Sailing: Ireland offshore racing set for buoyant season

Two separate Irish transatlantic solo campaigns announced for coming year

Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 3200 BAM will compete in a single-handed capacity in the 2017 Transatlantic Ostar Race in May.

Ireland looks set for another buoyant offshore sailing season with announcements this week of two separate transatlantic solo campaigns while in New Zealand repair efforts to bring Ireland's "abandoned" entry in the Vendee Globe Race home continue.

After a boost from the biggest Round Ireland race entry in years in 2016 as well as new Round Ireland speed records – in both monohull and multihull – this coming season will also see offshore sailing reach new heights with a bumper Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association (ISORA) fleet in prospect.

There was good news for ISORA chiefs as its winter survey found more than half of respondents describe themselves as “regular offshore racers”.

Of 115 completed responses, 53 per cent considered themselves regular offshore racers and 30 per cent regular coastal racers as opposed.

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The distinction between the offshore and inshore may be fine but it is an indication of the trend towards offshore that June and July's big regattas in Kinsale, Crosshaven and Dún Laoghaire have all added new coastal courses to their sailing plans following feedback from skippers seeking a change from standard round-the-cans formats.

The 2017 ISORA season kicks off with two races on Saturday, April 22nd, the ISORA/RAYC Dún Laoghaire to Wicklow coastal race, and the Pwllheli Castle Race on the other side of the Irish Sea in Wales.

Demanding

Offshore ace, Conor Fogerty is preparing for one of sailing's most demanding solo ocean races. The Howth Yacht club sailor will make an Irish attempt on the Original Solo Transatlantic Race (OSTAR) in May, the first Irish involvement in the fixture since Barry Hurley's class-winning performance in 2009.

This will see Fogerty, bring his widely campaigned Sunfast 3600 “Bam”, to the start line off Plymouth Sound in the English Channel and race over 3,000 miles to Newport, Rhode Island.

France-based Tom Dolan from Co Meath returns to Dublin next week to give an unvarnished account of his 2017 Mini-Transat build-up.

Dolan, competed in the 2016 French Offshore Racing Series in his “Cailin Rua II”, a new 6.5m Pogo design. His chief aim this season is to participate in the 4,000 mile solo Mini Transat this year.

Dolan will give an illustrated lecture on "2016 Offshore Racing in France – A Steep Learning Curve" next Thursday, February 16th, at 8pm at the Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club in Ringsend, Dublin 4. There is an entry fee of €5 in aid of the RNLI.

Repairs to Enda O'Coineen's Vendee Globe entry, Kilcullen Voyager, continue in Christchurch, New Zealand.

One of 11 from 29 starters now listed as “abandoned” on the official race website, O’Coineen is deemed to have completed only half the course without needing outside assistance. It is understood his IMOCA 60 requires, among other things, deck repairs as well as a new mast and rigging before it can set sail for home.

A fortnight after collecting Afloat's Irish Sailor of the Year award, Annalise Murphy has already turned her focus to a new target – the Women's Moth World title she won two years ago.

The Rio Olympic Silver Medalist, who was foiling at full speed in Bermuda in December, will be leading the Irish charge against a fleet of Olympic and America's Cup stars on Lake Garda come July before returning to her Laser dinghy and embarking on her Tokyo 2020 campaign.

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