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Is it Superbowl Weekend For Sailing In Ireland?

3rd June 2022
The essence of summertime for the Howth 17s Aura, Gladys and Isobel as captured by artist Carol O’Mara. These 1898-vintage boats are among 12 keelboat classes contesting this weekend’s Wave Regatta at Howth, where each fleet will have an O’Mara illustration included in their prizes. Illustration courtesy Ian & Judith Malcolm and Carol O’Mara
The essence of summertime for the Howth 17s Aura, Gladys and Isobel as captured by artist Carol O’Mara. These 1898-vintage boats are among 12 keelboat classes contesting this weekend’s Wave Regatta at Howth, where each fleet will have an O’Mara illustration included in their prizes. Illustration courtesy Ian & Judith Malcolm and Carol O’Mara

How can you make sense of a sport which features at least 143 World Championships? It’s a question which was first asked many years ago when the then International Sailing Federation (now World Sailing) accorded official “International” status to two more globally-distributed racing boat classes, thereby entitling them to stage their own World Championships.

Admittedly nowadays a growing class really does need genuine international strength to be so recognised. But some venerable classes still cling to that distinction despite being very much a leftover minority interest surviving over many decades in just a few countries. Thus while top level international sailing moves on with new versions of multi-class world championships in addition to the Olympics, these supposed relics of a bygone era cling on to their status - and the inalienable right to stage their own World Championship - with the all the determination of super-charged limpets.

The J/109 Mojito (Vicky Cox & Peter Dunlop, Pwllheli SC) will be contending the J/109 Easterns as part of Howth’s Wave RegattaThe J/109 Mojito (Vicky Cox & Peter Dunlop, Pwllheli SC) will be contending the J/109 Easterns as part of Howth’s Wave Regatta

Add to that the fact that sailing is a highly individualistic vehicle sport in which many participants sail regularly but don’t actually race at all, and you begin to appreciate how difficult it is to explain the basics of sailing’s structure, even to the most favourably-inclined enquirer.

But even by the standards of sailing’s great mysteries and complexities, this Bank Holiday Weekend is in a league of its own, though a comparison with the Superbowl is only to give an impression of the potential scale, as the ’Bowl is very much venue-focused whereas a typical hyper-busy Irish sailing weekend is literally all over the place.

Lough Ree YC – current MG Motor “Club of the Year” hosts Clinkerfest 2022Lough Ree YC – current MG Motor “Club of the Year” hosts Clinkerfest 2022

In addition to its fine clubhouse, Lough Ree YC – which is on a six acre site – provides extensive berthing, haulage and marina facilities.In addition to its fine clubhouse, Lough Ree YC – which is on a six acre site – provides extensive berthing, haulage and marina facilities

Add to that the fact that some boats and crews are oddly reluctant in this post-pandemic phase to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start all over again, and sometimes numbers are less than you’d expect. Yet equally, there are organisations – such as the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association – which seem to have leapt into top-gear action from the off.

The Shannon One Designs – celebrating their Centenary Year – will be the stars of Clinkerfest. They attract sailors from every background – sailing this boat is Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy, with her mother Cathy Mac Aleavey, an Olympian in 1988, in the crew.The Shannon One Designs – celebrating their Centenary Year – will be the stars of Clinkerfest. They attract sailors from every background – sailing this boat is Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy, with her mother Cathy Mac Aleavey, an Olympian in 1988, in the crew.

Anway, if it’s variety which is the touchstone, we do well with the Wave Regatta under way at Howth, the Clinkerfest getting going at Lough Ree Yacht Club, and the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers two-day regatta at Poolbeg.

Add to that the usual Dublin Bay SC Saturday racing at Dun Laoghaire – a regatta in itself – the continuing movement in Galway Docks with the fleet in the Round Britain & Ireland Race 2022 being moved on after their separate 48-hour stopovers, plus regular club racing at many centres, and we get increasing life on the water.

Two of the new Cape 31s tuning up off Howth, with David Maguire’s Valkyrie in the foreground, and Dan O’Grady’s boat beyond. Unfortunately a bout of Covid means that O’Grady will not be competing in Wave. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyTwo of the new Cape 31s tuning up off Howth, with David Maguire’s Valkyrie in the foreground, and Dan O’Grady’s boat beyond. Unfortunately a bout of Covid means that O’Grady will not be competing in Wave. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Nevertheless, we’re not out of the woods yet. As the fleet gathered for yesterday’s first race of Wave, conspicuous by her absence was Dan O’Grady’s new Cape 31, which had been keenly anticipating a three way debut with David Maguire’s Valkyrie and the Wright brothers’ boat. But Dan the Man has contracted Covid, and is out of circulation and the weekend’s racing with it. Unfortunately, we cannot print the first expletive reaction to this frustrating news on a website with a family readership, but it burnt the paintwork.

Published in W M Nixon
Afloat.ie Team

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago

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