ISORA Logo VectorISORA 2016 Race 1 Dun Laoghaire to Wicklow

“There it is, there it is,
What took us so long to find each other baby,
There it is, there it is,
This time I’m not wrong”

Ah the 1980’s. An horrific period for our economy, for fashion disasters and for the last days of disco. An oft forgotten disco / soul band were the American trio Shalamar, one of who’s hits “There it is” contains the above lyrics that sprung to mind last Saturday as we valiantly, but in vain, searched off Wicklow pier for a non-existent finish mark.

Ok so, straight down to business - the elephant in the room. This is difficult to pen. The recently deceased Paddy Downey, doyen of sports journalism for over forty years with the Irish Times once stated that, in his opinion, journalism is writing the hard stuff that nobody else wants to – all else is just PR. Now while I am not conceited enough to think these blogs are journalism, I am conceited enough to consider them to be not PR though.

“There it is? Is that it? No, that’s a lobster pot. Wait, is that it - off the port bow? Nope, that’s another pot. Where the bloody hell is it so?” Not a great way to finish a most enjoyable opening race to the new ISORA season and the fleets return to Wicklow after a couple of seasons absence. A “technical difficulty” meant that as the fleet rounded South India, the expected finish mark was not laid and the finish line was swiftly altered to use the yellow outfall mark rather than the phantom mark that most of the fleet searched for. The new finish line was radioed to the fleet on Channel 37 but for a myriad of reasons not all of the fleet received this notification. A pity, as it somewhat tarnished a good days racing in benign conditions on a late April Saturday. Before one thinks of apportioning blame, it may be prudent to remember that old saying that when one points a finger, another four are pointing back at you.

Poor Chairman Ryan looked a broken man in Wicklow Sailing Club afterwards but in my mind is totally blameless. Consider this – at our AGM in the National Yacht Club back in November, Peter Ryan and Stephen Tudor beseeched those in attendance to offer volunteer services over the coming season in a multitude of positions. How many of us stepped up? At a guess I would venture not many, if any of us at all. So, to be clear, Peter and Stephen run this series nearly double handed and to see poor Peter, head in hands, with a strained, painted smile on his face in WSC afterwards was not a great sight.


Theo Phelan of WSC had also attended our AGM and made an impassioned plea for ISORA to return to his club. This is a great club who first created and now runs the world famous bi-annual Round Ireland Race which is a credit to both them and to the Irish Offshore Sailing scene. WSC needs ISORA as much as ISORA needs WSC and it is fair to say all the fleet were looking forward to our return to this quaint but fiercely proud East Coast club. To be fair to WSC everything, bar the finish line issue, was first class. For sure the non laying of the published line was not great but hey “shit happens” (we as sailors know that more than most) and we in ISORA have a Corinthian vibe in our series that defines who and what we are. Yes there was a protest, the first in many, many years, but that in itself is testament to the newly competitive nature of what ISORA, on the back of Peter and Stephen’s resurrection of the near morbid series over a decade ago, has now become.

So, no hard feelings to WSC. Thanks for having us, thanks for the very warm welcome, the water taxis to ferry some of the oldies ashore, the sunshine, the pints, the good food afterwards, the homely and welcoming ambience and we look forward to returning next season. And best of luck with the Round Ireland – while it is not a featured race in the ISORA series, many of our fleet will be back next month to undertake one of the world’s top offshore races. Indeed, speaking of the Round Ireland, it was great to see Liam Shanahan looking at the winners photos in the clubhouse and pointing out his father Liam Snr’s boat, Lightening, which won in 1988 and telling the story behind that win. I myself was looking at the very first winner, Raasay of Melfort, out of Dunmore East where I grew up. My late father was due to sail in the inaugural Round Ireland in 1980 on board Raasay which was owned by a fellow vet Brian Coad. While an accomplished sailor and navigator with many wins under his belt with his friends Brendan Darrer and Flor O Driscoll down in numerous Cork Weeks, he was to be navigator on this novel new race – an important role in those pre satellite navigation and GPS plotter days. This trip was to be the biggest thing in his sailing life and the excitement in the lead up was palpable in our household. Disaster struck in the week prior to the race though when the locum vet my Dad had lined up failed to materialise and heartbreakingly he had to withdraw at the last minute. To further compound his misery, Raasay only went and bloody won the race on corrected time and my Dad’s chance of sailing immortality was frustratingly robbed from him. True story folks.

And so back to Saturday. Twenty boats line up off Scotsmans Bay for the first race of the season. Newbies abound - Darragh Cafferky’s Another Adventure from Greystones SC, Stephen Mullaney’s Applegreen for Kids, Kuba Szymanski’s new 40.7 Polished Manx 2 and Grant Kinsmann and Aubrey Leggets new Sigma 400 Thalia. All welcome additions to a burgeoning ISORA fleet – and that’s only on this side of the Irish Sea. A beautiful benign day with clear blue skies, not too cold although winds of only 10 knots were shy of what we really needed. Nonetheless a complete contrast to last year’s season opener which was compared to the Charge of the Light Brigade such were the horrendous conditions prevailing that day.

A tight spinnaker reach out to South Burford fighting very strong northerly tides saw Ruth, Aurelia and Adelie rounding first and then bearing off onto differing courses as the fleet headed down towards North India. With the tide changed and now ebbing at a fierce rate, the rounding of North India was a feat in itself in terms of if you misjudged it you were a gonner as there was no way of getting back up to it in the light flukey winds. This fate unfortunately befell both Windshift and Obsession who both ultimately retired. Round South India and those with assymetrics were able to gain an advantage by holding their kites to the finish.

RealBoat2016SeriesInto Wicklow harbour, old fashioned tying up against and clambering up the harbor wall (and accidentally dumping their i phones in the drink – sorry Kuba) and up to the clubhouse for the usual post mortem, pints, grub, slagging, exaggeration, bragging and all outdoors in the beautiful warm sunshine – ye Gods. A great warmer upper for the season ahead. Probably to lull us into a false sense of security – wait for the Irish Sea crossings in gales and then let’s see how we feel. A great race, a great day, super turnout, a great introduction to ISORA for all the newcomers and the start of a six month series that just gets better and better each year.

Three weeks time – Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead – first Irish Sea crossing and joined by our Welsh comrades to bolster the fleet even more. ISORA baby – we’re back (just like the Celtic Tiger!)

Go Offshore – Real Boats Race Offshore!


Simon's Blog


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