History of BLSC
The Early Years
  On May 8th 1960, twelve men and four women met at the Downshire House Hotel with the purpose of setting up a sailing club at Blessington Lake. They were a mixed bunch, including the local parish priest, the Rev Fr Crinion, Michael Rigby Jones, MD of Irish Ropes from nearby Newbridge and Capt Paddy Harboard, a former German prisoner of war in North Africa. He was to be the first Commodore and a driving force behind the new venture. Many of the others were involved in the bloodstock industry. All had some experience of sailing and a determination to introduce the sport into a community with little knowledge of sailboats. It was after all less than twenty years since the building of Poulaphouca Dam and the creation of Blessington Lake. To many of the local people sailing must have seemed somewhat alien if not downright dangerous. The following were present at the Inaugural Meeting of the Blessington Sailing Club held at 6.30pm on May 8th 1960, at the Downshire Hotel, Blessington: 

John Alexander, Esq
Dr Brian S Freeman
Capt Cyril Hall
Phillip Kane, Esq 
V Rev Anthony Crinion, PP 
M Rigby Jones, Esq 
Mrs AG Harboard 
GM Watson Esq, "Enterprise" Class Secretary
Major WHE Welman 
LM Byrne, Esq 
Mrs Eleanor Samuelson 
Lt Col F McCormack 
Mrs Lelia Harboard 
Mrs Cecily Welman 
Capt P Harboard 
WP Macauley, Esq

 
An apology was received from Lt Col JPW Samuelson. Almost all present applied for Founder Membership.  In addition, the following were elected Founder Members: Sir Alfred Beit, Mr P McKeever and Clr J Miley.
 
A committee was duly elected and the meeting decided on the name Blessington Sailing Club as opposed to Blessington Yacht Club by eight votes to six. (In this they anticipated the Irish Yachting Association by over thirty years).  The group then adjourned, perhaps to contemplate the size of the job which they had just taken on.
 
The first task was to secure the approval of the ESB, Wicklow County Council, and Dublin Corporation, without whose co-operation not a single boat could be launched on the lake. In the climate then prevailing, the idea of allowing the general public onto state property for the purpose of recreation was not too well advanced. There was obvious concern at the possibility of pollution, talk of limiting numbers and permits being required for visitors to regattas. However they were a determined bunch and over the next two years, with the assistance of people like local councillor Jim Miley and hotelier Louis Byrne the various official bodies were brought onside.
 
The present clubsite is ESB property, and it was with their co-operation and goodwill that the club found a home, a situation which happily continues to this day.
 
Having got the go-ahead, a site had to be found, basic facilities installed and new members attracted. With family membership in mind from the outset it was agreed that the club should be a low cost venture. Members themselves would, wherever possible, create the facilities and run the enterprise without the benefit of professional staff.  In year one, numbers reached twenty-one and subscriptions £98 so there was really little choice in the matter. This policy of self-help and the appeal to children and adults together has enabled the club to grow and flourish, funded by very modest subscriptions.
 
The first Secretary was Dr Brian Freeman. He carried out a survey of all likely sites before recommending the present one.  Much of it was then wet and swampy with the present grassy field a former quarry. The possibilities nevertheless were obvious.
 
A recruitment drive was launched and the work commenced.  Quite a number of Army officers joined, especially welcome for their engineering skills and their enthusiasm for hard work.
 
The first job was to build the access road, known as the Burma Road, because it was built by officer labour. In quick succession a slipway followed and the harbour was excavated with considerable effort. The idea was to provide berthing for some fifteen to twenty small cruisers.  Unfortunately the entrance soon silted up and the cruisers never materialised.  Because money was short, an elsan loo had to suffice for several years. This meant limiting membership and, of course, cash intake. These developments were financed by loan notes
 
Sailing got going almost immediately from a base below Blessington Bridge. Plans to launch the club with a two-day open regatta were postponed until 1962.  In May of that year, with the blessing of the IYA, racing for Enterprise, Heron and Firefly class dinghies was successfully organised and the club was officially in business. 
 
In the following years, the annual open attracted entries from all over Ireland as Finns, 505s, IDRA 14's and Fireballs were added to the  programme.  Despite the rather primitive facilities on offer, Blessington Sailing Club quickly became part of the then sailing circuit. A reputation for good organisation and the magnificent setting established the venue in the minds of serious dinghy sailors.
 
The need for a clubhouse was now becoming more and apparent. In late 1964 a decision was made to purchase an “extended chalet“ from the firm of Barney Heron Ltd of Leixlip at a cost of £590. It was delivered in the following Spring and assembled and erected by the members. This humble building served the needs of the members for over twenty years and continues in use as junior HQ.
 
 
 
A Growing Club
 
The following year saw the election of Col Ned Doyle as Hon Secretary. The club had survived the difficult early years and Ned proceeded to build on progress to date.
 
A new rescue launch was purchased to replace the rowboat cum seagull outboard which had served so far.
 
A rulebook was published. Further landscaping and drainage was completed, giving the site its present appearance. This included the reclamation of the quarry area, at very little cost with the help of debris left over from County Council road widening.
 
The ablution block was built, incorporating quite advanced technology, solving what had been a major problem since day one.  It was also financed by loan notes.
 
A brochure was published listing the amenities including the clubs Enterprise “Venturer“, available free to members.  Sailing instruction for beginners and juniors was also on offer. The ease of access by car for family sailing and for picnics round the extensive and beautiful lakeshore was noted. 
 
Wednesday and Sunday racing were promoted and standards and numbers continued to improve. GP14s, Lasers and Mirrors made their appearance and quickly established themselves as serious classes in the club.
 
By the 1970's, the seasons programme had been established, the general outline of which has survived to the present day.  Proceedings commenced with the May work day and ended with the October clean up and rescue boat recovery. The June club regatta represented the high point of the season and the O'Rahilly and Harboard trophies added some spice to the racing. A cruise in convoy to Blessington village and a ladies race filled in the calendar. Unfortunately neither of these events survived the years, the latter perhaps a victim to political correctness.  A less cynical view is that ladies were now quite capable of beating the men. The children’s sports day has shown greater staying power and continues to be one of the most popular events in the club year.
 
The minute books (all of which happily survive) record an ongoing debate as to the best way to organise rescue and OOD duties. The argument was between those who believed that a rota, drawn mainly from active sailors, should be published at the start of the racing season and those who wanted a more ad hoc approach.  The second group favoured recruiting the necessary people from the floating population of non-combatants who, with suitable training, would be capable of doing the jobs. They had also, it seemed, little faith in members' commitments to long term rotas.  The debate continues.
 
 
The 1970’s also saw the advent of the Sunday Barbecue. A large barbecue was set in a half barrel following the Sunday race. Members brought their own food to cook on the barbecue and they enjoyed good food and good company on many a warm summer evening. In the early years some of the more energetic parents, (John Sheridan, Sidney Rowell and Eddie Deevey come to mind), organized the juniors in games of rounders. While the rounders has long since passed into memory the Sunday Barbecue is still very much a part of the on shore social scene at the club.

The New Clubhouse
 
With the passing years the facilities looked more and more inadequate. The tiny changing rooms and the absence of showers and hot water were an embarrassment to members and visitors alike.
 
A survey in 1986 confirmed that the time had come for action. The likely costs looked daunting for a small club with little surplus income or reserves.  The good news was that club member David Pym had agreed to act as Architect.  Vice Commodore and Master Builder Dick Roche was also willing to take on the role of Building Supervisor. Both would work in an Honorary capacity.  Spirits began to rise and a special meeting of members  agreed that planning should proceed as quickly as possible.
 
Within three months David had produced outline drawings and costs in the order of £60,000 were assumed as a basis for funding. It was proposed to finance this level of expenditure by means of a members levy, the sale of a limited number of life memberships and special fund raising activities.  In the event the total cost, including fittings and electrics came to £92,000. The difference was covered by greater fund-raising efforts and a five year bank loan. The loan was guaranteed “jointly and severally” by all of the then serving members of the committee.
 
Pressure to clear the debt proved a great motivator.  Quiz and race nights and various other money-making schemes did their bit. But it was the Mid Summer barbecues that hit the jackpot. Up to four hundred fee paying guests enjoyed the experience of partying by the lake on balmy Summer nights. Of course not all were balmy, but when the weather changed the tented village of bars, music and dancing created its own magic.
 
While all of this hectic activity was going on, David Pym was progressing the plans and the planning permission. The contract was won by Mick McGrath & Co Ltd of Ballymore Eustace who completed the work on time. The clubhouse was opened in June 1989 by Mr Dick Roche, TD (no relation of the Vice Commodore) in the presence of a large gathering with music supplied by the Tallaght Band.
 
Was it worth the money?  A commentator wrote at the time: “A huge budget for a project like this might have been expected, but in spite of extensive site works and selection of custom made materials, the end cost was below the original budget - surely a tribute to the committee and its Architect.  Club members and guests appreciate their dramatic and spectacular new building. They have a clubhouse which is not only practical, it is bright and happy in appearance. This vivacious pavilion is perfectly at home in its truly marvellous location and never more so than when surrounded by the brilliant colours of people in yachting gear and the bright bustle of sails and boats. It is unique". 
 
The clubhouse has worn well with some internal modifications.  Were the same building to be erected today, a cost of three times the original might well be expected.  Requests to stage National and Provincial class championships have multiplied. Sponsorship has been successfully sought.  The contribution of Heineken Breweries has enhanced many a post regatta party.
 
Blessington was host to the GP14 Junior Championships in 2003 and the GP14 Leinster Championships in 2006 and 2008.
 
The Club has become the home of the Catamaran Inland Championships and was host to the Catamaran National Championships in 2007.
 
Since 2000 the Club has become an established stop for the Topper Traveller series as the junior Topper Fleet has developed. The Club hosted the Topper Leinster Championships in 2002 and 2004, the Topper National Championships in 2003 and 2009. Topper Inlands in 2007. Topper Europeans in 2005.
 
The 420’s were the latest visitors to Blessington when the Club hosted the 2009, 420 Leinster Championships.

 Twinning
 
In 1996 the club entered into a Twinning arrangement with Newtownards Sailing Club. This was meant to lead to an increase in across the border sporting contacts and to reinforce the already strong relations between the two clubs. 
 
GP14 crews from each club compete for a beautiful Waterford Glass Trophy each year. The two clubs are open to and welcome each other's members. It is hoped that as a result, sailing rivalry and friendships will grow and multiply.

On the Water

The founders' policy was to promote sailing on the reservoir and all other activities were ancillary to this objective.
 
They had the idea that some sort of boat standardisation would be a good idea and decided on the Enterprise but this did not work out. 
 
Three classes, GP14’s Mirrors and Lasers, dominated racing for the first half of the club’s existance, and their popularity has endured over the years. The Catamarans arrived from Bray in 1987 and the Topper fleet got started in 2000.
 
The Mirror has always been popular with the juniors, whose enthusiasm for serious sailing has tended to fluctuate.  The seventies probably saw the greatest number competing when Sean Kenny won the National Junior Championship. And now in the new millennium we have a lot of young people sailing again.
 
The Laser made its appearance about the same time as the Mirror. Numbers were helped by special introductory prices.  Con Murphy, Cathy McAleavey and Martin Carey also represented Ireland at the Laser Europeans in Norway in 1982. The club was also represented in the USA in 1983 when Con Murphy was selected as one of a team of six to travel to Gulfport, Mississippi to compete in the World Championships.
 
GP14's have always enjoyed a very loyal following who are prepared to race and travel whenever an opportunity offers.  Peter Hannon’s enthusiasm never faltered.  He was National Masters Champion and was known, throughout the country, for both his racing and organisational skills. In 1983 Paul and Mark Phelan competed in the World Junior GP14 Championships in Mumbles, England as part of the Irish Team.
 
Cathy McAleavey with Ashling Byrne of the National Yacht Club represented Ireland at the Seoul Olympics in the 470 class in 1988. They acquitted themselves very well in difficult conditions at a time when there was little government funding for Olympic sailing.
 
Club veterans David Coote and Dave Constant recorded another very fine performance finishing in the top ten in the World J 24 Championships held in Dun Laoghaire in 1988.
 
The arrival of the catamarans from Bray in 1987 added a new dimension to Blessington Sailing. In its new home the fleet has grown rapidly and has been particularly successful in National competitions.
 
Con  Murphy and Cathy McAleavey experienced the thrill of a lifetime when in 1993 they were invited to join the late Steve Fossett (USA) on his 60ft Trimaran “Lakota” in his record breaking non stop round Ireland trip. They sailed north from Dun Laoghaire at lunchtime on Wednesday on the “Lakota“ and got back for breakfast on Friday, shattering the existing record, in a time of 44 hours, 42 minutes and 20 seconds. The Cork Dry Gin perpetual challenge cup was their prize.  This magnificent trophy is displayed at the National Yacht Club and the record stands unbroken 17 years later.                     
 
In 1995, Dermot Mangan and John Sheeran established a Dun Laoghaire/ Holyhead dinghy speed record of 7 hrs, 14 mins in a Dart 18.
 
The Blessington Catamaran fleet made a clean sweep at the National Championships which took place at the Lough Derg Yacht Club in Dromineer in September 1999.
 
Neil Mangan and Carl Smith won the Dart 18 and Cathy McAleavey and Con Murphy the Hurricane 5.9 National Championships. Gary Mangan and Amy-Jane Lawrence are the Dart 16 National Champions and Dermot McHugh and Julie McGuire the Dart Hawk National Champions.
 
Blessington’s Catamarans went from strength to strength achieving success in the UK and Europe in 2002. Neil Mangan and Aisling Clarke took 3rd place in the British Spitfire Nationals. Neil also took 2nd place in the British Inland Championships this time with Raithnait Long. Aisling Clarke and Matt Causon and, Neil Mangan and Amy Jane Lawrence took 10th and 11th place respectively in the European Championships.
 
The new millennium has seen a renewed focus on junior training and the development of the Club Topper fleet. A new generation of sailors has enjoyed great success at both a national and international level.
 
Julie Ryan placed the top 10 in the 2003 Topper Nationals. She went on to take 5th place in Bronze Fleet at the  European Topper Championships in 2004. Simon MacAree and Laura Ryan competed in the Silver Fleet.
 
Maria Dolan was the ISA Junior National Champion in 2007. Ben Lynch finished 2nd Laser Class. Finn Lynch finished 4th.           Finn was also the best under 12 in the British Midland World Topper Championships. Rory Lynch won the Killaley Topper Traveller the same year.
 
A year later in 2008 Ben Lynch took 5th overall 1st Place in the European Junior Laser Championship in Switzerland, while Finn took 1st place in the Topper Traveller series.
 
In 2009 Finn took the Silver Medal in the Topper World Championship in Austria. In February 2010 Finn became the first Irish Sailor to win a UK Topper Event when he won the Magic Marine Winter Regatta in Rutland, UK. There were 188 boats competing, in this first regatta of the Topper season.
Training
Sail training for both adults and juniors have been a feature of the club from the beginning. Through the annual Summer training school several generations of young sailors have learned the skills of sailing from the basics to advanced levels.
 
Over the years a number of people have taken the responsibility for organising and managing the Club’s junior training.
 
In the 70’s Colonel Doyle brought his own inimitable military style to bear. Those of us who completed our training in the mid seventies will recall work details organised to clear the beach of stones on days when the wind was too strong for sailing.
 
In the 80’s the baton passed first to Sean Page and then to Anna White. In the 90’s Ted Bowe,  Declan Scallan and Noel O’Brien took on the responsibilities.
 
For a brief period the Blessington Sailing School provided training for the clubs Juniors along with providing training to non club members. By offering training to non club members the Sailing School was able to provide more flexibility for the timing of Junior Training. However, the Committee realised that the bonds that formed between each year’s course participants was being lost.
 
Laterly Gerry Ryan and Peter Dolan have taken responsibility for running the junior training programme. The programme has gone from strength to strength as evidenced by the success of the Club’s Topper Fleet.

Safety

The emphasis throughout the club’s history has been on safety and respect for the lake in all its moods. 
 
We should never forget the  fatal tragedy that happened in April 1972. Two young men were drowned on a Saturday afternoon at a time when there were no other sailors on the lake. They had apparently put out in deteriorating conditions with unsuitable equipment. Their empty car led to the raising of the alarm and early the following morning an Air Corps helicopter located the bodies near to the opposite shore. This is a tragedy that must never be repeated.
 
 
Our Late Friends
 
Baron Martin de Robeck (1941-1996)
 
The Baron Martin de Robeck was elected Commodore in 1968, a position he held until his untimely death in 1996. Under his leadership the club enjoyed twenty eight years of progress, on and off the water. The great ambition of building a proper clubhouse was finally realised.
 
Martin was an exceptional man whose talents covered a very wide range of accomplishments.  No task was too great or too small for his attention. Whether the plumbing needed fixing or problems with the authorities had to be sorted out, he was always willing and able.
 
His contribution to Blessington Sailing Club is incalculable.
 
Peter Hannon ( 2008)
 
Peter Hannon , served as the club’s honorary secretary for many years and as club Commodore between 1996 and 1998.
 
Peter was an accomplished sailor and was well known amongst the GP and Sailing community. Peter officiated at several of the major competitions hosted by Blessington. His great knowledge of sailing combined with his organizational skills ensured the success of many national and international events hosted at the club.
 
Peter will be missed by his friends and fellow sailors.
 
Col E.D. Doyle (1919 – 2009)
 
COL E.D. (Ned) Doyle, was a distinguished military and foreign affairs analyst who served with the Defence Forces at home and abroad with the United Nations.
 
Col Doyle took up sailing during his time in the Curragh. As a result, he and his family became active members of Blessington Sailing Club in Co Wicklow, where the Curragh sailors were based.
 
Col Doyle served as the club's honorary secretary for many years, and encouraged many young sailors to develop skills on the lake and to compete in dinghy sailing.
 
Col Doyle was a real gentleman and he was a great presence during his time in the club. He set a simple and honourable standard in everything he did: "Never ask anyone to do something that you would not do yourself."
 
Hugh Browne (2010)
 
Hugh Browne steered the club through the development of the new clubhouse in 1989 as  the Club’s first non sailing Honory Secretary. Hugh was also club commodore between 1999 and 2001. The hall mark of Hugh’s tenures as Secretary and Commodore was his committment to both the family and volunteer ethos of the Club.