Volvo Dún Laoghaire event draws 3,000 sailors

25 competing classes in what is now Ireland’s largest participant sporting event on water

Tim Goodbody’s White Mischief (left) and Ronnie Moloney’s Moonshine are in action tomorrow at the Volvo Dún Laoghaire regatta. Photograph: David O’Brien

Tim Goodbody’s White Mischief (left) and Ronnie Moloney’s Moonshine are in action tomorrow at the Volvo Dún Laoghaire regatta. Photograph: David O’Brien

Thu, Jul 11, 2013, 01:00

From the Baily lighthouse at the northern entrance to Dublin Bay across to Dalkey island in the south, there will be eight separate race courses this afternoon for 25 competing classes in Ireland’s biggest regatta, the biennial Volvo Dún Laoghaire regatta starting at 3pm.

In assembling such an armada, the Volvo Dún Laoghaire regatta (VDLR) has become, at its fifth staging, not only the country’s biggest sailing event, with 3,000 sailors competing, but one of Ireland’s largest participant sporting events on water.

What’s even more satisfying for the organisers is 120 entries are visiting boats.

It’s a big achievement for the capital’s waters given Scotland’s version of Dún Laoghaire week, the Scottish series, organised by the Clyde Cruising Club in May, struggled with only 80 entries.

The biennial event organised jointly by all four waterfront clubs began in 2005 and immediately attracted 400 and grew in 2007 to a peak of 520.

‘The biggest’
“Never mind the quality, feel the width’’ has been a criticism of modern day regattas where organisers mistakenly focus on being the biggest in an effort to be the best.

And at a time when regatta fleets have collapsed there is some irony in the fact that Dún Laoghaire, with its own local fleet of 300 boats, never set out to be the biggest but has emerged as the yacht racing hub of the Irish sea, from Tarbert to Caernarfon.

Dublin Bay focused instead on quality racing even after it got off to a spectacularly bad start in 2005 when the event was becalmed for four days.

The idea to rekindle a combined Dublin Bay event resurfaced after an absence of almost 40 years, mostly because of the persistence of a passionate race officer Brian Craig, who believed Dún Laoghaire could become the Cowes of the Irish Sea if the town and the local clubs worked together.

Fickle winds
Although fickle winds conspired against him in 2005, the support of all four Dún Laoghaire waterfront yacht clubs since then (made up of Dún Laoghaire Motor YC, National YC, Royal Irish YC and Royal St GYC), in association with the Dublin Bay SC and Royal Alfred YC racing clubs, gave him the momentum to carry on.

Numbers peaked in 2007 with over 520 boats and although that is a record it is this year’s turnout, matching 2005, that shows how the event has become a highlight on the British and Irish yachting calendar.

Sailors have also responded with their support from all four coasts. Entries closed last Friday with 390 boats in 25 classes, roughly double the size of any other club regatta.

Sailors from the Ribble, Mersey, the Menai Straits, Anglesey, Cardigan Bay and the Isle of Man have to travel three times the distance to the Solent as they do to Dublin Bay. This is one of the major selling points and explains the range of entries from marinas as far away as Royal Palma in Mallorca.

The regatta runs until next Sunday, July 14th.