Irish sailing may have gone very public and centre stage in the national consciousness in August 2016, when our Olympic squad performed with distinction. But all round the coast and on the lakes, and at major venues overseas, sailing events large and small, local, national and international, continued as before. W M Nixon looks back on the Afloat.ie “Sailors of the Month” awards for a very special year.
JANUARY SAILOR OF THE MONTH
In the countdown to Christmas, the thoughts of many in the Irish sailing community were in mid-Atlantic, where Enda O Coineen, was in an IMOCA 60 race from the Caribbean to Brittany.
He’d started a day after the rest of the fleet while a mechanical problem was being sorted. But then Kilcullen Voyager got going. to take third, qualifying for the Vendee Globe.
JANUARY YOUTH SAILORS OF THE MONTH
Ireland’s youth sailing programme for 2016 got off to a rocket-assisted start with Doug Elmes (17) and Colin O’Sullivan (16) winning the bronze in the 420 Worlds 2015 in the final hours of the old year at Langkawi in Malaysia. Sailing conditions were brilliant – and so were they.
FEBRUARY SAILOR OF THE MONTH (RACING)
The very thought of the annual RORC Caribbean 600 relieves the February gloom, and 2016’s was vintage, with Conor Fogerty of Howth YC doing it as part of his Atlantic circuit voyage with his new Jeanneau Sunfast 3600 Bam! His superb overall win in Class 3 was a tonic for the folks at home.
FEBRUARY SAILOR OF THE MONTH (CRUISING)
The normally private world of cruising goes public in February with the announcement of the Irish Cruising Club’s annual awards, and veteran skipper Alan Rountree of Wicklow with his own-built 34 footer Tallulah took the top trophies for a textbook venture to Spain and the Azores, successfully returning single-handed in severe weather.
MARCH SAILOR OF THE MONTH
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. Conor Phelan of Cork with his 2008-vintage Ker 36 Jump Juice was lying second in Class 2 during the wintry RORC Easter Challenge on the Solent until the final day, Black Sunday, brought extreme conditions and mayhem. Jump Juice simply flew through it to take the overall win
APRIL SAILORS OF THE MONTH (OLYMPIC)
April’s Princess Sofia regatta in Palma was a major test for many Olympic hopefuls, and Belfast Lough’s Ryan Seaton & Matt McGovern in the 49er had to fight every inch of the way to snatch Gold by one point in the final race from Australian superstars Nathan Otteridge and Iain Jensen.
APRIL SAILOR OF THE MONTH
The 2016 GP 14 Worlds in Barbados in April was a triumph for the enthusiastic Irish division of this vintage dinghy class. By a master-stroke of logistics, they managed to get 22 boats to the venue, and then Shane McCarthy of Greystones, crewed by Andy Davis, won the Gold Medal.
MAY SAILOR OF THE MONTH (OLYMPIC)
The already-secure Irish place in the Men’s Lasers at the Rio Olympics August 2016 was still up for grabs at the personal level at the ISAF Worlds in Mexico in late May. Despite being impaired by a training injury, Finn Lynch of County Carlow (who had turned 20 only a few weeks earlier) secured the coveted slot after a year’s campaigning supported by voluntary contributions.
MAY SAILOR OF THE MONTH (POWERBOATS)
In the round Ireland sailing record, challengers have been happy enough to chop and hour or two off the established time. But in perfect conditions in May for the powerboat record, John Ryan’s 40ft Team Hibernia was the right boat in the right place at the right time, and with the right crew – they knocked six hours off the previous best to go round in 12 hours 54 minutes and 24 seconds.
MAY SAILOR OF THE MONTH
Dara O’Malley is originally from Westport in Mayo, but he has long been based in Edinburgh and sails in Scotland. We know that the sailors in the Irish diaspora worldwide take a keen interest in our Afloat.ie Sailors of the Month, so it was a special pleasure to make Dara SoM May 2016 after he was overall winner of the Scottish Series with his Hunter 707 Seaword.
INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR MAY
The Round Ireland Record of 44-hours set by Steve Fossett’s catamaran Lakota in 1993 had long looked unbeatable. France’s Sydney Gavignet with the MOD 70 Oman Sailing had already tried three times when he took on the challenge again early in May 2016. This time they did it, bringing the time down to just above 40 hours.
JUNE INTERNATIONAL SAILOR OF THE MONTH (1)
The Volvo Round Ireland Race from Wicklow with its 63-strong star-quality fleet completely eclipsed everything else in June, and in the mono-hull division George David’s wonderful Rambler 88 eclipsed all others with a virtually perfect performance to take line honours and then hold onto the overall IRC lead by a huge margin. An unrivalled performance.
JUNE INTERNATIONAL SAILOR OF THE MONTH (2)
An event as special as the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland Race deserved a cascade of awards. Ireland’s own international sailing superstar Damian Foxall played a key role in ensuring that three MOD 70s took part. And he raced on the winning boat Oman Sail to break the new record, giving him his own special place in the Round Ireland lineup of prize-winners.
JUNE SAILOR OF THE MONTH
With so many visiting super-boats, it was quite something to get into the frame in any division, and only one Irish boat actually won her class. This was the J/109 Euro Car Parks skippered by Dave Cullen of Howth, coming from behind to be outright winner of Class 3 after a very closely-fought race.
JULY SAILOR OF THE MONTH (RACING)
The KBC Laser Radial Worlds in Dublin Bay in July 2016 attracted a fleet of 350 boats from 34 countries, making it the year’s biggest dinghy event by far. Several young Irish sailors performed notably well, but 17-year-old Ewan MacMahon of Howth was in a league of his own, emerging with the Silver Medal after meeting the challenge with cool consistency.
JULY SAILORS OF THE MONTH (CRUISING)
Taking six years to cruise round the world with an Amel Super Maramu 54 ketch is about as different as possible from the experiences of a Laser-filled Dublin Bay. Yet this too is part of our diverse sport, and in July Paraic O’Maolriada and Myra Reid (they’ve been married 49 years) sailed quietly back into Kinsale with their ketch Saol Eile to complete a perfect venture.
JULY SAILORS OF THE MONTH SPECIAL AWARDS
Any biennial Volvo Cork Week is special, and 2016’s was extra special with the inauguration of the Beaufort Cup series for international competition between sailing crews from defence forces and national security agencies with a maritime arm. First winners were Commandant Barry Byrne and a crew from the Irish Defence Forces racing the J/109 Joker II provided by John Maybury.
AUGUST SAILOR OF THE MONTH
It was only in boat sports that Ireland won any medals in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The National Yacht Club’s Annalise Murphy win of the Silver Medal in the Laser Radial Women’s was richly deserved but hard earned in the concluding Medals Race, a cliff-hanger which had the entire country holding its breath for the final seconds until her Silver was confirmed on the line.
SEPTEMBER SAILOR OF THE MONTH (INSHORE)
Young Johnny Durcan of the Royal Cork Yacht Club is normally a lone star of the Laser Class. But at the end of September, crewed by Flor Lyden of the National YC, he showed himself well able for a two-handed boat with a good overall win in the ISA All Ireland Junior Championship at Schull, racing the TR 3.6 dinghies.
SEPTEMBER SAILOR OF THE MONTH (OFFSHORE)
The Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association is in a healthy growth phase these days, and a key player is Stephen Tudor of Pwllheli in North Wales, where has also done much to re-vitalise his home port. Thus his overall win of the 2016 ISORA Championship in the final race of the season was hugely popular on both sides of the channel.
OCTOBER SAILOR OF THE MONTH (INSHORE)
RS 400 2016 National Champion Alex Barry of Monkstown and Royal Cork made history in the first weekend of October by winning the first All Ireland Championship to be raced in the new Ultra version of Crosshaven’s iconic National 18s. It was a true Championship of Champions, going right to the wire for the closest of victories.
OCTOBER SAILOR OF THE MONTH (OFFSHORE)
Renowned international navigator and tactician Ian Mooore – originally of Carrickfergus – had one of his best seasons ever in 2016 in a variety of front-line boats. But the clear overall victory he provided for the Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino in the Rolex Middle Sea was sweetest of all, as the same team missed the overall win in 2015 by just nine seconds.
November and December Awards will be made at the end of each respective month and are listed here
Voting for the Sailor of the Year opens on January 1st on www.afloat.ie. The awards ceremony will be held on Friday, January 27th at the RDS Library, Dublin