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ISORA Logo NewSmallerISORA 2016 Race 4 Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire

Holyhead. Strange place? Perhaps. Mention the name Holyhead in Ireland and an older generation of people will think of pre Ryanair days, pre Italia ’90 days, those black and white telly days and the sad, lonely and mostly unwanted trip that many thousands of Irish people took in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s (Jaysus that was a thirty year recession, wasn’t it?) as they endured forced emigration to that most Perfidious Albion. Weird that Holyhead is actually in Wales but for our Irish emigrants it’s dreaded name conjures up deep seated uncomfortable memories of their first port of call, to be followed by a long, usually overnight, train journey down through the spine of England (Chester and Crewe stations ring a bell – Crewe in particular, squaddies anyone?) before finally reaching the streets of London. Not paved with gold as they soon found out. No blacks, no dogs and no Irish. Indeed.

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.

ISORA Logo VectorISORA Race 14 Pwllheli to Dun Laoghaire

“Thank you for the days,
Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me.
I'm thinking of the days,
I won't forget a single day, believe me.

Days I'll remember all my life,
Days when you can't see wrong from right.
You took my life,
But then I knew that very soon you'd leave me,
But it's all right,
Now I'm not frightened of this world, believe me.”

Ray Davies and the Kinks. A classic. Also covered with aplomb by the late Kirsty Mc Coll. The kids (anyone under 40) will have to Google it. Trust me here kids - great song, great melody, great lyrics about saying farewell to someone you love. It totally sums up the feeling at the conclusion of yet another nail biting, hair raising, tough as bejaysus ISORA season. Thank you for the days indeed.

Last Saturday’s ISORA finale mirrored the corresponding race of the previous season. It was to be season defining, a Championship on the line and there was an awful forecast which actually prevented many of the fleet from participating – same as last year so. You know it’s going to be full on when a number of the fleet take a look at the forecast and, despite being ISORA stalwarts and used to more or less anything the Irish Sea can throw at them, decide it is more prudent to stay at home. A couple of competitors even left Dun Laoghaire for the delivery over to Wales early Friday morning and were met with such poor conditions, on the nose South Easterly big blow with a big sloppy sea to match, that soon after reaching the Kish they called it a day and returned home. To be fair, I don’t really blame them. It was as challenging a delivery as ever experienced and the prospects for Saturday’s race weren’t looking much better. Two big depressions in close proximity forecast to rapidly scuttle across the Irish Sea on Saturday didn’t inspire enthusiasm. Hats off though to those that did make it across and particularly ISORA newcomer David Simpson’s Albireo who endured an epic 18 hour plus delivery to ensure she made the start line and so continued her impressive Silver Fleet challenge in her maiden season. Hardcore, men - respect.

With four local Pwllheli boats amongst the uncharacteristically tiny fleet of nine who would start the next morning, with Albireo still the wrong side of Bardsey and with the Skerries Mafia on Mojito leading the charge as they bigged it up down the town (not great preparation for an important ISORA lads – no doubt both the hangover and the challenging race conditions will “ground” you tomorrow!) it was a lonely and somewhat subdued small gathering in Hafan Pwllheli SC on the Friday evening. No matter – the select few in attendance were witness to the one of the most embarrassing, most cringe worthy and most mortifying situations any young lad could ever find himself in.

What goes on tour, yada yada, means the intricate details must remain untold but here is a good cleanish and heavily edited summary. An ISORA young virgin (and one hopes for his continued safety that is the case in the true meaning of the word!) was quietly sipping his pint minding his own business amongst the intimate gathering when an oldie ISORA veteran who quite bizarrely was actually crewing the same boat as the kid and had been biding his time for the most opportune moment to go in for the kill, right out of left field challenged the young buck on his recent female conquests - as one does with the young lads. The oldie, getting nothing but mumbles from the kid in reply, then proceeded to announce that rumour had it that said young ISORA virgins most recent female conquest was, unfortunately for him, said stalwarts daughter and said stalwart loved his daughter dearly, she was the apple of her Daddy’s eye and Daddy was mightily pissed off. Whoa - shot’s fired!

Absolute silence ensued. The chattering barmaids froze mid pint pulling. The ISORA Chairman’s mouth fell open so far it landed in his lap with an audible thud. Another observer actually spewed/coughed his pint across the table. Still no sound, not a word, while all eyes turned on the young buck. He turned fifty shades of puce as he squirmed in his chair trying desperately to come up with an exit strategy. His mouth rapidly opened and closed continuously but no sound emitted. Old stalwart gave young buck the thousand yard stare as he glared at him over the top of his spectacles without uttering a word. The tension was intense – nobody knew what to do or say. It was priceless, like that scene out of Martin Scorsese’s classic gangster movie “Goodfella’s” where Tommy De Vito has Henry Hill by the short and curlies over dinner in The Bamboo Lounge – “funny how?”. Trust me, this scene was anything but funny – it was classic - you had to be there.

Long story short? Surprisingly the kid lived. And the old veteran slinked off into the wild, unforgiving Welsh night, mumbling bitterly to himself, wondering where it all went wrong, when exactly he stopped having control over the intricate sub plots of his once controlled life……

And so back to the sailing. Consider this. La Giro d’Italia, Le Tour de France, La Vuelta de Espana. Hardcore Grand Tour cycling. A team sport in the truest meaning of the word. Perhaps twenty teams participating. Ten members on a team all working for the team leader. Each Grand Tour lasts three weeks with up to 18 daily stages. To win a stage of any Grand Tour is immense – career defining – a serious notch on your sporting CV. To win the tour itself, on general classification, is enough to retire on. It happens to so few. Indeed only a tiny number of teams participating in a Grand Tour harbor genuine ambition of realistically winning the whole thing. To most the thought of winning a daily stage is enough to encourage participation and perseverance. So most on the team know they have little or no chance of personal glory but sacrifice their own ambition and leave everything they have out on the grueling daily courses in the hope of placing their team leader on the podium after three savage weeks, or perhaps being fortunate enough to sneak a daily stage win. Long distance, energy sapping, debilitatingly sadistic, pure team sport. The analogy? Offshore racing anyone? ISORA?

A fourteen race series. A core of about twenty regular starters. Average crew per boat of eight. All crew working for the team, to ensure team victory. Yet only the Skipper (team leader) and the boat (team sponsor) gain the kudos and get venerated in dispatches. Anyone ever hear of the winning trimmer, the winning tactician or navigator on an ISORA Wolf’s Head Champion? No, and yet those anonymous crew members expect nothing less, seek no publicity or adulation but give all they have in a team effort to get the team on the podium. The bowman on Liam Shanhan’s Ruth, the nav guy on Stephen Tudor’s Sgrech, the grinders on Matt Davis’ Raging Bull? Nope - no public glory. But no less effort, no less commitment nor dedication to bringing the boat home, the team home. The Skipper knows he can’t do it without the crew – that’s enough for them. A team is only as strong as it’s weakest member - ergo the lowly grinder, the trimmer, the bowman are each as important to success as the much lauded winning Skipper. Enough already.

We have a stunning day on the water. A great race, albeit only nine of us. A beat to the Tudwals. Another to Bardsey. Spectacular overfalls in loads of wind. We all make it through the gate before the tide turns. A fetch across the Irish Sea. Reef in, reef out – ad nauseam. Champagne sailing conditions - as if the weather Gods know it’s the last of the season. Jackknife storms home for line honours. Conor Fogerty sails a blinder on Bam to pip the three J109’s. Poor Mojito, after a truly epic offshore season, discovers the little known Leac Buidhe rock in Dalkey sound and suffers both keel and rudder damage as well as some injured crew members. Beware the Skerries Mafia Peter & Vicky – they seem to attract the underwater stuff! Yahtzee, despite slamming to a halt off Greystones when finding a wind hole (story of our season) does enough to fend off the rapidly approaching Albireo and wins Class 2 and Silver Fleet on the day– ye Gods! Not enough to fend them off in the series though so our congratulations to Albireo on a great first season offshore by winning both Class 2 and Silver Fleet. Oh and it only transpires that Yahtzee won the Royal Alfred Sliver Fleet too despite my previous rant on being beaten by one measly second in the Greystones race. Go figure. Tuxedo time Skipper.

And so it is – the family Shanahan’s Ruth is ISORA champion for the second year running after last Saturdays big Kahuna. A race that to be fair kind of summed up the 2015 season. With only a couple of exceptions it will go down as the season of the big blows. Full on, hard as hard can be, 30 knot winds the norm as the fleet battled up, down, over and back across the Irish Sea in a most inhospitable excuse for an Irish summer. Delighted for Liam and his family. He has a vibe going on that boat that most of us must envy. A gentleman too who exudes humility. There’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance – it’s called humility. Confidence smiles – arrogance smirks. No smirking with the Shanahan clan. So good luck to them as they are crowned ISORA Champions for the second year running. Nice guys don’t always finish second.

Go Offshore – Real Boats Race Offshore!

Fogra – I’m hearing of five new competitors joining the ISORA family next season. A J109 from the RIYC, Grant & Aubrey have bought a Sigma 400, Kuba (rumour has it) is also buying a J109 and Greystones SC expect to have two new additions to the fleet too. Great news.

Fogra Eile – Some have questioned the veracity of some of the tales in this blog over the season. I was trained on the premise of “never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Just saying.

ISORA Logo VectorISORA Race 12 Dun Laoghaire to Greystones

“If you build it, he will come.” Field of Dreams is a 1980’s classic movie based on building a Baseball diamond in a field in Iowa, the back arse end of nowhere. So the guy built it and the other guy did come. Whilst Greystones in beautiful Wicklow, the garden of Ireland, is not quite the middle of nowhere, the new harbour and marina is proof of that famous quote – build it and THEY will come. And they certainly did. Up to 140 boats between ISORA and Regatta entries over the weekend, 500 sailors, loads of wind and no wind, good food, buckets of drink, many parties on boats that Saturday night, all the stops pulled out by both Greystones Sailing Club and it’s volunteer members as well as Greystones Harbour “Deep Water” Marina all led to the third annual “Taste of Greystones Regatta” establishing itself as the third largest gathering of sailors in Ireland. The goodwill evident amongst all competitors as well as the genuinely warm hospitable welcome provided by this small but homely club makes it a wonderful late season addition to the Irish sailing calendar, as well as a novel new port for the also revived and growing ISORA fleet. With the momentum it is gaining along with the much improved facilities which will be available with the completion of an impressive brand spanking new clubhouse for next seasons edition, this event is only going to get bigger and better. And do you know what? Good for them. They deserve it.

On a little side note, in conjunction with Peter Ryan, I had made contact with Greystones SC where my kids have all done their 3 week ISA training courses over the years with a view to attempting to place one club youth member on each competing ISORA boat to try and introduce the next generation of ISORA sailors whilst also adding a bit of local interest. In fairness to Gerry Cannon and Daragh Cafferky in Greystones SC they gave it their best shot at trying to set it up but ultimately it did not happen (this time) as the club was literally all hands on deck in terms of members volunteering to run the bar, OOD’s, rescue boats, food etc.. No matter, it was a good idea which may come to fruition in future years but what did come out of our discussions is the probability of two Greystones keelboats competing in ISORA next season – great news in terms of us trying to grow our fleet and spread our wings to more clubs.

With only two races left in the ISORA calendar, Saturdays 35 mile race to Greystones via North Burford, Wicklow Outfall and Moulditch was more a warmer upper for the seasons grand finale, championship deciding, Pwlhelli to Dun Laoghaire race in a fortnights time. It also served as the final of 4 races in the Royal Alfred Coastal Series, a series run in conjunction with and within the ISORA series. With 20 starters under light airs and a forecast of steady 15 knot South Westerlies for most of the day, we on Yahtzee were focusing very much on our battle with Windshift for the Royal Alfred Silver Fleet title. We were standing 3 points ahead of Winshift so it appeared all we had to do was finish ahead of them today and victory would be ours. No problem to us. Let’s race:

Having rounded Burford towards the rear of the fleet, we actually gain quite an advantage. The leaders who have headed inshore suddenly appear to “stand up” and stop and those just ahead of us and more east have sailed into a big hole and also stopped dead. Excellent. Spotting both of these we manage to steer a course straight between their tracks and whilst we don’t get close to catching the big boys up front we do make up a number of places and maintain our momentum until the wind increases as forecast and the whole fleet get going again. Dark clouds indicate big squalls which see the wind increase under some of these squalls up to 35 knots – interesting when you are on a near dead run from Wicklow up to Moulditch. No forestay wraps or blow outs today for us though. Fully crewed and in control we are flying along at a steady 10 knots until the squalls pass and the wind starts to ease right back for the last short spinnaker reach into the finish off Greystones.

Much is often made of the phrase “local knowledge” but I may have finally added some value to our team as others all around us search in vain for the finish line. Confidently, or smartarsedly, as a Greystones resident (just the 18 years so still a blow in!) I had studied assiduously the Google Maps image of the finish line on the SI’s the previous night. So as others head for ghost marks off the south beach and non-existent finish lines, we make up more ground by taking a more northerly course to the real line just off the cove. The trouble though is twofold. Firstly the wind is dying at an alarming rate and secondly Windshift, who was behind us all race, is now gaining an advantage as a lighter boat and storming up on our transom (bloody hell, where did they come from) as we dutifully sit down in the water and grind to a halt with barely 10 metres to the line. Oh sweet Jesus, can you believe this? With an ebb tide offering us no help all we can do is watch and pray in vain that the puff they have will either be shared with us or die out before they pass us. Eh, no. They proceed to ghost past us while we have no steerage to even be able to luff them up. They cross the line, about 40 seconds we reckon, ahead of us. Heartbreak yet again for Yahtzee although they do give us a miniscule amount of time on handicap so all may not be lost.

But oh wait for it – it gets better. We are all enjoying the café mocha vodka Valium lattes in the clubhouse afterwards but sweating like sinners in a confessional when a search on the website announces the results to us. Consider this – we have won nothing this season, not even an argument. Shag all. So this Royal Alfred Silver Fleet title is us drinking in the last chance saloon for 2015. We scroll down through the results. 12th on the water is good and respectable. Beaten on corrected time by Albireo and Polished Manx is as expected as they both have a much better rating. Where is Windshift? Oh Jesus wept – are you kidding me here? After six and a half hours on the water, 23,497 seconds to be exact, we choke on our drinks. You know where this is going folks don’t you? Yep the bould Windshift, ghosting past us as we are parked short of the line, finishes on corrected time one second, ONE BLOODY SECOND, ahead of us and wrenches the Royal Alfred Silver Fleet title from our grasp. Are you kidding me? One is not amused. In fact one is right royally pissed off to be honest. The analysis starts. Do you have any idea how many instances of where you lose ONE SECOND over six and a half hours arise? Christ by the time we finish the post mortem, with all the time we reckon we could have picked up, we probably would have beaten Lee Overlay Partners for line honours!

For recovery I head to Mrs. Robinsons on Church Road and only after a couple of their locally famous Mojitos is all right with the world again. I can now appreciate that we have had yet another fantastic ISORA race and begin thinking of Pwlheli. That’s the thing with ISORA. It’s a drug. It’s like heroin – once you start you just can’t stop. Roll on two weeks time.

Go Offshore - Real Boats Race Offshore!

Fogra – on Saturday we missed our friends who had recently finished the Fastnet and upheld the fantastic tradition of ISORA boats representing all that is good in our family. Well done Mojito, Wakey Wakey, Desert Star and Polished Manx. Notable mention to Peter & Vicky on Mojito who finished 16th overall and 11th in class. Also the new and very under reported crew on ISORA newcomers Wakey Wakey who on their maiden Fastnet finished 71st on the water. Respect lads. Oh and by the way, Shane Fenn on Wakey Wakey uploads to You Tube videos of most of their ISORA exploits this season – check them out. I don’t know any of this crew from Adam but I’ll tell you what – these lads appear to be nutters and are having all the craic!

ISORA Logo VectorISORA 2015 Race 8 – Lee Overlay Partners Lighthouse Race

Prologue:

-          Bless me Father for I have sinned, it’s been an enormously long time since my last confession.

-          Well my child, you must have committed a real first class mortaller if you have come into this confessional after such a long time.

-          Indeed and I have Father. I’m ashamed of myself so I am. I can’t look at myself in the mirror such is my disgust and self-loathing.

-          Good Lord, what was it my child. One of the deadly seven no doubt. Which of them was it – wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy or gluttony? Or was it all of them?

-          If only Father. No, it’s much worse than that.

-          Well whatever it is you are safe within this church and the sanctity of God’s house. You know that I have the power to grant you absolution once you confess this terrible burden you are bearing. So, out with it my child.

-          God help me Father but I have committed the most odious, wicked, heinous of acts. You see Father, I did the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta last week.

-          Sure that’s no sin my child. You did the Offshore series. Didn’t I see you myself on Friday heading out on that big Hanse 445, Pleione of Dee, with the venerable Derek Matthews? And a wild day’s offshore racing it was too, was it not?

-          Indeed and it was Father, but no, my sinning happened on the final day. You see, I got confused. I signed up with my good friend Kuba for what I thought was the final day of the Offshore series on Polished Manx. And so help me God but I was tricked so I was and I ended up racing around the cans and may God forgive me but I actually enjoyed it.

-          RACING AROUND THE CANS. Oh sweet Jesus, Mary and Holy Saint Joseph!

-          I know, I know! That’s it for me Father. I’ve betrayed my friends in ISORA and everything we stand for in Offshore racing. Sure everyone knows #Real Boats Race Offshore and that racing around the cans is for So Co Du wannabes.

-          AND YOU ENJOYED IT TOO? Sure that’s worse than the actual taking part!

-          Who are you telling Father? Now you know why I’m in here confessing after all these years. I’m doomed so I am – doomed. Confined to burn in the raging fires of hell for eternity. Even yourself in your God given state of grace couldn’t possibly have the power to forgive such a sinner as a committed Offshore devotee who defects to the dark side of round the cans racing. What is to become of me?

-          Look my child, your sin is actually one of repetition, and repetition in very tough conditions. The great Vince Lombardi once proclaimed that teams do not go physically flat – they go mentally stale. That’s what has happened to you. So we need to fix that.

-          And for my penance?

-          Right so, let me think for a moment. I need to come up with a penance that fits the crime. Let me see now. The Lord is very disappointed in you, you heathen and you enjoying your racing around the cans. But as you are well aware, the Lord works in mysterious ways. He feels, therefore, that you must not be too severely punished. You need both reinvigoration and atonement. Hmm, I’ve got it. Isn’t there an Offshore race coming up this weekend and isn’t the forecast bloody awful again?

-          There is, there is Father. The ISORA lighthouse race and it looks like it will be a bit raw, a bit hardcore yet again.

-          Right so, the good Lord decries that sort of carry on with your racing around the cans. So you can forget your three our Fathers and all that mullarkey. No, your penance will be to do the upcoming ISORA lighthouse race and no doubt the man above will make sure that despite the forecast it won’t be full on this time, not blowing a stink and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with that race. That’ll entice you back!

-          And that’s it Father? Good man yourself, I didn’t think you’d understand.

-          Indeed and that’s not it. Oh no, you terrible sinner. There’s more.

-          More? And what would that be Father?

-          Well my son, we need to nip this round the cans enjoyment in the bud. So the good Lord also insists that you go racing Water Wags around the Harbour of a mid-week evening. That’ll bloody sort you and your sinful desires to race round the cans for once and for all. One hundred and twenty five year old Water Wags – that’ll be like a vasectomy to your round the can desires. Now get out of this confessional before I start thinking up something worse than Water Wags.

-          Ah Jaysus Father, sure there couldn’t possibly be anything worse than the Wags!

Penance:

A week after the completion of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, and as the Seagulls (birds who follow boats) shag off back to the leafy suburbs of South County Dublin, normal service is resumed in the Irish Sea with the eighth instalment of the ISORA series – the Lee Overlay Partners Lighthouse Race. Four lighthouses to be rounded. Bailey to Port (Bailey to Starboard would certainly be interesting!), Rockabill to Starboard, Kish to Starboard and finish through the piers in Dun Laoghaire. Marching down the marina with Eminem’s “Without Me” jumping around my head:

Guess who’s back, back again,

Shady’s back, tell a friend,

Guess who’s back, guess who’s back, guess who’s back………….

I really should be thinking more of the Byrne family motto – certavi et vici – I have fought and conquered, but after our drama on the Lyver race from Holyhead a couple of weeks ago it’s fair to say that while I definitely fought, I most certainly have not conquered. One battered, bruised but patched up kite just back from Mr. Watsons loft is proof of that! Effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction? Now there’s a truism for us on board Yahtzee after the Lyver debacle.

A beautiful morning and contrary to all forecasts – looks like the Parish Priest has lived up to his word. Dry, warm, no Musto Offshore MPX’s required today. Unlike the previous days howler which prevented some boats from attempting the delivery passage to Dun Laoghaire. A 45 mile course. Flat sea. Downwind start. Kites up as 14 competitors cross the line. A broad reach to Bailey before hardening up to a reach towards Rockabill. Main body of fleet just ahead – we’re in good company. Lee Overlay well out in front as usual. Did I count 12 up on her today? Just the 12 – easy to get a full compliment of crew on the big sexy boys! In a great tussle with our Silver Fleet competitors Albireo and Windshift. Decision time at Lambay – inside or outside. We follow most of the fleet outside. Doesn’t appear to be much advantage to those that stay inside. Increase in wind and strong gusts coming off the island leads to some interesting roundups. With the old adage of “to finish first, first one has to finish” going through our minds as well as memories of the forestay wrap still vivid, we take the cautious decision to drop the kite about three miles from Rockabill. Of course now that we have done that the wind drops slightly. Leave it down, put it back up? Prevarication. We leave it down. Chickens or lazy?

Round Rockabill and the wind backs as forecast to make it a beat rather than a preferred fetch to Kish. Tide turning now so slop builds up with wind against tide. Manageable though and still not cold or wet. Ye Gods! Ease past Albireo and put more distance on Windshift too. Judge ebb perfectly with just one tack to get past Kish. Desert Star and Dux have been sailing blinders and are now right behind us. Quick reach from Kish in ever increasing wind to finish in Dun Laoghaire. Six hours of pure champagne sailing reminds us all of how ISORA can be. Best race of the year is the consensus at the NYC apres sail. Brilliant day on the water. Thank you God – my faith has been restored in Offshore! Results come in. Four and a half minutes separating first and third in Silver Fleet. We’re third. Should have put the kite back up. Another round of coulda, shoulda, woulda.

Epilogue:

How come we in ISORA don’t have seagulls? Are we the Millwall of yachties (no one likes us, we don’t care). My twelve year old daughter has Tegan and Sara’s “Where does the good go” playing on a loop whenever she is in my car:

Look me in the eye and tell me you don’t find me attractive,

Look me in the heart and tell me you won’t go,

Look me in the eye and promise no loves like our love,

Look me in the heart and unbreak broken, it won’t happen,

Kind of sums up ISORA, no?

Now, anybody know anyone looking for a crew in a Water Wag?

Go Offshore! Real Boats Race Offshore!

                  

                            

ISORA Logo VectorISORA Race 7 / Lyver Race – Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire (via mayhem and pain)

A forestay wrap – now here is a nice little culinary dish that I have never actually prepared before but it has always been on my menu of things to try and serve up. I tried to create this many times during my apprenticeship but to no avail. Many of my more esteemed master colleagues have similarly attempted to cook this one up over the years but only a select few have succeeded. After a number of failed attempts on my own behalf, last Friday evening saw the perfect conditions to try and really give this tricky but memorable creation an attempt and to finally produce this tasty masterpiece for the first time. To prepare this really sumptuous dish you will need the following:

Ingredients:

-          6 experienced but middle aged ISORA sailors – just short of what you really feel comfortable with on a big boat flying a kite – a full compliment of 8 will see this attempt fail miserably as you will be too comfortable and in more control

-          One very large yacht (an Oceannis 411 would be an excellent choice)

-          One very large symmetric spinnaker (I find asymmetric bow sprit rigged versions don’t quite give the same flavour, but each to their own)

-          One spinnaker pole of the old fashioned mast rigged variety – excellent for spearing you in the sternum as you scramble around up for’ad when it all goes pear shaped

-          A steady 20 knots of wind (gusting up to 30 knots) and a great big following sea (the Irish Sea is particularly recommended if you really want to make this a memorable repast)

-          Total darkness is particularly desirable just to add a certain frisson of spice

Preparation:

-          Attach your safety harness. This will guarantee your safety but make your movement somewhat restricted when the shit hits the fan

-          Make sure to lull yourself into such a false sense of security that you think you are invincible

-          It is recommended to keep your kite up even after a couple of large round ups. This is a good signal that the forestay wrap is imminent

-          Extra flavour can be achieved by marinating for hours in Irish Sea torrential rain

To Serve:

-          Once you achieve a monstrous broach this is your signal that your outrageous creation is just about ready to serve

-          Make sure to serve with a large dollop of humility for extra flavour

-          Some masters tend to adorn their creations with sparklers for dramatic effect as they leave the kitchen. I prefer and indeed recommend a good old fashioned Irish Sea lightning storm as a must

-          Serve on a clammy, humid but wild night, sit back and enjoy!

To review this creative masterpiece and with the words of all the great chefs ringing in my ears – here’s one I prepared earlier…………….

We get a fantastic start. Aubrey Leggett (guesting from Elandra) on the helm. Downwind start – always bloody tricky on big boats. Mainsail only until one minute warning signal then we pop the kite. Twenty five starters. Middle of the line sees a huge runway of space open up for us to charge through – good luck and thanks. Roar off leaving Polished Manx and Windshift behind. Our two biggest ISORA Silver Fleet threats astern. Nice work Yahtzee. We plough on. Just under 20 knots of warm summer breeze now after lightish start. Broad reach, close to a dead run for us. Spectacular sight with all the coloured stuff up as the fleet heads thundering off from Wales to the first of two virtual marks in the Irish Sea. We are towards the back third of the fleet but the leaders are not pulling away too rapidly from us. We could do well tonight. Good boat speed up. Easterly expected to increase and veer southerly and by midnight should be gusting over 30 knots. Will then eventually go south west. That will mean a beat all the way down from off the Isle of Man – again. FFS – we are not impressed with this course. Where’s the Stugeron?

Henry, our skipper, discusses tactics especially re flying the kite short handed in the dark and with a building wind. Consensus is that we will get to first virtual mark and then probably drop it but will assess the wind strength when we get there. A couple of hours in now. Starting to get dark. Whoa, the sea is starting to get very big all of a sudden. And here comes the wind too. Over 20 knots now. We are flying along but she is also starting to round up quite dramatically on the big gusts. Coming up to the mark now, getting ready to harden up slightly. Decision time re the kite. While we had a couple of round ups we still feel we can hold it.

Round the virtual mark. Harden up to new course of 330 true. Storming along and then…bang. Big broach – like huge. I’m trimming the sheet and notice that mainsail boom has dipped under the spinnaker sheet in the broach and sheet is now about 6 feet up above the boom and as it is bar taut it’s digging heavily into the mainsail. Not good. Load the lazy guy and after a couple of attempts we manage to free the sheet back under the boom. We are screaming along now but need to drop this kite quick smart before we do serious damage. Of course we don’t realise at the time that when you are thinking like that it is already too bloody late. It’s also nearly fully dark now. I head up to the bow to release the pin on the guy and dump this kite before we get into serious trouble. All in position ready for the drop. I release the pin but something is not right. What the hell is going on here? The kite is flapping wildly but not coming down. No panic but this situation is not good – not good at all. The kite is wrapped around the forestay a couple of feet from the top. The spinnaker sheet is also wrapped in a vice like grip around the kite in the same area. And in the crème de la crème of complete cock ups it appears the spinnaker pole uphaul is also wrapped around the kite in the same position. Merde.

Even with the kite stuck and with only the full mainsail up we are roaring along. How to fix this? And fast? The sea is now fully engaged too so being up front is like standing up on a roller coaster. Got to get the pole out of the way first so we can then concentrate on fixing this mess. Domhnall joins me up front. Yahtzee is pitching and rolling quite violently. As we haul the pole in I get full on stabbed in the sternum by it. Excellent – just what I needed. We eventually secure the pole back onto the mast and move to try and free the kite. In the darkness it is hard to see exactly how it is wrapped. Domhnall is a big tall man and spends quite some time trying to catch the wildly flapping tack of the kite but to no avail. Henry joins us up front. We assess the situation. I suggest cutting the sheet but he rightly points out that that will solve nothing as we need something to hold on to if we are to have any joy in unwrapping. Domhnall tries the boathook to catch the flailing tack. He gets agonisingly close but in the violent pitching of the bow the boathook goes overboard. Merde noir. We’re fully 30 minutes into this fiasco up front now and still with no solution in sight. This kite is also going to blow out shortly if we don’t solve this. We have a tete a tete. Decide to abandon the race. Decide to put double reef in main to try and gain some control and to cut and run for home. Between the belt of the boom in the sternum and the violent pitching in the now 30+ knots of wind the inevitable happens – I get seasick and puke over the side. Can this night get any worse? We try one last shot. We do a couple of 360’s to see if the kite will unwrap itself. No joy but to be fair in the pitch black night (although we had a torch) it is hard to see exactly how badly wrapped this kite is.

Both Domhnall and I sit exhausted up front to try and recover. We discuss again what happened and if there is any solution. It’s a man up the mast job but in this weather that’s just out of the question. We ponder on any other options. I puke again. We retire to the relative comfort of the cockpit as Yahtzee begins the journey home. Chastened, annoyed, embarrassed, exhausted but at least we are safe. It’s fairly full on out here now and we question if we will be the only ones to get into difficulty tonight. We start watches and 3 retire down below to get some rest. The heavens open and the lightning storm that has been raging for the last few hours is fairly spectacular but to be honest we are so miserable at this stage that we ignore it.

At 05.30hrs we limp in to Dun Laoghaire. Incredibly Jacknife is charging in to the finish having unbelievably completed the course in just under 10 hours. Richard, our absentee owner and skipper, meets us on the pontoon. Why does all the bad stuff happen when the owner isn’t on board? Now there’s a million dollar question. He is remarkably sanguine about our mishap. Henry goes up the mast and we retrieve a torn and very twisted kite.                              

Another hard day and night at sea. Another hard ISORA – is there any other sort? At a party two weeks previous, in conversation with a noted round the cans racer, his description of offshore racing when he heard I participated was one small succinct adjective – raw. He is damn right about that. I meet Richard Tudor from Jacknife, returning from his shower and change of gear, on the pontoon heading back to his boat. He commiserates on our mishap. I notice the man can’t actually walk properly and appears to be in considerable pain. I comment on this. He replies that indeed he can’t walk properly and that it was like being on a speedboat out there last night such were the speeds they achieved. Indeed.

Real Boats Race Offshore!

                                      

ISORA Logo VectorISORA 2015 Race 6 – D2D (Dun Laoghaire to Dingle) – a sort of preview

The biannual D2D (Dun Laoghaire to Dingle) race is upon us. I can’t go. I’m raging so I am. Family commitments. Talked at the Minister (not with) about it. Biggest race of the season, says I. A Round Ireland lite. The Big Kahuna of offshore racing in the odd years. Honestly it’s half a Round Ireland. Really important to me that I go. The crew need me (a lie). I actually can’t miss this one (another lie). Peter and Stephen will go spare if I don’t have a blog for the website (a three card trick of lies). Nothing. Nada. Niet. “Picture but no sound.” I feel Coventry beckoning. I’ve been to Coventry so many times I have my own parking space there. Hate Coventry. Horrible place. She plays her trump card - “the look.” Those of you that are married will know “the look.” When you get “the look” you know it’s all over mate. Pack up your speech, your well thought out and reasoned argument and call it a day. “The look” is undefeated, the world champion in any domestic difference of opinion. I’ve tried to practice “the look” myself in the quiet of my own bathroom. Just me and the mirror. Useless at it. End up counting the wrinkles and crevices in my sea dog, weather beaten, wind scorched visage. “The look.” It’s a woman thing. They must teach it to them in school along with stuff about periods and sex ed. because they sure as hell have it perfected. Can’t beat “the look.” So the wisdom of old age teaches me to pick my battles. When you get “picture but no sound”, accompanied by a one way ticket to Coventry lingering on the hall table with your name on it and then, in a sort of coup de grace, she unveils “the look”, well you know it’s time to fold. Throw the cards into the middle and ruefully declare “well actually I was thinking I’d sit this one out and spend some quality time with you.” I’m a bad liar. I know it, she knows it but we both know she doesn’t care. She wins this one. I’m not doing the D2D. It’s like Christmas in my little simple man world has just been cancelled. FML. I’m off to iron my face.

The 2013 D2D? Now I did that one. Yahtzee was cruising in France so I jumped ship, teamed up with Peter Hall on Adelie, a First 34.7, and had a blast. Wrote a fairly reasonable blog on that one - called it “In Offshore finishing is winning”. It’s on the website. If you have a spare five minutes you should take a look in a weird kind of #TBT kind of way. Some craic that weekend. Got becalmed just after crossing the start line and in a foul tide ended up anchoring within literally touching distance of Bulloch Harbour along with Spindrift and Ocean Tango. By the time we hauled anchor and started moving again (slowly) Anthony O Leary and the boys on Antix were off Greystones and steaming south. Game over there and then for us. Shortly afterwards we suffered the ignominy of a cargo ship nearly running straight through us. She was doing nineteen knots and we were doing one. Ensemble she was called. Left no more than twenty metres between us and her as she stormed through. Scary.

Spent exactly sixty hours racing to Dingle that weekend. Very light and frustrating until we reached the Rock and then all changed, changed utterly. Mad sail from there to Dingle. Best of my life. Huge wind filled in. Wild, dangerous and verging on the out of control. Here’s a copy and paste of a small part of that original blog that really sums it up for me:

Conor loses her but gets her back just a millisecond before disaster. And it would be disaster. Our field of vision is down to a radius of at most ten metres. Any mishap, any MOB and it’s all over folks – no way to slow down never mind stop and go back to attempt a retrieval. Lights out, go home. Elvis has left the building. Good luck and thanks for the dance. He calls for us to take the kite down and peel to the No.2. Just as we rouse ourselves we get another wave, another surge, another adrenaline rush and that plan is shelved. This happens three times and three times we shelve that plan. Peter now sticks his head up from the GPS and roars that we only have another eight miles to the Washerwoman and to “Jaysus leave the kite up”. And this from the owner/senior member on board, the cheque writer supremo? Ah here, leave it out! All the sailing clichés are coursing through my brain. If you’re not breaking things you’re not pushing hard enough. Drive her like you stole her. Peter’s bravado pays off. Another violent gust. Much stronger than any previous. No wave to surf. No wave synchronising with this gust. No matter, we don’t need it. She shudders violently once more as she surges forward. Faster, further, freer than she has ever been. All eyes on the log. Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen. Holy shit it keeps rising. We scream and roar like schoolkids in the playground. Screams of excitement, terror, awe even as she tops out at an incredible sixteen point seven knots. Incredible but true. Robi shakes his head in disbelief muttering “it’s not possible, in a boat this size, it’s not built for this”. Magic moment – never to be forgotten.

Finally we cave. It’s too much, too dangerous, too irresponsible. She’s given us the ride of our lives but we can’t push her any more. Everybody in position, everybody knows what to do. We drop the kite in text book fashion while peeling to the No.2. Very shortly afterwards we round the Washerwoman and harden up for the final push to the line. We subconsciously think the madness is all over, that we’re safe now, past the worst. Not a bit of it. The real thing is just beginning. After trimming the jib I move back to the transom and stare out over the stern. The sea behind us is not the biggest I’ve seen but certainly the angriest. And I mean angry. It’s covered in white horses and the wake flowing behind her is like something from the HSS – I kid you not. So when you’re nearly fifty, when you are hanging on for dear life on a pitch black roller coaster ride in the North Atlantic, surrounded by amazingly talented young kids, adrenaline surging through your veins like molten hot lava, you do what all middle aged has beens do. You sit back, hold on tight, light a Hamlet cigar and burst out laughing at the absurdity of this manic, surreal situation. And then it happens.

A sudden violent gust, she rounds up automatically and before we know it we’ve been knocked down. Yep, a knockdown. Good old boom in the water, main getting a wash, knockdown. Spectacular. Bloody good fun too. I should be scared, freaked out, afraid of the consequences too. I’m not though. I’m exhilarated. I feel more alive than I have ever felt. I feel humbled to have been here on this mad, crazy, exhilarating experience. My first big boat knockdown and I don’t lose my cheroot – class.

So you’re probably thinking that was a mad trip to Dingle? Yep you are right but come here to me, anyone who has done the D2D knows that the real adventure begins only after arriving. The apres sail in Dingle is legendary. Legendary I tell you. The race really should be called the D2DickMacks because well that’s where the real end of the racing occurs (in Dick Macks) but also the dawn of another parallel adventure rises up. We ourselves had spent the Monday afternoon matinee having lunch and a few warmer uppers in John Benny Moriarty’s down by the sea front, just to spread the love in a help out the local hostelries touristy sort of vibe before marching up the hill to the famous Dick Macks to settle in for the main event. What a night. A smorgasbord of crew members from various competing boats all mingling together and trying our damndest to drink the place dry whilst pretending we were still of a late teenage vintage. Which clearly we weren’t. Although we did have one lad on our crew who was that rare contradiction – he was allegedly nineteen but genuinely looked about twelve and a half. Gave it his absolute best shot at sticking with the grownups pint for pint but unsurprisingly he failed miserably just like one would expect from a twelve and a half year old. Got so messy that he had to be escorted back to the boat at sunset and left to spew and sleep off his excess. To preserve this lads anonymity and because I’m about to hang him out to dry with one of my favourite tales, I’m going to give him a pseudonym. Ok so, let’s call him say Bevin, Bevin Krazel.

So Tuesday morning and the kids, including a very delicate Bevin Krazel, disappear like rats deserting a sinking ship leaving me all on my lonesome. Some are scabbing a lift back to the big smoke from a couple of foreign touristy quare wans they tried with limited success to shift last night up in Dick Macks, whilst others, myself included, are going to pursue the delights of using Irelands notoriously dodgy public transport system to navigate an overland route back to Dublin. Brave or what? Adelie is in a mess so I hang back to tidy her up taking about forty five minutes to do a good job. Can’t leave a dirty boat behind especially as I have CDO. CDO? Well CDO is like OCD only with the letters in alphabetical order like they bloody well should be! Anyway, eventually I haul ass up to the bus station and am just in the nick of time to grab one of the last seats available, up front opposite the driver, as the bus pulls out of Dingle. It’s the usual mixture of tourists, students and ladies of a certain vintage.

Well now, maybe twenty five minutes out of Dingle, between Annascaul and Camp, with the stunning vista of a sun drenched Castlegregory just becoming visible to our left, the tranquillity is shattered by a commotion coming from down the back of the bus. This randomer comes sprinting up the aisle shouting, albeit in a kind of muffled squawk, at the driver to "STOP THE BUS, JESUS MISTER STOP THE EFFIN BUS". The driver, ever obliging, pulls over quick smart as if he intuitively understood what was about to transpire and this guy swiftly but spectacularly dives out the door (I’d give it a 5.8 for both artistic impression and degree of difficulty) and violently barfs his guts up for about 3 minutes while all the tourists and the smattering of auld wans, clutching their tartan clad wheelie shopping trollies, heading to Tralee for the "big shop" watch on in horror. It's Bevin!

I'm killing myself laughing so much I forget to whip out my phone to video it. Amateur - the smartphone hip young social media savvy generation would never have missed that opportunity. Facebook, Instagram and the Twitter machine would have been melting with the plethora of uploads before this show of unique youthful Irishness would have concluded. The auld wans are all muttering "poor young fella, shure isn't the travel sickness an awful affliction". They not unreasonably assume that he’s 12 and is probably returning home to his Mammy from the Gaelteacht in Colaiste Chorca Dhuibhne in Ballyferriter and have no idea what he was actually up to last night. An emerald green clad Yank (is there any other colour clothing in America?) sitting opposite me hands him a Kleenex as he passes by on his way back in. He is ashen faced, absolutely hanging, but THE best thing is he doesn't even know I'm on this bus - he was too preoccupied with holding the puke in and not spraying the driver to even notice me. I say nowt.

It gets better. Obviously I am first off the bus in Tralee station, grab my bag from the hold, saunter over to a wall, lean up against it like any gouger worth his salt would do in a community spirit type attempt to assist Kerry County Council by stopping said wall from falling down and light up a Hamlet - this is going be good. Last off the bus is the bould Bevin, as white faced as a crispy linen tablecloth that only gets an airing when visitors call for dinner, and as he alights from the bottom step his morning gets even worse when he spots me. "Oh sweet Jesus no, not you, oh shit you saw everything." “Indeed I did young man, funniest thing I have had the pleasure of witnessing in years. Only pity is I didn’t get my camera out in time but no matter. While David Gates sang about a picture paints a thousand words, I reckon I’ll get more than a thousand words out of this sceal my friend. Thanks Bevin, you’re a legend and I'm going to save this one up and regurgitate it, with my own personal embellishment clearly, and you will be infamous as a D2DickMacks legend for ever more!”

So this year? This year I get the frustration of watching the adventure unfold on Yellow Brick. Great to have it and all that but to be honest Yellow Brick will only fill me in on the story of the first adventure – the race. The real story, that of what transpires afterwards will be beyond me and most surely will never be disclosed. Probably best too – if you’re a Bevin Krazel. Enjoy it folks.

Real Boats Race Offshore!

By Simon Byrne

IOM15034Where to start? Like seriously, where does one begin to even attempt to get across on paper what was one of the best ISORA weekends in certainly the seven seasons that I have been a competitor. This double race weekend had it all – what Uncle Gaybo would have described as “one for everybody in the audience”. Eighteen starters for Friday night’s race from Holyhead to Douglas and further random assorted enthusiasts/masochists travelling direct from Dun Laoghaire to Douglas on Saturday to swell the fleet to an impressive twenty two starters for Sundays return 06.30hrs drag race straight back to Dun Laoghaire. Dolphins, Porpoises and Minke Whales. The college kids resurfaced (Howya Oisin!). Mammoth cruise liners, car ferries and cargo ships as moving obstacles. Up to thirty seven hours on the water  racing (allegedly). Most of us were in more holes this weekend than an Irish Water meter installer has been over the last twelve months. An estimated one hundred and forty WAFI’s (Wind Assisted Feckin Idiots) charging up and down the Irish Sea in pursuit of victory, craic, pints and the shift (not of the wind variety as we had enough of those on the water) made this a memorable festival of ISORA madness. The vibe of Saturday’s new Ireland, first in the world to legislate for same sex marriage (though I can’t see what the big deal was myself as I’ve been having the same sex with my wife for the last seventeen years of marriage - boom!) had quite clearly added a certain frisson of excitement, giddiness and perhaps euphoria to the festivities in Douglas Bay SC on Saturday evening. Where to start indeed.

ISORA 2015 Race 3 Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead

“Ah Simon, great piece last week, really enjoyed it. But come here to me, is there any chance you could do a more upbeat happy piece. I mean, Jesus, you’re brilliant at the auld misery, you have it down to a tee, hilariously fRealBoats2015Series2unny, sure Frank Mc Court with his Angela’s Ashes is only in the ha’penny place after you. I really look forward to reading your blogs, but d’ya know, how can I put this, if you were to be a bit more, I don’t know, positive maybe? It’s not all bloody gales and puking and Battle of Balaclavas.” Peter Ryan, ISORA Chairman, Holyhead SC, usual corner throne, usual laptop on knee, on his third pint of Guinness, 20.00hrs Saturday last.

“Jaysus, not sure about that Mr. Chairman, sure nobody would be interested in the happy clappy good news stories, now would they? Sure we’re goddamn Irish, we thrive on being miserable. As you said yourself didn’t the bould Mr. Mc Court make a fine living out of it? Ah, I’m not sure I can do that positive vibey stuff. I’m too old and cranky for that rubbish.”

“Ah go on, go on, go on, just give it a shot. The students didn’t turn up this week. Something about exams they said but to be honest I think you may have scared the bejaysus out of them. Write something nice and sugary, it was a great race today – really all that encapsulates ISORA was evident out there today. Would you not write about that? Please?”

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Author - Simon Byrne

“Half a league, half a league, half a league onward, all in the valley of Death, rode the six hundred.” (Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

Saturday last saw the start of yet another ISORA season and with all due apologies to Tennyson it really was like sending the troops headlong, against all the odds, into battle in the Crimea. The sympathy, nay pathos, felt by ISORA Chairman Peter Ryan (a rare non participant on the day) as he waved off the 19 boats to the start line with a “good luck men” must have been eerily similar to that of Lord Tennyson when he wrote the classic “Charge of the Light Brigade” which pulled absolutely no punches as to the horrors of war back in 1854.

With a selection of weather forecasts doing the rounds that morning, the only certainty was that the weather would be uncertain – welcome to Ireland. Pick any of the 32 points of the compass and you could likely find a forecast site predicting the wind from that point. What was patently clear and obvious, though, was that it would be wet and freezing cold. Wind direction and strength was an altogether different prediction.

Leaving the harbour was an achievement in itself due to the severe squalls scuttling across the usually sheltered haven. Adelie barely made it to the harbour mouth, having already been caught out unexpectedly and nearly sideswiping the marina in a violent gust, before their kicker decided today wasn’t a good day and swiftly exploded. Another competitor, it may have been Aurelia although I am open to correction, hoisted their mainsail and instantly ripped it, whilst the bould Yahtzee returned swiftly back into the harbour to readjust a faultily rigged main before venturing once more out to the cold black sea of the starting line. Clearly it was going to be one of those days (again!)

Sam Hall is twelve. Did his first ISORA this weekend on Jacknife (if you’re going to start in ISORA then you may as well do it on a seriously fast J 125 with credible pretentions of winning the series). Twelve years old and not a bother on him.

“Yeah, it was all right. Got a nice couple of hours sleep on the rail. Am I tired – eh, nah”

Choose life… Offshore

“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a f…ing big television, Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin can openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose a three piece suite on hire purchase in a range of f…ing fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the f… you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing f…ing junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, f…ed-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life . . . “
Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh 1993

Choose life Mr. Renton?

By Simon Byrne

I’m lying on my bunk shattered, exhausted, physically spent but no sleep will come. There’s no time for that now. It’s 20.00hrs Sunday and we have been fifty two hours on the water. We rounded The Rock an hour ago – always a special moment in any sailors CV and never, ever to be taken for granted. Always remember - 1979 and the horror. Thirty four years ago, fifteen dead, nineteen boats abandoned and it still feels like only yesterday. On the approach we overtook four competitors – Lisador, Spindrift, Conundrum and Desert Star- left them for dead. It’s our time now. Adelie is just thriving on these newer, fresher conditions. Ocean Tango and Polished Manx are further back, hugging the coastline. The overtaking feels sweet, rewarding, but too late for us, too late for any aspirations of victory now. After days of frustrating wispy zephyrs the wind is finally building. Outside Peter, Robi, Kevin and Steve are driving her hard. A2 kite and full main in 15 - 20 knots of sou’ / sou’easterly - there’s more of that wind to come. We know it. The sea is going to get up too – we know that as well.

Off watch comrades Conor and Chesse are studying forecasts, pouring over tidal charts and familiarising themselves with the final approaches to the finish line in Dingle Bay - virgin territory for most of us. It’s eerily quiet, like as if we are all too aware of what’s about to unfold. Nothing is said – no words are spoken. We know this is going to be tough – tough as anything we have done before. My mind is transported back to dressing rooms of old and once more I recognise the fear, the anxiety, the pressure before stepping out of the security of my own cocoon, my own little safety net, my comfort blanket even and performing in front of the masses. Except there are no masses here, singularly alone out in the North Atlantic Ocean in thirty four feet of GRP fibreglass– nobody to impress, nobody to try and gain respect, gain plaudits or gain adulation from except ourselves. We’ve made a few mistakes – we know that. But now? Now it’s about the now. Remember Fat Boy Slim – “right here, right now”.

I roll off my bunk. Every sinew of every muscle aching and stiff. Stiff as a bull standing proudly in anticipation, gazing down from a hill above a meadow of fresh, ripe, nubile maiden heifers grazing on the fertile plain, oblivious to their impending impregnation. I’m too old for this shit. Fast approaching fifty and sharing a First 34.7 with a gang of kids. Fit, lithe, fearless and with that wild abandon of youth that all young men possess. Unknowingly possess because at that age nothing is impossible. No limits with kids. Youth is wasted on the young. If only I could do now what they take for granted.

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 following may not be the official opinions of ISORA etc etc......... PR

Mid April comes around, it’s freezing cold with winter weather STILL here but the hardy souls that make up the wonderfully challenging ISORA fleet dust off the cobwebs, break out the foul weather gear and once more head out into the wilds. Waving goodbye to the wife and kids I quote Tom Crean “I’m just going outside and may be some time”. What I really meant was “I’ll see you mid September”.

Race one of the new season sees the course being changed from Arklow to Rockabill. Perhaps it was to accommodate the Munster and Leinster semi finals but more than likely it was to allow for more favourable tidal conditions by going North rather than South. After missing the whole of last season through storm damage Team Kingspan Raging Bull returned to fight it out with the now five J 109’s as favourites for the season. Yahtzee, having had a miraculous season finale in the Pwhelli to Dun Laoghaire race had high hopes of continuing where they left off and had a new kite to boot. Result? Matt Davis and his team take up where they left off in 2011 by winning while Yahtzee finishes last on the water, last in class and last in Silver Fleet – I can hear that continuity announcer from the TV in my head “ We apologise for the interruption to your viewing – normal service has now been restored”.

The second race was Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead in conditions that Yahtzee relished. Strong winds all day saw us right up in contention. With the skipper / owner absent it is always the worst time to blow out his new kite – so of course we did just that but still managed second in class and first in fleet. That’s two great results in 3 races although they were seven month apart. This dizzying display from Yahtzee even prompted Peter Ryan to call us a ”dark horse” and a boat to be watched. Hello?

So with the season now well and truly underway we all looked forward to the next race which was to see a long awaited return to the Isle of Man and no doubt was eagerly anticipated by Polished Manx.

 On Saturday February 10th 1973, in the first round of matches in that seasons Five Nations Championship, the English rugby football team ran out onto the pitch inLansdowne Road and were greeted with the unprecedented sight and sound of a rapturous five minute standing ovation. The background to this unusual display of “cead mile failte” was the refusal of bothScotland andWales to travel toDublin the previous season to fulfil their fixtures due to the troubles inNorthern Ireland and the ill perceived safety concerns that they felt. In typical Irish fashion, after welcomingEngland with one of the most emotional scenes ever witnessed in the grand old ground, they were duly smashed up and down the pitch ending up on the receiving end of an 18-9 hammering(!) – any Irish victory over that Perfidious Albion is always viewed here in “Eire” as a hammering. Hours later, at the after match gala dinner in the Shelbourne Hotel, the English captain John Pullin, whilst delivering his after dinner speech, brought the house down with the immortal words “we may not be any good, but at least we turn up!” 

Having soldiered on Yahtzee, a Beneteau Oceannis 411 (often described as a floating hotel rather than a lean, mean, racing machine what with it’s eight berths, two heads with hot water showers and the obligatory wine cooler in the cockpit) for the last four seasons of ISORA, I feel this quote more than sums up how it feels to consistently soldier on at the back of the fleet with the likes of our good friends on Sarnia and a few other dedicated stalwarts – always turning up, always competing as hard and as honestly as the big boys up front, but ultimately always coming home long, long after the J’s and the First’s have finished, showered, dined and imbibed.