Maritime Cork: Rankins’ popularity restored by local wooden craftmanship

Maritime Cork: Rankins’ popularity restored by local wooden craftmanship

Building the new Rankin dinghy from the 61-year-old mould.

“SMALL wooden boats of traditional shape are a special joy.

“Even if your patience with varnish and sandpaper is at times absent, you can’t deny their beauty in construction and aesthetics.

“There is something special about working and maintaining wooden boats in general. It’s rewarding, cathartic and reassuring.”

Those are the words of dedicated enthusiasts whose forte is wooden boats. These boats do demand a lot of attention and great dedication, which is somewhat different to the maintenance of “plastic” boats - as the modern GRP hulls are often described - though they have their own demanding needs and that is without digressing into the reasons why some sailors have a preferred affinity for timber afloat!

Those comments in support of timber come from for the Rankin Dinghy Class. The enduring appeal of these boats has been underlined by the completion of a new Rankin, using the 61-year-old mould from which the first Rankin was built.

“From the roots of this revered dinghy class in Cork Harbour a new boat has been built,” the Class told me this week.

“This is part of the rebuild and restoration project through which Rankin enthusiasts have rekindled interest in the boats.” 

The roots of the Rankins are from the mid-1950s when Eddie Twomey and Eric Rankin produced the line drawings of the Rankin prototype. The first two were built in July 1956 in Eric’s workshop on Lynch’s Quay, Cobh.

Rankins became an integral part of the RCYC when it was based in Cobh, being extremely popular. Their light construction made them easy to handle and “effortless to row, motor or sail, so they were an ideal family boat for Cork Harbour conditions,” Rankin enthusiasts say.

When the RCYC club moved to Crosshaven “they became a choice mode of river transport, for commuting ashore long before the days of RIBS and the club marina was built,” according to one of the leaders of the revival, Conor English.

Like other dinghy classes over the years, Rankins sailing in Cork Harbour became a rare sight, but in 2014 a group of like-minded enthusiasts from Crosshaven, Cobh and Monkstown came together to see what could be done to revive interest.

Conor, in Crosshaven and Maurice Kidney in Cobh, drove the revival and garnered strong support.

The result has been a big revival that led to racing in Cove Sailing Club events, participation in Traditional Sails in the harbour and the Rankin ‘World’ Championships, sailed as part of Cork Dinghy Fest, in which 21 raced. The revival has identified over 40 Rankins.

The new Rankin is a further step, built by Owen O’Connell in the workshop of his brother, ‘Bud’ and with Dave O’Keeffe. The trio have been working on this project for several months. Dave owns the mould, having bought it and templates in the sale of artefacts from the Rankin workshop and built a Rankin himself in 1995.

“We’re very pleased with how it has turned out and, hopefully, there will be more Rankins built from the mould,” Owen O’Connell told me.

“It has taken more time as we’ve had to do a few templates as we progressed, so perhaps not as quick as the originals were done, but we’re delighted with having completed it and adding a further Rankin to Cork Harbour.”

The intention is to have her sailing in May. The Class are proactive in locating and restoring project boats and finding them new homes when needed.

“It’s the perfect versatile small boat for the harbour. Thanks to aficionados of the Rankin the future of this local craft is safe for many years to come,” according to the Class.

Nelson misunderstood by those who blew up his pillar 

Readers have been asking about my Maritime Ireland radio show which is broadcast on 18 radio stations around Ireland and on 3 Podcast services – Apple, Mixcloud and Spotify. 

Four of the radio stations are in Cork – CRY 104FM Youghal; West Cork FM; UCC Radio and Bere Island Radio.

The programme focuses on Ireland’s maritime culture, history, tradition and development because the sea around our coastline, the inland waters, lakes, rivers and streams, are all part of Ireland’s marine sphere and very important to this island nation, socially and economically. Ireland’s connection with the sea is as old as time itself.

On Maritime Ireland we discuss and report on all aspects of the marine sphere, bringing together the ‘community of the sea, where everyone is welcome.

This week, from that historical viewpoint, the programme has an unusual view of the blowing up of Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin - why those who bombed and destroyed it may have done a disservice to the British Admiral. Nelson had actually defended an Irish revolutionary who tried to kill the King of England!

There can be strange twists to maritime history.

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