The closing race of the 121st season of the oldest one-design keelboats in the world
The Howth 17 Class vintage has recorded annual general meetings every year since 1898. But although 124 summers have passed since their first season of 1898 – which thus counts as year one and not year zero – they cannot be remember that 121 seasons, like the The Great War of 1914-18 prevented navigation in the second half of 1915 and throughout the summers of 1916, ’17 and ’18.
Nonetheless, 121 seasons of designer sailing ships that first raced on Wednesday May 4, 1898 is probably a world record, especially since the original five boats are still part of a class that now numbers twenty. But that’s not something those involved get confused about because they’re too busy participating in the race.
Classic yacht purists are sometimes a little arrogant about the importance that the seventeen people (a motley crew if there is one) attach to their race. But in a normal year, they have between fifty and sixty races, and it is the sport that is the all-powerful glue that holds the class together.
With such an attitude prevailing, the oldest trophies in the class are not considered the holy grail – they are much more important than that. And few prizes match the Studdart Cup, presented at the start of everything by Johnny Studdart, which represented the friendlier side of the otherwise rather austere Howth Sailing Club, founded in 1895, when Johnny was sailing on the little hospital cruising yawl. and perfectly named Sunshine. , which was already old when the Seventeen first saw the light of day.
But her owner was young at heart and he introduced the new class with the Studdart Cup with the idea of encouraging engagement throughout the season, as the eligible boats are the winners of the three main evening series and Saturday organized each season. If a boat has won two of these series, it automatically wins the Studdart. But the continued health of the class is indicated by the fact that there is often a three-way start for the Old Johnny Cup.
Or more precisely, Old Johnny’s Idea. The original Studdart Cup was unleashed in the dead of night from a winner’s Howth house many years ago, presumably by an idealistic peninsular Robin Hood. But the ideal he represented was so central to the history of the class that it was quickly superseded, so now they are fighting over this unholy Grail with just as much enthusiasm.
However, with the particular 2021 season warped by the pandemic, the last official race in the Howth 17 program ended with the final Beshoff Motors Autumn League race on October 16, but the 2021 Studdart Cup competition between Rita (No 1, John Curley & Marcus Lynch), Aura (No 7, Ian Malcolm) and Orla (No 21, Mark FitzGibbon & Donal Gallagher) had still not sailed.
This was of added significance as there is a 119 year age gap between the first two “originals” and Orla, which was built in 2017 under the direction of Ian Malcolm in Skol ar Mor of Mike Newmeyer in the south of Brittany. It was a symbolic alignment of the spirit of the class, so in the end, the scope offered by the windy holiday weekend was fully utilized, with all crews on alert on the weekend, and the south -westerly sunny fast but very navigable Monday. morning finally provided a quick start from a dock departure.
Donal Gallagher at the helm of Orla was in the lead at South Rowan Buoy and was still there – albeit narrowly – as they rounded the Spit for things seriously uphill. Although topsails are permanently banned, spinnakers have been deployed whenever possible. But although Orla’s two partners didn’t acquire it until the spring of this year, when they were so thrilled that they had a piper who led the boat to the crane on launch day, they challenged their rookie and held the lead with Rita at the helm. by Marcus Lynch in second position just ahead of Aura.
It was a high and bright note to end the season. But lo and behold, the very old, the old and the not so old boats of this unique class are quickly leaving the harbor, heading for their many and diverse winter quarters ashore and the TLC which keeps this remarkable spectacle on the road.