Last week, I had the good fortune to be invited to sail in the Water Wag visitor race in Dun Laoghaire. I have been in contact with Hal Sisk (owner of Water Wag #18, ‘Good Hope’) as my uncle, Derek Paine, had built 4 Water Wags in the past and I have a genuine interest in learning more about this wonderful boat. It was wonderful to walk around the dinghy pen with Hal, looking at the slight differences in the boats and the little touches that various builders had done to leave their mark. It was also good to see the real beauty of the boats that Derek had built, with their thwart inlay.
Hal invited me to sail ‘Good Hope’ with his regular crew, Sue and I was delighted to join 26 other Water Wags on the start. Now, 27 doesn’t sound like a big number, but there would be many classes who would love to get 27 boats at their National Championships, let alone a club race. The previous week, there were 31 boats on the start line, a record for the class.
The Water Wag is the oldest one design dinghy in existence, having been devised in 1886 and formalized as a one design class in Ireland in 1887. The design (last modified in 1900) is still sailed to this day. One of the boats racing last week, ‘Pansy’, owned by Vincent Delaney, is over 100 years old. ‘Good Hope’ is a relative newcomer to the fleet, only being 41 years old!
The boats are 14′ 3″ feet long and 5′ 3″ wide. They are gunter rigged and designed so that all of the spars fit inside the boat. The small triangular spinnaker is flown inside the forestay, in the same way that many of the huge racing yachts of the past flew theirs. That was a very new experience for me and I am glad that Sure kept me straight!
After racing, everyone went across to the Royal St George YC (we had been racing from the Royal Irish) for a drink and I cornered Cathy McAleavey for a chunk of the evening to talk about building a Water Wag. Cathy is a very accomplished sailor, having raced in the Olympics. She is also Annelise Murphy’s mum – Annelise won a silver medal, sailing at the Rio Olympics. Cathy has built her own Water Wag, and continues to work closely with renowned boat builder, Jimmy Furey, in Roscommon. THey are currently restoring an old Water Wag. Jimmy is a legend in the world of clinker boat building in Ireland – have a look at this link to read more about him: http://www.classicboat.co.uk/articles/leading-by-example/2/
She is a real mine of information and I hope to catch up with her again soon.
Its worth having a look at this short clip from ‘Newstime’ from the Water Wag centenary year in 1987. It tells the story of Water Wags and also has a lovely short interview with Derek Paine.
If time (and work on Koala) permits, I would love to build my own Water Wag some day.