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Although it was announced back in January that Howth Yacht Club would be the 2019 holders of the Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year trophy for 2019 after an outstandingly successful programme throughout 2018, in time-honoured fashion it wasn’t until their new season was underway yesterday evening that the actual handover ceremony took place.

HYC Commodore Ian Byrne received the historic ship’s wheel trophy from Jason Byrne of Mitsubishi Motors in the harbour-side clubhouse last night in the presence of a distinguished gathering of sailors, Irish Sailing President Jack Roy and club officers, and many of the club’s dedicated volunteers.

Full report in W M Nixon’s 'Sailing on Saturday' Afloat blog this weekend.

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The 2019 Laser Master Nationals is to be held in Howth Yacht Club on 11th and 12th May, and another very competitive event is in store this year. Masters sailing has been going through a renaissance over the past few years. This growth is partly due to the fact that the laser is a low cost, one design class, with solid club sailing year round and a straightforward boat. It is one of the only classes in the country with club sailing 12 months of the year and comprehensive coaching and training. The success of the Dun Laoghaire fleet is worth noting. A strong sense of inclusion and fun, while offering both competitive and beginner level racing, should be a template for anyone looking to build a fleet in Ireland. The Masters Nationals has benefited from this trend. The event used to be a small affair, with Standard Rigs only and dominated by ex-campaigners who still had time to travel to events.

"The growth of the Masters Fleet has been impressive over the past 2 years, and in particular the Radial Fleet"

The growth of the Masters Fleet has been impressive over the past two years, and in particular the Radial Fleet. Numbers are now almost even between Radial and Standard Rigs, which has opened up options to a whole new cohort of Masters sailors, including female entries and those who may just be too light for the Standard Rig. The sense of fun and comradery among the fleet was particularly noticeable in the lead up to the Masters Worlds in Dun Laoghaire last September, and there was a powerful Masters entry at the Munster Championships this Easter.

In the Radial Fleet, Sean Craig will look to defend his title from last year, with fellow Royal St George Yacht Club sailor, Marco Sorgassi putting the pressure on Sean again this year. Conor Clancy had a strong event at the Munster Championships and looks like he is coming into form ahead of the event also, along with local sailor Darrell Reamsbottom.

Laser Masters radials 2436Sean Craig will look to defend his Radial title in Howth Photo:

The Standard Rig fleet sees veteran Master Nick Walsh as the highest ranked sailor. Howth Frostbite sailors Dan O’Connell, David Quinn and Daragh Kelleher, are also expected to feature in a very strong fleet with plenty of depth throughout.

This year sees the introduction of onboard trackers. Top-ranked sailor Ronan Wallace is going to debrief sailors on racing in the club after sailing on Saturday which should add greatly to the fun and banter, while also giving some really valuable insights into the races from one of the top laser sailors in the country.

Entry is still open, with the discounted entry deadline this Friday 3rd May. Racing will be held in Howth on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th May, with registration on Friday night and Saturday morning. There are discounts on class membership available for those who just plan to do this event, contact organiser David Quinn for more info (dave at

Download event poster below

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The annual selection trials for the Irish team for the Student Yachting Worlds in France this Autumn has seen two days of superb racing over the weekend in Howth, with no complaints of lack of wind for the Howth YC flotilla of J/80s. Race Officer Scorie Walls put through a demanding programme, and as college teams from all over the country fell by the wayside, it became clear that it was going to be Cork on top at the finish, but which Cork team would it be?

In the end, Cork Institute of Technology with the renowned Harry Durcan as their helm had it by just one point from University College Cork. CIT have form and then some in this special international event – Nicholas "Nin” O’Leary was the CIT skipper when they were overall winners in 2009.

SYWOC 2Sporting losers – the University College Cork team missed the title by just one point after a very intense series

Published in Howth YC

If a crewmember falls overboard, how confident are you that s/he can be quickly recovered? If it is you that falls over, will your crew be able to get you back? Knowing the theory is one thing, putting it into practice is something quite different.

In one well-documented case, these points were illustrated by Dublin Bay skipper Kenny Rumball when he outlined how they recovered a man overboard during last year's Round Ireland Race, a feat that earned the Dun Laoghaire man a RORC Seamanship award.

Now, Howth Yacht Club and Seacraft are running a dedicated “Man Overboard” day on Saturday 4th May. Starting at 10:00, there will be a presentation on the different ways of getting back to the MOB under sail and power, including what the other crew members can be doing to help.

Following a quick lunch, attendees will go afloat to practice. The focus will be on getting the boat back to the MOB and in a position where the MOB can be recovered. There will be an additional session with a life-sized dummy where different methods of getting the MOB back on board can be trialled.

Cost is €50 per person (including lunch and a donation to the RNLI). Bookings and payment can be made with the HYC Office ([email protected]).

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When the 17 boat fleet followed the Race Committee out into Howth Sound for the last day of the Laser Frostbite Spring Series they found the wind following its forecast pattern of slowly working its way from south to north while increasing from very light to something more robust and the rain pouring down. With a strongly ebbing tide adding to the mix, it looked like nature had decided to make the final day of the Laser Frostbite series extra challenging.

After the Race Committee had quickly relaid the course twice with the AP displayed and deciding that it was either make the most of the conditions or abandon, the fleet was started using a Black Flag and all got away cleanly.

Howth yacht club race teamThe dedicated and hard working HYC Race Committee for the Series - left to right are R. Kissane, D Jones, J Doran and L Dinneen. Not pictured are H Gallagher and N Murphy.

The wind, all four knots at a maximum, was arcing from 150 to 210 and provided the sailors with plenty of opportunity for inspired choices (or guesses?? ) of which way to go and what was really a header or lift. Darragh Sheridan got all the choices correct and he rounded the first mark with a big lead. He protected it all the way around the next two legs before finding that one lap and a short beat to the finish had been decided to be enough punishment for the fleet. There was no hope of a second race in the conditions and thus ended the Laser Frostbite Series of 2018 - 2019.

"Ronan Wallace collects the Rowan Trophy for winning the Standard Rig fleet after a very close battle with Daragh Kelleher all series"

This concludes our Spring Series, with Ronan Wallace collects the Rowan Trophy for winning the Standard Rig fleet after a very close battle with Daragh Kelleher all series. Tom Fox won the Radial Trophy, discarding a second and Sophie Gilmartin won the 4.7 fleet prize.

Huge thanks and appreciation must go to the Race Committee team of Harry Gallagher, Neil Murphy, Richard Kissane, Liam Dinneen, John Doran and David Jones. We are very lucky to have such an experienced and dedicated group looking after our very long series, which runs from the start of November to mid-March. They are out on the water, in a volunteer capacity, every week throughout the winter, giving the sailors national championship levels races courses and organisation week in week out.

We now look forward to the annual Round the Island Race next Saturday morning. This unique event should be on the bucket list for any Laser sailor. It’s a huge amount of fun, and the Skehan Trophy is considered one of the most highly sought-after and prestigious trophies in Howth Yacht Club. This is an open event, and anyone looking to join the fun can enter here

Video of yesterday's single start: 

Published in Laser
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Howth Yacht Club will soon be hosting their annual IceBreaker Dinghy Series, kicking off this year on the 24th March, and running for four Sunday mornings with two races each morning writes Cormac Farrelly. It’s a great eight-race opportunity to dig out those dinghies from their winter resting areas, and get sailors out of hibernation to kick off the 2019 season. 

The inaugural event last year was very successful, attracting 50-plus entries across six different dinghy fleets - RS400s, Lasers, RS Feva, 420s, Oppies and Toppers. IceBreakers is now a firm fixture on the HYC event calendar, and its status as an Open Event has been endorsed by Irish Sailing, who have added it to their racing line up.

howth icebreakers2A well-mixed fleet at HYC IceBreakers 2018, with RS Fevas, 420s and Optimists

The user-friendly formula certainly seems to work. Start all races on time at 10:25 and have everyone off the water by 12:30. Then a quick burger in the club afterwards, and for those who have travelled, you’re out of Howth before the Sunday traffic builds up. Then just Rinse and Repeat the following weekend……

Top Laser sailor David Quinn comments: “I’ve always enjoyed the Frostbite Series in Howth, and the Icebreaker Series is an exciting new development of that proven programme. It combines the superb organisation and race format of the Frostbites, with the nicer Spring conditions. The Sunday morning start time and quick race turnaround is perfect for those with busy weekend schedules and today’s family demands”

dave quinn3IceBreakers enthusiast Dave Quinn (HYC), who was runner-up in 2018 to overall winner Alan Ruigrok of Rush SC.

RS200 National Champion Neil Spain adds: “Ourselves - and the rest of the RS400s competing - found the series a great way to get back into the swing of things after the off season. The race area right outside the harbour is only a short sail away from the club, and the races were the perfect balance between quality time on the water with great race management as usual from HYC, and getting packed up and home by lunchtime.”

neil spain4Neil Spain in RS 400 racing highlights the convenience of the race area location

Last year, Howth’s neighbouring clubs like Skerries, Malahide, Sutton, Clontarf, Dun Laoghaire and Bray provided entrants, and HYC looks forward to welcoming them all back again this year, plus first-time IceBreakers too. 

Overall, the event in 2018 enjoyed perfect weekends with some great racing. The RS400, 420s, and Lasers competed under the Sundry fast division while Fevas and Toppers were under 'Sundry slow'. A large contingent of 25 Optimists made up the last division, and it was great to see the club buzzing with over 60 dinghy sailors coming out to race each Sunday.

howth fevas5The local RS Feva fleet is growing

In the eight race series, dinghies in the Sundry Fast and Slow divisions compete for an overall prize under PY handicap, while individual prizes for scratch results within each class are awarded for classes with more than 3 entries. It’s really interesting and very encouraging to see how well the PY handicap works. 

Even though the RS400s are lightning-quick on the racecourse, three different classes were featured in last season’s overall results – Alan Ruigrok and crew sailing their RS400 from Rush finished first overall, with veteran Laser sailor Dave Quinn a close second.

This year HYC is putting added focus on the event to encourage the continued growth of dinghy sailing at the club, and an important part of this renewed focus includes a dedicated Dinghy Race Management team, led by Harry Gallagher and Derek Bothwell to reinforce the promise of excellent racing for all classes.

varadkar juniors6The HYC Optimist sailors had a chance to meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD during his recent visit to Howth Yacht Club.

The dinghy sailors of Howth are currently on a roll with the club’s sailing achievements being recognised during the recent visit from An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, when he met Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove, HYC’s U23 World Champions in the 49er class, and also got to meet with some of the club’s young Optimist sailors.

Enter Icebreakers 2019 online here

Published in Howth YC
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For the first time during the series, the 18 boat turnout for the penultimate race of Howth Yacht Club Laser Frostbite event found themselves having to contend with fog. Adding to the challenge conditions were a strong tide and wind ranging in direction from 140 to 170 and from the 4 knots the fleet found in the Sound when they left the Harbour to a brisk 21 knots in the occasional gusts.

In both races Darragh Kelleher and Ronan Wallace battled it out at the front of the fleet all the way around the lap, sausage, lap course. In race 1 they swapped the lead three times before Ronan took the gun. In the second, Ronan grabbed the lead early on and used his off-wind speed advantage to build a comfortable lead before again crossing first. Behind them there was close racing all the way through the fleet. Conor Murphy took third place from Stephen Quinn in race 1. In race 2, Stephen's individual recall damaged his chance of a repeat and Mike Evans took third from Conor Murphy. Tom Fox took first place in the Radial fleet in both races.

Next Sunday sees the final two races being sailed, leading to the season climax, the Round the Island race, on Saturday, March 9th

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What a change a week makes! There was a certain sceptical air in the Howth Yacht Club Laser dinghy pen as sailors took off coats and searched their bags for baseball caps in very mild and sunny conditions. The breeze was perfect, with a steady 16kts, gusting in the mid-20s. However, with the gusty breeze coming from the South West and a residual swell rolling in from the East, it was tricky to keep a consistent level of heel and good boatspeed. There were plenty of 20-degree shifts, which meant a conservative and flexible strategy up the middle generally paid off.

Start line videos shows Ronan Wallace and Dan O’Connell both timed their starts to perfection to lead off the line. Dan lead at the first mark but had a couple of incidents, letting Ronan Wallace and Daragh Kelleher through. They had space to extend their lead, especially on the fast second reach. Kelleher overtook Wallace on this reach, but was passed again downwind by Wallace to take the race. Dan O’Connell finished third, with Dave Quinn in fourth and Mike Evans in fifth. The second race saw a significant lull and shift just at the gun which made for a confused start.

The breeze quickly settled back into the steady shifting pattern though. The race played out in a smilar fashion to the first, with Ronan Wallace taking the gun, from Daragh Kelleher and Dan O’Connell. Mike Evans passed Dave Quinn at the last gybe mark to reverse their positions from the first race.

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New Years’ Resolutions and a fresh start for 2019 led to our biggest Laser turnout of the winter so far in Howth Yacht Club. A favourable forecast also helped. Conditions were perfect for Laser racing, with the wind starting off from the West at 9 knots and moved slowly right all morning, picking up to 22 knots by the end of the second race. 26 boats launched, one of biggest fleets of the season so far, including good representation of Radials and 4.7s. West to North West is the ideal direction for racing in Howth Sound, with relatively flat water and very little land influence over the breeze. We get steady oscillating shifts most of the time. However, yesterday was particularly tricky, with the wind veering and the ebbing spring tide flowing down the beat. The fleet was faced with the decision on whether to go left for the slacker water or right to maximise the benefit from the wind shift. Most of the fleet decided to play the shifts up the middle, protecting the right, but trying to stay out of the tide as much as possible.


The fleet was tightly bunched, but after a late start, Daragh Kelleher made the correct call, and came screaming in from the left corner to lead at the first mark. Dave Quinn, Eoin Delap, Stephen Quinn and Conor Murphy were all tightly bunched behind. Daragh led for the first lap, and maintained his lead for the rest of the race, despite a risky second beat where he attempted to avoid the tide on the island side of the course (much to the amusement of sailors after racing!). Dave Quinn finished second, with Ronan Wallace recovering well from a bad first beat to finish third.

Tom Fox radialTom Fox

The second race was windier, and most sailors decided staying out of the tide was far more important than any shifts so boat speed became paramount. After a General Recall, the fleet got away in a very tight start. Daragh Kelleher, Ronan Wallace and Dan Oconnell all rounded the first weather mark together and racing was very close throughout the Olympic format Course. Daragh was able to maintain a lead on the second beat and keep Dan behind him to the finish. Ronan Wallace finished third. It was great to see a few more Radials and 4.7’s out. Tom Fox won both races again, and continues to dominate, even putting plenty of the Standard Rigs under pressure each race. Sophie Kilmartin won both races in the 4.7 rig also. 

Orlagh ThompsonOrlagh Thompson

Published in Howth YC
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Howth Yacht Club has become the latest winner of the Mitsubishi Motors “Sailing Club of the Year” Award primarily on the strength of its sailing successes through 2018 - major successes which began in February and continued until well into the Autumn writes W M Nixon. And the 1895-founded club’s busy programme afloat – it has been continuous since April 1974 thanks to long-established winter sailing events – comes complete with comprehensive training courses which contribute a stream of recruits for developing campaigns at all levels.

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But with its special location in the heart of a harbour at the end of a very distinct peninsula, HYC’s extensive clubhouse/marina complex also finds itself playing a significant role in its local community. In Howth, the harbour and its wellbeing is central to just about every area of economic activity. So when Howth fishermen’s leaders Sean Doran and John Lynch reckoned that the best way to bring Howth Harbour’s growing need for dredging and other improvements further up the national agenda, they went right to the top, and in conjunction with Senator Catherine Noone, arranged that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Richard Bruton, Dublin Bay North TD and Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, made a visit to the harbour in its entirety on Saturday, December 1st.

howth harbour2A unique location. Howth YC is at the centre of a fishing/sailing port which in turn is at the end of a peninsula

In company with the Mayor of Fingal, Councillor Anthony Lavin, and guided by Harbour Master Harry McLoughlin, the visitors had much to see and learn, for Sean Doran has a very broad view of what Howth Harbour already achieves, and how it could all be further developed without impairing the place’s attractive and colourful character.

So in line with the Doran vision, the visit concluded with cups of tea and an information exchange session in Howth Yacht Club with Commodore Joe McPeake and members who were representative of all aspects of sailing, right from absolute beginners to Olympic 49er U23 Gold Medallists Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove.

varadkar mcpeake3An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar discussing Howth Harbour developments with HYC Commodore Joe McPeake

dickson varadkar waddilove4An Taoiseach in HYC with 49er Gold Medallists Robert Dickson (left) and Sean Waddilove

This friendly gathering - with everyone from active fishing representatives through waterfront business operators along the continuum to those who have taken the Irish flag to the top of the world sporting podium - really said it all about the special nature of Howth Yacht Club and the harbour it shares with so many other maritime interests. And coming as it did in December 2018, it provided an ideal vantage point to survey a remarkable year of sailing achievement that well reflected the approach to running a successful sailing club which the Mitsubishi Motors award seeks to promote and encourage.

Mitsubishi Motors is Irish sailing’s most committed longterm sponsors, as they have supported the “Sailing Club of the Year” accolade for 33 years. This unique and informal competition was first inaugurated in 1979 and initially only covered Leinster, but after Mitsubishi Motors had become the enthusiastic sponsors in 1986, it went nationwide and the title of “Irish Sailing Club of the Year” became one of real prestige, based on a rigorous set of standards.

An underlying purpose of the award is to highlight and honour the voluntary effort which goes into creating and maintaining the unrivalled quality of Ireland's yacht and sailing clubs, and the dedication of their members. In making their assessment, the adjudicators take many factors into consideration. In addition to the obvious one of sailing success at local, national and international levels, considerable attention is also paid to the satisfaction which members in every branch of sailing and boating feel with the way their club is run, and how effectively it meets their specific needs, while also encouraging sailing development and training.

howth yacht club5Howth YC and its marina – an effective conduit of productive interaction between sea and village

The effort and encouragement put into junior training is naturally a prime consideration, but the adjudicators also seek clear evidence of introducing newcomers from all age groups and backgrounds to sailing and encouraging them to share the friendly ambience that a healthy club provides.

The successful staging of events, whether local, national or international, is also a factor in making the assessment. The importance of dynamic and fruitful interaction with the local community is emphasised, as also is working effectively with the relevant governmental and sporting bodies, both at local and national level.

howth training6An Adult Introductory Course under way with Quest at Howth using one of HYC’s J/80s
The adjudicators expect to find a genuine sense of continuity in club life and administration. Over the years, the assessment system has been continually refined in order to be able to make realistic comparisons between clubs of varying types and size. With the competition's expansion in 1993 to include class associations and specialist national watersports bodies, the "Sailing Club of the Year" competition continues to keep pace with developing trends, while at the same time reflecting the fact that Ireland's leading sailing clubs are themselves national and global pace-setters.

Ireland’s best-known clubs have featured prominently over the years in the winners list, with the Royal Cork Yacht Club at Crosshaven heading the leaderboard for several years with five wins. Yet the Mitsubishi Motors Awards Ceremony has also seen the famous ship’s wheel trophy being handed over at convivial gatherings in smaller organisations such as Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club in the heart of Dublin, Lough Ree YC on the Shannon, and Wicklow Sailing Club on the East Coast, while “homeless” organisations such as the Shannon One Design Association, the Irish Cruising Club, and the Irish Cruiser Racing Association have also had their Year of Honour.

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This year’s winner has been the “Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year” four times previously, the most recent being ten years ago in 2009. Now, with five wins, they are – with the National YC - equal to the Royal Cork on the leaderboard.

conor fogertys bam7Conor Fogerty’s Bam! racing in the Caribbean with the Howth YC burgee much in evidence
Howth YC’s successful 2018 season began on February 8th at the annual Irish Sailing Awards at the RDS in Dublin, when the club’s Conor Fogerty was made Ireland’s “Sailor of the Year” for his victory against the odds and through ferocious storms in the Single-Handed Transatlantic race in June 2017. That is now 18 months ago, but continuity is everything in a club like Howth, and before the end of the month, Fogerty had made himself “Sailor of the Month” for February 2018 by winning his class in the stormy RORC Caribbean 600 Race.

This important international race had another Howth representative, the Michael Wright-chartered 45ft Pata Negra which took second in her class, so with a first and second in the RORC Caribbean 600 before February was out, HYC was off to a good start in 2018.

pata negra 8The 45ft Pata Negra (Michael Wright HYC) racing in the tough RORC Caribbean 600 2018 in which she placed second in class Photo: Tim Wright

But then what might have been disaster at home struck with ferocity when Storm Emma arrived at the beginning of March, with Force 12 winds from the east which almost destroyed the shed on Howth’s East Pier where seven of the Club’s historic Howth Seventeens were winter-stored.

Founded in 1898, the Howth Seventeens are so central to the heart of Howth sailing, and indeed so central to classic boat sailing in Ireland generally, that in 2001 their Class Association was awarded the Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year award in their own right. But in March 2018, the initial news from the remains of the East Pier was so pessimistic that some feared as many as all seven of the priceless vintage yachts stored there might be a total loss.

howth storm emma9Storm Emma strikes Howth on March 2nd 2018. Miraculously, none of the boats in the open on the storage pier was seriously damaged, but the breakers wreaked havoc in the sheds nearer the open sea...

rosemary damaged10…..and it was feared that several of the classic Howth 17s, including Rosemary as seen here, was beyond repair.

But then there came one of those community moments which make Howth special. As soon as the weather had relented, a voluntary group of around 20 and more - all with specialised skills or equipment - materialised at the disaster site, and by day’s end it was clear that six boats would sail again, some as soon as the season began, though others would require skilled boatbuilder Larry Archer’s services for longer. But they’d definitely sail again.

rosemary repaired11The 1907-built Howth 17 Rosemary as she is today, restored through the skills of local boatbuilder Larry Archer. Photo: David Jones
anita rebuild12The 1900-vintage Howth 17 Anita being re-built in Douarnenez in Brittany. Photo: Ian Malcolm

Only one – Anita - was a total loss, but she is now being re-built on the original ballast keel in Brittany through the good services of classic boat uber-enthusiast Ian Malcolm, and thanks to the French government’s special incentives for traditional boat-building schools. Thus the Howth Seventeens sail on, and this was further proven through the summer and in the Autumn as the class built up to 14 boats in active racing commission, with the Autumn League being won by the syndicate-owned Deilginis, originally saved from extinction in 1972 by Nick Massey, another of the “Seventeen saviours” like Ian Malcolm who believe passionately that this class is the heart of Howth sailing.

ian malcolm nick massey13Ian Malcolm (left) and Nick Massey are heirs to a 121-year-old tradition which firmly believes that the classic Howth Seventeens are the true heart of Howth sailing. Photo: W M Nixon

neil murphy howth seventeens14The 1898-founded Howth 17s, racing in their Annual Championship 2018 with the island of Ireland’s Eye in the background, include (left to right) Oonagh (Peter Courtney, built 1909), Isobel (Brian & Conor Turvey, built 1988) and Orla (Ian & Judith Malcolm, built 2017. Typical of the Howth spirit, this photo was taken by Race Officer Neil Murphy, who is himself a successful Puppeteer 22 skipper, and in addition to extensive service for Howth YC, he has served as President of the Irish Sailing Association, and chaired the Review Group which oversaw the streamlining of the National Authority to become Irish Sailing. Photo: Neil Murphy

Maybe so, but Howth is equally active on the more modern front, and you’ll get no better racing in the Greater Dublin area than in the J/109 Class, where Howth’s leading representative is Pat Kelly with Storm. In May, Pat and his mostly family crew decided they’d shift their focus for a month to Scotland, where the new RC35 class accommodates boats like the numerous J/109s. They returned having won just about everything for which they’d entered, including overall victory in the all-important Scottish Series, so that made them Ireland’s “Sailors of the Month” for May. But for good measure they went on to win the Welsh Championship in August and the RC35 Celtic Cup with it, so the Kelly family really did storm through 2018….

kelly family storm15Pat Kelly in the midst of a crew of family and friends after the J/109 Storm had swept the board in Scotland through the month of May. Photo Marc Turner

Meanwhile, June in Howth saw a visionary re-think of HYC’s core event, the annual Lambay Race which dates back to 1904 or even earlier, and it was expanded into what will now be the biennial three day Wave Regatta, a nicely-judged balance between sport and fun sponsored by Wright Hospitality, and favoured at its inauguration in 2018 by the onset of total summer weather combined with useful sailing breezes which saw Dave Cullen of the host club with the immaculate Classic Half Tonner Checkmate emerge as overall winner.

wave regatta16Howth’s three-day Wave Regatta expanded around the club’s long-established Lambay Race, started with “soft silver” weather, but concluded with the arrival of total summer. Photo: O’Brien

Checkmate was only getting going, as she went on to win her class in all the big Dun Laoghaire regattas in June and July. Then in August together with clubmate Jonny Swan’s Harmony, she went to Belgium for the Half Ton Classics Championship, and they took first and second overall, while Harmony during July had collected the overall victory in the legendary 92-boat Harbour Race at the heart of Cork Week 2018.

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Dave Cullen’s major national and international wins are made with a judiciously-selected crew of all the talents, but he showed his personal sailing skills by winning the Howth Two-Handed Race in Checkmate with his regular shipmate Aidan Beggan. And ashore, his organizational skills show themselves in many ways, not least in the annual Charity Lunch he runs each December in the clubhouse – it has been going now for ten years, many fine causes have benefitted, and in 2018 the total funds raised soared through the €100,000 mark.

checkmate at howth17Dave Cullen’s Classic Half Tonner Checkmate XV on the first day of the Howth Wave Regatta, which she won overall. Photo: O’Brien

harmony checkmate18Jonny Swan’s Harmony (foreground) with Dave Cullen’s bright blue Checkmate well-placed beyond, on their way to double success in the Half Ton Classics in Belgium in late August. Photo: Fiona Brown

While the offshore and cruiser-racer classes have been making their mark for Howth, so too have the club’s dinghy sailors, with Laser Radial sailor Aoife Hopkins spearheading a challenge towards the 2020 Olympics, while the 2024 Olympics are the target of Robert Dickson of Howth and Sean Waddilove of Skerries - in September, they set Irish sailing alight with joy when they won the Gold Medal in the U23 49er Worlds at Marseille, the culmination of a carefully-planned training and campaign programme.

dickson waddilove19Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove on their way to winning the Gold Medal in the U23 49er Worlds at Marseille in September

rocco wright20Howth’s Rocco Wright was tops at home and abroad in the Under 12s in the International Optimist

Howth has strength in depth at all age levels in dinghy sailing, with Rocco Wright one of the most promising Under 12 performers internationally in the Optimist, while Luke Turvey and others slightly further up the age ranking are also usually well into the International Optimist frame at home and abroad.

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As for the Lasers, in addition to Aoife Hopkins’ determined campaigning on the international circuit, Howth’s young McMahon family – the siblings Ewan, Jamie and Eve – have had a remarkable story of success in their respective Laser categories, an upward trajectory which continued through 2018.

mcmahon byrne21Laser star Ewan McMahon receives a host of trophies from HYC Vice Commodore Ian Byrne, who became the new Commodore of Howth YC on December 13th 2018.

“Healthy upward trajectory” has in fact been the theme in Howth YC in recent years. Like all Irish sporting clubs, it suffered at almost every level during the years of the financial crash. But managerial re-structuring and a set of determined Flag Officers put the club back on course. The movement towards this stepped up a gear when Joe McPeake became Commodore in 2016, and he made no secret of the fact that he felt Irish sailing needed to change its approach in attracting newcomers, and in positive support of this, he played the key role in establishing Quest within the club.

Quest is in effect a commercial sailing school using the fleet of club-owned boats and offering a wide variety of courses (including some done in a choice of languages), a sailing school which nevertheless is a lively part of club life, its “products” now being promoted by experienced Howth sailor and marketing executive Christina Knowles.

dickson mcpeake waddilove22Commodore Joe McPeake with Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove as YC celebrates their U23 49er Gold Medal. During his two years as Commodore, culminating in the many successes of 2018, Joe McPeake was determinedly pioneering fresh initiatives in Howth sailing and the way the club was run. Photo: Ian Dickson

But in tandem with this, Howth’s own in-club Junior Training Programme has been expanding in the past two years under the overall direction of Sara Lacy, with an additional element provided by Sarah Robertson, one of Ireland's leading proponents of the STEM! Programme – she may be a “cradle sailor” of Howth and Sutton, but her experience in sailing instruction has a strong international background.

With its 1,655 members from a wide variety of backgrounds, HYC has been able to draw on such an extensive range of talents to develop club activity that it is difficult to tell where professional input and voluntary effort begin and end. But there’s no doubt that in the day-to-day running of this complex club, in recent years the full-time yet voluntary input on the management side by people like Peter McKenna, Paddy Judge and Ian Byrne has helped to transform the club’s financial health.

sara lacy23Sara Lacy, who expanded HYC’s Junior Training Programme, was elected the new Rear Commodore at the December 2018 AGM

For Howth faces its own special challenges in that – in addition to running is own marina – it has to provide all the services afloat and ashore which, in Dun Laoghaire, are spread across several clubs and organisations, with Dublin Bay SC a uniquely experienced administrator of the main sailing programme, while the marina is a commercial project.

In Howth, they not only have to do all this themselves from under the one roof, so to speak, but when we remember that this includes running, maintaining and crewing two fully-equipped Committee Boats, plus all the fleet of support RIBs and their trained crews, then we begin to appreciate the breadth of organisation and depth of voluntary enthusiasm which is required.

star point24Star Point is one of HYC’s two substantial Committee Boats, both of which are staffed by volunteers. Photo: W M Nixon

In addition to all that, HYC has its own club-owned fleet of 35 boats of all sizes from J/80s and J/24s down to Optimists, and keeping them all in sail-ready condition is a monumental challenge. Yet this is a task which noted offshore racer Kieran Jameson has been fulfilling with aplomb, while at the same time playing a leading role in the Michael Wright challenge which secured that second place in the RORC Caribbean 600.

Howth Yacht Club is in the uniquely challenging position of having its large clubhouse/marina complex in an extensive designated leisure boat area in a busy fishing/sailing port which, in recent years, has become even more of a visitor magnet through its picturesque location and profusion of seafood restaurants with a bustling working harbour in its midst.

Thus although Commodore Joe McPeake and his busy committees have led their large membership through a season of outstanding sailing success in all areas at home and abroad, the stylish clubhouse – which was impressively new when HYC became the Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year in 1986 - is no longer the highly profitable unit it was during its first 25 years.

hyc aerial from east25Howth YC from the east. When the “new” clubhouse was first opened in 1987, Howth waterfront was much less developed, and the club’s business model was a success for 20 – 25 years. But rival attractions on the local hospitality front and changes in social habits mean that significant aspects of the clubhouse have to be re-aligned to achieve profitability, and research and planning on this is now actively under way

Partly, it has been the victim of its own success. When it was built, Howth had few trendy eating places, while many of the buildings on the West Pier were semi-derelict. But the bustle of activity around Howth Yacht Club gave the harbour fresh life, and now the West Pier is thriving with a wide selection of eating places set colourfully among marine industry workshops. So the competition for custom is intense. Then too, social habits have changed. In short, the once hugely-successful clubhouse business model is no longer valid.

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But even as HYC moves smoothly from one successful sailing year into another, a high-powered group headed by committee member Robert Dix – a former Olympic sailor, Fastnet Race class winner, All-Ireland Helmsman’s Champion, and notably experienced and successful businessman and number-cruncher – is looking at visionary concepts which could transform the clubhouse while still retaining HYC’s essential character.

It’s a formidable challenge. But when we remember that between 1982 and 1987, Howth Yacht Club moved the entire focus of its operations from the western to the eastern portion of the harbour, and trebled in size while it was doing so, then the problems of 2019’s changing world are put into a manageable perspective.

silver shamrock animal26Howth’s long-established Autumn League enjoyed classic weather in 2018 – this is Conor Fogerty’s “home boat”, the Ron Holland Half Tonner Silver Shamrock (World Champion in 1976) crossing tacks with the Formula 28 Animal (G.O’Sullivan). Photo: W M Nixon

Certainly, the way in which Howth’s main season drew to a close with the well-established Autumn League co-ordinated by Eddie Bourke in September and October was hugely encouraging – with Honorary Sailing Secretary Caroline Gore-Grimes’ overall direction, everything was in place for crisply-run racing in perfect sailing conditions which defied the advancing seasons. The sun shone, warm breezes blew, and at the end of a hundred-per-cent-completed programme, the overall and very popular winners were Algy Pearson and Alan Blay in the Puppeteer 22 Trick or Treat, top boat in another of those well-established One-Design classes which are a pillar of regular Howth club sailing.

pearson and puppeteer27Alan Pearson with the Puppeteer 22 Trick or Treat which he co-owns with Alan Blay – they were overall champions in the Howth Autumn League 2018. Photo: W M Nixon

As sure as night follows day with, the Autumn racing out of the way, the hardy men and women of the winter leagues – the Brass Monkeys for cruiser-racers and the Frostbites for Lasers - emerged from their inverted hibernation for some busy sport. But for most Howth sailors, it was time for the winter break, time for reviewing the year and meeting Government ministers and other distinguished visitors when they came to call, and time to get through the Annual General Meeting on Thursday, December 13th.

Time was when the Howth Yacht Club AGM could have its dramatic moments. But these days, the club has the good fortune to have Bernie Condy as Honorary Secretary, and what she doesn’t know about the smooth and proper running of a club and its AGM isn’t worth knowing. So with the vibrant two-year Commodoreship of Joe McPeake coming to its conclusion to be followed by what looks like being the equally vibrant Commodoreship of Ian Byrne, the large turnout of members felt confident that the remarkable year of 2018 was drawing to its successful conclusion.

Certainly the Club faces into the future with a formidable lineup of administrative energy and talent, as Paddy Judge – who somehow finds the time and energy to be a very effective voluntary club general manager – is now also Vice Commodore - while Sara Lacey, who has given new vigour and standing to the junior training programme – is Rear Commodore.

They’re supported by a Committee of all the talents, including former ISA President Neil Murphy – a formidable racing helmsman when he’s not doing Race Officer Duties – and Sam O’Byrne, whose work in encouraging new members into the club is given added validity by his own campaigning of a J/24.

The Howth club is also active in making an input into the administration of national bodies, for in addition to several roles with Irish Sailing where former President David Lovegrove is very much of Howth, the newly-elected Commodore of the Irish Cruiser-Racing Association is Howth’s Richard Colwell, who recently upgraded from a Corby 25 to the J/109 Outrajeous which he co-owns with Johnny Murphy, while the Vice Commodore and Honorary Secretary of the Irish Cruising Club are respectively Howth’s Tom Fitzpatrick and Alan Markey.

Looking ahead, 2019 will be a year of consolidation for Howth Yacht Club as initial planning is already underway for the 2020 Wave Regatta, a year which will also see the Club staging the Fireball Worlds where Event Secretary Judith Malcolm has already been putting many of the building blocks in place, with hosting the Fireball Nationals 2019 from 19th to 21st July part of the process.

beyond thunderdome28The Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race 2019 beckons Howth sailors. In 1991, the club crewed this boat Beyond Thunderdome with Gordon Maguire and Kieran Jameson as part of the successful Irish team in the Southern Cross series, which culminated in the Hobart race
Other special events in prospect include the Student Yachting Nationals with the HYC J/80s on 30-31st March, and the International Moth Flutter on 18th and 19th May, while the Lambay Race will be in its traditional form on June 1st. HYC will also be staging three Eastern Championships – for the SB20s in 4-5th May, the Squibs on 8-9th June, and the J24s on 15-16th June, while the summer’s main dinghy open event will be the Optimist Nationals from 15-18th August, all of this set in the midst of a busy week-by-week club racing programme for a club which also accommodates many non-racers with a well-supported Cruising Group.

On the boat front, Conor Fogerty will be bringing the first foiling Figaro 3 to the Irish Sea, while he and Dave Cullen are working on two different but complementary lines of thought on how to encourage more young people into offshore and cruiser racing, something which is already reflected in the early HYC entry of two of the club’s J/24s with Under-18 crews in July’s Dun Laoghaire Regatta. As to those already committed to the offshore game, we can expect a significant Howth input into the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, and the club has long had involvement with the Fastnet. But looking further afield, there’s a special box to be ticked again with another Howth campaign towards the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race.

michael and gordon29All Howthmen together – Michael Wright and Gordon Maguire in Antigua before the start of the RORC Caribbean 600, February 2018. Photo: Kieran Jameson

Howth involvement Down Under goes back a long way, as Kieran Jameson and Gordon Maguire – whose wonderful father Neville, many times Helmsman’s Champion, is still active in HYC in his 90s afloat and ashore - headed up one of the three boat Irish team in the 1991 Southern Cross Series, which culminated in success in the Sydney-Hobart race. It also resulted in Gordon Maguire’s eventual move to Australia, where he has just competed in his 21st Sydney-Hobart Race. His successes have been many, and it was as one of the world’s top professional sailors that he met up with the Howth squad in Antigua for the 2018 RORC Caribbean 600. That in itself was further impetus for a Hobart challenge, so all being well, on December 26th 2019 a Howth entry will be racing through Sydney heads, Hobart-bound.

That will be a highlight of a typically busy season for Howth boats of all shapes and sizes at home and abroad. Meanwhile, this morning Howth Yacht Club becomes Mitsubishi Motors “Sailing Club of the Year 2019” in celebration of sailing success at home and abroad, and a remarkable turnaround in the Club’s sense of purpose and well-being.

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Gerard Rice, Managing Director, Mitsubishi Motors Ireland, comments: Mitsubishi Motors Ireland, part of the Frank Keane Group, was first introduced to Ireland in 1984 and since 1986 Mitsubishi Motors has proudly sponsored the Sailing Club of the Year Award. With a reputation for all-enduring 4x4 technology and exceptional engineering with the introduction of the world’s first plug-in Hybrid, Outlander PHEV, the Mitsubishi brand is the perfect partner for the sailing community. It is with great delight that the Ship’s Wheel Trophy passes to yet another exceptional Club and its hard-working sailing community, Howth Yacht Club, for 2019.

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