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Local Heroes

29th September 2012
Local Heroes

Arise, Schull, and take your place among the great sailing centres of the world. Move over Sydney. Newport stand aside. Cowes make room. The port in West Cork is punching way above its weight, and last weekend it hosted a superb National Junior Championship which saw a local boy as runaway winner against the best that Ireland can produce.

Fionn Lyden (17) is the Independent "Sailor of the Month" for September after nine wins in nine races in the Irish Sailing Association Junior All Ireland Sailing Championship, racing in a fleet of 21 of the top helming talents recruited nationwide.

But what we're celebrating here isn't just one special talent, rather it's the entire Schull spirit with a thriving Community College which has sailing and maritime studies at the heart of its curriculum. It's not something which has happened overnight. It has been built up by many dedicated enthusiasts over decades, and today's rich legacy of healthy involvement with boats and sailing invigorates the town and its part of West Cork, an enormous credit to those who have worked away in the background to make it happen, and keep it happening.

These days the leading organisational figure is David Harte. Lucky indeed is Schull, that this was the place this exceptionally talented sailor, teacher and boat builder always called home while he developed his early career at the sharp end of international sailing all over the world.

The racing last weekend under Harte's direction was in the boats of the Schull-developed TR 3.6 class, and as they're sailed two up it could be argued that this gave an advantage to those accustomed to double-handed dinghies. But that's the way it is in sailing, and as the programme of close racing in good condition in a steady easterly unfolded, it was clear that the local duo of Fionn Lyden and school colleague Anna O'Regan were in a league of their own.

Their closest challenger initially was Finn Lynch of the National YC in Dun Laoghaire, winner of the Laser Single-handed Silver Medal at the ISAF Youth Worlds in July (when he was Sailor of the Month). In the end with Lynch being tripped by a tenth in the final race, it was Lydens all the way, as Eoin Lyden made it first and second for Schull, with Lynch third, while Anna Keller of Lough Derg was first girl at 7th overall, Laura Gilmore of Strangford Lough taking second at 9th OA.


Memories of the spectacular visit of the five MOD 70 trimarans to Dun Laoghaire three weeks ago now seem almost dreamlike, but their show goes on with the boats gathered in Marseilles for another weekend of "City Racing". The weather in the western Mediterranean is not expected to be good this weekend, but at this stage almost any wind is welcome, even if it means rainstorms, as they'd a very slow race from Cascais in Portugal.

It breezed up towards the finish, and as Michel Desjoyeaux of Foncia reported, they covered far more ground in the final 12 hours than they had in the previous two days. Musandam Oman (whose crew includes Round Ireland record holder Brian Thompson) was winner, despite logging an average speed of only 11.35 knots for the 1030 mile course from Portugal, but Foncia still leads overall.


While we've been much excited by the MOD 70s circus and other high profile events of late, it's useful to remember that a significant portion of sailing take place far from the glare of publicity. Some ocean voyagers may find it impossible to sail their miles without the world endlessly knowing about it, but there are others who cross the oceans almost permanently under the radar of public attention, "cruising without fuss" as Eric Hiscock, that diffident guru of long distance sailing, used to put it.


Pylades at sea, making knots on her round the world voyage

The spirit of Eric Hiscock was evoked in late July when Fergus and Kay Quinlan returned to Kinvara on Galway Bay with their 12 metre steel cutter Pylades, which they built themselves between 1995 and 1997. Almost immediately after the launching, they began long distance cruising. But then three years ago Fergus stood aside from his job as an architect (there wasn't much going on in the building business in 2009, and it showed no signs of improvement any time soon), and they took off from Kinvara round the world.

These days, round the world voyages are usually made within the contemporary world's convenient infrastructure, with crews availing of cheap flights to return home from time to time. But the Quinlans decided they were going to do things the Hiscock way, circling the globe with no intention of returning home to County Clare until the voyage was finished, and the boat was home with them.

They've kept in touch with a couple of logs in the Irish Cruising Club Annual, and they were Sailors of the Month back in February for their award of the ICC's premier trophy, the Faulkner Cup, for the account of the middle part of their circumnavigation. But mostly through being low profile and seeking out remote places, they've managed to blend in with isolated island communities, and in their turn they have brought a convivial spirit of north Clare with them.

Now they're home, and at least the weather has improved since the dismal days of July. Whether or not the economy is really on the mend is another matter altogether. But meanwhile, for anyone who has known of their remarkable project, the voyage of the Pylades has been a quiet inspiration in difficult times.


Home are the sailors – Fergus and Kay Quinlan come back to Clare to find a spot of rain

Published in W M Nixon
WM Nixon

About The Author

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

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