The Scenic Waters of Ireland
How does it sound to you, to sail in a beautiful scenery together with foreign sailors, who enjoy spending time on water? This kind of experience is possible in Wayfarer International Rally, which takes place annually either on the waters of Europe or North America. In this September the destination was Lough Derg in Ireland, where Wayfarer sailors gathered, not only from the British Isles, but also from the continental Europe and North America. The event is for the friends of cruising sailing, as the racers have Wayfarer Worlds.
Lough Derg is the biggest lake in Ireland and popular among water sports enthusiasts. Its length is 38.6 km (20.8 nm / 23.9 mi) and the depth 7.6 m (25 feet) in average and 36 m (118 feet) at maximum. Lough Derg is part of River Shannon waters, which connects it to both Atlantic Ocean and to the northern lakes of Ireland. I liked the big hills bordering the southern part of the lake. Lough Derg has only few underwater rocks, but many of them are named. For a Finn, who sails in middle of countless nameless rocks, such naming sounds bit funny.
Mentioning the rocks, it have to be noticed, that groundings on Lough Derg are pretty smooth. Supposedly the lake bottom is some kind of muddy sand, that makes the centreboard raise silently up. In the rocky and stony waters of Finland the grounding effects are often pretty frightening.
Apparently the lake doesn’t have nature destinations, but the trips were made to marinas, where we visited in Irish pubs. Of course it was nice to visit there and eat warm soup and drink, especially if the weather was cool.
There were comers from Great Britain, Ireland, Netherlands, Denmark, United States, Canada and one person from Finland. The British sailors brought their own boats. There were also available some training boats and two Mark 4s from Hartley Boats. The distance travelers could either crew the British boats or borrow one of the common boats. The sailors were very friendly and helpful. In addition to the sailing trips, the dinner was followed by social program, which included a barbecue, a lesson on accurate ship models, traditional Irish dance and potlucks. I was one of the youngest participants, and also as a Finn a kind of exotic visitor in the Wayfarer circles.
Every day there was a chance to participate to sailing trips, that started from the yacht club in Dromineer. My personal objective was to sail every day and test as many different Wayfarer versions as possible. This plan succeeded very well, as I crewed Mark 1 GRP, Mark 2 SD, Mark 2 and Mark 4 Wayfarers and didn’t miss any of the day trips.
The conditions varied greatly during the week, starting with a calm on Monday and ending with a light storm on Saturday. We had both rain and sunshine. The temperature varied between 10°C and 20°C (50°F and 68°F), that was cooler than in Finland. According to GPS track the maximum sailing speeds were between 8 and 10 knots during most of the trips. It was also useful to compare the best practices of the experts to my own and gain experience in different sailing conditions, that were quite challenging from time to time. Thanks to those trustful skippers, who let me steer their boats!
I also bought The Wayfarer Book, which has all essential information related to Wayfarer dinghies. It would have been valuable, when I was planning buying a dinghy two years ago. It’s still useful on boat maintenance and sailing. I also learned a new word. Boats that have been modified according to the recommendations of Ralph Roberts are known as ralphed boats. Ralph is a well-known Wayfarer experts in United Kingdom.
Visiting in the Rally was an educating experience. There were many new things learned and seen, and new interesting people met. The scenery didn’t leave the Finn cold, nor the friendly people either. Also, it wasn’t bad for my English skills to have one week language immersion. Next year the Rally will be with Wayfarer Worlds event in Friesland in the Netherlands, which is widely considered as the mecca of European boating.