Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Eve and Rocco’s Youthful Gold Medal Success Invigorates Howth Yacht Club’s Vision of Itself

6th August 2022
HYC Commodore Paddy Judge welcomes the Howth squad home from the ILCA6 Youth Worlds in Texas with (left to right) Luke Turvey, Eve McMahon (Gold) and Rocco Wright (Bronze in U17). A carnival-style welcome home celebration will be staged at Howth YC next Friday (August 12th), starting 4 pm
HYC Commodore Paddy Judge welcomes the Howth squad home from the ILCA6 Youth Worlds in Texas with (left to right) Luke Turvey, Eve McMahon (Gold) and Rocco Wright (Bronze in U17). A carnival-style welcome home celebration will be staged at Howth YC next Friday (August 12th), starting 4.0pm Credit: Brian Turvey

In some ways, Howth Yacht Club has it easy. It isn’t hampered by being the senior sailing centre in Ireland. That particular burden has been carried since 1720 by Cork. Nor is it sailing’s premier centre. Since the active first days of the new Royal Harbour at Kingstown on Dublin Bay around 1830 with its convenient location just down the road from Dublin Castle, the Number One role –and the biggest fleet - has been weighing on Dublin Bay and what is now Dun Laoghaire.

Far from being in any sort of competition with those two exalted and established hotspots, Howth has happily relaxed in its clearly- defined and remote peninsular location, considering itself – should it so wish – as scarcely being part of Ireland at all. Indeed, the authorities preferred for some decades to forget its existence entirely. For in an intriguing example of early 19th Century groupthink, they had reckoned - in the times of the frequently-impassable Dublin Port sandbar - that the fact that the official Dublin-England packet-boat had for years used Howth Sound as its waiting anchorage would mean that when the time came to build a proper ferry port in 1807, Howth was to be the ill-thought-through location.

It all turned out okay in the end……Howth Harbour todayIt all turned out okay in the end……Howth Harbour today

MISTAKEN 19TH CENTURY GROUP-THINK

Within ten years, what ultimately became the official and effective ferry port was under construction by 1817 on a massive scale on the other side of Dublin Bay at Old Dunleary, and it was soon being used by private enterprise cross-channel ferries. Yet the stubborn powers-that-be persisted in trying to keep the inadequate and shallow new harbour at Howth functioning as the official mail-boat port until 1834, when they upped sticks completely and moved to Kingstown.

RAILWAY CONNECTION

But far from encouraging Howth Harbour to be utilized for other purposes, they pretended that this very tangible example of mistaken governmental group-think simple didn’t exist. It had the makings of a very useful fishing port, particularly once the railway was connected to the little village in 1847. But nevertheless as far as the authorities were concerned, the local fishing fleet were expected to make their base in the nearby drying creek of Baldoyle, while any recreational sailing regatta events sponsored by the railway company as day-tripper attractions at Howth relied heavily on visiting boats from Kingstown to make up a fleet. So in order to vary their “visitor product”, the railway company financed the building of the spectacular cliff path right round Howth Head.

The unique Howth Yacht Club building has the Fishdock is to the west, and the Marina to the east. Photo: W M NixonThe unique Howth Yacht Club building has the Fishdock is to the west, and the Marina to the east. Photo: W M Nixon

More than two decades had elapsed after the exit of the official ferries in 1834 before a new generation of Government officials would allow Howth to develop as an official Fishing Station. And as for recreational sailing, it wasn’t until 1875 that a noted Dublin character, the Chancery Judge Walter Boyd who is referenced in Ulysses, decided that the need for a real away-from-it-all a summer alternative to his town house in Merrion Square could be found by taking a lease on the harbour-side Howth House (originally built as the on-job accommodation for Harbour Engineer John Rennie). And thus, the multi-talented Boyd family and expanding sailing interest came to Howth, with Howth Sailing Club eventually founded in 1895.

The Puppeteer 22s in Howth Marina, with Howth House in background (left centre). Originally built as the residence for Harbour Engineer John Rennie, it was first rented by Judge Boyd in 1875. Photo: W M NixonThe Puppeteer 22s in Howth Marina, with Howth House in background (left centre). Originally built as the residence for Harbour Engineer John Rennie, it was first rented by Judge Boyd in 1875. Photo: W M Nixon

THE HIP-RAYS

Needless to say these quaint goings-on beyond the other side of the Hill of Howth were regarded with some amusement in the stately clubs of Kingstown. There, the large yachts saw the Howth fishing fleet as a useful recruiting ground for summertime professional crew. And the Howth fishermen in their turn were much entertained by the notions of the amateur sailors of Howth, whose new little Boyd-designed gaff-cutter One Designs of 1898, the Howth 17s, were miniatures of the big cutters, but with their crews elevating amateur sailing etiquette to its highest level.

Thus after any race, the winning Howth 17 would be given three rousing cheers by each of the competing boats. As the fleet grew, this became a lengthy and intrusive business, so much so that the big boat professional crews in Dun Laoghaire referred to the amateurs from their home port as “the hip-rays”.

The “Hip-Rays”. The Howth 17s were conceived as miniatures of the great racing cutters of the 1890s. Photo: W M NixonThe “Hip-Rays”. The Howth 17s were conceived as miniatures of the great racing cutters of the 1890s. Photo: W M Nixon

So Howth slowly developed as the small-scale family-oriented sailing and fishing harbour, rising without trace as you might say. And when Erskine Childers sought a port where the Asgard’s guns could be unloaded in July 1914 with a minimum of fuss and attention, he chose Howth.

Yet just nine years later, when Conor O’Brien sought to depart on his pioneering world-girdling voyage with the 42ft Saoirse on June 20th 1923 with a maximum of fuss and attention, it was no contest – Dun Laoghaire was the only possible option.

Erskine & Molly Childers’ Asgard departing Howth, July 26th 1914, after the successful gun-running. Howth had been selected primarily because it usually received very little attention.Erskine & Molly Childers’ Asgard departing Howth, July 26th 1914, after the successful gun-running. Howth had been selected primarily because it usually received very little attention.

Meanwhile, Howth quietly got on with it, and though in the 1890s there’d been an active offshoot of the first version of the Dun Laoghaire Water Wags in the harbour, they by-passed the option of the new larger 14ft Wags in 1900, and eventually built up a class of International 12s which encouraged junior sailing as a discipline in its own right.

Dedicated junior training was introduced at Howth in the 1930s with the International 12, a versatile boat which could also be used for adult racing. Photo: Courtesy HYCDedicated junior training was introduced at Howth in the 1930s with the International 12, a versatile boat which could also be used for adult racing. Photo: Courtesy HYC

The stars at this International 12 racing were young Jimmy and Bobby Mooney. The legendary Billy Mooney, their father, may now be best remembered as a leading Dun Laoghaire sailor in the post World War II years. But he and his family lived in Howth from 1919 until 1943, and played a leading role in developing the harbour’s strong tradition of family sailing with a larger cruiser-racer or inshore keelboat in which all the family might be involved, with some junior boats to be actively raced by the young folk.

STRENGTH OF FAMILY SUPPORT

The families which were to the fore in this – names such as Courtney, Guinness, Mooney, Maguire, Mellon and Malcolm – were to be joined by many others as the years went by. But underlying it all was the inescapable reality that quiet yet strong family support, with sailing seen as the most natural sport in the world in which to be involved, is the foundation which enables the occasional super-talent to start to reach full potential, and thereby get involved in national performance training schemes.

Early days – Eve McMahon starting to find her feet in what was then Laser racingEarly days – Eve McMahon starting to find her feet in what was then Laser racing

But of course there’s more, much more, to a successful sailing club than a peak of achievement such as we’ve seen this past week with Eve McMahon’s ILCA6 gold in Texas, coming as it did on the heels of the golds that she and Rocco Wright both won in The Netherlands a fortnight earlier, which in turn succeeded her European gold in Greece at the beginning of July.

That said, it does mean that, within sailing at least, the two young helms – she’s just recently 18, while he’s 15 – have now achieved the first marker of celebrity status. When we refer in our headline to “Eve and Rocco”, everybody knows who we mean.

But for Howth Yacht Club Commodore Paddy Judge presiding over next Friday afternoon’s festive all-comers welcome-home for the medallists, the thoughts will equally by with the many other activities which his unique 2,000 strong membership encompasses.

RACING AND CRUISING

Inevitably conspicuous racing success looms large, and this week we’d Howth’s own Laura Dillon – the only female winner of the All-Ireland Helm Championship in 1996 – adding to her laurels by winning the highly-competitive Lady’s Day at Cowes Week racing the classic Winsome. But then too, at the other end of the sailing continuum, the largest single membership sub-set in Howth is the Cruising Group, currently very ably led by Susan Kavanagh whose serious sea-going experience rivals that of many of her males members, even if they do include global circumnavigators.

Former All-Ireland Champion Laura Dillon receives her prize as the Cowes Week Women’s ChampionFormer All-Ireland Champion Laura Dillon receives her prize as the Cowes Week Women’s Champion

The classic Sparkman & Stephens 41 Winsome, raced by Laura Dillon to Cowes Week successThe classic Sparkman & Stephens 41 Winsome, raced by Laura Dillon to Cowes Week success

In fact, with Laura Dillon’s mother Breda being Howth YC’s first female Commodore quite a few years, and now with Eve McMahon emerging from the month of July bedecked with international gold, your ordinary Howth yottie could be forgiven for wondering what the annual fuss about Women on Water is all about. For having been involved in racing at and from Howth for more than five decades, I could fill a couple of long paragraphs with a listing of the names of female helms who have been knocking the tar out of the supposedly ablest racing helmsmen on a regular basis.

Maybe the situation is different at other ports. Certainly, in the past sixty or so years, Howth with its unique clubhouse/marina complex and organically developed waterfront has increasingly diverged in character from the more formal Dun Laoghaire in style and spirit, so much so that simply sailing south from Howth across Dublin Bay to the premier port of Dun Laoghaire feels like going foreign.

“Our humble little port”. By comparison with Howth and its almost rustic look, Dun Laoghaire seems so large and formal that it feel like going foreign. Photo: W M Nixon“Our humble little port”. By comparison with Howth and its almost rustic look, Dun Laoghaire seems so large and formal that it feel like going foreign. Photo: W M Nixon

Yet even so, those who live in Howth tend to be self-deprecating about “our humble little port”, so it’s a bit of a surprise when UK-based owner-skippers like Robert Rendell with his Grand Soleil 44 Samatom and Nigel Biggs with his part-owned First 50 Checkmate make the effort to base their boats with us, as they regard the “Howth cultural package” as an important part of the sailing experience.

That said, you can see there’s a special appeal in a place which places as much importance on the continuing good health of the 124-year-old Howth 17s as they do on international Gold success – the Seventeens have their keenly-anticipated annual championship this weekend, with the winner expected from the ranks of Deilginis, Isobel, Erica, Rita and Oona.

Equally, in six days time when the great and the good from civic life and sports administration descend on Howth to help the thriving Junior Section lead the welcome home for the multi-medallists, the Howth Squibs will be busy welcoming competitors for the 2022 Squib Easterns.

HYC welcomes Eve and RoccoHYC welcomes Eve and Rocco

So Howth’s regular sailing life goes on. But its spirit will be raised to a new vitality which really began to get up to speed in September 2018 when Rob Dickson of Howth and Sean Waddilove of Skerries took the Gold at the U23 49er Worlds in Marseilles. At the same time Eve McMahon, Rocco Wright and others were on rising trajectories in international junior sailing, while at a more senior level Aoife Hopkins was recording success even as Conor Fogerty won the OSTAR, with Pat Kelly and his Rush SC crew on the J/109 Storm cutting a swathe through the J/109 and ICRA fleets at the same time.

This year’s Round Ireland Race saw Howth’s Mike & Richie Evans with their newish J/99 Snapshot make their first stab at a major offshore, after several regatta wins, Taking on the big one from a standing start provided old Round Ireland hands with food for thought, as Snapshot was second overall by only five minutes, beaten by a battle-hardened French J/111.

Meanwhile, Howth had inaugurated the U25 scheme in J/24s under the encouragement of Nobby Reilly, and from that has emerged the hyper-successful Headcase campaign, all-Ireland based but with a Howth flavour and aimed at the J/24 Euros at HYC at the end of August on a course of success which has included the class win at Kiel Week, the overall win the UK Nationals, and the ICRA Class Win at Volvo Cork Week.

Also at Volvo Cork Week, the 30-year-old 1720s Sportsboat Class continued their revival with the biggest fleet of all, and the joint Howth YC/Royal Cork YC entry of Atara (Ross McDonald, Aoife English and Rob English) not only won the class in convincing style, but emerged as “Boat of the Regatta” to win the ancient and much-coveted Kinsale Kettle.

The Volvo Cork Week 2022 Overall Champion Atara leading the 1720 racing at Howth. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyThe Volvo Cork Week 2022 Overall Champion Atara leading the 1720 racing at Howth. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

So it went on, with specialist successes to add to the glittering Gold of the Howth Laser squad. That is now very public, and will become more so. But back at the beginning of March as the final pandemic restrictions were eased, Commodore Judge hosted a Howth YC Volunteers Dinner for all those he reckoned had kept the club going through the closed-down times. The gathering notably included former Commodore Ian Byrne, whose two-year stint in the senior role had been almost entirely obscured by the pandemic.

Yet far from bewailing the circumstances, Commodore Byrne made it his business to clarify every last detail of the restrictions, and the ramifications of every little easing of the rules. Thus as permitted movement was extended to five kilometres, he was able to get sailing going in Howth’s varied local waters, activity was maintained, and HYC was poised and ready when full-time sport was resumed.

In the final analysis, that and positive family encouragement is what will be celebrated next Friday.

Round Ireland Race 2022 newbie and runner-up (by 5 minutes) was the J/99 Snapshot from Howth (Mike & Richie Evans). Photo: Afloat.ieRound Ireland Race 2022 newbie and runner-up (by 5 minutes) was the J/99 Snapshot from Howth (Mike & Richie Evans). Photo: Afloat.ie

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

Email The Author

William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

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

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2022

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating