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Displaying items by tag: Bill O'Hara

When the New Year was ushered in, the announcement that Bill O'Hara of Bangor had been awarded the OBE for Services to Sailing was a cause of special pleasure in the sailing community, not just in Ireland but worldwide.

Our report at the time highlighted his multiple achievements in many areas, from Olympic participation to being Principal Race Officer for the Volvo Ocean Race, and particularly revealed his international status and unrivalled abilities across a wide spectrum of sailing life.

Yet even with his high profile, Bill O'Hara is also a quiet and effective worker behind-the-scenes on behalf of sailing and sailors, a doer of good works by stealth. Thus while we're honouring him as a major international figure, we're reminding everyone that here is a sailor of quietly profound depths who plays a key role in our sport worldwide.

Published in Sailor of the Month
Tagged under

2018 Laser Grand Master World Champion and 1996 Olympian Mark Lyttle reflects on a lifetime sailing against his old rival and great friend Bill O'Hara, who was awarded an OBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours List 2021.

I first recall Bill at the 1978 Pimm's Irish Lasers Nationals at Lough Ree Yacht Club (actually sailed from Hodson Bay and yes, they did sponsor the Irish Laser class) but it wasn't on the race course. As a 15-year-old sailing what we now call a Standard rig as that's all there was, I was nowhere near the front of the fleet especially as a hurricane passed through during the regatta. But I do remember Bill was the centre of social activities ashore as a young university student.

Over the next couple of seasons, Bill emerged as one of the top Lasers sailors along with Gordon Maguire (turned professional skipper), Dave Cummins (twice all Ireland champion) and Colin Galavan. Following a fifth place in the light air Kinsale Nationals (1979) and the curtailed (with another gale) Dun Laoghaire Nationals (1981), Bill took the Irish titles in Ballyholme (1981 where I recall driving to the event in a Renault 5 with three Lasers) and Galway Bay (1982 with Australian and NZL visitors following us home after our extensive continental European tours).

But I remember the 1982 season as my first Laser Europeans, in Athens, where I stayed with Bill and Simon Brien (Dragon Edinburgh Cup winner from Royal North of Ireland YC) and was supported and encouraged all the way by Bill – a true mentor figure.

Bill sailed a brilliant regatta, coming second overall behind the even more brilliant Peter Vilby, a result that has never been beaten by an Irish Laser (Standard) sailor. Consistent with many other Laser sailors across the world in that era, Bill had to realise his Olympic dreams away from Lasers, in his case in the single-hander Finn class.

Some of the 1982 Irish Laser Class supremos, with their mentor Ron Huthcieson on right, are (left to right) Simon Brien (later multiple Edinburgh Cup winner and other majors), multiple champion Charlie Taylor (still at it in the Laser Masters), Olympian Bill O'Hara, and Dave Cummins, All-Ireland Helmsmans Champion 1981 and 1982Some of the 1982 Irish Laser Class supremos, with their mentor Ron Huthcieson on right, are (left to right) Simon Brien (later multiple Edinburgh Cup winner and other majors), multiple champion Charlie Taylor (still at it in the Laser Masters), Olympian Bill O'Hara, and Dave Cummins, All-Ireland Helmsmans Champion 1981 and 1982

I recall stories of him campaigning the Finn with Terry Nielsen (1982 Laser World Champion and eventual Bronze Medal winner) in 1983 in North America in the build-up to the Los Angeles Games in 1984.

Like many Olympic campaigners he returned for the Laser Worlds in Gulfport, Mississippi in October 1983 along with Frank Glynn, Con Murphy (better known now as Annalise's dad), John Simms and me. Most of us Irish stayed with nuns in a convent nearby but that is not what we most remember of the regatta. It was a no discard 14 race series in which Bill was doing brilliantly until a protest by the Jury for his boom allegedly hitting a NZL boat on his outside at the gybe mark. Both were disqualified and Bill ended the regatta knowing he would have been World Champion but for that.

It is often said that Juries stopped protesting boat on boat incidents because of that.

Bill went on to race at the Olympics and recorded a 4th, 10th, 9th and 8th in the first four of seven races and finished 13th overall in a very competitive fleet with sailing legends Russell Coutts and John Bertrand winning Gold and Silver. But Bill affirmed his status as role model and great supporter of Irish dinghy sailing by returning from the glories of the Olympics to race in the Irish Laser Nationals at the end of that summer.

These days Bill O'Hara is an international race judge and race officerThese days Bill O'Hara is an international race judge and race officer

Of course, he was the man we all strived to beat at that event and subsequent seasons in the Laser (he didn't win that one but did win the Irish title three times in the nineties). I remember many great battles around the race course with Bill often ahead at the windward mark with his superior upwind speed and me trying to overtake him by the leeward mark with my superior downwind speed. Bill continued to combine his Laser and Finn sailing through the 1988 Games in Seoul, where he was joined by Peter Kennedy, the 1986 Irish Laser Champion, as David Wilkin's Flying Dutchman crew.

Afloat's 1983 Laser World's reportAfloat's 1983 Laser World's report from Gulfport, Mississippi

Many of us were envious of that given the limited opportunities to access Olympic sailing in those days but that changed with the introduction of the Laser in the 1996 Olympics. Although Bill started off as a competitor in the search for the single Irish place in Atlanta, he still provided advice and encouragement to me all the way. That is the thing about Bill, a fearsome competitor afloat but a true friend ashore. Nothing supports that more than in the 1994 Irish Laser Nationals when going into the deciding last race where I had a slender lead over Gary McCarthy, I had broken my tiller extension and Bill offered me his with the words "this title needs to be earned not won by default" - sorry Gary. Bill went to the 1996 Games as a coach and provided me with vital advice and encouragement throughout the Games.

Although our interaction has been more social than on the race course in recent years, I look back and say he has been a true motivator and influencer on my sailing journey but more importantly a true friend, which like many friendships based on so many years of shared experiences and the ups and downs of competition, will remain despite the passing of time. Bill is a man who knows loyalty and integrity and I am proud to be his friend. Well done, Bill on your OBE.

Published in Laser

Among those in the New Years Honours List for 2021 is Bangor, County Down man Bill O'Hara who has been awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for services to Sailing.

A long-time member of Ballyholme and Royal Ulster Yacht Clubs on Belfast Lough, Bill has been a prominent and loyal member of both and still finds time to race regularly as well as performing all his other official duties.

Not many would know that Bill sailed in GP14s as a ten-year-old at Ballyholme Yacht Club, went on to crew for Pat Murphy in an Irish Championship in Lough Swilly in 1974 and later in his own Alastair Duffin built boat in '76 at Mumbles. But probably the groundwork for a career in sailing was at the point when fellow clubmate Bill Whisker persuaded him to sail with him every morning at 7.30 am before school at the end of September to keep his boat handling skills up to scratch before an Irish Helmsmans Championships. He says that the fact that a World Champion felt the need to keep practising left a lasting impression on him.

After his GP14 sailing, he ventured into single handers racing a Laser successfully, and went on to compete in the Finn class in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.

After leaving Heriot-Watt University Bill focussed on both sailing and the family hotel business. His other passion was rugby and he played for Bangor, reaching the final of the Ulster Senior League in the 1982/83 season.

the 1982 Irish Laser Class, with their mentor Ron Huthcieson on right, are (left to right) Simon Brien (later multiple Edinburgh Cup winner and other majors), multiple champion Charlie Taylor (still at it in the Laser Masters), Olympian Bill O'Hara, and Dave Cummins, All-Ireland Helmsmans Champion 1981 and 1982The 1982 Irish Laser Class supremos, with their mentor Ron Huthcieson on right, are (left to right) Simon Brien (later multiple Edinburgh Cup winner and other majors), multiple champion Charlie Taylor (still at it in the Laser Masters), Olympian Bill O'Hara, and Dave Cummins, All-Ireland Helmsmans Champion 1981 and 1982

Bill represented Ireland in the Finn class in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and the '88 games in Seoul. By the time the Seoul Olympics came around he was married with two children and after the games he became more involved in voluntary coaching. He worked with the Irish team at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 and in 2000 became the leader of the Irish Coaching team of volunteers travelling to the Sydney games. By 2001 he was an International Judge.

Another notable opportunity for Bill came when in 2006 on-the-water umpiring was introduced to the sport of sailing and he was right in there at the beginning. By 2007 Bill's career in sailing took on a part-time volunteer/ part-time professional aspect. He has worked for both governing bodies in Ireland – for the Irish Sailing Association Academy and the RYANI Youth Squad.

Bill's career profile on the international front runs through such major events the Volvo Ocean Race in 2008 for which he was Principal Race Officer, via Chief Umpire for the Extreme 40s in 2009 to Chief Umpire for the J class last year.

Illustrating how broad is Bill's experience is the fact that he is one of only three or four people internationally who have the triple accolade of being a Judge, Umpire and Race Officer. He pays tribute to those who have greatly influenced his career. " I would like to mention people in Ireland who have made a big difference to me. Mick Wallace my coach in the Los Angeles and Seoul Olympics; Ron Hutchieson who mentored me on Rules and Ken Ryan, Vice President of the Irish Sailing association who guided me in Judging".

You can read more about Bill's career here

Published in Laser
Tagged under

Principal Race Officer of the Volvo Ocean Race, Bill O'Hara from Ballyholme Yacht Club in Northern Ireland, is anticipating the course will be short, with at least three, and possibly up to four, laps. The second in-port race will be held in Lisbon starting at 14:00 UTC this afternoon.

Seven teams will take the start of the  In-Port Race. This is the second in the VOR In Port Race Series. In Alicante, MAPFRE beat Dongfeng Race Team with Vestas 11th Hour Racing completing the podium.

The forecast is for moderate 10 to 15 knot south–westerly winds. 

The target time for the race is 60–minutes.

For that wind direction, the length of the race course is likely to be confined by the banks of the Tagus River, 

With so many manoeuvres required on the short course, boat handling is sure to be a determining factor for success this afternoon.

After his VOR race officer duties are completed this weekend, O'Hara fies to Mexico to meet up with Ireland's World Sailing delegation at the World Conference in Mexico as outlined by Afloat.ie here.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

ISAF Racing Rules committee member Bill O'Hara from Balyholme Yacht Club reviews the changes in the latest edition of the racing rules book signed off at the ISAF conference in China this week.

The racing rules committee have finished their work this year for the 2017-2020 rule book. Publishing and translation deadlines means it's impossible to take any submissions next year into account. Most of the changes are pretty dry and simply technical changes to sort out small problems found in the applications of the rules. In the next rule book there is a big change in that for the first time we have the introduction of the term ' support person' .

Support person – Any person who
(a) provides, or may provide, physical or advisory support to a competitor,
including any coach, trainer, manager, team staff, medic, paramedic or any
other person working with, treating or assisting a competitor in or preparing
for the competition, or
(b) is the parent or guardian of a competitor.
(proposed wording may be amended)

For years at both major and minor events we have incidents with people connected to a competitor . From 2017 onwards they will be under the jurisdiction off and subject to action under the racing rules. The final wording still has to be finalised but it will give the possibility that for example a parent who has been warned about their bad behaviour at an optimist event may if there is a further incident be protested and points deducted from the competitor they support.

There has also been some tidying up of the rules involving RRS 69 Gross Misconduct hearings. This is in direct response by recommendations from CAS ( Court of Arbitration for Sport) when dealing with the high profile America's Cup case that resulted in one sailor receiving a 5 year ban reduced to 18 months by CAS.
When possible the jury when dealing with a 69 issue will appoint one of their members to investigate and in essence act in the role of a prosecutor. The big difference is that he won't take part in the decision which he could have done in the past.

Bill O'Hara has been on the Racing Rules committee since 2004. Bill is a member of ISAF's working parties for RRS 42, Medal races and also for considering applications from events who want to try experimental rules. An Olympian in the Finn dinghy from 1984, Bill is an International Judge, Race Officer and Umpire.

Published in World Sailing

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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