Lots of ‘Fuss’ as dinghy racing celebrates 70 years
While not a ‘hot’ racing class, there are still plenty of enthusiasts who love their sailing
The dinghy class is far from past its sell-by date and up to 50 boats are still actively sailed. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times
The Irish Dinghy Racing Association was founded 70 years ago and one of its first tasks was to source an affordable racing dinghy that could be easily sailed at centres around the country.
The founders were attracted to “Fuss”, a prototype 14-footer designed shortly before the outbreak of the second World War by Irish naval architect George O’Brien Kennedy. Renamed the IDRA14, the two-person dinghy was to become the cornerstone for the fledgling body that would later morph into the Irish Yachting Association and more recently the ISA.
Initially built in wood, glass-fibre production and the addition of a trapeze boosted numbers so that 134 boats were built in total. Fleets were concentrated in Dublin (Dún Laoghaire, Clontarf, Sutton and Kilbarrack), Cork Harbour, Athlone, and Waterford.
The IDRA 14 attracted luminaries such as Douglas Heard, Jimmy Mooney and Hugh Allen from Dún Laoghaire, Somers Payne, Teddy Crosbie, George Bushe and Clayton Love jnr from Cork, JK O’Reilly and Sean Flood from Clontarf and Noel Conn from Sutton.
Many of these sailors were well known abroad as well as in Ireland and represented the country at international and Olympic events while their modern-era counterparts might well be racing Lasers or foiling Moths.
Nevertheless, the class is far from past its sell-by date and between 40 and 50 boats are still actively sailed. Alan Henry and Simon Revill sailing Dubious from Sutton Dinghy Club won the National Championships at Lough Derg last weekend where an enviable fleet of 22 crews turned-out.
“We’re probably getting closer to the Water Wags and Howth 17 where people love the boats for what they are; we wouldn’t claim to be a ‘hot’ racing class,” said Ian Sargent, IDRA class historian. “We’re a group of enthusiasts who love their sailing and hope to keep the class alive. We’ll just have to become a cult class.”
For the class in the modern era, championships are staged at venues that must be able to offer camping facilities as well as being family-friendly and no early morning starts.
“The age of people sailing dinghies is getting older and older, just as people who are running clubs are getting older and older. Sailing is at a crossroads, we’re not getting enough people in between the ages of 20 and 40,” said Sargent.
The 70th anniversary celebrations get under way today at Clontarf Yacht & Boat Club with a reception for the Waldringfield Dragonflies, a sister-class to the IDRA based near Ipswich.
Racing takes place over the weekend and includes a fleet sail-past on Sunday.