There is certainly a wide variety of racing this season at Strangford Lough.
The Strangford Lough Race Calendar has just released its 2022 calendars and the busy months to the end of September kick off with the club’s two-day Quoile YC Spring Series at the end of April at the south end of the Lough.
Eight of the Lough’s clubs will organize a variety of events and regattas during this season.
In mid-May, the Squib Northerns at Killyleagh on the west shore of the Lough with the classic 102-year-old River class holding their anniversary series on June 25-26 at the Strangford Lough Yacht Club in Whiterock, where the weekend following the Club hosts the Ulster Laser Championships, an event which always attracts a large turnout.
This six-mile stretch of fast, strong tidal water, the Narrows at the mouth of the Lough will be the scene in mid-July of the traditional Narrows series when sailors from all around the Lough and visitors to further will take part in the four days – from 11 to 14 July.
The first club to appear in this area was the Strangford Sailing Club in 1946 on the west bank of the Narrows and opposite Portaferry the Cooke Street club appeared, possibly also in the 1940s. It closed in 1956 and reappeared as Portaferry SC in 1970. From a photograph in James Nixon’s excellent River Class History, it appears that the Narrows series existed in the 1950s.
The series is made up of four events hosted by Strangford and Portaferry. As told in the River class story. “As in many Irish coastal and lakeside towns and villages, there is a tradition of holding ‘regattas’ in the summer. Both villages probably did this from the beginning of the 19th century. Commenting on the event Fiona Hicks, Lifetime Sailing Member of Strangford Lough Yacht Club; “There have been regattas in the Narrows since they were invented, I imagine!” Last year this series attracted a large fleet of 140 boats.
The first race on July 11 is the Bar Buoy Race organized by the Strangford Sailing Club. Again, according to the River Class book, this dates back to the 1950s when Punts and Wychcraft raced between the two towns on the ‘Ferry Course’. When larger boats wanted to join a wider course around the helm buoy outside the mouth of the Lough was set up.
The three regattas, Strangford SC, Portaferry SC and Portaferry Town follow.
Interspersed with regattas and open events, there are coastal races, namely a race around South Rock off Kearney Point on the east coast of the Ards Peninsula, the Ardglass race to the port of fishing of that name south of Narrows on the County Down coast as well as Race and Cruise on the Isle of Man.
And an interesting addition to the list of encounters this year is the pre-50th anniversary of the birth of the Ruffian Class in the early 70s designed by the late legendary Billy Brown with his brother Dickie building the hull of the new boat. This was followed by the smaller Ruffian 23 (produced by the newly formed Weatherly Yachts) and it was at the launch of this successful Quarter Tonner that William was invited for a test sail of the prototype at Portaferry.
Ruffian’s birthday will be hosted by Portaferry SC as part of the town’s Sails and Sounds festival on August 6-7.
Event organizer Maura Ritchie said: “We invite all Ruffian boats to Portaferry for a fun race and the chance to see the area where their boats were created; to enjoy the festival and prepare for the big festival next year where there will be exhibitions, lectures, tours and lots of water activities”.
The family of the late Billy Brown will be there this year and on the anniversary in 2023. Maura continued “They are thrilled with the whole program”.