#SAILOR OF THE YEAR – George Kenefick of Cork is the new Afloat.ie/Irish Independent "Sailor of the Year" after an exceptionally diverse and successful season in which the 23-year-old Crosshaven skipper logged major successes at a wide variety of venues in an almost bewildering array of boat types.
When the international sailing season started, the focus was on Keneficks's campaigns with his family's little Quarter Tonner Tiger. But by the time he became "Sailor of the Month" in October, it was in honour of achievements as diverse as helming the 2012 Half Ton World Champion, and winning the Helmsman's Championship.
It might be over-stating it to assert that his 2011 record with Tiger ranked among the least of his year's achievements. After all, he did win the class in the ICRA Nationals 2011 at Crosshaven in June with six firsts and one second. But at the Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale which was staged a few days later, he seemed to have lost his mojo – Tiger was off the pace, even if they did finish in the top three.
Next up was the Quarter Ton Worlds in the Solent. It was serious business. So many boats carried at least one professional that a division for Corinthians was created. That was won by Kenefick, but as Tiger had been in contention in many races, we had dared to hope he might win overall.
However, while there he was recruited to helm a boat for an English owner in the Half Ton Worlds, due at the same venue in late August. It was a case of being dropped in at the deep end with a crew initially of strangers, and a huge fleet. But Kenefick kept his cool and there was no need to avail of any Corinthian clause – he won overall, first time an Irish helm has done so since Harold Cudmore in 1976.
George Kenefick and his Royal Cork crew in winning form. Photo: Bob Bateman
Then came the all-Ireland championship on Lough Derg, racing the SailFleet J/80s. He scraped through to win by a whisker. But a win is a win, and it should be remembered that for much of 2011, Kenefick's sporting energies were taken up with his position as Chairman of the Irish University Sailing Association. He is much in demand to coach youngsters training in Optimist dinghies at Crosshaven, where his father Neil introduced him to skippering at the age of three by letting him out in an Optimist at the end of a very long rope.
George celebrates the all Ireland win with crew men Mel Collins and John Downey. Photo: Brendan Fogarty
In this case, it has worked very well. At the end of October, Kenefick rallied his crew yet again to take the Cork team as Ireland's representatives to the Student Yachting Worlds in south Brittany. The only preparation they couldn't plan against was a draw for the boats – they were one of four international teams assigned to boats that were well past their sell-by date. Despite that, they tuned it to the utter most and gave it their very best, getting the Bronze Medal in this increasingly important event against a global lineup.