Ruffian 23 Class

2014 Ruffian 23 Irish National Championships

The Ruffian 23 National Championships - hosted by the National Yacht Club were held in conjunction with the J109 National Championships at the weekend. Download results below.

Race officer Jack Roy held 3 races on Friday in very foggy conditions and winds of between 12 and 18 knots. The fleet of 12 Ruffians included 2 who had sailed down from Carrickfergus to compete in the event. Carrageen helmed by Trevor Kirkpatrick, defending Ruffian 23 national champion and commodore of Carrickfergus Sailing Club led on 5 points, followed by Ann Kirwan helming Bandit from the National Yacht Club on 6 points, and Chris Helme of the RStGYC on Diane II with 7 points.

Saturday saw racing abandoned at 1500 due to fog and lack of wind.

In order to achieve a championship Jack Roy needed to hold a 4th race on Sunday. Perfect conditions with 12-18 knots of breeze and very good visibility ensured that 4 windward-leeward races were sailed. Dianne II won 3 of these securing her 1st place by a point from Trevor Kirkpatrick from, Carrickfergus sailing Carrageeen. Bandit helmed by Ann Kirwan from the NYC was 3rd.

Chris Helme (Diane II) - Recieving the 2014 Ruffian 23 Irish Championship Cup at National Yacht Club, Dublin.

40 Years of Ruffian 23s

#ruffian23 – Congratulations, Ruffian 23s – you've passed your 40th birthday. It was the Springtime of 1973 when we were invited by Dickie Brown to go down to Portaferry for a sail test of the prototype of the new 23ft Quarter Tonner which his brother Billy had designed, working at the drawing board in creative bursts around three o'clock in the morning "when I can think most clearly, as at that time the ether isn't cluttered up with other people's ideas".

The first glimmerings of the idea had probably started back in 1969, when we were all doing the Fastnet Race aboard Ronnie Wayte's Mayro of Skerries. Ronnie had built this 35-footer to designs of his own in fibreglass in his factory in Carrickmacross, where their normal product line was steel domestic oil tanks. Weird enough, you'd think. But I – whose experience of glassfibre boat-building was absolutely zilch - was much involved from the start, simply on the strength of having won overall in the Round Isle of Man Race in 1964 in an old wooden boat.

Things moved slowly down Carrickmacross way, so it was nearly five years after that minor Isle of Man triumph before the new boatbuilding project actually started. But we made it to the Fastnet start of '69, and finished 122nd in a fleet of 250 boats. The smart alecs remarked that it had taken a helluva lot of boats to beat us. But we could point out that we in turn had beaten another 122 boats, and it certainly still stands as the best Fastnet placing ever achieved by an amateur-designed boat built in Carrickmacross.

With Mayro's crew including Dick and Billy Brown, not to mention Barry Bramwell and Dickie Gomes, that race of '69 was a hotbed for notions of future offshore racing projects, and the Brown brothers of Portaferry in County Down on the shores of the Narrows into Strangford Lough were the first to make the notions become reality. Dickie was the sort of can-do man who could turn his hand to anything, particularly if it was to do with working around or building boats, while his older brother Billy was a university lecturer in physics and mathematics who was also a dab hand in creative technical design. Through 1970 they developed the concept of a 34-footer, with Billy drawing the lines and Dickie building the hull of the new boat upside down in three-skin glued timber in a substantial shed conveniently located at the foot of his shoreside garden.

We should all have such a shed. Officially, it was a pig-shed, for in those days you could construct whatever you wished in the way of agricultural buildings in the Northern Ireland countryside. But though at times it did resonate with porcine oinks, in the winter of 1970-71 this was where a rather wonderful offshore racer called Ruffian took shape in a remarkable family project.

Ruffian was a star performer from the start. But after her very successful first season, the Brown brothers realised that if they were to achieve their dream of creating a viable modern boat-building plant in their little home town, a place desperately short of steady employment, then it would have to be with a more manageable smaller boat, around the Quarter Ton size. Thus Weatherly Yachts came into being to build the Ruffian 23, though with the hopes of adding larger sizes in due course.

The prototype of the Ruffian 23 was still being finished by Dickie and his team when I got his phone call, but he reckoned if I could get a crew together and head down to Portaferry, they'd have her ready on the last Saturday of March. It was blowing old boots from the northeast on the day, classic March weather, but conditions were improving as my brother James and I with longtime shipmate Ed Wheeler drove down the winding road south along the Ards Peninsula to Portaferry.

And there she was: Ruffian 23 No 1, just launched and still being rigged. This wouldn't be a test sail. This would be a maiden voyage. But there was now more sunshine between the squalls, and she looked great, a proper miniature offshore racing yacht just asking to be sailed, a big-hearted little boat.

But from the photography point of view, "little" was the operative word. I went off in one of Portaferry's lobster boats pressed into service as a photographer's launch, having told the crew on the Ruffian that not only were they most emphatically not to stand up, but if they were sitting up to weather they'd to crouch down, otherwise the new boat would look tiny and result in photos which would fail to do justice to her gallant spirit.

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Squally weather in Strangford Narrows. In order not to exaggerate the Ruffian 23's small size, the crew crouched down as best they could while Dickie Brown remained totally relaxed at the helm. Photo: W M Nixon

Welcome to the Ruffian 23 Blog

Welcome to the Ruffian 23 Blog