A blend of history and tradition plus a more relaxed approach to racing will all be part of next week’s Cantor Fitzgerald Glandore Classics that is on course for a record entry at its 25th edition.
Hardcore competition it won’t be however as this West Cork regatta is one of the most spectator-friendly occasions on the fixtures list.
Sunday’s parade of sail is made for the location and the terrace high up on Glandore’s shore is the perfect grandstand and reviewing platform.
“Already we have 57 boats registered which for us is quite unusual – this time two years ago we had 23,” Sally Fegan Wyles of the organising committee told the Irish Examiner
“Most people prefer to register in person or enter when they’ve seen the weather so this is quite exciting.” Numbers have been boosted by the return of the Water Wag dinghies from Dun Laoghaire that last visited the regatta in 1996.
These wooden dinghies were the first one-design class in the world.
The eight-strong fleet of identical dinghies will be ideal for a demonstration of what is thought to be the origins of “yachting” through its Dutch origins and later practiced on Cork Harbour when the world’s oldest yacht club was formed in 1720.
The practice of yachting then involved large sailing vessels responding to a series of semaphore flag signals to present a display of synchronised sailing.
This will be recreated using “the wags” under guidance from noted sailing historian Hal Sisk.
“It was the only thing practiced by people for about 200 years in Holland and Cork – nobody raced,” he explained.
The fleet of eight Water Wags will also be joined by one of the newest one-design classes in the world as the “CityOne” boats will be competing with crews of young people representing different cities from around Ireland.
Intended as simple but colourful dinghies to be sailed by local children on city rivers, the fleet was constructed by the Ilen Restoration project under guidance from the late Theo Rye, the naval architect in whose memory next week’s racing is dedicated.
The fleet was built in marine ply by Steve Morris, the Kiwi wooden-boat specialist long-since adopted to this country and responsible for many boat-restoration projects since he was first involved with the Jeanie Johnston project.
“The Limerick City One-Designs remind us that the sport of one-design sailing started in Ireland,” said Sisk.
“It’s very fitting that the world’s first one-design should be sailing alongside one of the latest classes.” Meanwhile, although some continental regattas have very strict criteria for admission to the fleet, Glandore aims for inclusivity rather than exclusivity.
“Racing-wise, the Glandore Classic is always a very eclectic mix – our formula is that if you think your boat is a classic we’ll accept it as a classic,” said Donal Lynch of the organising committee who points out that fibre-glass is also considered a classic material by the regatta.
Numbers have also been boosted by the inclusion in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta of a classics division and many visitors have extended their stay in Irish waters by continuing south to Glandore.
There will be plenty of regulars taking part including the neighbouring Castlehaven Ette class dinghies and former Olympic class International Dragons including Gypsy, the 1933 Anker & Jensen build that is the oldest Dragon in the world still racing.
Gypsy is owned and sailed by Don Street who reckons that Gypsy is still competitive, occasionally winning “against the kids in their fibre-glass boats.” At 87, he considers that anyone under 60 is a kid.
Street is an ambassador for the Classic Regatta as is RTÉ Director General Dee Forbes who will officially open the event at the weekend.
As well as classics with a racing pedigree, traditional craft owners also make up a sizeable proportion of the fleet such as Mike Brogan and Pat Tanner who will have their Galway Hookers in attendance as will other notable restoration projects.
The Glandore Classics is a far cry from a Dun Laoghaire regatta reckons Fegan Wyles. “This is a West Cork regatta and very informal – professional on the water with high-quality sailing – but ashore its very casual. We don’t take ourselves too seriously at all.”
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