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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- It had to be cheap to build.
- It could be dry sailed or be kept on a moorings.
- It had to have a good performance but also be suitable for family sailing.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 www.IDRA14.ie . 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.