#SAILOR OF THE MONTH – Sophie Browne of Tralee Bay and Royal Cork is Afloat.ie/Irish Independent "Sailor of the Month" for January after taking the Silver Medal in the Girls Division in the Optimist Worlds in New Zealand. She added it to the Gold in the Girls, and fourth overall, which she won from an enormous fleet in the last major European regatta of 2011, at Palma, Mallorca in December.
Sophie in action abroad in Palma (top) and at home
It's some going when you're just fourteen. Sophie is back at school now, trying to make up for lost study time. But if she gives it the same total dedication she put into each sailing campaign during recent years, she'll sail into a good leaving cert in due course.
Dedication is the name of the game, and the Browne family in Tralee are a byword for it. Normally, the adjudicators for the Sailor of the Month are very reluctant to make the award to the most junior helms. They grow up so quickly, there's something ephemeral about it all.
But even at only fourteen, there's nothing ephemeral about Sophie's success. Other kids may think too much about the glitzy side of championships, but Sophie Browne is well aware of the sheer hard work and unglamorous dedication which goes into that podium place.
After the big regatta in Palma in December, the European Optimist squad went out to New Zealand with high hopes. But the pre-Worlds and the Worlds were salutary experiences. Thoughtful observers were well aware of the rising talents of southeast Asia, and South America too, as well as New Zealand and Australia, but for most it was a daunting learning experience.
It's Singapore which is most clearly setting the pace. Kimberly Lim from the vibrant city-state was both top girl, and the new world champion. Sophie Browne was second in the girls, but was back in 13th overall. Yet she was still one of the best of the Europeans – the top British sailor, for instance, was back in 21st.
It's the first time a 14–year old helm has taken the monthly sailor title. We've had younger sailors sharing a title as crews on a Mirror dinghy, but this is the first driver. And we're certain sure it won't be the last we'll hear of Sophie Browne of Tralee Bay in international sailing.