Dún Laoghaire target Mod 70 tour spot


SAILING:A GROUP of spectacular racing yachts are poised to race in Irish waters next summer, provided agreement can be reached with local and national authorities in January.

The inaugural European Tour will be announced for the MOD 70-foot tri-maran class with efforts to include an event in Dún Laoghaire being spearheaded by the National Yacht Club.

Up to seven of the new design will take part in the circuit that is successor to the ORMA 60 fleet that generated large crowds of spectators in France where the sport has a popular following.

Dún Laoghaire hosted similar events 20 years ago with the Round Europe Races that drew large crowds to the coast. One of the first MOD 70-footers visited Dublin Bay last summer when Veolia Environnment was seen close to the coast achieving speeds of up to 30 knots in relatively light conditions.

Inshore courses can be staged close to vantage points, with the course distances adjusted for the conditions. Spectators can be based ashore or afloat.

However, apart from the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, support has not been forthcoming from local or national authorities despite the organisers waiving the €250,000 franchise fee.

“Our initial pitch was for €250,000 plus value in kind support such as shore-services, facilities and some accommodation,” John McKenna, business development director for OC Third Pole, told The Irish Times. “Because of pure market forces, we simply haven’t been able to secure this fee as it’s our first year.”

Tasked by the MOD70 class association, the company founded by yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur and her partner Mark Turner has been responsible for many major commercial sailing events such as the Extreme 40 series, Barcelona World Race and Open 60 class teams in addition to her own projects.

McKenna, who hails from Dublin, says he is determined to ensure Dublin is included in the tour and that the cost of bringing the MOD 70s to each of the ports is already covered by each of the teams that have their own sponsorship in place.

“The tour needs to be assured that it will have a major public occasion in Dublin if it is to commit to coming here,” said McKenna. Media coverage with a value of €20 million is being targeted for the first year of the series in Europe.

With the franchise fee waived, McKenna and his local partners are seeking a commitment from local authorities to match the showcase opportunity a tour stop-over represents with a public event such as a festival or expo occasion. Most of the “in-kind” support needed to stage the event has already been secured by Olivier Proveur, the NYC sailing manager.

The pontoons used for last summer’s Figaro single-handed event have already been purchased and are stored in Dún Laoghaire for an event such as this. Installation and removal costs are estimated at €50,000.

The itinerary for the tour will be announced on January 23rd, with prospective venues at Kiel in Germany, Caiscais outside Lisbon, along with Genoa and a possible venue in Turkey.

Venues in France such as Cherbourg and Lorient are possibly being slated for 2013, while the London Olympic sailing venue at Weymouth may have an available date immediately after the Paralympic Games.

The dates for the Dún Laoghaire event, if confirmed, would be the weekend of 9th to 12th September.

IRELAND’S sole representative at the Optimist World Championship begins racing on Sunday after securing a top place in the pre-worlds series this week.

Sophie Browne from Tralee Bay Sailing Club was 21st out of 214 boats in Napier with seven days of competition following next week.