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Belfast Lough's Connection with the Round Ireland Yacht Race

20th February 2020
Belfast Lough's Connection with the Round Ireland Yacht Race

Bangor has more of a link to the prestigious SSE Renewables Round Ireland Yacht Race than is at first obvious writes Betty Armstrong. This year Royal Ulster Yacht Club looks forward to tracking the progress of father and son duo, Johnny and Jamie Ritchie in their Dufour 41 Classic, Mingulay, who have, after the last race when they had to retire to Dingle, forensically sorted out the sea cock problem, and kitted out the sail locker with two new sails having discovered their large full genoa and spinnaker wasn’t quite the solution for close reaching.

The RIR website tells us that the first race took place in 1980 with only thirteen boats. That indeed is the case for the race in its current format with the Wicklow start, but in 1975 Ballyholme Yacht Club had jumped on the increasingly two-handed race offshore scene and ran what was, in fact, the very first Round Ireland Race starting at Ballyholme with stopovers in Crosshaven and Killybegs.

Mingulay 3 Dufour 41 Classic, Mingulay

Four yachts took part. The names will ring a bell with the more senior members of the Irish sailing fraternity; Eamonn Crosbie and the late Jim Poole from Dun Laoghaire in the little Ruffian 23 Ruffino; Brian Law from Strangford Lough with Brian Daniels (ex-Great Britain 11) in Sai See, a 38 ft Finnisterrre class yawl; Robert Mollard and Dick Watson in an S&S 34 Korsar from Dun Laoghaire, and the late Brian Coad and Derek Wyndham’s Folkboat, Shoestring from Waterford. Korsar won in a time of nearly seven days. And Coad won the 1980 race in Raasay of Melfort.

Sadly, Ballyholme let go of the idea and following the success of Wicklow SC’s Round Ireland Rally in 1979, a race starting from and finishing in Wicklow, leaving Ireland and all its islands to starboard, was proposed and under the stewardship of the late Michael Jones, the first Round Ireland took place in 1980.

But Belfast Lough’s association with the race was renewed from time to time. In 1986 Fiona Hicks reminds me that she was part of an all-women crew, which included Enda O’Coineen's sister, Ann Marie Bowring, racing in a Sigma 41 called Electra. And again in 1988, Fiona was in the crew of Twenty Twenty, an MG RS 34 owned by Jimmy Mackey.

ArmstrongRoyal Ulster Yacht Club father and son duo, Johnny and Jamie Ritchie in their Dufour 41 Classic, Mingulay are Round Ireland bound this June

So now the Ritchies are renewing that association, determined to go the distance this year, hopefully without mishap.

In 2018 all began well, and they were mid-fleet between the Tuskar and the Fastnet, but within four hours of rounding the Fastnet in calm conditions at 1800 on 1st July, the wind was gusting 40 knots. They admit they were over canvassed, heeling and taking in water through galley and toilet sinks.  They were unaware of the ingress of water as both were in the cockpit. Discretion being the better part of valour, they retired, along with a couple of others to Dingle for repairs. Mingulay did, in fact, complete the passage round Ireland – well nearly – they stopped in Belfast Lough. The father and son hope for better things this time round.

Round Ireland Yacht Race Live Tracker 2022

Track the progress of the 2022 Wicklow Sailing Club Round Ireland Race fleet on the live tracker above and see all Afloat's Round Ireland Race coverage in one handy link here

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down

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Round Ireland Yacht Race Information

The Round Ireland Yacht Race is Ireland's classic offshore yacht race starts from Wicklow Sailing Club (WSC) and is organised jointly with the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) and the Royal Irish Yacht Club (RIYC). This page details the very latest updates from the 2008 race onwards including the race schedule, yacht entries and the all-important race updates from around the 704-mile course. Keep up to date with the Round Ireland Yacht Race here on this one handy reference page.

2020 Round Ireland Race

The 2020 race, the 21st edition, was the first race to be rescheduled then cancelled.

Following Government restrictions over COVID-19, a decision on the whether or not the 2020 race can be held was made on April 9 2020 to reschedule the race to Saturday, August 22nd. On July 27th, the race was regrettably cancelled due to ongoing concerns about COVID-19.

Because of COVID-19, the race had to have a virtual launch party at the Royal Irish Yacht Club for its 21st edition

In spite of the pandemic, however, a record entry was in prospect for 2020 with 50 boats entered with four weeks to go to the race start. The race was also going big on size and variety to make good on a pre-race prediction that the fleet could reach 60. An Irish offshore selection trial also looked set to be a component part of the 2020 race.

The rescheduling of the race to a news date emphasises the race's national significance, according to Afloat here


704 nautical miles, 810 miles or 1304 kilometres

3171 kilometres is the estimate of Ireland's coastline by the Ordnance Survey of Ireland.

SSE Renewables are the sponsors of the 2020 Round Ireland Race.

Wicklow Sailing Club in association with the Royal Ocean Racing Club in London and The Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dublin.

Off Wicklow Harbour on Saturday, August 22nd 2020

Monohulls 1300 hrs and Multihulls 13.10 hrs

Leave Ireland and all its islands (excluding Rockall) to starboard.

It depends on the boat. The elapsed record time for the race is under 40 hours but most boats take five or six days to complete the course.

The Race Tracker is

The idea of a race around Ireland began in 1975 with a double-handed race starting and finishing in Bangor organised by Ballyholme Yacht Club with stopovers in Crosshaven and Killybegs. That race only had four entries. In 1980 Michael Jones put forward the idea of a non-stop race and was held in that year from Wicklow Sailing Club. Sixteen pioneers entered that race with Brian Coad’s Raasay of Melfort returning home after six days at sea to win the inaugural race. Read the first Round Ireland Yacht Race 1980 Sailing Instructions here


The Round Ireland race record of 38 h 37 min 7 s is held by MOD-70 trimaran Musandam-Oman Sail and was set in June 2016.

George David’s Rambler 88 (USA) holds the fastest monohull race time of two days two hours 24 minutes and 9 seconds set in the 2016 race.

William Power's 45ft Olivia undertook a round Ireland cruise in September 1860


Richard Hayes completed his solo epic round Ireland voyage in September 2018 in a 14-foot Laser dinghy. The voyage had seen him log a total of 1,324 sea miles (2,452 kilometres) in 54 sailing days. in 1961, the Belfast Lough Waverly Durward crewed by Kevin and Colm MacLaverty and Mick Clarke went around Ireland in three-and-a-half weeks becoming the smallest keelboat ever to go round. While neither of these achievements occurred as part of the race they are part of Round Ireland sailing history

© Afloat 2020

At A Glance – Round Ireland Yacht Race 2022

Race start: Off Wicklow Harbour date to be announced, June 18 2022

There will be separate starts for monohulls and multihulls.

Race course:  leave Ireland and all its islands (excluding Rockall) to starboard.

Race distance: is approximately 704 nautical miles or 1304 kilometres.

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