As sailors in the warmer parts of the world, and hardy souls in higher latitudes, find their feet with the most recent revision of the Racing Rules of Sailing – in force since January 1st – it’s worth reflecting on the origins of the codification of sailing boat racing. Where did it start?
Irish yachting historian, Hal Sisk, is very sure about that, and makes a strong case in his new publication –
Dublin Bay – The Cradle of Yacht Racing.
This attractive, revealing and beautifully illustrated book describes how the worldwide phenomenon of competitive sailing for fun was popularised and formatted by the pioneering yachtsmen of Dublin Bay during the mid 19th Century.
So many factors were stacked in Dublin Bay’s favour: location, location and location – oh, and perfect sailing waters, deep but not too deep, in the lee of the prevailing winds and without high land to windward. And they still are, as the ISAF Youth Worlds and spectacular MOD 70 (one design 70-feet multihull) fleets experienced last summer, as the Route des Princes fleet will discover this June and as the hundreds of local sailors who race here every week of the year, a short hop from home and workplace, have known for years.
Dublin Bay Sailing Club’s Donal O’Sullivan remarked in a review:
“…[Hal’s] listing of Kingstown’s geographical and infrastructural advantages is not without some current relevance. During the recent [November 2012] ISAF conference, for instance, foreign delegates marvelled at the richness of the sailing facilities and opportunities here which we locals hardly notice.”
(Kingstown is what Dún Laoghaire was named between 1821 and 1920, so during most of the period covered by the book.)
This is where the world’s first One Design class was formed: the Water Wags, still racing every summer Wednesday evening within the stout enclosure of Dún Laoghaire harbour.
The boundary of their courses is nowadays rather more cluttered than it was in this TV feature from 1987, when the class celebrated its centenary with seemingly the whole harbour at its disposal.
(Don’t forget to look at Part 2 as well.)
The Wags may look like gentle souls on land, but it sounds as if they take their racing rather seriously. QED.
Hal Sisk’s Dublin Bay – The Cradle of Yacht Racing can be purchased online here for €21 including worldwide postage.
“I couldn’t put it down.”
– Larry Power, Vice-Commodore, National Yacht Club.
“… this soooooper book.”
– Ian Nicolson, yacht designer, surveyor and author.
“…small in scale but large in inspiration… most interesting and diverting… also very handsomely designed and produced.”
– Llewellyn Howland III, yachting historian and antiquarian book dealer, Boston, USA.
“Well worth reading… Hal is a great devotee of the sport of sailing and a doyen amongst those who debate the history of going afloat.
“He pays strong tribute to the Royal Alfred Yacht Club for its work in starting the sport of yacht racing: ‘No club achieved more in shaping the worldwide sport in its formative period than Dublin’s Royal Alfred YC, Wherever amateur sailors are coming to the line, racing under nationally agreed regulations, they are sailing in the wake of the pioneering yachtsmen of Dublin Bay.'”
– Tom MacSweeney, This Island Nation blog at afloat.ie.