Record year for Irish offshore sailing

Opinions sought on class structure for 2017 in advance of November agm

As a band of Irish Sea sailors prepare for a 630-mile marathon in the Mediterranean tomorrow, at home offshore aficionados have surveyed crews after a record year for the sport.

June's Round Ireland race showed the first signs of a lift for offshore racers with a fleet of 63 off Wicklow, up from 35 boats for the 2014 race, and this month the Irish Sea Offshore Sailing Association (ISORA) confirmed the increase when it reported 54 boats raced its 10-race 2016 series.

ISORA now aims to capitalise on the expansion in an online survey before next month’s agm and prizegiving.

ISORA chief Peter Ryan says "We're aware of the need for a forum for suggestions and opinions, bearing in mind that the owners and competitors are from all corners of the Irish Sea."

Of importance to its handicap racing is the fact ISORA races with IRC numbers ranging from 1.152 to 0.831 – the equivalent of 16 minutes in an hour – or almost seven hours in a 24-hour race.

Despite this, ISORA is expected to deliver fair racing where each competitor has a real chance of winning. “We now need to know if the class structure is correct and relevant for 2017,” says Ryan.

Survey results, as well as how best to maintain the momentum in offshore, will be discussed at the National Yacht Club-based agm in Dún Laoghaire on November 12th.

Sole Irish entry

Meanwhile, the Howth offshore Jeanneau 3600

Bam

skippered by

Conor Fogerty

, that earned a win in IRC 3 in the RORC Caribbean 600 last January, is the sole Irish entry in Saturday’s Middle Sea Race that starts from Valetta Harbour, Malta at 11am. Although

Bam

may be the only Irish yacht, there are plenty of other Irish sailors in the 112-boat international fleet, including Dún Laoghaire’s

Kenny Rumball

,

Liam Coyne

and Wicklow’s

Brian Flahive

.

At last week's National Marine Gallantry and Meritorious Service Awards, Castletownbere RNLI received a Marine Ministerial Letter of Appreciation, for its ability to "locate and save a life in challenging weather conditions".

The award followed an operation last August some 50 miles off the southwest coast. A lone yachtsman in his sixties had run into difficulties in severe weather en route from the Azores. Conditions were described as gusting Force 8/9 winds with a 30ft-swell.

On Wednesday, the lifeboat service again came to the rescue of yachtsmen in distress, this time off the north west coast. A Canadian yacht with two onboard was aground at St Johns Point on Donegal Bay. The 45ft sloop hit a reef, making it difficult for the Coast Guard’s inshore boat and the RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat to get close. The Irish Coast Guard helicopter from Sligo airlifted the two sailors to safety.

A fleet of 25 GP14 dinghies took to Blessington Sailing Club water for the Hot Toddy under race officer Fred Ternan last weekend. Colman Grimes and David Lapin from Skerries were overall winners.

Howth wide open

Howth Yacht Club’s autumn series is still wide open ahead of a one-race finale this weekend. The

Dave Cullen

Half-Tonner

Checkmate

and Francis Ennis’s Shamrock 28

Demelza

secured their Class 2 IRC and Class 5 silverware on Saturday, but honours in the other six fleets are all still up for grabs.

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

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