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Displaying items by tag: Shannon One Design

Being involved in Shannon One Design racing in a normal year is a State of Mind as much as it’s a matter of active sport afloat in a highly individualistic 18ft una-rigged open boat, a hard-sailed work of art that was created with exquisite classic construction. The boat is well-matched by the characterful sailors that race her - they may not always be exquisite, but they’re certainly of classic construction.

Be that as it may, in this the SODs’ Centenary Year, Class Chairman Philip Mayne and the Honorary Secretary Naomi Algeo and their team seem determined to move it all on from being a State of Mind to becoming a complete Way of Life. For if SOD sailors can maintain the pace of the programme which is developing as management gauges the growing level of enthusiasm for Centenary sport, they’ll find that they’ve no sooner recovered from one major happening before the countdown begins towards the next.

Nip and tuck – Shannon ODs in close action on Lough Ree. Photo: Con MurphyNip and tuck – Shannon ODs in close action on Lough Ree. Photo: Con Murphy

The real rocket booster to getting things moving was the class’s stellar performance at the recent ClinkerFest at Lough Ree YC, where organiser Garret Leech was prepared to test them to the uttermost with a two-day programme of nine races in brisk breezes. They saw it through with style even if many had discovered twinge of varying severity in muscles that they didn’t even know existed.

But more importantly, the favourable reports of supper-sport inspired those who still hadn’t completed their fitting-out – for the SOD is a high-maintenance girl – to get on and finish the work in time to be ready for the two special regattas devoted to the Centenary in July, at Dromineer on Lough Derg from 2nd-3rd July, and then back up at Lough Ree from July 23rd and 24th.

Shannon One Design Centenary Year Fixtures List

There is of course more to the pillars of the programme than that, as this outline reveals:

  • JUN 18-19 Mid June Regatta (LRYC)
  • JUN 25-26 Long Distance Race (LRYC)
  • JUL 3-4 LDYC SODA Centenary Regatta
  • JUL 9-10 Goose Island Regatta (LDYC
  • JUL 9-10 Barges & SOD's (LRYC)
  • JUL 23-24 LRYC SODA Centenary Regatta
  • JUL-AUG 30-5 Lough Ree Yacht Club Annual Regatta (LRYC)
  • AUG 6-7 Dromineer Castle Regatta (LDYC)
  • AUG 8-13 Lough Derg Yacht Club Annual Regatta (LDYC)
  • AUG 27-28 Corrikeens Regatta (LDYC)
  • SEP 3-4 North Shannon Regatta (LRYC)
  • SEP 10-11 Harvest Regatta (LDYC)

Thanks to the meanderings of the Shannon, not all of the Long Distance Race is a beatThanks to the meanderings of the Shannon, not all of the Long Distance Race is a beat

With such a determinedly even-handed spread between Lough Ree and Lough Derg, logistics play a key role, and this reaches a special height in nine days time on the weekend of June 25th to 26th, with the legendary Long Distance Race from Lough Ree south to Lough Derg, forty miles of river racing which has an overnight at Banagher, and used to have a time-honoured pit stop at Shannonbridge for the high-energy intake of hot rum and chocolate to wash down black pudding toasties at Killeens unique grocery & hardware-selling pub. Alas, Killeen’s as the class knew it is no more, but SOD ingenuity will doubtless come up with a more-than-adequate substitute.

a good breeze on Lough Derg the Shannon ODs It may not quite be planing as it is generally understood, but when there’s a good breeze on Lough Derg the Shannon ODs have their own special version of get up and go

In fact, the prospect of the Long Distance Race makes it just possible that a hyper-enthusiast could do both the Round Ireland starting this weekend, and still be finished in time for the Long Distance, thereby circling and quartering Ireland in the space of eight days.

Certainly it’s the sort of thing that SOD sailors would see as a right and proper challenge. As it is, the second Centenary Regatta on Lough Ree on July 23rd-24th will see history in the making, as it will be attended by members of the family of Frank Morgan Giles, the Devon-based yacht designer who created the lines of the Shannon One Design in 1921-22 when some sections of Irish life were pre-occupied with the aftermath of the War of Independence and the prospect of the Civil War.

When you have only one sail, you soon think of unusual ways of deploying it.When you have only one sail, you soon think of unusual ways of deploying it.

In such circumstances, it’s scarcely surprising that the newly-formed Shannon One Design Association managed to create a little war of their own with their designer. Morgan Giles. His original drawings showed the boat with a dipping lug. This was surprising in itself, as it’s a much clumsier configuration than the standing lug which was already well known in Ireland at the time through the popular International 12.

But after a couple of labour-intensive experiences with the dipping lugs, the class decided to leap right over the standing lug possibility, and go instead beyond it for the much sleeker gunter rig, with which they still sail.

In the 1920s, the SODs quickly adopted the sleek-fitting gunter lug, with which they still sail todayIn the 1920s, the SODs quickly adopted the sleek-fitting gunter lug, with which they still sail today

Unfortunately, they omitted to tell Morgan Giles, and when he got to hear of this “amateur” change of his design, he was somewhat miffed. A 35-year frost set in on relations between designer and class, such that though he continued to draw a royalty as each new boat was built, communications were businesslike and distant in the extreme, until some sort of thaw set in back in the late 1950s. And it has happily since held up sufficiently well for Frank Morgan Giles’ descendants to contemplate a visit to the second Lough Ree SOD Centenary Regatta on July 23-24th.

Published in Shannon One Design
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When the weather patterns conspire to provide wet or rugged sailing on Ireland’s sea coasts, the shrewd mariner heads for the inland sea that is Lough Ree, which has been geographically measured with some elegant 19th Century science as being plumb in the very middle of the Emerald isle. For in such a location, no matter what the conditions are like on the coast, on Lough Ree you’ll have the entire province of either Leinster or Connacht or both to provide you with a lee. And additionally, by some happy freak during the past weekend of strong winds and much rain elsewhere, somehow Lough Ree experienced so little in the way of precipitaton that most sailors in the Clinkerfest barely noticed it at all, with the final evening provide a serene yet colourful sunset to round out a unique event in considerable style.

 Mermaid Magic – we may think of the Mermaids as originating in Dublin Bay, but some of the first boats were built by Walter Levinge beside Lough Ree. Photo: John Malone Mermaid Magic – we may think of the Mermaids as originating in Dublin Bay, but some of the first boats were built by Walter Levinge beside Lough Ree. Photo: John Malone

Former LRYC Commodore Garret Leech was still in the senior role when he set the notion of Clinkerfest in motion to celebrate LRYC’s 250th Anniversary back in 2020. And though the pandemic has caused a two year delay and a certain creakiness in some would-be participants, the idea was not allowed to die - not least because it had engendered one of the best event logos anyone has ever created in Ireland, a logo appropriate to the fact that clinker boat-building is now recognised as a World Heritage Activity.

The Clinkerfest Logo stylishly honours what is now a international culturally-recognised method of boat construction The Clinkerfest Logo stylishly honours what is now a international culturally-recognised method of boat construction 

Nevertheless while some participants might have preferred a bit more time for leisurely consideration of all the clinker-built boat types involved, and the different techniques used in their design and construction, others from the more race-oriented classes were bursting with competitive energy after virtually two seasons of constraint. And with a race team headed by Garret Leech with Owen Delany and the support of Alan Algeo and Eileen Brown (almost all former LRYC Commodores) the administrative talent was there to keep sailors busy afloat.

SODA Chairman Philip Mayne finished 14th overall in No 83 after nine hard-fought races. Photo: John MaloneSODA Chairman Philip Mayne finished 14th overall in No 83 after nine hard-fought races. Photo: John Malone

SHANNON ODs BIGGEST FLEET

While LRYC may be celebrating their Quadrimillennial in a two year retrospect, the Shannon One Designs are fully immersed in the throes of the increasing pace of their current Centenary Year. And though the class is traditionally at its greatest numerical strength in the time-honoured regattas of August, fleet numbers are already up with every weekend as that final coat of varnish finally gets applied, and boats turn out to race – and race hard.

 A different world of sailing for Garrett O’Neill and his crew. If any spray dares to come aboard, you can simply swallow it….Photo: John Malone A different world of sailing for Garrett O’Neill and his crew. If any spray dares to come aboard, you can simply swallow it….Photo: John Malone

Thus they’d an entry of 29 for Clinkerfest, and while not all were fully race ready, at the sharp end of the fleet for a demanding total of nine races, the top six helms were Mark McCormick, David Dickson, Andrew Mannion, Cillian Dickson, Frank Guy and Cathal Breen.

INTERNATIONAL 12s

The International 12s – which originated in 1912 – continue to be hugely popular in The Netherlands, Belgium and Italy, but they’re gradually reviving in Ireland in both their una-riggged and sloop-rigged form. And while travel difficulties meant that not all of a significant contingent from the Continent could make it in the end, a couple of gallant Dutch boats managed to get to Ree, while the fleet was also enlarged by the inclusion of a brace of Rankin 12s from Cork Harbour. Here too they’d nine challenging races, and Bert Bos won while Gernt Kiughist was second, with Mark Delany best of the home division in third.

 By making the journey to Lough Ree, the crew of this Dutch International Twelve found much better weather than they’d have had at home. Photo: John Malone By making the journey to Lough Ree, the crew of this Dutch International Twelve found much better weather than they’d have had at home. Photo: John Malone

MERMAIDS

We may think of the 17ft Mermaids as very much a class of Dublin Bay origins through their designer J B Kearney, but in fact the first boats were built in 1932 by the great Walter Levinge of Lough Ree. So there was a sense of home-coming in their participation, Jim Carthy winning in Vee from Paul Smith & Pat Mangan in Jill, with Darach Dinneen taking third in Red Seal.

Proper summertime sailing for Mermaids at Clinkerfest. Photo: John MaloneProper summertime sailing for Mermaids at Clinkerfest. Photo: John Malone

WATER WAGS

The Dublin Bay Water Wags of 1887 and 1900 vintage had many sailors racing in Clinkerfest, but as there’s extensive cross-pollination with the Shannon One Designs, there were more of them racing in the SODs than in the Wags, which managed to get just four boats down to Lough Ree from Dun Laoghaire. That said, they had the distinction of being the most senior class, with David Kelly in Eva winning after the nine races from Mike Magowan in Mary Kate, with third place going to Dermot Bremner in Alfa.

A celebration of Ireland’s leading clinker-built classes in the display of models by Reggie Goodbody of Lough Derg YC. Photo: John MaloneA celebration of Ireland’s leading clinker-built classes in the display of models by Reggie Goodbody of Lough Derg YC. Photo: John Malone

IDRA 14s

Though the 1946-vintage IDRA 14s have held many famous championships with LRYC, few would think of them as a Lough Ree class. Thus there was special satisfaction when Billy Henshaw – who lives on he shores of the lake – emerged as overall winner, with Pierre Long getting second and Pat O’Kelly third.

There was special cheer for the IDRA 14s with Billy Henshaw providing a local winner. Photo: John MaloneThere was special cheer for the IDRA 14s with Billy Henshaw providing a local winner. Photo: John Malone

The complete results are here

FUTURE CLINKERFESTS

Clinkerfest deserves to be a major feature of the national programme in the future, and Lough Ree’s indisputably central location in Ireland surely gives it the first claim to be its permanent home. The problem is that as our sailing gets back up to pre-pandemic speeds, several events will re-emerge claiming equal rights to the coveted Bank Holiday weekend at the beginning of June.

 Getting stuck in….The Shannon One Designs launch themselves into a programme of nine races in two days. Number 50 (Mark McCormick) was to emerge as overall winner. Photo: John Malone Getting stuck in….The Shannon One Designs launch themselves into a programme of nine races in two days. Number 50 (Mark McCormick) was to emerge as overall winner. Photo: John Malone

But that’s a discussion for another day. Right now, there’s a feeling of wonder that in a weekend when several coastal events were either cancelled or gave their participants quite a drubbing, a secret inland sea in the middle of Ireland was able to provide a fascinating and varied fleet of true classics with the chance to contest no less than nine very competitive races in eminently sailable and often strongly sunny conditions, while at the same allowing their dedicated owners and crews to revel in a shared enthusiasm for a boat construction method whose inherent functional beauty is now a globally-recognized art and craft.

Evocative conclusion to a great regatta – final Clinkerfest sunset at Lough Ree YC marina. Photo: Clodagh FlanneryEvocative conclusion to a great regatta – final Clinkerfest sunset at Lough Ree YC marina. Photo: Clodagh Flannery

Published in Historic Boats

You need stamina afloat and ashore to get the best of Shannon One Design Racing, and already it’s clear that that the class – with Philip Mayne as Captain/Chairman and Naomi Algeo as Honorary Secretary - will be looking for Olympic-grade resilience from crews and boats in this their Centenary Year. While the first seriously high profile event in a busy programme is the coming Bank Holiday Weekend’s Clinkerfest at Lough Ree Yacht Club (4th-6th June), this unique class (we choose our adjectives with the greatest care and after due consultation with m’learned friends) has already been active on three great lakes with all the coiled-spring energy of a force of nature recently released from pandemic privations.

This was after the boisterous Centenary-launching dinner in the National YC in Dun Laoghaire on Saturday, March 5th, which seemed to be staged within minutes of restrictions being lifted, yet they’d managed to have a proper-job Hundredth Birthday Cake created on time, and it was also Alan Algeo’s birthday, age not disclosed. Sundry presentations were made, not least the Transom Trophy to Rachel Guy and the team from 142, and with it the realisation that Transom Trophies proliferate because they usually go to people who seldom spend much time looking at transoms, but it really wouldn’t do to have a Stemhead Superstar Award, as the cruel temptation would be to give it to the boat whose crew scarcely ever see another boat’s bow when looking astern.

Profoundly rural Lough Corrib. In this their Centenary Year, the Shannon One Designs have already revived the tradition of a regatta at Cong on island-studded Lough Corrib in County Galway. Photo: W M NixonProfoundly rural Lough Corrib. In this their Centenary Year, the Shannon One Designs have already revived the tradition of a regatta at Cong on island-studded Lough Corrib in County Galway. Photo: W M Nixon

Be that as it may, events already held include a return after three years to regatta sailing on Lough Corrib in County Galway and the charms of Cong, the revival of the Mountshannon Regatta (“wild and wet” we’re told, on Lough Derg, when that wondrous symbol of the Shannon, John & Sandra Lefroy’s 148-year-old iron-hulled classic poweryacht the Phoenix made her re-appearance, and most recently on May 21st and 22nd when Sam Haffield put a programme together in southeast Lough Ree under the comprehensive title of the LRYC Inner Lakes Regatta, involving multiple venues with the apparent purpose of ensuring that no lakeside licensed premises felt they’re being left out of the hospitality bonanza which this Centenary implies.

On the frontiers of the west – Shannon ODs racing off Dromineer on Lough DergOn the frontiers of the west – Shannon ODs racing off Dromineer on Lough Derg

Looking ahead, in addition to the time-honoured regatta weeks on Lough Derg and Lough Ree in August, the first specifically Centenary-celebrating Regatta will be at Lough Derg YC at Dromineer on 2nd & 3rd July when the shoreside festivities include a performance by the Nenagh Brass Band, and then the second Centenary Regatta will be at Lough Ree YC at Ballyglass on 23rd & 24th July, with shoreside entertainment as yet unspecified, but if the Athlone and district music scene can’t come up with something rather special, we’ll be vey surprised.

In due course, we may have more specific details as to who actually won some of these events. But right now, the only precise number that’s getting any attention is 100, and rightly so.

The Mother of all Mother-ships – the 1874-built Phoenix on Lough Derg in 1982, when “smoking-along” was still an acceptable mode of progress. Photo: W M NixonThe Mother of all Mother-ships – the 1874-built Phoenix on Lough Derg in 1982, when “smoking-along” was still an acceptable mode of progress. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in Shannon One Design
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There are highly individualistic One Design Classes. And then there are the 1922-founded Shannon One Designs. They’re in a league of their own. And they’ll be launching their Hundred Year Programme for 2022 with a Centenary Dinner in the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire Harbour on Saturday 5th March, with the class’s spirit being revealed by the fact that all tickets were sold out within 12 hours of the event being opened for business by Class Chairman Philip Mayne and Honorary Secretary Naomi Algeo.

Although the class races almost exclusively on the great lakes of the Shannon, it makes occasional excursions to other places like Lough Corrib in Galway and Lough Owel in Westmeath, while they made an impressive Dun Laoghaire debut in the sailing events of the 1924 Tailteann Games on Dublin Bay, when they returned home with the Gold Medal.

 The Shannon ODs have been providing close competition ever since their first race. It is believed to have been on Thursday 24th August 1922 on Lough Ree, though the first contest properly recorded was on Lough Bofin with the North Shannon YC on Tuesday 29th August 1922, won by Dr V Delany with Kiwi. Photo courtesy SODA The Shannon ODs have been providing close competition ever since their first race. It is believed to have been on Thursday 24th August 1922 on Lough Ree, though the first contest properly recorded was on Lough Bofin with the North Shannon YC on Tuesday 29th August 1922, won by Dr V Delany with Kiwi. Photo courtesy SODA

Such is this una-rigged 18ft clinker-built dinghy’s unique appeal that owners are to be found in more than half of the counties of Ireland. And as many of them winter - so to speak - in Dublin, a Springtime seasonal opening get-together with gala overtones at the hospitable National Yacht club will fit the bill to perfection.

The class has long links with the NYC, as the Earl of Granard, NYC Commodore from 1931 to 1941, was also involved with County Longford’s North Shannon YC, one of the clubs which made an active input into the foundation of the class in 1921-22.

More recently, the NYC Commodore was Con Murphy from 2005 to 2008, and his wife – former Olympic sailor Cathy Mac Aleavey - is not only a devoted Shannon OD sailor, but she built her boat personally, working with the late Jimmy Furey, the legendary classic boat-builder of Leecarrow in County Roscommon.

Olympic sailor Cathy Mac Aleavey, wife of former NYC Commodore Con Murphy, making knots with the Shannon OD she built with Jimmy Furey. Photo courtesy SODAOlympic sailor Cathy Mac Aleavey, wife of former NYC Commodore Con Murphy, making knots with the Shannon OD she built with Jimmy Furey. Photo courtesy SODA

Olympic enthusiasm is one of the Shannon OD’s character traits, starting with Dr Alf Delany who sailed for Ireland in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics while at the same time being a leading helm in both the Dublin Bay Water Wags and the Shannon One Designs.

Afloat.ie’s W M Nixon, who will be one of the speakers at the Dinner in the NYC on March 5th, was introduced to the Shannon ODs by sailing with Alf Delany at the Golden Jubilee Regatta at Lough Derg YC in Dromineer in August 1972.

“It was remarkable sailing with Alf” he recalls, “it was as though he and the boat became one, and despite his tyro crewmate, we were in the frame in both races sailed. As for the Shannon One Designs as a class and as a colourful group of people, I was immediately mesmerized, and have remained so ever since.”

Bendy boats do best…..Among the more fascinating aspects of the Shannon One Design is their hull flexibility in a good wind – “In a strong breeze, they’ll turn round and look at you”. Photo SODABendy boats do best…..Among the more fascinating aspects of the Shannon One Design is their hull flexibility in a good wind – “In a strong breeze, they’ll turn round and look at you”. Photo SODA

Published in Shannon One Design

When a Centenary arrives, most of those closely involved tend to focus on the history they’re celebrating, whether it’s a club or a boat class or whatever. Sometimes they become immersed in potentially challenging and even contentious projects like re-enactments, which the more snooty purists would tell us is “History for Those of Limited Attention Span and Small Imagination”.

But the 18ft Shannon One Designs didn’t get so successfully to their Centenary in 2022 by dwelling excessively on the past, as was revealed in the write up on their accolade as “Sailing Club of the Year 2022”, which they share with Lough Ree Yacht Club. On the contrary, they honoured the establishment of the new Irish Free State in their own foundation year of 1922 with enthusiastic involvement in the sailing events in Dublin Bay of the Tailteann Games in 1924 to celebrate the new nation, and were suitably rewarded by returning home with the Gold Medal to their great lakes along Ireland’s largest river.

Thus the Shannon ODs have not only adapted to change, from time to time they’ve actively shaped it, and they do this by living very actively in the present every bit as much they fondly recall their colourful past.

It’s entirely in keeping with this that one of the projects they have in hand for 2022 is what will eventually be a profusely-illustrated calendar for 2023, in which each monthly photograph will be from the matching month of 2022, showing this unique class’s way of life through the four seasons.

It is already under way with photo fans recording Shannon ODs in January in their widely varying winter quarters, which would make a book in itself. And the scope will widen as the year progresses, with the winners being initially publicised through this year on a monthly basis - a procedure which will emphasise the theme of living in the present while honouring the past.

Published in Shannon One Design
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Lough Ree Yacht Club and the Shannon One Design Association are sharing this year’s MG Motors Sailing Club of the Year Award. It’s the well-deserved honouring of a dynamic combination that provides a core contribution to the Athlone area’s reputation as a hotbed of Irish sailing advancement and was recognised back in 2008 when they previously were joint winners.

At that time, Shannon OD numbers were expanding at an unprecedented rate, while Lough Ree YC was settling into an enlarged clubhouse which facilitated the club’s growth as a national focal point for sailing in Ireland, both as a venue afloat and a meeting place ashore.

MG Motors Sailing club of the Year

In this new award some fourteen years later, there are two vital extra elements to add to the healthy combination which was so outstanding in 2008 and continues today. In 2020, Lough Ree YC should have been celebrating its Quarter Millennium in exuberant style, but the fact that - with its foundation in 1770 - the Club is possibly the second-oldest in the world had to be marked in a COVID-muted way, and thus 2022 hopes to see LRYC celebrate Quarter Millennium + 2, if anything with added zest.

Lough Ree Yacht Club at Ballyglass. The club has steadily increased its land-holding, and with activity and membership increasing on a strongly family basis, it is contemplating further extension of the premises and facilities afloat and ashoreLough Ree Yacht Club at Ballyglass. The club has steadily increased its land-holding, and with activity and membership increasing on a strongly family basis, it is contemplating further extension of the premises and facilities afloat and ashore  

But for the Shannon One Designs, 2022 is it - the Centenary Year. In making the award, we will be celebrating one of the most remarkable classes in the world, a class which - thanks to its classic clinker-built construction - is now recognised as being of special Heritage Significance, with official UNESCO recognition of this ancient-yet-updated method of boat-building.

Walter Levinge of Lough Ree YC built many of the Shannon One Designs in the early days of the class from 1922 onwards, and was active in boat-building and sailing until the 1960s. His clinker construction of these classic boats was of a quality well deserving of the recently-awarded UNESCO Heritage Status.Walter Levinge of Lough Ree YC built many of the Shannon One Designs in the early days of the class from 1922 onwards, and was active in boat-building and sailing until the 1960s. His clinker construction of these classic boats was of a quality well deserving of the recently-awarded UNESCO Heritage Status.

In fact, so much of long-term sailing heritage is to be found in and around the southeast corner of Lough Ree that perhaps the entire area should be declared a UNESCO Heritage Site, for in addition to the Lough Ree YC complex, it includes the location where the legendary Walter Levinge built many of the early Shannon One Designs in addition to other classic clinker-built designs, and it also includes the newly re-configured headquarters of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland.

MGM Motors Sailing club of the Year

LOUGH REE YACHT CLUB

It’s probable that organised sailing of some sort was taking place on Lough Ree long before 1770, but the records from 1770 prove beyond doubt that something was under way by that time. And though the name Lough Ree Yacht Club was not always the title being used, it’s the one that has lasted, even if within the past hundred years the club activity had sometimes become thin enough.

That said, dedicated families like the Murtaghs of Athlone kept the flame alight, even though - in the very thin years of the 1950s - if it hadn’t been for Sid Shine of Athlone making his houseboat/barge The Fox available for use as a clubhouse when required, LRYC might have become an idea rather than something tangible.

Jimmy Furey and Sid Shine. The late Jimmy Furey of Leecarrow on Lough Ree took over the Levinge mantle as the leading builder of Shannon ODs of the highest standard, while Sid Shine of Athlone was a dedicated sailing enthusiast who played a central role in keeping Lough Ree YC going through the thin years of the 1950s. Photo: W M NixonJimmy Furey and Sid Shine. The late Jimmy Furey of Leecarrow on Lough Ree took over the Levinge mantle as the leading builder of Shannon ODs of the highest standard, while Sid Shine of Athlone was a dedicated sailing enthusiast who played a central role in keeping Lough Ree YC going through the thin years of the 1950s. Photo: W M Nixon

That is something difficult to imagine as we contemplate the contemporary thriving clubhouse/dinghy park/boatyard/marina complex at Ballyglass. As proof of the club’s thriving good health, it has managed to keep a busy if truncated COVID-compliant programme going during the regulation periods under current Commodore John McGonigle, who incidentally is Ireland’s leading classic watch-maker. And before that in 2020 itself with his predecessor Garrett Leech, there was as much activity afloat as possible, and a continuing programme of acquiring extra land which has led to LRYC having a total site of six acres. This will facilitate the re-routing of the access road and other amenities, thereby making the interaction between the clubhouse and the on-water facilities more user-friendly, while providing a launching pad for further clubhouse expansion.

The secret life of yacht club flag officers…..John McGonigle, Lough Ree YC Commodore, is Ireland’s leading creator of customised classic wrist watchesThe secret life of yacht club flag officers…..John McGonigle, Lough Ree YC Commodore, is Ireland’s leading creator of customised classic wrist watches

Virtually all of this has been done with voluntary effort as far as the actual running of the club is concerned. Yet that’s something the members take in their stride as they focus on sailing, with one of their peak interests being the Olympic 49er duo of Rob Dickson and Sean Waddilove. Although the pair are generally associated with the east coast Fingal clubs of Howth and Skerries, Rob Dickson’s total passion for sailing was basically shaped around family holidays on the Shannon with the focus on Lough Ree YC, and while his head may be in Fingal or at some major international venue, his heart is on Lough Ree.

Lough Ree is renowned for its big skies, seen here making shapes over the LRYC SB20 Class.Lough Ree is renowned for its big skies, seen here making shapes over the LRYC SB20 Class.

There, the LRYC fleet is eclectic, with a strong emphasis on family and junior sailing through Optimists, Mirrors and 420s in addition to the Shannon ODs, while they’re also a stronghold of Cruisers and the SB20 Class, having provided the SB20s with their exuberant “Pandemic President” John Malone, who enthusiastically led his fleet both at LRYC and nationally into as much activity as was permitted, making them one of Ireland’s busiest classes.

LRYC is noted for its encouragement of youth classes, and while the 420s can enjoy its best summertime racing condition………LRYC is noted for its encouragement of youth classes, and while the 420s can enjoy its best summertime racing condition………
….there are many times when the lough reminds them that is basically an inland sea.….there are many times when the lough reminds them that is basically an inland sea.

But like all LRYC classes, the Lough Ree SB20s’ first loyalty is to their own home waters, and the way that they and all the sailors of Lough Ree YC interact in the most positive way with their own local community is an aspect of the club which the adjudicators find particularly inspiring. This soothing vid of a lone Shannon One Design sailing on the lake at Ballyglass tells us much about why the LRYC approach works so well:

 

SHANNON ONE DESIGN ASSOCIATION

Any organization which was founded in Ireland a hundred years ago will have found its earliest experiences coinciding precisely with the birth throes of the Irish Free State, which between 1919 and 1922 included a War of Independence, and the Civil War fought over the Treaty which resulted from the Independence conflict.

Thus the establishment of the Shannon One Design Association between the members of the North Shannon YC on Lough Bofin in Longford, Lough Ree YC at Athlone, and Lough Derg YC at Dromineer took place in a sort of parallel universe in which many people were trying to get on with some sort of normal life, while others in relatively confined areas were prepared to fight to the death for their objectives.

An early Shannon One Design clearly revealing the class’s noted hull flexibility.An early Shannon One Design clearly revealing the class’s noted hull flexibility

The ability to live with parallel situations was already almost normal in Ireland, for after the Sinn Fein victory in the 1918 General Election, an alternative government to that ruling from Dublin Castle was established under the new and “illegal” Dail, such that in many parts of the country, it was quietly if almost invisibly accepted as the real administration which either got things done, or prevented the supposedly official government from performing its more mundane functions.

MGM Motors Sailing club of the Year

In such circumstances, and with the River Shannon available to provide them with the means of travel should various roads and railways be blocked by felled trees or detonated bridges, the task of setting the Shannon One Design Association in being was put in motion, the key meeting being a gathering in the Prince of Wales Hotel in Athlone on January 20th 1920.

It may have started with a tentative January meeting in Athlone in 1920, but since then the Shannon One Designs have become one of the wonders of Irish sailing, as seen here with the class making a boisterous start in racing at Dromineer on Lough Derg, with John & Sandra Lefroy’s 1873-vintage iron-built Phoenix as Committee Boat. Photo SODAIt may have started with a tentative January meeting in Athlone in 1920, but since then the Shannon One Designs have become one of the wonders of Irish sailing, as seen here with the class making a boisterous start in racing at Dromineer on Lough Derg, with John & Sandra Lefroy’s 1873-vintage iron-built Phoenix as Committee Boat. Photo SODA

We get a fascinating insight into the mood and attitude of those involved through the 1972-published Golden Jubilee History of the class by L. M. “Bunny” Goodbody. For the most part, those originally involved lived in big house on the lakes and along the river, or were top professional and business people in the Shannon port towns. Nicknames were almost the norm – Bunny Goodbody had a formidable female relative, Posie Goodbody, whose most famous of many achievements was to set off at dawn from Killaloe in her hyper-fast motor-powered hydroplane, and by sunset she was at Lough Key, having power-boated in one span of daylight through the length of the Shannon.

MG Motors Sailing club of the Year

Then as the Shannon ODs – or Sods as everyone called them – got going after many discussions, their long-serving timekeeper was one Henry R Newland MA (TCD), whom you might expect to be called Harry or even Hal, but you’d be wrong. Everyone knew him as Tulip.

With noted longtime Shannon sailing families like the Delanys, Murtaghs, Hogans, Lefroys, Levinges, Lysters, Moerans, Devenishes, Handcocks, Wallers, Goodbodies and Boltons involved from the start, it’s not surprising to learn that some of these talented individuals expected their own self-created designs to become the standard boat for the new 18ft una-rigged class, so perhaps it was a peace-making ploy to go to the English designer Morgan Giles of Devon for the designs.

He produced something whose hull looked in profile like his recently-created clinker-built Essex One-Design, but the proposed SOD was much narrower and this – with the una rig - changed the character of the boat completely to make it truly expressive of the classic Irish lake boat with a substantial sail added.

Shannon OD designer Frank Morgan Giles of Devon created some noted dinghy classes. However, when his original plan for a dipping-lug mainsail for the Shannon One Designs in 1921 was soon changed by the class to a much neater gunter lug, they only told him after it had been done, resulting in frosty relations for 35 years.Shannon OD designer Frank Morgan Giles of Devon created some noted dinghy classes. However, when his original plan for a dipping-lug mainsail for the Shannon One Designs in 1921 was soon changed by the class to a much neater gunter lug, they only told him after it had been done, resulting in frosty relations for 35 years.

The sail immediately caused trouble. Giles had designed it as a lug sail, and despite the increasing presence in Ireland of the International 12 dinghy with its very effective standing lug, the Shannon sailors seem to have been provided with a dipping lug.

This was an infernal nuisance, so they quickly changed it to a gunter lug, and almost as an afterthought, they sent a letter about the change to Morgan Giles. He replied in such a frosty style that there was a stand-off in friendly relations for something like 35 years before any sort of client-designer harmony was properly restored.

This may have been something to do with the Irish situation, for while the new class merrily went ahead with Walter Levinge building seven boats to the new design for the 1922 season, the Civil War was causing sporadic violence in Ireland, and increasing hostility and incomprehension in England.

Yet those who were determined to get the new class going and continue to live in Ireland knew well the mood of their people among whom they lived, whatever their own political views. A certain mutual tolerance, understanding and respect was needed.

MG Motors Sailing club of the Year

Thus when the new class was finally lined up for its first proper race on Wednesday, August 23rd 1922 at Lough Ree YC at Ballyglass, as the L. M. Goodbody Shannon OD History of 1972 records: “Wednesday brought the news of the death in action in West Cork of General Michael Collins, the Commander in Chief of the National Army, and in consequence all racing that day was suspended”.

Referring to the former guerilla leader as General Collins was something which had first emerged from Winston Churchill and F E Smith - of all people – during the long and tedious Treaty negotiations. But the fact that it should have appeared as a natural part of the first history of the Shannon One Designs tells us much about how the class’s members – as natural conservatives – were already anticipating di Lampedusa’s philosophy that those who wish things to stay basically the same must give a subtle lead in controlled change.

Consequently, when an invitation was extended to the expanding new class to take part in the Tailteann Games in 1924 to celebrate the new Irish Free State, it was accepted with enthusiasm, with seven SODs going to what all those involved still thought of as Kingstown. Part of the attraction was that this offered the chance to prove their mettle against the Dublin Bay Water Wags, who apparently didn’t think very highly of this new take on the traditional Shannon sailing boat.

When the Shannon One Designs first raced on the sea with their participation in the sailing events of the Tailteann Games in 1924 at Dun Laoghaire, the big seas of Dublin Bay revealed their readiness to plane when conditions suited. It takes a bit more effort to do the same on freshwater lakes, but here we see Olympic sailor Cathy Mac Aleavey’s boat – which she built herself working with Jimmy Furey – getting up to planning speed on Lough Derg.When the Shannon One Designs first raced on the sea with their participation in the sailing events of the Tailteann Games in 1924 at Dun Laoghaire, the big seas of Dublin Bay revealed their readiness to plane when conditions suited. It takes a bit more effort to do the same on freshwater lakes, but here we see Olympic sailor Cathy Mac Aleavey’s boat – which she built herself working with Jimmy Furey – getting up to planning speed on Lough Derg.

We tend nowadays to think that Shannon One Designs look slightly out of place on the sea, but in their 1924 expedition to Dun Laoghaire where they were based at the Royal Irish YC, they very forcefully demonstrated otherwise. On one particularly rough day when the Water Wags refused to go out of the harbour, the Shannons sallied for with gusto and revelled in the planing opportunities which the big seas of Dublin Bay provided.

Edgar Waller of Lough Derg YC sailing SOD No. 47 (they’d started their numbering at 30) won the Tailteann Sailing Gold Medal after they’d out-performed the Water Wags boat-for-boat. It was a very satisfied group that returned to their home waters, with their new boats delivered back to the Shannon in due course on flat-bed rail trucks in a joint exercise by the Dublin South Eastern Railway and the Great Southern & Western Railway.

MG Motors Sailing club of the Year

This very convenient facility was available at Dun Laoghaire until 1961, when the entire Firefly Class, having raced their DBSC Tuesday evening contest, was transferred by launching trolleys to the waiting flatbed trucks on the waterfront railway, and on Friday evening their crews re-claimed them in West Cork in Baltimore Station nicely in time for Dinghy Week. It the last year in which they could so such a thing with the West Cork Line soon closing, though not all was lost - in time, the quayside Baltimore Railway Station became the first Glenans Base in Ireland.

The swans in the evening – Shannon One Designs return to portThe swans in the evening – Shannon One Designs return to port

Meanwhile, the Shannon One Designs built steadily through the 1920s and ’30s, with all transport needs between regattas being provided by sundry motor-cruisers when the wind didn’t suit. The North Shannon Yacht Club on Lough Bofin more or less expired after 1929, but this enabled a more compact programme between Lough Ree and Lough Derg to be devised for August, when many of the Shannon OD sailors returned on leave from remote postings in distant places – it’s said you could find photos of Shannon One Designs displayed on walls in District Offices in dusty places up towards the Khyber Pass.

Thus the user-friendly system of a week on Lough Ree followed by a week on Lough Derg developed, with additional spice being added to the summer’s doings with a long-distance race from Athlone down-Shannon to Lough Derg, with a midway stop at Shannonbridge and sustenance from the house speciality of hot rum and chocolate at Killeen’s pub.

They’ll always be trying something new – as August approaches, in distant parts of the world people will be dreaming of getting home to Ireland and trying a new trick or two in Shannon OD racing.They’ll always be trying something new – as August approaches, in distant parts of the world people will be dreaming of getting home to Ireland and trying a new trick or two in Shannon OD racing.

With class numbers continuing to expand as the challenge of building boats to the required high standard passed from Walter Levinge of Athlone to Jimmy Furey of Leecarrow and then since his demise (at a great age) to Dougal MacMahon of Athlone – thereby retaining Lough Ree’s reputation as the heartland of SOD construction - new names have emerged to the fore both in the racing and in the class administration, with the tradition of family involvement being stronger than ever.

Thus in 2021’s racing, the top overall prize, the Transom Trophy, was won by the Guy family of LDYC with number 142, second place going to the Mannions of Lough Ree with number 97, while third was another LRYC boat, number 73 sailed by David Dickson, uncle of Olympian Rob.

MG Motors Sailing club of the Year

Facing into the Centenary, the Class Chairman is Philip Mayne of Lough Ree who, like many other top Shannon OD sailors, has more to his sailing CV than just this one class, for among many other achievements he did a successful two-handed Round Britain and Ireland race in 1985 with Lough Derg’s Jocelyn Waller in the latter’s slim but slippy First Class 10 Silk.

The Shannon One Design Association Honorary Secretary is Naomi Algeo of Lough Ree YC, where her father Alan – a SOD sailor of many decades - has played many roles, including being Commodore.

Family matters…..SODA Hon. Sec. Naomi Algeo and her father Alan, former Lough Ree YC Commodore and longtime Shannon OD sailor.Family matters…..SODA Hon. Sec. Naomi Algeo and her father Alan, former Lough Ree YC Commodore and longtime Shannon OD sailor.

The programme to celebrate the Centenary will be developed as it becomes clear how the pandemic is moving and what becomes possible, though we can be sure that if it’s at all permissible, the Shannon One Designs will be doing it, and in considerable numbers too. Meanwhile, there’s a group effort in hand to publish the Centenary History before the magic hundred years are fully upon us all. Our thoughts are with the pictures editors in particular. The word is that they have 4,000 images - and counting – to choose between.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Lough Ree Yacht Club and the Shannon One Design Association on becoming the MG Motors Sailing Clubs of the year for 2022. Their joint achievements are so very special that if this informal and uniquely Irish contest hadn’t already been in existence for 43 years, it would be imperative to invent it immediately…….

The Guy family’s SOD No 142, Transom Trophy winner in 2021.The Guy family’s SOD No 142, Transom Trophy winner in 2021.

Published in W M Nixon

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
you".

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 

RIVER CLASS – WEIGHT IS GREAT…….

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. 

TWO BOATS OF VERY DIFFERENT STYLE

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 Shannon One Design
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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 ‘Afloat.ie’, 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 Shannon One Design
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