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Afloat Sailors of the Month 2020 Kept Our Sport Going Through Adversity

9th January 2021
Irish sailing in 2020 involved carefully monitored events with limited numbers. Deprived of properly celebrating their Quarter Millennium as long planned, Lough Ree YC ran a special regatta in late August which – despite numbers in the club compound being limited to 200 with strict social distancing in the clubhouse – produced excellent racing, with one of the stars being Ben Graf, who went on to become September's Junior Sailor of the Month. Here, there's crisp action at the weather mark for the leading Shannon One Designs, which in 2022 will be celebrating their Centenary Irish sailing in 2020 involved carefully monitored events with limited numbers. Deprived of properly celebrating their Quarter Millennium as long planned, Lough Ree YC ran a special regatta in late August which – despite numbers in the club compound being limited to 200 with strict social distancing in the clubhouse – produced excellent racing, with one of the stars being Ben Graf, who went on to become September's Junior Sailor of the Month. Here, there's crisp action at the weather mark for the leading Shannon One Designs, which in 2022 will be celebrating their Centenary Photo: Con Murphy

For sure, the pandemic-plagued year of 2020 - with its stop-start framework of activity afloat and ashore - was something beyond most sailors' experience.

Yet ours is nothing if not a can-do sport. And while some sailing enthusiasts – particularly those at risk with underlying health conditions – may have reasonably decided to sit it out completely, there were many others who, with care and guidance and consideration for others, were able to get in some sailing – in certain cases quite a bit of sailing - without setting an irresponsible and selfish example.

Thus yet again, the diversity of those who feature in our annual list of monthly achievers is astonishing, and where necessary we have continued with the well-established tradition of often having more than one award. In the frantically busy month of September in particular, when clubs and classes worked successfully to complete programmes and championships before a fresh wave of restrictions kicked in, we have no less than four awards, and every one thoroughly deserves to be there.

It's an eclectic list, for our interests afloat are numerous and diverse. It's truly international, as our sailors are active in many parts of the world. And in all, it's a lineup of purest gold standard enthusiasts whose example will see us through the tough times ahead, into a renewed joy in boats and sailing as our sport eventually begins to return to normal.

JANUARY

CAPTAIN PAT FARNAN OF CORK HARBOUR

Captain Pat Farnan's retirement as Admiral of the Royal Cork YC on January 20th 2020 - after a two-year tour of duty in this top role - marked the completion of another chapter in an outstanding maritime career that took him straight from school to take up a Cadetship in Irish Shipping. As a Captain with wide-ranging sea service, he was recruited in 1980 into the frontline staff of the Port of Cork as Assistant Harbour Master where his 33-year career saw him become Harbour Master and then Deputy Chief Executive, serving also as President of the European Harbour Masters Association from 1996-1998.

Leading RCYC junior sailor Atlee Kohl with Capt. Pat Farnan, the first "Sailor of the Month" for 2020Leading RCYC junior sailor Atlee Kohl with Capt. Pat Farnan, the first "Sailor of the Month" for 2020. Photo: Robert Bateman

On retirement, he became Admiral of Royal Cork Yacht Club for the demanding two year period in the countdown to the RCYC's Tricentenary in 2020. Far from being over-shadowed by the approaching celebrations, 2018 and 2019 were such busy and successful years in RCYC sailing that the Royal Cork saw 2020 being ushered in with the announcement that they were the new Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year on the strength of outstanding achievements in 2018 and '19, and in recognition of Captain Farnan's quietly effective leadership

ROCCO WRIGHT OF HOWTH (Junior Award)

Rocco Wright (13) of Howth became Sailor of the Month (Junior) for January after twice taking silver in major Optimist regattas in both the southern and northern hemispheres. Early in the month in Sail Melbourne 2020 in Australia in a total fleet of 255 boats, he was overnight leader going into the final day. But a series of sometimes flukey winds produced its most fickle day of all to conclude with, the positions were inverted, and he did well to hold on to second overall.

Rocco Wright (left) Silver Medallist in the 401-boat Optimist Euromarina Trophy Regatta in Alicante at the end of January with Gold winner Alessandro Cortese (centre) and Silver Medallist Lisa VuccetiRocco Wright (left) Silver Medallist in the 401-boat Optimist Euromarina Trophy Regatta in Alicante at the end of January with Gold winner Alessandro Cortese (centre) and Silver Medallist Lisa Vucceti

In Alicante in Spain at the end of the month, conditions were breezy and almost wintry for the Euromarina Trophy and an astonishing total fleet of 401 boats. Here again he was overnight leader going into the final day's three races. With a ninth and a first in the two initial contests, things were looking good, but this time gear failure resulted in a DNC in the last race, and he'd to concede the overall lead to Italy's Alessandro Cortese while staying ahead of another Italian helm, Lisa Vucceti, who was also top girl.

Michael Boyd, former Commodore RORC, continued his winning ways with a class victory in the RORC Caribbean 600 in February.Michael Boyd, former Commodore RORC, continued his winning ways with a class victory in the RORC Caribbean 600 in February.

FEBRUARY

MICHAEL BOYD OF DUN LAOGHAIRE (OFFSHORE)

Michael Boyd of the RIYC may have first leapt to prominence in offshore racing with his overall victory in the 1996 Round Ireland Race in the J/35 Big Ears. But his enthusiasm remains undimmed such that he served as RORC Commodore, with achievements including the RORC Championship and other Round Ireland results well in the frame, and in late February 2020 he added yet another laurel with a key role in the successful Lombard 46 Pata Negra's class win in the RORC Caribbean 600 Race. 

DARAGH NAGLE OF VANCOUVER (CRUISING)

The worldwide spread of the Irish Cruising Club membership was in evidence at the AGM in Dun Laoghaire at the end of February 2020 when Daragh Nagle was awarded the supreme trophy, the Faulkner Cup. Originally of Portmarnock but now cruising from Victoria in British Columbia with his wife Cathy O'Neill in their 1987-vintage Moody 376 Chantey V, Daragh's 2019 venture was a properly-logged 2,500 miles-plus 90-day venture with more than 70 ports and anchorages visited, competently dealing with a mixture of extreme tides and open sea passages in exemplary style.

Cathy O'Neill and Daragh Nagle on the award-winning Chantey V in Mexican watersCathy O'Neill and Daragh Nagle on the award-winning Chantey V in Mexican waters

MARCH

JACK & ROSEMARY ROY OF DUN LAOGHAIRE

When Jack Roy of Dun Laoghaire (though originally from Greystones) retired from the Presidency of Irish Sailing on March 21st 2020, it marked the conclusion of a hugely successful three years in the top post in Irish sailing. They were years in which the active and enthusiastic President was always quietly but very effectively supported by his wife Rosemary as they involved themselves in all aspects of the sport in every part of the country.

Racing folk go cruising – Jack & Rosemary Roy on Tangaroa at the Fastnet Rock.Racing folk go cruising – Jack & Rosemary Roy on Tangaroa at the Fastnet Rock.

The commitment of "Team Roy" ranged from Race Officering up to Olympic level at one end, all the way to hospitable cruising with their ubiquitous Hallberg Rassy 48 Tangaroa at the other, with just about everything possible – including continuing as regular Race Officer and Timekeeper for Dublin Bay SC on the big-fixture Thursday evening programme – frequently and competently dealt with in between. 

DANIEL RAYMOND OF DUBLIN (Team Racing)

The energetically-organised Irish Inter-varsities team racers managed to get in their 2020 Championship early in March before the Covid-19 clampdown closed in. The venue was University of Limerick's watersports facility at Killaloe on Lough Derg, and in three decidedly hectic days of Firefly racing, University College Dublin Firsts emerged as overall winners. Their Sailing Captain is Daniel Raymond, so he gets the nod as our Team Racer of the Month, but it's all about team effort, and the complete lineup was Jack Higgins, Daniel Raymond and Patrick Cahill as helms, while crews were Alanna Lyttle, Kathy Kelly and Lucy McCutcheon, with Lucy McCutcheon (winner in 2019) taking the Irish Universities Sailing Association "Crew of the Year" title

The UCD Team at UCLSC's Killaloe base on Lough Derg after winning the 2020 Irish title captained by Daniel Raymond.The UCD Team at UCLSC's Killaloe base on Lough Derg after winning the 2020 Irish title captained by Daniel Raymond.

APRIL

CLAIRE MORGAN OF CROSSHAVEN

When the story of the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland finally comes to be written, there'll be many individuals - both voluntary and professional - who will be recognized as having contributed way beyond the call of duty in helping to fight the scourge. In choosing Claire Morgan of UK Sailmakers of Crosshaven, who worked night and day to change and operate the company's production line to meet the unprecedented demand for PPE gowns, we were honouring one in order to honour the many to whom we all owe our heartfelt thanks.

Claire Morgan after a 12-hour shift making PPE gowns at UK Sailmakers in CrosshavenClaire Morgan after a 12-hour shift making PPE gowns at UK Sailmakers in Crosshaven

MARK MILLS OF WICKLOW (International)

In a time of inevitable national introspection, the design work of Mark Mills was a breath of fresh and global sea air, taking us out of ourselves. Already in 2020, his design work had been recognised with the MDO Montecarlo Trophy for the quality of the biggest vessel to emerge from his County Wicklow design studio to date, the 30-metre Wallycento Tango. And his smaller designs continue to attract, with the rapidly-growing popularity of his Melges IC37 - in which Anthony O'Leary's Royal Cork team took the Bronze at September 2019's New York YC Invitational - a testament to the versatility of this talented naval architect, who has since created the world's first "post-America's Cup 2021 racer/cruiser" for an Italian owner

Mark Mills – his design studio in the heart of County Wicklow creates yacht designs for a global clienteleMark Mills – his design studio in the heart of County Wicklow creates yacht designs for a global clientele

The new 30 metre Wallycento Tango won Mark Mills a major design award. The new 30 metre Wallycento Tango won Mark Mills a major design award

MAY

IAN BYRNE OF HOWTH

With the complex COVID-19 regulations seeing their post-First Wave easing in May, many sailors with boats to fit out and get into commission had difficulty in assessing just what they were permitted to do or not do. But Ian Byrne, Commodore of Howth Yacht Club, made it his business to analyse in detail the national and local regulations and limitations. And then, as various stages were passed, he led his members afloat for a first sail, fully compliant with social-distancing, on Sunday, May 24th. This resulted in a gradual resumption of day sailing, with family and household crews becoming accustomed to the "new normal".

With an excess of information available as the first lockdown eased, HYC Commodore Ian Byrne made it his business to clarify the situation as to how much sailing was permissible, and in what form With an excess of information available as the first lockdown eased, HYC Commodore Ian Byrne made it his business to clarify the situation as to how much sailing was permissible, and in what form

DARIA & ALEX BLACKWELL OF MAYO

Daria and Alex Blackwell of Mayo SC are highly-experienced ocean voyagers, and they're Vice Commodore and Rear Commodore respectively of the Ocean Cruising Club, the global body which currently has hundreds of members' boats currently on long cruises. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these boats had been caught out on long passages not knowing what kind of reception they would get when they reached their destination. From their base on the shores of Clew Bay, Daria and Alex provided assistance and guidance - sometimes including negotiations with national authorities - for many sailors in potentially difficult situations.

The good shepherds…Alex and Daria Blackwell of the Ocean Cruising Club provided an invaluable service for voyagers caught at sea as the pandemic lockdowns closed in.The good shepherds…Alex and Daria Blackwell of the Ocean Cruising Club provided an invaluable service for voyagers caught at sea as the pandemic lockdowns closed in.

One-armed solo sailor Garry Crothers was one of those being monitored by the OCC as he returned home across the Atlantic.One-armed solo sailor Garry Crothers was one of those being monitored by the OCC as he returned home across the Atlantic. Photo: Ken Curry

JUNE

GARRY CROTHERS OF DERRY (OFFSHORE)

When Garry Crothers (64) of Lough Swilly YC solo-sailed his Ovni 435 Kind of Blue towards her berth in Foyle Marina in the heart of the City of Derry, it marked the completion of an extraordinary adventure which had started as the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown fell suddenly into place in the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten in early May.

Garry is one-armed as the consequence of a motorbike accident in 2007, and though he had managed short single-handed passages, he was reliant on crew flying into the shared Dutch/French island to help him sail home the 3,500 miles to Ireland. The rapid spread of the pandemic to central America and the Pacific islands beyond had completely closed off his long-distance cruising plans there, and with the Lockdown in the Caribbean being imposed with increasing severity and indefinite length.

Gary Crothers with his family of daughter Oonagh (left) wife Marie and daughter Amy on Kind of Blue in the Caribbean. Photo: Ken CurryGary Crothers with his family of daughter Oonagh (left) wife Marie and daughter Amy on Kind of Blue in the Caribbean. Photo: Ken Curry

Thus his only options seemed to be to either to sail the boat home with a locally-recruited crew if one could be found, or to lay up with the limited facilities in Sint Maarten, and fly home himself if he could get out. Neither option proved possible, so he simply sailed home by himself, single-handed in every sense of the term.

JOHN KILLEEN OF GALWAY (SERVICES TO THE MARINE)

John Killeen of Galway's services to sailing and the broader maritime world expanded still further in June, when he became Chairman of the RNLI Council for Ireland. This is in addition to his major role as Chairman of the Marine Institute, while he continues to fulfil other top positions – most of them on a voluntary basis – which reflect his deeply-held beliefs on building a better Ireland. In particular, he is devoted to improving the vitality of the national maritime movement, while also promoting the needs and potential of the western seaboard. All this is in addition to his personal enthusiasm for sailing, which was well expressed in the creation in Galway of his dreamship, the 70ft performance cruiser Nimmo.

John Killeen – the enormous input he makes into many aspects of the marina sphere in Ireland increased even further with his appointment as the Chairman of the RNLI Council for IrelandJohn Killeen – the enormous input he makes into many aspects of the marina sphere in Ireland increased even further with his appointment as the Chairman of the RNLI Council for Ireland

JULY

QUINLAN-OWENS FAMILY OF KINVARA

The Sailor of the Month contest has been running for a quarter of a century now, but this may well be the first time the award has gone to a single seagoing family. Vera Quinlan, her husband Peter Owens, and their children Lillian (now 12) and Ruairi (10) departed their home near Kinvara in the southeast corner of Galway Bay with their 43ft steel ketch Danu in June 2019 in anticipation of a comprehensive Atlantic circuit cruise to South America and the Caribbean, concluding back in Galway Bay at the end of August 2020. Despite their plans being battered by the massive international effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Danu and her crew managed to finish a very complete voyage of remarkable variety which include detailed travels ashore, and they thoroughly deserved the warm welcome and congratulations they received from family and friends when they arrived back into Kilronan in the Aran Islands on Wednesday 29th July.

The Quinlan-Owens family at the start of their cruise in June 2019The Quinlan-Owens family at the start of their cruise in June 2019

The 43ft 1993-built Bruce Roberts steel ketch Danu was given a very complete refit by Peter Owens and Vera Quinlan before their award-winning family cruise of the Atlantic circuit The 43ft 1993-built Bruce Roberts steel ketch Danu was given a very complete refit by Peter Owens and Vera Quinlan before their award-winning family cruise of the Atlantic circuit

KIERAN DORGAN OF COBH (SERVICES TO SAILING)

While other clubs have found it a big enough challenge simply resuming sailing in a regulation-compliant way, the 101-year-old Cove Sailing Club in Cork Harbour has also been bringing its new marina on stream, and in addition to resuming club sailing, it staged the first open event of the delayed 2020 season, the Squib Southerns, on July 25th-26th. It has been a superb team effort, but all teams need effective leadership, and CSC Commodore Kieran Dorgan has been providing it in a family tradition - his father Barry was in the same role, while on the water Kieran himself is no stranger to the front of the fleet with his First 36.7 Altair.

Kieran Dorgan of Cove Sailing ClubKieran Dorgan of Cove Sailing Club

AUGUST

MURPHY FAMILY AND NIEULARGO OF CROSSHAVEN 

There are many boats in Ireland that are in the happy position of being regarded as one of the family, yet few fulfil that role so completely as Denis and Annamarie Murphy of Crosshaven's beloved Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo. Aboard her, guesting superstars are swept into the onboard mood so totally that they become "honorary Murphys", and as likely as not when Nieulargo confidently overtakes you, you'll find that one of the talented Murphy sisters is serenely on the helm.

This very complete approach reached new heights in August, when Nieulargo took line honours and the overall win in the Kinsale-Fasnet-Kinsale race, and then a fortnight later took the overall win and second in line honours in the Fastnet 450. The Irish sailing world is a better place for Nieulargo being at the heart of it, and she puts us in the happy position of being able to honour another special Irish sailing family for the second month in a row.

Nieulargo's crew after winning the Fastnet 450 are (left to right, standing) Denis, Annamarie & Molly Murphy, Mark "Nipper" Murphy (no relation), Killian Collins and Clive O'Shea, front row Mia Murphy, Cian Byrne, James Fegan and Nin O'LearyNieulargo's crew after winning the Fastnet 450 are (left to right, standing) Denis, Annamarie & Molly Murphy, Mark "Nipper" Murphy (no relation), Killian Collins and Clive O'Shea, front row Mia Murphy, Cian Byrne, James Fegan and Nin O'Leary. Photo: North Sails 

ADMIRAL COLIN MOREHEAD OF CROSSHAVEN & COMMODORE MARTIN McCARTHY OF DUN LAOGHAIRE (SERVICES TO SAILING)

It is unusual to have two leading figures sharing the "Sailor of the Month (Services to Sailing)" award. And it surely unique when one is Admiral of the world's oldest yacht club, the Royal Cork at Crosshaven, in its Tricentenary Year, while the other is Commodore of the National YC in Dun Laoghaire as it marks its 150th Anniversary.

Colin Morehead, Admiral of the Royal Cork Yacht Club. His graceful acceptance of the pandemic lockdown's adverse effect on his club's planned Tricentenary, and his enthusiasm in getting sailing going again as soon as possible, set a fine example for the entire Irish sailing communityColin Morehead, Admiral of the Royal Cork Yacht Club. His graceful acceptance of the pandemic lockdown's adverse effect on his club's planned Tricentenary, and his enthusiasm in getting sailing going again as soon as possible, set a fine example for the entire Irish sailing community. Photo: Robert Bateman

Yet both have shared an indomitable spirit in encouraging and leading their members in whatever sailing and club activity is possible through the COVID-19 crisis, and both, in turn, have received their members' support with a sense of responsible community which is a credit to both clubs, and to Irish sailing generally.

Commodore Martin McCarthy took a hands-on approach to the club's annual lift-in at the end of April. Despite the frustrations of lockdown in the NYC's 150th Anniversary Year, he was able to host the start of the Fastnet 450, and also very successful Sesquicentennial Regatta.Commodore at work…NYC Commodore Martin McCarthy took a hands-on approach to the club's annual lift-in at the end of April. Despite the frustrations of lockdown in the NYC's 150th Anniversary Year, he was able to host the start of the Fastnet 450, and also very successful Sesquicentennial Regatta. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien

This was celebrated by a very special occasion on the morning of Saturday, August 22nd, when a small but select and carefully-choreographed gathering, hosted by Commodore Martin McCarthy at the National YC, marked the imminent start of the Fastnet 450 Race to the Fastnet Rock and Crosshaven.

Admiral Morehead attended from Cork – as did his predecessor Thomas G French for the first such race 160 years ago, in 1860 - and there too was the new Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Councillor Una Power, to show her support for the increasingly important role sailing fulfils in Dun Laoghaire Harbour, and to express the respect which Ireland's maritime world feels for the venerable Royal Cork Yacht Club.

nto the limelight – young Johnny Flynn of Howth takes the Irish Optimist nationals by one point at Crosshaven, RCYC Admiral Colin Morehead on right in a socially-distaned ceremony  Photo: Robert BatemanInto the limelight – young Johnny Flynn of Howth takes the Irish Optimist nationals by one point at Crosshaven, RCYC Admiral Colin Morehead on right in a socially-distanced ceremony Photo: Robert Bateman

Johnny Flynn of Howth (Junior)

One of the few national championships which was staged in 2020 was the AIB Optimist Irish Nationals with a 73-boat fleet at the Royal Cork YC in Crosshaven in mid-August. In sometimes flukey conditions, it went right to the wire with young Johnny Flynn of Howth taking the title by one point in the last race from Ben O’Shaughnessy of the host club, and Howth club-mate Rocco Wright in third.

SEPTEMBER

TOM DOLAN OF MEATH (INTERNATIONAL)

When Meathman Tom Dolan heads off for a solo or double-handed campaign with the Figaro 3 Smurfit Kappa from his French base at Concarneau, the Irish sailing community is with him all the way. But as the truncated 2020 season finally got going, we'd to control our hopes until it became clear whether or not the psychological coaching he'd been working with was paying dividends.

Tom Dolan brought his Figaro 3 Smurfit Kappa firmly into the frame in 2020Tom Dolan brought his Figaro 3 Smurfit Kappa firmly into the frame in 2020

His 2019 season with the new foiling Figaro 3 had been frustrating in the extreme, as he had the speed, but the tactics and strategy were way off target, and this put him well into the lower half of the fleet. Yet as 2020's main event, the Figaro Solitaire itself through the first three weeks of September, gradually took shape, it was clear that Smurfit Kappa had at least as much speed as before, but now it was in the most beneficial directions.

Even when he'd been down the numbers in the early stages of one of the legs, Tom Dolan and his boat were soon eating their way up through the fleet in any situation which demanded difficult tactical decisions. His fifth overall at the finish – the highest-placed non-French sailor and winner of the Vivi Cup – had him right among the international elite in one of 2020's few major events.

ROB O'LEARY OF BALTIMORE (INSHORE)

The O'Leary family of Crosshaven and Baltimore have a fine reputation for top-level competitive sailing allied with ready enthusiasm for volunteering in services to our sport, and Rob the youngest O'Leary brother is following this tradition. Having served successfully as Captain of his university sailing club, he is now a newbie on the Committee of Baltimore SC in West Cork as the Honorary Sailing Secretary in this most demanding of years, when flexibility in planning and nimbleness in organisation has been the essential approach in keeping sailing alive yet compliant. And he is equally a pace-setter afloat, having helmed the winning 1720 in the Baltimore Cup, the Southerns, and most recently the Munsters in Cork Harbour, racing in one of the most competitive fleets in the country.

Rob O'Leary, 1720 Champion of 2020Rob O'Leary, 1720 Champion of 2020. Photo: Robert Bateman

PAUL O'HIGGINS OF DUN LAOGHAIRE (OFFSHORE)

One of the many "little miracles" which kept Irish sailing alive and active during the continually-changing official restrictions in the summer of 2020 was the flexible and effective administration of the Irish side of the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association's annual programme by ISORA Chairman Peter Ryan of the National YC.

But in order to succeed in this, he needed the support of the skippers and crews who enjoy what ISORA has on offer, yet in a normal year would be able to plan their programme well in advance. This wasn't possible in 2020, but thanks to a generous spirit among those involved, the Irish boats in ISORA had a very good season in the circumstances. Once again it came down to the outcome of the last race in September, and once again the final race overall winner, and new 2020 champion, was Paul O'Higgins (Royal Irish YC) with the JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI.

Paul O'Higgins (Sailor of the Year 2019) successfully defended his 2019 ISORA title in 2020 with his JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI.Paul O'Higgins (Sailor of the Year 2019) successfully defended his 2019 ISORA title in 2020 with his JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien

BEN GRAF OF LOUGH REE (JUNIOR)

Teenage skipper Ben Graf of the 250-year-old Lough Ree YC became September's Junior "Sailor of the Month" on the strength of a remarkably varied lineup of successes which reached a new level during the late season. Having won the 420 Nationals at Dunmore East crewed by Alexander Farrell, he repeated the performance of gaining top slot at the 420 Northerns at Ballyholme, and then immediately transferred back to Lough Ree for another bout of successful helming in the SB20 Class. He has also figured in Shannon One Design racing, and in a new departure for 2020, he and Farrell made their impressive debut in the Fireball Class in anticipation of the Worlds in Ireland in 2021.

Ben Graf on helm and Alexander Farrell on wire as they shape their champion International 420 for a startBen Graf on helm and Alexander Farrell on wire as they shape their champion International 420 for a start.

Action stations. Catherine Hunt and Pamela Lee powering along on board the round Ireland record-breaking Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta Action stations. Catherine Hunt and Pamela Lee powering along on board the round Ireland record-breaking Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta

OCTOBER

PAMELA LEE OF GREYSTONES & CATHERINE HUNT 

The new Round Ireland Two-handed Record Holders, RL Sailing's Pamela Lee of Greystones SC and Catherine Hunt, were acclaimed as October's "Sailors of the Month" after a superbly-executed circuit of our island home which went way beyond their initial challenge of establishing a significant speed for a female two-handed crew. Their time of 3 days 19 hours and 45 minutes in the Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta was not only many hours clear of previous comparable circuits by any crews of two-handed sailors, but was impressively close to record times set by fully-crewed larger boats - and it was all done so stylishly that this was sailing as performance art.

Fast and steady and in the right direction- Iarracht Maigeanta with the kind of sailing that established the new Round Ireland Two-Handed Record Fast and steady and in the right direction- Iarracht Maigeanta with the kind of sailing that established the new Round Ireland Two-Handed Record

NOVEMBER

MARCUS SPILLANE OF CORK (INTERNATIONAL)

The election of Marcus Spillane – originally of Cork – to a Vice Presidency of World Sailing in November was the latest step in an extraordinary involvement in sailing which has seen him compete in many world championships – most notably in the International 49er – while at the same time playing key roles in global sailing administration. He did much of the heavy lifting in making the Olympic International 49er Association the force it is today, serving as Class CEO for six years and becoming President for eight. Then when the Olympic NACRA 17 class came into being, he was persuaded to take on its Presidency for its first four formative years. Though now US-based, he maintains his close links with Ireland through being Treasurer to Irish Sailing's Olympic Steering Group.

In the thick of it – new World Sailing Vice President Marcus Spillane and Rory Fitzpatrick racing a 49er.In the thick of it – new World Sailing Vice President Marcus Spillane and Rory Fitzpatrick racing a 49er.

DONAL O'SULLIVAN OF DUN LAOGHAIRE

Anyone who writes the history at the Centenary of one of his long-affiliated sailing clubs in 1984, and then writes the history of his other club at its 150th (Sesquicentennial) some 36 years later in 2020, is clearly someone profoundly committed to the legends and lore of our highly individualistic sport. In those circumstances, you might expect that his interest is academic rather than active. But Donal O'Sullivan – longtime Honorary Secretary of Dublin Bay SC and its Centenary history writer in 1984, and more recently historian of the National Yacht Club with his new Chronicles of the NYC published in November 2020 - is very much a longtime 'actif' in the Dublin Bay racing scene afloat, while his books bring a depth and breadth which enable him to put our sometimes narrowly-focused sport into its larger context, thereby defining its proper role in the national narrative.

Donal O'Sullivan – a fount of erudition in sailing and local historyDonal O'Sullivan – a fount of erudition in sailing and local history

DECEMBER

PETER RYAN OF DUN LAOGHAIRE (SERVICES TO SAILING)

Peter Ryan of Dun Laoghaire is a dedicated sailing enthusiast – particularly for offshore racing – whose affable exterior camouflages the fact that his brain is busily whirring with ideas for improving the sport. Thus when the challenges of pandemic shoreside shutdown arose, he grasped the opportunities provided by being Chairman of the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association and having access to a generously donated consignment of Yellowbrick trackers, and set about devising a coastal racing programme which would comply with regulations while still providing good sport.

Peter Ryan at the helm of the J/109 Mojito in the Fastnet RacePeter Ryan at the helm of the J/109 Mojito in the Fastnet Race

It may not have been offshore racing as we know it, as it lacked the post-race parties previously thought indispensable. But it was a proper racing programme nevertheless, while the general ISORA contribution to the legitimate continuation of the sport was also seen in the loan of the Yellowbricks for the excellent Fastnet 450 race in August, and the hugely successful Round Ireland Two-Handed Challenge by Pam Lee of Greystones and Cat Hunt with the Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta in October. 

DON STREET OF GLANDORE (INTERNATIONAL)

Don Street of Glandore and the Caribbean was celebrated in December to mark his continuing and inspirational joy in sailing at the age of 90, and in honour of the remarkable contribution he has made to our sport, both in the many areas of his active and successful involvement afloat, and in his writing of many books – cruising guides and technical manuals alike - which have been a source of encouragement for his international legions of followers.

Don's sailing is such a mixture of experiences that anyone can find something of interest in his writings, and for a connoisseur, it's all pure gold. In much of 2020, the lockdowns meant he was restricted to Glandore and the Dragons, but typically he made the most of it to inspire young and old alike. 

As keen as ever…..Don Street in GlandoreDon Street

The Afloat.ie Sailor of the Irish Sailor of the Year Award will be presented in February 2020.

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

Email The Author

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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