Cruising under sail along the coasts of Ireland has a long and colourful history, but it was not until 1929 that the Irish Cruising Club was brought into being to act as a
co-ordinating body for seagoing amateur sailors in all parts of a country which had only recently been partitioned.
Cruising clubs already existed in other parts of the world, usually founded in cities by like-minded enthusiasts at winter gatherings. But the new organisation had given itself a special flavour by arranging to bring about its establishment through a cruise-in-company by a small flotilla of five yachts on the southwest coast of Ireland. The inaugural meeting was held in Glengarriff at the head of Bantry Bay on the evening of Saturday July 13th 1929.
The leading inspiration for the establishment of the club came from Harry Donegan of Cork, supported by Billy Mooney of Dublin. Both were sailing enthusiasts of broad interests. Donegan was a founder member of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, having taken third place in the inaugural Fastnet Race with his cutter Gull in 1925, while Mooney was to be a class winner in the same event with his ketch Aideen in 1947.
Thus, offshore racing was seen by many of the early members as an integral part of their activities, and by the 1960s the ICC was organising Ireland’s biennial Admiral’s Cup teams. But international sailing was becoming an increasingly complex business, and it was apparent that the health of the club would be best served by concentrating solely on cruising and the services the club provided for its members and the cruising community.
By the 1970s, the club’s rules were undergoing revision, and in 1992 its purpose was clarified:
The objects of the Club shall be to associate sailing yachtsmen, to encourage cruising with particular emphasis on cruising off the Irish coast, to gather and publish information useful to yachtsmen concerning tides, tidal streams, harbours, anchorages, lights, navigational aids, shore facilities and such like, and to record and/or publish logs of cruises and passages undertaken by members
Ever since 1929, the Club’s members have worked voluntarily towards the production of Sailing Directions which today cover the entire coast of Ireland in two volumes. Sailing Directions for the South & West Coasts of Ireland – which began life as the South and Southwest Coast book edited by Harry Donegan in 1930 – was published in its thirteenth Edition in 2013, while the Twelfth Edition of the East & North Coast Directions – originally published as the East Coast book in 1930 under the editorship of Billy Mooney – was published in 2014. Both these editions were edited by ICC member Norman Kean
Since 1931, the Irish Cruising Club has organised log competitions, inaugurated by its premier award, the Faulkner Cup, donated by northern member James Faulkner. The publication of a privately circulated Annual collates the members’ cruising narratives, and today the Annual has become a profusely-illustrated 170-page book, published in time for Christmas.
Women members have always had equal rights in the club, and the first to win the Faulkner Cup was Elizabeth Crimmins in 1934. In 1939, the winner was Daphne French, for a remarkable cruise to the far end of the Baltic Sea in a little boat called Embla. So although the Irish Cruising Club – which has no premises of its own – is essentially based around a membership in Ireland cruising the Irish coast, its activities have always included a significant outward-looking element.
The ICC now has many challenge trophies, and each year’s award-winning cruises include major international and transoceanic ventures, including voyages into high latitudes. However, the club continues to be an amateur organisation without any professional administration, and in order to make this possible, membership is limited to 550, with applications being accepted each November for consideration at the Club’s committee meeting in January.
This article was kindly contributed by ICC member, WM Nixon