Domestic offshore racing going through a mini-revival of sorts

A fleet of 20 boats began the 11-race series ‘lynx metMasts ISORA series’

Martin Breen’s Reflex 38 is planning an intensive 2013 season as the Discover Ireland Team flying the colours for The Gathering at key events in Irish and UK waters.

Martin Breen’s Reflex 38 is planning an intensive 2013 season as the Discover Ireland Team flying the colours for The Gathering at key events in Irish and UK waters.

Fri, May 17, 2013, 02:00

A mini-revival of sorts appears to be well underway in a sector of Irish sailing which just a few years ago seemed set for extinction. Offshore racing now has a steady following, albeit small but with signs of growth.

A fleet of 20 boats began the 11-race series “lynx metMasts ISORA series” which will have a third race this weekend featuring a course from the Isle of Man to Dún Laoghaire that will be the first in 20 years.

“What is really encouraging is the number of new boats,” said Peter Ryan, chairman of the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association (ISORA).

“There’s an awakening with boats coming from the Isle of Man and Hoyhead. We are losing boats for various reasons but we’re also gaining new entries and what’s especially encouraging is the spread of boats.”

The racing programme is purposely front-loaded so people gain experience ahead of the bigger events such as the 275-mile Dún Laoghaire to Dingle Race (D2D) in three weeks’ time and later the 605-mile Rolex Fastnet Race in August, then takes a break and resumes again towards the end of the season.

But what about the thorny issue of the amount of time consumed by offshore racing, widely believed to be responsible for the collapse in it’s traditional loyal following since it’s heyday more than a decade ago?

‘Big improvement’
“It’s not the super time constraint that it used to be as it’s very hard to get a 24-hour race these days,” said Ryan. “The day races are 45 miles and the overnight races are about 12 hours. Also the ability to set courses the night before is a big improvement on the old system when the races were set in November and you ended up sailing a 100-mile race in two knots of breeze. It’s all about managing the time.”

That’s a task that barely seems to be a problem for one successful west coast team that has lined up an intensive programme of events for the next three months. Last year’s Round Ireland Race Class 2 winners came from NUI Galway and now Martin Breen’s Reflex 38 is planning an intensive 2013 season as the Discover Ireland Team flying the colours for The Gathering at key events in Irish and UK waters.

Breen is sharing the role of skipper with Aodhan Fitzgerald who led the 2008 Round Ireland-winning team and was also the 2004 double-handed class winner with Yannick Lemonnier. The programme started with last weekend’s Clarenbridge Crystal Trophy race on Galway Bay that saw near gale conditions reduce the fleet to just Breen’s boat and Galway Bay Sailing Club-mate Ibaracki.

The boat departed last night for Loch Fyne and the annual Scottish Series regatta next weekend and will return for the D2D under skipper Aodhan Fitzgerald to defend their 2011 title. Then it’s the ICRA National Championships at Fenit (June 13th-15th), followed by the Sovereigns Cup regatta in Kinsale at the end of the month before taking part in “The Gathering Cruise”.

From there, the team will move to Cowes on the Isle of Wight for the Fastnet.