The Irish Raid – a challenge in three Loughs

 

The best boating is so often also the best-looking boating – particularly when the boats are glorious and the photographer is seriously good at his job.

These shots come from PR man, maritime writer and ex-Classic Boat editor Nic Compton. For more information about this and other Raids organised by Albacore-Dacmar, click here.

Thanks Nic! There’s a fuller gallery of his photos at the bottom of this post. Here’s his report:

Anyone who assumed local knowledge would be the deciding factor in the first Irish Raid on the Shannon River was proven wrong by the final results. Foreign skippers were triumphant in both indigenous classes, and it was left to local sailor Monica Schaefer to preserve Irish pride by clinching a first in the open class.

Crews came from seven countries, including Germany, Sweden, Holland, and Japan, to take part in the seven-day, 195km event. Some brought their own boats with them, others chartered boats in the local Shannon One Design and Water Wag classes. The overseas sailors included a former Olympian, a transatlantic record breaker, a Whitbread sailor, a multiple Tornado champion and a world windsurf champion.

The Lakelands and Inland Waterways Ireland Sailing Raid (to give it its full name) started, symbolically, in Northern Ireland, at the Loch Erne Sailing Club, a few miles north of Enniskillen. After an overnight stop in the deep countryside of the Crom Castle estate, the crews sailed across the border to Belturbet. There, they dismounted and trailed their boats past the locks of the 18 locks of the Shannon-Erne Waterways and resumed racing at Carrick-on-Shannon.

The third day of racing showed both the difficulty of racing in these conditions – as well as the extraordinary beauty of the Shannon. One moment crews were racing across an open lough, the next paddling through the leafy idyll of the Jamestown Canal. Weather-wise, they had to contend with sudden squalls brought by periodic thunderstorms (usually over in a matter on minutes), as well as the unpredictable effect of trees and hills. And that’s not to mention shooting bridges and negotiating locks.

‘I’ve sailed in more physically challenging conditions, but these conditions are extremely tricky,’ said former windsurf world champion Jochen Krauth. ‘It’s all about anticipation, and being prepared for anything to happen at any time!’

Although a popular tourist destination, the Shannon River retains much of its natural character and an abundance of wildlife – you really do feel as though you are well away from the madding crowd. There are nevertheless plenty of facilities for boats, with discreetly placed pontoons, well-signalled channels and smooth-running locks, making it an ideal cruising ground for the novice sailor.

After an overnight stop at Tarmonbarry with a singsong at the Purple Onion, one of the most spectacular legs of the raid was the 16km passage down Lough Ree to Athlone. Soon after the start, a 25-knot northerly picked up, pushing up a small chop and scattering the fleet across a wide area. Some boats revelled in the conditions, including local Wag sailor Ian Malcolm, who hung on to spinnaker, main and jib for most of the way.
Others weren’t so lucky. Former Whitbread round-the-world sailor Sylvie Viant lost her mast halfway down the lough. She was back on the starting line the next morning, however, the mast having been repaired overnight by boatbuilder Patrick Lobrichon – himself a regular Raider.

After a stopover at Loch Ree Yacht Club, the fleet sailed down the narrows to Banagher, narrowly avoiding losing halyards to grazing horses. A new element of this raid was the fleet of supporting cruisers, loaned by Carrick Craft, which provided accommodation for most of the crews from Carrick-on-Shannon onwards. Although a couple of hardy souls opted to camp, most of the competitors slept on the cruisers, created a veritable floating community at every stop.

After the narrows of the middle Shannon, which necessitated some towing when the boats became becalmed, the fleet shot into the open waters of Lough Derg. The gusty 15-knot breeze caught some by surprise, and the fleet suffered its first capsize. The boat was soon towed to shore, bailed out and resumed racing half an hour later.
After an exceptionally warm welcome at Lough Derg Yacht Club, the fleet set off on a final blast down the Lough in brilliant conditions and with a fresh breeze from behind.

It was a last chance for the crews to improve their standing, and the racing was predictably competitive, with all boats finishing within 25 minutes of each other after nearly three hours racing.

Every raid has its distinctive character, but this raid seemed like several races rolled into one: beautiful scenery, challenging sailing, international crews, local hospitality and a spirit of freedom and adventure. With the supporting flotilla of cruisers adding an extra waterbound element, it seems as if a new style of raid has been born.

Lakelands and Inland Waterways Ireland Sailing Raid results:

Shannon One Design class:
1. Koji Ikeda & Jochen Krauth, Japan/Germany (25.2 points)
2. Alan Algeo, Ireland (26.8 points)
3. Carthy Mac Aleavy, Ireland (30.4 points)
4. Lars Palm, Sweden (50 points)

Water Wag class:
1. Albert Schiess, Switzerland (14.9 points)
2. Ian Malcolm, Ireland (25.4 points)
3 Sylvie Viant, France (34.4 points)

Open class:

1. Monica Schaefer, Ireland (10.4 points)
2. Jean Sourisseau, France (36 points)
3. Patrick Morvan, France (37.7 points)
4. John Cronin & Patrick Lobrichon, Ireland/France (62 points)
5. John Keogh, Ireland (69 points)
6. Arthur Kortenoever, Netherlands (79 points)
7. Denis Boyer (DNS)
8. Jens Kerski (DNS)

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