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    Update from the Solo & Double Handed Sailing Forum

    December 22, 2009

    Update from the Solo & Double Handed Sailing Forum Meeting
    16th December 2009

    With over 85 expressions of interest and some 35 sailors of all ages gathering in the National Yacht Club, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin on Wednesday the 16th December to meet, discuss and commit to short handed yacht racing in Ireland.  It looks like this type of sailing is going to become a prominent feature on the Irish sailing scene.

    The meeting began with a short video shown by Paul Ó Riain of his participation in La Solitaire du Figaro 2007 (the Figaro).  This was followed by a slide show presentation given by Barry Hurley about his success in the Ostar 2009 (Original Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race) and his experience racing on the Petit Bateau circuit, now called the “Solo Offshore Racing Club”.

    Olivier Prouveur (sailing manager at the National Yacht Club, Dun Laoghaire) presented an excellent overview of short handed yacht racing across the UK, France and the rest of the world detailing the classes, the boats and the likely future options which could be looked at to develop this kind of racing in Ireland.

    The meeting opened up to the floor where other prominent Irish short handed  sailors, including Cian McCarthy, Michael Boyd and Mick Liddy outlined their experiences of Class Mini, Class Forty, Open 40, short handed IRC handicap racing and record attempts.

    There was huge enthusiasm from the meetings participants to see initiatives put in place to develop a circuit in Irish waters in 2010 and beyond.  There was general agreement to develop things gradually and keep in line with developments internationally.  It was agreed to develop a series which would cater for the existing fleet of boats which normally sail under IRC handicapping and to see if a series can be facilitated within existing events like for example ISORA (Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association).  It was also agreed that it would be desirable to look at developing a one-design or box rule class long term.  To kick this off the 10 SailFleet J80’s owned by the Irish Sailing Association have been booked for 10/11 July 2010 for a series of double handed coastal races out of the National Yacht Club, Dun Laoghaire.

    A primary objective for next season will be the establishment of a series & ultimately the crowning of an Irish Short Handed Yacht Racing Champion next Autumn.

    A committee was formed of which Olivier Prouveur was voted as President, Mick Liddy Vice President, Cian Mc Carthy South Coast Contact, Barry Hurley UK Liaison and Paul Ó Riain Public Relations.
    Thanks to Markham Nolan who took minutes of the meeting, which are available to anyone interested.  These can be requested from Olivier Prouveur at

    MINUTES of the forum:

    Short-handed Sailing Seminar
    National Yacht Club
    December 16, 2009

    Approx 35 people present at start.

    Chairing proceedings: Olivier Prouveur, NYC Sailing Manager.

    Olivier stated that since he had suggested the meeting, around 85 people had indicated their interest in short-handed sailing in Ireland, with inquiries from every area of the country.
    Olivier pointed out that there was no real series in Ireland to compare with the existing structures in the UK and France, and handed things over to Paul O’Riain, a competitor in the 2007 Solitaire du Figaro, sailed in one-design Beneteau Figaro boats.


    The 2007 edition was a 4-leg race, taking in approximately 2000 miles and involvinv 13-15 days at sea.
    Paul said that he learned to sleep in 20-minute power naps, and said that sponsorship was key for anyone thinking of participating in a series like the Figaro. His campaign was sponsored by Cityjet.
    Paul showed a nine-minute video produced for Cityjet’s internal TV channel that gave a good idea of the demands on him during and in the lead-up to the race.


    Next to speak was Barry Hurley, who competed in the 2008 OSTAR (Original Single-handed TransAtlantic Race) in his Jeanneau One-Design 35, Dinah.
    Barry started by mentioning that he had become involved with an organisation known originally as ‘Petit Bateau’, now re-named the Solo Ocean Racing Club ( He mentioned that he had also competed in races organised by RORC.

    Barry said that SORC has 500 members, is entirely web-based (has no clubhouse or premises) and started as a group from OSTAR with the intention of helping people reach OSTAR competition level. It runs around 14 races per annum, with the annual Solo Festival in March in the Solent.  (March 6, 2010, is the next edition).

    It also holds training days at events, and is open to any boats between 30ft and 50ft.
    Barry outlined five types of races that they run:
    1) Round-the-cans – attracting typically 60-70 boats.
    2) Coastal Races, with the most popular being the Round The Island solo race, which had 160 entries in 2009.
    3) Channel Week, which runs on a four-year cycle. The length of the races increases towards an OSTAR year, and the year before OSTAR includes one qualification-length race. There is always one overnight stretch included in the week, with two included in the year preceding OSTAR.

    He noted that the race week is always a very social affair on shore, despite its solitary nature at sea.

    The 2010 calendar, and other information for the Solo Offshore Club can be found at

    OSTAR 2008

    Barry broke down his OSTAR race into several sections.
    – The Western Approaches to the George’s Channel, where he said there was a tremendous amount of shipping traffic, confused seas at the edge of the continental shelf, and consequently, little sleep. This is where the majority of drop-outs happen.
    – The Long Mid-section, against the prevailing wind and the Gulf Stream
    – The Flemish Cap, where the depth goes from four kilometers to 100metres very abruptly, throwing up huge seas.
    – From the Flemish Cap to the Grand Banks is known as ‘Iceberg Alley’, and the cold sea there gives rise to thick fog and freezing temperatures, with much cold humidity. Barry said that it was so cold here that it hurt, reducing him to crawling in the cockpit at some stages when his extremities lost sensation.
    – Onward to the coastal section, where there was coastal fog, denoting cold water out of the disadvantageous Gulf Stream, contrasted with the clear, warm conditions when in the Gulf Stream.
    Then on to Georges Bank, the sleepless Nantucket Shoals which were a navigational minefield, and finally the sail along past Martha’s Vineyard and into Newport.

    The next OSTAR is in 2012.

    The Transat was contrasted with the OSTAR, the latter remaining fully Corinthian. The former was sold by Petit Bateau to become a professional race in Class 40s and Open 60s, whereas OSTAR is raced in traditional IRC bands.

    Barry had to choose between a quick boat and a good handicap, and chose the JOD 35 as a good compromise.
    – He strengthened the keel pan, assisted by Bob Hobby.
    – Water ballast (290kg) was added up under the gunwhales
    – An entirely new electrical system was added, with smart chargers and alternators, and gel batteries in case of capsize.
    AIS/Active radar and satphone were installed.
    Barry’s autohelm system was a Raymarine, built for 60-80ft boats, with a backup specced for a 40-footer.
    To meet the Category Zero safety restrictions, the keel and rudder were painted safety orange.

    Rhumb line for the race was 3200NM, but Dinah sailed 3800 miles, in 20 days, 22 hrs and 35mins, and finished just 4 minutes ahead of the next boat.

    Barry made the point that most boats were designed for standard racing, and had regular racing kit, slightly modified for solo sailing, so atqube retimes a snuffer on the spinnaker may be the only additional feature that would  be required.
    He discussed the remote control for the autohelm with Paul O’Riain, saying that it was a must, allowing one to control the helm from the bow of the boat if need be, or respond to gusts while down below, feathering a few degrees by using the remote.

    A question from the audience regarding hydraulic autohelms prompted Barry to say that he had used a standard linear ram actuator on his autohelm, with a tiller fixed on to the top of the rudder stock below decks, and the area to which the ram was secured heavily reinforced.
    He said that the majority of French sailors use NKE autohelm, and scoff at anything else. The problem with NKE autohelmes, he said, was that the manuals were in French until recently.


    Olivier recapped on the organizations involved in organizing solo offshore racing in the UK:

    SORC (Solo Offshore Racing Club), which runs races in conjunction with
    JOG (Junior Offshore Group) and RORC.
    The Royal Southampton YC also run events including the Biscay Challenge 2011, the 2009 edition of which attracted entries in boats as small as a Beneteau 31.7.

    Olivier mentioned that in order to race solo or shorthanded in IRC classes, you must have the boat rated for IRC, and then get a sub-cert.
    The sub-cert is the same as the IRC cert, but for less crew and includes any modifications to the boat for shorthanded sailing, typically non-overlapping jibs only, any water ballast and any other modifications to sail area.

    If there are no modifications, there is no need for another IRC cert.

    Olivier then summarized the French short-handed sailing scene, class by class.

    Divided into Proto (development prototype division, which allows canting keels, canards, daggerboards and high-tech materials) and Series (simpler, fixed-keel, mass produced designs)

    A second-hand series boat ranges from €20K to €50K depending on the sails and equipment.
    He mentioned the Pogo design, which are one of the better series designs and compete closely with the proto boats in heavier wind conditions.
    Pogo also have a 8.50metre design (The minis being 6.50metres in length). The 8.50 is similar to the minis, being a scaled-down Open 60 design, but would allow greater scope for cruising if the owner so desired.

    There is also an emerging Classe 9.50, halfway between the Class 40 (too expensive for some) and the Mini (too small for many)

    Many of these boats are up for rent for the season, but Paul O’Riain gave the warning that as the skippers are often trying to sell them at the same time, they may have their eye on a sale and as a result rental deals are prone to falling through.

    The class website (below) contains a budget (attached as pdf) which guides around €115K for a season of Figaro racing as typical.
    The Solitaire du Figaro is coming to Kinsale in 2010, and has visited Dingle, Cork, Howth and other south coast ports in the past.

    CLASS 40
    Second hand, a Class 40 changes hands at around €200K, and new a boat costs approx €300K, according to Cian McCarthy, who was present at the meeting.
    Cian said that there were now 100 boats worldwide, and that the class was becoming less Gallo-centric, with a North American fleet developing but production was slowing slightly at the moment.
    There are 10/12 boats in the UK, and Cian is hoping that some will compete in the Round Ireland this year.

    Cian also said that the Class 40 is a more privateer class than the Open 60s, with Open 60 skippers racing Figaros in the summer, and Class 40 sailors more likely to come from Mini 650s.

    Olivier outlined the races that had a specified double-handed category:
    –    DMYC’s Kish 2-hander (16 May 2010 – 15NM)
    –    NYC’s Dun Laoghaire to Dingle (Not until 2011 – 320NM)
    –    WSC’s Round Ireland (20 June 2010 – a Cat 2 race of 704NM)

    ISORA (Irish Sea Offshore Racing Assn.) does have a calendar of offshores, however. The National Yacht Club is the caretaker for this series, on behalf of the clubs involved (Howth, Holyhead, Pwllehli, Wicklow, Royal Dee, Royal St George and South Caernarfonshire)

    Mick Liddy, former solo Round Ireland record holder, noted that solo sailing in Ireland is technically against the colregs, but there was no problem with double-handed racing in Ireland.

    Olivier announced that he had organized for short-handed day racing in the ISA Sailfleet J80s on the weekend of July 10/11.
    He also suggested that the HYC Lambay Race could have a double-handed category added, and RUYC have the NIOPS series which could be adapted for double-handing.
    ISORA’s series includes 3 X 75NM races, which are qualifiers for the Round Ireland.

    He also proposed ‘Le Challenge Cote Atlantique’, a four-stop race from Dun Laoghaire to La Rochelle starting the end of July 2010. The consultation document is online (see link below)and feedback is being sought until the end of January 2010. Olivier hopes to tease cruisers and short-distance offshore racers further away from the coast with this race. (

    The question was then thrown to the floor – which direction should Ireland go, the UK’s IRC-adaptive route, or France’s one-design route.

    Mick Liddy said that we should take baby steps and ask the question of why anyone should go short-handed?
    One benefit is that you’re not reliant on crew.

    Paul O’Riain mentioned that the INSS were open to having their 1720s chartered for short-handed training, and commended the idea of using a weekend of J109 racing as a platform for building on short-handed sailing in Ireland, with the J109 being a suitable boat and a thriving class in Ireland.

    J Connelly from Howth said that he’d prefer to see shorter daytime races under IRC as a part of any shorthanded effort.

    Alex Voye, who sailed the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle with Mike Murphy, said there were many reasons to do it other than the crew dependency angle. He enjoyed learning all the jobs on board, and the sense of accomplishment.

    Barry Hurley said that in the short term, there were 12-15 races available in ISORA that could be built on.

    Maurice O’Connell said that there was a big fear factor involved, and that the advantages of short-handed sailing was that it was easier to organize, often cheaper and gave greater scope for learning.
    He was in favour of using the existing ISORA series.
    He said that we should look to the match racing circuit, which provides racing in the Sailfleet J80s for around €400 per weekend.

    Prof said there were lots of cruiser races that sail only in a fragmented way, leaving lots of boats unused. Skippers should be approached, and it would then be a process of twinning willing crew with boats.

    Michael Boyd spoke – one of the winning team of the 2008 RORC double-handed series with Niall Dowling. They bought Slingshot, a J105, and sailed it with no overlapping jibs. They were scared at first but talked to other shorthanded sailors and the people at Petit Bateau.
    He said he learned to power-nap in 15 minutes bursts, in cycles of 90 minutes, which made for a 2-hour watch system.
    He had not anticipated sailing so much on one’s own, with the other sailor asleep below decks.
    They did all maneouvres together, took safety extremely seriously, and insisted on always being clipped on and wearing lifejackets. Both wore personal EPIRBS.

    They bought their boat for €80K, and sold it for €65K.
    They did eight laps of the Isle of Wight in training, losing one bowsprit and sail in the process. The 2008 Round Ireland, in which they finished second, contained four gales and saw them on edge for the entire west coast, he said.
    Michael is now on the RORC committee and planning a Class 40 campaign, including the RORC 600 race in the Caribbean, which has a double-handed class this year as well as the Round Ireland.

    Cian McCarthy said he would be in favour of approaching local boat owners and selling it as a way to use their boats more.
    He said that young guys should try and access the French scene if they had the opportunity.
    Sailing in France is very accessible, and the attitude is very different to the Irish yacht club attitude.
    He said that the year Damian Foxall did the Figaro, there were three Figaros in Kinsale for the winter and they did a good amount of short-handed sailing.
    He would be in favour of doing weekend seminars where you sail during the day and have talks at night.

    The need for a forum was mentioned, and Markham Nolan mentioned that already had a space set aside for discussion of short-handed sailing which could be used as a stopgap until a class or association was formed with its own site (
    Paul O’Riain expressed reservations about online forums, with people posting anonymously.

    It was suggested that a goal should be to be able to finish the 2010 season by presenting a prize for the Irish Shorthanded sailor of the year, hopefully with a series of races behind us.

    ISORA’s series was mentioned again – it was pointed out that no ISORA race was longer than 24 hours.

    Paul O’Riain suggested nominating Olivier Prouveur as the president of the fledgling association (as yet unnamed). A show of hands confirmed unanimous support and Olivier accepted.
    Mick Liddy was nominated as VP and said that he would take on the role of Eastern rep.
    Cian McCarthy volunteered as South Coast contact.
    Barry Hurley agreed to be UK Liaison contact.
    Paul O’Riain volunteered to work on PR and communication.

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