherty

J24

Sligo Yacht Club

Dave O'Connor

Wyatt Orsmond

Multihull IMA

Swords Sailing Club

Patrick Billington


Yet with the boats being raced without the use of spinnakers, an inherent advantage of Flying Fifteen experience is removed at a stroke. And in any case, as pointed out last week, in racing against defending Helmsmans Championship title-holder Peter Kennedy of Strangford Lough with regular crew Stephen Kane, Gorman is up against a top SB 20 sailor who has Flying Fifteen sailing skill in his genes, as Peter’s parents Terence and Bridget were Flying Fifteen British Champions in 1962 (when that was the class’s main title), and his home club of Strangford Lough YC is imbued with a history of Flying Fifteen success, the most memorable being Bill Carson who became a world champion.
It puts extra pressure on National F/F Champion Dave Gorman of the home club with regular crewman Chris Doorly, for in this 50th year of the Flying Fifteen class in Dun Laoghaire - with the F/F Worlds 2019 staged by the club in Dublin Bay in September - the spotlight is on the Gorman/Doorly combo three times over.

peter kennedy3Olympian Peter Kennedy (right) after winning the SB 20 Nationals in Dun Laoghaire in June 2018 which provided his route into the 2018 All-Ireland at Lough Ree (in SB 20s) in October, which he duly won, and now like his parents he’s racing a Flying Fifteen to defend the title

As it happened, Bill was the agent for that curious baked-plastic wood substitute Tufnol. In order to demonstrate its versatility, he built a Flying Fifteen entirely in Tufnol, and sailed the boat (called Ffreek) so well that be won the 1958 trophy. The usual armchair pundits were somewhat sniffy about this promotion of Tufnol as being arguably a professional entry, but the years have passed, and now it’s only remembered that 61 years ago, Bill Carson of Whiterock won the big championship in the Flying Fifteens in a Tufnol boat, while the comparable successes of others have been long forgotten.

Past success is not something which is forgotten with the sole woman contender, Cathy MacAleavey, who is being crewed by her husband Con Murphy. This is a formidable combination, and as they had a period of “very enjoyable” racing with the Dun Laoghaire Flying Fifteen fleet, they bring a special element of boat knowledge to add to their other multiple experience which includes Olympic participation in 1988 by Cathy and a Round Ireland Record together with Steve Fossett on the 60ft trimaran Lakota in 1993 – a superb record which stood for years.

Another family-flavoured entry is drawn from the ICRA ranks with Rory Fekkes of Carrickfergus SC being crewed by his father Paul, who was GP 14 World Champion with Rory’s uncle Mark in 1991 when they sailed for East Antrim Boat Club in Larne.

The Fekkes originally were a Dutch family who provided the crew on one of those characterful little Dutch freight-carrying coasters which were a common sight on the coasts of Europe until containerisation changed the structure of shipping completely. But before that happened, the first Fekkes came into Larne on their little ship the Noah in the 1960s, and simply decided to stay.

classic dutch coaster4Classic Dutch coaster of the 1940s to ’70s – the head of Fekkes family arrived into Larne aboard one called Noah in the 1960s, and decided to stay Photo: Afloat
Now, sixty years later and with a new generation moving centre stage, Paul and his young son Rory bought a bog-standard Beneteau First 8 in Greystones and souped her up to a very high level, even going so far as to paint her black so folk might think she’s carbon fibre throughout….

f n gr8 racing5The Fekkes team on their way to success aboard F’n Gr8, with Rory (left) on helm and father Paul (centre) maintaining a tactical overview. Photo Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Whatever the colour, the memorably-named F’n Gr8 was always at the sharpest part of the sharp end of IRC 3 in Scotland, Cork and Dublin Bay during the 2019 season, and while the move into Flying Fifteens will be depriving Rory Fekkes of the advantages in racing a boat of which he knows every cubic millimetre, a sage observer of the County Antrim sailing scene tells us that having Paul Fekkes as your crew is always good for an extra percentage of boat speed and an added injection of sound tactics, and the dynamics of the sailing relationship in the Fekkes son-and-father combo is a wonder to behold.

Also from Belfast Lough, this time from the south shore, are the Squib Class National Champion (and many other 2019 Squib championships) Gordon Patterson of RNIYC Cultra, who reached the top this past summer sailing the 50-year-old Fagan crewed by Ross Nolan, and they’ll be together again this weekend.

gordon patterson ross nolan6 Gordon Patterson and Ross Nolan, overall Squib champions in the 50-year-old Fagan (RNIYC)

Cultra also saw success for Rob Espey and Stephen Milne of Ballyholme, who raced in the big-fleet RS 400 British & Irish Championships at RNIYC in August, and came second overall and Irish National Champions while they were at it. So after Chris and Olin Bateman won the Junior Championship last weekend in Schull with Chris being in it on the strength of his RS 200 National title, it will be interesting to see how the big brothers from the fast-moving RS 400 transfer to the more sedate yet tactics-and-technique-laden world of Flying Fifteen racing at national and senior level.

rs400 belfast lough7RS 400 in full flight on Belfast Lough, where Rob Espey of Balyholme won the Irish National title at Cultra

For make no mistake about it, the level is very high in this weekend series with the popular GP 14 class making a remarkable input, as there are two former GP 14 World Champions taking part. Paul Fekkes won it in 1991, while Shane MacCarthy of Greystones won it in 2016. McCarthy has added the 2019 Irish GP 14 title to his trophy list racing with Damian Bracken at Skerries, but for this weekend’s racing in Dublin Bay he has recruited Stephen Boyle, who formerly raced Flying Fifteens with success with Sean Craig.

shane mccarthy solo8Shane MacCarthy racing his Solo. In addition to successfully racing GP 14s, Shane McCarthy has also been on the podium in the big-fleet season-long multi-location Solo Series in England, placing third overall.

Shane MacCarthy has another sailing life entirely as a top helm in the attractive Solo single-hander – he has placed third overall in the well-supported season-long Solo series in England this year, and meanwhile Sean Craig – having been champion helm in 1993 at Larne in GP14s – is in the mix this weekend as the Laser Radial representative, and he has brought in F/F ace Alan Greene as crew to give a formidable boost to his chances.

sean craig and 1993 salver9 Sean Craig of Dun Laoghaire with the Salver in 1993, when he won it racing in GP 14s at Larne. He’s back this year as Laser Radial champion

Also busy on the rockstar recruitment trail has been the IRC 4 and Irish Half-Ton Champion Darren Wright from Howth, who has professional form in this rockstar lineup business, as anyone who saw the nightly shows he laid on at the Howth Wave regatta event in 2018 will readily attest. For this weekend, he has hit the bullseye by hauling in Matt Alvarado – Bronze Medallist at the F/F Worlds last month – to operate the front end of the boat and help with calling the shots.

mata crew10Helmsman Darren Wright of Howth (left) with the crew of Mata after winning the Irish Half-Ton Championship in Kinsale in June. For the Helmsman's Championship in Flying Fifteens, he has recruited Matt Alvarado (Bronze Medallist in F/F Worlds 2019) as crew
As defending champion Peter Kennedy emerged from the SB 20s last year, this growing class – with the effervescent John Malone from Lough Ree YC as new top honcho – should never be underestimated, particularly as their representative Michael O’Connor of Royal St George can include the SB20 World Corinthian Champion in his CV.

All these and most of the other contenders come from the familiar world of mono-hulls, but the Irish Multihull Association is making its pitch in the interesting person of Wyatt Orsmond, who is another life is Mr Eva Orsmond, consort of the TV personality. But despite living in Greystones, he does his main multi-hull racing to championship title level with Swords Sailing Club on the Broadmeadow Water in Fingal, and his crew this weekend in Dun Laoghaire will be Patrick Billington from Wicklow, which seems to suggest that multiple locations are an integral part of multihull racing.

wyatt orsmond11Wyatt Orsmond, helm for the Irish Multihull Association
So in all it’s a lineup well reflective of modern Irish sailing life, and half a dozen helms and maybe more are certainly in there with a shout. As to the expected weather, what can we say in the aftermath of Storm Lorenzo?

When he was a Fisheries Inspector for the unofficial Provisional Government set up by Sinn Fein in Dublin’s Mansion House in 1919, global circumnavigator O’Brien patrolled the west coast of Connacht in his ketch Kelpie, and he was wont to observe of the utterly barren north end of the Mullet Peninsula in northwest Mayo that it was so devoid of any distinguishing features that it scarcely constituted a coastline at all, and left any observers in a very bewildered frame of mind.

So although Lorenzo was going fine until he got off that north end of Mullet, the very place seemed to cause him to collapse in on himself. Seldom can a post-tropical storm have evaporated so quickly. Maybe his strength was sucked away somehow by the nearby presence of the Corrib Gas Field.

Whatever, weather prediction is a doubly-cautious business at the moment, but with any luck the 2019 Irish Sailing All-Ireland Helmsman’s Championship at Dun Laoghaire will enjoy a southerly breeze today (Saturday), albeit with a spot of rain, and a clearer nor’westerly wind tomorrow which may fade as the day goes on, but we’ve no doubt the Dun Laoghaire machine will function efficiently to put through what promises to be a fascinating programme.

Published in National YC

Chris Bateman (18) of Monkstown Bay Sailing Club and Royal Cork Yacht Club has won this year’s Junior Irish Sailing All Ireland Championships in Schull today with crew, younger brother Olin.

Olin Bateman (age 9) was the youngest competitor at the regatta this weekend.

The Bateman Brothers had a decisive victory, winning four out of the nine races, and finishing with 22 points. Behind them was Clare Gorman (National YC) with 34 points who just pipped fellow club member Rian Geraghty-McDonnell who finished in third place with 35 points.

chris and olin with trophiesChris and Olin Bateman with their Trophies Photo: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Hosted by the Fastnet Outdoor Marine & Outdoor Education Centre in Schull, Cork, fifteen nominees from a wide variety of Irish Sailing affiliated classes from across the country competed in the event. Each nominee picked a crew member, and the competitors all used the Centre’s fleet of TR 3.6s over two days (Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 September).

A51I2504Chris and Olin in action in Schull Photo: INPHO Brian Keane

CK3I7950Second placed Clare and brother Conor Gorman Photo: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Racing took place inside Schull Harbour with variable conditions over the weekend – very wet with light winds building to heavier weather on Saturday, followed by champagne sailing on Sunday with beautiful sunshine and gusts of between 12 to 15 knots from the north.

Final results: 1st place was Chris Bateman and Olin Bateman, in 2nd place was Clare and brother Conor Gorman, and 3rd place was Rian Geraghty-McDonnell and Nathan Van Steenberge.

Published in Youth Sailing

The Champion of our Sailing Champions? Ireland first ran with the idea 72 years ago. And while other countries have since come up with their own versions with varying levels of success which have sometimes reduced annually until fading away, we’ve simply kept the Helmsmans Championship – as it was called at its inauguration in 1947 – on the road in one form or another. And now with, a Junior Championship traditionally held a week in advance, it’s as much an established a part of our lives as……well, as Christmas.

But while Christmas has gone through many mutations to reach its current over-the-top version, the Irish Sailing All-Ireland Helmsmans Championship - in both its Senior and Junior versions – is a very focused affair of intense interest among those who have qualified to take part and those who organise it, yet it has never become the spectator-attracting spectacle some might expect.

Admittedly, were the resources available to cover it with the sort of technological wizardry that the likes of Stan Honey and others have developed for the international mega-events, there’d be greater interest at the time. But that wouldn’t result in spectators being out on the water as September turns into October and suddenly there’s a real nip in the air, for all you’d need is access to a functioning screen and somewhere warm to sit.

Either way, it is very important to the Irish sailing community to know that each year, the All-Ireland Sailing Championship takes place. And perhaps with drone coverage of our racing increasing by the day, it will be of extra interest to see what emerges from the Junior Championship this weekend in Schull, where they’ll be racing the Davy Harte-developed TR3.6 which has done such sterling work – mostly in junior sailing - since its introduction in 2011.

tr3.6 fleet at schull2The Schull Package….West Cork’s race-ready TR3.6 class provides robust boats ideal for Team Racing and Junior Championships

The Schull lineup is truly all-Ireland, as they range all the way from Topper champion Ethan McCormac from Cushendall S & BC in the Glens of Antrim in the northeast to Laser Radial sailor Micheal O’Suillebhain of Kinsale in the deep south, while the most westerly is Mirror champion Eoghan Duffy of Lough Ree, with the east coast well represented all the way from County Antrim down to Dublin Bay.

Staging a Junior Championship poses two particular problems, notably that defending champions may no longer be a Junior when the next year’s event comes around, and most junior racing is done in single-handed boats. So certain crusty old salts who advocate the building of teamwork in crewing welcome the Junior Championship simply because it forces divas of both genders to sail with somebody else in the boat….

juniors at schull3The Juniors racing at Schull. For many, it’s something of a culture shock, as so much junior racing takes place in single-handed boats.

However, we’ll go no further down that particular heat-inducing road and instead will get on into the Seniors listing. But just for now, here’s this weekend’s lineup at Schull, although at the time of writing, it looks as though far west Cork is going to be on the front line of some very unsettled post-equinoctial weather, though it’s amazing what can be managed in a place like Schull with its geographical advantages and experienced race administrators.

Class

Helm Name

Helm Club

Crew Name

Laser 4.7

Michael Crosbie

Royal Cork Yacht Club

Ben O'Shaughnessy

Laser Radial

Clare Gorman

National Yacht Club

Conor Gorman

Optimist

Luke Turvey

Howth Yacht Club

Harry Pritchard

Mirror

Eoghan Duffy

Lough Ree Yacht Club

Cathal Langan

Optimist

Sorcha Gannon O'Connor

Howth Yacht Club

Leah Rickard

29er

Rian Geraghty-McDonnell

National Yacht Club

Nathan Van Steenberge

Topper

Darragh Collins

Royal Cork Yacht Club

Oisin McSweeney

Laser 4.7/Team Racing

Alana Coakley

Royal St George Yacht Club

Tara Coakley

Laser Radial

Micheal O'Suilleabhain

Kinsale Yacht Club - Royal Cork Yacht Club

Justin Lucas

Topper

Hannah Dadley-Young

Ballyholme YC

Zoe Whitford

Intl 420

Lucy Kane

East Antrim Boat Club

Ben Graf

RS 200

Chris Bateman

Monkstown Bay Sailing Club - Royal Cork Yacht Club

Olin Bateman

Laser 4.7

Ellen Barbour

County Antrim Yacht Club

Eva Briggs

ITRA

Trevor Bolger

Royal St George Yacht Club

Russell Bolger

Topper

Ethan McCormac

Cushendall Sailing & Boating Club

Tom Coulter

ITRA

Harry Twomey

Royal Cork Yacht Club - Cork Harbour Sailing Club

Killian O'Regan

The Seniors are racing at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire in a week’s time, and the selected boat is the Flying Fifteen. Certainly, the NYC’s FF fleet is in mint order at the moment after the top boats were tuned-up for the recent Worlds in Dublin Bay. And as a keelboat/dinghy crossover, the Flying Fifteen offers a compromise of sorts when you’re trying to accommodate all spectrums of racing, even if they have to do this series without using the spinnakers.

flying fifteens dublin bay4The Flying Fifteens in Dublin Bay. For the All-Ireland Championship, they’ll be racing without the use of spinnakers. Photo: Afoat.ie/David O’Brien

But nevertheless last week’s parade of the nucleus of a class of Elliott 6s at the NYC will cause a certain amount of yearning in helms from the more athletic classes, as the very attractive New Zealand-originating Elliotts undoubtedly have a special buzz to them, as they’re for all the world like giant Fireflies with a very helpful deep bulb keel. So doubtless in due course, they’ll join the long list of boats which have had their moment in the sun as the boat of choice for the Helmsman’s Championship.

Meanwhile, last year’s championship on Lough Ree was sailed in SB20s and won by SB20 national champion Peter Kennedy of Strangford Lough. But there might be a genetic outcome to the big one in a week’s time, as Peter’s parents Terence and Bridget Kennedy were Flying Fifteen British Champions in 1962 when SLYC was a formidable presence in the class, notching more than one world title.

ted crosbie5Ted Crosbie of Cork, winner in 1950 at Dunmore East, is senior title-holder. Photo: Robert Bateman

Whatever the outcome, Irish sailors will know that’s all well with the world of our sailing eight days hence, when the All-Ireland Champion 2019 holds the well-worn salver aloft in time-honoured style. So how do we come to have this piece of silverware which has come to mean so much?

It’s difficult now to imagine the world of 1946. For although sailing continued in Ireland as it did in Sweden and Switzerland during World War II from 1939 to 1945 thanks to national neutrality (with many allied servicemen availing of this during their leave periods to get a bit of relaxation from war), the reality is that it took some time to get some semblance of normality back into everyday life afloat and ashore.

anthony 2015 oleary6Double winner Anthony O’Leary (RCYC) on his way to his second victory in 2015, racing J/80s in Dublin Bay. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

At that time, far and away the biggest dinghy class in Ireland was the International 12, in which Jimmy Payne of Crosshaven was an international star. The only other dinghy classes of any significance were the Water Wags in Dun Laoghaire, founded 1887 and racing to a “new” design since 1900, the Shannon One Designs from 1922, and the 17ft Dublin Bay Mermaids, which barely counted as dinghies.

Across in England and on the Continent, some exciting new ideas in dinghy design were developing and expanding their numbers, the top pace-setters being the International 14s. But in Ireland, although in 1937 three pioneers in Howth had boats built to the new Yachting World magazine-sponsored Uffa Fox design for the National 18 class, the handy little International 12s remained totally dominant at a nationwide level.

international twelves7In 1946, the International 12s were the most popular dinghy class in Ireland, and Jimmy Payne of Crosshaven had won national and international prizes in the class.

As peace took hold in 1946, they were sailed at so many Irish centres that the time had come for the somewhat relaxed Irish attitude to the International 12 design rules to be more strictly codifed. Thus in 1946, the Irish Dinghy Racing Association was brought into existence with its primary purpose and first rule being (and I quote):

“(1) To obtain agreement amongst the owners of the 12ft International Dinghies on the limits of deviation from the strict I.Y.R.U. (International Yacht Racing Union) plan and specification which will in future be generally accepted.”

The birth myth of what is now Irish Sailing would have it that our National Authority mutated out of the Irish Sailing Association which in turn emerged from the Irish Yachting Association which has in turn been a completed re-branding around 1960-62 of the Irish Dinghy Racing Association which in its turn - according to the legends of our forefathers - had been born of a wave of idealism in 1946 aimed at introducing modern dinghy racing to Ireland after the end of World War II.

But the banal reality is that rule-bending in the International 12ft Dinghy Class signalled the inauguration of the new organisation. Nevertheless, there probably was this high-flown ambition to give Ireland some rocket-assisted propulsion into the front line of mid-20th Century dinghy racing among people like Billy and Jimmy Mooney and the Delany family and others. But the lackadaisical attitude to the International 12 measurement rules – which had been readily indulged by local boatbuilders keen to expand their business – provided a very tangible issue on which to establish the new body.

The first Honorary Secretary was Jimmy Mooney of Dun Laoghaire while the Hon.Treas was Jem Sullivan of Sutton across Dublin Bay – both of them were ace International 12 racers who regularly sailed their little boats across the open bay to each other’s venues.

The Committee was Ronald Greene (Strangford & Belfast Loughs), Michael Sullivan (Cork), Captain James Payne (Crosshaven), Peter Odlum (Dun Laoghaire) Harry Deane (Cork), W. L. McClelland (Sutton), Charlie Sargent (Clontarf), Joe Fitzgerald (Cobh) and Reggie Pilkington (Dun Laoghaire).

It was, however, in their choice of President that the new Association showed its genius, for they persuaded Douglas Heard to take on the role. He was Irish by adoption. Having been seriously wounded while very young on active service in World War I, he’d been invalided out but eventually recovered sufficiently to go into the Welsh end of the management side of the City of Cork Steam Packet Company which was mainly focused on the Cork-Swansea route. Of a distinguished family in southeast Wales, despite his injuries he sailed regularly at the Mumbles, and during the 1930s was something of a force in the developing International 14ft dinghy class, and a close friend of innovative designer Uffa Fox.

international fourteen8An International 14 dinghy in the 1930s, when Douglas Heard was regularly racing in Britain in this developmental class.

Business demands of the ferry service brought him to Cork for a period in the mid-1930s, and he found life in Ireland congenial. As an offshore sailor in addition to his dinghy interests (he did the 1939 Fastnet on sailmaker Chris Ratsey’s Fife sloop Evenlode), he had become a member of the Irish Cruising Club in 1935, while his Cork sailing involvement extended to buying and racing the Cork Harbour One Design Imp

He continued his involvement with the major championships of the International 14 Class in England, while his life in Ireland developed to a directorship of a sister company to the Cork operation, the British & Irish Steam Packet Company (later the B&I Line) in Dublin, where he became a member of the Royal St George YC in 1942. At first, he seemed a somewhat shy and reserved man, but he usually had projects on the go and had the gift of productive friendships, becoming close to ICC Commodore Billy Mooney and his son Jimmy, to the Delany family, and with Rory O’Hanlon and many others, and in time he settled in Killiney.

So when he was asked to be President of this new Association, he accepted and presented it with a large silver salver which was to be awarded to the champion of the new class which he and others were persuading the IDRA to promote, the IDRA 14 designed by O’Brien Kennedy. It was almost embarrassing when Douglas himself won the first championship in 1947, but things were developing rapidly, in 1948 it was won by John Wearing of Sutton who later went on to become a sort of One Man Maintenance Unit on Ireland’s inland waterways. By 1949 the scope of the championship was expanding, with the IDRA 14s and the new Uffa Fox-designed series-produced 12ft Firefly class making such inroads into Irish sailing that the old International 12s were disappearing like snow off a ditch.

idra fourteen9The IDRA 14 Dusk, one of the most successful in the class, being raced by Gerry Sargent whose father Charlie was a founding committee member of the Irish Dinghy Racing Association in 1946. Photo: W M Nixon

firefly dinghy10The advent of the Firefly Class in Dun Laoghaire in 1947-48 effectively spelt the end of the old International 12 dinghies.

The notion of an IDRA Dinghy Week for all classes was developing by the end of the 1940s, when the emerging Helmsmans Championship for Douglas Heard’s salver was staged with the top helms from each class racing for one day at the end of the week, and this saw it in 1949 going to Dick Uren, a Firefly sailor from across channel who raced out of West Kirby SC.

By 1950 Dinghy Week was a fully-fledged event, a moveable feast which was a highlight of the annual Irish sailing calendar, and in 1950 it was staged in Dunmore East by Waterford Harbour SC, with cruisers from Dun Laoghaire and Cork such as Aylmer Hall’s 12 Metre Flica and Clayton Love’s ketch Galcador going along to provide floating accommodation for the dinghy racing crews, with Crosshaven’s own Teddy Crosbie crewed by Mick Sullivan winning the Helmsman’s Championship on the final day.

clayton love11Clayton Love, winner of the Helmmsmans Championship in 1955 and 1960, also oversaw the transformation of the Irish Dinghy Racing Association into the Irish yachting Association in 1960-62, and the amalgamation of the Royal Cork and Royal Munster YCs in 1967.

And Teddy Crosbie is of course still with us, as indeed is an incredible collection of former winners of the mighty Douglas Heard-donated salver. So for young folk lining up for this weekend’s Junior Championship in Schull, if you have a long and worthwhile life in mind, be sure in due course to aim for the senior title. For when you think that the 1952 & 1954 winner Neville Maguire of Howth is still about in boats, you get some idea of the longevity extended. For also still very much with us is Clayton Love Jnr, winner in 1955 and 1960, who in the 1960s saw the IDRA become the ISA, and in that same decade brought the Royal Cork and the Royal Munster Yacht Clubs together to provide the strong organization which enabled the Royal Cork to celebrate its Quadrimillennium in 1969-1970, and now he’s here to see it mark its Tricentenary in 2020.

The list of past Senior and Junior winners speaks for itself:

Year

Senior Winner

Junior Winner

Junior First Girl

2018

Peter Kennedy

Atlee Kohl

Alana Coakley

2017

Fionn Lyden

Micheal O’Suilleabhain

Leah Rickard

2016

Alex Barry

Johnny Durcan

Kate Lyttle

2015 

Anthony O'Leary 

Peter McCann 

Clare Gorman

2014

Anthony O'Leary

Harry Durkan

Gemma McDowell

2013

Ben Duncan

Séafra Guilfoyle

Megan Parker

2012

Peter O'Leary

Fionn Lyden

Aisling Keller

2011

George Kenefick

   

2010

Nicholas O'Leary

Philip Doran

Sophie Murphy

2009

Nicholas O'Leary

Matthew O'Dowd

Diana Kissane

2008

Nicholas O'Leary

Philip Doran

Tiffany Brien

2007

Stefan Hyde

Chris Penney

Annalise Murphy

2006

Peter O'Leary

George Kenefick

Rachel Guy

2005

David Crosbie

Fionn Jenkinson

Lisa Tate

2004

Tom Fitzpatrick

Katie Tingle

 

2003

Neil Hegarty

Erica Tate & Lorraine Stallard

 

2002

Conor Walsh

Robert Collins & Kenny Keogh

 

2001

Feargal Kinsella

Peter Bayly & Niall Cowman

 

2000

Gerald Owens

Peter O'Leary

 

1999

Mark Mansfield

Nicholas O'Leary

 

1998

Tom Fitzpatrick

Gerald Owens

 

1997

Tom Fitzpatrick

Neil Spain

 

1996

Laura Dillon

Gerald Owens

 

1995

Ruan O'Tiarnaigh

Laura Dillon

 

1994

Tom Fitzpatrick

Evan Dolan

 

1993

Sean Craig

Evan Dolan

 

1992

John Ross Murphy

Tom Fitzpatrick

 

1991

Mark Lyttle

Tom Fitzpatrick

 

1990

Mark Mansfield

Robert Eason

 

1989

Marshall King

Conal Casey

 

1988

John Murtagh

J McWilliam

 

1987

Mark Lyttle

Dan O'Grady

 

1986

Mark Lyttle

T McWilliam

 

1985

Paul Rowan

Nicky Timon

 

1984

Paul Rowan

Niall Alexander

 

1983

Brian Craig

Niall Alexander

 

1982

David Cummins

Michael Stavely

 

1981

David Cummins

Mark Lyttle

 

1980

T W Whisker

Justin Maguire

 

1979

Chris Arrowsmith

Justin Maguire

 

1978

Wiclif McCready

John Gilmore

 

1977

Wiclif McCready

Mark O'Hare

 

1976

Adrian Bell

Bryan Maguire

 

1975

David Gay

Joseph English

 

1974

Peter Duffy

Alan McFarlane

 

1973

Owen Delany

David McFarlane

 

1972

Harold Cudmore

Robert Bleakney

 

1971

Adrian Bell

   

1970

Robert Dix

   

1969

Maurice R Butler

   

1968

Vincent Delany

   

1967

T C M Morris

   

1966

John F Russell

   

1965

James Nixon

   

1964

J K O'Reilly

   

1963

Owen Delany

   

1962

G M Sargent

   

1961

M C Walsh

   

1960

J Clayton Love Jnr

   

1959

J O McCleary

   

1958

J K O'Reilly

   

1957

J Somers Payne

   

1956

J Somers Payne

   

1955

J Clayton Love Jnr

   

1954

Neville D Maguire

   

1953

Johnny Hooper

   

1952

Neville D Maguire

   

1951

Richard Uren

   

1950

Ted Crosbie

   

1949

Richard Uren

   

1948

John Wearing

   

1947

R Douglas Heard

   


The great Douglas Heard went from among us in 1983 at a very considerable age, but by that time he’d pushed the boat out in other directions, with the hugely innovative Flying Thirty Huff of Arklow designed by Uffa Fox and built by Jack Tyrrell in 1950, promoting fin-and-skeg configuration a good fifteen years before the rest of the offshore racing world caught up.

huff of arklow12 copyDouglas Heard’s pioneering “Flying Thirty” Huff of Arklow raced offshore and inshore and cruised to Iceland and the Azores.

He raced Huff offshore and cruised her extensively while moving up the administrative structure of the Royal St George to become Commodore in 1960 for a five-year term of office. He also became much involved with the Inland Waterways, making what everyone thought would be the last-ever transit of the Royal Canal in 1954, but then worked assiduously behind the scenes with many others in the IWAI to promote the restoration of our waterway to their current healthy state.

laura dillon13Laura Dillon of Howth, winner in 1996, is still the only woman champion

As for the Helmsmans Championship which he had the vision to inaugurate in 1947, by the 1970s Dinghy Week had become so large that no single club would willingly undertake it, so classes or groups of classes staged their own national championships and the Helmsmans Championship became a standalone event traditionally staged in late September or early October, using different venues and usually different boats each year.

So when that salver is lifted aloft at the National Yacht Club by the All Ireland Champion 2019 on the evening of Sunday, October 6th, you’re looking at something which symbolizes just about everything that is best in Irish sailing. With a week to go, the confirmed entries (helms left column) are:

Cathy MacAleavey

Water Wags

National Yacht Club

Con Murphy

Robert Espey

RS400

Ballyholme Yacht Club

Andrew Baker

David Gorman

Flying Fifteen

National Yacht Club

Chris Doorly

Sean Craig

Laser Radial

Royal St. George Yacht Club

Alan Greene

Peter Kennedy

2018 Champion (SB20)

Strangford Lough Yacht Club

Stephen Kane

Darren Wright

ICRA IRC 2

Howth Yacht Club

tbc

Rory Fekkes

ICRA IRC 3

Carrickfergus Sailing Club

Paul Fekkes

Jonathan Horgan

Shannon One Design

Lough Derg Yacht Club

Carden Kent

John Sheehy

Team Racing

Royal St. George Yacht Club

Darragh O'Connor

Ronan Wallace

Laser Standard

Wexford Harbour Boat & Tennis Club

Brendan Wallace

Michael O'Connor

SB20

Royal St. George Yacht Club

Davy Taylor

Gordon Patterson

Squib

Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club

Ross Nolan

Paddy Dillon

Mermaids

Rush Sailing Club

Johnn Dillon

Shane MacCarthy

GP14

Greystones Sailing Club

Stephen Boyle

Colm O'Flaherty

J24

Sligo Yacht Club

Dave O'Connor

Wyatt Orsmond

Multihull IMA

Swords Sailing Club

Patrick Billington


denis doyle joe fitz douglas heard14Giants of Irish sailing history: Denis Doyle, Joe Fitzgerald and Douglas Heard relaxing at an Irish Cruising Club Shannon Rally, October 1977. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in National YC

The 16 invitees for next month's All Ireland Sailing Championships have been announced for the National Yacht Club hosted event.

Racing over October 5th & 6th, seven dinghy and nine keelboat helms will race in Flying Fifteen keelboats for the coveted ISA 'Champion of Champions title.

There are no current Tokyo Olympic trialists and only one helmswoman among the line-up released by the national governing body today.

Although present last year, absent from the 2019 line up is the 1720, IDRA 14 and Dragon classes. 

Other Clinker classes do fare well, however, with representation from Mermaids, Shannon One Designs and Water Wags all scheduled to compete at Dun Laoghaire.

See the invitee list below and the NOR is attached below.

Helm

Class

Helm Club

Crew

Cathy MacAleavey

Water Wags

National Yacht Club

Con Murphy

Robert Espey

RS400

Ballyholme Yacht Club

Andrew Baker

David Gorman

Flying Fifteen

National Yacht Club

Chris Doorly

Sean Craig

Laser Radial

Royal St. George Yacht Club

Alan Greene

Peter Kennedy

2018 Champion (SB20)

Strangford Lough Yacht Club

Stephen Kane

Darren Wright

ICRA IRC 2

Howth Yacht Club

tbc

Rory Fekkes

ICRA IRC 3

Carrickfergus Sailing Club

Paul Fekkes

Jonathan Horgan

Shannon One Design

Lough Derg Yacht Club

Carden Kent

John Sheehy

Team Racing

Royal St. George Yacht Club

Darragh O'Connor

Ronan Wallace

Laser Standard

Wexford Harbour Boat & Tennis Club

Brendan Wallace

Michael O'Connor

SB20

Royal St. George Yacht Club

Davy Taylor

Gordon Patterson

Squib

Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club

Ross Nolan

Paddy Dillon

Mermaids

Rush Sailing Club

Johnn Dillon

Shane MacCarthy

GP14

Greystones Sailing Club

Stephen Boyle

Colm O'Flaherty

J24

Sligo Yacht Club

Dave O'Connor

Wyatt Orsmond

Multihull IMA

Swords Sailing Club

Patrick Billington

 

Published in All Irelands

Peter Kennedy made waves on Lough Ree when the current SB20 national champion took the Helmsman’s Cup at the weekend.

However, a special mention must go to Water Wag pair Guy Kilroy and Adam Winkelmann for their ‘catch of the day’ as they discovered an unusual and large fishing lure caught on their keel.

The extra weight and drag, however small, surely didn’t help their campaign at the All Ireland Sailing Championships — but perhaps it also means a good omen for next year’s event?

Large fishing lure caught on Gilroy and Winkelmann's keel

Published in Water Wag

Peter Kennedy of Strangford Lough Yacht Club has won the 2018 Irish Sailing All Ireland Sailing Championships hosted by Lough Ree Yacht Club, Co. Westmeath today writes Treasa Cox of Irish Sailing.

This prestigious competition, also known as the “Helmsman’s Cup” was first awarded in 1947 and sees sixteen of Ireland’s best sailors battle it out to become the “champion of champions”. Each competitor is nominated by their class, but they all compete in the same type of boat, this year chosen as the SB20. 

Peter, who was nominated by the SB20 Class, is a former Olympian sailor who represented Ireland in both Seoul 1998 and Barcelona 1992. This was Peter’s fourth time competing in the All Irelands, and the first time in the finals. 

His name now joins the Helmsman’s Cup Trophy alongside other Olympic veterans such as Mark Mansfield and Mark Lyttle.

Final results were Peter Kennedy (Strangford Lough YC) with crew Stephen Kane, and boat owner representative Chris Chapman; in second place were Alex Barry (Royal Cork YC/Monkstown Bay Sailing Club) who represented the RS400s with crew Mel Collins and boat owner representative John McGonigle, and in third place was Ross Kearney representing the GP14s (Royal North of Ireland YC) with crew Jim Hunt and boat owner representative Peter Lee.

Published in ISA

Saturday's All Ireland Sailing Championships run by Irish Sailing at Lough Ree Yacht Club has attracted some of the top sailing names in the country for the annual battle of the champion of champions event that will be sailed on Lough Ree in SB20s for the first time.

The final list of entrants has been issued by Irish Sailing this morning with Olympian Finn Lynch, multi–dinghy champion Jim Hunt, former Irish Sailor of the Year Noel Butler and Dragon Edinburgh Cup winner Adam Winkelmann, to name but a few, all joining the ranks of crews for the end of season climax.

Read the final list below:

As Afloat.ie reported earlier, past champion Fionn Lyden will defend his title against some of the country's top sailing talent with bronze medalist in the Laser U21 World Championships, Liam Glynn one of six Northern Ireland helmsmen to be nominated.

Six keelboat sailors, nine dinghy sailors and one multihull sailor make up this year's invitation list.

Helm

Class

Club

Crew Name

Donagh Good

1720

Royal Cork Yacht Club

Grattan Roberts

Dave Gorman

Flying Fifteen

National Yacht Club

Chris Doorly

Darragh McCormack

Mermaid/ICRA 4

Foynes Yacht Club

Johnny Dillon

Alex Barry

RS 400

Royal Cork Yacht Club/ Monkstown Bay Sailing Club

Mel Collins

Ross Kearney

GP 14

Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club

Jim Hunt

Jocelyn Hill

RS 200

County Antrim Yacht Club

Katie Kane

Peter Wallace

Squib

Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club

Martin Weatherstone

Guy Kilroy

Waterwags

Royal Irish Yacht Club

Adam Winkelmann

Graham Mc Mullin

Shannon One Design

Lough Ree Yacht Club

John Malone

Simon Revill

IDRA 14

Sutton Dinghy Club

Noel Butler

Peter Kennedy

SB20

Strangford Lough Yacht Club

Stephen Kane

Stefan Hyde

J24

Royal Cork Yacht Club/Royal Irish Yacht Club

Cillian Dickson

Fionn Lyden

2017 Champion

Baltimore Sailing Club

David Harte

Liam Glynn

Laser Standard

Ballyholme Yacht Club/ UCD sailing club

Tom Purdon

Neil Hegarty

Dragon

Royal St George Yacht Club/Baltimore Sailing Club

Tom Hegarty

Aisling Keller

Laser Radial

LDYC/Royal Irish Yacht Club/Trinity Sailing Club

Finn Lynch

 

 

Published in All Irelands

There's just over one week to the Irish Sailing All Ireland Sailing Championships, taking place in Lough Ree Yacht Club in Co. Westmeath, 6-7th of October.

The competitors represent sixteen of the thirty-nine Irish Sailing 'eligible' affiliated classes, but all will compete against each other in one type of boat – this year the event is being sailed in SB20 keelboats.

There are two women in this year’s competition: Aisling Keller (Lough Derg Yacht Club / Royal Irish Yacht Club / Trinity Sailing Club) who will team up with Olympian Finn Lynch (National YC), and Jocelyn Hill (Co. Antrim YC) representing the RS200s. Jocelyn will be one of five sailors from Northern Ireland. Past winners Fionn Lyden (Baltimore SC) and Alex Barry (Royal Cork Yacht Club / Monkstown Bay Sailing Club) will compete alongside Liam Glynn (Ballyholme Yacht Club / UCD Sailing Club) fresh from his bronze medal win in the U21 Laser World Championships in Poland this summer.

Each competitor has been nominated as a result of past wins and class rankings. This year they will sail SB20 keelboats, which are designed for a crew of three or four. Each nominee selects one crew member, and they are joined by a third crew member who represents the boat owner.

Racing will consist of two “flights” or heats. The top three from each flight go straight into the final. The remaining competitors who placed 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th compete in a 2-race “repêchage”, and the top two then enter the Final also. The Final race, therefore, has eight teams competing.

The All Ireland Sailing Championships or “Helmsman’s Cup” has run since 1947 and aims to find sailing's “champion of champions”.

Read the current entry list here

Published in All Irelands

The nominees for next month's All Ireland Sailing Championships have been announced with top sailors from the world of dinghy, keelboat and multihull classes invited for the annual champion of champions event.

The Championships will be held in Lough Ree Yacht Club in County Westmeath in SB20 sports boats on October 5th and 6th.

Past champion Fionn Lyden will defend his title against some of the country's top sailing talent with bronze medalist in the Laser U21 World Championships, Liam Glynn one of six Northern Ireland helmsmen to be nominated.

Six keelboat sailors, nine dinghy sailors and one multihull sailor make up this year's invitation list.

Two of this month's Afloat.ie Sailors of the Month awardees make the list with Darragh McCormack of Foynes representing the Mermaids and silver medalist in the GP14 Worlds and national champion Ross Kearney also sailing.

Joining McCormack from the clinker classes are Guy Kilroy from the Water Wags and Simon Reville of the IDRA 14s and Graham McMullin of the Shannon One Designs.

SB20 National Champion Peter Kennedy gets a wildcard entry but there is no nomination for this month's European SB20 bronze medalist Michael O'Connor of the Royal St. George Yacht Club.

Despite the progress of Women's sailing in Ireland, only one is among the invitees, Jocelyn Hill representing the RS200 class from County Antrim Yacht Club.

There is no ICRA representation (usually three or four places) despite the fact ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney says 'ICRA made five nominations for the All Ireland Championships 2018'.

The competition has been running since 1947 and pits all types of sailors against each other in one type of boat.

As previously reported, the Junior All Ireland Championships will be held earlier on 29-30 September at the Royal St George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire using Firefly dinghies.

1

 

2017 Champion

Fionn Lyden

Team Racing

2

Dinghy

GP14

Ross Kearney

Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club

3

Dinghy

Water Wags

Guy Kilroy

Royal Irish Yacht Club

4

Dinghy

Shannon One Design

Graham McMullin

Lough Ree Yacht Club

5

Keelboat

Flying Fifteen

David Gorman

National Yacht Club

6

Dinghy

Multihull

Wyatt Orsmond

Swords Sailing Club

7

Dinghy

RS400

Alex Barry

Royal Cork Yacht Club/Monkstown Bay Sailing Club

8

Dinghy

Mermaid

Darragh McCormack

Foynes Yacht Club

9

Dinghy

Laser Standard

Liam Glynn

Ballyholme Yacht Club

10

Keelboat

Dragon

tbc

 

11

Keelboat

Squib

Peter Wallace

Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club

12

Dinghy

RS200

Jocelyn Hill

County Antrim Yacht Club

13

Keelboat

Ruffian 23

Trevor Kirkpatrick

Carrickfergus Sailing Club

14

Keelboat

1720

Donagh Good

Royal Cork Yacht Club

Wildcards

       

15

Keelboat

SB20

Peter Kennedy

Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club

16

Dinghy

IDRA14

Simon Revill

Howth Yacht Club/Sutton Dinghy Club

Published in All Irelands

It has had at least two different event descriptions since it was first sailed all of seventy years ago. Back then, Irish sailing was finding its feet in the late 1940s, becoming re-energised in the exciting developmental world of modern dinghy racing. It was the time of Fireflies, and of the visionary move of establishing the recently-formed Irish Dinghy Racing Association’s new IDRA 14 Class. On the water, all-classes Dinghy Weeks were being held, and the idea of rounding it all out with an annual Championship of the Champions – the Helmsmans Championship – seemed a natural from the word go. W M Nixon celebrates the continuing existence of something which - for many years - was unique to Irish sailing.

The Helmsmans Championship quickly became a key part of what Irish sailing is all about. And even though it become more and more of an artificial construct over the years as different class types proliferated, with the selection of one Championship boat to accommodate widely-different boat-type experiences inevitably becoming ever more problematical, there’s a stubborn streak in us which keeps it going as a celebration of true amateur sailing.

For the line–up of helmsmen racing GP14s this weekend – it’s only male helms, alas, though women sailors have won in times past – sees the deliberate absence of the professional and semi-professional stream. This is down home sailing out in strength, even if some of the participants – such as Olympic Finn U23 Bronze Medallist Fionn Lyden of Baltimore (he’s the nomination of the Irish Team Racing Association) – will harbour hopes of moving on to Olympic Pathways.

alex barry2Alex Barry, defending champion with the Salver newly won at Royal Cork YC in October 2016, with ISA President David Lovegrove (left) and RCYC Admiral John Roche. Alex Barry represented the RS 400, but the championship was sailed in National 18s. Photo Robert Bateman

All-Ireland Championship Competitors (Class - Helm - Club - Crew Name):

Shannon One Design - Stephen O'Driscoll - Lough Derg Yacht Club - John O'Driscoll
J24 - JP McCaldin - Lough Erne Yacht Club / Sligo Yacht Club - Liz Copland
Laser Radial - Sean Craig - Royal St George Yacht Club - David Johnston
2016 Champion RS400 - Alex Barry - Monkstown Bay SC/Royal Cork YC - Richard Leonard
Puppeteer 22 - Colin Kavanagh - Howth Yacht Club - Conor Barry
Dublin Bay Mermaid - Sam Shiels - Skerries Sailing Club - Eoin Boylan
Squib - Greg Bell - Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club - Martin Weatherstone
IDRA14 - Alan Henry - Sutton Dinghy Club - Simon Reville
SB20 - Stefan Hyde - Royal Cork Yacht Club - tbc
RS200 - Neil Spain - Howth Yacht Club - John Downey
RS400 - Gareth Flannigan - Ballyholme Yacht Club - David Fletcher
GP14 - Shane McCarthy - Greystones Sailing Club - Andy Davis
ITRA - Fionn Lyden - UCCSC, BSC, Schull - Liam Manning
ICRA 3 - Paul Gibbons - Royal Cork Yacht Club - Grattan Roberts
Ruffian 23 - Chris Helme - Royal St George Yacht Club - Alan Claffey
Laser Standard - Liam Glynn - Ballyholme Yacht Club - Ryan Glynn

You only have to give reasonable attention to that list to grasp the diversity of people, talents and boat experience that they’re trying to bring together for meaningful racing on the beautiful waters of Lough Owel (it’s pronounced “ool”) in Westmeath.

Further to emphasise the “down home” spirit of it all, the hosts, the recently re-furbished Mullingar Sailing Club (they celebrated their Golden Jubilee in 2014, including publishing a fine club history co-ordinated by Veronica Lucey) may be very centrally placed in Ireland. But they’re possibly further from any other yacht or sailing club than any other comparable club in the country, so they have to be true to themselves and their love of local sailing. 

msc history3MSC’s Golden Jubilee History captures the flavor of a very rural and genuinely locally-based sailing club. Courtesy MS

lough owel4Lough Owel’s special location provides an ideal setting for Irish Sailing’s Championship of Champions

It certainly seems that way, for prosperous Mullingar is a world unto itself, the quintessential Irish country town. Yet it does have waterways connections, for the Royal Canal (re-opened in 2010) encircles the town like a moat on its way from Dublin to join the Shannon near Longford.

And the shining jewel in the green countryside, the ideally-sized-for-good-sailing Lough Owel, is not only a marvelous recreational amenity, but its pristine water is Mullingar’s reservoir, and it also doubles as the reservoir for the Royal Canal. 

Anyone who is into Irish canal lore will of course be familiar with LTC Rolt’s seminal book Green and Silver, about the circular voyage in the late 1946 on Ireland’s inland waterways, an inland cruise which started from Athlone in the hired converted lifeboat Le Coq and went eastward to Dublin on the Grand Canal, and then returned west via the Royal Canal to the Upper Shannon.

tom rolt5Tom Rolt’s hired converted ships lifeboat Le Coq on the Royal Canal near Mullingar in 1946

tom rolt6Punting up the famed Lough Owel feeder in 1946

Tom Rolt and his crew were particularly charmed by the Royal Canal, and intrigued by the inviting channel which came into it at Mullingar to bring the water from Lough Owel. So they punted their way up the Lough Owel feeder. But these days, with its role as a public water supply, Lough Owel is not officially part of our already very extensive inland waterways system. 
However, there’s another link to those distant Green & Silver days which is decidedly special. If you go back to the very beginning of the list of previous winners of the famous silver salver here: you’ll see that the first winner in 1947 was the great Douglas Heard, who had become first President of the Irish Dinghy Racing Association in 1946. Douglas Heard was also a devoted advocate for the inland waterways, and when the closure of the Royal Canal was planned for the end of 1954, he voyaged the weed-filled length of it that summer in his motor-cruiser Hark (like Le Coq, a converted lifeboat) partly in protest at the closure, and partly in sad celebration that it had existed at all.

So it’s very moving to think that here we are in 2017, and the Championship of Champions is being staged on a lake which has a very real link to something of significance in the remarkable life of Douglas Heard, the first Champion Helm. And the fact that the Royal Canal is now fully alive again is perhaps the most astonishing thing of all, for the coming of the railways in the mid-19th Century soon out paid to its limited commercial success.

So sailing in Mullingar can find a real link, however tenuous, to the first winner of the Helsmans Championship. But before we finally get around to assessing this year’s prospects, there’s one final part of Mullingar Sailing Club’s story which must be shared. Since 1972, their next-door neighbour - until he died three weeks ago - was the world-renowned author J P Donleavy, creator of The Ginger Man. 

Donleavy’s 200-acre estate, with the rambling house of Levington Park at its heart, fronted along Lough Owel to the immediate southwest of Mullingar SC. And though he’d been something of a recluse in his latter years, it was not unknown for him in his early days next door to drop by the club when some sailing event was taking place, gradually fulfilling his role as something of the local country squire.

j p donleavy7The neighbour. Author J P Donleavy was Mullingar SC’s next-door neighbour from 1972 until his death in September 2017

Certainly MSC’s Fleet Captain Michael Collender is sure that Donleavy was occasionally about the club out of curiosity though not as a sailor, and thinks there a photo somewhere to prove it. But if they find it, they should be warned that as a result, Mullingar SC will inevitably become part of the J P Donleavy Research Trail for post-graduate doctoral students of literature. That could be a bit of a nuisance when your purpose in life is to provide economical sailing in pleasant but unpretentious premises which give convenient and immediate access to excellent sailing water.

gp14s lough owel8The GP 14s have always interacted particularly well with Mullingar SC. This is their 2014 Leinster Championship on Lough Owel. Photo courtesy MSC

mirror westerns lough owel9All classes welcome – Mirror Westerns on Lough Owel

Thus Mullingar SC and the GP 14 Association are kindred spirits, and the enthusiasm of the Irish GP 14 Association in providing eight boats of equal standard from all over the country for this Championship of Champions on Lough Owel has, as usual, been under-pinned by hard-headed practicality. For this, after all, is the class which negotiated the economic transit of an entire flotilla of Irish GP14s (was it 22 boats in all?) to Barbados for the worlds in April 2016, and the overall winner was Shane McCarthy of Greystones.

So with the Irish GP14 Class’s exceptional spirit, they have had enthusiastic owners delivering top boats to Lough Owel, the furthest being from as far away as the distant end of Lough Erne in Fermanagh. That’s J P McCaldin, who’s actually racing the championship as the J/24 representative. But he’s getting the double value GP 14 sailors expect, as the class’s national end-of-season event, the Hot Toddy, is going to be staged at Mullingar in a week’s time, and JP’s boat will be there on site, ready and waiting.

shane mccarthy10GP 14 World Champions Shane McCarthy and Andy Davis will be racing this weekend on Lough Owel

Another typically GP 14 touch is that the Irish Association is hoping to make the boats even more equal by providing them all with absolutely identical new genoas. At first glance, it all sounds a bit extravagant. But outgoing President Stephen Boyle of Sutton Dinghy Club (he sails as crew for his 17 year old son Peter, and has recently been succeeded, after a three year stint as President, by David Cooke of Skerries) assures me that the Irish GP 14 Association just don’t do extravagant. The eight brand new genoas from Jim Hunt and Andy Davis (Shane McCarthy’s crew) of HD sails will be getting a bulk discount, and will be immediately sold off once this event is over – “We might even make a tiny profit”.

Many of the Mullingar SC officer are themselves GP 14 sailors, the current officer board being Commodore: James Hackett, Vice Commodore: Sean Duffy, Rear Commodore Gearoid O’Bradaigh, Hon. Sec: Kieran Milner, Hon. Treas: Brian Walker, Junior Sailing: James Hackett, Fleet Captain Michael Collender, and PR Officer Veronica Lucey.

But MSC has been known to host exotics such as the Shannon One Designs and the Water Wags. Yet it’s Geeps, Mirrors and Lasers which set the regular pace, with the GP 14s in particular having a long and dynamic relationship with the club.

gp14s on lough owel11The gem of the midands. GP 14s enjoying idyllic early Autumn weather on Lough Owel

So they’re making a proper weekend of it, with a dinner tonight in the Annebrook Hotel in the heart of town, and racing going right to he finish tomorrow afternoon. Defending champion is of course RS 400 speedster Alex Barry of Monkstown Bay on Cork, but with the boat selected being the GP 14 and the extraordinary range of talent lined up to sail them, it’s wide open, even if the smart money will inevitably be on Shane McCarthy, who has his world champion crew Andy Davis with him.

We’ll know it all by Monday morning. But meanwhile, let it be said that it has been utterly heartening researching this piece, and talking to so many happily enthused club sailors. This is the real sailing in Ireland, l‘Irlande profonde. This is the Ireland that still thinks the event is the Helmsman’s Championship, and that it’s run by the Irish Sailing Association.
The rest of us will go along with the ISA’s re-branding as Irish Sailing. Personally, I think it’s a good idea. But this All-Ireland Championship thing we’re not so sure of. After all, when the Helmsman’s Championship was inaugurated seventy years ago, it was unique to Ireland, its brand name was new and unique.

So why change it to something which is imitative of another completely different area of sport in search of very ephemeral public recognition? We should only allow it if Irish Sailing somehow gets permission to flood the sacred turf of Croke Park, and stages the Helmsmans Championship there in the manner of Nero’s naval battle in the Colosseum. Then it would be acceptable to call it the All-Ireland Sailing Championship, for Croke Park is the only place where true All-Ireland sporting events can take place.

Published in W M Nixon
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