Irish cruisers enter New Year on high after Seán McCarter’s win in Sydney-Hobart race

Clipper yacht Derry-Londonderry-Doire crosses finish line to win class in 628-mile offshore race

Irish cruiser racing enters the new year on a high with top finishes in last weekend’s Sydney-Hobart race, and at home speculation mounts that after missing out on the defence of its title in 2012, Ireland could field not one but two teams for July’s Commodore’s Cup.

Irish interest in last weekend’s Sydney-Hobart race climaxed with a win for Lough Swilly skipper Seán McCarter (31), when his Irish Clipper yacht, Derry-Londonderry-Doire, crossed the finish line at Hobart, Tasmania, to win his class in the 628-mile offshore race.

It was a runaway win for the crew who benefited from the retirement of certain rival Henri Lloyd. In the end McCarter had a four-hour margin on the next boat to finish. McCarter had on board Conor O’Byrneas a watch­leader, the Hobart fixture being leg six of a circumnavigation race for the Clipper 70 class. Derry-Londonderry-Doire has now started the equivalent of its third Sydney-Hobart race in as many weeks, as the 12-strong round the world ocean racing fleet returned to battle the Bass Strait for race seven of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

With expectations now running high, McCarter said ahead of the start: “It is important that we harness this winning momentum.”


It wasn't the only Irish performance in one of the most competitive outings of Australia's classic race. Overall in the 92-boat fleet, veteran owner Bob Oatley's Reichel Pugh 100 Wild Oats XI, skippered by Mark Richards, took a seventh line honours win but Howth helmsman Gordon Maguire gave chase in the 60-footer, Ichi Ban.

Dún Laoghaire sailors
For a time, Cork's Barry Hurley, with a partial crew of Dún Laoghaire sailors, was to the fore in Division Three in the Australian-based First 40 Breakthrough.

The Hurley-led Royal Irish Yacht Club crew included Kenneth Rumball (watch leader), Keith Kiernan (navigator) and Catherine Halpin (bow), who completed the course in 27th overall, taking sixth place in IRC Division Three.

There is still no confirmation from the Irish Cruiser Racing Association as to the three boat line-up for Ireland but the build-up for this summer’s Commodore’s Cup event begins in earnest in Florida later this month with Irish interest in Key West featuring Cork Olympic sailor Peter O’Leary at the helm of the New York-based Ker 40 Catapult, a boat tipped as one of three to form the Irish team next July on the Solent.

Yesterday ICRA's Barry Rose remain tight-lipped on the matter but suggested there would be an announcement later in the month. "It's still a fluid situation but we're working really hard to make this happen," Rose told The Irish Times.

O’Leary’s father, Anthony, is expected to lead the Irish team on former winner Antix and following a pre-Christmas meeting of ICRA in Portlaoise, the speculation is that a Solent-based Grand Soleil will fill Ireland’s third boat slot.

In a further boost to win back the Cup first won in 2010, Rose has also said efforts continue to encourage a second “corinthian” team made up of domestic crews.

David O'Brien

David O'Brien

David O'Brien, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a former world Fireball sailing champion and represented Ireland in the Star keelboat at the 2000 Olympics