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  • Southside

SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race launch postponed

Thursday, 12th March, 2020 10:24am

Story by Neil Fetherstonhaugh
SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race launch postponed

Denise Cummins, Wicklow Sailing Club, Jerry Dowling, Royal Irish Yacht Club, Barry Kilcline, SSE, and Hal FitzGerald, Royal Irish Yacht Club

SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race launch postponed

Denise Cummins, Wicklow Sailing Club, Jerry Dowling, Royal Irish Yacht Club, Barry Kilcline, SSE, and Hal FitzGerald, Royal Irish Yacht Club

With 15 weeks remaining before the start of the biennial SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race, organisers at Wicklow Sailing Club have decided to postpone the official launch of the 704-mile race that had been scheduled for this week.
More than 100 participants from around Ireland and abroad had been expected to attend the event at the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire but measures to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus mean that a brief photocall will be held instead.
However, with entries already running ahead of 2018 levels, there are no plans currently to amend the expected start date of the 704-nautical mile race on Saturday, June 20. To date, the 41st edition of the classic offshore race has attracted 38 entries from eight countries. Early-bird discounts are available until the end of March and current indications are that a fleet in excess of 60 boats will contest the race.

Barry Kilcline, SSE Renewables’ Director of Development, commented: “We’re obviously very disappointed that the official launch of this year’s SSE Renewables Round Ireland has had to be postponed but safety is our Number One priority. Hopefully we will be in a position to reschedule the launch to a new date in the future. In the meantime, we’re continuing to work with Wicklow Sailing Club on preparations for this year’s race, beginning on 20th June.” 
Entries received to date include Malta, UK, USA, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, France, Germany and Ireland while the race is a starred event in the Royal Ocean Racing Club's calendar meaning more overseas entries are likely. The largest entry is the 21m Neptune 3 from Malta skippered by Greg Miller. She will be joined on the start line by former Round the World boat 70-footer Telefonica Black under Lance Shepard from the UK.
First sailed in 1980, the circumnavigation of Ireland was described in 2018 by two-times winning navigator Ian Moore as the "Kilimanjaro of Sailing" and for many crews, simply completing the course is a memorable result.

Kyran O Grady Wicklow Sailing Clubs commodore commented: “Heeding expert advice, it was with regret we decided to postpone the launch of the 2020 SSE Renewables Round Ireland race, ensuring safety for all is our priority on and off the water. We are continuing to plan for our 21st race and look forward to seeing you all at the start if not before.”

The race starts at Wicklow with a sprint southward past the existing offshore wind turbines at the notorious Arklow sandbanks to the Tuskar Rock before turning onto the south coast and the famous Fastnet Rock lighthouse. The west coast of Ireland invariably provides sleigh-ride conditions before the challenges of tidal gates on the north before the stage back to the finish once more at Wicklow.

Ultimately, weather patterns and timing decide the likely overall winner that is handicapped based on each boat's IRC rating.

While big boats are usually favoured for line honours, if a small boat win is on the cards then Paul O'Higgins' Rockabill VI from the Royal Irish YC, the current Irish boat of the year, could be a contender.

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