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Darryl Hughes’ immaculately-restored 1937 43ft Tyrrell gaff ketch Maybird became both the oldest and the first gaff-rigged boat to complete the Round Ireland Race in 2018. 

The historic yacht now moored in Cork Harbour on the Owenabue river is the centrepiece of a new trophy for June's 700-miler from Wicklow that is expected to draw a large entry when entries open on January 24th.

The Hughes’ 43ft ketch originally built by Tyrrell’s of Arklow in 1937 and restored with the owner as Project Manager in a superb two-year job concluded in 2011, got back to Wicklow in 2018 in a time of nine days and 22 hours.

In the workshop at his recently-acquired house in Crosshaven, Hughes crafted the Maybird Mast Trophy from timber salvaged from some of the ketch’s original spars.

As Afloat's WM Nixon previously noted, the resulting trophy will have added meaning in several ways, not least in that it will be a piece of high-quality woodwork which - in its original form - will have been handled by the great Jack Tyrrell himself, a world-renowned shipwright who gave real meaning to the term “hands-on management”.

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Entries open in less than a fortnight for the 2022 SSE Renewables Round Ireland Yacht Race and there is considerable 'pent up' interest in the biennial ocean race classic that was last sailed in 2018.

Wicklow Sailing Club organisers have given 24th January as the entry opening date and are expecting a strong take up after efforts have been made to promote the race not only in the UK but also in France

As regular readers will know the 2020 race was cancelled due to Covid when it had already attracted over 50 entries and was expecting a final fleet of 80.

Back then, Darren Wright of Howth had chartered the famous Pata Negra for the race. That boat has had considerable success since and is competing this month too, currently competing in the RORC Transatlantic. The new owner of the Lombard 46 is none other than ISORA's Andrew Hall from North Wales, a Round Ireland veteran, who may be very well enter the high peformer for the June 18th circuit.

The 2022 edition is being planned with relevant precautions in place to ensure a safe experience.

"We were anticipating a fleet of close to 80 boats when we had to cancel our 2020 plans," Race Director Kyran O'Grady told Afloat in December. "Now that we are learning how to live with Covid-19, there is pent-up demand on top of a surge of interest in offshore racing, so a strong turn-out is on the cards."

They are not claims made without foundations as The Wicklow race is now one of just 25 world-class offshore fixtures to make it onto the 2022 International Class40 calendar.

The Notice of Race for the June 18 event is here. It sets out the classes to race, the handicap and rating system that will be used and the classes to which it will apply, along with any recent changes to offshore regulations of which there have been some material changes as noted here.

The Irish offshore classic is the second-longest race in the Royal Ocean Racing Club calendar first race took place in 1980 with only thirteen boats. Since then, held biennially, the fleet has grown steadily, attracting a record 64 entrants from all over the world.

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With entries scheduled to open on January 24 2022, the first formal document for the 2022 SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race has been taken with the publication of the Notice Of Race document (downloadable below) by Wicklow Sailing Club organisers.

The Notice of Race for the June 18 event sets out the classes to race, the handicap and rating system that will be used and the classes to which it will apply, along with any recent changes to offshore regulations of which there have been some material changes as noted here.

The Irish offshore classic is the second-longest race in the Royal Ocean Racing Club calendar first race took place in 1980 with only thirteen boats. Since then, held biennially, the fleet has grown steadily, attracting a record 64 entrants from all over the world.

A Mod 70 trimaran competing in the Round Ireland RaceA Mod 70 trimaran competing in the Round Ireland Race Photo: Afloat

There are several classes in IRC in which boats and their crews can compete, including IRC 1 – 4, Z class, ISORA, a 'Two-handed Class' and a Team Prize. The 2016 race saw the introduction of multihulls sailing under MOCRA rules. The 2018 race saw the introduction of a new Class40 category.

In the past, boats competing have ranged from a 98-footer former "round the world" maxi to club boats one third the size, with all sizes in between.

As Afloat reported earlier, an international fleet is eyeing the Round Ireland Race. It has also made the Class40 Calendar thanks to the pioneering efforts of race organiser Kyran O'Grady who has been promoting the race in France.

Published in Round Ireland

While Tom Dolan was bringing joy to Irish sailors by leading the Figaro fleet round the Fastnet Rock, at the other end of the south coast of Ireland it was being proved yet again that getting past the Fastnet is a doddle by comparison with putting Wexford's own Tuskar Rock astern.

And it doesn't get any easier when you're trying to do it in a little Hurley 22, which was designed for comfort as much as speed. Yesterday, we took our leave of Eoin Keyes of Kinsale and Leonie Conway aboard the former's Hurley 22 off the coast of Wicklow, where light and obtuse winds - combined with the strong tides - were making for very uneven progress in their bid to complete the clockwise round Ireland circuit non-stop, and doing it in a significantly small boat in order to highlight the newly-formed Irish Chapter of Sea Shepherd, the global conservation society.

Very sensibly, Eoin had kept their voyage low key until it looked as though they were going to make it, and thus in yesterday's first report we'd to use a stock photo of a standard Hurley 22 in order to come by an image that shows that Moonshine is in fact a distinctly souped-up version, with a robust rigid spray-hood over the companionway, and a bowsprit for the easier handling of a spinnaker of decidedly grown-up size.

Windward work aboard Moonshine at sea, with the added rigid sprayhood making the cockpit an almost cosy place. Photo: Eoin KeyesWindward work aboard Moonshine at sea, with the added rigid sprayhood making the cockpit an almost cosy place. Photo: Eoin Keyes

Meanwhile, we've also been reminded in recent hours of other round Ireland circuits in boats of similar size with varying degrees of stop and go which were achieved in the sometimes very distant past, and often in support of some worthy cause. Be that as it may, we and many others are currently rooting for Moonshine, and you can continue to follow her progress here 

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The Round Ireland Sailing Record is a bit like Ireland herself. It's complicated by Partition. It's a case of there being not one but two sets of records, two elephants in two rooms. But for interested parties, the relevant elephant is in the room next door. You may well pretend that the other room doesn't exist. But everyone else knows it does for sure, and the rest of us can see it clearly, complete with your resident pachyderm in situ - big ears, trunk and all.

Thus when Pamela Lee and Catherine Hunt set their new Round Ireland Female Two-Handed Sailing Time with the Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta, finishing across the Dun Laoghaire Pierhead-Kish Lighthouse line in the small hours of Saturday, October 17th, the Irish sailing community emerged with shared delight from their pandemic torpor. And here at we gave a few brief comparisons to show the quality of what they'd achieved while adding that we'd do a more detailed analysis of it all in the fullness of time.

Moonduster in her first season of 1981Moonduster in her first season of 1981. It was her excellent time in the Round Ireland Race of 1984 which was the main inspiration for establishing a recognised Round Ireland Record. Photo: W M Nixon

It was a caveat used advisedly, as you'd never be 100% sure of what's lurking in mountains of data. You'd think there could be nothing more straightforward than recording a time achieved for sailing round Ireland, and setting it in context. But the Round Ireland Yacht Race from Wicklow has had its own set of rules and starting line since its inauguration in 1980, and while it does, of course, have record times, it is relative results from its Wicklow line which are its primary focus.


By contrast, the World Sailing Speed Record Council – established by the International Yacht Racing Union (now World Sailing) in 1972 – has set its Round Ireland Record line as being between the lighthouse on the East Pier in Dun Laoghaire and the Kish Lighthouse eight nautical miles away off the mouth of Dublin Bay.

But although the WSSRC came into being into being before the first-ever round Ireland race (which was a one-off three-stager from Ballyholme in 1975), and also clear in advance of the first non-stop Round Ireland from Wicklow in 1980, the WSSRC didn't have any involvement with a Round Ireland Record until 1986.

This arose because, in the 1984 Round Ireland Race from Wicklow, Denis Doyle's Frers 51 Moonduster from Cork had set a then-formidable time of 3 days 16h 15m 25s during which, as navigator John Bourke pithily put it: "We were seeing off an entire Irish county in every watch".

Denis Doyle in the midst of Moonduster's crew in Wicklow after setting the record of 1984. Included in photo are Joxer O'Brien, John Bourke, Neil Love, David Harte, Neil Hegarty, Don McClement, Grattan Riberts and Brendan FogartyDenis Doyle in the midst of Moonduster's crew in Wicklow after setting the record of 1984. Included in photo are Joxer O'Brien, John Bourke, Neil Love, David Harte, Neil Hegarty, Don McClement, Grattan Riberts and Brendan Fogarty

Suddenly it became clear that a Round Ireland Record Challenge Campaign was an attractive publicity-attracting one-week all-in package, particularly if it was taken out of the constraints of a set time for starting from Wicklow in an increasingly crowded race, with a pre-ordained direction in which to make the circuit.

So in May 1986, Robin Knox-Johnston's 60ft Rod MacAlpine-Downie-designed catamaran British Airways arrived into Dublin Bay for the first crack at the straight record – with a largely Irish crew on board - at what would become the WSSRC contest on the Dun Laoghaire-Kish line under the auspices of the National Yacht Club.

Robin Knox-Johnston's 60ft catamaran British Airways heads north from Dublin Bay at the start of a round Ireland record challenge in May 1986 which managed to take 12 hours off Moonduster's 1984 timeRobin Knox-Johnston's 60ft catamaran British Airways heads north from Dublin Bay at the start of a round Ireland record challenge in May 1986 which managed to take 12 hours off Moonduster's 1984 time.

We went off anti-clockwise, and things were looking good until approaching the coast of Kerry, when the wind was settled firmly in the southeast with a lumpy sea, and it seemed to take for ever to get the big machine round to the Fastnet and any easing of sheets, such that though we did beat the Doyler's time, it was only by 12 hours, and the three-day barrier hadn't been broken.

However, during this period of the late 1980s, Dickie Gomes of Strangford Lough was one of the rock stars on both the Round-Ireland-from-Wicklow scene, and also in long-distance international short-handed sailing. He rustled up Peter Phillips with his great big lumbering 80ft catamaran Novanet for a fully-crewed crack at the Round Ireland from a line at the Royal Ulster YC in Belfast Lough.

The 80ft catamaran NovanetThe 80ft catamaran Novanet sailed under several names, but although well capable of high straight-line speeds in strong winds, she'd a limited performance and was sometimes incapable of tacking

It was November 1986 when they finally got going for a circuit through monster gales on the west coast with all the delights of 15 hours darkness every day, their crew including Enda O'Coineen who had also been on British Airways. As they got round in 2 days and 22 hours, they'd broken the three days barrier, any quibbles about a non-WSSRC line were properly blown away, and what looked like a very challenging time for sailing unfettered round Ireland was universally acknowledged and expected to stand for some time.

Novanet's crew in BangorNovanet's crew in Bangor after establishing a new record in November 1986, Dickie Gomes on left.

In fact, it lasted for seven years. But in September 1993 Con Murphy and Cathy Mac Aleavey turned up in Dublin Bay with Steve Fossett, Dave Scully and Brian Thompson with the very zippy 60ft trimaran Lakota, and they broke the two-day barrier with a brilliantly calculated and superbly-executed challenge, and this time it really did look virtually unbeatable with a record of 1d 20hrs 4 minutes 42s.

Meanwhile, all sorts of other special Round Ireland Circuit Times had been established, with the mono-hull record being pushed up by the likes of Lawrie Smith in the Round Ireland Race with the maxi Rothmans doing it in 3 days 12 hours in 1990, while a first single-handed multi-hull time of 4 days and 3 hours had been set in January 1992 by Robin Deasy of Galway in a former Rob James 60ft trimaran.

Lakota takes her high speed departure northwards from Dublin Bay in September 1993.Lakota takes her high-speed departure northwards from Dublin Bay in September 1993

The early 1990s also saw the astonishing Rob Henshall from the north get round alone and unaccompanied on both a Laser and a Bic Sailboard. So clearly with Lakota's superb no-limits record set, it was time to celebrate, and in November 1993 the National Yacht Club, supported by Cork Dry Gin, threw a gala Round Ireland Records Dinner. To it, after hours and days of research, they invited everyone who had ever set a round Ireland sailing time of any significance whatever, in order to create a historical context in which they could come along and celebrate Lakota's outstanding achievement.

And they were all there, including people like the MacLaverty brothers and Mick Clarke who'd been round in 1961 in the 18ft Waverley Class Durward, and James Cahill from Mayo who'd done it with various crews in a 13ft 6 ins dinghy in 1976, and of course Rob Henshall in addition to droves of more orthodox sailors from Ireland-circling mono-hulls and multi-hulls alike.

Lakota's winning crew of (left to right) Con Murphy Cathy Mac Aleavey, the late Steve Fossett, Dave Scully, and Brian ThompsonBack in the olden days, when you could have boisterous celebratory gatherings without social distancing…..the Round Ireland Records Dinner of November 1993 in the National Yacht Club with Lakota's winning crew of (left to right) Con Murphy Cathy Mac Aleavey, the late Steve Fossett, Dave Scully, and Brian Thompson

In these pandemic times, it's difficult to imagine that such raucous and uber-sociable gatherings were a regular part of sailing's winter scene. But such was the case with the 1993 Round Ireland Dinner, and it's as well that so much detailed research had taken place beforehand, for anyone who now claims to clearly remember being at the event simply can't have been there, as it was that kind of party……

The circuits which were celebrated at it were:

Round Ireland Sailing Circuits and Times to 1993:

  • 1864 Olivia (25tons, William Power, Kingstown) Time not known
  • 1889 Aideen (60ft) (Walter Boyd, Howth) Time not known
  • 1896 Brenda (28ft)(F.H. Sinclair, RUYC) 11d 4h 30m 2.63kn
  • 1911 Kelpie (49ft) (Conor O Brien Limerick) Total cruise 2 months, no other details known
  • 1935 Dauntless (37ft) (H.D.E.Barton, Irish CrC) 8d 20h 3.34kn
  • 1961 Durward (K & C MacLaverty & M.Clarke, Carrickfergus SC) 8d16h 3.4kn
  • 1964 Ainmara (36ft) (W.Nixon, J.R.O'Neill & E Wheeler) 6d 2h 50m 4.83 kn
  • 1975 Korsar (34ft) (R.Mollard & R. Watson, RStGYC) 5d 23h 8m 4.95kn
  • 1975 Brian Coad of WHSC began his record of most Round Ireland Races - was BCT winner 1980
  • 1976 Smallest Boat - James Cahill (Mayo) 13ft 6ins open dinghy
  • 1980 Force Tension (J.Morris, SCYC) 5d 15h 2m 57s 5.24kn
  • 1982 Moonduster (D.N.Doyle, RCYC) 4d 3h 45m 25s 7.09kn
  • 1984 Moonduster (D.N.Doyle, RCYC) 3d 16h 15m 43s 8.02kn
  • 1986 British Airways (R.Knox-Johnston, 3d 4h 5m 36s 9.23kn
  • 1986 Novanet (R.Gomes & P.Phillips) 2d 22h 25m16s 10.05kn
  • 1990 Rothmans (Lawrie Smith LTSC) New mono-hull record  3d 12h 56m 06s 8.29kn
  • 1990 Robert Henshall (RNIYC) Laser single-hander
  • 1992 Robert Henshall (RNIYC) Bic Sailboard
  • 1992 (January) Round Ireland Single-handed record Robin Deasy (Galway Bay SC), 60ft trimaran 4d 3h 12m 59 s 7.11kn
  • 1993 Lakota (S.Fossett & D.Scully), 1d 20h 42m 20s 15.84kn

The smallest keelboat to go round Ireland entirely under sail is the MacLaverty brother's 18ft Belfast Lough Waverley Durward, seen here in Sheephaven in DonegalThe smallest keelboat to go round Ireland entirely under sail is the MacLaverty brother's 18ft Belfast Lough Waverley Durward, seen here in Sheephaven in Donegal. Durward's average speed was 3.4 knots. Photo: Kevin MacLaverty

The largest keelboat to go round Ireland entirely under sail is Mike Slade's 100ft ICAP-Leopard The largest keelboat to go round Ireland entirely under sail is Mike Slade's 100ft ICAP-Leopard – she averaged 10.7 knots in 2008

With hindsight, the selection of 1993 as a watershed year was a brilliant choice, as the Lakota record stood for 22 years until it was bested by the MOD70 Musandam Oman (Sidney Gavignet) in 2015. But in the meantime, other new variants on significant sailing round Ireland achievements and times recorded continued to be ratcheted up, and there were two more mono-hull single-handed challenges before the Powers-That-Be made it clear that sailing right round Ireland non-stop single-handed was verging on contravention of sea law.

The two mono-hull loners were both performing in 2005, with Mick Liddy of Dun Laoghaire doing it in a First 40.7 in 5 days and 12 hours, but then before the season was out Michael Kleinjans of Belgium turned up with his Open 40 Roaring Forty, and went round alone in 4d 1h 52m, thereby besting Mick Liddy's time, and also Robin Deasy's multi-hull time by an hour and twenty minutes.

The MOD70 Musadnam Oman in Dublin Bay after her first breaking of the round Ireland record in 2015.The MOD70 Musandam Oman in Dublin Bay after her first breaking of the round Ireland record in 2015.

Meanwhile, the open mono-hull record continued to be pushed up through both the Round Ireland Race and specific challenges by Volvo Racers and former Maxis, producing this set of figures:

  • 1998 Jeep Cherokee (W60) (Colm Barrington, RIYC) 3d 4h 23m 57s 9.22kn
  • 2002 Irish Independent Challenger (83ft Maxi, G.Keegan, S.Fogarty & D Cafferky, HYC) 3d 3h 27m 45sec 9.33kn
  • 2008 Leopard (100ft Maxi) Mike Slade 2d 17h 58m 10.7kn


There was one possible under-utilised record which had only started to come into focus in 2004, and that was when the Round Ireland Race from Wicklow introduced a two-handed division. But in its first staging in that year, the west coast's Aodhan Fitzgerald & Yannick Lemonnier put in such a crisp time of 4 days 6 hours and 30 minutes in the Figaro 2 DoDingle that for years no subsequent two-handed crew in the Round Ireland Race came anywhere near them, while Aodhan Fitzgerald for his part went on to win the 2008 race overall with the fully-crewed First 40.7 Ireland West.

Meanwhile, a fully-crewed competitor in that 2004 race, France's Jean-Philippe Chomette with the Open 60 Solene, was so taken with the special challenge provided by sailing round Ireland that he was back in 2005, again with a full crew but this time including legendary nautical metman Chris Tibbs who reckons the round Ireland one of the neatest challenges going, and he called the timing on the WSSRC course to such perfection that CityJet Solene went round in 2 days 9 hours and 41 minutes, thereby creating a mono-hull "unbeatable" to match the enduring Lakota multi-hull time.

The Open 60 Cityjet Solene set a new fully-crewed mono-hull record in 2005The Open 60 Cityjet Solene set a new fully-crewed mono-hull record in 2005

The post-2009 recession undoubtedly took its toll on round Ireland sailing challenges of all kinds, but things were coming back to life by 2015 when the Ogden brothers made the first Drascombe Lugger circuit from Baltimore, and then in 2016 there was a Laser circuit by Gary "Ted" Sargent of Howth, a feat repeated in 2018 by Richard Hayes of Galway.

The Ogden brothers return to Baltimore after circling Ireland in their Drascombe Lugger in 2015.The Ogden brothers return to Baltimore after circling Ireland in their Drascombe Lugger in 2015.

This was all part of a new golden era for Round Ireland record-making, as the Round Ireland Race of 2016 saw George David's Rambler 88 push the mono-hull record through the floor to 2d 2h 24m 9s, thereby knocking a clear 7 hours off CityJet Solene's "unbeatable" time from 2005.

eorge David's all-conquering Rambler 88 set the current mono-hull record in the 2016 Round Ireland RaceGeorge David's all-conquering Rambler 88 set the current mono-hull record in the 2016 Round Ireland Race

But everything was happening in 2016, for in 2015 Musandam Oman had taken a small slice off the Lakota multi-hull time, and in 2016 by winning the Round Ireland Race, she took another bit off it in winning a hyper-close three-way MOD70 finish which so frustrated Lloyd Thornburg in Phaedo 3 that in August he came back for another crack at the circuit from the WSSRC line, and succeeded in getting the multi-hull record down to 1d 12h 52m, which has been unchallenged since, and also left us with one of the finest sequences of sailing on the Irish coast, as Phaedo came past the majestic Blaskets, Skelligs and Fastnet on her record-making anti-clockwise second circuit.

With all the jigs and the reels of the excitements of 2015-2016, and with information coming from several sources as to specific times in what and where, when Pam Lee and Cat Hunt established their straightforward time for a female two-handed circuit four weeks ago with their Figaro 3, all we knew for sure was that additional context was added by knowing they'd beaten the two-handed time set by Aodhan Fitzgerald and Yannick Lemonnier way back in 2004.

Michael Kleinjans' Open 40 slices through between two Figaro 2Michael Kleinjans' Open 40 slices through between two Figaro 2s. Aodhan Fitzgerald and Yannick Lemonnier established the first round Ireland two-handed record with a Figaro 2 in 2004.

But a remarkable number of boats have raced and tried record-breaking round Ireland under sail since then, and with the two sets of times being kept by two completely separate organisations, it's not always a cakewalk digging into some of the more obscure times, particularly if you have a computer crash in the middle of the process.

Michael Kleinjans's Open 40 at the start of the 2016 Round Ireland RaceMichael Kleinjans's Open 40 at the start of the 2016 Round Ireland Race, in which he set a new two-handed round Ireland record of 3 days 22 hours and 43 minutes.

Atlantic sailing – Pam lee and Cat Hunt crossing Donegal Bay in Iarracht MaigeantaAtlantic sailing – Pam lee and Cat Hunt crossing Donegal Bay in Iarracht Maigeanta, on their way to a round Ireland two-handed time of 3 days 19 hours and 41 minutes. Photo Irish Air Corps

So there was a feeling there might be something in the midst of all the numbers from 2016 which might give an added perspective, and there it was, hidden in the concentration of the Round Ireland Race's new multi-hull and mono-hull records at the heart of a record fleet.

Spread across all the classes was a two-handed division. And in it were several Class 40s, some sailed two-handed. The winner was Belgium's Michael Kleinjans, possibly still sailing Roaring Forty with which he set the Round Ireland solo record back in 2005, but prosaically called Visit Brussels for the Round Ireland Race 2016.

He had just one shipmate, Ian Wittevrongel, and they won the Class 40s and the overall two-handed division in an elapsed time of 3 days 22 hours 43 minute and 45 seconds. Thus they knocked eight hours off the DoDingle time from 2004. But their time with all the power of an Open 40 under them in 2016 has still been bested by three clear hours in 2020 by Pamela Lee and Catherine Hunt with a smaller Figaro 3. 

Round Ireland Two-Handed Record

  • 2004 Yannick Lemonnier/Aodhan Fitzgerald DoDingle (Figaro 2) 4d 6h 30m
  • 2016 Michael Kleinjens/Ian Wittevrongel Class 40 Visit Brussels 3d 22h 43m 45s
  • 2020 Pamela Lee/Catherine Hunt (Greystones, Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta: 3 days 19hrs 41mins 39s
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Female Two-handed Round Ireland Record Day Four 2100hrs: The situation became transformed. It was like the clicking of a switch. Or so it seemed to those on the edge of their seats ashore, as they watched on screen as the Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigenta struggled with little wind against the last of the ebb tide off the Antrim coast at Glenarm. First, there came the breath of a fresher breeze from between southeast and east to bring the boat to life. And then by 1800hrs, the new flood tide was surging them on their way, zapping two-handed crew Pam Lee and Cat Hunt south across Belfast Lough and past Mew Island in jig time, such that they were tearing along the County Down coast with their speed over the ground comfortably into the double digits.

Admittedly the pace slowed a little as they swept past the South Rock at 2000 hrs and began to get away from the most powerful stream of tide. But they'll still have something of it in their favour until St John's Point is abeam, provided the breeze keeps up.

Sailing Magenta Round Ireland Tracker

On the present rate of going, St John's will be there - though well to the west – around 2130, and this is where things start to get extra-interesting. If they can keep up their beam reaching speed around the 8 knots mark through the water, they can then make the classic hop of going from the last of the south-going flood as it peters out east of the entrance to Carlingford Lough, and make the leap across slack water for an hour or so until they then begin to feel the very first of the ebb in the new tidal system where the flood goes north, but the ebb is favourably going south.

It will be doing so with real determination as it accelerates south past Rockabill. As of 2100, Rockabill is still 48 miles away, while the finish line is 63 miles distant. You do the maths. If this good easterly breeze keeps up and they can be hovering between 7 and 8 knots through the water, the four day circuit is a distinct possibility, as to do it they've to be past the Kish by 0745 hrs tomorrow (Saturday) morning, and the current rate of progress allows them a bit of leeway on that.

But as we've seen, the winds today are in a capricious mood, even if a proper southeaster is in the offing. The tension in this project will be maintained right to the end.

Published in Offshore

Female Two-handed Round Ireland Record Day Four 1500hrs:  The North Channel is one very unforgiving bit of water to go sailing on. It only gives you the gift of a fair tide for just long enough to begin to think that the dark cliffs of the inappropriately-named Fair Head and the gloom-inducing Mull of Kintyre aren't such oppressive bits of coastline after all as you buzz merrily along in the morning sunshine. And then the tide turns. The wind shuts down. And in near calm, you can appreciate only too well the sheer unfeasibly enormous vastness of this bulk of water moving in the wrong direction, struggling as you are to squeeze enough speed out of your boat simply to hold your own until the tide turns again. Meanwhile, the steep coastline becomes spookily claustrophobic.

We left round Ireland two-handed record challengers Pam Lee and Cat Hunt this morning as merry as grigs after they'd swept in past Rathlin with a grand fair flood tide at sometimes better than 12 knots over the ground. And we hoped that there was still enough life left in the flood to carry them well on their way towards the South Rock off the County Down coast, where tidal streams start to be less dominant.

But was not to be. At least they'd got a far as Glenarm, and south of the very worst of the foul tide. But the new ebb soon built up to strength, the wind – such as it was - drew more from the south and eased, and speeds of 2 knots or less over the ground became the order of the day.

Sailing Magenta Round Ireland Tracker

It will be 6 o'clock this evening before they have significant tide in their favour, but then it's good news, as every bit of southing they make taking them closer to the Irish Sea's relatively tide-free western sector. And it all brings them closer to the bit of more active weather that's distantly developing to the far southwest of Ireland, and should be preceded by a decent sou'easter which might even be the leading wind to bring them into Dublin Bay to complete the circuit within four days – deadline is 0745 tomorrow (Saturday).

But for now, they can have to live with seeing the Antrim coast in slow detail, and imagining life in Glenarm Castle up on the heights. It's the stronghold of the Mac Donnells, the Earls of Antrim, who were originally the Lords of the Isles in the Hebrides, but moved their HQ south when they found the real estate was of better quality in Ireland.

However, they never lost their love of the isles, so by tradition, each deceased member of the family is buried upright in the family graveyard on top of the hill so that he or she can look out over the coasts and islands and waterways that were their extensive domain.

But once upon a time, a notably unpopular member of the family died, and none of his relatives could be bothered to come home for the funeral. So the faithful retainers of the descendants of the Lords of the Isles struggled on their own up the hillside with the loathed one's very heavy coffin and buried him head down.

Female Two-handed Round Ireland Record Day Four 0900hrs: When Pam Lee and Cat Hunt entered Day 3 of their Magenta Project Round Ireland Challenge at 0745 hrs this morning (Friday), they were nearer the Scottish coast than they were to the northern shores of Ireland. But they were reaping the benefit of the new favourable flood tide, after a difficult night spent beating to windward into the Sea of Moyle, the appropriate-sounding ancient name for the tide-riven area between the north of Ireland and the large Scottish southern Hebridean island of Islay.

Back at midnight, they'd got to Inishtrahull. But with the barometer rising, there was every chance that the calm which was settling over central Ireland for the night would spread northward over the sea. Thus any notion of short-tacking inshore along the north Irish Coast, in search of slacker water as the ebb tide ran west at full blast, was abandoned in favour of shaping a course well offshore where southeast to east wind was still to be found, even if there was little or no relenting of the adverse tides.

Rathlin Island, Ireland's supreme tidal gateRathlin Island, Ireland's supreme tidal gate
They were around 5 miles from Islay's southwest headland as they tacked with the new flood starting make properly at 0640 hrs, with speed in a local tidal hot-spot at one stage getting up to 10 knots. And now, at 0840 and out in the less excitable waters getting rapidly clear of the Islay coast with a crisp passage past the supreme tidal gate of Rathlin Island in prospect, they are around 9.4 knots and rising, making the best of a light easterly and a surging fair tide.

Sailing Magenta Round Ireland Tracker

The conditions and their course are such that the tide will help to sharpen the apparent wind strength without making the sea unduly rough, so conditions are maximised for smooth progress by a tired crew brought back to life by real progress after an exceptionally difficult and wearing night.

After they've passed Fair Head and Tor Head on Ireland's northeast corner, they're clear of the worst of the tidal blackspot, and though a favourable tide right through the North Channel to the South Rock Light would be a bonus, as the new ebb begins to start running north again around noon that would be too much to hope for.

But with moderate mainly easterly winds forecast today for the North Channel, and with east to southeast wind indicated for the final leg from the South Rock to the official record line at the Kish Light off Dublin Bay, they've a good chance of continuing in a leading wind and overcoming any unfavourable tides for the rest of the day after the mighty hurdle of Rathlin has been cleared.

Next Magenta update on will be early this afternoon, but meanwhile, at 0900 hrs they've 136 miles to the finish, and SOG is 10 knots.


In a decision which will resonate with the national and international sailing community, and following intensive meetings all day, organisers Wicklow Sailing Club in concert with their many stakeholders have decided at 1845hrs today (Monday) that the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic make it inadvisable and impossible to stage the SSE Renewables Round Ireland Yacht Race 2020, which had already been put back by two months to August 22nd in the hope of a significant improvement in the general health and hazard situation.

Organisers say a full statement on the cancellation will be issued later this evening (issued Tuesday am - web editor), but meanwhile, the thoughts of all sailors will be with the gallant little Wicklow club, which had been so keenly anticipating and working towards staging the 21st biennial Round Ireland some 40 years after founding the event with just 16 starters in 1980.

Over fifty entries had been received for August's race. Read all Afloat's race updates in the build-up to the 2020 race here.

Afloat is keen to hear sailors views on the cancellation at [email protected]

Update 08.38 Tuesday, July 28:

Press Statement from Wicklow Sailing Club

Global increase in Covid cases forces cancellation of rescheduled SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race

The sharp rise in global Covid-19 cases has forced Wicklow Sailing Club to cancel this year’s SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race, due to start on Saturday 22nd August. The next staging of the blue ribband sailing event will now take place in June 2022.

As early as March of this year, the 21st edition of the race was headed for a record turnout in excess of 60 teams in what would have been the Round Ireland’s 40th Anniversary year.

Following the introduction of initial Covid-19 lockdown restrictions the original start date of June 2020 was postponed to 22nd August to allow time for virus counter-measures to take effect. Even with Covid restrictions in place, entry numbers for this year’s rescheduled race from Irish and international competitors held around the 50-boat mark.

In the months since the postponement, Wicklow Sailing Club has been consulting diligently with various stake-holders including race participants, sponsor SSE Renewables, Wicklow County Council and Irish Sailing among others to agree a range of mitigation measures onshore and offshore to allow the race event to proceed safely while adhering to Covid-19 guidelines.

However, despite these mitigations, Wicklow Sailing Club has taken the decision to cancel this year’s SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race in the best interests of participants and volunteer support crews, and in response to concerns around the recent sharp rise in global Covid-19 cases.

The next edition in 2022 of the 704-nautical mile race that has been dubbed “the Kilimanjaro of Sailing” is unaffected at this time.

“For a time, it seemed like we were on track to stage a successful race albeit with significant mitigation measures that people would understand,” commented Kyran O'Grady, Commodore of Wicklow Sailing Club. “But the global situation with the virus is precarious and while under some control in Ireland now, who knows where we might be in just a few weeks’ time.

“We could easily run the race for entries from the island of Ireland only and possibly restrict visiting international teams from coming ashore before and after the race. But this runs against both the spirit of this classic race and our tradition at Wicklow Sailing Club of welcoming all competitors. Our competitors need certainty as soon as possible and our first priority must always be the safety of participants and those supporting the delivery of this sporting event.”

Race title sponsor SSE Renewables has expressed its support for the decision by Wicklow Sailing Club. Barry Kilcline, Director of Development at SSE Renewables, said: “We have been hugely impressed at the great deal of work invested by Wicklow Sailing Club and other key national and local stakeholders to respond to the impact Covid-19 has had on this year’s staging of the Round Ireland. As the most prominent international offshore sailing event staged in Ireland, the decision to have to cancel this year’s event is clearly disappointing for everyone in the sailing community and in Wicklow in particular.”

“However, clearly in the context of the pandemic the decision to cancel is also the most appropriate and necessary response. As race sponsor Wicklow Sailing Club is assured of our full support in this regard and we will work with the club as it prepares plans for the next staging in 2022.”

Further information about Round Ireland 2022 will be issued in the coming weeks.

Published in Round Ireland
Tagged under

A new Round Ireland Race record speed time is in prospect with the entry of a MOD70 trimaran into the 21st edition of the race from Wicklow.

There is no doubting the appeal of August's classic Irish offshore with the entry of one of the world’s fastest offshore race boats.

Peter Cunningham's high-speed UK giant 'Powerplay' brings entries to 50 so far in the biennial 700-mile circumnavigation.

If conditions permit, Cunningham will be out to beat the outright race record of 38 h 37 min 7 seconds that is is held by another MOD-70, Musandam-Oman Sail and was set in June 2016.

Powerplay follows two more potent international entries received at Race HQ with more to come before the starting gun sounds in one month.

JPK11.80 entry

A Hamburg based Mach 40.3, Rockall has been entered by Christopher Opielok and the UK's Ed Bell has joined the race with the JPK 11.80, Dawn Treader adding to the competition for overall IRC honours.

Published in Round Ireland
Tagged under
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