Wayfarer International Rally 2015 Lough Derg
It had all the makings of a logistical nightmare. But with much goodwill, lots of energy, and some very clear thinking, the week-long Wayfarer International Rally 2015 from September 5th to 13th to two of Ireland’s best sailing lakes was an outstanding success writes WM Nixon of Afloat magazine based on a report from and an interview with Monica Schaefer UKWA Irish Representative
Ireland was chosen as the Rally Venue for 2015 two years ago, when the Wayfarer International Rally 2013 was staged in Canada. Thanks to sponsorship from Waterways Ireland and support from Failte Ireland, the basis of an organizational structure was in place in good time in order to match the high events standards of this remarkable international class of versatile 15ft 10in dinghies. More than 10,000 have been built since Ian Proctor produced the basic design in 1957, yet today interest continues at such a healthy level that leading builders Hartley Boats of Derbyshire had a support team present at the rally in Ireland to provide technical back-up services.
The Wayfarer design has undergone several modifications since its introduction, with talents such as Phil Morrison, no less, producing his own spin in 2007. But underlying it all there is still the pure concept of the original Proctor hull shape which has proven itself as able to make ocean voyages as to provide lively club and big-fleet open championship racing.
However, by nature of its multi-functional capacity, and because it is that significant bit larger than most standard racing dinghies, the Wayfarer will tend to appeal only to very specific sections of the sailing market. Thus although there are undoubtedly strongholds of the class in different parts of Ireland as there are in many parts of the world, numbers tend to stay at a very manageable level. And racing turnouts can sometimes be very muted, as many owners simply like using the Wayfarer for the straightforward pleasure of going for a sail.
This means that when the Irish Wayfarer Association undertook the management and hosting of the Wayfarer International Rally 2015, while the key organiser was Monica Schaefer of Greystones Sailing Club (winner of the Wayfarer Irish Nationals 2015 at Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta in July), the road-trailered international fleet’s assembly club on the evening of Friday September 4th was on the other side of Ireland, at Cullaun Sailing Club with its very pretty lake sailing headquarters in the heart of County Clare.
There, they have one of the keenest Wayfarer classes in Ireland, so on Saturday September 5th in conditions so perfect it was late summer rather than early Autumn, Cullaun saw the first and most seriously contested race of rally, with 38 boats taking part in a race which was part of CSC’s well-supported annual regatta, the Wayfarer winners being Gordon Jess and Rachel Bevan of East Down YC.
With a core group of 70 sailors participating throughout the week, and 83 attending in all from 11 countries as far and wide as South Africa, Canada, USA, Latvia, Finland, Denmark, Holland and all the home countries, it might have seemed a monumental effort for everyone to up-sticks on the Sunday and road trail through East Clare and West Tipperary.
But compared to some of the distances cruising Wayfarers are prepared to travel, it was a doddle. And all this was comfortably achieved by a diverse group whose ages ranged from senior sailors Dick Harrington and Jane Karver from Michigan in the US – both are in their eighties – to most junior participant Lara Killen (9) from East Down YC in Strangford Lough.
With their centre of operations now re-established at historic Lough Derg YC (founded 1835) in Dromineer, they had the perfect inland sea of Lough Derg as the setting for their International Rally, in which racing takes a back seat so far back it’s virtually invisible. The purpose is sailing friendship, exploring new areas, finding strange ports, and enjoying the company of fellow enthusiasts with each day providing an entertaining lunchtime stopover, then each evening providing a different programme of hospitality back at Dromineer.
Thirty-seven Wayfarers were on the water, with all marques represented from 55-year-old woodies to brand new GRP MK IV Hartley versions. The versatility of the Wayfarer really came into its own, for here indeed was a family fun boat that can be easily reefed, rowed, paddled or motor sailed. Most of the cruising boats at the rally had at least roller furling foresails with slab reefed mains and carried three or four on board, with a maximum capacity of six.
The Sunday night saw the Lough Derg part of the programme get under way at Dromineer with supper in the club house. Monday dawned bright with a nice Force 3 to get everybody comfortably down to Garykennedy in time for lunch in Larkins pub and home again in time for a lively party with fantastic trad session in the club. The week’s programme continued with a cruise to to Scariff where the fleet enjoyed winding their way up the narrow river between the reeds again in glorious sunshine with a gently following breeze that allowed some to drop the main and furl the jib and continue on up the river under spinnaker alone – magic.
An international pot luck supper provided by the Irish and Brits fed the hungry fleet and the night was danced away to the sounds of the O’Connors on the chords until the wee hours. Next day’s cruising saw the fleet heading to Mountshannon and savouring the delights of local hospitality while spending some time watching the sea eagles nesting there.
The powers of observation among the Wayfarer fleet were tested more thoroughly on another occasion in mid-lake, when Miriam McCarthy of Greystones SC, crewing on Anamcara, spotted a Belgian angler in serious difficulties. He’d tried to start his outboard when it was in gear, and had been thrown over the side of his boat when the engine burst into life. He was careering round in circles clinging onto the gunwhale. with the engine still going full blast putting him at every risk of being severely injured by the propeller should he lose his grip. But fortunately the Greystones crew were able to contact their fleet’s own accompanying safety boat (skippered by Mike Fisher, also of Greystones), and what could have been a tragic accident was quickly averted. It was certainly much appreciated by Johnny the Belgian, who turned up next day in Dromineer fully recovered, and in search of those who rescued him to give his heartfelt thanks.
Wednesday saw the gang head down to Killaloe in a fresh breeze that took them on a speedy port reach practically the whole way. A pleasant wander around the old towns of Killaloe, and Ballina on the east shore with a hearty seafood chowder lunch on the riverside lawn of Flannigans, was followed by another cracking run all the way back to Dromineer. Back at LDYC a BBQ was in full swing and singing and dancing was the order of the night. Thursday was, a soft day with the rain teeming down but a nice breeze that tempted just seven boats each with three or four crew to venture out north towards Terryglass for a fast and exhilarating run that many said was one of the best sails they had ever experienced.
Some of those who didn’t fancy a sail in the rain took the opportunity to explore the wonders of the Wild Atlantic Way – optional non-sailing days are expected in the Wayfarer International Rally programme – while others visited more local attractions and walking trails. After the damp day or two, Friday saw the sun peeping out again and the fleet reconvened for some more idyllic cruising to the Holy Island of Iniscealtra and around the lake before a fun-filled evening in the Whiskey Still in Dromineer, complete with local artistes playing a few tunes and everyone joining in with the craic.
Lough Derg YC were hosting the Fireballs and the 420s for some more serious racing on Saturday September 12th, but the Wayfarers opted to do something a little different, and so had an adventure race around the lake that required ingenuity and navigation skills as well as general seamanship to get your boat around the course as quickly as possible whilst also completing tasks in various stops along the way such as measuring the depth and counting the berths in Dromaan, stopping in Garrykennedy for lunch, searching for buckets in wells, and counting the “swingers” on the quay wall…. after another hearty lunch the fleet gathered for the second leg and under the starters orders were off for a thrilling reach up the lough around the islands and back to LDYC where the finish was only complete after a double loop sailed around Goose Island and through the gate to the finish.
The winners of this final marathon, the nearest thing to an orthodox race in the Lough Derg part of the rally programme, were Kit Wallace of Canada and Jonathan Dart from England sailing Ramor 1, one of the boats provided by the rapidly expanding Lough Ramor Watersports Club at Virginia in County Cavan, where the Wayfarers will be gathering again in the first weekend of October. Second were Mike Higgins and John Kelly in Ringle from England, while Ireland took third with Monica Schaeffer of Greystones, crewed by Miriam McCarthy and Christine Heath.
The rally grand finale dinner was held in the Thatched Cottage pub/restaurant just up the road from Dromineer in Ballycommon, where the gang were very well looked after by Noreen and her wonderful crew who provided a delicious meal while the Wayfarer Stompers led by Poul Ammentorp from Denmark provided the music, with the gang joining in for a fun-filled and rousing sing along.
On Sunday September 13th the weather closed in again (don’t we all know it), with only a few hardy souls heading out in half a dozen boats while the rest of the gang began packing up their boats, expressing their warmest thanks to Lough Derg YC for the fabulous hospitality, and preparing to make the long treks home filled with great memories of an excellent rally and loads of new friends made at the Wayfarer International Rally 2015.
Next year, the class are off to The Netherlands, where the Rally will be combined with the International Championships, aka the Wayfarer Worlds. For that, the numbers are already building with 30+ boats already entered. More info at www.wayfarer.org.uk or from Monica Schaefer at firstname.lastname@example.org. And for anyone who is interested, Hartley Boats provided a couple of brand new Mark IV Wayfarers for charter by overseas visitors at the Lough Derg Rally, they are still in Ireland and might still be available for sale at “demo boat prices”.