About the Race
The Round Ireland is Ireland’s premier offshore yacht race, and the second longest race in the Royal Ocean Racing Club calendar. The first race took place in 1980 with only thirteen boats. Since then, held biennially, the fleet has grown steadily, attracting a record 60 entrants from all over Ireland and the British Isles.
There are a number classes in IRC in which boats and their crews can compete, including CK, Z, IRC 1 – 4, ISORA and a Team Prize. 2004 saw the launch of the “Two-handed Class” which has introduced a new level of competition for the more extreme sailor. The 2016 race sees the introduction of multihulls sailing under MOCRA rules. In the past, boats competing have ranged from a 98-footer former “round the world” maxi, to club boats one third the size, with all shades in between.
Wicklow Sailing Club are delighted that the Royal Irish Yacht Club, Dun Laoghaire, have agreed to act as the Dublin host club for the 2016 race. This association with the RIYC is especially beneficial as it enables more and larger competing yachts to be hosted prior to the start of the race.
The concept of a race around Ireland began in 1975 with a double-handed race starting and finishing in Bangor by Ballyholme Yacht Club with stopovers in Crosshaven and Killybegs. That race only had four entries. In 1980 Michael Jones put forward the idea of a non-stop race and was held in that year from Wicklow Sailing Club. 16 pioneers entered that race with Brian Coad’s Raasay of Melfort returning home after six days at sea to win the inaugural race. While Raasay has the honour of being the winner of the first Round Ireland she was also the last placed finisher in four separate races (1982, 1984, 1990 and 1992).
The race is uniquely identified by a series of waypoints around the Irish coast at which the competitors much report their position and time. While the introduction of GPS tracking in 2008 provides competitors and followers with up-to-date progress of the fleet, the check-in waypoints are a key feature to stay up-to-date on progress, giving competitors morale boosting race milestones and, most importantly, are an important safety element of the race.
The Round Ireland record is held by Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard. In 2008, a race dominated by gale force winds, the 100 foot super maxi finished the race in just under two days and 18 hours, knocking over 10 hours off the previous race record, set in 1998 by Colm Barrington onboard Jeep Cherokee. The record currently stands at 65 hrs 48 mins 47 secs.
The Round Ireland continues to be a big race run by a small club and for the competitors who return again and again, this is what makes the event so special. The warm greeting and round the clock bar service when returning to Wicklow bring competitors back to the race year after year.