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History

 

This year 2014, Dublin Bay Sailing Club will be 130 years in existence. Below are some extracts from the Club’s history, published when it celebrated in its centenary year in 1984.

 
THE STORY OF THE DUBLIN BAY SAILING CLUB begins on a sunny Saturday afternoon, during the long hot summer of 1884, when the big yachts had sailed south from Belfast Lough to take part in the annual nautical week at Kingstown.

The town was teeming with visitors during the third week of July. On Sunday the band of the Highland Regiment played on the East Pier and the attendance, according to a newspaper report, ‘was crowded and most fashionable’. “ The visitors’, says the report, ‘must have been struck with the beauty of the place and the gay festivity of the scenes, enlivened by crowds of yachts in the harbour and by the number of pleasure boats, principally rowed by ladies in nautical costume.”

The comings and goings of the big yachts received particular attention and readers of newspapers of the time could learn that at Kingstown that year there was moored, among many others, a magnificent eighty-five tonner called the Ajax, not to mention a sumptuous 630 ton three-masted schooner called the Iolanthe, richly furnished and appointed, and belonging to a fortunate Mr.WaIler.

It was against this background that there occurred on Saturday, l9th July a modest race between small boats in the vicinity of Scotsman’s Bay. The course, to be exact, was from Sandycove Point, around a flag boat off Bulloch, from thence around the hauling buoy in Kingstown Harbour, back again around the Bulloch flag boat two rounds, the finishing line being at Sandycove.

The race had been preceded by a notice in the press the day before, stating that a number of gentlemen interested in sailing had started a club to encourage open-boat sailing. ‘In order to provide as much sport as possible,’ stated the notice, ‘with a minimum of expense, the races are to be strictly limited to open-sea boats, with a light draught of water, such as can be easily rowed and beached if necessary.’ It was signed by the Hon. Secretary, Mr. Richard Fry, 8 Elton Park, Glenageary.

By all accounts, it was an enjoyable race, without much wind, to be sure, won by a Mr. William Wright McDowell, who, like many after him, achieved success by standing into the shore and out of the tide, which was running strongly up the Bay at the time. One of the competitors, a Mr. B. Boyd, was seven minutes late for the start, but he pulled up well during the race. It had been thought that the boat belonging to Major White, being the largest, would have been first across the line but it was evident that she required a good breeze as she travelled very slowly.

‘We hope’, said The Irish Times~ with a shade of condescension ‘they will bring more spectators next time as it encourages the amateurs to see their friends watching them as they slip through the water “

 This was the first race of the organization which was called at first the Sailing Boat Club, but in a year or two became the  Dublin Bay Sailing Club. For the record, the boats that sailed in the first race were: Georgina, helmed by G.Rogers, Ripple, helmed by J. B. Boyd, Flirt (Frank Cherry), Larrikin (W. McDowell) and Seagull (Major White). Falcon was sailed in the race by Henry Charles Falkner, who died as recently as 1950. The officer of the day was Richard Fry.

 The list differs a little from the official list, got out a few years later which included Dr. Wright, Mr. Shirley M. Going and Mr. W.R. Richardson among the participants .A possible explanation for the difference lies in fact that pseudonyms were not uncommon in press reports of yacht races at the time, particularly where professional men were involved. With this in mind the identity behind one of the pseudonyms can be easily detected. The William McDowell who won the first Dublin Bay race on 19th July, 1884  was  in fact  Dr. Wright  or William McDowell Aiken Wright, to give him his full name and condition.

To come back to the course sailed in the first race. The original starting line was at Sandycove Point. In the DBSC records this location is always referred to as “the Battery”. It was, in fact, an actual gun emplacement which the Club has access to during its early years at an annual charge of £30 per annum. The structure is still there  - what looks like a martello tower at the Forty Foot. The adjoining house- which used to be the living quarters of the men attached to the unit - is still known as the Battery.  In 1899, following the introduction of the Twenty Five Footers, the Club abandoned the Battery and races were started in the mouth of what was then Kingstown Harbour - between a flag on the West Pier and the Club flag on the Kingstown Battery, adjoining the lighthouse on the East Pier. The next major move was in 1925, when the line was changed to the Carlisle Pier, the line running between the Pier and a hauling buoy near Victoria Wharf.

 According  to the recollection of its founder members, the first meeting of the club took place in the house of  a Major White in 1884. This would have been Major Edward White, who lived at 7 Sandycove Avenue East, Kingstown. He was, it is believed, a relative of the Richard Fry already mentioned. Others who attended that first meeting were Richard’s brother, Oliver, Dr William Graves, of 27 Lower Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin, Mr. Joe Fitzgerald, 5 Henrietta Terrace, Dalkey, Dr.W.M.A. Wright, who lived in Ulverton Terrace,  Dalkey, Henry Charles Faulkner,  Mr. J.B. Boyd, who was later chairman of the firm of Boileau and Boyd, and Mr. Shirley M. Going, an engineer with the old Dalkey Urban Council. Also present was Mr. Sam Nugent, who, when he died in 1902, was the chief engineer of the Dublin United Tramway Company.

Over the years the character of the club’s membership doesn’t seem to have changed very much. The professions have always been well represented, particularly doctors. Of the club’s medical members, Dr W.M.A. Wright was undoubtedly the most noteworthy. He died on 30th December 1940 in his eighty-ninth year. Up to a fortnight before, he had been attending patients and in fact had attended the most recent Dublin Bay meeting.

At Trinity he had what the Irish Times in an obituary notice, described as a brilliant academic career, winning a gold medal for natural science on two occasions but  he never seems to have followed up this early success, contenting himself with his job as the local dispensary doctor, sailing in various DBSC  classes during the summer and happily involving himself in the club’s other activities in the remaining months.  


IN IRELAND NOWADAYS THERE ARE FEW have heard of James Edward Doyle, the Kingstown designer  and  builder of boats.    

 Things were not always so. When Doyle died – apparently of a coronary attack on 10 June, 1910 - many recognised that a designer of unusual distinction had passed away. In The Irish Times, the writer of his obituary notice declared that his reputation in all things concerning a boat was  unassailable and that his name was known in waters thousands of miles from Dublin Bay   

Certainly his name was known to local yachtsmen wh0 – particularly in the last decade of the century- saw him turn out a remarkable number of well-designed, eye-catching  sailing craft –yachts of all shapes ,sizes dimensions, from twenty tonners down to Wags. In fact, in 1900, when the Wag was in some danger of extinction, it was Doyle who re-jigged the original design  to produce the commodious and curvaceous Wag that is still going strong today in Dublin Bay.

James was clearly a person of consequence, considerably more so than his father, Michael, also a boat builder, who when he died in 1884 was referred to somewhat superciliously by  writer in one of the yachting journals as “poor old Doyle”.

A possible influence in raising Doyle above run-of –the-mill boat builders was his wife, Anne, a teacher of French and English in a local school for young ladies. It was Anne who induced and helped James to study for his qualification as a naval architect. A very formidable lady, Annie Doyle was a property-owner in her own right, an Irish speaker with pronounced Nationalist views who stood on the same political platform as Sean O hUadhaigh, the man most responsible for changing the name Kingstown to Dun Laoghaire. James preferred to steer clear of his wife's interests, concentrating on his profession which, not withstanding his wife’s politics, brought him the patronage and friendship of true-blue loyalists like Colonel Saunderson, the Unionist politician.

It was  towards the end of 1896 that the DBSC  selected a design of Doyle's for the new class B boat to replace the Mermaid and the Half-Rater. Dr Wright, at a meeting of the Club, spoke enthusiastically of the design - the best of six or submitted by some of the most able and experienced designers of the day. 'They (the new boats) would sail well and  present a handsome appearance... they would combine stiffness under canvas, stability, buoyancy, quick-staying powers be good boats, whether going to windward, reaching or with free sheets...they would also have the additional advantage of being Irish in design, Irish in material and Irish (he hoped) built....'

On the waterline the boat measured 17 ft, with a beam of 6 t. 6 ins.. The overall length was at first 20 feet but later changed to 22 ft. to give a raking transom. A centreboard, clinker-buildt boat she had 5 cwt (later 6cwt)  in her keel, and a mainsail of 200 sq. ft and jib of 50 sq.ft.

It turned out to be a most successful boat. Not only was there a large and active class in Dublin Bay but there were also fleets in Lough Derg and Lough Erne where Lord Erne and his family ly were enthusiastic sailors. The owners were clearly enraptured.. A surprising number of them were of a class that conferred a certain social cachet on sailing - such as the Viceroy, Lord Dudley, his brother the Hon.Gerald Ward, Lord Mountstewart and the Earl of Lanesboro.

    The Colleen's fame spread abroad. In an article published in The Irish Field in December 1905 entitled `With Dublin Bay Colleen on the River Plate', Mr Humphrey H. Hipwell wrote: `Not only off Howth Head but in places as far asunder as Bombay, Colombo and Yokohama are the Colleens sailed and appreciated - fast and weatherly for their size, fairly comfortable, fast and weatherly for their size,  these excellent little craft have fully justified their existence, combining as they do the lightness and handiness of an open-sea boat with a certain yacht-like grace that    endears them to all small-boat sailors.'    

Hipwell noted that there were seven Colleens in the Buenos Aires club. 'On the stormy and treacherous estuary of the Plate', he wrote, `the sea raised by a fresh wind is unpleasantly short. There is a vast inland sea, remarkably shallow. The fore the craft most suitable for use in these waters is a centreboard  boat with a small underbody, light, fast and easy to handle- all qualities pre-eminently conspicuous in the Co1leens of  of Dublin Bay.'

    The origin of the name, Colleen, is of some interest. When a suitable name for the boat was being canvassed at a meeting of the club, Dr W right, who presumably knew more about the habits  of the members than most, thought that the Irish word cruiscin  would be most appropriate. However, in deference to the teetotallers among the membership (then, as now, a heroic minority) he thought better of it. A yachting journal of    the time suggested that the general shape and lines of the boat suggested that of a yacht which was moored at the George at the time. The name of the boat was the Squaw, which through the genius of James Doyele, was transmogfrified into a handsome Irish colleen.

Among Doyle's family there exists a lingering belief that the original Colleen was, in fact, the person who actually designed the boat - not James himself, as was commonly believed, but his daughter, Maimie. Certainly, there is no doubt that Maimie was quite capable of having done so. It is well known that up to recent times the only woman ever known to have designed a yacht was this same Maimie Doyle of Kingstown. In 1901 there was quite a stir when her design for the Twenty Footer, Granuaile was published in one of the yachting
journals.

 It was built, too – and acquired a successful racing record in the south of England.

What happened to Maimie Doyleafter this, a most astonishing achievement for a young woman of the time. ? Well, she married and spent most of her life in Galway. She died as  recently as 1964, having returned to the Borough on the death  of her accountant husband, Charlie Tonry on 1954.  Her daughter, Nan Lynch, remembers her as a happy, lively woman, full of fun and good spirits. Maimie seems to have hade inherited her mother's taste for politics, falling out with her friends over the Treaty, for example.

It is probably unlikely that we will which of the two Doyles actually designed  the Colleen, this most successful of Dublin Bay's early boats. James own last years were spent in angry confrontation with with the Kingstown Urban District Council, who were eventually to destroy his business by driving a new road, now Clarence Terrace, through his boatyard. He retained his workshop where Crawford’s garage used to have their spare parts department. But in 1907, when DBSC enquired whether he could build their new Class B boat,  he had to declare that his boatyard was no more.

Somewhere in the world today there may still be some of Doyle’s fast and beautiful boats afloat. In Dun Laoghaire, certainly, there is one that we know of, the Wag, Coquette, which in 1982, with the late Seymour Cresswell at the helm, was judged by the DBSC committee as the best one-design boat of the season – continuing testimony to the old belief that James E. Doyle of Kingstown never built a slow boat.

Sad to relate, the early years of the Colleen were marred by a tragic accident. In August 1898, on their way home from the Bray regatta, two seventeeen year boys were  drowned from the Colleen, Aroon. One of them was Max 0'Connor Glynn, the son of P.J. O'Connor Glynn, who was secretary of the D.B.S.C. at the time. O'Connor Glynn was the grandfather of Harry and Ursula Maguire (both well- known  today to the sailing community in Dun Laoghaire). It is not clear from records what actually caused the accident. It is certainly possible that the boys should not have taken out the boat on their own. O'Connor Glynn himself had     given instructions that a paid hand was to accompany them, but he was delayed on the way down, and the boys, thinking that he was not coming, set out on their own.    

Anyway, the Club, as a result of the accident, made air tanks compulsory, and in 1901 strengthened the boat's stability by adding an extra cwt. of lead to her keel, Nevertheless, in 1905, another capsize earned the Colleens some very undesirable attention. This time it involved, above all people, the Viceroy, Lord Dudley, who, during the Lough Erne regatta, was thrown from his Colleen, Maive, just as he was finishing the race. No harm was done to his lordship, who was very promptly pulled out of the water by the following launch.

More lasting damage was probably done by The Yachtsman magazine, which hastened to point out that the charge of inexperience could not be levelled against Lord Dudley, he being an experienced yachtsman, that the real fault lay with the boat, which was inherently unstable, that it needed a flatter floor, more beam and less canvas. It is likely that the accident gave the coup de grace to the    Colleens, which, anyway, in Dublin Bay were declining numerically.

Sailing generally was in decline in Ireland at this time. Perhaps the motor car had something to do with it, seducing away the more fashionable, enterprising spirits. Perhaps, too, the Kiel regatta, under the benign influence of the Kaiser and German Navy, was a factor attracting away to the Baltic from the British and Irish sailing scene the big yachts which in the eighteen-nineties used to confer such immense social prestige to the sport, sailing up the Irish Sea from the south of England, visiting the local regattas and creating  such excitement.

 

THE ONE-RATERS AND THE TWENTY FIVE FOOTERS

The Club officially shed its devotion to open-boat sailing at a general meeting on 21 March, 1893. Some hardy souls fought hard to prevent this back-sliding but austerity had lost its appeal, and, anyway, there were vir¬tually no boats turning out for the A class races. However, the Club did not set its face against cruisers. The prevailing view seemed to be that they would change the character of the Club — crews would favour the comfort of the larger boats rather than the discomfort of the smaller craft, as originally intended by the founders of the Club. There was also some worry about large yachts rushing in under a cloud of sail among the smaller craft at the finishing line — a consider¬ation which, as we know, still concerns race officers to this very day.


The Club's first stab at providing a suitable boat for its A class was the One-Rater. This was a boat built under the old length and sail area rule, which, as we know, tended to en¬courage the production of what were then termed skimming dishes — out and out racing machines — without much underwater body, and with little useful living room on board. As the famous yacht designer, G.L. Watson put it: 'the yachts (built under this rule) are such as no yachtsman would build who had reasonable ideas of economy, of comfort or, in some of the more extreme cases, of safety.'


In Dublin Bay the One-Rater was not a success. Three of them were built locally by Hollweys — shapely-looking canoe-like structures, 30 ft overall, 19 ft 6 ins. on the waterline, with a 5ft 4 ins. beam, and a lead bulb fin keel. By all accounts, the Irish boats were much sturdier than the cross-channel models brought over from the south of England' Some of these were built by Sibbick of Cowes, whose pre-eminence in this branch of design is still celebrated by the term Sibbick Raters.


The Irish Field, whose yachting correspondent sometimes displayed some early Sinn Fein inclinations, was particularly scathing about the members yearning for foreign models. 'To rush over to the south of England where Solent sailing is car¬ried out not only by the sterner set but with equal ardour by ladies every day during the season, and matches contested in the highest style of art, and to bring a replica of the boats to the proverbially fickle waters of Dublin Bay in the hope of their equal fame is simply folly.' Obviously relishing the Bay in its more boisterous moments, he had no doubt where he

would consign the One-Rater: 'The Lakes of Geneva, Lake Constance or Lake Maggiore would be the true home of the One-Rating type, wherein a velvet breeze, soft as a bat's wing, they would skim along the almost looking-glass surface of the bottle-green water, under the shadows of the mountain sides.'


The One-Raters lasted a bare two years before, in 1896, they had to be converted to conform to the new linear rating rule. The conversion — additional sail area and a heavier keel — was disastrous. In one case the planks opened near the stem. By this time the Club was again taking a long hard look at its A class needs, and at the attractions of the one-design concept, which gets over the problems of ratings and handicaps.


THE TWENTY F IVE FOOTERS What the Committee came up with was the Twenty-Five Footer, unquestionably Dublin Bay's own most successful keelboat, still remembered with affection by older members of the Club. No yacht is ever completely

original in conception and it is no secret that the inspiration for the Twenty-Fives came from the north of Ireland. Just about the time that the Club started to cast around in search of a new boat word came that the Royal Ulster

Yacht Club was launching a most interesting craft. This was the Belfast One-Design — 25 ft on the water line, 37 ^ ft overall, sail area 848 sq. ft, with a coach roof and a skylight, designed by Fife and built by John Hilditch of Car-

rickfergus. A large-bodied boat, with a headroom of 5 ft 9 ins., she could be used for either racing or cruising.


When the Belfast boats came south to participate in the Royal Irish Regatta in July 1897, the DBSC committee. arranged a special race so that interested members could take a look at them. Impressed, the Club at its October meeting passed a resolution setting up the D.B.S.C. Twenty-Five Foot Class. The projected design followed very closely the lines of the Bel¬fast boat. The principal difference lay in the timbers — grown, instead of steamed, and in the keel, which in the Dub¬lin Bay boats was to be of lead instead of iron. This was a detail which was to cause a lot of trouble. It is interesting that the secretary of the Belfast Lough One Designs, with whom the D.B.S.C. corresponded on this occasion, was James Craig, afterwards Viscount Craigavon, and the first Stormont Prime Minister.


The designer, the famous William Fife, junior, must some¬times have wondered whether the game was really worth the candle, for the Dublin Bay Sailing Club proved to be among the most demanding of clients. Here is an extract from a list of queries raised on the specification he had suggested for the boat:

Deck Beams: Define what you mean by 'root cuts'. Do you mean beam and knee to be in one piece? Or do you mean the

beam to be cut out of the lower part of the tree? If you mean the first (and, as it would be difficult to procure same in Ireland) would you approve of oak knees being optional?

Fastenings: Muntz metal bolts for deadwood preferred. Keel bolts of copper. Planking — omit Muntz metal spikes. Butts to be fastened with brass or copper screw nails....

Smith Work: Steel tiller. A spider band arrangement preferred. Query one iron shoe pin to work in hole in iron keel for bottom of rudder — should it read 'gun metal and lead keel etc.'

The source of this expertise was probably P. G. Hollwey of the boatbuilding firm, a member since 1893, who joined the com-mittee to assist in these particular deliberations.


Things started to get awkward indeed when James Doyle, who was building the first Twenty-Five, Footers (Nepenthe, Dart hula and Whisper) reported that the lead keels, cast in accordance with Fife's design, were underweight. Fife's ad¬vice to the committee was that in his experience lead keels can vary much in weight — the solution was not to reject the keels but to put extra lead inside the boat in a position to be as¬signed by the measurers. Further debate ensued when it emerged that none of the boats, built as they were strictly in accordance with the specification, had the required load waterline of twenty-five feet. Ultimately, the committee had to be satisfied with a load waterline ranging between 26 ft 1 in. and 26 ft 3 ins. Fife's explanation for all of this they judged to be 'most unsatisfactory'.


This, strictly, should have made the Twenty-Fives Twenty-Sixes but no one ever seriously thought of altering the title. Indeed, policing the one-design concept, as many others were to discover before the introduction of production-series yachts, gave the Committee more than enough to think about. Quite a stern line had to be taken on what at first looked like minor deviations — even on the part of some who regarded themselves as senior members of the Club.


Yet for all these teething troubles the Twenty-Fives were undoubtedly a great success — certainly during their early years. The first boats, built by James Doyle, were launched in May 1898 and some of the boats were racing well into the 'for¬ties and 'fifties. The last reference to a Twenty-Five in the rec¬ords of the Club occurs in 1962, when it was reported to the committee that the much-loved Punctilio had been sold away from Dublin Bay.


Punctilio had been originally built by Sibbick for Mr.. Sebas¬tian Nolan who sold her at the end other first season to John Stephens and George Arthur Newsom. Here he was a bit pre¬cipitate because in 1903, when the Viceroy, Lord Dudley, joined the class, Mr. Nolan, understandably, had to buy a new boat. Punctilio, after a few indifferent seasons in the hands of Newsome and Stephens went on to become one of the most successful boats of the Dublin Bay fleet.


Another famous Twenty-Five was the Fodhla — still re¬membered by the Dun Laoghaire boatmen as the Foddla — which was built by Doyle for the Viceroy in 1903. The Gaelic Revival being fashionable at the time, Lord Dudley had her name inscribed in Gaelic lettering on her hull. There is a sort of a tradition that she was originally intended by Lady Dudley as a birthday present for her husband and that he accidentally discovered this on a visit to Doyle's yard. On that occasion, the noble lord, in his casual aristocratic way, is supposed to have said to Lady Dudley: 'I was wondering why you were pinching Doyle's arse.'


It is possible that this scion of the English aristocracy, enor¬mously rich and a close friend of Edward the Seventh, found his own appropriate level when he joined the Dublin Bay Sail¬ing Club. On one occasion he is reputed to have been knocked i overboard by a boom when enjoying a glass of whiskey after a race. When he was hauled back on board, still clutching his glass, he is said to have boasted: 'And I never spilt a bloody, drop'.                                                   |


Lord Dudley certainly seems to have enjoyed racing in Dublin Bay. In due course, when the swings of political fortune put his party out of office, the crew of the Fodhla were invited to say farewell to him at the Castle. He told them that he had en- I joyed sailing with them so much that he intended to give them ' a little present. And the little present was the Fodhla.  

      Some of the Twenty-Five men lived adventurous lives.  Punctilio went aground at Coliemore but floated off. Mavis left her natural element in Dun Laoghaire and came ashore, scattering the spectators on the pier. Lady Disdain, nee Whis¬per, dragged her anchor in a gale of wind and was wrecked off the Kerry coast. Alanna was lost off the Isle of Man. Acushia was wrecked at the nose of Howth. Nepenthe, which was raced well into the 'forties, was eventually sunk after a col¬lision. The redoubtable Seymour Cresswell was on board at the time and, it is said, had to jump for his life. The boat which collided with Nepenthe was the Blue Trout, sailed by a certain Mr. Bingham. In consequence of this misfortune that gentleman was always referred to by the waterfront boatmen as 'Bingham, Bang 'em and Sink 'em'.