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Kinsailor, the Kinsale Yacht Club Under-25 J24 crew were the inaugural winners of the 'Jack Roy Perpetual Trophy', awarded to the best female helm at Saturday night's 2023 Simply Blue Sovereign's Cup prizegiving.

The trophy was commissioned by the club and made in West Cork.

KYC created the award as a mark of appreciation to the late Jack Roy's running of many events for the club, particularly as Race Officer and Principal Race Officer for The Sovereign's Cup Regatta for many years.

The club asked his wife, Rosemary, who also officiates at Sovereign's Cup races, to present the trophy to the inaugural winners.

Jill Roy, with (from left) sponsor Hugh Kelly of Simply Blue Group, Kinsale Yacht Club Commodore Matthias Hellstern and her month Rosemary thanked the club for commission the new trophy in her late father's honour Photo: Bob BatemanJill Roy, with (from left) Sovereign's Cup sponsor Hugh Kelly of Simply Blue Group, Kinsale Yacht Club Commodore Matthias Hellstern and her mother Rosemary thanked the club for commissioning the new trophy in her late father's honour Photo: Bob Bateman

The Roy's eldest daughter Jill thanked the club on behalf of the Roy family, highlighting how Jack loved everything about Kinsale Yacht Club and particularly enjoyed his involvement in the Sovereign's Cup.

Jill Roy's words were met with the biggest applause of the night as the packed clubhouse remembered their much-missed race officer.

“Always ready to take a joke” – during a very challenging flukey wind pattern at the Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale, Race Officer Jack Roy takes a personal prize in the proper spirit at the evening awards ceremony. Photo: Robert Bateman“Always ready to take a joke” – during a very challenging flukey wind pattern at a previous Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale, Race Officer Jack Roy takes a personal prize in the proper spirit at the evening awards ceremony. Photo: Robert Bateman

Read all Afloat's 2023 Sovereign's Cup Regatta coverage in one handy link here

Published in Sovereign's Cup
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When we published a comprehensive overview of Jack Roy’s achievement-filled career ashore and afloat on 14th July 2017, it was in light of his recently-elected position as President of Irish Sailing. With someone who lived life a hundred per cent and beyond, this intriguing story naturally included some thoughts about his subsequent retirement plans. He was already formulating these with imaginative thoroughness and enjoyment, even if he was giving most of his readily-focused attention to his many interests and duties in the here and now in the summer of 2017.

For Jack Roy was the very embodiment of the old saying that if you want anything done, then ask a busy man to do it. And the thought that he has suddenly been taken from among us all too early at the age of 63 leaves us initially with a sense of numbness, and then the feeling of an enormous void in the pattern of Irish life.

It is something which is widely shared, for in the social restrictions of these pandemic times when frequent casual meetings are no longer part of everyday life, relatively few people were aware that Jack’s appearance had recently been showing signs of his battle with cancer. Though some outside his circle of family and close friends might have given a socially-distanced greeting to him across the marina or elsewhere, those who did meet him in this slightly remote way were more likely to appreciate his usual interested sociability than precise details of his appearance.

“Always ready to take a joke” – during a very challenging flukey wind pattern at the Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale, Race Officer Jack Roy takes a personal prize in the proper spirit at the evening awards ceremony. Photo: Robert Bateman“Always ready to take a joke” – during a very challenging flukey wind pattern at the Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale, Race Officer Jack Roy takes a personal prize in the proper spirit at the evening awards ceremony. Photo: Robert Bateman

That is how he would have liked it, for although any assessment of Jack and Rosemary Roy would indicate that they were a true Power Couple of the best sense of the term, they were a Power Couple in the most self-effacing and empathetic way. Thus while they inevitably had a very public profile both in sport and in business and in Irish life generally, they managed to keep their private life very private, and their thriving and very warm family life was private with it.

Beset as we are by the many and varied demands of the modern world, achieving such a healthily balanced existence could be an enormous challenge if one saw it as such. But Rosemary and Jack so perfectly complemented each other that they seemed to manage it effortlessly. It can’t have been effortless, but they would have regarded it as very bad manners to make any sort of song and dance about all that they had signed up to do.

Consequently, it was a wonder to many how such a busy couple were always there on time on summertime Thursday evenings to head the team organising the main Dublin Bay Sailing Club fixture, for it meant that in effect they were running a weekly regatta. In fact, Jack’s race-organising abilities took him to Olympic level and an international role, but in doing this he always kept himself firmly grounded at home through having at least one family boat on the go, and usually more if he reckoned he’d time on his hands. That said, if Jack Roy found he’d time on his hands which most folk would have thought appropriate for a well-deserved rest, he would quickly find something to do, such as restoring a near-derelict Squib.

He was a wonderful combination of strategic and tactical thinking, and straightforward practicality. For many years he was a successful stalwart of the Flying Fifteen fleet at the National Yacht Club, and former NYC Commodore Ronan Beirne fondly recalls Jack coming up with a beautiful solution to the challenge of getting the F/F fleet ashore with a minimum of fuss after a day’s racing. For it was Jack who came up with the idea of a compact winch-windlass and long line which brings the Flying Fifteens on their trailers seamlessly up the slipway and into their hard standing, a continuous process which is still very much in use today, and is much quicker than the hassle of individual craning.

There were giants in those days……Jack Roy presents the Presidential Award to the late Carmel Winkelmann of Dun Laoghaire to celebrate her Golden Jubilee of Services to sailingThere were giants in those days……Jack Roy presents the Presidential Award to the late Carmel Winkelmann of Dun Laoghaire to celebrate her Golden Jubilee of Services to sailing

On the administrative side, his breadth of interests and locations was reflected in his clubs, as he maintained his boyhood base with membership at Greystones Sailing Club, and showed his broadening of interests with membership of the National Yacht Club and the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, while his high summer focus was reflected in his membership of Kinsale YC, and his changing emphasis from all-out racing with occasional cruising to a growing enjoyment of cruising was structured with membership of the Irish Cruising Club.

This breadth of interest was reflected in his modus operandi in being President of Irish Sailing, when he made it his business to visit – preferably in his Halberg Rassy 48 cruiser – every club in Ireland. But whatever means of transport was used, he would readily go where and when invited, and Pierce Purcell of Galway recalls for Galway Bay SC fellow-members this outgoing and infectiously-enthusiastic approach:

“Sad news with the passing of Jack Roy, International Race Officer, former President of Irish Sailing and a thorough gentleman.

Rory Carberry and I served with him on the IS board and arranged a number of meetings in the west. And many of you will remember Jack arriving in Kilronan in the Aran Islands early one morning in 2019 for the start of WIORA, and then heading back to Dun Laoghaire to start the Volvo series all in the same day, and seemingly not a bother on him.

He was Guest of Honour at GBSC’s annual presentation of prizes and Laying Up Supper in 2019. Jack had become great friends over the years with Alan Crosbie of Kinsale and Peter Crowley of Crosshaven with their shared interest in serving sailing through first class race management, and their approach is highly respected throughout Ireland.

Jack’s roots were from a small club and he had the height of regard for the achievements of clubs like Galway, who are holding their own with much larger clubs. I’m personally devastated, and had been since recently learning of his illness. He was a pleasure to work with and someone who could relate to so much in sailing in Ireland.

At a family level, my sons Pierce Jnr and Mark worked with him all over the country, mark laying at regional, national and international events, and they would never want to miss a championship if Jack phoned and asked will we see you in Kinsale or Dun Laoghaire? He was their legend and kept the sailing family around the country, and additionally knew how important it was to keep in contact with clubs.”

Celebrating outstanding offshore racing success – President Jack Roy with Round Ireland and Beaufort Cup winner Commandant Barry Byrne of Wicklow with his wife, the interior designer Suzie McAdam.Celebrating outstanding offshore racing success – President Jack Roy with Round Ireland and Beaufort Cup winner Commandant Barry Byrne of Wicklow with his wife, the interior designer Suzie McAdam.

While Jack Roy could be the most relaxed, charming and entertaining company with a genuine interest in those with whom he was talking, there was always a background Jack Roy working out ways in which he could best handle an up-coming project. In line with this and through his extensive Swedish business connections, he had developed a dynamic relationship with Hallberg Rassy in order to cruise his HR 48 Tangaroa to the Baltic for a summer, and then lay up at Hallberg Rassy HQ for a complete refit to prepare the vessel for his and Rosemary’s long-planned retirement cruise.

But with the pandemic, it had to be deferred. And now, it is not to be. It says everything about Jack Roy’s special position in sailing in Ireland that we all feel the ending of that attractive personal project as a shared loss. Our most heartfelt sympathies are with Rosemary, daughters Suzi and Jill and extended family and those friends who are many, for she and Jack shared a wonderful gift of ready and real friendship.

Jack Roy’s funeral cortege will proceed past the Dun Laoghaire waterfront yacht clubs at approximately 1.15 pm tomorrow (Wednesday).

Published in News Update
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13th December 2021

Jack Roy RIP

The death of former Irish Sailing President and Olympic Games Race Officer Jack Roy of Greystones and Dun Laoghaire has deprived our sport of one of its most popular and enthusiastic devotees, both in terms of services to sailing and in his own great and infectious enjoyment of racing and cruising.

His sudden passing was acknowledged in a minute’s silence before today’s DBSC Turkey Shoot race on Dublin Bay, and Afloat. ie will be posting a full appreciation of this remarkable man next week. But meanwhile, our profoundly heartfelt condolences are with his family and his very many friends.

Dublin Bay Sailing Club (DBSC) held a minutes silence in honour of Jack Roy ahead of its Turkey Shoot races. The DBSC Freebird committee boat flew flags and burgees at half-mast in a mark of respect to its former Chief Race Officer. Photo: Brian MathewsDublin Bay Sailing Club (DBSC) held a minutes silence in honour of Jack Roy ahead of its Turkey Shoot races this morning. The DBSC Freebird committee boat (above) flew flags at half-mast as a mark of respect to its late Chief Race Officer. Photo: Brian Mathews

The funeral will be held on Wednesday, December 15th. Details are here

The funeral cortege will go via the Dun Laoghaire Waterfront Yacht Clubs at 1.15 pm approximately.

Published in News Update
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When Jack Roy of Dun Laoghaire (though originally from Greystones) retired from the Presidency of Irish Sailing on March 21st, it marked the conclusion of a hugely successful three years in the top post in Irish sailing. They were three remarkable if extremely busy 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.

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.

Since his election as President in 2017, Jack and Rosemary Roy have become the very personification of all that is best in Irish sailing, and we are honoured to make them our Sailors of the Month for March 2020.

jack rosemary roy fastnet2Presidential cruising – Jack and Rosemary Roy aboard Tangaroa at the Fastnet Rock

Published in Sailor of the Month
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Irish Sailing President Jack Roy got proceedings underway at the RS Aero Open Day last Saturday morning. The event was hosted by the Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School in conjunction with the RS Sailing agent in Ireland, Irish National Marine Services and the new class association.

“We were delighted with our first RS Aero Open day hosted by the INSS and Kenny Rumball. Irish Sailing President Jack Roy was very impressed by the boat, Mark Gavin who kindly loaned his boat as a demo had to convince Jack that the boat was in fact six years old so good is the build quality that it looked as good as new.

Kenny Rumball reported that "it was brilliant to see people of all ages trying out the boat from Oppie sailors to lifetime Laser sailors looking for something more rewarding". "All came back in with one thing in common – a smile on their face!", he said. The 5 and 7 rigs proved to be a great hit with people and they loved the instant speed.

The most consistent feedback on the RS Aero was around three areas;

  • fun with instant acceleration
  • excellent build quality and systems
  • stability in strong winds

Brendan Foley, Chairman of the RS Aero Ireland Association said: "We look forward to the class continuing to grow and to seeing lots of new sailors on the water enjoying this truly exceptional dinghy.” 

The classes next big outing will be the RS Aero Irish Open, taking place on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd of May, hosted by the Irish National Sailing Club from Dun Laoghaire.

A strong contingent of UK based boats is expected, and there are new boats in stock here in Ireland that will be ready in time for the event.

A short video of some of the action can be seen here. The Irish class already is 17 strong, and off the back of the Open Day, those numbers are expected to rise.

Published in RS Aero
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Time was when Annual General Meetings were well-attended events with opportunities for the highlighting of grievances among the membership, and even – in the distant past – the possibility of a vigorous and sometimes heated debate writes W M Nixon.

But with today’s 24/7 communications across the sailing media, and the rapid compartmentalisation of problems as they have arisen through the year into quickly-established and recognised solution structures with accepted methods of procedure, contemporary AGMs have become smoothly-choreographed and businesslike meetings which review a wide range of topics in a short space of time, thanks to a specialised attendance which is already well-briefed on the matters in hand.

But despite the impersonal nature of the raft of skillfully-collated data which the attendance will have readily to hand, national sporting bodies are ultimately all about people. And last Saturday’s Annual General Meeting of Irish Sailing in the hospitable National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire had its positive tone set by the friendly personality, style and enthusiasm of President Jack Roy, now energetically into his second year of the three year term as President.

That said, it was a modestly-attended event, even if many of the key people in the Irish sailing scene were there. But my own feeling was that our President has thrown himself into his voluntary task with such effective interest and enjoyment that many of his members feel sure that, if they haven’t done so already, they are pretty certain to meet him soon at some of the many events he attends in one or other of his many capacities, for he is also a noted Race Officer, while he relishes the individuality of Ireland’s widely-varied sailing clubs, and is keen to visit as many of them as possible in both a personal and Presidential role.

Jack Roy was also very much in evidence on stage in the RDS just over four weeks ago for the annual Volvo/Irish Sailing/ Sailing Awards. That event was attended by more than 440 people, so numerically it not only completely eclipses any other sailing gathering by a wide margin, but it is sailing’s main social gathering, whereas the AGM is strictly business.

The too, since the Awards, we’ve not only had the well-attended Irish Sailing/CAI Annual Cruising Conference, but the new “Sailor of the Year” Conor Fogerty has won his first major of 2018 within a fortnight of receiving his accolade. And on the weekend of the AGM, sailing was taking place with the Inter-Varsities in Kilrush, the popular PY1000 race at Royal Cork, and several other smaller events scheduled at other centres.

In other words, 2018’s sailing itself is now taking centre stage. But those who were at the AGM came from several parts of the country while reflecting all interests, and with a high turnout of top officers it was a chance for some post-AGM networking on topics of mutual interest. As for the meeting itself, the core was the Presidential Report and the Financial Statement, (downloadable below) while the extra contribution was by Neil Murphy, who headed the vital Strategic Review of three years ago. Having seen many of his proposals implemented, he was pleased to report that the number of people using the various introductory courses to sailing was increasing, and that now that they had a handle on the figures, the time and resources-consuming business of making an annual survey of the clubs would become a biennial project.

The AGM tried to give an overall picture of an organisation of great diversity. Whether we like it or not, the success of the High Performance Divisions is key to fund-raising from Sports Ireland, while recognized international racing success is also central to the continung development of the fund-raising activities of the Irish Sailing Foundation. Yet this level of sailing is far indeed from the activities of your ordinary club racer, and much of its work is organised by highly specialised semi-autonomous sub-groups.

Trying to include them all in a comprehensible overall picture which reflects Irish Sailing in all its diversity is a challenge. But the abiding impression of Saturday’s AGM was that our President has put his enthusiasm and energy into the task of serving all Irish sailing with his customary dedication and enjoyment. Irish Sailing is in good hands.

Published in ISA
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As we head into the winter I’m not just looking back on a very active calendar of sailing, but also looking forward to our winter schedule writes Irish Sailing President Jack Roy.

I’ve travelled around the country extensively these last few months, and seeing the number of boats on the water as well as the obvious optimism and enthusiasm, is fantastic. Volunteers remain the pivoting factor to the success of so many events. From those hosted by the larger yacht clubs like the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, one of the largest events in Europe this season, to the Sovereign’s Cup in Kinsale or the ICRA Championships in Crosshaven, to WIORA hosted by Club Seoltóireacht Árann on Inis Mór, Glandore YC’s Classic Regatta, and Calves Week organised by Schull SC, to numerous dinghy Regional and National Championships, it’s been a great season. All around the country, with the backing of sponsors at all levels, clubs are providing great sailing, training, competition, enjoyment and the all-important “fun” which is key to our sport.

The culmination of this event-filled summer came in October with the hosting of our All Ireland Sailing Championships in Mullingar Sailing Club. This unique event, now in its 70th year, saw sixteen of our national champions race against each other in this year’s chosen boat, the GP14. A very pleased Fionn Lyden, of Baltimore Sailing Club, was the winner of a tense and close fought competition beating the defending champion Alex Barry into second place. Fionn now joins Alex and a long list of previous champions, from Anthony O’Leary and Nicholas O’Leary in recent years through to Olympic veterans Mark Mansfield and Mark Lyttle. The talent coming up through the ranks was represented the week before at the Junior All Ireland Sailing Championships at Fastnet Marine Outdoor Education Centre, where local Cork sailor Micheal O'Suilleabhain of Kinsale Yacht Club claimed the title.

The inaugural Watersports Inclusion Games in June in Dun Laoghaire saw 80 volunteers providing activities for over 220 participants with various abilities on the physical, sensory, intellectual and learning difficulty spectrums. The participants and their families had a chance to try sailing, rowing and canoeing, and showcased how sailing really is a sport for all and a sport for life. The Games were such a success that we’ve been shortlisted for the annual CARA Inclusion Awards.

Internationally too Irish sailors are making an impact. Currently competing in the Volvo Ocean Race are Damian Foxall in his sixth race, on board Vestas 11th Hour, while Annalise Murphy sails her first race joining the crew of Turn the Tide on Plastic. We’ll be profiling all Irish involvement in the race on our website over the coming weeks.

As I write this blog, Tom Dolan is currently lying fifth in the Mini Transat Race. This is going to be an exciting race to follow over the coming days as the race reaches its climax, finishing in Martinique. Tom is aiming for a podium finish which now looks very achievable. Good luck Tom from all of us!

Published in ISA
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The role of President of what is now Irish Sailing is central to our activities afloat. The diverse boating community that the President both serves and represents is affected by the variable socio–economic circumstances in which our sport - in its broadest sense – is functioning and developing. The way that the organisation lead by the President evolves to suit changing sailing and boating needs, the way that it caters for the requirements of ordinary sailors, and the level of international success achieved by our leading athletes - these factors affect us all.

Interwoven through every aspect of Irish Sailing and the diverse activities it caters for, the personality and abilities of the holder of the position of President play a key background role in our sailing and boating. They can significantly affect how we the participants see and experience what we do, and how the rest of the world perceives us. W M Nixon takes a look back to the roller-coaster of experience provided for Irish sailing in recent years, and tells us more about Jack Roy, the new President.

In the fallout years during and after the economic recession which began in 2008, what was then the Irish Sailing Association found itself in a complex and often conflicting situation. Shrinking consumer demand among ordinary sailors resulted in severe financial constraints, with painful cutbacks within the organisation and in the services it could provide to the wider sailing community. As for the customer base, most of them did their sailing through clubs which were themselves going through varying levels of trauma both in terms of declining active membership, and years of financial challenge.

Yet at the same time Ireland’s international sailors within the Olympic framework, and at other levels such as the Commodore’s Cup win captained by Anthony O’Leary in 2014, were showing great achievement and promise. This was to result in internationally-recognised success in 2016 when Annalise Murphy won the Silver Medal in the Laser Radial at the Rio Olympics. It was an achievement that significantly raised the mood nationally in an Ireland still struggling with the continuing effects of recession. And within sailing, it provided a boost of extra confidence in a sport which, despite an undoubted though arguably temporary shrinkage in numbers actively involved, had continued at its core level through the resilience of its truest adherents.

jack roy at fastnet2The relaxed helmsman. Jack Roy and his wife Rosemary on their Hallberg Rassy 46 Tangaroa at the Fastnet Rock during a West Cork cruise

Inevitably the economic pressures had required some drastic cutbacks, and significant changes of direction in management. The Board of the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) decided that only by bringing in new blood could they ensure the necessary change of course, and in 2014 David Lovegrove became President for a three year period, despite not having been a Board member beforehand.

He brought a clear-eyed outsider’s view with exceptional experience both as a dinghy and keelboat sailor, as a former Commodore of Howth Yacht Club during its Centenary Year of 1995, and as an internationally-recognised Race Officer.

The very conscientious Lovegrove, a notably private person, was reckoned to be the safe pair of hands needed to guide the Association out of the wilderness. Much of this was done through quiet work behind the scenes, while the more public side of the ISA was represented by the High Performance division. In better economic times, the clubs and other boating organisations may be entitled to capital grants from governmental sports bodies. But in a period of financial stringency, the serious public money coming into sailing is basically aimed at Olympic success, for the truth is that Olympic sailing is the only branch of the sport to register at the required level of public interest.

Thus it was a difficult course the new President had to tread between introducing economy of expenditure – sometimes extreme economy – at most levels, while at the same time helping potential Olympic athletes make the best of what was available. For although it was in amounts much greater than any funding going to other areas of Irish sailing, it was almost absurdly small by comparison with major sailing nations.

It all came good in August 2016 with that marvellous medal win in Rio, while back home the green shoots of early recovery had long since developed into vigorous and broadly-based growth, even if some of those seriously damaged by the recession will never fully recover. But Irish sailing had come through, and in March this year David Lovegrove stood down as ISA President, and stood down as well from the Board to return to his core interests of club sailing and acting as a highly-regarded Race Officer at home and abroad.

Jack Roy, his successor as President until 2020, continues to bring to the job many of the qualifications and abilities David Lovegrove provided, yet the new President is a very different personality. Affable and outgoing, his exuberant and infectious enthusiasm informs everything he does, so much so that if he had a philosophy of life, it might be something on the lines if: “If you aren’t enjoying it, then why are you doing it?”

Admittedly if you went into David Lovegrove’s various interests, you’d find that in his very quiet way, he has much the same attitude. But while he was the ideal person to be President in the harsh recessionary times, Jack Roy is the ideal man at the helm when the going gets good.

It’s not that he hasn’t steered some organisations successfully through some very thin times, for he most definitely has. But somehow as the pace begins to pick up again, it seems right and proper that Jack Roy is holding the course.

So who is he, our new steersman? Well, he’s also a relative newcomer to the inner circles of the national sailing authority, as he was only brought onto the Board as recently as 2013, when the scale of the problems the ISA faced were becoming abundantly clearer by the day. The powers-that-be reckoned that as an active sailor, a fully accredited International Race Officer since 1998, an International Technical Officer (ITO) at the 2012 Olympics, and the instigator of many organisations and innovations in sailing, Jack Roy had the qualities they badly needed in Irish sailing’s national hours of need.

jack roy mirror3The first boat - the Mirror dinghy he built with his father in 1967 – means that this year, Jack Roy celebrates 50 years in sailing. The photo was taken at the Mirror Worlds in Sligo in 1973. Photo: John Fitzpatrick/courtesy Roy family

Having served four years on the Board, he has been President for nearly four months now. And a very busy four months they’ve been too, both for Irish sailing and the President, as he implements a policy of being personally present at as many major events as possible, while continuing his voluntary duties as a race officer with Dublin Bay SC every Thursday evening, and taking in the same task at several top events including the ICRA Nationals in Cork in June, and the recent Dun Laoghaire Regatta in Dublin Bay.

jack roy aran islands4Jack Roy with event organizer Cormac Mac Donnacha at the first day of the WIORA Championship on the Aran Islands on Wednesday July 5th. That same evening, he was present at the Civic Reception in Dun Laoghaire Town Hall for the official opening of the four day Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017. Racing in that started racing next day, and he served as one of the Race Officers throughout

roy girls in squib5Jack Roy’s daughters Jill and Suzie taking the family Squib out to race in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta while their father was busy running one of the race areas

That mega-event marked a watershed in the 2017 season as the annual programme begins to shift its emphasis towards the late July and August schedules, so this week we managed to find a breathing space to get together in the cool peace of one of the Dun Laoghaire clubs in its pleasantly informal post-regatta mode, and was given the opportunity to learn a bit more about Jack Roy.

Of course, just about every active sailor knows Jack Roy, in that he officiates at major events afloat, speaks passionately yet with wit and humour at many diverse functions ashore, and is himself a keen sailor aboard one of his two boats whenever he gets the opportunity. He exudes enthusiasm and energy so much you might call him a force of nature, and the story of his lifepath is one with which the entire Irish sailing community can readily identify, for all that he is a classic south County Dubliner through and through.

He’s a south Dub despite the fact that he was born in Greystones in 1958. His father – from Sandymount – had reputedly run away to sea as a boy, but in time the runaway became a leading figure in Dublin in the marketing and installation of lighting of all kinds to an industrial level. Yet the call of the sea was strong, so one of his sports was sailing, and among the craft he sailed aboard was Bonito of 1874 vintage, owned by Dun Laoghaire character Roy Starkey, and crewed by one Bob Geldof and his various relations.

An upshot of all this is that Jack Roy is a cousin of Bob Geldof Jnr. The precise details of who married whom and when and where is beyond the scope of this blog, but it’s all of a piece that Jack Roy is a cousin of Bob Geldof and is a true South Dub despite spending the early years of his boyhood in a seaside town in north County Wicklow.

While his father worked in the lighting business in Dublin and also established and ran a business in the same line in Manchester, he and Jack’s mother were very much involved in Greystones life, what with her involvement for many decades on behalf of the RNLI, and their shared interest in boats and the sea. They were both to become founder members of Greystone Sailing Club in 1968, and his father John was one of the leading figures in the late-1960s development of Greystones Harbour.

That all sounds like a much grander project than it really was. What happened was that the first attempt to use pioneering techniques to build a lighthouse for the Kish Bank off Dublin Bay in the 1960s ended in failure when the reinforced concrete structure cracked as it was being towed out to the Kish Bank from its building site in the Coal Harbour in Dun Laoghaire. The entire structure – including its large circular base – was condemned, but a second successful attempt to build the Kish Lighthouse was soon under way.

Meanwhile the maritime men of Greystones saw an opportunity to improve their tiny harbour at a stroke. They reckoned that the original soon-to-be-demolished base for the Kish Lighthouse would provide a ready-made basis for an enlarged breakwater at their home port, so they struck a deal, and a long slow tow brought the floating cast concrete base to its new home. It was moored up for the night to be ready for final placing and filling the following day, and then everyone adjourned to the Beach House for celebratory pints until a late hour.

greystones harbour6Greystones Harbour with its new breakwater as installed in the late 1960s. Jack Roy’s father John was one of those involved in acquiring the base of the experimental Kish Lighthouse for re-use as the main part of the breakwater. The former lighthouse base is under the red van in the photo

But when everyone looked out in the morning to admire yet again the basis for their new pier, there it was – gone. The ebb tide had taken it away. Fortunately, it had gone no further than South Beach, and they managed to get it back and set in place on a more permanent basis to be the basis of Greystones Harbour for many years. But with the much more recent new harbour work at Greystones, you’d need to be an archaeologist to find the old base of the first Kish Lighthouse, though it’s probably somewhere deep under the new Greystones Sailing Club building.

Back in 1967, the sailors of Greystones made the move into Mirror dinghies, and John Roy built one with his son’s help. Today, Jack Roy has only to get the whiff of fibreglass work under way to be transported on a wave of nostalgia back to the happy days when he and his dad were building his Mirror in the garage fifty years ago, which means he has become president of the Irish Sailing Association in the same year that he celebrates fifty years of being an active owner-skipper.

With an equally young Pearse Dunne as crew, Jack Roy campaigned the Mirror with growing expertise, but when Greystones Sailing Club – formed the year after the Roy family had built their Mirror – began to plan a move up into Enterprise dinghies which could also be home built, young Jack showed his distinct streak of individuality. While the Enterprise was an attractive boat, she didn’t have a spinnaker and she didn’t use a trapeze, and the 16-year-old Jack Roy wanted both, so in 1974 he threw in his lot with the developing International 420 Class in the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire.

While Greystones still remains very special to him, by this time has life increasingly revolved around south Dublin, where he was a pupil at Blackrock College and then St. Gerards in Bray. He was drawn into the trophy-winning rugby team at Blackrock, displaying his talents as a loosehead prop in the thick of the scrum. It’s a character-building position, to say the least. And as Jack quips, it gives you a very thick neck, which is a very good thing to have if you’re going to give frequent service as a race officer in sailing.

It also reinforced his enthusiasm for team effort. He is at his best in a team in any role including captain, and in a sense this was reflected in his sailing, as he never became personally involved in the growing number of single-handed classes which were developing throughout Ireland.

His sailing nevertheless was proceeding apace, with a new 420 and international competition. But surely the most important thing to have happened to him is that in 1975 he met Rosemary Dobbyn. He was aged just 17. He was smitten. By the time he was 23, they were married. They continue to be so much together that they work together, and on his race officer duties, she is the timekeeper.

jack roy pegeen7The Roy family’s William Garden-designed 52-footer Pegeen in Castletownshend, West Cork. Pegeen played a key role in family life from 1975 to 1989

By this time his parents were expanding their own interests afloat, and there was much family cruising with a variety of craft, starting in 1972 with a Scottish-built 36ft Miller Fifer Motor-Sailer. But one day in Arklow they spotted a 52ft American sloop Pegeen newly in from a rough Atlantic crossing which had cured the owners’ enthusiasm for voyaging. Jack’s father was drawn to the boat and after length negotiations he finally secured her, and from 1975 to 1989, Pegeen was central to the Roy family life for all generations.

Designed by William Garden and teak-built in 1957 in China, Pegeen taught Jack much of what he knows about cruising, and she taught him almost more than he wants to know about maintaining a wooden boat. She also broadened his knowledge about Irish sailing locations – having cruised the places conveniently reached from Dublin Bay since 1975, from 1981 onwards the Roy family based Pegeen in East Ferry in Cork Harbour, commuting to her at weekends and making West Cork into their ideal of cruising perfection.

Yet at the same time young Jack’s racing career was developing in Dublin Bay and at international events, while he took the clearcut step of going straight from school into the family industrial lighting business, immediately showing a very strong work ethic. With the Irish construction industry being volatile, to say the least, the family’s Manchester business had a significant role to play, and for a while Jack and Rosemary lived and worked there.

But they decided Ireland was always to be their home, they settled in Loughlinstown southwest of Dun Laoghaire and are still in the same area, though in a different house. Jack immersed himself in the family’s Dublin business while Rosemary worked as a midwife in the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, rising through the front line ranks to register 22 years of service to Ireland’s population boom.

Jack and Rosemary Roy are both grafters, it’s central to what they are - it’s the way they approach things and they believe both in hard work and in enjoying it too. So somehow while developing and guiding the lighting business on Jack’s side and putting in long hours in Holles Street on Rosemary’s, they became a family with daughters Jill and Suzie, while Jack’s sailing – based now at the National Yacht Club – moved onto a new level with his devoted involvement with the Flying Fifteen class.

Not that all ties with family cruising were dropped, for although the increasingly-demanding Pegeen was sold in 1989, Jack’s parents promptly replaced her for another ten years of cruising with the Nicholson 38 ketch Conche, a much easier maintenance proposition with her fibreglass hull and more manageable size.

But since 1981 – after a brief flirtation with the International 470 – Jack Roy’s racing was with the Flying Fifteen class, and with crewman Mal Nowlan – who continues as a good friend and a member of his Race Management team – he was increasingly there or thereabouts at the front of the Flying Fifteen class.

jack roy flying fifteen8Jack Roy racing his Flying Fifteen Ffrisbee (3195) at the Worlds in Dublin Bay in 1992, crewed by newcomer Dave Gorman. They were getting places up to fourth

And he was being drawn into many aspects of sailing administration, by 1986 becoming Honorary Sailing Secretary of the National Yacht Club. One evening, it was discovered that the designated Race Officer was a no show, so Jack took on the job just for that evening’s racing. But he discovered he’d a taste and a talent for it, and particularly enjoyed finding it was a team effort rather than a one man band. A new strand had been added to his already busy sailing career and demanding working life.

At the same time, he was increasingly involved in the shoreside politics of sailing through the Flying Fifteens, finding that he much enjoyed the increased range of friendships which international events provided – he continues to have good friends in New Zealand as a result of the Flying Fifteen Worlds in Kinsale in 1984.

However, he was concerned with the way that the Flying Fifteen class in Ireland, now spread through the country but with its longest-established centres in the north, seemed increasingly to be reduced to being a subsidiary of the British class association, which he feared would limit the number of places available to Irish sailors at World Championships. So he patiently set about creating a new entity, the Flying Fifteen Association of Ireland, and after much quiet negotiation behind the scenes, he had the basics in place and needed one final piece of the jigsaw to make it complete.

To give it credibility in the north in what was still the depths of the Troubles, that final piece of the jigsaw which he had to find was a leading Northern Ireland Flying Fifteen sailor to take on the role of President, and in Jim Rogers of Kircubbin on Strangford Lough he found the ideal man to give backbone to an organisation which gave the class a new lease of life throughout the country.

This was to become evident at the highly successful International Fying Fifteen Worlds at the National Yacht Club in 1992, in which Jack was deeply involved both as a competitor and in the background organisation, though his regular crewman Mal Nowlan was even more deeply involved ashore, so Jack had to introduce a new crew, one Dave Gorman, who has since gone on to be Irish Flying Fifteen champion.

But by this stage even Jack Roy had to cut back on some aspects of his life as his work level in the growing family business – which he was to head up from 1995 onwards – increased with the growth in the Irish economy, and he and Rosemary were now proud parents of their two girls.

He knew he enjoyed the occasional sailing foray into other classes – he was to do two major campaigns in International J/24 racing with longtime sailing friend Roger Bannon – and his increased involvement with Race Management provided a measurable level of participation with a sport he loved, so in 1993 he sold out of the Flying Fifteen class and went boat-less for a whole four years. But being the man he is, his Race Officer duties were in the ascendant at home and abroad, and in 1998 the world sailing body – the International Sailing Federation since 1996 – officially accredited him as an International Race Officer.

jack roy dragon9Declan Hayes, Jack Roy and Andrew Mackey in the thick of it, racing their International Dragon Sabbatical in 1998. Photo: Brendan Fogarty

But by that time the call of boat ownership had again become too strong, and since 1997 he’d owned an International Dragon with Andrew Mackey. Quite how he combined his new international duties with co-ownership of a demanding boat in a hot class heaven only knows, but within a year he’d rationalized it by transferring his sailing base to the Royal Irish YC and moving into another Dragon still in partnership with Andrew Mackey, but with Declan Hayes added to the ownership team.

They kept this going for five years, which is good going in such a challenging class environment, and had a huge amount of sport at many venues. But by 2003 the work/life/sport balance had become so hectic that he again relinquished boat ownership, and gave all his sailing attention to Race Management while much of his energy ashore was taken up with the family business.

It was a time of crazy expansion in the Irish construction industry, and anyone providing the best quality industrial lighting installation and follow-up was on the crest of the wave. The family firm which Jack now headed was unbelievably busy, and Jack found himself entertaining an interest from his main Swedish suppliers to take a stake in the business.

He and Rosemary were consdering this when the offer came through from Sweden in 2007 of a complete takeover. This was something else altogether. This was the family firm, central to their sense of self. Jack found himself going back to Greystones in the evenings to pace the beach of his childhood, and ponder what they should do. It was no easy matter. But when he realised that he wouldn’t expect his two daughters to go into a business which could involve working with some of the toughest elements in the construction industry, he was finally persuaded that selling the company was the sensible thing to do, with himself and Rosemary, who had now retired from Holles Street, staying on as managers and consultants until 2010.

It was a lifestyle-changing decision, for although they had no intention of moving from their friendly neighbourhood of Loughlinstown and the house they knew so well, it finally enabled Jack to buy himself a cruising boat of which he was sure his late father would have approved. The comfortable Pegeen had been the boat which defined the Roy family’s sailing, and Jack reckoned a Hallberg-Rassy 46 would be the nearest thing to a modern equivalent, so in 2007 Tangaroa became part of the family.

For the first few years of their ownership, she was based in Dun Laoghaire to cruise nearby areas, while his involvement with competitive sailing was continued with extensive race management and other duties in that area, reaching a new peak with his period as International Technical Officer at the 2012 Sailing Olympics at Weymouth.

But while progress afloat was steadily upwards, the world of business which he’d expected to leave in 2010 was crashing into the depths of the recession. The company may now have been owned by an international Swedish-based PLC, but Jack felt that in the new extremely harsh circumstances, they’d close down the Irish operation when he walked out the door for the last time, as he was entitled to do by 2010.

However, he couldn’t contemplate the idea, and negotiated an extension of contract so that he – with Rosemary’s assistance, for she had long since retired from Holles Street – could guide the Irish company back to health, which they’ve since been able to do, though it was quite a struggle at times.

But there was already a glimmer of light by the time he went to the Olympics in 2012. Yet at times the stress must have shown, so although they still had Tangaroa – by now based in Kinsale - in the winter of 2013-14 his daughter Jill surprised him by suggesting that they should get a boat which he could race in Dublin Bay, crewed by her.

jack roy nat eighteens10Man at work. Jack Roy in Race Officer mode at last month’s ICRA Nats at Crosshaven, wearing his cherished National 18 cap. The Crosshaven-inspired National 18 Ultras tick all the boxes for him, as they involve team work with a crew of three, and they set a spinnaker and use trapezes. Photo: Bob Bateman

He mulled over the choices available, and despite his Flying Fifteen background, he reckoned a Squib would best fill the bill. Marcus Hutchinson in Kinsale found them an old one in the corner of the yard needing a good dose of TLC, and father and daughter spent the rest of the winter restoring Squib 130 Kanaloa, and have become part of the active Dublin Bay fleet ever since.

It has all been part of an extraordinary story of a life in sailing in which Jack Roy has acquired unrivalled experience of sailing of all kinds in many types of boats in a wide variety of places. And at the same time he has been building up an exceptional level of expertise in race management, technical administration, and the organisation of sailing and boat-related organisations.

He is not yet even four months in the Presidential role, and in an exceptionally busy first part of the season, he has had only about four days to himself and Rosemary for a brief cruise to West Cork. The rest of the time he has been working, race organizing, attending events as President of Irish Sailing, going to committee and specialist meetings – that takes up about ten evenings per month – and getting in some Squib racing.

But his enthusiasm remains undimmed. And while he recognizes that for governmental and public purposes, the visible part of sailing is the High Performance end of the spectrum, he is passionate about catering for the needs of the ordinary sailor who goes afloat for fun, and is pleasantly surprised if they can get a better result than last week.

jack roy tangaroa11Time out. Jack and Rosemary Roy’s Hallberg Rassy 46 Tangaroa catches a few days of last month’s week of good weather with a short cruise off West Cork

So although as the season eventually draws to a close in three months time we’ll hope to hear the views of the President on items which some people see as controversial, such as the clashing of major fixture dates and the development of Dun Laoghaire harbour’s sailing structure, for now we take inspiration from his joy in boats and sailing, and his seemingly infinite enthusiasm for putting so much back into a sport which continues to give him so much pleasure.

And though like many sailing folk he’d been vaguely hoping that this weekend might provide a bit of chillout time, we know that on this Saturday morning he’ll arrive aboard Tangaroa in Kinsale to give her a good clean-up to be ready for duties next week in Glandore, where he is in attendance at the Glandore Classic Regatta as President of Irish Sailing. That’s the way life is with Jack Roy.

Published in W M Nixon
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29th June 2017

A Summer of Sailing Ahead

This summer I’ll be wearing two hats – one as President of Irish Sailing, and the other as a Race Official at several events, and a very busy summer it is proving to be writes Jack Roy

It’s been a cracking season already producing much skill and exciting racing. The weather during May and early June had adverse effects, but despite some difficult conditions, both the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle and the ICRA National Championships at the RCYC produced great racing as well as a bit of that all important fun!

Last week Kinsale YC hosted the O’Leary Life Sovereign’s Cup where over 90 boats were treated to champagne sailing. Despite losing one day to the Irish summer, warm days, sunshine and sea breezes gave us three wonderful days of racing, at this most popular venue. Another exciting event came at the weekend with the inaugural Watersports Inclusion Games, which took place in Dun Laoghaire with over 80 volunteers providing activities for over 220 participants with various abilities on the physical, sensory, intellectual and learning difficulty spectrums and representing all ages, demographics and socio-economic backgrounds. The participants and their families had a chance to try sailing, rowing and canoeing, and it was a fantastic event showing how sailing really is a sport for all and a sport for life.

Still to come; this Friday (30th June) sees the start of Cork Dinghy Fest at the RCYC where over 100 dinghies will be in competition. Also taking place this weekend is the Marine Institute’s Seafest, the massive Galway port celebration of all our marine activities where Irish Sailing are providing water-based Try Sailing activities.

Heading even further west to the Aran Islands, where the WIORA West Coast Championships running from July 5th-8th, is being hosted by Seoltóireacht Árann, which we are happy to welcome as a Category 1 Irish Sailing Affiliated Club. Almost running concurrently from July 6th – 9th is the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, another big-ticket fixture in the calendar with 452 boats registered, 2,500 sailors expected and 35 classes represented. This is one of Ireland’s biggest sporting events in terms of numbers of competitors, and one that the whole of the Dun Laoghaire waterfront and town gets involved in.

July also sees a plethora of Class Nationals and Championships around the country, including the Optimists, National 18s, Mirrors, Toppers, RS, SB20s, Puppeteer, Howth 17s, Squibs, Mermaids, J24s, GP14s, 1720s, Flying Fifteens, Fireball, and the IMA Multihulls. And a parade of sail on July 23rd will mark the opening of Glandore Harbour Yacht Club’s week long Classic Regatta.

The Half-Ton Classics Cup taking place in August will attract 20 + boats, many from the Solent but with plenty of Irish interest too. Last year this event was held in Falmouth Yacht Club and this year it’s the turn of Kinsale YC to host these classic 1980s design, now beautifully refurbished boats. Also in August, some might say “the highlight of the summer” is Calves Week. Once again the relatively small Schull Harbour SC, with its large number of volunteers, will run this ever popular, fun based race week.

Apart from the support of the competitors, the common thread running through this calendar of fixtures is the ever-present volunteer base, without whom none of these events would take place. A sincere thank you to all and I wish everyone involved an enjoyable and safe summer on the water.

Published in ISA
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Jack Roy may have become the new Irish Sailing Association President for a three year term as recently as the end of March writes W M Nixon. But having spent a few weeks re-appraising the functioning of the ISA as seen from a Presidential viewpoint (for he had been a Board Member), he has been energetically implementing his policy of representing the ISA whenever possible at gatherings large and small throughout the country.

It works two ways, as it puts a human face on the national authority, and at the same time he can take on board local opinions on everything to do with the Association’s work. This past week has seen him at the award to Wicklow Sailing Club of the Mitsubishi Motors “Sailing Club of the Year 2017” accolade on Tuesday, then on Thursday he was fulfilling a double bill in his first official visit to Galway, following which on Saturday afternoon he was in his familiar race officering duties for Dublin Bay Sailing Club in decidedly contrary race organising conditions, and then on Saturday night he and his wife Rosemary (who is also a member of his race organising team) were at the Golden Jubilee Dinner in the National Yacht Club to celebrate Carmel Winkelmann’s key role in setting up the NYC’s Junior Section fifty years ago in 1967, a pioneering move in developing the Junior Sailing Programme for what was then the Irish Yachting Association.

The visit to Galway – with Galway’s own Pierce Purcell setting the guidance pace - he found to be uniquely interesting, as it gave a fresh insight into how the western city sees itself in its special relationship with the sea, which has a long and distinguished history dating back to the time it used to be one of the most significant ports in Europe.

jack roy galway2At the opening of the Marine Institute’s Marine Science Exhibition in Galway City Museum were (left to right) Pierce Purcell, Helen McCormack of the MI, Jack Roy (President Irish Sailing Association) and Caroline Bocquel, Director of Corporate Services, Marine Institute
This is going to be celebrated with the popular Seafest in the western capital from July 30th to 2nd June, and it all came together in Galway City Museum on Thursday, with the Seafest details announcement, and the the Marine Institute launching its Marine Science Exhibition, which is on the top floor of the Museum with the bonus of superb views over the ancient Claddagh - Galway’s original port - and across Galway Bay to the Clare hills.

Up there, with intriguing exhibits and displays giving a sense of the past and thoughtful visions of future development and discovery, the special Galway buzz from the city and harbour below is palpable, and the entire experience comes with the most enthusiastic Presidential recommendation.

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