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WbW#24 – The Irish Dinghy Racing Association

The IDRA gave it’s name to one dinghy class, but it was much more than that. In this article Brian Cudmore tells of his memories of racing IDRA 14’s in the club and we take a peek at a couple of locally held Dinghy Weeks of old.

As Brian will explain, the IDRA 14 dinghy was one of the main dinghy classes in the club for almost 20 years. Just as important was the organisation behind the dinghy which, along with the Irish Cruising Club, were the original National Associations for sailing in Ireland.

Organised racing, whether local, national or international, is one of the great draws to sailing and the IDRA Dinghy Weeks are still very much celebrated in the minds of our older generation. The club, through its bi-annual Dinghy Fest, continues that tradition.

Way Back When – No. 24 – By Brian Cudmore

When I first joined the Royal Munster Yacht Club in 1952 there were only two dinghy classes in the club, the IDRA 14s and the National 18s, and they were both of limited numbers so I felt honoured and privileged to be invited to crew on a 14.

Trolleys at a premium for these IDRA 14s and Fireflys launching for Dinghy Week 1949. The author mentions the similarity of the IDRA 14 to a National 18’s – there are two 14s and a punt tied to the white  motorboat – the (considerably bigger) boat behind is a National 18.

These boats were similar in design and appearance with lovely varnished clinker built hulls and from a distance to the untrained eye you would find it difficult to distinguish them apart. The 18s used to jokingly call the 14s the poor man’s dinghy as they said they could not afford the extra 4ft. In my opinion  the 14s had advantages over the 18s, most noticeably the fact that they could be sailed by two as opposed to three and the fact that they could be dry sailed where as the 18s in those days had to be kept on a mooring.

An IDRA 14 race off Camden in 1949, the first time Dinghy Week was hosted by the club.

In the 1950s, where the dinghy center is now built, was what was known as the boat shed. It was used for storing dinghys in the winter and for drying sails during the sailing season. Attached to the east of the boat house was an extension which had fallen into disuse and this was converted into a cadet room which consisted of  a shower and a sink, both with only cold water, and a horrible dusty concrete floor.

No. 47, Malacadoo, sailed by Ted Crosbie’s younger sisters Ruth and Sally c1956 with cotton sails and sheets. Cotton was quite stretchy so the halyards would have been hemp, another natural material.

The era of synthetic sail materials had not yet arrived so all the sails were made from cotton which were very prone to get nasty mildew stains if not dried properly after use.  At that time to the best of my knowledge there was only one sail maker in Ireland and that was a company called Perry’s in Dun Laoghaire who ran both a chandelry and a sail loft. To this day I still remember being brought there by my parents and the lovely nautical smell that emanated throughout the building.

14s off the timber slip, perhaps again in 1949. No, 31 is a Sutton Dinghy Club boat that had been built in Ringaskiddy as is explained below. No. 45 is Myth, George Bushe, and No. 54 is the first Miss Betty, Clayton Love Jnr. The number on the darker sail appears to be 56, if that is so then this is Monaveen, the mahogany IDRA 14 which became our author’s craft when Harry and Barry Cudmore moved on. Midweek races started and finished at the club line, right next to this slip.

The 14s used to race three times a week – Tuesday and Thursday evenings were in the river, Saturdays were out in the harbour starting from the grassy walk. For the evening races there was a permanent laid mark up by the lime kiln corner which was used as windward mark and the navigation buoy off the town pier was used as the leeward mark – with the prevailing south west wind this made for a great course. As there was no marina at that time, these races used to start and finish from the lawn in front of the clubhouse. 

In 1939 an Irish born naval architect named George O’Brien Kennedy designed and built a 14 ft dinghy, Fuss, which he raced very successfully on the south coast of England. It did not take long for the yachting press to hear of this design and it was soon getting good  reviews but sadly World War II intervened and no others were built.

In 1945 a group of sailing enthusiasts in Ireland got together and formed the Irish Dinghy Racing Association (IDRA) with the purpose of selecting a dinghy that could be raced as a national class . The IDRA later changed its name to the IYA in 1964 to the ISA in 1992.

The criteria they set out for the boat was as follows:

  1. It had to be cheap to build.
  2. It could be dry sailed or be kept on a moorings.
  3. It had to have a good performance but also be suitable for family sailing.
  4. It had to be capable of being towed behind a car.

After much research the O’Brien Kennedy design was selected and thus the IDRA 14 was born.  The first boat was launched in 1946 and it wasn’t long before they were being built all over the country – within five years fleets were established  in Dun Laoghaire, Clontarf, Sutton, Cork, Athlone and Dunmore East.

The IDRA went looking for a suitable one design dinghy to promote nationally and settled on this design by George O’Brien Kennedy. A large fleet was quickly built in centers around the country. The boat numbers were not sequential – for example Cork clubs were given a block of numbers between 41 and 70.

Dusk, being sailed here in 1961 by Dougie Deane and Donal McClement, was built by James Kearney & Sons in Dublin in 1946. She originally came to Cork in 1954 when purchased by John O’Meara.

After the initial build excitement died down two builders emerged from the pack who accounted for many of the future boats, these were James Kearney and Sons, East Wall who built many of the Dublin boats and DBL.

This advertisement has been published already in WbW#22 – Crosshaven Boatyard. DBL was a syndicate of three shipwrights  who moved to Cork for work, after a disastrous fire in Skinners Boatyard in Baltimore in 1942, initially in the Naval yard in Haulbowline. After World War 2 they set up in Ringaskiddy.

DBL consisted of three prominent shipwrights Jack O’Driscoll, George Bushe and Dick Leonard (Richard’s father) working from a small stone shed just above the high water mark on the foreshore in  Ringaskiddy . Dick later left to become manager of Crosshaven Boatyard a position he held until his retirement.

Between the mid ’40s and ’50s there were about 17 boats built in Cork Harbour most of which are listed below. Unless otherwise specified all boats were built by DBL.

14/31. Shearwater: built for W.L. (Laurie) Mc Clelland, Sutton Dinghy Club
14/35  Sanderling: built for Michael Appelby, Sutton Dinghy Club
14/36 Sheldrake:  built for Bunny Conn, Sutton Dinghy Club
14/41  Music: built by Vickerys of Cobh for Capt W. Payne. This boat was later taken over by his daughter Nancy Hall and raced in Crosshaven for many years .When the timber ordered to build this boat arrived it was very knotty and hence the appearance of finished product was not up to an acceptable standard so this boat was painted a nice light blue colour . This was the only painted boat I can recall.
14/42 Mirth: built in Cobh by JP Murphy for his own use.
14/43 Mary Ann: built in Haulbowline by D, Fitzpatrick for Clayton Love Jnr and Kevin O’Regan
14/44 Marie Rose: built for Dicky Woodley and later owned by Reggie O’Keeffe who sold it on to Johnny Wallace MBSC
14/45 Myth: built by George Bushe for his own use
14/46  Myrtle: built for Humphery Scannell and kept at Cork Boat Club, Blackrock
14/47 Malacadoo: built for Ted Crosbie. This boat was later taken over by Ted’s sisters Sally and Ruth who raced it for many years. It was always said that this was the first 14 to sail in Cork Harbour
14/48 Miniken: built in Crosshaven Boatyard by Dick Leonard for Bill Collins  (Egan’s Jewellers)
14/49 Frantic: built in Crosshaven Boatyard for Michael Sullivan (Richard and Tim’s father)
14/50 Miss Mable: built for Bill Everitt, Kinsale
14/51 Mystery: built for Joe Fitzgerald and later sold to Dan Kiely who later sold on to Tom Barker
14/52 Mercury: built for John Jermyn who kept the boat at Cork Boat Club, Blackrock
14/53 Original name unknown, renamed Simba later: built in Passage West by Dick Roberts for himself
14/54 Miss Betty: built for Clayton Love and later sold to Sean Flood, Dublin
14/55 Maybe: built for Johnny Love and later sold to Douglas Deane
14/56 Monaveen: built for Harry and Barry Cudmore later taken over by Brian Cudmore who sold on to Barry Hassett . Both 14/55 and 14/56 were built from Mahogany. Can you imagine the cost of building the equivalent to day?
14/58 Minetta: built for Patrick J. Kiely 
14/61 Mischief: built for Paddy and Dick Maher later sold to Johnny Vaughan who in turn sold on to Jim Donegan
14/63 Mungo: built by Crosshaven Boatyard for Brigadier General Dorman, Kinsale
14/64 Mermaid: built for Dennis Doyle and sold to Dublin in 1960

Another boat to spend some time in Crosshaven was one of earliest to be built 14/4 named Dusk: This boat was built in Dublin and was brought to Cork by John O’Meara in 1954 and later sold to Keith Thompson who sold it on to Douglas Deane in 1960.

Another photograph of Dusk – this time sailed by Barry Hassett with Dorothy Sutton on trapeze. She married a Power from Waterford, and it is in her kitchen that this photograph hangs. She is an aunt of our Admiral, Colin Morehead.




Our author has mentioned that the IDRA was not just about the boat. In fact the Irish Dinghy Racing Association was the national body that fostered and coordinated dinghy racing in Ireland. It became the IYA in 1964 and the ISA in 1992 and has recently changed again to become simply Irish Sailing. 

This is an extract from Adlard Coles – “The Dinghy Year Book, 1961” which shows the extent of dinghy activity in Ireland and which boats were sailed where, as compiled by the IDRA.

The IDRA coordinated an annual Dinghy Week – This picture is among a montage of images from 1949 that hangs mostly unnoticed in the upstairs bar . The first two images at the start of this post are from the same montage.

The event appears to have come to the club about every 4 years having again be held in Crosshaven in ’53 and ’57. This photo of Enterprises moored to an inflatable sausage is from the 1961 event…..

…. and we can spy a young Harry Cudmore with Barry Bramwell of Strangford Lough YC in the second group walking up the slip. In WbW#23 – Enterprising Days, we confessed that we had no photographic evidence of the early club Enterprise Class – thank you to Ian McKelvie (centre, top group) for sending us these photos which were taken by his late father Alex.

Irish Yachting Association Dinghy Week 1967 with Mrs Jack Lynch presenting the prizes for 505s, Fireballs, National 18s, GP14s, Finns, Enterprises and IDRA14s. Ursula Maguire, who for many years was the redoubtable secretary for the IYA can be clearly seen in the photograph of the presentation to Somers Payne.

Dinghy Fest is our newest bi-annual event, started in 2015, and is a modern take on the Dinghy Weeks of old. The race officer on this course at the 2017 event is Jack Roy (with his National 18 cap on!), outgoing President of Irish Sailing who, along with his wife Rosemary, has been a huge contributor to our sport…..

…. and the club are proud that former Admiral, David O’Brien, has been newly elected in last month to follow Jack as President. He carries on a great tradition of service by our club members to the continued challenge of nurturing the sport of sailing nationally. We wish him well.


And what better way to complete our story than to have a virtual performance of an old “laying up” supper ditty. Looking at the names it is quite clear that the events being referred to were those of IDRA 14 sailors!



Note: While the IDRA 14 dinghy has long left the harbour, the class is highly active in Dublin Bay with fleets in Dun Laoghaire, Clontarf and Sutton – the class website is at . Thank you to Ian and Gerry Sargent for their assistance with this post.


WayBackWhen is being published as a regular series as part of the Club’s 300th anniversary celebrations. Each post looks as some aspect of club and harbour life in the living memory of the current membership, and continues to be published twice a week for now. While the June and July elements of the Club’s celebrations have been cancelled (apart from the Fleet Review which it is hoped to have later this summer), it is important to note that the programme for August and September is unchanged at this time. 

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4 Responses to WbW#24 – The Irish Dinghy Racing Association

  1. David Hassett April 14, 2020 at 11:44 pm #

    Well done Brian – so nice to relive the golden years! Club racing was where we all got hooked. You could make a movie from the stories generated by Dinghy Week! Best Dave Hassett.

  2. Eddie English April 14, 2020 at 11:51 pm #

    Fantastic – great stuff Brian!!

  3. Paul Hassett April 22, 2020 at 11:57 pm #

    A wonderfull look at the past Brian. Well done

    • Jill Cross April 28, 2020 at 8:50 am #

      Most interesting article Brian – thank you !

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