SSE Renewables Round Ireland Yacht Race is St. Patrick’s Day parade to sail Ireland

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For most of us, the pandemic has been a matter of two years in limbo. And it may not be over yet, even if everyone behaves like we’re fine in the end game. But for the gallant little Wicklow Sailing Club, the reality is that it’s more like four years in limbo. The club may have a thriving local, junior and disabled sailing program which continued when permitted with social distancing. But for the whole world, the Wicklow Sailing Club is the focal point of the biennial Round Ireland Race, and the last one dates back to 2018, won by Niall Dowling (RIYC) with the Ker 43 Baraka GP.

It is an event that is a highlight of international offshore racing, while being a colorful and very friendly local celebration. For Wicklow SC is an integral part of its community, and on Thursday the club won the ‘Best Float’ award in the town’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, with Ken Glover, Patrick Billington and Karen Kissane leading the parade. teamed up with a special display effort that was around the club’s launch communal rebuild.

If there’s another Irish sailing club that has won a similar honor on St. Patrick’s Day, we’ve yet to hear about it. But this friendly and grassroots success is typical of Wicklow SC’s dynamic interaction with the town, and beyond with Wicklow County Council.

Wicklow SC winning float for Thursday’s St Patrick’s Day Parade in the town

“Best in Show” – WSC Thursday Awards

It is this second element that puts its big Round Ireland offshore event in a different context to events like the Fastnet Race and the Middle Sea Race, where onshore activity can be minimized. This is simply not possible in Wicklow’s relationship with Round Ireland. And so Commodore Kyran O’Grady (who agreed to serve a second two-year term) and race organizer Hal Fitzgerald and their members had to deal with what eventually became – after dreadful postponements. hope for the ultimately canceled 2020 event – a very moderate existence on the international front. Nevertheless, it had the useful purpose of underlining the key role that this great navigation circuit of our native island plays in the national maritime life.

Race organizer Hal Fitzgerald (left) and WSC Commodore Kyran O'Grady - both have extended their terms to successfully carry the SSE Renewables Round Ireland race through its 2020 hiatus.Race organizer Hal Fitzgerald (left) and WSC Commodore Kyran O’Grady – both have extended their terms to successfully carry the SSE Renewables Round Ireland race through its 2020 hiatus.

So much so, in fact, that ideally it would be sailed during St. Patrick’s Day week. But how crazy it would be to organize such an Atlantic adventure in mid-March, we will nevertheless accept the idea that the now traditional tour of Ireland from Wicklow on the weekend of mid-summer is the sailor’s version of the St Patrick’s Day Parade.

For those who would dispute this, we can say that the realities of St Patrick’s Day can surely be adjusted to meet the needs of the moment. After all, according to The Annals of the Four Masters, when he died on March 17 in AD 460, St Patrick was 122 years old. Would it be too much to ask that this be adjusted by a few months to take us into the summer. In fact, come to think of it, if we did St. Patrick’s Day on July 12, it would provide summer conditions to cover all the parade requirements – north and south – for the whole year.

Ireland's ultimate sailing rankings - even without a race in 2020 it's a formidable list stretching back over forty yearsIreland’s ultimate sailing rankings – even without a race in 2020 it’s a formidable list stretching back over forty years

When the Four Masters agreed on the date of his death, they had not thought of the cold and windy weather in the march making O’Connell Street in Dublin a sea of ​​hypothermic drum majorettes during the annual parade of St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, they weren’t thinking about the parades at all, as it was 541 years after the supposed date of the death of the great holy man that the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held. And as it took place in the very mild spring weather of Florida on March 17, 1601, no one realized that repeating the exercise in due time at home in Ireland might cause discomfort to participants and spectators.

That said, the story of the first St. Patrick’s Day should be taken with a very large pinch of salt, and perhaps far more exotic substances were involved in its creation. For word is that around 1601 the vicar of the growing Spanish colony at St Augustine in what became Florida was Irish, a certain Father Richard Arthur. And it was he who came up with the idea of ​​celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with a parade to remind his Spanish congregation that other peoples shared their religion, and had their own saints who also deserved to be celebrated.

Defending champion.  2018 winner Ker 43 Baraka GP (Niall Dowling) sweeps Wicklow HeadDefending champion. Winner 2018, the Ker 43 Baraka GP (Niall Dowling) sweeps Wicklow Head. Photo: Afloat.ie

The 2018 race involved some tactically difficult upwind work off the west coast - interestingly off the north coast of Mayo the eventual runaway winner Baraka GP was 23rd in time compensated.The 2018 race involved some tactically difficult upwind work off the west coast – interestingly off the north coast of Mayo the eventual runaway winner Baraka GP was 23rd in time compensated.

March in Florida is great for parades and for sailing too, but historically the only significant maritime connection to St. Patrick’s Day is in the general acceptance that it was March 17, with the pouring rain, that the ark of Noah finally had enough flood water around her to float for the first time and begin the journey to Mount Ararat.

But maybe we’ve paraded this fantastic route long enough, so as well as being happy to agree that Saturday June 18, 2022 will be recognized as St. Patrick’s Day Maritime for the start of the SSE Renewables Round race Ireland in Wicklow, let’s get real by seeing who has already taken over, even if early bird registration doesn’t end until March 31, when the deadline is May 31.

Yesterday there were already 18 paid runners, and you can study them in more detail here

As always, the preliminary list reminds us that, since its founding 42 years ago, participation in the Round Ireland Race has built its own community within the sailing community. And with Grzegorz Kalinecki’s little First 310 More Mischief of Dun Laoghaire at number one and Ian Hickey’s Granada 38 Cavatina of Cork at number 2 while Chris Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia is number 3, the community committed to the race around Ireland is as strong as ever, with Cavatina in a special role, having won it twice – in 2002 and 2006 – and been in the frame on other occasions.

Cavatine forever….!  Ian Hickey's successful veteran Cork-based 38-footer Cavatina is already entered for the 2022 race.Cavatine forever….! Ian Hickey’s successful veteran Cork-based 38ft Cavatina is already entered for the 2022 race

Show must go on….  Kyran O'Grady with Barry Kilcline of SSE Renewables SponsorsShow must go on…. Kyran O’Grady with Barry Kilcline of SSE Renewables Sponsors

Interestingly, the two most recent winners – George David’s Rambler 88 in 2016 and Niall Dowling’s Baraka GP in 2018 – also took monohull line honours, with the Rambler 88 being something particularly special. After he and his crew – including his future wife Wendy – were rescued by the Baltimore marine community when the keel broke off his Rambler 100 at Fastnet Rock during the 2011 Fastnet Race, he vowed that in due course he would return to Ireland and take the Tour of Ireland as a token of appreciation.

In 2016 Rambler 88 was ready and waiting, and so was the weather – it spun so fast it took monohull line honors in what is surely unbeatable weather, such extraordinary weather that despite its large size and her stratospheric rating, she also won on IRC.

Promise well rewarded - George David's promise in 2011 to do the Round Ireland Race was amply rewarded in 2016 when Rambler 88 - seen here at Wicklow Head shortly after the start - continued to win in every way.  Photo: CSMPromise well rewarded – George David’s promise in 2011 to do the Round Ireland Race was amply rewarded in 2016 when Rambler 88 – seen here at Wicklow Head shortly after the start – continued to win in every way. Photo: CSM

Moving further down the list, entry number 4 is of particular interest, as veteran Wexford campaigner Keith Miller of Kilmore Quay has moved on from his Yamaha 36 Andante racer-cruiser to the more race-focused Prime Suspect , a vintage 1999 Mills 36 whose design was created just up the road from Wicklow in Mark Mills’ high-tech naval architecture studio.

The fast-growing and highly developing Class40 has made Round Ireland one of its flagship events, and already one of the latest designs is in the fray with Italian skipper Andrea Fornaro’s latest VPLP boat, Influence – there are links here to Round Ireland Two- Greystones hand record holder Pam Lee, who finished her 2021 season in Europe by winning the Italy double-handed race as co-skipper with Fornaro on a Figaro 3.

Go home?  The Mills 36 Prime Suspect, newly acquired by Keith Miller of Wexford, was designed in County Wicklow by Mark Mills.Go home? The Mills 36 Prime Suspect, newly acquired by Keith Miller of Wexford, was designed in County Wicklow by Mark Mills

So, in mid-March, we’re already looking at the ingredients for a healthy lineup on June 18, with 2012 Line Honors winner Green Dragon (Enda O Coineen & Conor Ferguson) returning for more, and interest heightened. by the fact that there is a posh Volvo car up for grabs.

Back when Volvo was sponsoring the race, they offered a new car as a prize for the best performer in three consecutive races. It should have been done and dusted off in 2020, but now we see it spread out over eight years, so it will be intriguing to see which successful veterans are tempted to come out of the woodwork for a nice set of new electric wheels.

In the meantime, we conclude with the idea that the first leg of the Irish race – a one-boat event – ​​may indeed have started on March 17. For in his journey with the Ark, Noah sailed around a small island which he deduced to be the peak of Carrantuohill, the only part of Ireland still above water.

Bypassing it before heading east again, it circumnavigated Ireland. And he knew it was Carrantuohill because there was a man from Kerry on it. When the captain of the Ark complained about the horror of the endless rain, the man at the top proved his Kerry credentials by responding vigorously:

“Rain? It’s Only a Shower”

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