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)

Lakelands and inland waterways Ireland Sailing Raid – 2012

A scene from the Great Glen Raid

Ireland is to have its own Raid in September this year – writer, photographer and ex-Classic Boat editor Nic Compton has written to tell us about it:

‘Since the first Raid was created in Portugal in 1997, the idea of racing and cruising in company in small open boats has spread from continent to continent. Similar Albacore-Dacmar-organised events have been staged in Scotland, Sweden, Finland, Holland, Italy and the USA, with the latest event organised by WoodenBoat magazine in Maine attracting more than 50 entries.

‘Now the original French creators of the concept are back with an event in one of the most beautiful and unspoilt corners of Europe. The first Lakelands & Inland Waterways Ireland Sailing Raid will take place on the Shannon River in September 2012, and promises to be the raid with the most craic.

‘For anyone new to the concept, the idea of a Raid is to gather a fleet of small open boats – usually traditionally-inspired, though not necessarily wood, and usually under 24ft long – and send them off on a series of passage races, exploring scenic areas. There are one or two racing legs per day – either under sail alone or under sail and oar – and a different stopover every night.

‘The Lakelands & Inland Waterways Ireland Sailing Raid will take place over seven days, from the 14th to the 21st September, and cover 120 miles of the most delightful riverain scenery Ireland has to offer – from the tranquility of Lough Erne in Northern Ireland, across the border through the Shannon River (the longest river in the British Isles) to the great lakes of Lough Ree and Lough Derg. The event will finish with a big knees-up in the picturesque town of Killaloe.

‘There will be a wide range of boats from all over Europe taking part. The events have stimulated a resurgence of small boat racing/cruising designs, and the Open Class is likely to feature vessels by luminary designers and builders such as Iain Oughtred, Swallow Boats, François Vivier and Gilles Montaubin. The requirements in this class are deliberately ‘open’, featuring traditional designs or types, as well as recently-built boats inspired by tradition (or not), using traditional or modern materials.

‘For the first time, two one-design classes will race in this event: the Morgan Giles-designed Shannon One-Design (SOD), which boasts the biggest fleet of traditional boats in Ireland, and the historic Water Wags, at 125 years old the oldest one-design class in the world. Both classes race regularly on the Shannon, and a few boats will be available to sail either as bare boat or co-skippering – but make sure you book early, as these places are extremely limited.

‘To ensure complete ‘immersion’ in the event, accommodation will be available in motor cruisers, while others will be able to camp by the river or make other arrangements. The shared experience of these events usually forges strong friendships among those taking part, and lively evening gatherings are a feature of most raids. Few who attended the dinner in the old lifeboat station on Sweden’s southernmost island during the 2003 Blekinge Archipelago Raid, with the gale outside buffeting the wooden structure, will ever forget that experience.

‘The entry fee for the event is €475 per boat. In addition, accommodation is available on the accompanying motor cruisers at a rate of €390-480 per head for the week. Special rates are available for anyone wanting to hire an entire boat for family and friends.’

For more information see or call +33 2 97 57 94 00. There’s also a Facebook page to ‘like’.

Photographs from previous Raids in Portugal, Sweden and Scotland: