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In Ireland, we're living through the Decade of Centenaries in terms of marking conflict-laden historical events and major national happenings ashore. So it says everything about the blissful sense of having a world of our own in sailing that in 2021 and 2022, Ireland-on-the-water is likewise in the midst of celebrating the Centenary of the establishment of two very significant and thriving boat classes, classes which are in such good heart today that you'd assume they came into being in a time of piping peace and powerful prosperity.

You can say a lot about the tumultuous years of 1921 and 1922 in Ireland. But "piping peace and powerful prosperity" is not a phrase that would spring readily to mind. Yet despite the turmoil of the times with Northern Ireland emerging in 1921 and the Irish Free State being recognised in 1922, in 1921 the new Alfred Mylne-designed Bermuda-rigged sloops of the River Class One-Designs of 28ft 3ins LOA started racing on Belfast Lough. And in 1922, racing started on the great lakes of our longest river for the new una-rigged Shannon One Designs - the Sods, as they immediately and inevitably became known. 

Walter Levinge building a Shannon OD on the shores of Lough Ree. In a long association with the class from 1922 onwards, he built sixty of this class in addition to other clinker types such as Water Wags and Mermaids.Walter Levinge building a Shannon OD on the shores of Lough Ree. In a long association with the class from 1922 onwards, he built sixty of this class in addition to other clinker types such as Water Wags and Mermaids.

Designed by Morgan Giles and built by the best of the local craftsmen, the new 18ft clinker-built boats were a very refined sailing development of the classic Irish lakeboat. Racing was mustard-keen from the start, so all construction was of the permitted minimum weight, resulting in a hull which – when hard on the wind in a bit of a breeze – "would turn round and look at

From the inauguration of the class, it was realised that hull flexibility was an inevitable factor which had to be accommodated in a successful Shannon One Design From the inauguration of the class, it was realised that hull flexibility was an inevitable factor which had to be accommodated in a successful Shannon One Design 


The Rivers by contrast are of hefty form, and not afraid of carrying a bit of extra weight. In fact, it's the contrast which sailing a River provides - when set against the experience of racing an ultra-light turn-on-a-sixpence modern machine - which is a part of the boats' charm. Though they're no slouches in terms of speed, things may happen slowly when manoeuvring. But they happen very surely too. Collisions can be epic, so thinking well ahead to the next close interaction with other boats is part of a successful River sailor's mental makeup.

While it's believed they were the world's first Bermuda-rigged One-Design, it's surprising how little has been made of this – other than by River Class aficionados - either now or at the time of their inception. For when the boats were first being discussed in 1919, the use of Bermuda rig was primarily for its relative ease of handling rather than innovation for its own sake.

A heavy boat which is a One-Design racing success – the 2021 River Class Centenary Regatta Champion Enler (Graham Smyth) chasing Shimna, which has been owned by the Andrews family since 1924. Photo: W M NixonA heavy boat which is a One-Design racing success – the 2021 River Class Centenary Regatta Champion Enler (Graham Smyth) chasing Shimna, which has been owned by the Andrews family since 1924. Photo: W M Nixon

Somewhere it is mentioned – though quite where nobody now knows – that when the early discussions were under way about the new class, it was stated that a basic requirement was that the new boat "should be capable of being raced by a man and his daughters".

Sadly, this is far from being an enlightened early initiative to promote Women on Water. On the contrary, it was an expression of hidden loss. Before World War I broke out in 1914, the northern waters of Ireland were home to several labour-intensive spectacularly-rigged boat classes which sported demanding jackyard topsails and the like, boats such as the "old" Belfast Lough No 1s, the new Island Class yawls, a nascent class of International 8 Metres, the Belfast Lough Star Class, and quite a few hard-raced cruiser-racers.

Belfast Lough-style sailing, pre-1914. The Cultra-based cruiser-racer Lily Maid of Royal North of Ireland YC racing in Clyde Fortnight 1910. Photo: Courtesy RNIYCBelfast Lough-style sailing, pre-1914. The Cultra-based cruiser-racer Lily Maid of Royal North of Ireland YC racing in Clyde Fortnight 1910. Photo: Courtesy RNIYC

But with the huge loss of life sustained among the fittest young men in the Great War, the able topsail-setters and spinnaker hands never returned. Or if they did return, it was as disabled ex-servicemen. At its most extreme, it could be argued that that the River Class emerged from the Battle of the Somme. But in fact although the war ended in 1918, what with the severe post-war economic depression and the ravages of the Spanish flu epidemic, it was 1925 by the time Belfast Lough sailing had returned to anything like its pre-1914 levels in what had been the Golden Age of Yachting.

Thus the Rivers were probably seen by some as a poor substitute for the spectacular racing yachts of the Golden Age, but they were soon proving themselves very capable craft. Although they had originated in Belfast Lough in the Royal Ulster YC, the wealthy landowners around Strangford Lough were soon snapping them up, such that by the 1930s, every self-respecting big house around Strangford Lough had a River moored at the bottom of the garden.

Saturday afternoon perfection – the century-old River Class racing on Strangford Lough. Photo courtesy River ClassSaturday afternoon perfection – the century-old River Class racing on Strangford Lough. Photo courtesy River Class

This development – and the many others which saw the class increased to twelve boats all of which took part in the 2021 Centenary – is detailed in its proper context in the excellent Centenary history, The Strangford Lough River Class by James Nixon. And yes, he is the brother, despite which it really is a superb and profusely-illustrated book.

You'll note that they're now called the Strangford Lough River Class, for since the late 1930s the class's home has been Strangford Lough YC at Whiterock. Before that, they had that period of being the "boats from the big houses", the playthings of the rich and powerful. In 1930s Northern Ireland, this meant that while the Ulster Farmers' Union was "The Unionist Party Up On A Tractor", the River Class was "The Upper Echelons of the Unionist Party Out In A Boat".

"Back from the dead". Kenny Smyth with his restored River Class Laragh in 1990 after she'd spent fifteen years forgotten in a field. Photo: W M Nixon"Back from the dead". Kenny Smyth with his restored River Class Laragh in 1990 after she'd spent fifteen years forgotten in a field. Photo: W M Nixon

Round Ireland legend Dickie Gomes at the helm of the River Class Uladh – like many Alfred Mylne designs, the Rivers benefit from keeping crew weight forward. Photo: W M NixonRound Ireland legend Dickie Gomes at the helm of the River Class Uladh – like many Alfred Mylne designs, the Rivers benefit from keeping crew weight forward. Photo: W M Nixon

Be that as it may, several of the class have come through the inevitable period of being seen as old tore-outs of no further value to become - by some miracle of survival – classics whose intrinsic worth merits restoration. The shipwrights' skills of the Smyth family of Whiterock Boatyard played a leading role in having these fine boats in peak order for their class's hundredth birthday in 2021, and Graham Smyth in the immaculate Enler (no 12, originally built 1936) won the Centenary Series in a busy season which involved, as usual, the Rivers' stately involvement in the rough and tumble of the Narrows Regatta down at Portaferry and Strangford village. 


In terms of boat styles and sailing locations, the River Class and the Shannon One Designs could not be more different. And that -added to simple geographical separation - means there are probably very few people who have raced in both. Your columnist makes this point out of total self-interest, as he happens to be one of them, having raced in the Rivers at Whiterock with Brian Law in Uladh to achieve a bullet and a third in evening races, and at Kircubbin Regatta a very very long time ago with the late Jack Andrews in Shimna, when we notched a second.

The Andrews family have owned Shimna since 1924, so this was River Class Immersion Therapy in a big way. But the Shannon One Designs can well match it, as I realised when getting the Royal Command from Alf Delany to join him for two races in the Shannon One Designs Golden Jubilee Regatta at Dromineer in August 1972.

Feeble excuses about knowing nothing whatever about SOD sailing were airily dismissed by the great man - a multiple champion and former Olympian - with the comment that if I proved to be useless at everything else, then I could always be the bailer-hand. That was not encouraging for someone raised in the safety of keelboat culture, but when we started sailing it was hectic from the word go, as the fleet was so large that we seemed to be racing against a new wave of boats with every tack.

And despite having only one sail to set and trim, it was a continuous surprise to learn how much work was required with a crew of three to keep a Shannon One Design at optimum performance, particularly with a neophyte crewman disguising a severe case of imposter syndrome and somehow managing not to be found out, even when asked to take a spell at the helm.

Keeping a Shannon One Design in optimum racing mode is definitely a three-person challenge. Photo courtesy SODAKeeping a Shannon One Design in optimum racing mode is definitely a three-person challenge. Photo courtesy SODA

Fortunately, they were only brief periods of steering, and Alf's genius ensured that we were in the frame in both races, by which time I was well knackered. Thus the message is that if you want to experience a totally new kind of sailing without leaving the island, then inveigle your way aboard a SOD. But take care that your initial introduction is for one day only, as you'll head away from Dromineer or Ballyglass or wherever with aches and bruises in muscles that you didn't even know existed.

It may at times be torture, but it's exquisite torture – the Shannon One Designs are so perfectly suited to sailing our larger lakes that they've become the very expression of them. And despite the hard-driving they receive, they are built with the sort of loving attention that is reserved for works of art, with the style being set by the first main builder, Walter Levinge of Lough Ree, who started in 1922 and had built sixty SODs by the time of his death, with the mantle being taken up by Jimmy Furey of Lecarrow, who was so much his own man that he was largely self-taught, yet his boats and boat models won awards for creative skill.

The wonder of the Shannon One Designs has been well matched by the colourful characters who sail them. As Class Chairman Philip Mayne and Honorary Secretary Naomi Algeo and their helpers beaver away to put together a manageable Centenary programme even as we wonder just how much of the pandemic will still linger next year to hamper events, we'll know that in addition to possible difficulties of nationwide health circumstances, they'll be dealing with a numerous class of such individuality that getting co-ordinated activity is sometimes akin to herding cats at a cross-roads.

Shannon OD Hon. Sec Naomi Algeo with her father, longtime SOD sailor and former Lough Ree YC Commodore Alan.Shannon OD Hon. Sec Naomi Algeo with her father, longtime SOD sailor and former Lough Ree YC Commodore Alan.

That said, they'll be celebrating the Centenary of a class which was brought into being despite the country being in general turmoil. Apparently a face-to-face meeting was required of the Steering Committee in 1922 to finalise rules, and two lakeside members decided the safest way to get to it was aboard a motor-launch belonging to one of them. Being proper yotties, they put on proper yachting caps. Big mistake. The word spread along the lake shore like wildfire that an organized uniformed waterborne military patrol of hostile intent was clearly on the move. Somehow it was all calmed down, but according to one report, lead flew before peace broke out.

"Like herding cats at a crossroads" – during a semi-formal visit to Lough Derg YC, former Lough Ree YC Commodore Alan Algeo decided that some water-skiing would be appropriate"Like herding cats at a crossroads" – during a semi-formal visit to Lough Derg YC, former Lough Ree YC Commodore Alan Algeo decided that some water-skiing would be appropriate

Published in W M Nixon

Many people who visit Ireland's sea coasts under sail are unaware that they're really only seeing half of the story. For the unseen inland Ireland is a vast watery place of myriad lakes and winding waterways, so much so that it's said of Fermanagh - the most completely watery county of all - that for six months of the year, the lakes are in Fermanagh, but for the other six months, Fermanagh is in the lakes.

Be that as it may, in times past, the waterways played a key role for the transport of goods and people. So inevitably, as some folk became more affluent than others, their personal transport boats began to reflect this, and before anyone really knew where they were, they'd become yachts. Then, Ireland being Ireland, yacht clubs soon followed, with Lough Ree Yacht Club formed in 1770, Lough Erne YC in 1820, and Lough Derg YC in 1835.

Thus the inner Ireland, far from being a vague reflection of coastal Ireland, is a thriving sailing world complete unto itself. But while its very varied sailing accommodates many boat types, there is one unique craft that symbolises its special character - the una-rigged Shannon One Design. 

Shannon One Designs in a "One-Reef Breeze". The long slim clinker-built hulls are so flexible that it's said "they can turn round and look at you".Shannon One Designs in a "One-Reef Breeze". The long slim clinker-built hulls are so flexible that it's said "they can turn round and look at you"

The class may or may not be celebrating its Centenary in 2022, for as I recall from crewing with the class deity Alf Delany at Dromineer in a special regatta in 1972 to celebrate the SODs' Golden Jubilee, there were those there who argued they were a year out, as it was all to do with whether or not you count the first year as zero or one…..

Either way, they're gorgeous boats which may have been seen sailing on the saltwater at classics regattas at Dun Laoghaire and Glandore, but somehow they never look completely right except when sailing on their own great lakes, or else taking part in the 40-plus miles Long Distance Race from Lough Ree down the Shannon to Lough Derg.

Though the prevailing south to southwest wind will make it a beat down Shannon from Lough Ree to Lough Derg, every so often some meandering of the river will provide a brief few moments of fair windThough the prevailing south to southwest wind will make it a beat down Shannon from Lough Ree to Lough Derg, every so often some meandering of the river will provide a brief few moments of fair wind

This involves an overnight stop at Shannonbridge, where the hot rum and chocolate at Killeen's bar & grocery at the top of the street is renowned for bringing exhausted SoDs back to life, for in getting there from Athlone, they may well have made more tacks than could be counted, and in all, there are only two locks to provide a break.

A class like this evolves its own mythology, often comprehensible only to those closely involved. But fortunately, over the years, people like Douglas and Ruth Heard and others were recording it on film from a time well before everybody had a film camera whenever they took out their mobile phone.

Thanks to those pioneers, the class are having a closed Zoom session on Saturday night for a showing, commentary and discussion around Ruth Heard's 8mm movie of the 1988 Shannon One Design season, a show which will then be available to the world at large on YouTube in due course.

While the 1921-designed Shannon One Design may not have a standard planing hull, given enough breeze a helm with nerves of steel can get her riding the bow-wave with the best of themWhile the 1921-designed Shannon One Design may not have a standard planing hull, given enough breeze a helm with nerves of steel can get her riding the bow-wave with the best of them

While the 1921-designed Shannon One Design may not have a standard planing hull, given enough breeze a helm with nerves of steel can get her riding the bow-wave with the best of them.

Published in Inland Waterways
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The traditional and classic wooden boat-building movement is gaining momentum in many parts of the world. It can be part of educational and training schemes which provide skills and purpose in life, usually for young people but also for older folk seeking a new and very absorbing interest. Or it could be to preserve an indigenous boat type whose very survival is at risk. Then again, it may be for the simple pleasure of creating something which produces a tangible result from a satisfying personal project, or a worthwhile community effort. Whatever the reason, Irish sailing’s long history enables it to make a unique contribution to today’s proliferation of classic and traditional newly-built or restored craft emerging from workshops large and small in many parts of the world. W M Nixon looks at some aspects of a fascinating trend.

The half century or so between 1890 and 1945 will be seen by most historians as a period of exceptional global hostility, certainly as measured by the number of wars which were fought during it. So it’s remarkable that an activity like recreational sailing, which needs peaceful conditions to thrive, should have developed so much during that turbulent time.

Admittedly much of the development took place in the “Golden Era” between 1890 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914. But progress was being made in sailing for much of the rest of the period despite the often unfavourable conditions. And for Ireland, that historic time of progress is being reflected today in the number of historic designs for Irish classes which are now first choice for boat-building schools, and other special projects, in many countries including Ireland itself.

dublin bay 21 garavogue2The Alfred Mylne-designed Dublin Bay 21 Garavogue, new-built and ready for launching by James Kelly of Portrush in 1903. Photo courtesy Robin Ruddock

During that half century between 1895 and 1945 when many new local one design classes appeared, Ireland had a pioneering role, as the One Design concept had been first promoted by Thomas “Ben” Middleton’s Water Wags in Dublin Bay in 1887. Thus it was always an innovation which had special resonance in the Irish context, an ideal which it seemed only natural to follow.

Then too, the Royal Alfred YC of Dublin Bay had been promoting the virtues of amateur sailing since 1870 and earlier, so the level playing field provided by One-Designs was a natural follow-on for continuing such enthusiasm. But sustained and long-time support for a particular One-Design type – once it had proved itself satisfactory for the waters on which it sailed – also had much to do with the geography and social structure of Irish sailing.

Put simply, most sailors of the new and growing one design classes in Ireland lived in close proximity to where their boat were based and raced. In contrast elsewhere, thanks to the comprehensive 19th Century railway systems very effectively serving large conurbations such as London and Paris - and to a lesser extent Glasgow and New York - when the weekend was over, many owners and crews headed back to town, sometimes over quite long distances from their boat’s home port.

garavogue sailing3Garavogue in the final stages of a race when the finishes were still within Dun Laoghaire Harbour. Her owner and crew would have lived within easy reach of the harbour, and the comfortable social bonds within the DB21 class contributed to its long life from 1902 to 1986.

But in Ireland, whether it was Cork, Dublin or Belfast, the boat was always nearby, you might meet your fellow sailors quite often during the working week, and evening racing was an important part of the programme. In the greater Dublin area in particular, the cohesive nature of society meant that once a class was popularly established, it thrived so much that some boats from the late 1890s and early 1900s are still in existence and actively racing today.

This means that when a boat-building school seeks a meaningful design which will give added depth to their activities, they know they only have to turn to the wide selection of historic Irish classes to find a boat of suitable size which will have an element of international recognition, it will give those building her an encouraging sense of connection to the past for instructors and trainees alike, and at a practical level, they know there’ll be a diligent class measurer to keep them on track as the job progresses.

A further alternative technical element is added when the no-longer-seaworthy old hull of a revered classic is acquired, and it is then patiently analysed in a process which is a mixture of dissection, re-build and re-creation. Either way, whether building from scratch, or re-creating through various levels of re-building, the learning process is given many useful extra facets.

water wag4Water Wags in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. Founded as a class of 13-footers in 1887 and re-born in this larger 14ft 3in version by designer Maimie Doyle in 1900, they have become one of the most popular Irish classic designs for boat-building schools. Photo: W M Nixon

And as Irish sailors were not shy in asking designers of international repute to create their new One Designs for them, these re-build or new-build projects may have the added lustre of classic stardom with their undoubted historical significance. Thus in recent years while we may have had new boats being built to the old designs of Irish designers such as Maimie Doyle, Hebert Boyd, John B Kearney and O’Brien Kennedy, equally builders from abroad have been in touch with class associations and other sources in Ireland in order to re-create boats to the designs of William Fife and Alfred Mylne of Scotland, and Morgan Giles of England.

Thus at the moment we have Water Wags being built in Spain and America, Dublin Bay 24s are at various stages of being re-created in Spain, America and France, in France they have also built a Howth 17, another Water Wag and a Shannon One Design, it’s said there’s a Howth 17 being built in the boat-building training school attached to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, and not surprisingly we hear of enquiries made of Irish class association from those havens of DIY boat-building enterprise, Australia and New Zealand.

howth seventeens early5Two of the new Howth 17s in their first season in 1898, before sail numbers had been allocated.

howth seventeen orla6The Howth 17 Orla under construction at the Skol ar Mor boat-building school in France, May 2017

In fact, if we look at the range of living or still very well remembered classes in Ireland which have the potential to make designs available for such classics projects, the choice is remarkably comprehensive in size and type. They range through the 14ft IDRA 14s (O’Brien Kennedy, 1946), the 13ft and now 14ft 3ins Water Wags (R A MacAllister 1887 & Maimie Doyle 1900), the Castletownshend Ettes of the 1930s come in at 16ft, at 17ft you have both the Shannon One Designs (Morgan Giles 1922) and the Mermaids (John Kearney 1932), at 18ft we’re already into keelboats and the Belfast Lough Waverleys (John Wylie 1902), move up to 22ft and you have the Linton Hope-designed Fairy Class (1902) on both Belfast Lough and Lough Erne, and there were also the Fife-designed Belfast Lough Class IIIs of 1896, and then at 22ft 6ins there are the Howth 17s by Herbert Boyd (1898).

Up at 25ft there are the Glens (Alfred Mylne, 1945) in Dun Laoghaire Harbour and on Strangford Lough, and also on Strangford Lough at 28ft 6ins there are the Rivers (Alfred Mylne, 1920). Moving towards the 30-31ft mark, we have the Cork Harbour One Designs (William Fife 1896) and the Dublin Bay 21s (Alfred Mylne 1902), and finally above that, with all of them around the 37ft 6ins LOA size, are the Belfast Lough Class I (Fife 1897), the Dublin Bay 25s (Fife 1898) and the Dublin Bay 24s (Mylne, 1938).

river class7Strangford Lough River Class – designed by Alfred Mylne in 1920, they are believed to be the world’s first Bermudan-rigged One Design. Photo: W M Nixon

db24 periwinkle8The Dublin Bay 24 Periwinkle, an Alfred Mylne design of 1938, was restored in France

The attraction of such a good selection is that anyone minded to re-create a classic with a distinguished design and sailing provenance can choose a boat of manageable size from the range available in Ireland. A genuine classic doesn’t have to be a biggie. Keeping it manageable – and in many cases keeping it comfortably trailerable – is the secret of a harmonious project, and the eclectic list of classic projects available for sourcing in Ireland not only offers boats of every size and type up to 40ft, but you can come to Ireland and absorb the atmosphere of the places where the idea of the boat was first conceived, and meet current enthusiasts for sailing the boat which gives a vibrant connection both to the present and the past.

Don’t assume, though, that though it may be happening abroad, there’s nothing going on in Ireland. On the contrary, the possibilities of the Irish classics have been exploited every which way. Serial classics enthusiast Hal Sisk of Dun Laoghaire has instigated so many projects that it’s difficult keeping track, but his CV includes the Peggy Bawn, new Water Wags built in classic style, glassfibre Colleens from an 1897 design, and currently the building of a Dublin Bay 21 from the original ballast keel upwards by Steve Morris of Kilrush, utilising multi-skin construction based on laminated frames.

naneen inside9New life for the 1902-designed DB 21 Naneen in Steve Morris’s workshop in Kilrush. Photo: Steve Morris

naneen profile10The construction method may be new, but that’s undoubtedly the classic hull of a DB 21 emerging in Kilrush. Photo: Steve Morris

As for Jimmy Furey on the Roscommon shores of Lough Ree, his examples of completely traditional classic style construction of Shannon One Designs and Water Wags – working most recently with Cathy MacAleavey – results in what can only be described as Chippendale work, while down in Ballydehob in West Cork there’s a whole nest of classic restorers, with Rui Ferreira setting quite a pace with new Ettes, a restored Kim Holman Stella, and a much-revived Howth 17.

ettes racing11The Castlehaven Ette Class – Rui Ferreira has been building to this design

Over on the east coast, when times are hectic in classic boatbuilding, people have found that John Jones over in Anglesey does a very good line in stylish clinker construction, but the venerable Howth 17s – not all of which are operated on large budgets – are currently being kept going by Larry Archer of Malahide, who has a workshop up-country where three of these golden oldies are currently receiving the TLC.

asgard dinghy12 1Asgard’s dinghy was re-created in classic style by Larry Archer. Photo: W M Nixon

Larry is something of a renaissance man in the boat maintenance, repair and building arena, as he is right up to speed with everything to do with glassfibre, yet when Pat Murphy and his group got together to re-create Asgard’s dinghy, it was Larry Archer who delivered the goods, beautifully built in classic clinker style.

As to his present work with the Howth 17s, that is part of a broader project being driven by Ian Malcolm and fellow Seventeen sailors, who may be looking at a class of 23 boats in the foreseeable future. Apart from the new boat built last year in France and the boat reputedly under construction in Annapolis, in a secret workshop on the Hill of Howth, yet another new Howth 17 is quietly under construction to a very high standard.

Such things take time, as the group in Clontarf Y & BC demonstrated when they set out to build a classic timber IDRA 14 for the class’s 70th Anniversary in 2016. They allowed themselves plenty of time, but it was tight enough in the end, yet by the successful conclusion a special bond had been formed among the build team in their Men’s Shed enterprise. It said everything about the deeper benefits of getting involved in a manageable project using time-honoured methods and traditional materials to create something of lasting beauty, value and utility.

new idra fourteen13The new IDRA 14 ready for launching at the class’s 70th Anniversary Regatta at Clontarf. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in W M Nixon

When a yacht is one hundred years old, it might be normal to celebrate the event, perhaps by breaking open a bottle of champagne with a few close friends, or having a small celebratory article printed in ‘’, or even head off on a remarkable cruise, to celebrate such a long survival.

However, the Shannon one-design class, designed by Francis Charles Morgan-Giles (1883-1964) built their preview boat in 1921 (which no longer survives), and trials were offered to sailors on the Shannon River, in order to promote the idea of a one-design for the Shannon. Everybody who sailed the new boat were impressed, and during the winter and spring of 1922, nine boats were built to the new design, seven of which were built by Walter Levinge of Creaghduff, Athlone, Co. Westmeath. Numbering started at No. 32, so these new boats were Nos. 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38 and 40.

In 2017, the surviving boats, Nos. 32, 33, 37 and 40, celebrated their 95th birthday, so, it was decided to have a pre-regatta, in preparation for a bumper centenary regatta in 2022. It was the owners of No. 37, ‘Kiwi’, Peter and Owen Delany and their siblings, who put together the idea of the pre-centenary regatta to be held at Lough Ree Yacht Club (Est. 1770) over the weekend of 29-30 July. A notice was circulated to the owners of the other 95 year olds, and to all the newer Shannon one-design owners (most recent boat in No. 179), and 15 boats turned up to race and to party.

On Saturday, the wind was 12-25 knots which resulted in one compulsory reef. Race one went to the opportunistic Alan and DJ Algeo in No. 138. Then, after lunch, race two was won by Andrew Mannion in No. 97, who also managed to win race three. This was followed by a Pimms party, and dinner for eighty celebrants in the Lough Ree clubhouse.
On Sunday, the rain belted down, but the wind was lighter, so the reef was no longer mandatory. Racing north of the Yellow Islands, saw Miss Georgina Corbett in No. 108 win race four, and race five was won by veteran sailor Frank Browne in No. 86. The final race after lunch was held in the flukey waters close to the clubhouse, and was won by Harmon Murtagh Snr and Jnr. as popular winners.

However, there were no discards in the six race series, which resulted in Miss. Corbett being declared the overall winner by one point from Dr. Mark McCormack on No. 50 which was built in 1925. For full results see below, and all SOD sailors are welcome back in 2022.

Published in Historic Boats

The annual Long Distance Race for Shannon One Designs (SOD’s) took place last weekend (24th & 25th July) under the Burgee of Lough Ree Yacht Club.

As reported earlier, this year was more special than usual as it was Edwin Hunter’s (Race Officer), 50th Anniversary running the racing. The race is reputed to be the longest inland dinghy sailing race in the world and originated from the need of Sailors to transport their boats from Lough Ree Yacht Club to their sister Club, Lough Derg YC, so boats could compete in both annual regattas. Even with the advent of road transport, the race sustained and has grown from strength to strength.

Shannon one design sailing 1(Above and below ) A record fleet of Shannon One Designs turned out Photo: Garrett Leech

Shannon one design sailing 1

A record fleet turned out for the occasion which started from Lough Ree YC. 36 SOD’s departed the Club and while initially racing north up Lough Ree, they then descended south to the town of Athlone where the race finished its first leg just above the Town bridges. This was aided by a fresh north westerly breeze. The SOD’s & their extensive entourage locked through at Athlone and started their 2nd harrowing leg to Clonmacnoise, some of which had the wind on their nose, making for interesting navigation for all boat users as they weaved their way back and forth the river!
After the sailors had their traditional restorative in Kileen’s pub in Shannon Bridge, the fleet took off once more for their final destination of the day, Banagher. Here the party really started, with nearly 150 people sitting down on the quay wall for a BBQ. A Presentation was made to Ed in recognition of his 5 decades of hard work!

Shannon one design sailing 1During the course of the race fine refreshments were provided for the tired sailors. Photo: Garrett Leech

With no mercy or consideration for the revelry of the previous evening, racing again commenced at 10:30 and the fleet continued weaving their way downstream to Victoria Lock, Meelick and through the many other craft using the waterway. Here, fine refreshments were provided for the tired sailors, before they headed on their merry and final leg of the race, to Portumna.
Overall first place went to David Dickson (SOD 73), Second Andrew Mannion (SOD 97) & Third, Frank Browne (SOD 86).

Shannon one design sailing 1Shannon one design sailing 1Shannon one design sailing 1Shannon one design sailing 1

Published in Historic Boats
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#SOD - The Shannon One Design Association (SODA) has announced its latest Long Distance Race for the weekend of Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 June.

First raced in 1953, the Shannon One Design (SOD) competition is the longest inland dinghy sailing race in these islands.

And it’s a challenging one at that, with crews counting tacks often into the thousands while jockeying for position down a narrow river given to serious south-westerlies, though a northerly breeze can make for enjoyable downwind racing.

Either way, the race remains physically and mentally demanding over the two days, says SODA chairman John Leech, whose own mother crewed the race’s winning SOD in its inaugural outing, topping it with a win in her own right in the race's second year.

Race officer Edwin Hunter, who celebrates his 50th year in charge of proceedings, is also making it a family affair as his son and assistant David will take over his duties from 2018 onwards.

The race starts in Lough Ree Yacht Club on the Saturday, with the first leg taking the fleet to Athlone Lock.

From there the race continues to Clonmacnoise (leg 2) for lunch, Shannon Bridge (leg 3) and Banagher (leg 4), then resumes Sunday to Meelick Lock (leg 5) before finishing in Portumna (leg 6).

Leech expects a sizeable fleet of up to 50 boats this year and late entries are still welcome — anyone interested in taking part should contact the SODA Honorary Secretary at [email protected] for details.

Published in Racing
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#shannononedesign – Lough Ree Yacht Club, the recent hosts of the Round Ireland on the inside race and more recent Laser Connaughts, held a special regatta at the weekend (27th-28th July) to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of a remarkable river boat the 'M.V. Harklow' which was designed and built by the renowned Arklow boatbuilder Jack Tyrell for the international yachtsman Douglas Heard, the first President of the Irish Dinghy Racing Association and Commodore of the Royal St. George Yacht Club. The regatta was ably organised by her present owner Dan O'Connor.

A fleet of 18 Shannon-One-Designs competed in the warm summer conditions. In race one, the force 2 wind was from the south east, but quickly backed to the north east causing difficulty to the OOD who had laid the course close too close to the Yellow Islands. There were no opportunities for overtaking. The winner was Frank Browne/Julie Delany/crew in No. 86 followed by Owen/Mags/ Margaret Delany in No. 37 and. Mark McCormick/ crew in No. 50. It was already looking like a regatta in which the older boats might dominate.
The second race, held after lunch, in the open lake with the windward mark close to Little Yellow Island in slightly steadier conditions, was won by Rory Walsh/crew in the beautifully prepared No. 170 from 50 and 86 third.

The third race with a handicap start was started off the yacht Club pontoons was won convincingly by Cathy MacAleavey/Philip Dilworth/crew in the newest boat competing, No.178, but this race was subsequently declared null and void by the protest committee under the careful eye of David Beatty, after one crew protested the entire fleet for sailing the wrong course.
This was followed by a dinner for the competitors and their friends when the Harklow cake was formally cut by Ruth Heard and her daughter Professor Hilary Biehler Delany, followed by Dr. Harmon Murtagh who gave an informative talk on the significance of the M.V. Harklow and her owners. 'The Nuts' a musical group managed by the regatta organiser bashed out 1960's music for the rest of the night to the delight of those who wanted to dance.

On Sunday, after the protest was heard, the first race was held close to Beam Island in a light shifty wind and thundery conditions. Initially Commodore Alan Algeo/DJ/Crew lead the first lap of the race, but on the second beat the shifty wind foiled them, and allowed No. 176 sailed by Harmon Murtagh/Harmon Jnr/crew to win, from Eoin Carrol/ crew in No. 60 and Graham McMullin and family in No. 151.

The second race was held back to back in a wind which was shifting back and forth by up to 80degrees. Thunder and lightning was showing its anger on all sides of the course. It was won by Ian Croxon / crew in No. 56 from No.60 and No. 170. These boats were fortunate to finish before the stair-rods arrived. And about 25mm of rain fell in half an hour. Due to the warm conditions many of the crews were not wearing heavy rain gear and were soaked.

For full race results download the attached xcel file below.

Published in Historic Boats

No. 68 of 2013





29 TH . and 30 th . June 2013

Waterways Ireland wishes to advise masters and owners of vessels of the above cruise in company. SODs will depart from Athlone lock to Banagher harbour on Sat the 29 th and from Banagher to Portumna bridge on Sun 30 th .

Masters of powerboats are requested to heed their wash when passing vessels under sail and accordingly to observe the navigation rules.

Waterways Ireland thanks its customers for their cooperation in this matter.

Charles Lawn
Lt Cdr (rtd)
Inspector of Navigation
19 Jun 2013.
Tel: 00 353 (0)90 6494232


No. 69 of 2013


Lough Ree

Sunken Vessel

Marine Notice No 67 refers.

The vessel has been recovered. Marine Notice No 67 is now withdrawn.

Inspector of Navigation
19 Jun 2013
Tel: 00 353 (0)90 6494232
Fax : 00 353 (0) 6494147

Published in Inland Waterways

#sod – The Annual Shannon-One-Design regatta will take place on Lough Corrib from Lisloughrey Pier in Cong. Co. Mayo and 15 boats are already confirmed.

The Regatta, which is for Shannon-One-Designs (SOD's) was first run in 1960 and has been run at various locations around the lake since then, including Oughterard, Inishambo and Lisloughrey.

Shannon- One-Designs are handmade 18 foot clinker built boats with a mainsail of 140 square feet and a crew of three, designed by Morgan Giles in 1920 and are the second oldest one design dinghy in the world and they boast the largest fleet of any classic one design in Ireland.

On Saturday three races will take place in close proximity to Ashford Castle. On Sunday, weather permitting there will be a passage race to Cornnamona where sandwiches and refreshments will be enjoyed in Johnny O'Malley's pub where our sailors can practice their Gaeilige before racing back to Lisloughrey. This is the only Gaeltacht area that the SOD's race in each year. Monday racing will take place between the islands of Inchagill and Inchmicatreer. Prize giving afterwards in Lydon's Lodge Hotel.

Published in Racing
Tagged under

#helmsmans – The stakes are raised in this weekend's All Ireland Senior Sailing Championship at Dromineer on Lough Derg following the success of the Junior Championship in Schull a fortnight ago. In some of the best sailing conditions of 2012, the new junior title holder by a clear margin was West Cork's Fionn Lyden (17), who has since been declared the Independent "Sailor of the Month" for September.

But Lyden has been allowed little time to reflect on his success. He's back in the fray this weekend in the seniors event, and the lineup he will face racing in the SailFleet J/80s contains some formidable talent, including defending champion George Kenefick (24) of Crosshaven.

Former champion Mark Mansfield has been on top form recently, heading the racing in the 1720s, and he is fired up to avenge the narrow defeat inflicted on him by Kenefick at the same venue a year ago in this championship.

As the racing is in a specialized boat which does not feature as a supported class at any Irish sailing centre, the hope is that the competition will be as even as possible among sailors who usually helm craft of many different types. But of course the wind strengths will play a major role regardless of how even the racing is in theory, and predictions for this weekend suggest a wide variety of conditions.

Today's expected light breezes could inflict havoc in the programme, but the prospect of a freshening southeaster tomorrow – albeit with rain later – will provide ample opportunities to get a result before the weekend is out.

The lineup includes an interesting mixture of sailing specialities, including two veterans of the 2012 Olympics, Star class helm Peter O'Leary from Cork and the 49er's Ryan Seaton from Ballyholme.

Carrickfergus is putting forward Trevor Kirkpatrick, the helm from the Ruffian 23 class on Belfast Lough. It is of course the hope of all club sailors that some day the All Ireland will throw up an unexpected winner from one of the minor leagues. But that hasn't happened for a long time now, and by tomorrow afternoon the smart money is betting that it will be the big guns yet again in the final shootout.

Thus the likelihood of Royal Cork dominating with Mansfield, Kennefick and O'Leary setting the pace is high, but as well there are several highly possible contenders in the form of Tim Goodbody, Ben Duncan, David Dickson, Fionn Lyden, and Alan Ruigrok.


When you consider the nationwide spread of the home ports of these top sailing talents, there's inescapable logic in staging the All Ireland on Lough Derg, as it and Lough Ree are about as central as you can get in Ireland. It was back in 1982 that I first saw what Dromineer could do when the Helmsmans Championship was staged in Shannon One Designs, and the winner was Dave Cummins of Sutton, crewed by Gordon Maguire no less, and Joe MacSweeney.

There was no lack of wind at that championship, but as John Lefroy's 1874-built all-iron former steam yacht Phoenix was the committee boat, the race officers (Jock Smith was OOD) at least were comfortably ensconced, and when the racing was completed we took the Phoenix up the lough at full chat just for the hell of it, giving a passable impression of a destroyer at the Battle of Jutland.


She'd turn round and look at you". Even in a moderate breeze, the Shannon One Design (sailed here by Sid Shine of Lough Ree) develops a marked twist in her hull.

As for the Shannon One Designs being sailed as hard as they could go by Ireland's brightest and best, they coped remarkably well, though inevitably there were breakages. The design having been developed from slim lake boats, the clinker hulls tend to twist a bit when pinned in for hard windward work - as Pompey Delaney used to say, in a breeze they'd turn round and look at you.

Both Dave Cummins and Gordon Maguire have been Australia-based for many years now, and of course Gordon was sailing master aboard the superb 63ft Loki, overall winner of the most recent Sydney-Hobart Race. He was home recently with his family for a few weeks holiday, and caught me out round the back of Howth YC in the boatyard in the midst of the keel and rudder re-configuration which is the current boat project (and has been for quite some time). Fortunately the great man dropped by at a stage when the job was going well, which isn't necessarily always the case. It's a bit unnerving, to say the least, to have your work evaluated by a Sydney-Hobart winner who is also trained in engineering, but if he thought the whole thing was crazy, he was still too polite to say so.


The fantastic trimarans of the MOD 70 class will by now be cherishing their memories of the great racing they had in Dublin Bay in good breezes on Saturday September 8th, as they have finally completed their European Tour at Genoa, and lack of wind has been a problem for much of the southern section of the programme.

Michel Desjoyeaux emerged as overall winner of the EuroTour on Foncia. But "emerged" is very much the word, as the final miles into Genoa saw these mighty machines crawling along at just two knots in the finest of zephyrs. It looked as though Spindrift Racing had it all sewn up, but by snatching a couple of places virtually on the finish line – just as he did on the stage from Kiel to Dun Laoghaire – the Foncia skipper carried off the cup, while Spindrift Racing was the season's winner when the Transatlantic results are combined with the EuroTour points.

Despite the subdued finish, the potential of this new class to provide spectacular sailing in a manageable budget has been amply proven, and it provides a marked contrast with the America's Cup, where the focus has swung to San Francisco and next year's series.


Foncia (Michel Desjoyeaux, seen here in Dublin Bay) has won the MOD 70s EuroTour, while Spindrift Racing is the season's champion. Photo W M Nixon

That will be raced in 70ft catamarans, and the first of these awesome and unbelievably expensive machines has been showing her paces. But meanwhile not everyone is a happy budgie in San Francisco, where a proposed major development of two piers to provide useful shore bases for challengers has been changed into an intention to have all the action focused more on the Golden Gate Yacht Club.

As ever with the America's Cup, massive sums of money top the agenda, and you can understand the frustration of the few remaining challengers as they take on the huge resources of Larry Ellison. After all, how can a few guys from New Zealand and their mates expect to face up to someone who has recently been able to buy quite a substantial Hawaiian island out of pocket money?

Published in W M Nixon
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