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: