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Resurgent 1720s Will Celebrate 30th Anniversary At Volvo Cork Week In July With Large Fleet

29th June 2022
Controlled excitement – 1720s in Cork Harbour in a breeze that does them justice
Controlled excitement – 1720s in Cork Harbour in a breeze that does them justice Credit: Robert Bateman

When anybody asks how the concept of the Cork 1720 Sportsboat Class first came to see the light of day in Crosshaven in the early 1990s, the response these days tends to be “Which version of the story would you prefer?”. For in all, more than 160 of these Tony Castro-designed 26ft dayboats with bulb keel, retractable bowsprit and mighty gennakers were to be built, and at Cork Week 2000 their fleet mustered more than 60 boats.

Local names like Mansfield and O’Leary took on visitors like Ainslie, Barker and Spithill. It was undoubtedly a highlight of class history. Since then, the 1720s have waxed and waned as a class, but at the moment Class Captain David Love is happy to report that they’re definitely in full-on waxing mode in Ireland, with growing classes at Crosshaven, Dun Laoghaire, Kinsale, Baltimore, Dunmore East, and Howth, such that they’re looking to have 48 boats racing in the Europeans within Volvo Cork Week from 10th to 15th July.

The design may have been around for thirty years, but the 1720s still look bang up-to-date


Failure is an orphan but success has many fathers, and Class Captain Love is the very soul of diplomacy in not apportioning individual credit for the class’s beginnings thirty years ago, and its growing current success. Back in the day when they started racing, I was told that it was basically a group of National 18 sailors on Cork Harbour who wished to re-create the very special spirit of their wonderful centreboard class on a larger canvas, yet with a sit-on rather than hang-out keelboat.

But equally these days, they’ll tell you there was a very significant inspirational input from Half Ton and Quarter Ton sailors who wanted to transpose the best of their sport into a more straightforward value-for-money One-Design boat which carried no hint of a suggestion that racing nights at sea would be on the agenda.

The absolute simplicity of the concept continues to be one of the 1720’s best featuresThe absolute simplicity of the concept continues to be one of the 1720’s best features

And now, with everyone from the Lollipop Lady to the Meter Reader telling us that global recession is on the way if it isn’t here already, the 1720s have the USP of offering incredibly good value. They’ve survived to become inexpensive. There’s virtually no wood in them, they’re of a generation of fibreglass which lasts for ever, and you can still find de-commissioned yet perfectly usable 1720s at the far end of somebody’s uncle’s hayshed if you only know how to ask the right questions.


Admittedly the chance of finding a decent suit of sails with these rural relics is remote. But as we all know, Ireland’s sailmakers are a soft-hearted and incredibly philanthropic group of folk who will respond favourably to requests for substantial discounts when you use the magic password “1720”, with perhaps a Masonic handshake to be sure to be sure.

And finally, there’s the fact that, with a crew of five, they’re notably labour-intensive boats. Thus they provide a purpose in life for young people who might otherwise be listlessly loitering on street corners, their day jobs taken over by electronic instruments and machines. Indeed, it can only be a question of time before Social Security grants are available to anyone who can show that their 1720 provides healthy, mind-stimulating activity for at last ten hours a week for four young (and not-so-young) people who might otherwise be deflected into a wasted life of anti-social inactivity.

The big warm winds of the Caribbean provide ideal 1720 sailing The big warm winds of the Caribbean provide ideal 1720 sailing 

Thus there’s a lot to celebrate in the fact that the 1720s will be providing fantastic sport for at least 240 people during Cork Week, and there’s even more to celebrate in this remarkable class’s survival and regeneration over thirty years. So although every night will be party night, on Tuesday 12th July in Crosshaven it’s going to reach stratospheric heights with the 1720 30th Anniversary party.


For those who don’t know, it’s called the 1720 Class simply because 1720 was the year of foundation of the Water Club of the Harbour of Cork, the direct antecedent of the Royal Cork Yacht Club. Now as it happens, on the 12th July in the other end of Ireland, some people will be celebrating an earlier contest, which took place in 1690. In that, the people from around Cork tended to be on the side which won the Silver Medal. The Silver Medal from the Battle of the Boyne is not something to be sniffed at. But nevertheless the 30th Anniversary of the Cork 1720 on 12th July 2022 at Crosshaven will be much more fun.

The 1720s are still as much fun to sail now as they were thirty years ago.The 1720s are still as much fun to sail now as they were thirty years ago

Published in Cork Week, 1720
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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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.

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Cork Week 2022

Following the cancellation of the 2020 event, the dates for the 2022 edition of Cork Week in Cork Harbour is: 11 –15 July 2022

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