Diary of a Brass Monkeys Sailor...

27 February 2024
Diary of a Brass Monkeys Sailor...

Hear from Peter McCabe, a seasoned sailor at Howth Yacht Club, as he shares his stories from the Bright Motor Group Brass Monkeys series on board Arcturus, where chilly mornings and spirited races bring together a close-knit community of sailing enthusiasts.

Why have your boat tied up each winter when you could be out on the water enjoying some time with your crewmates? 
I started thinking recently about the the Brass Monkeys series in HYC and what has drawn me to it for so many seasons.  For members not familiar with this keelboat series and who wonder why sailors head out into the sound at such an ungodly hour on a Sunday morning I would say first and foremost that this rite of passage is for those who enjoy sailing their boat and love to do so year-round.
It’s a fun series with a handicap system which is worked off… some magical formula, which I’m sure someone understands but the participants certainly don’t :)  I jest - it's based on the Howth Performance Handicap (similar to Echo) and it automatically adjusts based on a yacht's performance in each race.
The beauty of the system is that it does tend to come up with new winners most weeks, so everyone gets a chance to share the “glory” of a win.
Racing starts around 10.30am from the committee boat near Ireland’s Eye and each race lasts a little over a hour. 
This leaves time to make up for any previously cancelled races by having a second start around 11.45am and still get back in time for lunch.
In the Autumn Brass Monkeys 2023 we had a total of 21 boats in three classes and had a very successful and enjoyable series. 
The Spring Brass Monkeys 2024, which has one more race to go next weekend, is a 9-boat challenge. Despite race cancellations due to adverse weather, we will complete all six races by next weekend with different winners each week… thanks to the magical HYC handicap system.
In the face of the cooler weather, we regularly get conditions that are the envy of the summer sailors. As a wise man once said “there is no such thing as bad weather, just unsuitable clothing”.
After each day’s racing, many crews adjourn to the bar for a drink, some food, or both.
On Arcturus, our Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 37, we have established a custom over the years whereby a different crew member makes a one-pot lunch each week. 
After racing, while the rest of the crew tidy up sails, ropes etc., the pot is heated up on the cooker and served with a glass of wine. 
Sometimes we go wild and follow up with a selection of cheeses and crackers with tea or coffee. What a treat after a hard morning racing!
And we get home by 2pm to enjoy the rest of the day.
What else would you be doing on an early spring’s Sunday morning? Maybe wasting time lying in bed or reading yesterday’s news.
This series is perfect for summer racers who want to enjoy a more relaxed level of racing, give crew a chance to try out different jobs, and maybe choose the Arcturus-style and socialise on board. It is also good for cruising sailors who would like to extend their season and maybe improve boat speed for those longer cruises where an extra 1/2 knot could mean getting to faraway bars or restaurants before they close.
As I say it is a “Fun Series” where protests are non-existent and good camaraderie is generated among participants.
Peter McCabe, Arcturus