Dún Laoghaire Regatta a celebration of all things sailing

The sport in Ireland has moved on as evidenced by the diverse participation at event

The scene at the port formerly known as Kingstown yesterday afternoon could easily have been an early etching of the first sailing regatta at the 200-year old harbour: traditional classic and modern boats racing side by side with the iconic East Pier lighthouse as the backdrop.

The occasion is the biennial Volvo Dún Laoghaire Regatta that has attracted 475 boats in a mix of keelboats, dinghies, one-designs and traditional craft with almost half the fleet visiting from outside the Dublin Bay area.

Of course, Ireland’s fickle summer threatened to spoil the occasion with an indifferent breeze that would barely lift a leaf but the race management teams persisted and as they did, the breeze built steadily to 10-12 knots and a full programme was completed for day one.


But even the weather couldn’t alter the spectacle of a bay full of sails, a bustling harbour, two piers busy with walkers and the backdrop of the Victorian seafront town of Dún Laoghaire.


By early evening, the estimated 2,500 competitors were ashore and the four waterfront yachts clubs thronged.

All elements taken together, all the stereotyped “yachting” boxes are ticked for a sport that remains deliberately aloof from the mainstream and reserved for social elitists so beloved of Ireland’s semi-dormant begrudgers.

And while the true profile of the sport does indeed include elements of yachting’s early years, the modern sport in Ireland has moved on as evidenced by the diverse participation at this week’s mega-regatta.

The truth is that the super-wealthy tycoons of 100 years ago have moved well beyond these waters; Victorian yachties weren’t much interested in sunshine that today is offered in abundance between the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.

Modest yachts

Facilities in these more glamourous locations are better suited to the superyachts of 100 foot or more. Even more modest yachts are more likely to be found close to an airport with a regular direct service from a low-fares airline.

The “yachting-set” would look distinctly out of place in colder northern latitudes where cruising maxi yachts infrequently venture and when they do, it’s a sort of reverse exploration voyage.

If such boats were to happen into Dublin Bay this weekend, what they would discover would be a celebration of all things sailing, from Ths .

Such issues won’t matter much to the thousands competing this week and opening day’s results set the scene for the next three days.

Early leads

Although the early stages of the regatta, well-known boats from Dún Laoghaire’s Royal Irish Yacht Club and Howth YC have taken early leads in several classes.

Three-times national Division 1 champion John Maybury with Joker 2 had a second and first place on the opening day to open a decent overnight lead in this 28-boat class. Although an earlier plan had been to set a separate fleet for the J109’s, the 14 boats have been merged into Division 1.

Meanwhile, Richard Colwell’s Corby 25 from Howth has two wins under his belt in the eight-strong Division 3 where he has three clubmates leading the runner-up stakes.

Paddy Gregory’s Flashback from Howth tops the biggest fleet of the regatta, the coastal course group that has 32 entries though not all boats started the opening race of the series and several were caught out when they mistook the harbour entrance for the finishing-line rather than the laid course inside.

With a mixture of classes involved across the six different course areas, some fleets are only beginning their event today with several national and regional championships at stake.

The forecast remains challenging for the weekend but hopes are high that daily sea breezes may boost racing prospects.

David Branigan

David Branigan

David Branigan is a contributor on sailing to The Irish Times