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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

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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.

MITS04163 Outlander generic banner 847x90

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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A single race was deemed plenty for sailors to shake off the cobwebs at Howth Yacht Club. The Lasers got off to a great start for the 2019 season with a mild 10-12kt Westerly. The breeze shifted right, bang on schedule, but the strong ebb tide kept things interesting as heading right forced sailors out into the middle of the adverse current. The breeze ended up a few degrees past North by the end of the race.

Paul McMahon won the start and showed excellent boat speed up the beat, protecting the right but keeping out of the tide as much as possible. He rounded the first mark with a nice lead. The following pack were tightly bunched, with Daragh Sheridan in second, David Quinn third, Mike Evans fourth and Eoin Delap in fifth. A long deep reach allowed Evans and Delap to make gains. David Quinn went further right on the second beat than the others to move up to second, as McMahon maintained a comfortable lead. The bunch spread a little on the windward-leeward, and second lap, with McMahon winning the New Years Day Mug relatively easily, from Quinn in second and Evans in third. Apologies, Radial and 4.7 results not available at time of print.

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Archives are being checked as I write this, but it has certainly been the first Howth Laser Winter Series in recent memory where we didn’t even miss a single race. I suspect we may have to go back more than 10 years to find the last time a full set of races was completed in the November December series.

Those who say winter dinghy sailing is only for the slightly crazy die-hards should take note! Credit must go to the highly experienced race management team, including Harry Gallagher, Neil Murphy, Richard Kissane and Liam Dineen who were dynamic enough to set courses to suit the prevailing conditions and ensure we got so many races completed. 

The final day of the 2018 Winter Series was also the lightest, with winds ranging from 9-12kts from the South, with very flat water. There was some relief in the fleet as we could focus on sailing fast rather than just keeping the boat upright like last week. Boat speed was key, and Dan O’Connell sailed a superb set of races. He won both starts and showed some serious boat speed in race one to take the bullet from Ronan Wallace. Dan also led for most of race 2 before Wallace, true to form, took the lead in a very close race to the finish. Mike Evans took third in race 1 with Dave Quinn taking third in race 2. 

After some festive chat in the bar to celebrate the end of the series, sailors now look forward to the New Years’ Day Race at 12pm. All welcome.

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Most sailing folk in Ireland and abroad will know Dave Cullen as the amiable yet very determined owner-skipper of the immaculately-maintained and precision-campaigned Half Ton Classic Checkmate XV, the current World Champion writes W M Nixon.

But if you are anywhere within the orbit of his home club of Howth, you’ll know there’s another side to Dave. He is a formidably successful one-man charitable fund-raising organisation, the highlight of his activities in this area being an annual (and always booked-out) lunch in Howth Yacht Club which sees the Christmas season off to a flying start.

2018’s was held on Friday. And it marked ten years of Dave’s determined staging of this mega-event, with the money raised over the magic decade for various highly-regarded organisations soaring through the €100,000 mark.

This time round, the beneficiary was Vincent de Paul for the first time. But Dave spreads the net wide, and other charities which have come within his benevolent scope have included Laura Lynn, the Bobby Bastow Cancer Fund, the Bombolulu Primary School project in Mombasa, St Francis Hospice, and the Joe English Trust.

dave cullen2Dave Cullen – ace owner-skipper afloat, and one-man charity fund raising organisation ashore

To help him in his good work, he recruits star sporting speakers such as Harry Cudmore, Eddie Warden Owen, Ian Walker, and Isac Boss, while lively auctions are another part of the mix. Everybody has a good time, and at the end of it there’s a substantial donation to the charity of the year.

But Dave Cullen’s interest doesn’t stop there – he is known to quietly get on with follow-up support for some of the smaller organisations which have attracted his interest. And as for how to run a show like this and where to source the necessary equipment - as he does it all himself, he is an immediate and generous fount of information for anyone seeking to do the same.

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The mild Autumn / Winter shows no sign of letting up, with another nice morning for the Howth Lasers again this week. Illness, injury and possibly some early Christmas celebrations depleted the fleet this week, but the competition was still as fierce as ever. With the wind switching around to 245 degrees, we had much flatter seas than last week. Flat out boat speed was essential along with plenty of endurance! Winds ranged from 19 to 27 knots initially for first race. Ronan Wallace started at the committee boat and controlled the fleet throughout the race. Behind him there was a close battle for places 2 to 5 with a very gusty gybe mark causing problems for many. Conor Murphy was unlucky to lose out on 2nd place with a broken outhaul line just at the final leeward mark. Dave Quinn took second and Conor Costello third.

The breeze moderated to between 12 and 17 knots for the 2nd race. Dave Quinn lead off the line, but Conor Costello showed some great speed to lead round the first mark. They exchanged places for the next lap before Ronan Wallace took the lead on the second lap with his lightning fast speed on the broad reaches. This was a much tighter race with nothing to separate 2nd to 5th place again right to the finish. It finished with Wallace getting another bullet and Quinn second, with Mike Evans coming through to take 3rd.

There are two more weeks to go before the Christmas break, and the Laser flhasave Christmas drinks planned for all competitors after the final race of the Winter Series on Sunday 16th. The annual New Years Day race will also take place this year, with a single race at the slightly later start time of 11:45. All are welcome.

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In his address to the invited guests at Howth Yacht Club on 23rd November and marking his closing weeks as Commodore of the club, Joe McPeake took the opportunity to share his thoughts on the current position and future possibilities of the sport of sailing in Ireland. The following text is taken from the speech that he gave and presents views that might echo around the Irish sailing scene.

‘Members and special guests are all welcome, as you are all here because each and every one of you has participated in ensuring that this club enjoys a remarkable and successful history, a continuing story which is maintained with your participation in evolving and expanding our core sport of sailing as well as playing a major part in the community.

Your contribution and efforts over the years have ensured that today we enjoy this pace-setting organisation with all its state-of-the-art facilities. Optimising our use of these facilities is always HYC’s main objective, and on this I would particularly like to thank all those sponsors who helped ensure that our sailing events were well funded and organised, helping them to achieve their true potential.

This week has been a spectacular week from an Irish sporting point of view, when we remember last Saturday’s great victory by the Irish rugby team over the world’s Number Ones –– the All Blacks.

Whatever view you take, it certainly showed that we as a nation have the capacity once again to perform way above our weight. It also shows how a sport which - 25 years ago - was a ‘minority exclusive’ sport, has now grown spectacularly through proper planning and strategising, to become one of Ireland’s favourite sports, second only to the great GAA.

clubhouseHowth Yacht Club clubhouse

We in the sailing community face this challenge of building growth today. We need to address the challenges from other sports at a time when the entire country has to keep a cool head when the situation in our nearest neighbour is decidedly un-cool. Presently we are in the midst of the Brexit debate which has reminded us very clearly that we are an island nation.

We are surrounded by the sea. But unfortunately, for many decades we have looked inwards, away from the sea. Yet we have incredible natural resources emanating from our coastal waters around Ireland, and not just through fisheries. We have spectacular sailing areas incredible diving sites and magnificent sports fishing. We have wonderful beauty along the coastline. We have seen how successful the Wild Atlantic Way campaign has been for tourism. Yet we have not harnessed the greatest asset that we have, which is the ever-present sea’s potential to maximise marine-related sports.

Look at our European counterparts - especially France, Spain and Portugal - who totally involve their education and municipal authorities in the whole ethos of sea sports and activities. Children are educated almost from the first days in schools about the sea, and they are trained in boating skills among others as a matter of course.

Then we look at Ireland, and realise that sadly, we are way behind in this integration of water-based activities and knowledge into our national life.

And does this have serious consequences? It most certainly does. Coming to the end of my two-year term as Commodore of this great club, I am more than ever clear that the existing structures within clubs throughout the country are not sustainable in the long-term.

The change in our social makeup involving greater participation from people who were not born in Ireland, and the economic costs of the sport, will (in my view) mean that unless the sport dramatically changes its focus and structure, it will decline.

This might sound negative, but unfortunately, it is the reality. The perception of sailing as being exclusive rather than inclusive is widespread within our own community. This is the perception, and inevitably it is taken up within the new Irish community.

"This means that the sport needs to fully integrate ‘watercraft’ into the primary and secondary educational system"

Can this negative perception be tackled? Of course, it can. We need to make the sport more accessible to all in the first instance. This means that the sport needs to fully integrate ‘watercraft’ into the primary and secondary educational system. And not only is it a sporting matter, but it is also a safety issue by virtue of the amount of coastline, rivers and lakes that we have.
We need through our local authorities to develop a program that involves all of the young people in watercraft courses.

In HYC this year, we developed a STEM programme that meant that we had all of the primary schools in the area participate in one-day educational courses. This focused on topics like: the effect of tides, the impact of plastic in the seas, safety and an experience on sailing boats among others.

This is only the beginning of a programme that needs to be developed throughout the country to make young people experience the joy and special satisfaction of being on the water. Watercraft and skills need to be developed at a young age within the educational system.

"Unless we give young people this opportunity and make it widely available, our sport will continue to attract only small numbers"

Unless we give young people this opportunity and make it widely available, our sport will continue to attract only small numbers. Such relatively small numbers will not be enough to support the sport’s viability in the long term. Yet again, the message is we need to make the sport more inclusive.

HYC partners with the ‘Sailing Into Wellness’ program, a superb initiative that uses sailing to help those recovering from addictions. You will see from this video the powerful impact that our sport can provide to help those less fortunate than us. 

We are active partners with the Sea Scouts and many other clubs and community groups. We are open to partnering with any group that has a common purpose of enjoying water sports. Our governing body Irish Sailing needs to urgently address this fundamental strategy. Performance sailing and international success is very important, but without a nursery of talent, results will not follow.

The sport needs to get greater numbers and at a younger age involved in sailing. It needs to be driving a strategy to ensure that all schools and all sailing clubs develop an integrated activity and educational platform.

One could look at the Leinster and Munster rugby academies and the development through the schools of their talents. It is at the schools where it starts, and while not everyone will reach the top ranks in competitive sailing, everyone involved will undoubtedly benefit.

Without that quantity which generous and genuine inclusivity brings, success will not flourish.

We are lucky in Howth to have had, and continue to have, many superb sailors. The club has provided a base for young sailors to get a grounding, with our unique facilities being made available to them. We intend to offer this to far more than heretofore.

Nevertheless, to excel they need considerable access to their own special resources allied with their own admirable determination. Yet it is only when they have achieved a certain level – and it’s a very high level too - that any state support kicks in.

To reach that level, our club has to do everything it can to help young sailors. You will have seen highlights that some of our talented members and the commitment that they have made and are making.

To summarise: Sailing is being challenged. If not addressed, it will suffer and decline. But with an integrated strategy, it has the potential to flourish and grow. It needs the governing body to re-focus, and create a link between the schools and the clubs, and it needs to communicate with its members and potential members.

We have made a new start here in Howth. We are developing QUEST, our sailing school open to all.

We are developing further the STEM educational program. We are developing sailing courses through languages. Our Quest website now invites people to participate in sailing in four languages. Chinese, Polish, French and Spanish (as well as English of course!)

LearnToSail 1 StartSailingHowth's new Quest sailing school

We are integrating with other organisations and clubs such as the Sea Scouts to widen and to provide facilities for those showing the slightest interest to readily experience the joys of watercraft.

But locally successful initiatives and ‘piecemeal’ programmes by a few enlightened clubs will not be enough. Our hope is that our aspirations for Howth will be reflected at a national level and all around our coastline. Ultimately, we’re all in this together.

Thank you for coming. Thank you for listening.

Joe McPeake
Commodore Howth Yacht Club

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