The Round Ireland Yacht Race is now an established race in the RORC calendar. However, in the 1970’s, the idea of a yacht race right around Ireland, whilst much discussed, was just a dream.
In 1975 a race round Ireland with two stopovers, one in Crosshaven and the other in Killybegs, was run by Ballyholme YC. This race started and finished in Bangor. The success of this venture proved that the basic idea was a good one.
In 1979, Wicklow SC organised a Round Ireland Rally with a number of stopovers en route, to start and finish in Wicklow. This rally too was a great success and indeed marked the first occasion for the club to win the Club of the Year award.
Following this success, a race starting from and finishing in Wicklow, leaving Ireland and all its islands to starboard, was proposed and under the stewardship of the late Michael Jones, the first Round Ireland took place in 1980. Wicklow SC has organised the race every two years since then and 2018 marks the 20th edition of this classic off-shore event.
In that first race in 1980, 16 boats started out in Wicklow and 10 completed the race. Two of the race starters were multihulls. The overall winner was Brian Coad in his Rival 34 Raasy of Melfort with an elapsed time of just under 6 days and 4 hours. He went on to compete in another 5 races but in the very next race in 1982 took just over 9 days to finish.
Wicklow SC is renowned amongst competitors for its informal and welcoming race organisation. However, the harbour itself is limited both in area and depth and this has created problems in welcoming larger fleets and bigger boats. A base in Dun Laoghaire facilitated by Royal Irish YC was established in 2014, and this has ensured the further development of the race.
The current co-ordinator Theo Phelan, who has competed on several occasions himself, is very encouraged by the positive feedback that the race continues to receive, from sailors both at home and abroad. This event is obviously the jewel in the crown of Wicklow Sailing Club and despite the onerous demands it puts on the shoulders of all the members every 2 years, it will continue to be hosted from Wicklow harbour for the foreseeable future.