Letter From the Commodore

September 2022

How quickly has another year passed. This time last year, we had just begun accepting foreign boats into our Marina (after such visits were banned in 2019), and the Club dining room had just re-opened for those who could prove they were vaccinated.

Thankfully, this year we are more on an even keel (so to speak!). COVID has been replaced in the news media headlines by energy costs and inflation, and I am happy to confirm that activity levels at HYC have been rebuilding. It is wonderful to see the amount of people enjoying the Club facilities, and feeling comfortable and safe again in the company of their friends and clubmates.

Probably the biggest news for members this month is that Fingal County Council approved the Department of the Marine’s planning application for the dredging of the harbour, and the reclamation of an area behind the West Pier that will use the silt and rock removed from the harbour bed. However, an appeal regarding the proposed location of the dredged silt has subsequently been lodged, and is now under consideration by An Bord Pleanala. Subject to a successful outcome, the next step in the project is for the Department to seek a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency for the dredging and re-use of the silt.  The planning permission has a number of restrictions attached to it and the EPA permit is likely to have more and, when the full range of constraints are known, the preparation of the tender documents to award a contract to carry out the work will be completed.  The Department’s intention is to dredge all of the harbour area, as it is accepted that dredging only part of it would result in leftover silt quickly settling into the newly dredged areas. The tender process will lead on to a contract award to carry out the work, which will confirm the anticipated cost and lead to discussions about what, if any, share of the cost will have to be borne by HYC.  We have been assured that we will be consulted during the preparation of the tender documents and our focus will be on minimising the disruption to the use of the marina and mooring field, on keeping waterborne activity operational while the work is carried out and limiting any HYC contribution to the cost to a manageable and fair level.  The current expectation is that dredging work could begin sometime in 2024 if all goes well.

As well as being able to fully enjoy the Club facilities ourselves again, this year we are back to hosting both national and international events.  I am delighted to note that the 2022 Howth 17 ‘Intergalactic’ championship was won by my fellow Aer Lingus Cadet from 1968, David Jones, sailing Howth 17 number 12, Rosemary.  Rosemary, owned by David, George Curley and David Potter, has earned a reputation for its Lazarus-like resurrections – sunk in 2007 following a collision, and then literally flattened in 2018 when Storm Emma collapsed the roof of the East Pier shed on top of it.  It is great to see the rebuilt and resurrected beauty taking the championship victory, the boat is a credit to the owners, who have lavished attention on it and overcome the misfortunes that came its way.

The Gibney Classic made its return this year, this time on Sunday Aug 14th, and the spectacular weather saw a big turnout of boats enjoy a race that was carefully measured to allow the fleet finish in time to sail up to Malahide Marina, partake in the hospitality and prize-giving in Gibneys’ Pub, and still have enough water to make it back down the channel and across the Malahide bar before they returned to HYC.  First prize overall went to Shiggi Shiggi, Paul and Laura McMahon’s Puppeteer 22, that was the prototype Puppeteer built in Belfast back in the late 1970s.

The Squib Easterns on the weekend of August 13/14 saw 24 boats racing, making it the best supported Irish event for the Class this year. The turnout was the result of the huge effort put in by the Howth fleet to get visiting boats to enter, and the top three places were bagged by crews from Royal North, Killyleagh and the Royal Irish, with Emmet Dalton and Neal Merry just losing out on third place on a countback.  One of the biggest cheers at the prize giving was for debutante HYC helm Carla Fagan and crew Stephen Quinn who not only won the Silver Fleet award, but took the winning gun in Race 4.  The J24 Eastern Championship on Aug 20/21 served as a familiarisation event for the J24 Europeans; the latter of which enjoys an entry of 34, including boats from the UK, Germany, Italy, and Greece, plus two USA crews. The J24 Eastern was won by Headcase, adding to their spectacular list of victories this year.  With HYC strongly represented on the Headcase crew list, and plenty of knowledge aboard about the local tidal subtleties, hopefully the boat will add the European title to their 2022 list of successes.  As I write, the J24s are leaving the Marina for their first race, in glorious sunshine and good sailing conditions for PRO David Lovegrove and his race management committee. 

The Half Ton Cup was sailed in Cowes this year during the middle week of August, and HYC was very strongly represented with Checkmate XV (D. Cullen), Harmony (J. Swan) and King One (P. Boardman) competing.  After a week of varied conditions that provided great racing and beautiful photographs of Half Tonners at their best – enjoying close quarters manoeuvring and threatened broaches – Harmony and King One battled it out for glory, before King One secured the title and brought it back again to HYC. (Although this time, not in Dave Cullen’s hands.)

Irish Sailing chose Aug 27/28th as the weekend to host their 2022 ‘Women at the Helm’ Championship.  Racing was run from the National YC and HYC was represented in Cruisers 1 and in the Sportsboat Classes.  Irish Sailing’s Sailor of the Month, Laura Dillon, and Diana Kissane took victory in the Cruiser 1 fleet, sailing the Evans-owned “Snapshot” (which already excelled this year in the Round Ireland Race), while Suzie Murphy took 4th place, helming the latest “Checkmate” owned by Nigel Biggs and Dave Cullen, number “XX” in the long sequence. Aoife Hopkins, more usually seen hanging over the side of her singlehanded ILCA seeking Olympic success, took top spot in the Sportsboat Class, sailing one of HYC’s fleet of Club-owned J80s, appropriately named “Ladies of the Kite” for the weekend. The very enthusiastic young crew, drawn together by Jennie Harris, took three wins in the four races sailed.

With a feast of events since the start of August, it is hard to believe that the summer season is drawing to a close; the final mid-week races having been held on Aug 30th and 31st. With sun cream, rather than oilies, the priority in recent weeks, it’s a shame to bring the curtain down on the Tuesday and Wednesday racing but the rapidly shortening evenings don’t leave a choice. However, the Autumn League will be with us from Sept 17th, and this year it will be back to its unrestricted format: open to allcomers. I am delighted to announce that Beshoff Motors are again sponsoring the series, and we look forward to plenty of fun, both afloat and ashore.

With the HYC calendar already quite full at this end-of-the-summer season, we were asked by the Optimist Class to step in at short notice and host their 2022 IODAI Ulster Championship on September 10/11th, the weekend that HYC had previously scheduled for an Optimist Team Racing event, our Dinghy Regatta, and the Puppeteer Nationals.  This is also the weekend chosen by Fingal County Council for their 2022 Howth Maritime Festival, formerly the Dublin Prawn Festival. As you well know, HYC has recently celebrated the successes of Eve McMahon and Rocco Wright in winning the World Sailing Youth Championships for boys and girls, a unique double for any country, not alone a single club…And since both are recent Optimist Class graduates, and since Fingal County Council are strongly supportive (including financially) of the Optimist event coming to the village, we were happy to agree to the Optimist request. Having 150 – 180 young sailors from all over Ireland racing at Howth for the weekend will be a highlight of the Festival and will emphasise the marine leisure benefits of Howth Harbour, despite its primary role being designated for Fishery use.  It is unfortunate that accepting the Optimist request is causing some disruption to scheduled Club activity, particularly to the Puppeteer class and dinghy regatta, and I do apologise for that, but I hope that members will understand why we agreed to host it.  Given the range of activities planned as part of the Festival, including night time concerts in Deerpark and tall ships in the harbour, it is likely that weekend traffic and parking may be bigger issues than normal in the village and we have been liaising with Fingal and the Gardaí to try to ensure that members’ access to HYC will be facilitated during the event.

We aim to continue developing our Constitution, which was written in previous times when society was quite different from the Ireland of today.  In addition, we need to recognise that adults are considerably more resource-stressed nowadays, especially with respect to leisure time.  Some changes to the clauses that govern how the Club is managed have already been flagged and the proposals will be published well ahead of an EGM that is being planned for October.  If any member has suggestions about changes that should be considered, please put your thoughts on an email directly to me at commodore@hyc.ie. If they are about membership structures the suggestions should also be addressed to membership@hyc.ie.

As part of our efforts to provide HYC members with additional facilities we have formally established reciprocal membership with the Queen City Yacht Club in Seattle, Washington, some of whose members are participating in the J24 Championships.  HYC members can be assured of a welcome there if you happen to be in the area and call in.

Finally, a large HYC ensign, washed ashore in Portpatrick about 10 years ago, was recently given by Willie, the retired harbour master, to Cruising Group member Aine Carroll who would like to reunite it with its owner.