Howth Yacht Club honoured as MG Motor Sailing Club of the Year 2023
Please note that the below has been reprinted with permission from Afloat.com. For the full article from WM Nixon, please click here. For more pictures from the event, courtesy of Past Commodore Brian Turvey, please visit our photo gallery.
Although the announcement that Howth Yacht Club had become the latest MG Motor “Sailing Club of the Year 2023” was made at the beginning of the year following outstanding achievements at home and abroad by the club and its members throughout 2022, the actual presentation of the time-honoured ship’s wheel trophy for this informal annual contest – which dates back to 1979 - can be made at any time during the season in which the winning club holds the title.
However, setting a date for this first full post-pandemic awards ceremony was a complex matter of co-ordinating many moving targets, as Howth Yacht Club in 2023 – with new Commodore Neil Murphy leading his 2000-plus members in the usual kaleidoscope of activities – is as busy as ever afloat and ashore, at home and away in Ireland, and in international racing competition. That’s all in addition as voyaging and cruising achievement to the highest levels, thereby continuing the process of active sailing which had reached new heights in 2022.
Added to this was the fact that sponsors MG Motor found themselves rapidly moving into fresh levels of success with their innovative and developing range of Electric Vehicles as the new year gathered pace. The announcement that the new MG E4 had been chosen as The Irish Times “Car of the Year” 2023 coincided with the accolade for Howth Yacht Club, and it contributed to an already rapidly-expanding marketing operation at MG Motor Ireland, part of the Frank Keane Group.
MG MOVE TO TOP LEADERBOARD ON ELECTRIC VEHICLE SALES
Thus having the awards ceremony in August at Howth Yacht Cub enabled Andrew Johnson, National Sales Manager with MG Motor, to announce that 2023 had seen MG Motor leading electric vehicle sales in Ireland in July, with a better than 200% year-on-year increase.
Howth sailing has played its part in this, as HYC world sailing Gold Medallist Eve McMahon became an MG Brand Ambassador early this year, and the “Club of the Year” gathering had something of the air of an MG Owners Club about it, as several members – including at least one former Commodore and his wife – have concluded that this new incarnation of the MG marque, with its historical and distinctive symbol, provides the best route into greener motoring.
MAINTAINING THE SAILING PACE AND CLUB VITALITY
Much of Howth YC’s enviable sailing pace during 2022 was achieved under the Commodoreship of Paddy Judge, while his predecessor Ian Byrne, Commodore in the depths of the pandemic years, skillfully steered the club through the lockdown regulations with an analysis of what was and was not permissible afloat. He did this in such a detailed and authoritative way that it proved of value to every club in the country.
But while 2022 saw sailing gradually resuming at full pace as the regulations fell away, much of 2023 has been plagued by poor weather. Yet it was typical of the serendipity of this award ceremony that it was held in pleasant conditions in late afternoon on Wednesday, neatly timed to permit those whose boats raced on Wednesday evening to make the starting line and enjoy a warm breeze which kept up to provide good racing for regular contenders, and the newcomers who are being introduced to Howth sailing by the best method – active participation in the regular club racing programme.
TOUGH TIMES FOR HOWTH SAILORS IN EUROPE
In Europe at the moment, sailing conditions are tougher for Howth sailors racing in the big pre-Olympic regatta on the North Sea at The Hague in The Netherlands, where they’re still recovering from onshore gales which have served as a reminder that this can be one very grown-up sailing venue.
For Howth’s three Gold Medals star of 2022, Eve McMahon, the sense of being under global analysis is challenging, but it is encouraging for the club that rising talents such as Sienna Wright – winner of two Silver Medals in 2023 already - are stepping forward to keep up the pace.
Both Sienna and her high-achiever brother Rocco will be active on home waters in a week’s time when Howth stages the ILCA Nationals from August 18th to 20th. And the club features again on the national stage from September 8th to 10th, when its hosts the 2023 Irish Cruiser Racing Association Nationals in the full knowledge that ICRA’s current “Boat of the Year” is the Howth-based J/99 Snapshot (Mike & Richie Evans).
But a significant element in the strength of Howth’s sailing is found in the fact that the same attention is given to providing first-class racing to the club’s indigenous One-Design classes. Thus the Howth 17s – having hit the headlines already with their notably-successful 125th Anniversary Fastnet Rock-rounding visit to West Cork ports under the leadership of Class Captain David O’Shea –are back on home waters with their annual Championship this weekend, with Scorie Walls as Race Officer. And the totally Howth-minded Puppeteer 22s will be staging their 2023 championship “at the only port they know” from 26th to the 27th August.
HOWTH’S LARGEST SAILING SECTION
Yet despite the high profile the racing receives, the largest sector in Howth sailing attracts little in the way of headlines. When the new clubhouse was opened beside the marina on St Patrick’s Day 1987, the then Commodore Tom Fitzpatrick had already set the wheels in motion for an HYC Cruising Group to be formed with Gary McGuire as co-ordinator.
A significant number of boats in the club are purely used for cruising, and in its quiet way the Cruising Group has become the successful silent giant, going on its friendly way with regular winter gatherings in the clubhouse, and cruises-in-company in summer. 2023’s was to Scotland when the weather was still good, following on to a similar quietly busy yet worthwhile programme in 2022.
INTERACTING WITH LOCAL COMMUNITY
With sociable sub-sections such as this, positive interaction with the local community is second nature to Howth Yacht Club, and this interaction is dynamic to all levels, and across all areas to the national stage.
Thus it was entirely normal for Howth sailing that a welcome guest on Wednesday was Eithne Felten, the Deputy CEO of Fingal County Council, as Fingal recognises the key role that Howth Yacht Club has played in the transformation of Howth from a very workaday fishing harbour, which was also home port to a few yachts and a small club, into a notably attractive and picturesque destination sailing/fishing port, renowned for its seafood restaurants with a modern yacht club/marina complex that provides the base for the numerically largest sailing club membership in the country.
THE STORY OF THE MG MOTOR “SAILING CLUB OF THE YEAR” AWARD
Although it was possible to find a winner for the “Club of the Year” award right through the Pandemic, the highly-sociable nature of the awards ceremony has meant that it has only been possible this year to resume completely normal service, which makes it timely to consider this informal contest’s history, and what is involved:
MG MOTOR "Sailing Club of the Year" Award
This unique and informal competition was inaugurated in 1979, with Mitsubishi Motors becoming main sponsors in 1986, and MG Motor taking over in 2022 The purpose of the award is to highlight and honour the voluntary effort that goes into creating and maintaining the unrivalled success of Ireland's yacht and sailing clubs.
In making their assessment, the adjudicators take many factors into consideration. In addition to the obvious one of sailing success at local, national and international level, considerable attention is also paid to the satisfaction which members in every branch of sailing and boating feel with the way their club is run, and how effectively it meets their specific needs, while also encouraging sailing development and training.
The successful staging of events, whether local, national or international, is also a factor in making the assessment, and the adjudicators place particular emphasis on the level of effective voluntary input which the membership is ready and willing to give in support of their club’s activities.
The importance of a dynamic and fruitful interaction with the local community is emphasised, and also with the relevant governmental and sporting bodies, both at local and national level. The adjudicators expect to find a genuine sense of continuity in club life and administration. Thus although the award is held in a specific year in celebration of achievements in the previous year, it is intended that it should reflect an ongoing story of success, and well-planned programmes for future implementation
Over the years, the adjudication system has been continually refined in order to be able to make realistic comparisons between clubs of varying types and size. With the competition's expansion to include class associations and specialist national watersports bodies, the "Sailing Club of the Year" competition continues to keep pace with developing trends, while at the same time reflecting the fact that Ireland's leading sailing clubs are themselves national and global pace-setters.
SAILING CLUB OF THE YEAR WINNERS
1979 Wicklow SC
1980 Malahide YC
198l National YC
1982 Howth YC
1983 Royal St George YC
1984 Dundalk SC
1985 National YC
(SPONSORSHIP BY MITSUBISHI MOTORS BEGAN IN 1985-86)
1986 Howth YC
1987 Royal Cork YC
1988 Dublin University SC
1989 Irish Cr. C
1990 Glenans Irish SC
1991 Galway Bay SC
1992 Royal Cork YC
1993 Cumann Badoiri Naomh Bhreannain (Dingle) & National YC
(after 1993, the year indicated is one in which the trophy is held)
1995 Howth Yacht Club
1996 National Yacht Club
1997 Royal Cork Yacht Club
1998 Kinsale Yacht Club
1999 Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club
2000 Royal Cork Yacht Club
(in 2000, competition extended to include class associations and specialist organisations)
2001 Howth Sailing Club Seventeen Footer Association
2002 Galway Bay Sailing Club
2003 Coiste an Asgard
2004 Royal St George Yacht Club
2005 Lough Derg Yacht Club
2006 Royal Cork Yacht Club (Water Club of the Harbour of Cork)
2007 Dublin Bay Sailing Club
2008 Lough Ree YC & Shannon One Design Assoc.
2009 Howth Yacht Club
2010 Royal St George YC
2011 Irish Cruiser Racing Association
2012 National Yacht Club
2013 Royal St George YC
2014 Kinsale YC
2015 Royal Cork Yacht Club
2016 Royal Irish Yacht Club
2017 Wicklow Sailing Club
2018 National Yacht Club
2019 Howth Yacht Club
2020 Royal Cork Yacht Club
2021 Dublin Bay Sailing Club
(SPONSORSHIP BY MG MOTOR BEGAN IN 2021-2022)
2022 Lough Ree YC & Shannon OD Association
2023 Howth Yacht Club