Sailing column: Bumper fleet battling it out in Kinsale

Healthy turnout of 109 boats at the ICRA National Championships and Sovereign Cups

A turnout of 109 entries at this week's ICRA National Championship and Sovereigns Cup marks a healthy 15 per cent increase in fleet size compared to two years ago at Kinsale.

And in two weeks’ time, the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta looks set to top the 400-boat mark. The state of the sailing nation appears healthy.

But there is still a cause for concern. The issue is that of travelling boats for away regattas and persuading owners and crews to commit to both attend and arrange delivery to and from the venue.

Significant efforts have been made to get boats from around the country to enter for Kinsale and the response has been good – with interest from the UK as well.


That has resulted in one of the most competitive championships in recent years with a noticeable shift away from the bigger boats to mid-size yachts where the biggest numbers have turned out. The Royal Irish Yacht Club and Howth Yacht Club field teams of 17 and 15 boats respectively this week. As a result, both clubs dominate in nearly all the classes at Kinsale.

Given that support, from Dublin and indeed nationwide, it might follow that the Cork region would have a strong reciprocal turn-out in Dun Laoghaire.

Not so, it seems.

While traditionally Irish sailing has been dominated by a Cork/Dublin axis, turnouts in the southern capital have been suffering since the recession. The numbers of boats apparent in Cork Harbour and at events such as Sovereigns Week suggest that the boat population remains potentially strong – but curiously unwilling to travel in the numbers of times past.

For Dun Laoghaire, just three boats have entered from the Cork area: Conor Phelan's Class Zero flagship Jump Juice from the Royal Cork Yacht Club, Alan Harper's Sigma 33 Leaky Roof from Cove Sailing Club and Conor Doyle's Freya from Kinsale YC while Adrian Lee and Jack Buttimer (Youghal Sailing Club) have both entered GP14 dinghies.

But could the explanation lie elsewhere rather than pointing the finger at boat-owners unwilling to commit to travelling?

“If you go out sailing in Cork Harbour these days, the fleets are a shadow of what they once were ten or 20 years ago,” said Cork sailmaker Des McWilliam. “Half the youth in Cork now live in Dublin and while the skippers would readily go out, unfortunately “the staff” just aren’t there.”

Ireland’s shifting demographics has seen a spread of interest and even growth in regional clubs around the country but a decrease in racing activity for the cruiser fleets around the traditional stronghold of Cork Harbour.

A cyclical anomaly may yet see a return to growth and the resurgence of interest in classes such as the National 18 footers as well as the RS dinghy fleets.

Meanwhile yesterday breezier conditions off the Old Head of Kinsale yesterday refreshed the standings across most of the classes competing in the ICRA Nationals Sovereigns Cup .

A single event discard comes into force when today’s two races are sailed meaning the standings could be altered significantly.

This is certain to affect Andy Williams visiting Ker 40 Keronimo from Plymouth that retired from yesterday’s first race after threats of protests from other Division Zero boats when he sailed the wrong way around a mark.

Williams would otherwise have registered a third win in the series he seems set to dominate. ICRA Commodore Norbert Reilly leads the rest of the pack on Crazy Horse from Howth YC while Conor Phelan’s Jump Juice ( Royal Cork YC) is a close challenger.

In Division 1 just a point now separates Ian Nagle’s Jelly Baby ( Royal Cork YC) from rivals Joker 2 ( Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire). Fools Gold from Waterford Harbour hold third after a race win and a third place yesterday.

In Division 2, David Cullen on Checkmate XV was deposed from the overall lead by his Howth clubmate Ross McDonald who registered double race wins yesterday.

David Branigan

David Branigan

David Branigan is a contributor on sailing to The Irish Times