‘Maybird’ sets records: Fastnet, 2011 and Round Ireland, 2018

The 2020 Round Ireland Race has been postponed until August, due to the Coronovirus pandemic. Looking back a couple of years to a record-breaking ‘old gaffer’, we bring an extract from Winkie Nixon’s reports on the 1937 gaff ketch ‘Maybird’ competing in 2018, along with a video link to show her restoration.

When the 1937-vintage Tyrrell of Arklow-built 43ft gaff ketch ‘Maybird’ skippered by OGA Dublin Bay member, Darryl Hughes finally crossed the line at Wicklow to record the longest-ever time for a Volvo Round Ireland Race, little did her crew of eight expect that their unique achievement would bring them popular fame.

‘Maybird’ completes Round Ireland Race, 2018 Photo: Maeve Quinn

But the fact that they kept gamely battling on against a wide variety of difficult sailing conditions, which had made the 704 miles course very challenging for even the most modern racing machines, gave the ‘Maybird’ finish a special appeal. During the race, as the newer faster boats slipped away, ‘Maybird’ was soon sailing a challenge of her own. Where the leaders had fair winds, she eventually found calm or headwinds. Where they’d had strong winds, by the time ‘Maybird’ got there, conditions had become light – particularly off the West Coast, putting frustration amidst all the extra difficulties of sailing the Atlantic.

The distinctive blue mizzen staysail – the lightest sail, in the ship – was up and down so many times that owner Darryl Hughes, who personally Project Managed the ‘Maybird’ Restoration in 2009-2011, reckons that if he got €1 for every time it was set or stowed, he could buy a whole new set of sails. They also had plenty of work to use the floater set forward of the mainmast. But the real progress was made when ‘Maybird’ was lucky enough to experience a good reaching breeze. She burned off the miles in style.

As the reality of what had been achieved began to be fully realised, the celebrations and acknowledgement came thick and fast. ‘Maybird’ is the oldest boat and the only gaff-rigged vessel ever to complete the Round Ireland course. And as she also completed the Fastnet Race in 2011, she has now registered a remarkable double.

Watch the video of how ‘Maybird’ was restored and visit her website for more information.

The Maybird Story from Finn Beales on Vimeo.