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Crosshaven’s Harry Durcan Leads Munster Techies To National Intervarsity Keelboat Champs 2022

29th March 2022
After a three-year pandemic lay-off, the IUSA Keelboat Nats come back to colourful life in the club-owned J/80s at Howth
After a three year pandemic lay-off, the IUSA Keelboat Nats come back to colourful life in the club-owned J/80s at Howth Credit: Annraoi Blaney

The last weekend of March in Ireland is usually not noted for an almost-dangerous amount of highly-radiated sunshine and light breezes. But Race Officer Scorie Walls had to cope with both at Howth in putting through the full 18-race programme for the Irish Universities Sailing Association Keelboat Nats in the HYC J/80s over the two days, a pair of days when she skillfully chose the race areas where the fitful-enough breeze might be expected to fill in with most vigour.

Mad March day at Howth? Early morning calm, and a welcome tow to the race area. The only evidence that this isn’t mid-July is the Howth Boat Club fleet still in winter quarters on the East Pier. Photo: Emmet DaltonMad March day at Howth? Early morning calm, and a welcome tow to the race area. The only evidence that this isn’t mid-July is the Howth Boat Club fleet still in winter quarters on the East Pier. Photo: Emmet Dalton

Thanks to the pandemic lockdowns and the fact that the series is usually scheduled for this last weekend of March, it was 2019 which saw the last staging of this usually annual event. But despite lockdowns, the Irish third level education scene has been developing so rapidly during the three years since that the winners in 2019, Cork Institute of Technology skippered by Harry Durcan, no longer exists. It is now just the Cork Campus of the Munster Technological University, whose other main centre is in Tralee in County Kerry.

Race On – some crews were still slightly rusty after the long lay-off. Photo: Emmet DaltonRace On – some crews were still slightly rusty after the long lay-off. Photo: Emmet Dalton

In an age of acronyms, the greatest care is need in selecting the name for a new umbrella organization, and although the Munster University of Technology might have more accurately described the new setup, nobody at either centre wanted to attend MUT, while in Tralee they’d been thanking their lucky stars for years that it had been called IT Tralee, when it might so easily have been the acronymic disaster of Tralee Institute of Technology. So, MTU it has become.

As each day’s breeze developed, the racing sharpened. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyAs each day’s breeze developed, the racing sharpened. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

That’s more like it…. On Day 2, some cobwebs needed blowing away Photo: Annraoi BlaneyThat’s more like it…. On Day 2, some cobwebs needed blowing away Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Be that as it may, even after three years it still seemed to be Cork Institute of Technology by any other name successfully defending the title as MTU, and with the same skipper too – HYC’s Emmet Dalton takes up the tale:

“Munster Technological University was crowned the Western Yacht & Small Craft Services IUSA Keelboat Champion 2022 during a weekend of glorious sunshine in Howth.

Skipper Harry Durcan and his team Ronan Cournane, Mark Murphy, Morgan McKnight and Charlie Moloney topped their Saturday qualifying group only 2 points ahead of nearest rivals TCD. Some “Interesting” spinnaker hoists and drops made sure that the dominance of some crews upwind was frequently equalised downwind.

“The great equalizers” – some crews found that advantages smoothly gained to windward soon disappeared when the coloured cloth came into the equation, but all quickly learned that having the transom clear of the water offwind in light airs is essential. Photo: Emmet Dalton“The great equalizers” – some crews found that advantages smoothly gained to windward soon disappeared when the coloured cloth came into the equation, but all quickly learned that having the transom clear of the water offwind in light airs is essential. Photo: Emmet Dalton

“Nose down, tail up - it’s the only way to fly….” Photo: Annraoi Blaney“Nose down, tail up - it’s the only way to fly….” Photo: Annraoi Blaney

By the close of business on Sunday, however, MTU had an impressive lead of 12 points over second-placed UCD, with TCD 2 points further behind. Yet that scoreline belied the closeness of the competition, with a number of races decided by hairs’ breadths.
Principal Race Officer Scorie Walls and her ever-professional team ran eighteen races over two days. The Daylight Savings Time change was not the main reason for some teams’ late start on Sunday morning, but cobwebs were soon dusted off and races 2 – 8 were close affairs.

“Done to a turn” – after two days of unremitting sunshine, the Race Team were burnt-out cases. Photo: Emmet Dalton“Done to a turn” – after two days of unremitting sunshine, the Race Team were burnt-out cases. Photo: Emmet Dalton

Hot stuff at close quarters. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyHot stuff at close quarters. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Thanking the title sponsor Western Yacht & Small Craft Services, Rear Commodore Larry Quinn paid tribute to the many volunteers including the mark layers led by Principal Mark Layer (and Commodore of Foynes YC) John Paul Buckley, who travelled all the way from Ardagh in County Limerick, home place of legendary voyager Conor O’Brien.

As for the ever-useful J/80s which in Howth are under the overall care of Kieran Jameson, J/80s bos’uns Brian McDowell and Paul Newport received special praise and thanks, as did support boat skipper David Jones and umpires Cxema Pico and Emmet Dalton.

The advice and assistance of the IUSA committee (David Carberry, Johnny Durcan, Niamh Doran and Robbie Dix) ensured that Howth provided what the competitors wanted from the championship.

HYC’s J80 fleet - the purchase of which was aided by a Sports Capital Grant in 2017 - continues to provide an ideal platform for quality racing and training. Maintaining and equalising five boats to this standard is only possible through the longterm volunteer efforts of the already-mentioned Kieran Jameson, and his other colleagues including Gerry and David Sargent.”

“So who needs Barcelona?” To get blues of this depth, you’d normally expect to be off Saint-Tropez in July, rather than Howth in March. Photo: Annraoi Blaney“So who needs Barcelona?” To get blues of this depth, you’d normally expect to be off Saint-Tropez in July, rather than Howth in March. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Published in Howth YC, J80
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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Howth Yacht Club information

Howth Yacht Club is the largest members sailing club in Ireland, with over 1,700 members. The club welcomes inquiries about membership - see top of this page for contact details.

Howth Yacht Club (HYC) is 125 years old. It operates from its award-winning building overlooking Howth Harbour that houses office, bar, dining, and changing facilities. Apart from the Clubhouse, HYC has a 250-berth marina, two cranes and a boat storage area. In addition. its moorings in the harbour are serviced by launch.

The Club employs up to 31 staff during the summer and is the largest employer in Howth village and has a turnover of €2.2m.

HYC normally provides an annual programme of club racing on a year-round basis as well as hosting a full calendar of International, National and Regional competitive events. It operates a fleet of two large committee boats, 9 RIBs, 5 J80 Sportboats, a J24 and a variety of sailing dinghies that are available for members and training. The Club is also growing its commercial activities afloat using its QUEST sail and power boat training operation while ashore it hosts a wide range of functions each year, including conferences, weddings, parties and the like.

Howth Yacht Club originated as Howth Sailing Club in 1895. In 1968 Howth Sailing Club combined with Howth Motor Yacht Club, which had operated from the West Pier since 1935, to form Howth Yacht Club. The new clubhouse was opened in 1987 with further extensions carried out and more planned for the future including dredging and expanded marina facilities.

HYC caters for sailors of all ages and run sailing courses throughout the year as part of being an Irish Sailing accredited training facility with its own sailing school.

The club has a fully serviced marina with berthing for 250 yachts and HYC is delighted to be able to welcome visitors to this famous and scenic area of Dublin.

New applications for membership are always welcome

Howth Yacht Club FAQs

Howth Yacht Club is one of the most storied in Ireland — celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2020 — and has an active club sailing and racing scene to rival those of the Dun Laoghaire Waterfront Clubs on the other side of Dublin Bay.

Howth Yacht Club is based at the harbour of Howth, a suburban coastal village in north Co Dublin on the northern side of the Howth Head peninsula. The village is around 13km east-north-east of Dublin city centre and has a population of some 8,200.

Howth Yacht Club was founded as Howth Sailing Club in 1895. Howth Sailing Club later combined with Howth Motor Yacht Club, which had operated from the village’s West Pier since 1935, to form Howth Yacht Club.

The club organises and runs sailing events and courses for members and visitors all throughout the year and has very active keelboat and dinghy racing fleets. In addition, Howth Yacht Club prides itself as being a world-class international sailing event venue and hosts many National, European and World Championships as part of its busy annual sailing schedule.

As of November 2020, the Commodore of the Royal St George Yacht Club is Ian Byrne, with Paddy Judge as Vice-Commodore (Clubhouse and Administration). The club has two Rear-Commodores, Neil Murphy for Sailing and Sara Lacy for Junior Sailing, Training & Development.

Howth Yacht Club says it has one of the largest sailing memberships in Ireland and the UK; an exact number could not be confirmed as of November 2020.

Howth Yacht Club’s burgee is a vertical-banded pennant of red, white and red with a red anchor at its centre. The club’s ensign has a blue-grey field with the Irish tricolour in its top left corner and red anchor towards the bottom right corner.

The club organises and runs sailing events and courses for members and visitors all throughout the year and has very active keelboat and dinghy racing fleets. In addition, Howth Yacht Club prides itself as being a world-class international sailing event venue and hosts many National, European and World Championships as part of its busy annual sailing schedule.

Yes, Howth Yacht Club has an active junior section.

Yes, Howth Yacht Club hosts sailing and powerboat training for adults, juniors and corporate sailing under the Quest Howth brand.

Among its active keelboat and dinghy fleets, Howth Yacht Club is famous for being the home of the world’s oldest one-design racing keelboat class, the Howth Seventeen Footer. This still-thriving class of boat was designed by Walter Herbert Boyd in 1897 to be sailed in the local waters off Howth. The original five ‘gaff-rigged topsail’ boats that came to the harbour in the spring of 1898 are still raced hard from April until November every year along with the other 13 historical boats of this class.

Yes, Howth Yacht Club has a fleet of five J80 keelboats for charter by members for training, racing, organised events and day sailing.

The current modern clubhouse was the product of a design competition that was run in conjunction with the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland in 1983. The winning design by architects Vincent Fitzgerald and Reg Chandler was built and completed in March 1987. Further extensions have since been made to the building, grounds and its own secure 250-berth marina.

Yes, the Howth Yacht Club clubhouse offers a full bar and lounge, snug bar and coffee bar as well as a 180-seat dining room. Currently, the bar is closed due to Covid-19 restrictions. Catering remains available on weekends, take-home and delivery menus for Saturday night tapas and Sunday lunch.

The Howth Yacht Club office is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm. Contact the club for current restaurant opening hours at [email protected] or phone 01 832 0606.

Yes — when hosting sailing events, club racing, coaching and sailing courses, entertaining guests and running evening entertainment, tuition and talks, the club caters for all sorts of corporate, family and social occasions with a wide range of meeting, event and function rooms. For enquiries contact [email protected] or phone 01 832 2141.

Howth Yacht Club has various categories of membership, each affording the opportunity to avail of all the facilities at one of Ireland’s finest sailing clubs.

No — members can join active crews taking part in club keelboat and open sailing events, not to mention Pay & Sail J80 racing, charter sailing and more.

Fees range from €190 to €885 for ordinary members.
Memberships are renewed annually.

©Afloat 2020

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