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Munitions dump threatens safety

5th January 1996
Munitions dump threatens safety By DAVID O'BRIEN EXPLODING ammunition in the Irish Sea, which has measured two on the Richter Scale, is a potential hazard to east coast sailors. Since the 1940's up to one million tonnes of ammunition has been dumped in the Beaufort Dyke, 12 miles off the north Antrim coast, and 10 explosions were recorded this year.
The situation has led Northern Ireland and Scottish MPs to call for an independent inquiry amidst fears that the dump threatens the safety of a new gas pipeline on the sea bed. The threat to sailors is difficult to evaluate given the sheer size of the problem in this popular cruising ground but it is known that second World War ammunition is moving around in the area and some has been washed up on both the Scottish and north Antrim coasts, according to lifeboat man Tony Small of Donaghdee marine. Yachtsman Alistair Morrison of Strangford Lough says most people in the area are concerned, when on passage to Scotland, about what exactly is under their hulls. Small, who also cruises in a 21 foot timber day boat, says he always keeps the prospect of the submerged bombs in the back of his mind when he is crossing the 144 square mile Dyke. He also regrets that Scandinavian and other foreign yachtsman, who are travelling to Ireland in increasing numbers, could be scared away because of the potential danger. Irish Marine Federation chairman Pat Murphy is to ask the Minister for the Marine, Mr Sean Barrett TD, to seek a meeting with the British government on the size of the problem and the risk it poses to Irish craft. The 21 mile stretch between the two land masses is also the passageway for three ferries, Nato submarine traffic and the route of a new £300 million pipeline due to come into operation next October. The planned route for the gas interconnector runs through an area six miles off the western Scottish coast, where tonnes of torpedoes, bombs and chemical weapons were dumped in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The last munitions to be dumped in the dyke occurred in 1986. Meanwhile, Ron Holland Yacht Design Ltd of Kinsale ceased trading on December 21st and will go into voluntary liquidation after 23 year's work which included the design of the Whitbread maxi NCB Ireland and more recently, in 1994, won the best yacht in the world award for the 143 foot ketch design Juliet. I did everything possible to keep my Kinsale based team together but eventually had to face the fact that the company as structured was no longer viable," Holland said. Holland, a New Zealander, says closure was forced on him because of the reduced demand for luxury yachts and increased competition from designers with lower overheads. Still considering his options for the future, Holland, 48, says he wants to restore and develop his creative side which has been stifled by business pressures. Olympic Laser nominee Mark Lyttle, 32, of Dun Laoghaire has reaped the benefits of his Christmas trip down under having finished seventh in the 143 boat Australian Laser national championships. Lyttle, who looked certain of taking fifth overall, slipped to seventh on the last day of the regatta. Regardless, the achievement, in a fleet that comprised the world's top sailors is an early boost in this, the Olympic year. The regatta was won by Kiwi Hamish Pepper with Brazilian Robert Sheidt second and Peer Moberg third. Conditions according to Lyttle were very shifty on the Swan River with only three of the 10 races sailed in any form of steady breeze. Lyttle has moved to Fremantle for the Asian Pacific championships which are being sailed in the testing conditions of the Fremantle doctor which normally blows from 15 to 25 knots. Lyttle's sister, together with crew Louise Cole, also reports success in their bid for selection in the 470 double handed women's Olympic category. They won the final race of the Christmas regatta at Palamos, Spain counting a 14,11,13, 13,4,5 and a win in the final race to finish fifth overall and third by nation. They raced against a fleet of 25 boats drawn from 13 nations in huge seas and both light and strong winds. If it wasn't for a capsize in the fourth race, when they were in second place, their overall results might have even been higher. Again the result is a significant uplift for the team who have returned to Dublin for three weeks training before travelling to their world championship in Brazil at the end of January.
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