You need to be many different people at once to thrive in Howth Sailing. A classic example is former HYC Commodore Brian Turvey. His most high-profile current role – ahead of other deeply committed personal commitments – is as chairman of the organizing committee for the upcoming Wright Hospitality Group-sponsored Howth Wave Regatta from June 3-5.
So yesterday former Commodore Turvey – along with current outgoing Judge Paddy – jointly hosted a clubhouse luncheon for the main and subsidiary sponsors of their special event, which also include the very supportive Fingal County Council, as well as CKS the specialist finance group, Euro Car Parks, Cassidy Travel, Sail Training Ireland and WD-40 as a flagship product for Euro Car Parts.
Inevitably, part of the conversation was about the morning news about the cancellation of the Scottish Series at Tarbert due to a lack of volunteers for branding duties at the remote site. The special 2022 date in Scotland had clashed directly with the Howth calendar, and so this negative development across the Northern Channel is expected to swell Howth’s already healthy entry numbers. Yet in truth there was a sense of sympathy for the frustrated Scottish racing officers, as the HYC team are all too aware of the demands and highest standards expected, with any major event being highly publicized in these days over-communicated, bringing with it misinformed online comments.
But in healthy contrast, earlier in the week Brian Turvey had put aside his concerns over how best to implement an event that will feature some very sharp finishing races – including the Irish debut of the Mark Mills-designed Cape 31s. as the hottest of the hot OD classes – and had instead embarked with his brother Conor aboard their timeshare Howth 17 Isobel for a spirited night race. And they won by sailing in this very special local class which made its debut in 1898.
However, around Howth Harbour, nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Car Isobel is semi-unique in that she is one of only two Howth 17s that have been built at Howth. In 1987 a small group led by Peter Courtney (whose family have been involved in Howth 17 racing for generations since 1907) organized the fundraising for two new boats to be built in a hangar at Howth Castle. There, the St Lawrence family would have considered the Howth 17s a novel concept, as they had been in continuous residence on the rambling estate since 1177.
Thanks to the expertise of master shipbuilder John O’Reilly – who had learned his skills as a boat builder in the workshops of Dublin Port from the legendary John B Kearney – the new Isobel and Erica boats were launched into quarries successful in 1988. And Howth Castle then returned to its seemingly unchanging slumber and interests of a more earthly kind, as Ireland’s first – and highly successful – public golf course.
But now, as we emerge from the deceptive pandemic paralysis, we find that the basic structures of Howth have undergone a revolutionary change since the previous biennial Wave Regatta, which was staged in 2018. For after just 844 years around the place, the St Lawrence family set out from Howth, headed for the depths of Kidare and Kilkenny. Thus the first families of Howth reappear as once-Danish seafaring tribes – the Harfords, Ricards, Waldrons and Thunders – who were already in residence when the St. Lawrences arrived in August 1177, and continued to lie quietly, hidden. in plain sight. in the small fishing village.
Meanwhile the Howth Estate has been bought in its entirety by the Tetrarch Group, best known for their sympathetic redevelopment of the Mount Juliet Estate in County Kilkenny, where there is another maritime connection through a direct link to the 1895 Dunraven Challenge for America. Cup.
However, if we go any further down this particular road, we’ll disappear, and there’s enough going on in Howth anyway. For the new arrangements, this means that Tetrarch Capital is now partnering with the Wright Hospitality Group to redevelop the old castle as a hospitality and special interest destination in its own right. And as its story includes an interaction with the Pirate Queen of Connacht Grace O’Malley in 1576, there are other nautical connections to explore as part of Howth’s original story.
It was time – and not so long ago – that if you wanted to travel safely and conveniently north east from Dublin city to the hilly peninsula of Howth, then the smartest way was to take the wherry of Howth from the old quays of Abbey Street on the north bank of the River Liffey, then largely unwalled, in the heart of the town. The old bucket of a boat could sail fairly straight across the northwest corner of Dublin Bay to a rugged pier on the shore of Sutton at the foot of what is still named Old Castle Avenue, and from this landing place you would continue along “the avenue” towards Howth Castle itself and the village beyond.
At this time, in recognition of this fact of the local traveling reality, the facade of Howth Castle faced south-west in almost exactly the opposite direction to that which exists today. Then as now, Howth Castle was such an architectural mix of different centuries that each generation of the St Lawrence family could pretty much choose the orientation of their stately home if they had enough funds to build a new main gate.
The reason for going by boat was that, west beyond the sandy isthmus of Sutton, the very rudimentary roads around Raheny and adjoining areas towards Dublin City were such a hotbed of highwaymen and brigands that to get safely to or from Howth was worth an hour or two of discomfort in a dodgy boat, rather than risk being stripped of your possessions and possibly ransomed by wicked people who don’t nothing like the courtly bandits of romantic novels.
All of this meant that for centuries Howth was never considered part of Dublin. And that attitude still lives on in the mental furnishings of the sailing and fishing village today. For although three of the southernmost councils which currently administer the Greater Dublin area are in favor of the city having a fashionably elected Lord Mayor with executive powers, Fingal’s fourth northern region – which Howth very proudly does party – wants nothing at all. to do with the notion of Dublin’s single authority and the new executive mayor that goes with it, because Fingal’s council is doing just fine on its own, thank you.
Thus there are Howths who hold positions of distinction in world affairs and national activities when working in Dublin, but they cease to be Dubliners when they return home through Sutton Cross and instead become inhabitants of the peninsula. Such apparent eccentricity gives Howth added appeal, so much so that one explanation for the title of Wave Regatta is that it’s about saluting neighboring Ireland in a friendly but decidedly independent way.
Do whatever you want with it. But there’s no doubt that when the Howth team in last year’s restricted season made the best of it to dominate the Sovereign Regatta at Kinsale with Samatom (Robert Rendell), Snapshot (Mike & Richie Evans ) and Outrajeous (Johnny Murphy and Richard Colwell), there was a very sharp display of Peninsular HYC psychological power in the Kinsale YC compound after the awards ceremony.
And it’s all highlighted by the fact that Wave’s reigning overall champion is new CIFAR Commodore Dave Cullen’s Classic Half Tonner Checkmate XV (HYC). Because although he could embark on a joint campaign of a First 50 with Nigel Biggs, he will continue to run Checkmate XV until the Cowes Worlds included in mid-August.
Meanwhile, Wave 2022 is shaping up to be a multiple-choice event for the 12 keelboat classes involved, as it’s built around Howth’s annual Lambay Race, which dates back to 1904. But for some of the hottest IRC divisions , the Lambay circuit is almost incidental to the challenging lessons are provided by PRO David Lovegrove and his team, with the on-water umpiring team led by Emmet Dalton.
Despite this serious element, Wave Regatta is unabashedly presented as “a sailing event wrapped in a big party”. Certainly, with the long-awaited sunshine of yesterday afternoon finally arriving in full force to bring Howth Harbor to life in a colorful and warm way, anything seemed possible.