Dragon class centre stage at Glandore classics regatta in west Cork

Record fleet expected for the 25th edition of the classics regatta

Cathy MacAleavey (standing)  with Judith Malcolm in Mollie, a Water Wag dinghy at the Volvo Dún Laoghaire Regatta 2017 recently.  Photograph: David Branigan/Oceansport

Cathy MacAleavey (standing) with Judith Malcolm in Mollie, a Water Wag dinghy at the Volvo Dún Laoghaire Regatta 2017 recently. Photograph: David Branigan/Oceansport

 

After last weekend’s Edinburgh Cup in Cowes that saw the sole Irish boat narrowly miss out on victory, the venerable Dragon class will be centre stage in west Cork this weekend when the biennial Cantor Fitzgerald Glandore Classics Regatta gets underway.

Martin Byrne’s Jaguar team, counting his son Conor from the Royal St George Yacht Club along with regular Pedro Andrade, were in top form leading into the championship having won the UK South coast title.

Byrne was looking for his second Edinburgh Cup win since victory on Belfast Lough six years ago but instead the Dún Laoghaire boat placed fifth overall in the 38-strong fleet.

The class was used in the Olympic Games from 1948 until 1972 and soon after modern fibre-glass construction took over, but it is the original wooden versions that will be to the fore at Glandore.

While a record fleet is expected for the 25th edition of the classics regatta – double the normal entries had been received by organisers earlier this week with 57 boats entered – one of the most prominent racing Dragons will be the world’s oldest surviving boat still in competitive use.

Don Street’s Gypsy dates back to 1933 and still manages the occasional win against the modern glass-fibre versions.

Another highlight of the series will be the Dublin Bay Water Wag class, the world’s oldest one-design dinghy with a fleet of eight boats that will perform a demonstration of synchronised sailing that is understood to be the precursor to yacht racing as we now know it.

Sailing historian Hal Sisk will be co-ordinating the fleet using flag signals. His research shows this to be the original meaning of “Yachting”, as practised in Holland and subsequently adopted in Cork in 1720, and has remained in use for 200 years.

Under direction, the fleet would tack and gybe in unison and even fired occasional broadsides at one another.

However, the only broadside likely this weekend will be from Don Street himself to Irish Sailing. He is unimpressed with the seamanship skills of some sailing instructors.

“What is supposedly required is not checked; just look at the way the dinghies and launches are secured,” Mr Street (87) told The Irish Times. “Few if any instructors really know knots.”

Other weak areas include how to properly coil a line, split a coil and properly and accurately throw a line, and know all the basic knots a seaman should know, he said.

Defending the instructor training programme, Harry Hermon, CEO of Irish Sailing, said: “It’s like every profession where you have people who are extremely competent but also those who practice to pass an exam.

“There’s only so much we can do in a five-day instructor training course. We don’t want to put up too many barriers to people taking part and particularly progressing to advanced levels.”

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