Sovereign's Cup was the brainchild of Denis Kiely in the early 1990s. At the time the thought was that a regatta in the off year to Cork Week would make for a good event. Pat Pyne was also very much involved - as was another club stalwart John Godkin. The idea took hold however. Research was conducted and it was discovered that the ‘Sovereign of Kinsale’ used to put up a trophy for a sailing race in the late 1700s or early 1800s. It was felt appropriate that the proposed event would be named Sovereign's Cup. Most people think it's called after the Sovereign Rocks east of the harbour mouth, and why not? The original trophy being unavailable, or perhaps being a myth, resulted in a new one having to be found. Cork Dry Gin and Brown Thomas entered the breach and commissioned a special Waterford Glass "Sovereign's Cup" for the inaugural event in 1995. Another trophy called the "Portcullis" was made at the same time to be presented to the winner under the CHS handicap system which was gaining momentum. The Portcullis Trophy was based on the tradition of using a Portcullis in the KYC Burgee which celebrates the area's history.
The main idea was to make the event "Kinsale heritage" derived and play the PR angle on the destination of Kinsale and professionalism of Kinsale Yacht Club. It was decided that a Regatta Director would be appointed who would become part of the personality of the event and take overall responsibility for its success – in essence a one man show with a small band of helpers. This was unusual at the time as most yachting events were run by anonymous committees - the cult of personality had yet to become popular in Ireland!
At its inception it was decided that the event should be limited to 100 yachts as this was regarded as being the limit of what KYC could reasonably cater for - the event did not want to pursue entries for the sake of it and also did not want to compete with Cork Week which had 150 Yachts at the time but wanted to grow fast. The idea of calling the event the "Sovereign 100" was toyed with but abandoned as it was thought by many that 100 entries was far too ambitious and might not be achieved! It was also decided that the event would always commence on the last Wednesday in June and run over four days.
The first edition of Sovereign's Cup, in 1995 with Denis Kiely as Regatta Director saw 85 entries which it was felt justified the demand for the event. It is not an understatement to say that a lot of prestige and ego was hanging on the first event. The winners were:
When planning the 1997 event, Regatta Director Denis Kiely's team decided to invite the 1720's nationals it was also decided to make the Sovereign's Cup the CHS Trophy and the Portcullis the ECHO trophy to reflect the anticipated shift in yachtsmen's preference over the following few years. The 1720s raced a separate laid course (W/L with a hammerhead) and it became the benchmark for race management at the time. The weather was spectacular with high northerly winds, flat seas and sunshine. The 1997 winners were:
Having been run successfully on two occasions, the event was now established and while still an offshoot of the cruiser class it began to move into hearts and purse-strings of the club. Members who had moaned previously about the "inconvenience" became it's most ardent supporters. It put KYC on the map and indeed KYC won Yacht Club of the Year, presented by the IYA around this time. It was a huge achievement for Denis and Pat. The original formula, with minor tweaks, has been maintained by all since Denis Kiely's first event - because it works.
Tony Kingston took the helm as Regatta Director in 1999, and the winners were:
For Tony Kington's second tour of duty as Regatta Director, the year of the Foot and Mouth outbreak, the winners were:
For the fifth edition of the Sovereign's Cup, Pat Pyne took over as Regatta Director and the winners were:
Pat Pyne continued in the role of Regatta Director for the 2005 edition, the winners of which were:
The 2007 event saw Dave O'Sullivan at the helm as Regatta Director. Demanding conditions on Day 1 eased and the remainder of the regatta was completed in less gruelling conditions. 2007 also saw the introduction of the "IRC Restricted" class, an innovation that was targetted at Class 0 and Class 1 production cruiser/racers in response to the increasing presence of extensively campaigned one-off racers, as the Celtic Tiger roared to a climax. The event was notable also as the first clean sweep of the major trophies by Kinsale boats, with paralympian John Twomey in his modified Blazer 23 claiming the honours in IRC, to go with his class win in the ICRA Nationals the week before. John Downing's Jeanneau Sunfast 40.3 emerged from a competitive field to land the ECHO trophy.
In 2009, Tony Kingston returned as Regatta Director to present the eight edition of the regatta. The Irish Quarter Ton Championship was included in the format of the regatta, bringing a number of additional visitors from the UK. Winners in 2009 were:
With Gary Horgan as Regatta Director, the Organising Team attracted a commendable fleet to Kinsale for what will be remembered as a wet and windy regatta. However, racing finished on the Saturday with thick fog threatening to curtail racing! Anthony O'Leary's Antix followed up on her Class 0 victory in the ICRA Nationals in Crosshaven the week before to emerge victorious with a highly professional display. David Scott's EOS, which had retired from the ICRA Nationals due to a severly damaged gooseneck, emerged with a clean sweep of overall victories in Class 1 and IRC Restricted, but was pushed very hard all the way to the last race by a large and competitive fleet, with leading J109s Pat Kelly's Storm II and the O'Malley/Nagle team on Jellybaby keeping her honest to the finish of the last race. UK visitor Rob Gray made it 2-from-2 for UK visitors in the Quarter Ton Championship.
A new perpetual trophy was inaugurated in 2011, in memory of the late Michelle Dunne. Michelle was a giant in Irish sailing, but especially in Kinsale. Sadly she departed this life on April 5th, 2007 and left the Irish sailing fraternity in a state of shock and sadness. Now with the magnificent trophy to be known as the Michelle Dunne Prix d'Elegance trophy her memory will live on on at Kinsale Yacht Club in a wonderful manner. It will be awarded each regatta as Regatta Director Gary Horgan explained to "the boat in the view of the organising committee that most deserves it". Mike Crompton's Xpletive and her crew were the initial awardees for displaying the kind of spirit afloat and ashore befitting the ethos of the Sovereing's Cup.
In 2011, trophies were awarded to:
2013 Saw Mike Walsh take the helm as Regatta Director and KYC welcomed a 100 boat fleet to their newly refurbished club house for a week of glorious sunshine, breezy days and balmy evenings. The event included the Quarter Ton National Championship and welcomed the return of the 1720 fleet for their European Championship. The O'Leary family once again dominated proceedings and Peter O'Leary sailing in Spiced Beef lifted the Sovereign's Cup for Baltimore Sailing Club and the sports boat fleet.
For 2015 and the 20th anniversary of the first Sovereign's Cup event, Regatta Director Mike Walsh and his team ran the Sovereign's Cup jointly with the ICRA National Championships, which was due to be hosted outside Dublin that year as part of ICRA's policy of bringing their event to clubs nationally that have the facilities, organisational and race management capabilities to run the event successfully. A significant entry resulted, with entries from across the island of Ireland including Northern Ireland and the inland club at Garrykennedy. There were also a number of competitors that made the trek from the UK for the event. While not blessed with the same degree of sunshine as the 2013, competitors nonetheless experienced a variety of conditions, including a very exciting day's racing on the Friday where winds in the high teens and gusting to the high twenties combined with a short sharp sea state and glorious sunshine that brought plenty of thrills and spills on the day. The non-spinnaker fleet came up the harbour to the Scilly Mark in two of their races, providing a beautiful spectacle for walkers on the Scilly Walk and the townsfolk of Kinsale.
There was a significant turnout of J109s, meriting a separate set of results, and there was tight competition across all of the divisions, with some winners only emerging in the final race of the series. However, Howth Yacht Club's Equinox, an X332 skippered by Ross McDonald was deemed the worthy winner of the Sovereign's Cup 2015, having won the last 6 races straight in her division, and taking on the mantle of Anthony Gore-Grimes' Dux, which had to withdraw prior to the event due to difficulties encountered on the delivery to Kinsale. Howth Yacht Club was strongly represented in all classes, and Paddy Kyne's X302 Maximus was adjudged the winner of the Portcullis Trophy as she emerged at the top of a very competitive Division 3. The Quarter Tonners were much in evidence again at the 2015 regatta, and Tony Hayward's Blackfun proved to be unstoppable as she reeled in six straight bullets to win the Quarter Ton Cup. The Michelle Dunne Prix d'Elegance was awarded to seasoned Sovereign's Cup campaigner Richard Fildes and his beautifully presented Corby 36 Impostor.
In 2015, trophies were awarded to:
For 2017 Mike Walsh was again at the helm as Regatta Director and his previous experience in the role came to the fore. He and his team ran a faultless regatta for the 98-boat fleet.
The standout performance and winner of the O'Leary Life Sovereigns Cup 2017 was Rob McConnell’s Fool’s Gold, with a string of six bullets in a Class 1 IRC fleet jam-packed with top-notch racers and no less than eleven J109s. In winning this coveted trophy she belied the quality and competitiveness of her opposition with flawless execution allowing Fool’s Gold the luxury of discarding a first place! Pat Kelly’s Storm, triumphant in Scotland just a month previously could do no better than a string of second place finishes against the Dunmore East-based Archambault 35, and even John Maybury’s Joker II, so often a race and regatta winner, never scored better than a third place to finish up in third place overall in Class 1 IRC. Such was the awesome consistency of Fool’s Gold and Storm, they repeated their first and second places in ECHO, with Lauren Heskin and Jim Grealish’s NowWhat coming in third overall in Class 1 ECHO.
Sovereigns Cup Winner Fools Gold skippered by Rob McConnell Photo: Bob Bateman
Tony Ackland’s Dark Angel claimed two bullets on the final day to come home ahead of Conor Phelan’s Jump Juice and Johnny Mordaunt’s eye-catching Tshcuss in Class 0 IRC. In Class 0 ECHO, Robert Douglas on Spirit of Jacana was the meat in the Dark Angel and Jump Juice sandwich for podium places with two bullets on the final day helping Mordaunt’s cause no end. There was some consolation for the Jump Juice team when they were awarded the Michelle Dunne Prix d’Elegance for being the most elegant boat at this year’s regatta.
The Jump Juice team won the Michelle Dunne Prix d’Elegance for the best presented boat at the 2017 regatta. Photo: Bob Bateman
Local boat Artful Dodger, skippered by former KYC Commodore Finbarr O’Regan claimed overall victory in Class 2 IRC by the tightest of margins, squeezing out Kieran Collins’ Coracle VI by just 0.5 points after six races. 2015 Sovereign’s Cup winner Equinox, skippered by Ross McDonald, mounted a worthy defence of her crown and clinched third place overall by just 0.5 points also, in a fleet where every 0.5 points was significant. In Class 2 ECHO, Coracle VI claimed top honours, and the Portcullis Trophy for the best performing boat in ECHO, with Jim Cartwright’s Daydream Believer claiming second spot for the Liverpudlian team on tied points with Artful Dodger - getting her bow in front on count back.
Howth Yacht Club dominated in Class 3, where Paddy Kyne’s Maximus brought her 2015 form back to this year’s regatta finishing top of IRC on just seven points from five scoring races, after discarding a third place. Maximus was in good company, with the evergreen Dux, long campaigned by perennial visitor to Sovereign’s Cup, Anthony Gore-Grimes, in second place with Royal Cork’s Bad Company (Desmond, Ivers and Deasy) claiming third overall in IRC. In ECHO, Howth Yacht Club and X-302s claimed a 1-2-3 with Maximus, Dux and Eddie Bourke’s Xebec claiming the podium places in a very tight class, with Bad Company unfortunate to miss out on third place on count back.
Class 4 proved to be the most open class with five different boats claiming the six available podium positions in IRC and ECHO. Sybil McCormack & Ken Lawless’ Cartoon was the only boat to feature in ECHO and IRC, winning the ECHO division and coming third in IRC. Only eight points separated the top six boats in ECHO, with David Delahunty’s Fulmar Fever and Jim Monaghan’s Enigma finishing up in second and third place overall. In IRC, Sinéad Enright’s J24 YaGottaWanna claimed top honours for RCYC while James and David Dwyer’s Anchor Challenge claimed second place.
Howth Yacht Club’s Colm Bermingham on Bite the Bullet claimed top spot overall in White Sails 1 IRC in a tight tussle with Denis Murphy’s Nieulargo and the McCarthy Brothers’ Baccarat coming home in second and third respectively. In ECHO, Nieulargo claimed top spot for Royal Cork, with Shane Statham’s Slack Alice, often a competitor in the spinnaker fleets in previous events, taking second place, with the Waterford Harbour Sailing Club visitor forcing Baccarat to third spot.
Stephanie Ennis and Windsor Lauden’s Demelza was the runaway winner of White Sails 2 IRC, with a string of bullets for the Club Shamrock. Samuel Cohen’s Gunsmoke II from Kinsale claimed two second places on the final day to hold off Royal Cork’s Tom McCarthy’s Whistlin’ Dixie for second place with two points separating them in the end. In ECHO, Dermot Lanigan’s Privateer came out top for KYC, with Demelza shading second place from Tom O’Mahony’s Loch Gréine on count back. An outstanding week for Demelza was capped with the Howth team being judged the inaugural winner of the O’Leary Life Family Boat prize.
In the Coastal Class, the blown-out day on Friday meant that there were no discards and after the three races, the overall podium positions in IRC and ECHO were identical. Conor Doyle’s Freya, fresh from a broken boom in KYC’s Spring Series, claimed top spot, despite not matching her race winning exploits of Wednesday and Thursday. The Coastal Class was locked out by Kinsale Yacht Club boats with the Carroll Brothers’ Chancer second overall, with John Godkin’s Godot finishing the event in third place.
1720 Euro Champion – Anthony O'Leary Photo: Bob Bateman
In the 1720 European Championships, run as part of the O’Leary Life Sovereign’s Cup this year, Anthony O’Leary’s Antix was crowned 2017 Champion despite a heavy collision in pre-start manoeuvres for the final race. The level of competition in this fleet was underlined by the fact that there were seven different winning boats in just nine races! Antix was the only boat to win more than one race, and that consistency ensured overall victory from son and former Olympian Peter’s Dutch Gold, with Tom Durcan’s T-Bone putting in a final day rally to claim third overall.
Despite June 2019 being one of the busiest sailing periods ever seen in Ireland (with Kinsale getting its own early share with the invasion at the beginning of the month by the 50th Anniversary Figaro fleet), the end of June approached with other major events neatly filed away, and Kinsale ready and waiting for the O’Leary Life Sovereign’s Cup 2019 with a fine and varied entry of 95 boats in all Cruiser-Racers and two One Designs classes including the International Dragons in their National Championship and the 1720’s in their Europeans – facing into an interesting programme providing something for everyone.
Staging a major sailing event which best reflects the spirit of your beloved home port is not a challenge for the faint-hearted. When we consider the multiple factors involved in the completion of the complex four-day programme for the O’Leary Life Sovereigns Cup 2019 was carried out with aplomb by Regatta Director Bobby Nash and his voluntary team in their many roles.
Competitors were almost spoilt for choice, with four start lines operational. Irish Sailing President Jack Roy was in charge of the top end IRC racing for Classes 0, 1 and 2, Neil Prendeville looked after the two white-sail divisions (W1 and W2), Richard Leonard oversaw each day’s single Coastal Race which was favoured by mostly larger boats, and the two hot One Designs – the International Dragons with their Irish Nationals, and the 1720’s with their Europeans - were in the competent hands of Peter Crowley.
More so than ever – or so it seemed - it was the weather which had the final say. In times past, we lived with the possibly mistaken assumption that our weather progressed in a reasonably orderly fashion, coming in from the Atlantic and heading towards us in a regular and predictable manner mainly from the southwest and west in a way which usually provides sailable conditions each day, such that often on the south coast, the old cliché about “champagne sailing” can be trotted out at some stage.
But we’re living in an era of climate change, and far from Kinsale being comfortably located in a line of useful Atlantic-based sailing weather, the approach of weather systems from several directions – with some of them freakish such as the Continental heat-wave – resulted in Kinsale itself being at the heart of a meteorological innovation and manufacturing unit at Sovereign’s Cup time. Thus, although the opening day on Wednesday saw everything off to a cracking start with a good easterly, most weather predictions were suggesting that Thursday would be a non-racing day with Mistral-like easterly gales. And so it proved. In fact, national wind charts and data suggested that the strongest winds in all Ireland were funnelling right through the racing area off Kinsale. Having been side-tracked by a gale on Thursday, the fleet went out on Friday to drizzly mist which beyond the harbour seemed like plain old-fashioned fog. And with it was an easing south-easterly which was still sustaining a great big lumpy swell of a sea which was particularly unwelcome for those who had decided that the best way to get through the Thursday hiatus was to party the day away in Kinsale’s renowned hospitality haunts. But fortunately, the geography of Kinsale harbour enabled some of the classes – notably the white-sailed divisions – to get in some racing in smoother water, while out at sea, fog or not, a complete day’s programme was completed.
Nevertheless, this meant that the overall success of the event depended to a large extent on the final day’s racing being of at least acceptable quality. With the weather frontal systems - which had removed the easterly gale and brought the fog - shifting and evaporating ever so slowly to the eastward, there was just the chance that a nice south to southwest wind might develop, and seldom can weather predictions have been dissected with as much thoroughness as they were on Friday night in Kinsale.
Maybe there were prayers sent forth, but whatever it was, the hoped-for improvement came slowly in from the southwest and by the middle of Saturday afternoon the Race Officers had managed to achieve the desired number of completed contests in what had finally become a decent breeze, knowing they could continue to give warning signals right up to 1500 hrs.
Thus, the regatta started on a high and finished on a high with Saturday’s final race, which at one stage might almost have qualified for that “Champagne Sailing” tag. And as anyone who has been following the daily reports would have known, the pace had been particularly fierce where there was an element of one design or level rating racing, which had been seen with the Dragons in their Nationals, the J/109s in Class 1, and the Half Tonners in Class 2.
You’d be hard put to say where the competitiveness reached its peak, but the J/109s were hard at it and in Friday’s final race in the fog, the initial results may have shown Outrajeous (Richard Colwell and John Murphy HYC) as having moved into a clear overall lead of five points. But there’d been a bit of a bang with a boat from another class, and on Friday night the Protest Committee gave Outrajeous a very firm thumbs down - she was disqualified from Race 4, thus dropping from overall leader to fourth, leaving the Jones family from Cork with JellyBaby as overnight leader ahead of John Maybury’s Joker 2, with the only non-J/109 in Class 1, Paul & Deirdre Tingle’s x-34 Alpaca, in third overall.
But on Saturday morning it was another day, and just one race would bring a discard into the equation. With that one race sailed, the picture changed again - the chastened Outrajeous managed a win, got the discard, and was winner by one point from Tingle's Alpaca. The corrected times for Class 1 for Saturday’s final race said it all -Outrageous was first at 1:33:26 and Chris Moore and partners with their J/109 Powder Monkey are sixth on 1:35:18, with four boats between them and Outrajeous beating the second-placed Alpaca by 18 seconds…
The other hyper-hot cruiser-racer division, IRC 2 with the Half Tonners, may have seen the Wright brothers with Mata looking strong after two wins on Friday, but they’d had mixed fortunes on Wednesday, and though they managed another win today, the burden from the first day put them just one point behind Nigel Biggs’ Checkmate in the final reckoning.
In other classes as already reported, Frank Whelan’s superbly tuned Grand Soleil 44 Eleuthera from Greystones had a clean sweep in Class 0, while George Sisk’s Xp44 WOW found things very much to her liking in the Coastal Class and her crew put in a performance which would have warmed the heart of their late great shipmate Tom Power, and they won the two races sailed.
The White Sails saw John Twomey in cracking form with Shillelagh getting another win on Saturday in WS IRC2, while Shane Statham from Dunmore East with the veteran GK 34 Slack Alice found things just so in WS IRC1 to take three wins and the title.
In the end the Dragons came down to a battle within the Royal St. George contingent, with Peter Bowring in Phantom getting a first in the final race to put him one point ahead of Martin Byrne in Jaguar racing with 17 Dragons racing, while the 1720s saw Ross & Aoife McDonald in Rope Dock-Atara stave off the challenge of Anthony O’Leary with Antix in a fleet of 10.
To summarise the overall results,:
it was with an enviable string of all race wins that Frank Whelan's Eleuthera from Greystones Sailing Club took the overall trophy for The O'Leary Life Sovereign's Cup 2019 as the best boat performing under the international IRC rating system was awarded to Frank Whelan's Eleuthera from Greystones Sailing Club.
The Portcullis Trophy was awarded to John Gordon's X-Rated from Mayo Sailing Club for best overall performance under the ECHO handicap system.
The Michelle Dunne 'Prix d-elegance' trophy for best presented entry in the event was won by Patrick Burke's Prima Luce from the Royal Irish Yacht Club competing in the Coastal division.
In Class 0, IRC and Echo, was won by Frank Whelan’s Eleuthra.
Class 1 IRC was won by John Murphy & Richard Colwell’s Outrageous and Paul & Deirdre Tingle’s Alpaca won Echo.
Class 2 IRC was won by Nigel Biggs’ Checkmate XVIII and John Gordons X-rated winning in Echo.
The Irish ½ Ton Cup was won by Michael Wright’s MATA
In the championship events sailed within the O'Leary Life Sovereign's Cup this year, Peter Bowring's Phantom from the Royal St. George Yacht Club won the Dragon Nationals thanks to two race wins on the final day.
Ross and Aoife McDonald's Ropedock - Atara from Howth Yacht Club won the 1720 championship with all podium places.
In the non-spinnaker fleets, Waterford Harbour Sailing Club's Shane Statham on Slack Alice won the overall White Sails trophy for his straight wins under IRC plus his counterpart victory on ECHO handicap, a feat only managed by Eleuthera in Division 0 and Kinsale's John Twomey on Shillelagh in White Sails 2.