Class History

IDRA 14 History

Author Ian Sargent

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A very young Ian Sargent

The prototype of the design, which was called “Fuss”, was designed and built in Poole Dorset by the Irish naval architect George O'Brien Kennedy in the winter of 1938. "Fuss” proved to be very successful when raced by the designer in Poole Harbour in 1939.  However as Europe was sucked into WW2 in September 1939 private boat building in the UK and most of Europe came to a sudden halt for the duration of hostilities.

Whilst Ireland was neutral during WW2 there were however severe restrictions on foodstuffs and petrol and many other items. Travelling round the country was severely restricted.  The Government requested citizens to join the services on a voluntary basis and many Irish sailing enthusiasts joined the new Slua Muiri (Irish Navy Reserve Force).  Many of them knew each other from before the war so quite often during their duties they had time to chat and ponder on their favourite topic – sailing.  

There were relatively few dinghy classes at that time apart from the Waterwags (Dun Laoghaire), Mermaids (Dun Laoghaire), the BRA 12ft International Dinghies (raced in both Cork & Dublin), the Shannon One Design (raced in Lough Derg and Lough Ree) and other smaller classes.  There were no truly National Classes that raced in venues throughout the % Ireland as soon as the war was over.  And so it happened - they held a meeting in November 1945 and formed the Irish Dinghy Racing Association.  The aims of the new Association were to encourage and regulate small boat sailing in Ireland. 

The group had also been studying suitable dinghy designs for some time. They required a boat which was fast and yet stable, suitable to be kept afloat on a mooring or ashore on a launching trolley. The design must also not be expensive to build. They finally settled on the “Fuss” design by George O’Brien Kennedy after reading an article about the boat in 1945. George had grown up in Ireland and studied and qualified in England. Following discussions with the designer and agreement on some minor design alterations they adopted the boat as an Irish National Class and called it the “Irish Dinghy Racing Association 14 Foot One Design Dinghy”.  Very quickly it was found that the name of this new Class was rather too large a mouthful to pronounce and it was very quickly shortened to “IDRA 14 ft Dinghy” or more simply “IDRA 14”.  Although the Irish Dinghy Racing Association later on in 1964 changed it’s name to the “The Irish Yachting Association” and more recently in 1992 to “The Irish Sailing Association” the class retained the name  “IDRA 14.”

The new association also adopted the other classes mentioned earlier and also the new Firefly dinghy - designed by the famous designer Uffa Fox.  Interestingly, all the designs, with the exception of the Firefly were of traditional clinker construction. The Firefly was manufactured of cold moulded plywood - a new type of construction that had been developed during the war for aircraft production. 

Early 1950's, Lough Ree Yacht CLub
Start line at a Dun Laoghaire Regatta 1978

 The first IDRA 14’s were launched in the summer of 1946 and the first races were held in Dun Laoghaire and Clontarf.  Within the next five years fleets were set up in various locations - the main ones being in Dublin (Dun Laoghaire / Clontarf / Sutton & Kilbarrack), Cork Harbour, Athlone, and Waterford. There were smaller in other clubs.  National Championships were held from 1947 onwards as part of the “IDRA Dinghy Week”.  At these events the Irish Dinghy Racing Association arranged for different venues to host the National Championships of the classes to which they had granted National status.  Dinghy Weeks had championship racing each day from the Monday to the Thursday.  On the Friday they took the new champions from each Class and sailed them against each other in a nominated class. The winner of this event was proclaimed “the Helmsman Champion of Ireland” with a huge silver salver as the prize.  This became a much sought after trophy and is still keenly raced for today – however in a much altered format. Dinghy Week became extremely popular as the new classes including IDRA 14’s and Fireflies proved popular, a surge in Dinghy sailing took place.  Dinghy Week was held in many venues including Dun Laoghaire (Royal St George Yacht Club), Cork (Royal Munster Yacht Club),  Dromineer (Lough Derg Yacht Club),  Athlone (Lough Ree Yacht Club),  Baltimore (Baltimore Sailing Club,  Dunmore East (Waterford Harbour Sailing Club). 

Many of Irelands top sailors of the time sailed in IDRA 14’s such as Douglas Heard (first President of the new Association) Jimmy Mooney and Hugh Allen in Dun Laoghaire; Somers Payne, Teddy Crosbie, George} Bushe and Clayton Love (Jnr) in Cork;  J.K.(Jackie) O’Reilly and Sean Flood in Clontarf and Noel (Bunny) Conn in Sutton.  Many of these sailors were well known abroad as well as in Ireland and represented the countthe 1960’s by the Scorpions and Fireballs.  Most of these designs were of plywood construction and proved cheaper and easier to build than the IDRA 14’s.  As a result the number of new IDRA 14’s built declined sharply.  Interest in the class outside Dublin waned and by the mid 1960’s fleet racing became mainly confined to the Dublin area.  Nevertheless the class racing in Dublin was strong - with over twenty boats competing in many of the Dublin regattas at the time.  During this period the class made some changes to improve performance – introduction of trapezes and Terylene sails (1960); dropping the weights from the rudder & centreboard and removal of side seating (1963); reintroduction of spinnakers (1974). Up to 1961 the National Sailing Authority had administered the class bry at international & Olympic events.

During the 1950’s onwards-newer classes such as the Hornet, GP 14, Enterprise and 505 arrived on the scene – to be followed in ut the class decided to set up its own class association in order to more actively control the class. 

14/138 Lorcan O Sullivan and David Rea
14/54 John Pollard 

 From 1969 onwards some members of the class, led by Ian Sargent started a campaign to get approval for GRP hulls as there were few new wooden boats being built. Initially there was a majority against the proposals. However following long consultations with all concerned approval was obtained from the class association. The designer was approached and he agreed to modify the design of the hull for GRP construction to incorporate buoyancy tanks.  The class then raised the necessary funds and Charlie Sargent was requested to make a plywood plug from which the mould would be made. The mould had to be made in two parts because of the “tumble home” in the boats design.  The first GRP hull (with wooden deck) made its appearance at the Dublin Boat Show in 1977.  The hull had been moulded by Delcraft of Malahide and the decking,  woodwork and fit out was completed by Charlie & Ian Sargent. The boat was much admired and as a result many new boats were ordered from Delcraft .  Two years later the class allowed GRP decks as well as this further reduced the time taken to produce new boats.  Numbers competing in events rose again for the first time in years as new people were attracted to the class.  

With the passage of time and the stresses of weather many of the boats have been lost – mainly through gales or neglect – whilst many others just simply “disappeared”. The class is now centred in three locations – Dun Laoghaire on the south side of Dublin Bay and Clontarf & Sutton on the north side of Dublin Bay.  Each of these locations has active fleet racing each week. There are other clubs in Ireland where boats are located in small numbers.

The class attends regattas in the Dublin area and has two away (outside Dublin) events each year.  The annual June Bank Holiday sees us at Carlingford Lough Yacht Club in Killowen (near Rostrevor) on the shores of Carlingford Lough – truly one of the most beautiful settings in Ireland with the backdrop being the mountains of Mourne. The sunset views from this club are stunning.  Our National Championships are held each August at different locations – recent years have seen us visit Athlone, Sligo, Newtownards, Killowen, Carlingford, Enniskillen, Wexford and Galway.  2012 saw our championships again hosted by Lough Erne Yacht Club in Enniskillen. The event was memorable as for the first time we had an all female crew emerge as close winners – Julie Ascoop and Heather Keenan of CY&BC in 14/143 “Chaos”.

Restoration of 14/4 'Dusk' - Tom O Brien
Restoration of Dusk sponsored by West Epoxy products (Waller & Wickham)

Following on the publicity of the restoration of “Dusk” in 1993 by David O’Brien of Afloat Magazine (which was also covered by Classic Boat Magazine) there is much more awareness of the pleasure and satisfaction to be attained in restoring wooden boats. This article helped rejuvenate interest in restoring wooden clinker boats. Many have been restored and two completely rebuilt.  Since 2000 the Class have tried to ensure that derelict boats are acquired and stored until they can be restored – however some have deteriorated so badly that it is impractical to restore them.  The GRP boats are now over 30 years old and some “refurbs” have been carried out on them as well.   All of this has resulted in extra boats returning to the fleet.

The class has always been known as a friendly class” with shore activities rated in the same importance as water borne ones. We have also very family orientated and everyone – including everyone from the grannies to the grandchildren are very welcome at our events.  This resulted in our two “away” (outside Dublin) events each year being very popular with the host clubs – especially the bar profits! Our championships in Lough Ree Yacht Club (Athlone) last year had 28 boats competing – the largest number of entries at any event since the class was founded. The total number of people at the event was 120 (incl. 10 kids and not counting the dogs!) – not bad for a class that has been around for sixty-five years.  Our Championships are now a much sought after event as clubs are acutely aware of the bar revenue and camaraderie our class generate at events..

In 2007 we held our official 60th birthday celebrations in Clontarf Yacht and Boat Club with three days of festivities. Many former sailors from all over Ireland and abroad joined us for the event. A group of eleven persons from the Dragonfly Class (our sister fleet in the UK) also visited. On the Friday we had inter club racing with teams from the Irish clubs and the Dragonflies. On Saturday we held racing for current owners and crews plus the Dragonfly guests. The wind blew strongly and those on the promenade in front of CY&BC had wonderful views of sailing, capsizing and bailing etc! On Sunday we had arranged for a line up of as many boats as possible – including those in need of restoration etc.  Garages and sheds were raided and boats taken to Clontarf whether they were seaworthy or not. Finally 42 boats were lined up on the promenade for review – an absolute record turnout of IDRA 14’s (the previous record was 10 years earlier at the 50th celebrations).  Also present was a “Yachting World Dayboat” – another design by George O’Brien Kennedy.  Racing on Sunday was for former owners & crews and 25 boats participated despite fairly strong weather conditions. Many former skippers & crews from over the years turned up to enjoy the event and indeed John Patterson who had crewed in one of the first races in 1946 actually crewed again in 2007.  Further social activities were held ashore in the clubhouse throughout the weekend. 

To round off the Diamond Jubilee season we had a wonderful sell out formal dinner of over 120 people in the Royal St. George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire.  The general “buzz” at the dinner was electric and the formalities and speeches went well (IDRA 14 sailors are renowned for heckling at such times).  After the formalities were over the more usual activities continued well into the night in traditional IDRA 14 style. During the dinner we made presentations of framed half models of IDRA 14’s to each of the clubs where the IDRA 14’s are still raced. We had also previously presented one to the Dragonfly Fleet at the event in Clontarf.

In total 122 IDRA 14’s were built from 1946 to 1995 - 88 were wooden boats of which 13 were built in Baltimore, Co. Cork by An Bord Iascaigh Mara (Irish Sea Fisheries Board) as training for their apprentice shipwrights. 34 GRP boats were built.  Most of the Bord Iascaigh Mara boats were sold off to the people who built them or locals in the West Cork area so only a couple of these boats ever became active in class events.

We are all delighted to announce the latest news from the class - a group led by Ronan Melling of CY&BC are going to build a new wooden IDRA 14 which will be the first new wooden hulled boat for 30 years. They have sourced the timber from Stones boatyard in Salcombe, Devon, UK - (the timber is sitka spruce of Canadian origon).  The boat will be built in the boatshed in Clontarf Yacht & Boat club.  Sail no 14/166 has been allocated to this boat. They are grateful for the help of the Mermaid Class in Rush Sailing Club who have been most helpful in the setting up of this project and sourcing suitable timber. (The team in Rush launched four new clinker built “Mermaids” in 2012).

We have compiled a listing of all boats built and whilst we are aware of the demise of many of our “Fourteens” we are keen to find the location of some of our “missing” boats. A copy of our boat listing can be made available on request. 

Any information or enquiries should be sent to Ian Sargent Class Historian.

Ian Sargent

Other designs by George O’Brien Kennedy

George O’Brien Kennedy also designed the highly successful “Yachting World Dayboat”.

George told us this design differed too much from the “Fuss” design to be considered “the same boat” as the “Fuss” design.  However many of the characteristics are the same – the Yachting World had asked him in 1949 (twelve years after he had designed “Fuss”) to submit a design that would be “robust, round bilged and suitable for family sailing and be capable of standing up to some of the more difficult open waters encountered round the UK coast.” 

 George’s design was based on Fuss but is rather different in appearance than the IDRA 14. His design was accepted and over 700 boats were built to this design.  GRP hulls were introduced in the late 1960’s.

There are some YW Dayboats in Ireland – with a fleet of six in Castletownsend in West Cork.

George also designed many other dinghies, cruising yachts (of which the revolutionary “Brainstorm” design was the most notable), motor cruisers, fishing vessels and other types of craft in a long lifetime of boat design.

Sadly George passed away in the late 1990’s having just completed designs for new fishing vessels for the west of Ireland – one of them for his son.  His family received a telegram from the Point Yacht Club in Durban offering their condolences on his passing.

George was born on 12th December 1912 (12/12/12).  To mark the anniversary a small reception was held in CY&BC, which was attended by members of his family together with members of the Class. 

As long as we all continue to sail, enjoy or just admire the beauty of the boats the brilliance of George’s “Fuss” design will never be forgotten…

Club Identification

Clubs where IDRA 14's were based at one time or another... view more

In the UK

In the UK the Class (with minor hull modifications) ware sailed in three different locations... view more

In South Africa

In Durban, South Africa, the article on the “Fuss” design in an English sailing magazine was noticed... view more