By Simon Byrne (Yahtzee)
On our early morning delivery trip to Pwhelli SC last Friday much of our crews conversation centred on David Branigans sailing column in that day’s edition of The Irish Times where he commented on the increasing trend in cruiser racers towards “round the cans” races of no more than 90 minutes on the water within the safe environs of inshore waters as opposed to those willing to actually venture out into the apparently ravaging wilds existing outside the Burford Bank and head offshore to what for the bay sailors must seem like a whole new and completely alien universe:
“.....a suspicion lingers that some crews simply aren’t up to the task of delivering their boat from A to B when an overnight passage is involved and their boats lie idle or at best under used.”
And do you know what? He’s probably right in his assumption, which is such a shame. I’ve done round the cans just like most of us have and we will all willingly attest to its excitement, its competitiveness and its seemingly glamorous social standing in sailing circles. Out on the water early afternoon, may not even get wet or cold, back for pints and banter with all competitors late afternoon and home for supper with the family by seven. Nothing wrong with that either, if that’s your gig. Cruising too has probably more devotees than any other aspect of big boat sailing but, and forgive me for being a tad harsh or somewhat smart arsed here, I am a firm believer in the saying that “cruising is snoozing” – I’m just not old enough for cruising yet, although some would clearly beg to differ on that front. Of course with Yahtzee heading off to France shortly for the month of July, and my opting out due to family commitments (allegedly), that observation has also probably seen me struck from the crew roster for ever. But at the end of the day (God we miss hearing you say that in your Cork lilt Roy!) and when all is said and done, I think all ISORA participants, be they skippers or crew (but perhaps not all of the sailing widows), will wholeheartedly agree that offshore is where it is at.
The ISORA lynx metmAsts offshore series 2013 has adopted the branding logo “Real Boats Race Offshore”. It may sound a bit preachy, a bit smug, a bit of “up yours” to the round the cans boys but I have to admit I just love it as it captures, as any marketing manager (or morkeshing manager, as the unofficial King of South County Dublin Ross O Carroll Kelly would say) will confirm that all good logos should, the essence of what ISORA is all about. Couple this with what we participants term “The Spirit of ISORA” and you begin to get an insight as to how ISORA competitors view the sailing scene. It’s how we are hardwired, it’s in our DNA, it’s our raison d’etre when it comes to sailing and it is a passion I would desperately love to be able to spread in gospel like fashion to those who have never ventured beyond the Kish. Whilst Peter Ryan has rescued ISORA from its near oblivion as close back as 2007 and we have witnessed it rise in Phoenix like fashion from the ashes, nonetheless it never ceases to amaze me that between the four clubs in Dun Laoghaire alone, along with other fleets based in Howth, Malahide, Skerries, Bray, Greystones, Wicklow, Arklow, the Isle of Man, Hollyhead, Conway and Pwhelli, we can only muster c.20 boats on average each season. God, do they not know what they are missing? We should all actively go forward and spread the good news. I know Ted Heath way back in the seventies likened big boat sailing to standing under a shower ripping up fivers and that current offshore owners should probably replace said fivers with twenties, but it surely is a tragedy that more and more big boat sailors are missing out on the camaraderie, the competitiveness, the bonhomie and the sheer craic that we experience each season from early April to late September. Some might think that this great scene we have going on is so precious that we should hold it close, keep it to ourselves, and not share our secret world with others but I firmly believe that it behoves each and every one of us to make it our mission in sailing on the Irish Sea to recruit others, to passionately espouse the virtues of offshore, to scream from the rooftops “get yourselves out here - you folk don’t know what you are missing”, to go forth and multiply. Ok, rant over.
So what is this “Spirit of ISORA”? I’ll tell you what it is and it was very much in evidence last weekend when we once again visited Pwhelli Calon Hwylio Cymru – the heart of Sailing in Wales. The “Spirit of ISORA” is Peter and Stephen, on differing sides of the Irish Sea pulling the whole thing together. It’s Vicky and Cathy administering the Facebook site. It’s the complimentary crew bus meeting the HSS in Holyhead and delivering them to the marina. It’s the sponsors putting on a great wine and finger food reception for all competitors in the clubhouse. It’s all crews mingling over the barbeque out on the deck. It’s Liam and Brian from Lula Belle getting their official photo taken with the trophy that evening – hello, does that mean it is preordained that they are winning again tomorrow? It’s James from Jetstream bringing his guitar, joining resident entertainer Dafydd and belting out some great classics for hours on end – some people were even spotted dancing - ye Gods! It’s the comical sight of a “tired and emotional” nameless young unmarried individual working the room late in the evening, unsuccessfully looking for “hugs” from each and every blonde female in attendance. It’s the very late hour that most of us reluctantly vacated said bar for a quick couple of hours kip before the early morning start. It’s Adelies dedication to the cause in motoring over from Dun Laoghaire at full revs through the night to arrive at 06.00 and guarantee their place on the start line (and dwindling their supply of diesel!!) – adds a whole new meaning to being so committed to participation that they would leave no stone unturned and simply “emptied the tank” (sorry Conor mate, just couldn’t resist that one, it was too good an opportunity). It’s the early morning breakfast provided for those who needed it. It’s Pwhelli SC contracting a photographer to capture images of the start. It’s Richard Tudor getting out of his scratcher to provide the start at 07.45. It’s the pictures of Martin from Polished Manx baking bread on board during the race – are you having a laugh buddy, you’re putting the rest of us to shame. It’s there being no time limit on the race – if there was then in light airs the Class 2’s would be out of the reckoning before they even started. It’s Kuba from Polished Manx crossing the finish line in pitch black darkness and calling up Aubrey from Elandra on the VHF who was hot on his heels to warn him of an unlit lobster pot right on the finishing line – what a gentlemanly and utterly sporting touch. It’s Liam from Ruth celebrating his win by hosting an impromptu pizza party as well as standing the entire fleet a drink (well those who had finished) in Wicklow SC. It’s said club staying open into the small hours to guarantee all late finishers could grab a pint. It’s Richard letting Abraham and Barry from Polished Manx hitch a lift back to Dun Laoghaire on Yahtzee so Kuba could knock a couple of hours off his 16 hour return trip to Douglas. And on, and on, and on I could go with tales of what makes up “The Spirit of ISORA”.
Never take it for granted people – what we have is something special.
Fogra – Garret (Cheese), your friend was asking after you. Be afraid, be very afraid!