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Barking Dogs And Spritely Centenarians

11th August 2012
Barking Dogs And Spritely Centenarians

The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on. Most of us would probably have thought this was an item of pseudo philosophy which has been no nearer the sands of the desert than the beach at Tramore. But it will do for now to get the feeling of picking up the pieces and trying to focus on other things as we accept that the 2012 Sailing Olympics will not provide any sort of medal for Ireland.

It's harsh for the competitors, and agonizing for their fans. The dynamic between athletes and supporters has never been stronger, and with the event being held no further away from Dublin than West Cork, all involved could give it their best shot. Naturally we are now looking towards Rio. We were looking towards Rio before Weymouth. But the reality is that this year was the golden opportunity, in which resources could be maximized instead of being drained by the costs of campaigning on the other side of the world.

Those who would put the brightest spin on the results will tell us that the four years to Rio can be usefully employed in building on what were, by many standards, a solid set of results. Certainly there are countries much better resourced than Ireland which have been nowhere near the same placings this year. But how long can we hope to be building on good placings, instead of simply celebrating a medal or two?

At the personal level, four years is a very long time for the dedication required of Olympic hopefuls. Four long years, and out of a global population of billions, only three in each class get a medal at the end of it. You'd wonder about it. But then the athletes themselves reassert the Olympic spirit, and the show goes on.

Far indeed from the frenetic Olympics is the stately progress of the Tall Ships, and their arrival in Dublin in twelve days time will lift the mood of the sailing community. The traditional craft of the Old Gaffers Association will signal the start of the festival with a weekend gathering of ancient boats at Poolbeg Y&BC on the weekend of August 18th.

Meanwhile the renowned Ringsend boat designer and builder John B Kearney is being celebrated this week in Skerries with Mermaid Week – Skipper Kearney (1879-1967) designed the popular 17ft Mermaids 80 years ago. To mark this anniversary, Therese McHugh of Skerries, a former Mermaid Sailing Association chairman, organized the sailing of the Mermaid Thumbalina in coastal hops from the most westerly fleet at Foynes right round to Skerries.

Snippets about this remarkable voyage have appeared on from time to time, and we hope to see the full account in due course. Ceratinly there has been an upsurge of interest in recent years in the work of John Breslin Kearney. He was a largely self-taught yacht designer whose day job was with Dublin Port & Docks, but in his spare time in 1911 he began building his first proper yacht, the 36ft yawl Ainmara, working in a corner of Murphy's Yard in Ringsend by the light of oil lamps, and no power.

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A place in the sun for Ainmara, the spritely Centenarian. Photo W M Nixon

Ainmara was launched in 1912, and since 1966 she has been owned by Dickie Gomes of Strangford Lough, who is best known for his racing skills aboard all sorts of racing machines – back in the day, he was a formidable multihull and maxi skipper, setting round Ireland records and winning the round Ireland race.

Truth be told, Ainmara languished for a while in a shed at Dickie's farm on the Ards Peninsula while he was doing his thing on the international scene. But he was determined to have her back afloat for her centenary this year, and she looks better than ever, a hundred years up and still going strong. Or at least I hope she's still going strong. By the time you read this, I'm supposed to be trundling round the Hebrides with Tiger Gomes on his spritely centenarian. He tells us she's making a drop o' tea, but that's allowed, it keeps her sweet.

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For her Centenary this year, the J B Kearney designed and built Ainmara has been kitted out with a new suit of sails made by Mike Sanderson on Sketrick Island in Strangford Lough. Photo: W M Nixon

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WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago