The first race took place in 1980 with only thirteen boats. Since then, held biennially, the fleet has grown steadily, attracting a record 60 entrants from all over Ireland and the British Isles. In the past, boats competing have ranged from a 98-footer former “round the world” maxi, to club boats one third the size, with all shades in between.
The concept of a race around Ireland began in 1975 with a double-handed race starting and finishing in Bangor by Ballyholme Yacht Club with stopovers in Crosshaven and Killybegs. That race only had four entries. In 1980 Michael Jones put forward the idea of a non-stop race and was held in that year from Wicklow Sailing Club. 16 pioneers entered that race with Brian Coad’s Raasay of Melfort returning home after six days at sea to win the inaugural race. While Raasay has the honour of being the winner of the first Round Ireland she was also the last placed finisher in four separate races (1982, 1984, 1990 and 1992).
The race is uniquely identified by a series of waypoints around the Irish coast at which the competitors much report their position and time. While the introduction of GPS tracking in 2008 provides competitors and followers with up-to-date progress of the fleet, the check-in waypoints are a key feature to stay up-to-date on progress, giving competitors morale boosting race milestones and, most importantly, are an important safety element of the race.
The Round Ireland record is held by Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard. In 2008, a race dominated by gale force winds, the 100 foot super maxi finished the race in just under two days and 18 hours, knocking over 10 hours off the previous race record, set in 1998 by Colm Barrington onboard Jeep Cherokee. The record currently stands at 65 hrs 48 mins 47 secs.
The Round Ireland continues to be a big race run by a small club and for the competitors who return again and again, this is what makes the event so special. The warm greeting and round the clock bar service when returning to Wicklow bring competitors back to the race year after year.
Each participating yacht will have a YB tracker install before the starting klaxon goes off. The tracker will wake up at predeterminded intervals to collect and transmit data through the Iridium network. Once the data reaches YB HQ servers it is visualised directly onto our race player. This provides a way for families, friends and arm chair admirals to follow every twist and turn the fleet makes along the course.
For more information please visit the Wicklow Round Ireland website.