Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association publishes ambitious 16-race 2019 calendar

Chairman Peter Ryan warns that fleet growth will not continue if Welsh marina at Holyhead is not reinstated

John Treanor’s new Grand Soleil 34-foot “Justtina” will be an entry in next year’s growing ISORA series from Dublin Bay. Photograph: David O’Brien

Offshore sailing is set to continue its rise next year on Dublin Bay with the publication of an ambitious 16-race 2019 calendar. However, Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association (ISORA) chairman Peter Ryan has warned that growth would not continue if a Welsh marina was not reinstated to facilitate the burgeoning fleet.

The 2019 season will start on April 27th with simultaneous 40-mile coastal races on either side of the Irish Sea at Pwllheli and Dún Laoghaire. However, the calendar remains in "draft" form until matters at Holyhead are repaired following the break up of the port's 450-berth marina.

“I underestimated Holyhead as a central hub for us on the Irish Sea”, Ryan says. “When we lost Holyhead, we lost our nursery.”

Ryan has been quietly building up the ISORA fleet to a point where it now reaches levels to match its 1980s heyday.


The north Wales marina was lost last March when storms swept it away. Since then Ryan believes he has been fighting an uphill battle to recruit new sailors into the offshore scene. The ferry port proved ideal for coaxing sailors to venture outside Dublin Bay as it is an “easy hop” straight across to Wales from Dún Laoghaire. “No sooner than you lose sight of land, you see it again.” he said.

ISORA will again use GPS trackers for each race in 2019, a move that has proved so popular with crews and supporters over the last three seasons.

In a change next season, four qualifying races must be completed to be eligible to win the overall Wolf's Head Trophy, with the best six to count. The trophy was won again this year by Welsh J109 entry Mojito (Peter Dunlop and Vicky Cox).

On May 4th, the fleet, now totalling 60, will undertake the first of the season’s seven offshore fixtures from Dún Laoghaire to Holyhead, with the fleet rafting up on what is left of the pontoons there.

On June 12th, the fleet take in the 270-mile Dún Laoghaire to Dingle race, a season highlight. A month later, and as part of the Volvo Dún Laoghaire Regatta, ISORA will race on July 13th in a 35-mile Lighthouse coastal race. The season concludes with race 16 in September and a Pwllheli to Dún Laoghaire 80-miler.

Unmanned vessel

Since solo sailor Gregor McGuckin of Dublin was plucked off his boat Hanley Endurance in the Indian Ocean in the Golden Globe round the world race, the dismasted 36-footer has drifted approx 580 miles in an ENE direction, and is now 1,280 miles due west of Cape Leeuwin. His onboard satellite tracker is still pinging away, however, and giving the unmanned vessel a speed of 0.4 knots and a Lat/Lon position of 34° 52.65 S, 089° 21.94 E

According to race organisers, there is a barrel full of whiskey on board, and they have a mind to publicise this fact when the boat is within reach of the Australian coastline in the hope of encouraging someone to go out and salvage her.

Rival Mark Sinclair, (Capt Coconut) who photographed the boat as he sailed past, is now heading for Adelaide to replenish water supplies and make repairs. On Wednesday morning (September 28th) he was 400 miles away, doing 4.6knots, so should be there in four to five days, and he is expected to hand over the latest images of Hanley Endurance to organisers.

Speed barrier

National windsurfing champion Oisín van Gelderen is the first Irish sailor to break the 50-knot speed barrier during his final week competing at the Luderitz World Speed Sailing Challenge in Namibia, Africa.

Van Gelderen significantly improved on his own record in winds gusting 90kph (Beaufort Force 9 – strong to severe gale) but it wasn’t until Luderitz that the Dublin sailor exceeded 50 knots, hitting a high of 50.8knots (94kph), and set an official ratified national record of 47.97 knots (88.85kph) over 500m.

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