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Displaying items by tag: Enda O'Coineen

Galway Bay sailor Enda O'Coineen (60) took his place among 29 skippers from 10 countries gathered in the heart of Paris this week for the official Vendee Globe 2016 press conference. Media from around the world came to hear how preparations are coming along ahead of this epic, solo, non stop, unassisted sailing race around the world.

Enda O Coineen yacht Dun Laoghaire IMOCA 60Enda O'Coineen's IMOCA 60 yacht at Dun Laoghaire prior to departure for France. Photo:

Speaking about the event, the Irish offshore skipper, who has been making preparations for the race at Dun Laoghaire Harbour marina this month said: "It's an honour to even be in a room with some of these guys, to think I'll be on the starting line on 6 November beside ocean racing superstars such as Alex Thomson is incredible. As I've always said, to finish is to win for me."

O'|Coineen earned the right to compete in the race by virtue of his performance in a transatlantic qualifying race last December, as reported here at the time.

In any typical edition of the global race, up to 50% of the fleet retire with one difficulty or another which is why the race is dubbed the 'everest of sailing'.

This year's race features the next generation of boats that are equipped with foils to deliver faster times if they can survive the harsh conditions. In a recent race from New York, the attrition rate across the Atlantic to France was high. O'Coineen has an older generation craft but it is well tested and capable of completing the course.

O'Coineen is a former organiser of Irish round the world race entries; NCB Ireland, Green Dragon and Team Sanya as well as the two Volvo Ocean Race stop overs in Galway.

Enda will feature on RTE's Late Late Show tonight to discuss his motivations for taking part in the race and his own journey to the starting line. Tune in to RTE One at 21:30

Enda O Coineen yacht cockpitThe cockpit of Enda O'Coineen's IMOCA 60 with images of the last Galway Volvo Ocean Race stopover adorning the bulkheads and below a selected James Joyce quotation for the port–side of his IMOCA 60  Photo:

Enda O Coineen yacht

vendee globe skippersEnda (kneeling centre front row) with the other Vendee Globe skippers

Published in Vendee Globe

Strangford Lough solo sailor Andrew ‘Hammy’ Baker has been announced as the newest team member of Enda O'Coineen's campaign to be the first Irish person to compete in the Vendee Globe race, the non stop, unassisted, race around the world, the Everest of sailing challenges.

Hammy is part of the team that will prepare the boat, optimise performance, and work with Skipper O’Coineen ahead of the Vendee Globe Race start in November.

Hammy aspires to be the first Northern Irish sailor to compete in the Vendee Globe. The race takes place every four years and involves a grueling lap of the planet, alone, through the Southern Ocean. Speaking about the announcement Hammy said:

“To be involved in an all Ireland Team is definitely a huge step towards that end goal… This week he sailed into Belfast where he spent his life sailing on O'Coineen's IMOCA 60.

He previously competed in a solo sailing campaign in a 33-foot yacht where many of the top ocean racers learn the ropes.

The boat will be in Dublin on a round Ireland promotional voyage this weekend.

Published in Vendee Globe

Ireland’s first-ever Vendee Globe entrant, Enda O'Coineen with his IMOCA 60 Kilcullen Voyager, was in his home port of Galway this week for the presentation to First Port of Galway Sea Scouts of a cheque towards the renovation of one of their boats at Galway docks. Rasa is a 24–ft sailing cruiser which has been put back into service through a work programme over the past two seasons by an enthusiastic group of leaders and young scouts under the leadership of Alan Delaunty and Kieran Oliver. The boat, entirely crewed by the young scouts, participated in the Annual Blessing of the Bay last Sunday.

The presentation was made on behalf of the Cruising Association of Ireland, which has about five hundred members around Ireland. Clifford Brown, CAI Commodore, says they are delighted to contribute to such an excellent project giving training in sailing and seamanship to young people in Galway, and hopes the Rasa would next year be able to join one of the local CAI cruises.

The presentation was made aboard Kilcullen Voyager shortly before Enda O’Coineen set off a training session of four hundred miles out into the Atlantic prior to his single-handed handed Vende Globe challenge, starting on 6th November from Les Sables-d’Olonne in the Vendee region of Biscay France. Before departure for this week’s venture, he told the young Sea Scouts that he started his sailing in their troop back in the 1960's under Captain Whooley.

Published in Vendee Globe
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Crawling on hands and knees below deck through the 60–foot IMOCA class Kilcullen Voyager was an interesting experience. She is a “beast of a boat,” her owner told me, “but she also has elegance about her at sea.”
She is also very well-equipped, impressively and dauntingly so. I saw arrays of electronic equipment, water ballast controls and a very simple seat/sleeping berth at the navigation desk, in front of a console that would do credit to a jetliner, but I wouldn’t fancy spending up to three months living in that space.
Having crawled down the port side to the bow, I returned via starboard to emerge into the cockpit and stare upwards again at the mast, clawing its way over a hundred feet skywards.
The Team Ireland yacht was alongside James O’Brien’s Cork Harbour Marina at Monkstown, from where its owner, Enda O’Coineen, was about to depart on an 800-nautical mile training voyage into the Atlantic in pursuance of his plan to be Ireland’s first-ever entrant in the non-stop, around-the-world solo Vendee Globe Race.
Enda suffered damage on that training voyage, when one of the twin rudders was damaged in an impact at sea with an unidentified object, but the yacht sailed into Galway as scheduled and this weekend will begin a promotional voyage from there to Belfast and Dublin.
Enda O’Coineen knows that he attracts differing views from many people. Mine is that his sailing ability and determination cannot be challenged, neither can his courage.
“This is a journey, a psychological challenge as well as a physical one,” he told me.
• Listen to him here on this week’s THIS ISLAND NATION Podcast

Published in Island Nation

Enda O'Coineen will be Ireland's first entry into the Vendee Globe race, a single–handed non stop race around the globe. As Afloat reported in May, the 61–year–old Galwegian will start the race in 95 days time and as part of his preparations has prepared the video below. 

The race sails around the world from west to east via the three major capes of Good Hope, Leeuwin and the Horn. There is a long slide down the Atlantic, the perilous voyage across the Southern Ocean with firstly the Indian Ocean and its crossed seas, then the Pacific Ocean, the world’s biggest ocean. Finally, there is the climb back up the Atlantic to head back to Les Sables d’Olonne, which marks the start and finish of the Everest of the seas.

Published in Vendee Globe

As Afloat reported earlier this week, Enda O’Coineen has confirmed he will be skippering a 'Team Ireland' Vendée Globe Challenge, starting on November 6. An Irish skipper has so far never entered what is considered to be the toughest sailing race in the world; a solo non–stop circumnavigation. O'Coineen completed the qualification stage for the race last December by taking a podium position in the Ocean Masters transatlantic race from the Caribbean to France.

O'Coineen has also announced this afternoon that former Derry Clipper Skipper Sean McCarter, who has his sights set on the Vendée Globe 2020, is lined up as a 'Reserve Skipper' for the current Challenge, as is Irish solo sailor David Kenefick from Cork, an accomplished Figaro sailor. A 'substitute' skipper, according to the Vendee Globe Notice of Race, could replace O'Coineen by midnight the night before the race start as long as they satisfy the race rules.

Ireland’s Marcus Hutchinson is the Project Director, bringing a wealth of Volvo and Americas Cup experience to the team.

Today, in the Irish Embassy in Paris, Team Ireland was joined by French and Irish business interests, kindly hosted by Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason for the announcement.

'Team Ireland' Vendée Globe Challenge has been created to enable future aspirational sailors to utilise the expertise, infrastructure, and value created by the campaign. According to O'Coineen, the new Team Ireland also draws on the legacy of the Green Dragon, the Volvo Ocean Race, and the Whitbread Race. A partner network of sponsors is being invited to support the Team, which will also promote Ireland’s 'Atlantic Youth Trust' charity.

Team Ireland will be racing on board the Owen Clarke designed 'Kilcullen Voyager', formerly skippered by Mike Golding. The 60–foot yacht is currently undergoing a refit in France ahead of a busy programme leading up to the race start.

Enda O’Coineen, the man behind both the NCB Ireland and Green Dragon projects as well as the Volvo Ocean Race visits to Galway, previously twice crossed the Atlantic alone in inflatable boats and more recently finished on the podium in a transatlantic race.

Published in Vendee Globe

​Enda O'Coineen (60) will skipper Ireland's first single handed non–stop round the world sailing race entry this November. The 'Team Ireland Vendée Globe Challenge' is billed as 'a professional sailing team that will see the first ever Irish sportsperson compete in sailing's most difficult race, the Vendée Globe'.

The global race begins on November 6.

O'Coineen will compete in an IMOCA 60-foot monohull, which are among the fastest racing yachts in the world. It is the same boat in which the Galway Bay and Royal Irish Yacht Club sailor finished third in a Transatlantic race last winter to qualify for the Vendee Globe, acknowledged as the everest of sailing.

The Team Ireland Vendée Globe Challenge Project Manager is Marcus Hutchinson. Dublin sailor John McDonald is an advisor and Neil O'Hagan of the Atlantic Youth trust is also involved.

More details on the team Ireland website here


Published in Vendee Globe

In Irish sailing, January is far and away the longest month. Publishing schedules for the printed Afloat Annual mean that December’s “Sailor of the Month” has to be announced on December 15th. So as though January weren’t quite long enough already, we just go right ahead and extend it to six weeks…….

But the thought that January, however long, isn’t a sailing month in Ireland has been well and truly turned on its head. In all, we have three sailors who have made the standard between December 15th and January 31st, and they well represent the diversity of our sailing scene.


enda ocoineen imoca 60
Enda O’Coineen’s Kilcullen Voyager match racing with Alex Thompson’s Hugo Boss in Cork Harbour

In the countdown to Christmas, the thoughts of many in the Irish sailing community weren’t on the usual festive fare. At least parts of their minds were in mid-Atlantic where Enda O'Coineen, arguably Galway’s most stubborn sailor, was battling against the odds in an Open 60 race from St Lucia in the Caribbean to La Foret near Concarneau in Brittany.

“Against the odds” scarcely does the situation justice. Everything seemed to be stacked against him. He’d started a clear day after the rest of the fleet while a mechanical problem was being sorted, but then Kilcullen Voyager and her indomitable skipper found their mojo and fairly streaked across the ocean.

With a mighty leap, our hero freed himself….. It became a race of attrition, with others falling by the wayside through damage or injury. But the Galway boat just kept getting better and better. And they didn’t merely record a respectable finish. They placed third. A podium place. The perfect Christmas present.

enda ocoineen
It’s Christmas and the celebrations have started as Enda O’Coineen closes in for third place at La Foret


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 with good breezes and sunny warm weather. However, a delay in the delivery of the allocated fleet of new boats meant that the practice race was the first time any of the boats had been sailed. But the technological expertise of helmsman Doug Elmes gave the Irish challenge an edge in the race against time to get the boats ready, and though their campaign had its ups and downs, overall it was an impressively cool performance by a team who knew how to put on the pressure and make the right calls when it really mattered.

douglas elmes colin osullivan
Doug Elmes and Colin O’Sullivan on their return to Dublin Airport with the Bronze medals. Photo: W M Nixon

420 dinghy
Sailing conditions were perfect in Malaysia in late Decemberm and the Irish duo revelled in it. Photo: Ross Killian

Elmes is from Kilkenny while O’Sullivan is from Malahide, but it’s the International 420 class’s focal point of Howth YC, with coach Graeme Grant giving the two an extra edge, which had them set up and ready to go to the worlds with ISA Coach Ross Killian.

They had the traditional heroes’ return at Dublin Airport a few days into the New Year, and the weekend saw Howth YC laying on the celebrations with new Commodore Berchmans Gannon putting the medallists through an entertaining question and answer session which set this remarkable success into its proper perspective.

The secrets revealed…..Colin O’Sullivan and Doug Elmes in an entertaining Q & A session with HYC Commodore Berchmans Gannon at the party in the club to celebrate their success. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in Sailor of the Month

The governments in both jurisdictions in Ireland have included an all-Ireland sail training ship for the Atlantic Youth Trust in their long term capital expenditure proposals. And the movement in favour of support for this project has become so strong that the nationwide team involved in promoting it are confident that the ship’s future is now secured.

They continue to hold this view even with general elections and possible major changes in administrative direction taking place, north and south, within the next four months. Thus this week’s 2016 Annual General Meeting of the Atlantic Youth Trust in Irish Lights Headquarters in Dun Laoghaire found itself reviewing a remarkable year of progress and achievement, while giving pointers and reassurances for the successful way ahead. W M Nixon was there to take on board an evening of multiple messages.

It could well be that some time in the future, we will come to the sad but inescapable conclusion that the foundering of the Republic of Ireland’s national 84–ft sail training brigantine Asgard II in September 1908, followed within two years by the sinking of the Northern Ireland 70ft training ketch Lord Rank, were necessary disasters for the progress towards the ultimately more healthy ideal of a Class A 40-metre sail training barquentine.

The proposed ship - determinedly and enthusiastically serving all Ireland – will be initially funded through donations, and by government grants from both sides of the border. But the vessel is to be run independently by a cross-border trust rather than by some obscure unit of a government department.

September 2008 saw Ireland on the edge of the financial abyss. For a government under enormous pressure from all sides, a government, moreover, in which the minister responsible for the Asgard II took little or no interest in the ship and what she did, this sinking was a blessing in disguise.

The hull of Asgard II, completed in 1981, had long passed its sell-by date. When she sank, she took with her the magnificent rig which had been totally replaced only a couple of years earlier. Yet a properly involved government would surely have taken on board the advice that her timber hull urgently needed replacing, preferably with one built in steel. For although in 2008 the ship looked better than ever thanks to the devotion of her crew in working way over and above the call of duty in painting, varnishing and routine maintenance, there was no escaping the fact that the basic hull and its original fittings were living on borrowed time.

Ironically, the visit to La Rochelle, which she was nearing when she sank, included plans for a three-week stopover for a complete survey and some necessary repairs. Whether or not this would have revealed the fracturing seacock which many reckon to have caused the unstoppable ingress of water can only be a matter of speculation. The fact of the matter is the ship sank, and in an exemplary display of seamanship, the captain and crew ensured that their full quota of young trainees got safely away.

asgard tall ship
Flying the flag for Ireland – Asgard II in fine form, seen from another tall ship

But although Asgard II remained stubbornly intact and upright for some weeks on the Bay of Biscay seabed off Belle Ile, a government with financial Armageddon crashing down around its ears was glad enough to be shot of a unique project which some of them had never really understood or supported in the first place. Thus they refused to consider multiple suggests as to how best Asgard II could be salvaged. And frankly, it was for the best that they did so. For like it or not, while she was much-loved by the maritime community, the vessel had lost public confidence.

The subsequent loss of the Lord Rank in July 2010 after striking a rock likewise resulted in a merciful absence of casualties. But with Ireland north and south now in the utter depths of economic recession with no governmental enthusiasm whatsoever for non-essential projects, it was time to re-group for a few years and re-think the entire sail training ideal. It became almost an underground movement, with Coiste an Asgard being re-structured as Sail Training Ireland, and diligently setting about placing Irish trainees on the ships of other nations. It’s an ongoing programme which has been notably successful in providing both sea-going experience and a guaranteed international dimension for young people from all over Ireland, city and country alike.

Meanwhile there were rumblings from the west of Ireland where Enda O'Coineen and John Killeen were building on the can-do attitude of Galway, and from this there gradually emerged the Atlantic Youth Trust. It’s a determinedly all-Ireland group in which the Chairman is former Winter Olympics Gold Medallist Lord Glentoran from Northern Ireland, with the unstoppable unsinkable O Coineen as President. Supporting them is one very impressive list of seriously heavy hitters in the maritime and big business sphere from all over Ireland on its board, and perhaps most importantly of all, at an early stage they secured Neil O’Hagan as Executive Director.

neil o hagan3
Neil O’Hagan, Executive Director of the Atlantic Youth Trust

This sounds an impressive title, but at the moment he heads up a minimal staff. You can get the flavour of it all by taking a look at the Sailing on Saturdays conversation I had with him, reported here on 4th April 2015. The amount of work he puts in is prodigious, and though the Trust’s founding General Meeting was held in Belfast in the Harbour Commission’s historic building on September 10th 2014, they’d to forego a General Meeting during 2015 while various elements and agreements were being finally edged into place.

Since April 2015 we’ve had snippets of news about the governments north and south starting to provide what are essentially government letters of intent in support of the project. However, politics on this island being a snakelike progression notwithstanding the best efforts of St Patrick, with every twist and turn of the political machines the AYT have been at pains to ensure that gains supposedly agreed by one administrative decision-maker are carried through into the remit of the next when the inevitable political wheel of fortune turns yet again at the individual level.

But now, with two general elections in the offing and a rapidly improving situation developing in the AYT’s prospects, it was essential for a properly-convened AGM to be held on Thursday January 21st, staged this time in the impressive board-room of the Irish Lights Commissioners in Dun Laoghaire.

Atlantic youth trust4
The boardroom at Irish Lights HQ is an impressive venue for any meeting, and it suited the Atlantic Youth Trust’s 2016 AGM very well

enda O coineenThe maritime evangelist……Enda O'Coineen in full flight at this weeks AGM of the Atlantc Youth Trust

Ironically, although one of the main lines of thought in the AYT’s thinking is that the ship they’ll provide will be more of a floating multi-discipline schoolship of many projects, both afloat and ashore, rather than a traditional sail training ship, it emerged at the AGM that it was the traditional Tall Ships visit and Parade of Sail in Belfast and on Belfast Lough last July which gave them their greatest boost.

They’d a significant presence there, and thanks to one of the Trust Board Members, they’d the use of a fine big motor vessel aboard which visiting politicos and other heavy hitters could be taken on a sociable yet instructive tour of the harbour and the Tall Ships fleet. For many of these decision makers and opinion formers, it was a transformative experience, turning them into supporters of the Atlantic Youth Trust’s way of thinking.

Tall Ships Belfast 6
The Tall Ships in Belfast, July 2015

ay7She’s not a tall ship, she doesn’t even set sails, but the availability of the fine motor-yacht Evolution as a tour boat was a game changer for the Atlantic Youth Trust at Belfast’s Tall Ships Festival. Photo: W M Nixon

This opened doors north and south, and they rapidly increased their already formidable knowledge of how to work the corridors of power. The meeting on Thursday in Irish Lights was chaired by Peter Cooke from the north, and his affable presence made the running of business very smooth indeed. But as each specialist on the board revealed the progress they’d made during the past year and more in their particular task, it was to realize that here were people who were utterly professional in their approach, yet went at the job with the total enthusiasm of dedicated amateurs.

But what most impressed was the synergy of the high octane talents on the board which, in addition to Lord Glentoran, Enda O Coineen and Peter Cooke, can draw on the talents of people of the calibre of Dr Gerard O’Hare, Roger Courtney, Sean Lemass, David Beattie and John Killeen – with Neil O’Hagan as the key conduit, they’ve turned themselves into a formidable lobbying organisation.

It’s a fact of life in all Irish political administration, and particularly in Dublin, that each separate government department much prefers to function independently within its own little bubble, with nothing whatever to do with any other department while avoiding overlaps if at all possible. This is especially so in the neglected area of maritime activity, which is overseen by several departments, and is further warped by the reality that the government is in Dublin - which is also the biggest port - yet the real scene of the maritime action and the true hotbed of ideas is Cork.

So our shrewd operators in the AYT stood back and concluded that the politician they should most directly target was of course Minister for the Marine (and many other matters) Simon Coveney TD of Cork, but that in Dublin the departments to be wooed were Finance and the Office of the Taoiseach.

With increasing support at official level in the north and enthusiasm from key decision makers in the Republic, things were going grand when the President of the AYT suddenly went off in December 2015 to race single-handed across the Atlantic from the Caribbean to Brittany in his IMOCA 60 Kilcullen Voyager. Enda O’Coineen’s big boat has been very much part of the AYT awareness programme for the past year, taking trainee crews to sea. But this was something else altogether, and it made many supporters of the new training ship ideal distinctly nervous.

ay8Enda O Coineen’s IMOCA 60 Kilcullen Voyager was used in Belfast for AYT work, but then in December he went and raced her single-handed across the Atlantic from the Caribbean to France. Photo W M Nixon

Racing across the Atlantic in as rough a December as anyone could remember may have been a personal challenge, but inevitably it was a high risk venture with which the AYT was inevitably associated, whether it liked it or not. The sailing community in Ireland is small, and nothing can happen in isolation. But to everyone’s enormous relief, not only did the boy do it, but he did it well, sailing across in style and securing a podium place with third at the finish.

This was quietly acknowledged as something which had been on everyone’s mind in a graceful little speech by the Deputy Chairman of the Irish Lights Commissioners congratulating the President on his Transatlantic success. So with everything in place as regards where AYT now stands in relation to both governments, the formal part of the meeting concluded with some commitments as to the way ahead, and the news that the Atlantic Youth Trust’s next public gathering of significance will be in Galway on March 12th, when more precise details of the new ship and the building programme will be revealed.

However, with an ethos in which going the extra mile is part of the DNA, the AYT then laid on a hugely entertaining dinner in the neighbouring Royal Irish YC with fascinating shows by the Gardai Siochana’s Conor O’Byrne, who played a central on-board co-ordination role in rescuing a crewman who had gone overboard in mid-Pacific from the Clipper yacht Derry-Londonderry-Doire, and from Stewart Hosford from Cork, who is CEO of the organisation Five Degrees West whose main project is the designing, building and management of the Imoca 60 boats raced under the Hugo Boss campaign by Alex Thompson.

ay9May The Force Be With You – the two faces of the Garda Siochana’s Conor O’Byrne, who gave the AYT and its supporters a fascinating insight into the successful rescue of a crewmember who went overboard from Derry/Londonderry/Doire in mid-Pacific.

ay10Suits you, Sir…..Alex Thompson on the second Hugo Boss. At Thursday’s meeting, Stewart Hosford of Cork – whose interest in the sea and sailing was inspired by Asgard II – gave the inside story on his job as CEO of the Hugo Boss sailing challenges.

Each compact yet thought-provoking show would have made for a worthy topic on its own in most clubs’ entertainment programme. But it was special to include both on this night of all nights, as each speaker had been enthused in their youth by sailing on Asgard II, and each would do anything to ensure that the upcoming generations get a similar opportunity and inspiration.

It was that kind of night, with the congenial attendance including Seamus McLoughlin and Michael Byrne from Sail Training Ireland, and Oliver Hart whose 70ft schooner Spirit of Oysterhaven continues gallantly to fulfill the role of Ireland’s premier sail training vessel from her base on the Cork coast.

In all, it’s a busy few days for Irish sail training, which is definitely no longer an underground movement. Today, Sail Training Ireland hold their 4th Annual Prize Giving and Programme Launch in the Mansion House in Dublin, looking back on a season in which the number of funded trainees sent on sailing ships abroad and at home came in at just under 300, while in all they arranged berths for more than 500.

The plan for 2016 includes a formal twinning of Dublin and Liverpool for maritime festivals, while on the training front, STI are aiming for a target of 350 funded trainees. And as for Ireland eventually returning to having her own sail training ship, no sooner was Thursday night’s remarkable series of events brought to a close than Neil O’Hagan had to gather his thoughts and head off for New York to meet the Ireland Fund. They are taking a serious and very positive interest in the plans of the Atlantic Youth Trust.

ay11The Dutch Tall Ship Morgenster, seen here on Belfast Lough in July 2015, is one of the vessels used by Sail Training Ireland to send more than 500 young people every year out onto the high seas. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in W M Nixon

Irish solo sailor Enda O’Coineen has finished third in a 3,400 mile non–stop Transatlantic race from the Carribbean to France.

In an exceptional performance, Ireland’s Enda O’Coineen aboard his IMOCA 60 Currency Kilcullen Voyager completed the podium in the IMOCA Ocean Masters Transat St Barth-Port la Forêt, the third event of the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship 2015-2016.

Kilcullen crossed the finish line off the Breton harbour at 13:19:55 today (Sunday, 20th December), with a race time for the 3375 mile course of 13d 22h 19min 55s. In fact O’Coineen was forced to start the race just over a day later than the rest of his competitors after his boat experienced problems with her engine’s saildrive unit. As a result the actual elapsed time for Currency House Kilcullen’s passage across the North Atlantic was 12d 21h 49m and 55s, less than the 12d 23h 57m and 42s time of second placed Fabrice Amédéo who arrived yesterday on Newrest–Matmut.
“My hair is wet from a magnum of champagne - it was a great arrival,” said Kilcullen’s jubilant 60-year-old skipper after he’d docked in Port la Forêt. “I could have got here sooner, but when I realised I was under no pressure I took the last two days easy, rather than trying to catch the other boat.”
While there were seven starters, the race has been a war of attrition thanks to the severe winter gales, which have frequently brought storm force gusts to the fleet over the last week. At present only one boat is left on the race course – Morgan Lagravière’s Safran which was around 870 miles astern when Currency House Kilcullen finished this afternoon.
During one gale early last week, O’Coineen said he saw 46 knots of wind and he experienced similar gusts once past the Azores islands on Thursday night. “You are humbled by that ocean out there. It is an animal! I don’t think the storms are getting any easier with globe warming - some of those storms were outrageous. You got used to the wind being ‘only 30 knots’, all the time,” recounted O’Coineen. He paid tribute to the boat that British round the world veteran Mike Golding sailed to sixth place in the 2012-3 Vendée Globe: “She is a great boat - very well thought out. I think she is easier to sail than some of the other boats. The keel and self-steering are all in great shape.”
The only issue were some sails, which O’Coineen admitted were destroyed due to him pushing too hard early on. “I sailed the boat quite aggressively, because I really wanted to catch up, but probably too aggressively because after four or five days in fairly quick succession, I blew out the A7 and the J2 sails.”
He expended a lot of energy recovering and dropping the broken sails forcing him to have a quiet day to recuperate. “I got back into the race again and got a bit more confident. All I wanted to do was finish, so to be in a podium position is a fantastic result for me, who is a gifted amateur with a day job. I think age does add a certain factor - you have the benefit of experience…and then there’s luck.”
The result of having taken it relatively easy over the last couple of days while the wind has been ‘only 20 knots’, O’Coineen was in good shape when he arrived in Port la Forêt.
In completing this race, O’Coineen and Kilcullen have now qualified themselves for the 2016-7 Vendée Globe, but O’Coineen says he hasn’t made up his mind if he is doing the famous singlehanded non-stop around the world race which leaves next autumn from Les Sables d’Olonne, France: “I am taking it in stages and this is the first stage. I am having serious meetings with myself and myself! It is a very personal thing, another stage in life. But now it is nice to know it is an option.”
If he did do the Vendée Globe, O’Coineen would be Ireland’s first ever entry in the race which over the years in the UK has made sailing stars out of Ellen MacArthur, Sam Davies, Alex Thomson and Brian Thompson among others.

O'Coineen scored the podium position in the IMOCA Ocean Masters Transat St Barth-Port la Forêt race sailing singlehanded across the Atlantic in Mike Golding's Ecover/Gamesa IMOCA 60.

Racing across the North Atlantic in December was no walk in the park and Enda and his boat had to endure repeated storms and 45-50 knot winds.

O'Coineen is the Irishman to have a good crack at the IMOCA class, taking third on his debut race.

After starting 24 hours behind the fleet due to technical difficulties, Enda in his 60–foot IMOCA yacht trailed the leaders by over 300 miles before making a remarkable comeback

The fleet of seven almost identical yachts was repeatedly hit by winter storms, facing winds of over 90kph and massive sized waves. One skipper had to be airlifted off his boat due to injuries he sustained. Three others had to stop to make emergency repairs in the Azores following damage.


Speaking about the race Enda said:

“Over the years I have crossed many oceans in yachts and inflatables much smaller than this, yet this has been the most physically and technically testing race I have ever entered. Sailing these boats alone is a test of literally every skill imaginable. From stitching sails, working on engines, cooking in 20ft swells, to having no more than a few minutes consistent sleep at a time, the past two weeks have tested me beyond imagination."

"It is fear, the adventure, the unknown, and the scale of the challenge that attracts me to this extreme end of the sport. Most of my competitors are 20 years my junior but that only makes me even more determined. The objective was simple, to finish, and in turn qualify for the Vendee. To finish 3rd is remarkable but only possible due to the misfortune of my fellow competitors as they suffered gear failures."

O'Coineen will now rest and look forward to 2016 and the possibility of racing solo around the world in the Vendee Globe. 


Published in Solo Sailing
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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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