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Joe English RIP

4th November 2014
Joe English pictured at Royal Cork Yacht Club. Photo: Bob Bateman
Joe English RIP

#joeenglish –  Joe English of Cork, who commanded Ireland's Round the World challenger in the 1989 Whitbread Race and subsequently skippered 'Tokio' in the 1993 round the world event, has died at the age of 58 after a seven year battle with illness.

Joe was "The People's Skipper", an immensely popular sailor of international standing who always remained a Corkman through and through. He was an asset on any boat at every level, and the fact that he could switch from the demands of Volvo racing to cruising with his family and friends, both long distance and on his beloved Cork coast, speaks volumes for his qualities as a man, as a husband and father, and as a sailor.

He learned his skills afloat as a young boy from the family home in Cobh, and through increasing involvement with the Royal Cork YC on the other side of Cork Harbour in Crosshaven. His professional career in sailing started thirty-eight years ago, when he joined the staff of the newly established North Sails Loft in Kinsale in 1976, and his life path thereafter saw the development of abilities which stood him in good stead in any area of sailing with which he became involved.

Thus it was typical of Joe that, in addition to his stellar international offshore racing career, in 1994 he was closely involved on the shores of Cork Harbour with the inauguration of the 1720 Sportsboat project with designer Tony Castro.

In the seventies, Joe and his brother Eddie were amongst the first recruits to the new Irish Yachting Association (IYA) Junior training programme and Joe competed in both Cadet and National 18 dinghies. He won the IYA Junior Helmsman's championship with Neil Kenefick in 1974 and represented Ireland at the IYRU Youth World Sailing Championships in Largs, Scotland the following year.

He first competed in the Admiral's Cup in 1977 on 'Big Apple' owned by Clayton Love, Hugh Coveney and Raymond Fielding leading up to the infamous 1979 Fastnet Race with Denis Doyle on Moonduster.

Joe moved for a time in the late 1970s to Australia, where he was based in Sydney and competed in various major events. He returned to Cork harbour in 1981, where he won the One Ton Cup sailing with fellow Cork sailor Harold Cudmore on Frank Woods' 'Justine III'. They won all five races in a light airs series and then followed this with victory in the two-ton cup in Sardinia a year later.

Joe's position as one of the greatest and most popular of Ireland's sailors was firmly established a home and abroad when he was given the cruel news of early onset Alzheimer's disease in November 2007 at only 51 years of age. The devastating diagnosis came after he had been struggling with memory issues for some time, resulting in his retirement from fulltime employment in May 2006.

In response to this situation, the Joe English Trust (JET) was formed by many of his sailing friends to help care for him. The trustees of the fund are Richard Burrows, Tom Roche, Neil Kenefick, John Crotty, and John Bertrand. With typical fortitude, Joe and his wife April had courageously taken part in a very frank television documentary which brought home to everyone in Ireland, sailors and non-sailors alike, just how devastating early onset Alzheimers can be. Yet the programme also provided inspiration by showing the brave way in which they faced a situation which could have only one conclusion, and it added further to the admiration in which this remarkable couple were held in Cork, in Ireland, and throughout the sailing world.

Our thoughts are with April and Joe's family and his many close friends at this very sad time.

Funeral arrangements are as follows. Reception into St. Brigid's Church, Crosshaven, on Wednesday at 6.30pm. Requiem Mass on Thursday at 11.30am. Funeral afterwards to St. Patrick's Cemetery, Crosshaven. Arrangements in full are posted here.

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  • Comment Link Larry Keating 7th November 2014 posted by Larry Keating

    Joe gave me a chance in a life time and left me with an indelible memory. To have sailed an eventful leg with Joe in his command of NCB Ireland between Fremantle & Auckland in the 89/90 Whitbread was my introduction to the man. Taking me on illuminated his sense of humour, but through that amazing blue water experience, Joe introduced me to a wide audience of his friends. His memory lives on through the people he touched, I being one of so many. RIP Joe. Our condolences to April, wider family and friends

  • Comment Link Carmel Winkelmann 6th November 2014 posted by Carmel Winkelmann

    A fine young man in every sence of the word. Always a pleasure to meet both inside and outside Sailing. I knew the "English" boys since their Junior Days.and have many happy memories of their "exploits" in every way. Deepest sympathy April,and to your family. Eddie, Denis and sons both in Ireland and H.K. join with me in sending our sympathy

  • Comment Link Jeff 5th November 2014 posted by Jeff

    To say that Joe was a 'character' would be a gross understatement. While being a real pro, where Joe went fun always followed. I cannot but smile when I think of him and the many many fun times spent in his company both on and off the water. RIP Joe, I expect that you're sending it now with that infectious smile across your face, and there is no doubt that there's going to be a massive send off for you tomorrow and many many great memories shared amongst those that were fortunate to have known you.

  • Comment Link Eddie English 5th November 2014 posted by Eddie English

    Thank you for your kind words

  • Comment Link Graeme Handley 4th November 2014 posted by Graeme Handley

    Truly one of the nicest people I had the pleasure of sailing with and a person with immense character. Such a sad time for his loving family but rest assured that he left a long and endearing mark on a great many people.

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