Louis and Marcus go the Long Way Round

2016 Volvo Round Ireland Race

CIT Sailing Club being presented with the 2nd place prize in the Round Clare Island Race 2016 by Mayo Sailing Club Commodore, Blair Stanaway. (From Left, Marcus Ryan, Amy Harrington, Louis Mulloy, Pearse O'Flynn, Blair Stanaway, Lisa Smith, Ellen O'Regan and Ritchie Harrington.

Westport natives Marcus Ryan (24) and Louis Mulloy (25) recently competed in the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland Race, This is Ireland’s premier offshore yacht race, and the second longest race in the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) calendar with a minimum length of 704 cartier replica uk miles. The first race took place in 1980 with only thirteen boats. Since then, held biennially, the fleet has grown steadily, attracting a record 60 Irish and international entrants.

This year saw the entry of some very exotic offshore racing yachts including the 88 Rambler and three Multi One Design (MOD70) 70ft offshore racing trimarans. These trimarans used heavy winds at the start of the race to smash the previous record completing the course in just 1 day 14 hours and 37 minutes and all three finishing within 9 minutes in an extremely close finish. At the opposite end of the speed spectrum was the Beneteau First 31.7 ‘Spailpín’ belonging to Michael Cannon and sailed by the two fake rolex sale of the late Johnny Mulloy, from Westport. Theirs was a unique race in several respects; they entered in the hugely challenging doublehanded class (as opposed to the fully crewed entries), in a boat that was the second smallest and very nearly the slowest in the fleet and had never been in an offshore race previously. If successful, they would also be the youngest pair to ever complete the race in the doublehanded category. Adding to their difficulties was the extremely compressed timeline they were working to, with only three weeks to take the boat from a comfortable day cruiser to a yacht capable of completing the most extreme Irish offshore race. Marcus, a trainee engineering officer in the Irish Naval Service, and Louis, a hugely experienced offshore sailor with over 40,000 offshore sailing miles completed including 3 Atlantic crossings and 2 previous round Ireland races on fully crewed boats, were very fake rolex sale to be able to coordinate time off from work to complete the race.

With the race start looming on the 18th of June, preparations began in earnest over the June Bank Holiday Weekend with a quick clean out of the boat before heading out to Clare Island to compete in the annual Mayo Sailing Club (MSC) ‘Round Clare Island Race’. This race was completed fully crewed with a group from Cork Institute of Technology Sailing Club (of which Louis and Marcus are both a part) who recently won the Student Yacht Racing Nationals, winning the right to represent Ireland at the World Championships in La Rochelle in November. This proved to be a close race in stunning weather and scenery against local boats and the Spailpín crew were delighted to finish in second overall.

Spailpín Sailing under the Clare Island Lighthouse during the 2016 Round Clare Island yacht race (Photo: Jenny Jordon)

With the Clare Island race over and the Cork crew returned to Cork the real work began, trying to acquire all the essential pieces of safety equipment required under race rules to pass a RORC safety inspection. A common rolex replica sale in engineering and Louis’s expertise having worked as a sailmaker proved invaluable as most of the fitting and fabrication could be completed by the pair. Work was intense with the cousins working 16 hour days in an effort to get the boat up to standard. The work completed included fitting and programming an Automatic Identification System , the VHF aerial and associated cabling were replaced, large portions of the rigging were replaced, a new bilge pump was fitted, jackstays were fitted etc. During this time a large amount of safety equipment also needed to be borrowed or purchased. This was only possible due to the significant generosity of the members of Mayo Sailing Club, Mayo County Council and members of the wider Connacht sailing community including Yannick Lemonnier of WestSails.ie in Galway.

Typical scenes onboard Spailpín during the frantic work in the run-up to the Round Ireland Race

With all the preparation ongoing there was still the small matter of Geography to contend with. The boat was located in Rosmoney, Westport and the race started in Wicklow, exactly the furthest point (by sea) from Westport. Louis and Marcus had to pause preparations in Westport and on the morning of Sunday the 12th of June set off on what would be Marcus’s longest offshore sail to date. The boat was well stocked with homemade food donated by generous parents and quality goods from the local suppliers. The plan was to head ‘south-about’ due to what had been favourable forecasts. This would allow them gain some much needed familiarity with the boat and learn how to go about rolex replica uk her sail fast. It would also satisfy the race entry requirements of a minimum of 300nm offshore sailed together prior to the race start. As even the best laid plans oft do theirs were quick to ‘gang agley’ as the pair were gripped in the teeth of an unforecasted 35 knot gale 50nm west of Inis Mór. Fortunately, two of the last pieces of safety equipment to make it onto the boat were a storm trysail and a storm jib (both very small sails for use in high winds). These sails were flown the whole way down the west coast and it was only as the pair rounded the Great Skellig that they could increase to the No. 3 Headsail.

Marcus enjoying morning sunshine off the West Coast after the worst of the weather had broken.

Arriving in Wicklow on Wednesday morning, Spailpín was moored upriver in a raft of other doublehanded sailors. The other sailors were curious as to why there were so many industrial sounds still coming from the small yacht. Unfortunately there was very little time to relax and take in the environment as work needed to continue as it had in Westport, 440 miles back. The boat finally passed its safety inspection on Friday midday. On Saturday morning they woke early for the last few bits and pieces of preparation work. Frustratingly, a spare self-steering (“autohelm”) unit which had been ordered early in the week to replace the defective one on board had not arrived. An autohelm unit is a vital piece of kit for doublehanded sailors as, when one crew member is sleeping, the other can complete routine tasks such as navigation and sail handling while the autohelm keeps the boat sailing on a straight course. Disastrously, just before the race start, it became apparent that the original unit was not functioning correctly and would be unusable for the race. This was a real low point but the decision was taken to continue the race. The start was massively exciting as 52 boats in the Monohull fleet all rushed at exactly the same time to cross an imaginary start line between the Irish Naval Vessel L.É. Aisling and the Wicklow Pier. Spailpín started reasonably well but had difficulty trying to get clean wind in a fleet of bigger faster boats. Before long the fleet had stretched out with the faster boats pulling away and Rambler, the ultimate winner, just a distant shape on the horizon. The pair on Spailpín benefited from an astute tactical decision to keep more offshore than the rest of the fleet in an effort to find more wind and the cousins were doing well as they sailed south along the Wicklow coast. This form continued and the pair made more gains by working hard to avoid the strong tides East of North County Wexford.

During a sprint to the Tuskar the bigger boats stretched their legs and Spailpín soon found herself squirted out the back of the fleet. The fleet rounded the Tuskar in strong tides at midnight with a foreboding forecast of 30 knots of breeze from a South Westerly imminent. With this in mind, and Louis on watch, he took the decision to sail offshore, hoping to gain from a wind shift that was expected as the breeze increased. As morning approached, with the two cousins on deck the wind was building steadily. The large headsail was changed for the smaller No.3; the mainsail was reefed once and then again. Finally with the average windspeed above 28 knots the No. 3 was dropped and skittering about on the heaving bow Louis skilfully attached and hoisted the heavy weather jib. It was during this time that many other teams, battered by the heavy winds, retired from the race to the shelter of the ports of Cork or Kinsale. Spailpín sailed well in her heavy weather configuration as they powered toward the Old Head of Kinsale. They arrived here as darkness fell and with it, a reprieve from the heaviest of the wind. The pair had made gains in the heavy winds during the day (despite Marcus revisiting his lunch all over the cockpit floor) and were right back in contention as they got a good tidal lift off the Old Head. They held position as far as the legendary Fastnet rock, but here, based on a forecasted wind shift, they elected to go far offshore. The wind shift failed to materialise and this cost 10 nautical miles compared with the rest of the fleet. This was a blow to morale but they powered on around the headlands of Cork and Kerry hoping to claw back a few positions through yet more upwind sailing.

Ever in sight but just out of reach was Big Deal, the Dehler 34 sailed by the very experienced father son Dillon combo. Off the Dingle head, a break from the upwind sailing finally came and as the pair pointed the boat toward home waters they had enough of an angle to hoist the Spinnaker (a somewhat difficult to control downwind sail). This could have been regarded as a rash decision based on the fact that the wind had once more increased to around 25 knots and it was 2 in the morning with only the moon for light however something drastic was needed to claw back some ground lost at the Fastnet. With the storm kite (kindly lent by Gerry Daly) up, Spailpín surged forwards, devouring the 1nm lead that Big Deal held. It was hair raising stuff as Marcus, at the helm, did all he could to keep the boat tracking true through the sharp confused seas off the north coast of Kerry. At the same time Louis was doing everything possible to keep the main and spinnaker under control as the boat reeled under the pull of the storm kite (spinnaker). Before long they were neck and neck with Big Deal and in even less time again overtook them. But Big Deal weren’t about to give up without a fight. Mustering some courage they put up their own asymmetric spinnaker. Then disaster struck for Spailpín. In the high loads, the downhaul cleats gave up and spinnaker pole flew vertically up into Spailpíns’ pitching rig. The spinnaker instantly wrapped itself in as many other pieces of rigging as possible. Big Deal quickly caught and overtook the cousins once more as they struggled to free the mess in darkness. Achieving this, without a moment’s hesitation they hoisted the kite once more. This time, with the downhaul secured, and a little more confidence the pair quickly caught Big Deal once more as they struggled with their own problems. It wasn’t long before their masthead light had disappeared below the horizon. Soon after, Big Deal retired.

With Big Deal out of the picture, the Spailpín pair turned their focus to Pyxis, a longer slightly faster boat sailed by a doublehanded pair of British ladies who were around 5nm ahead. Spailpín made more gains on the west coast as the Pyxis crew made the sensible decision not to fly a spinnaker. After several hours with the kite up it became clear that the level of attrition was unsustainable as both crew members had to be on deck while the kite was up. After a brief debate it was elected to take the kite down for 4 hours, get a couple of hours sleep each before reassessing the situation once more.

Marcus sailing downwind on the west coast in a break from the heaviest of the wind and rain.

As the pair rounded Eagle Island off North Mayo, Pyxis was still eluding them. In a lull in the heaviest of the wind they hoisted the kite once more, heading for the Donegal coast near Bundoran. Making some good decisions by gybing off the windshifts, the cousins soon found themselves on the advantageous side of the course with Pyxis stuck outside. Passing just north of Arranmore Spailpín was suddenly 2nm ahead of Pyxis who were still yet to fly a spinnaker. Approaching Tory Island the sun broke through and the wind eased to around 15 knots so that the pair could finally fly the big Red and Green kite.

Louis trims the ‘Big Kite’ in sunshine and nice wind off north west Donegal

Rounding Tory Island they pointed up and headed for the infamous tides at Inistrahull. At this point they were back in a reasonable position in the fleet. If they could only round the next two islands in good wind they would stand a good chance at clawing back a few positions. Ahead of them the fleet had managed to pass Inistrahull and Ratlin Island largely unscathed by the effects of the 3 knot tides there. Spailpín approached Inistrahull in positive tide and a little wind. Before long the wind died, but they were still being carried East back of a weakening tide. Within an hour however the tide had turned and they were heading backwards once more. With no other option they dropped an anchor in an effort to hold station as Pyxis, still in breeze, closed the gap to the rear. For four hours they sat in no wind with the log reading up to two knots of tide flowing underneath. This was frustrating but was also a welcome chance to catch a little sleep.

The pair managed to escape the clutches of Inistrahull only to get caught once more at Rathlin. Louis struggled through the night in light wind and surprisingly cold temperatures to finally get Spailpín moving southwards through the North Channel.

Sunrise in the North Channel: Louis well wrapped up against the cold

Daylight found them back in a three boat race with Albireo and Pyxis having found wind and good fortune to just cruise through the tidal gates which had ensnared the cousins on Spailpín. Down through the North channel the speed over ground surged and fell away with the tides and there were difficult decisions to be made between finding wind and gaining tidal advantage. It came to a head at Mew Island where Albireo snuck up along the shore taking the lead in the group of 3 boats while Spailpín lost ground and was overtaken by Pyxis further offshore. Spotting Albireo’s success Louis and Marcus cut across and followed them up the shoreline, dodging the worst of the north flowing tide. Taking advantage of a strong wind shift brought about by a heavy rain shower the cousins managed to regain the lead of the three boat fleet. Having dodged the worst of the light winds the rest of the faster fleet were by this stage disappointingly out of reach so intense competition formed between the three boats toward the rear.

Off Dublin Bay on Friday morning the wind had dropped and the North Flowing tide had built. Watching the northwards heading over ground on the GPS, just 30 miles from the finish, the painful decision was made to anchor once more. Sitting stationary for 2 hours saw Spailpín gain 2 nm on Pyxis and Albireo to open the then narrow gap as they drifted back northward. When the wind finally filled back in again, after the mammoth task of heaving over 50 metres of chain and warp up with no engine (not allowed under race rules) the Spailpín pair felt confident that their position was secured relative to the other two boats. The tide then turned southwards once more and they began rushing toward the finish line. However Pyxis rushed just a little bit faster, finding an artery of pounding tide along the Kish Bank and suddenly they were a mile behind Pyxis. Based on the handicapping system they could afford to finish within 45 minutes of the Pyxis Ladies and still beat them but Pyxis were stretching their lead by the minute. The pair quickly kicked into action working hard using the GPS to try and plot the best course through the eddies and overfalls on the approach to Wicklow head, all the while trying desperately to reel Pyxis back in once more. Eventually it paid off and at the finish line they had closed the gap from 1.5nm to about 0.8nm finishing 9 minutes after their northeast coast rivals in a final time of 6 days 4 hours 13 minutes and 3 seconds. This was enough to see them finish up in a respectable 33rd out of 52 starting boats.

The track (in pink) taken by Spailpín as she completed her first ever Round Ireland Race

Overall the lads were delighted with the result given the very challenging conditions which prevailed in the race. From chatting with other competitors they learned that they had in fact pushed harder than a significant number who flew no spinnaker on the windy west coast. Once again though, the achievement would not have been possible without the generosity of those who supported the campaign and especially Michael Cannon who was so kind as to let the cousins have the use of the boat.



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