As he commented at last night’s annual Volvo Sailing Awards ceremony, our Sailing on Saturday columnist reckons that anyone who thinks they really understand every aspect of the Irish sailing and boating scene obviously isn’t a part of it. It’s a complex and multi-faceted vehicle sport with more twists and turns than a Kerry mountain road. And that’s before you start considering the huge range of people involved. W M Nixon develops this theme.
If you want to know what is to happen next in any area, ask Brian Turvey of the noted Howth sailing family. Stock market volatility troubling you? He’s the man to advise. Who’s likely to be the next star in the Irish sailing firmament? Consult the Turvey oracle. He seems to have a sixth sense.
Hindsight is something we can all manage. And it’s with appreciative hindsight that we now admire how, exactly a year ago in the RDS in Dublin, Brian Turvey spotted the February 2016 Sailor of the Month Conor Fogerty (he’d won his Class in the RORC Caribbean 600) and the new Sailor of the Year Annalise Murphy in close proximity in the swirling crowd in the après-awards party, and he got them together for a quick snap, a double breath of fresh sea air against the fusty background of rows of learned books typical of the RDS.
“Something clicked” he says now, “so I clicked double-quick, and immediately felt I’d recorded something very important”.
He certainly had, providing an image which gives an almost iconic vision of the kind of people our sport attracts. On the left was someone for whom offshore sailing was the ultimate ambition, the real sailing, a guy who admitted to being a bit of a tearaway in his younger days – “the black sheep of a black sheep” as he had put it when Afloat.ie got together with himself and Tom Dolan – but had now become an experienced offshore sailor with much more to do.
And on the right was a young woman reared in the Olympic ideal, devoted to the austere world of Olympic Laser sailing, a sailor’s sailor who had overcome the huge disappointment of missing a medal in the last minutes of the last race of the 2012 Olympics to make a courageous family-supported comeback to win Silver at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Fast forward a year, and the former young tearaway is the hero of the hour, the hero of the year, class victor in the toughest east-west Single-handed Transatlantic Race ever and thus the new holder of the Holy Grail itself, the Gipsy Moth Trophy, and as of last night, Ireland’s newest “Sailor of the Year”.
And as for the highly-tuned hyper-trained Olympian, she has thrown herself into the rough and tumble, the intense and crowded harshness, of the Volvo Ocean Race, many worlds away from the demanding but defined path of the lone Olympic campaigner.
Even as the man on the left was becoming the new Sailor of the Year last night, the other sailor was far away, racing the Hong Kong to New Zealand leg if the Volvo Ocean Race. Yet we aren’t talking of reversals of role, let alone reversals of fortune. On the contrary, we’re talking of the many twists and turns that are an integral part of sailing, both in Ireland and globally.
With last night’s remarkable gathering of personalities and specialities and local and regional and national and international enthusiasm, it all was on display in its great and glorious colourful vitality in the RDS in Dublin.
And naturally and inevitably there comes the question which is central to life afloat and ashore. What happens next? Who will rise to the surface during 2018’s long and varied sailing season.
But for today, here’s to Conor Fogerty, our new and well-deserved Volvo Irish Sailing Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Year”.
And good luck and good sailing to Annalise Murphy, as she continues with the latest chapter in her fascinating sailing story.