Byrne lands Sailor of the Month award after Dragon heroics
Martin Byrne, of Dun Laoghaire, is the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie Sailor of the Month for July after his convincing victory in the Irish Dragon Championship on Belfast Lough -- a four-day event of first-class racing, which concluded on Sunday at Cultra.
Like so many sailing happenings that are proving successful in these stringent times, there was a distinct blast of the past about the Open Nationals 2010. The Royal North of Ireland YC at Cultra was once the leading club in the country for Dragon racing. But the creation of marinas serving Belfast Lough at Carrickfergus and Bangor meant that the pleasant waterfront club in a leafy suburb of Holywood seemed to be left behind in sailing development.
Yet the sailing waters are still there and the people are still there too. It was local resident Simon Brien, a leading Dragon racer in Ireland and abroad, who led the movement to bring the class back to Cultra.
As he has been Irish champion more than once in his 16 years in the class, Dragon sailors at home and overseas took notice. With Belfast Harbour Commission as lead sponsors, the visiting boats were craned into Belfast docks, and the fleet of 18 top Dragons made a race of it over the four miles to Cultra where they lay out on moorings, just like the good old days.
Crewed by long-time shipmate Adam Winklemann and Portuguese sail-maker Pedro Andrade, Byrne, sailing Jaguar, put his stamp on the race from the start before eventually claiming top spot overall, as Don O'Donoghue (also of Glandore) finished second overall, with Andrew Craig in third.
It was good to see the Dragons back in force where they mean a lot to sailing heritage.
And it was in an area that has become accustomed to sporting success -- Rory McIlroy's place is just up the road. But for now, in sailing, Martin Byrne is ahead of the pack.
On another note, when they started trying to rename the long-established West Cork Regattas in early August as Calves Week (the Calves are islands in Roaring Water Bay), we were wittily told it was Ireland's answer to Cowes Week. How we laughed.
Equally, from time to time, some information wonk will tell us that Dun Laoghaire is the "Cowes of the Irish Sea." For heaven's sake, Dun Laoghaire is Dun Laoghaire, West Cork is West Cork and they're both special places in their own right.
So too is Cowes. Believe it or not, the Mecca of Yachting (there you go again) is tide dependent. If the tidal pattern doesn't suit, Cowes Week is moved back to mid-August -- the 2012 version won't start until the 11th. But this year, it starts today, so it goes head-to-head with the West Cork Regattas, or whatever you want to call them.
But with the times that are in it, some top Irish boats are saving their energies for the Commodores' Cup in a fortnight, so Ireland's main contender in Cowes seems to be the First 47.7 Pretty Polly, enthusiastically campaigned by Chris Horrigan of Loughshinny.
He has to go to Cowes to find sister ships to race against and there are five of these fine big boats lining up in Class 1.
Meanwhile in West Cork, entries for the week have gone through the 80 mark, and in another blast from the past, the 1720s will be out in force.