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Displaying items by tag: Sailor of the Month

We reach the end of 2022 with sailing in Ireland in good heart. Weatherwise, it was by no means a perfect season. For sure, there were periods of heatwave, but heatwaves can be bad news for good steady sailing breezes. And though there were times of wind, surprisingly often it was more wind than was ideally required, and all too frequently it came with the brief but heavy periods of rain.

To add to the challenging mix, it was a catch-up season which resulted in Irish yacht and sailing clubs having to face up to staging no less than five world or major international championships in the space of six weeks.

We have already recognised and honoured the huge input required from our International Race Officers to keep this hectic international schedule on the road. But this extra programme of worlds and majors had to be fitted into a compacted season in which clubs everywhere were playing a complex game of catch-up, as they tried to get back in line with the regular annual fixtures list after the frustrations of the pandemic lockdowns.

The busy catch-up season of 2022 – the SB20 Worlds with the Royal Irish YC on Dublin Bay in early September. Photo: Anna ZykovzThe busy catch-up season of 2022 – the SB20 Worlds with the Royal Irish YC on Dublin Bay in early September. Photo: Anna Zykovz

Clubs and class associations have to be kept on a healthy year-round level of activity afloat and ashore if they are going to be in a fit state to meet the special challenges brought by the height of the traditional season. Thus their effective administration, and regular dynamic interaction with members, has to be maintained through all available means of communication, and the staging of sporting and social events afloat and ashore on a year-round basis.

On top of all that, international sailing is on a twelve-month global basis. And today’s instant communication networks mean that a sense of the reality and viability of the Irish diaspora, and its particular importance both for sailors in the Old Country, and for their compatriots in new and distant sailing homes, is more meaningful and active than ever before.

Thus for December 2022, with our four selections for “Sailors of the Month”, we hope to provide an eloquent illustration of how the Irish way of sailing is thriving at home and abroad.

LEE CONDELL OF LIMERICK & SYDNEY IS “SAILOR OF THE MONTH” FOR DECEMBER

Lee Condell honoured his late father and celebrated his own “roundy birthday” with style and success in the Two-Handed Division in the Sydney-Hobart race 2022Lee Condell honoured his late father and celebrated his own “roundy birthday” with style and success in the Two-Handed Division in the Sydney-Hobart race 2022

Lee Condell of Limerick has been building a successful career in the marine industry in Australia for some time now. But with his 60th birthday approaching and the much-mourned death of his father - regional sailing development enthusiast Alan Condell - in Limerick at the height of the lockdown, he felt that the up-grading of the Two-handed Division to full competitor status in the up-coming Sydney Hobart Race offered a manageable challenge for something special, both to honour his father’s memory, and to acknowledge his own six decades on the planet.

For of course, through being in the boat business, the height of the Australian summer in December - when the dash to Hobart always takes place - meant that it clashed precisely with his busiest work period. Thus this was to be his first Sydney-Hobart Race. But as the Australian agent for Jeanneau, he reckoned that the zippy new little Sun Fast 3300 and a team-up with sailing mate Lincoln Dews provided the optimum solution, even if the Two-Handers’ up-grading meant they were racing twenty other boats.

Gentle pre-race conditions for Sun Fast Racing in Sydney Harbour. However, in the Two-Handed Division in the Sydney-Hobart Race, she recorded some of the fastest speeds ever achieved by a Sun Fast 3300.Gentle pre-race conditions for Sun Fast Racing in Sydney Harbour. However, in the Two-Handed Division in the Sydney-Hobart Race, she recorded some of the fastest speeds ever achieved by a Sun Fast 3300.

In one of the smallest boats in the entire fleet, being just the two of them downwind in the strong winds of mid-race really did keep up the ferocious pressure, with Sun Fast Racing at times showing the fastest speeds ever registered by a Sun Fast 3300. But it was well rewarded. At one stage they were leading their division, but in conditions which favoured larger craft, the view was that it would be good going for them to stay on the podium by the finish.

They were back at third coming into the Derwent on the way to he finish at Hobart in the dark - notoriously difficult conditions. Yet they made such a good job of it that on Thursday, Sun Fast Racing had come across the line to place second on corrected time in the Two-Handed Division, and Lee Condell is Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for December 2022.

SHANNON ODs’ PHILIP MAYNE AND NAOMI ALGEO ARE “SAILORS OF THE MONTH (SERVICES TO SAILING)” FOR DECEMBER

Philip Mayne, Shannon OD Class Chairman for the highly successful Centenary Year in 2022. Photo: SODAPhilip Mayne, Shannon OD Class Chairman for the highly successful Centenary Year in 2022. Photo: SODA

The unique and Centenary-celebrating una-rigged 18ft Shannon One Designs and their Association were already recognised in their special achievement by being co-winners (with Lough Ree YC) of the MG Motor “Club of the Year” award for 2022. But while it was all well and good to know that something very special in sailing was taking place down along the Shannon and its great lakes during 2022, it was something else altogether to keep a characterful class - whose administration has been compared to herding cats - on track through a special and lengthy programme. In this, intensive Centenary Regattas in July at Lough Derg YC, and then at Lough Ree YC, were added to a traditional Autumn-reaching sailing programme which long pre-dates the founding of the Shannon ODA in 1922.

But with longtime Shannon OD sailors Philip Mayne as Class Chairman and Naomi Algeo as Honorary Secretary, ably supported by many volunteers, the crowded programme was put through from beginning to end, with results for the special July events seeing Frank Guy of Number 142 emerging as Centenary Champion, and thus our “Sailor of the Month” for July.

Shannon ODA Honorary Secretary Naomi Algeo with her father Alan, one of the longtime Shannon OD sailors whose voluntary work contributed to the class’s successful Centenary organised by Naomi and Class Chairman Philip MayneShannon ODA Honorary Secretary Naomi Algeo with her father Alan, one of the longtime Shannon OD sailors whose voluntary work contributed to the class’s successful Centenary organised by Naomi and Class Chairman Philip Mayne

Yet now with the extraordinary Centenary Year drawing to a close, and the Shannons with typical enthusiasm already highlighting their events for 2023, it s timely to honour Philip Mayne and Naomi Algeo as “Sailors of the Month (Services to Sailing)” for December.

PADDY JUDGE OF HOWTH IS “SAILOR OF THE MONTH (SERVICES TO SAILING)” FOR DECEMBER

When Paddy Judge stood down as Commodore of Howth Yacht Club at the AGM on Tuesday 13th December to be succeeded by former Vice Commodore Neil Murphy, it marked much more than the conclusion of the usual two years in the hot seat. For like all clubs, HYC had experienced longterm difficulties adjusting to the changing economic realities from 2009 onwards, and the onset of the various pandemic restrictions.

Paddy Judge – in addition to two years as Commodore at Howth Yacht Club, he served as the club’s Honorary General Manager for several years in order to bring a successful conclusion to the difficult post-recession period.Paddy Judge – in addition to two years as Commodore at Howth Yacht Club, he served as the club’s Honorary General Manager for several years in order to bring a successful conclusion to the difficult post-recession period.

A severe cost-cutting programme became essential, and it had to be demonstrated that the club could handle the situation with a voluntary General Manager. Rear Commodore Paddy Judge undertook this role. As a cruiser owner who had personally finished his Dubois-designed Liberator 35 to professional standards from a bare hull, he was a former Aer Lingus captain who had spent part of his aviation career in a key position in the National Air Accident Investigation Unit. Thus he brought specialist administrative experience and a notable sense of professional competence and calm to his new position.

For several years, he was in the clubhouse almost every day, dealing with members’ problems and quietly monitoring the onward progress of the club’s re-organisation and expansion plans. So when he re-focussed on being a member of the “officer corps” in order to become Commodore in December 2020, Howth YC had expanded its activities afloat and ashore to become a thriving organisation with more than 2,000 members when all categories are included, and during his peak year as Commodore in 2022, the club was unprecedented in its sailing successes at home and internationally.

It was all quietly achieved with an under-stated style of leadership which was exactly what the situation required. But at the unique HYC Commodores Lunch in November, when HYC interacts with hospitality for all its neighbouring organisations and the supportive Fingal County Council, the club gave recognition to all that had been involved at a personal level with the popular presentation of a large bouquet of flowers to Paddy Judge’s wife Mary “with heartfelt thanks for the use of her husband for so many important years”.

To that we can only add that Paddy Judge is an Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for December 2022 for Services to Sailing.

And a very happy and prosperous New Year to all our readers.

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September is a month of harvests afloat as it is ashore, and as we reach October with its inescapable sense of the change in the seasons, our bountiful new monthly list of no less than six different and distinctive September Sailors of the Month awards reflects the rich variety of sailing in and around Ireland, as well as notable achievements by our sailors abroad.

The awards will each have their own separate and more-detailed citation published on Afloat.ie with the arrival of October, but September 2022’s list is so all-inclusive and fascinating in itself that it deserves to be published right here in an additional accessible form.

AFLOAT.ie “SAILORS OF THE MONTH” SEPTEMBER 2022

The Fastnet Marine and Outdoor Centre at Schull in West Cork, the world-standard annual location for staging the Junior Championship, won in September by Royal St George YC’s Fiachra Geraghty-O’Donnell, crewed by his sister Caoilinn.The Fastnet Marine and Outdoor Centre at Schull in West Cork, the world-standard annual location for staging the Junior Championship, won in September by Royal St George YC’s Fiachra Geraghty-McDonnell, crewed by his sister Caoilinn.

Afloat.ie has been running the “Sailors of the Month” accolades since 1996, and in this relatively informal contest’s 27 years, the adjudicators and our readers have learned that the form of Irish sailing (and boating too – we’ve given some notable powerboat awards over the years) is so varied and often amorphous that applying strict rules and definitions simply doesn’t do full justice to the richly-varied recreational and competitive life afloat on our seas and inland waterways.

A COMPLEX SYSTEM - BUT IT WORKS

This September 2022 list is a perfect illustration of the way the system - such as it is - works. It tells us a lot about the wonderful variety of life and achievement in boats and sailing all round Ireland. And even though October may bring fresh awards - with our Cape 31s in contest at Cowes this weekend, the new-style Helmsman’s Championship – the Coppa dei Campioni – at Sutton in the GP14s in a week’s time, the earlier Autumn Leagues reaching their conclusion, and the Middle Sea Race before the month is out - the publication of the September List marks a turn in the sailing year honoured by those yotties of a more traditional mind-set.

 Learning curve. The K25 Kinsailor crew at Foynes for the J/24 Nationals, onwards and upwards to the Bronze Medal in the Euros at Howth Learning curve. The K25 Kinsailor crew at Foynes for the J/24 Nationals, onwards and upwards to the Bronze Medal in the Euros at Howth

Time was when the boundaries of the sailing season were more clearly defined, with the beginnings in April or May, and the endings in September, being properly celebrated in boisterous club dinners. The end-of-season one, in particular, was usually a festival of home-made entertainment, with each crew being expected to nominate a performer of reasonable entertainment ability, in some cases totally unexpected.

END-OF-SEASON ENTERTAINMENT

There was the mood of an Edwardian “smoker” about it all, with somebody invariably giving a soulful if tuneless rendition of what we would be assured was “After The Ball Was Over”, while trick entertainment might include “The One-Armed Flautist” which – smoothly executed – could reduce even the most prudish guest to helpless mirth.

Very different from the home port of Clifden in Connemara – Nick Kats’ high-latitude-voyaging Teddy in Greenland Very different from the home port of Clifden in Connemara – Nick Kats’ high-latitude-voyaging Teddy in Greenland 

In the days when these gatherings were building up their traditions, the clubs had marine staff who were unreasonably called The Club Boatmen. It was unreasonable and arrogant, for these multi-talented and patient men provided the backbone in running the club’s fleet. So much so, in fact, that in many cases, for a very modest fee, the boats were rigged and ready for racing when the owners arrived, and the boatmen’s only plea was that the owner and his crew leave them to do the unrigging afterwards, as amateur efforts took more time to unravel than starting from scratch.

Challenging weather for the GP14 Worlds at Skerries. Colman Grimes of Skerries was not only the lead organiser in bringing this major event to fruition despite pandemic delays, but he was the most successful Irish competitor, placing fifth in a fleet of 106 boats.Challenging weather for the GP14 Worlds at Skerries. Colman Grimes of Skerries was not only the lead organiser in bringing this major event to fruition despite pandemic delays, but he was the most successful Irish competitor, placing fifth in a fleet of 106 boats.

In some cases the boatmen also hauled the fleet at the end of the year, and while they were men of many practical talents, a fancy way with the written word was seldom one of them. Thus at my home port, in mid-Autumn each owner would be presented with a bill which itemised the costs incurred in “Launching Down” and “Launching Up”, and so the Launching Down and Launching Up Suppers became part of club lore.

The latter, at the end of the season, inevitably became increasingly competitive as the fleet built over the years, and more intensely competitive skippers joined the racing. They had to be sure their lineup for the time-honoured end-of-season shore entertainment was top class, and in the final fleet-expanding years before the marina arrived to change the annual pattern of sailing completely, some of these alleged crewmembers seemed to be there because of a professional standard of singing, rather than any sailing ability or direct link to the boat.

COMPETITIVE SINGING

However, along the coast at clubs all the way from Clontarf to Skerries, you could be quite sure that the magnificently-voiced and splendidly-named Billy Blood-Smyth, the lawyer son of the one-legged railway engineer who had built the classic yawl Sonia for himself with designer John Kearney in 1929, would easily out-sing any imported semi-professional through quality, volume, variety of repertoire, and sheer stamina.

2022 ISORA Champion, the J/109 Mojito, racing in her home waters off Pwllheli2022 ISORA Champion, the J/109 Mojito, racing in her home waters off Pwllheli

So maybe the marina and its year-round sailing possibilities arrived in the nick of time, for these Launching-Up Suppers were shaping up to end in blows, if they hadn’t already. But many of us miss them, for they very clearly marked the end of the season, which could then be properly assessed while we resigned ourselves to seemingly endless boat-less dark cold months, but with the prospect of renewed enthusiasm in the Spring.

DBSC INAUGURATE END-OF-SEASON DINNER

In the olden days, in Dun Laoghaire the clubs-with-buildings were thought to be entitled to stage their own End-of-Season Dinners, with Dublin Bay Sailing Club left to mount a more austere mid-week prize-giving which increasingly became a challenge of logistics. But now with some of the specifically clubhouse-oriented end-of-season affairs melted away, nostalgia must be in the air, as DBSC has leapt to life with its own inaugural End-of-Season Dinner, due to be staged in the National Yacht Club (tickets limited to a hundred) on Saturday, October 8th.

This is history in the making. And if you happen to hear your beloved marinero singing his or her heart out in the shower or bath, you’ll know they’re in training to play a key role in their crew’s contribution to the time and circumstances-denying cheerfulness and entertainment of this new DBSC Launching Up Supper

CHANGE IN THE WEATHER

Be that as it may, there’s no doubting the swing of the meteorological seasons. Just five weeks ago, we were musing that it was the date of the annual anniversary of the all-destructive Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, yet in Europe, there was still no sign of even the decaying evidence of what had been predicted to be one of the most active hurricane seasons ever.

Yet this benign weather continued right through September, when in times past we could have expected Ireland to have a side swipe from any hurricane going. But instead, we had one of the best days of the year plumb on the Autumn Equinox, with no sign of any traditional Equinoctial Storm (and yes I know that, statistically speaking, there’s not a higher frequency of storms at the Autumn Equinox, but if they do happen to occur, we notice them more, and reinforce our superstitions with a knowing nod of our sage old heads).

And now we’re into October, and it’s as if we’ve been instantly catapulted into a different universe, with hurricanes gone mad in America, and heaven only knows what might eventually turn up at short notice in Ireland. For, once a tropical storm created from a previous hurricane starts to prowl like a lone wolf on routes not previously ordained for its progress, it can seem to move along like an oversized tornado, and sometimes apparently do so against the direction of the gradient wind.

 While Ireland mostly continued mostly to bask in benign late September, after a visit by Hurricane Ian, Fort Myers in Florida looked like this While Ireland mostly continued mostly to bask in benign late September, after a visit by Hurricane Ian, Fort Myers in Florida looked like this

But that is now. Yesterday was still September 2022 of fond memories. I’ve recently been enjoying our small but delicious porch harvest of Hamburg Black grapes to round out the cheese-laden lunch each day. The runner beans still flourish. The smallest of our eating apple trees produced a delicious harvest heavier than itself. The Jerusalem artichokes will be nicely ready for Christmas. The vigorous escallonia hedge at the front still flowers on, and continues to attract bees so well that it won’t be trimmed until flowering ceases. And if that doesn’t look very neatly suburban, so be it. For it’s no longer a garden. It’s now a sensibly-monitored re-wilding project. 

In the midst of one of Howth’s top sailing nurseries, the Sailing on Saturday Re-Wilding Project (middle lower) is voluminously under wayIn the midst of one of Howth’s top sailing nurseries, the Sailing on Saturday Re-Wilding Project (middle lower) is voluminously under way

Yet this is all in the midst of a right little hotbed of sailing families hidden away in our agreeable cul-de-sac. Gordon Maguire’s sister lives just across the road. Those multi-discipline achievers afloat, Cormac and Mandy Farrell and their nautically-successful offspring, are a few doors along. Rising junior star Harry Dunne is right next door. Our own lot acquired their silverware back in the day, mainly racing offshore, and are now filling their own trophy cabinets racing local classes. Former super-star cruiser-racer helm Emma McDonald – sister of Ross of 1720 Atara fame – is half a dozen doors up. David the Cags, the Ultra-Brain of Howth sailing, lives on the corner with his many computers. And an eminence grise of the mysterious but hugely successful Howth 17 Deilginis Syndicate – it makes the Mafia look transparent - is just across the road.

Being in such a location requires special care. We have to inch the car out of the driveway with total attention. Any carelessness or unnecessary haste, and we might injure a potential Olympic Sailing athlete.

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Sailing and boating sports were more frustrated than many other activities during the highly-restricted peaks of the pandemic. For although it was universally agreed that there was nowhere more healthy and infection-free than aboard a boat out on the water in a good sailing breeze, the problem was in accessing those optimal circumstances without infringing local, national and international regulations. For sailors are nothing if not highly convivial folk who enjoy few things more than exuberantly discussing their specialist sports with like-minded individuals before and after going afloat.

Thus for the past two years, we have been inspired by some very special people who patiently complied with a myriad of often difficult conditions in order to keep our world of maritime sport and recreation - and indeed our maritime world generally – functioning in a meaningful way. And we honoured them with perhaps the most eclectic mix of Afloat.ie “Sailors of the Month” ever recorded in the 26 years in which we have been running the competition.

Inevitably with the prospect of restrictions being eased at an accelerating pace, the world of boats is looking to the future and the exciting prospects it offers. Already it looks as though 2022 will be the busiest season ever experienced, with four World Championships in Ireland just the peak of an extraordinary programme.

But today, as we enter the final week of January, it behoves us to look back with admiration and respect for those who gave so much during the difficult times of 2021. Voting on the Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Year 2021” concludes on Monday week, January 31st, and immediately as February gets underway, our Judging Panel will be considering your votes (see panel on right of this page) as a very important part of the adjudication process.

In this final overview of the stars of 2021, we salute some very special sailors, all of whom deserve our gratitude and appreciation

Irish Sailors of the Month 2021

JANUARY

KIERAN COTTER

A pillar of the Baltimore community afloat and ashore, Kieran Cotter has retired as Baltimore Lifeboat Cox'n after 45 memorable years of service.A pillar of the Baltimore community afloat and ashore, Kieran Cotter has retired as Baltimore Lifeboat Cox'n after 45 memorable years of service.

The retirement of Kieran Cotter from the Baltimore Lifeboat after 45 years of distinguished service put the focus on a remarkable individual who combines a busy life afloat with solid community and commercial activity ashore, thereby playing a key role in the building of Baltimore’s prosperity and vitality.

His lifeboat service, as revealed here is probably unrivalled in its variety, and it’s certainly no exaggeration to say that he is one of Ireland’s best-known lifeboatmen.

His contribution has been augmented by his keen awareness of the lifeboat’s larger role in every aspect of an enthusiastic maritime community like Baltimore, and it was during his time as cox’n that the Baltimore Lifeboat sent forth a racing crew which sailed to second place overall in the Inter-services Racing for the Beaufort Cup in Cork Week at Crosshaven.

JANUARY (INTERNATIONAL)

BILL O’HARA

Busy man afloat and ashore. Bill O'Hara, Principal Race Officer, before the start of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean RaceBusy man afloat and ashore. Bill O'Hara, Principal Race Officer, before the start of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race

When the New Year was ushered in, the announcement that Bill O’Hara of Bangor had been awarded the OBE for Services to Sailing was a cause of special pleasure in the sailing community, not just in Ireland but worldwide. Our report at the time highlighted his multiple achievements in many areas, from Olympic participation to being Principal Race Officer for the Volvo Ocean Race, and particularly revealed his international status and unrivalled abilities across a wide spectrum of sailing life.

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

FEBRUARY

MAIRE BREATHNACH

Maire Breathnach aboard Annabel J off the Kerry coastMaire Breathnach aboard Annabel J off the Kerry coast

The pandemic lockdowns divided the sailing world into those who complained constantly about all restrictions and did little or nothing, and those who made the best of what was permissible. Maire Breathnach and her husband Andrew Wilkes, with their challenging but rewarding 64ft steel-built gaff cutter Annabel J of 1996 vintage, had a busy 2020, with a planned voyage from Waterford to South America – which, like North America, they circumnavigated on a previous cruise – being temporarily curtailed in the Canaries with the need to replace part of their wooden mainmast. Lockdown arrived, they endured it in extremely restricted circumstances for two month, and then as some local sailing became possible, they cruised the Canaries in detail.

Meanwhile, as Honorary Editor of the Irish Cruising Club Annual, Maire inspired her fellow members to make a special effort and produce “Narratives of Nostalgia” if they hadn’t managed a cruise of some sort. The result was an eclectic production, one of the most interesting ICC Annuals of modern times. And at the ICC Virtual AGM in February, Maire was awarded the ICC’s Rockabill Trophy for seamanship in recognition of the competent way in which she and Andrew had dealt with the demands of mast and rigging problems at sea, with just the two of them on a hefty ship which could handily carry a crew of six.

MARCH

ROBERT DICKSON & SEAN WADDILOVE

The magic moment at Vilamoura on March 26th – Sean Waddilove (left) and Robert Dickson have just secured a 49er place for Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics in JulyThe magic moment at Vilamoura on March 26th – Sean Waddilove (left) and Robert Dickson have just secured a 49er place for Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics in July

It says everything about the quality of the of the Dickson-Waddilove team’s securing of the Tokyo Olympics 49er place, that it not only sent the spirits of the Irish sailing community soaring skywards, but in these difficult times, it helped to raise the mood of the nation generally.

The inspiration has been heightened by knowing that the path of the “Flying Fingallions” to a Tokyo place has been specially challenging. They’d a carefully planned route towards a serious challenge for a full Olympic challenge in 2024. But their unexpected yet convincing victory in the U23 Worlds in September 2018 saw a re-alignment of objectives, with a new programme towards Tokyo which was in turn upset by the Pandemic-induced year’s delay in the 2020 Olympics.

It became a continuous character-testing situation in which the two seemed to find new reserves of mindset and performance which, in the final week of March in Portugal, produced a showing which went far beyond the minimum required, and was rounded out by a victorious showing in the Medal Race.

APRIL

JACK O’KEEFFE

Jack O'Keeffe's election as Chairman of the globally-spread Drascombe Association has highlighted the extensive voluntary work of someone who normally functions under the radarJack O'Keeffe's election as Chairman of the globally-spread Drascombe Association has highlighted the extensive voluntary work of someone who normally functions under the radar

There are many organisations in Ireland’s varied maritime life which don’t need a high profile to do good and useful work by stealth, and you’ll find Jack O’Keeffe of Carrigaline in Cork is involved with several of them. But his recent election as Chairman for two years of the internationally-operating Drascombe Association has inevitably raised his profile, and drawn fresh attention to a range of characterful little boats which almost defy categorisation.

Yet they’re undoubtedly multi-purpose, for although their ease of trailering is one of their key feature, several have made transoceanic cruises, while others have ventured – often in small lightly-organised groups – far into hidden rivers that more orthodox cruising boats can’t reach.

The flexibility of the Drascombes’ way of doing things meant that in the stop-start times of pandemic-plagued 2020, they probably managed a better cruising season than most other boat types. And Jack O’Keeffe’s willingness to take on the mantle of pre-research and organization while leading by example makes him a very worthy “Sailor of the Month”. 

APRIL SOM (ENVIRONMENTAL)

JIMMY MURRAY

The Irish Nautical Trust may have been functioning for years, but Jimmy Murray's enthusiasm is unabatedThe Irish Nautical Trust may have been functioning for years, but Jimmy Murray's enthusiasm is unabated

Jimmy Murray, Director of the Irish Nautical Trust in Dublin, is our “Sailor of the Month” for April in the Environmental category for the key role he played in the commissioning of the purpose-built Liffey Sweeper, which appropriately made its debut with the backing of Dublin Port on Earth Day, Thursday April 22nd.

The well-established Irish Nautical Trust has been active for years in bringing the port and the young people of the city together in various projects. But the innovative concept of the marine-debris-gathering Liffey Sweeper has captured public imagination in a special way by pressing all the right buttons regarding many contemporary environmental concerns.

Working with leading waste-recycling companies, the Sweeper is operating in the Liffey from Butt Bridge seawards, and will also gather rubbish in the Dodder and the Tolka Estuary. With the busy City of Dublin and the highly active Dublin Port located cheek-by-jowl with an Internationally-Recognised Biosphere, the value of the work being done by Jimmy Murray and his young crews simply cannot be over-estimated. 

MAY

JOHN MINNIS

John Minnis, successful First 31.7 campaigner in Irish and Scottish watersJohn Minnis, successful First 31.7 campaigner in Irish and Scottish waters

Despite continuing pandemic restrictions, there was a feeling that something resembling a sailing season was getting under way with the victory of John Minnis of Belfast Lough with his First 31.7 Final Call in the Scottish Series in the final weekend of May.

Skipper Minnis and his keen crew are no strangers to being in the frame both in First 31.7 and handicap racing. But it took a special level of enthusiasm for a flotilla of cruiser-racers from Belfast and Strangford Loughs to cross the North Channel for a very controlled Scottish Series, in which the racing was certainly real and officially recognised, but just about everything else was virtual and socially distanced, with three different venues being used in the eastern Firth of Clyde.

Thus it wasn’t felt appropriate to declare an overall winner, but had they done so, Final Call’s very impressive scorecard and clear class win would have made her the favoured contender for the top title. And she confirmed her “top boat” status in July when she came south for the First 31.7 Nationals in Dublin Bay, and won by an extremely convincing margin. 

JUNE SOM (SENIOR) 

SEAN CRAIG

Sean Craig at Laser racing – he puts even more into sailing than he takes from itSean Craig at Laser racing – he puts even more into sailing than he takes from it

Laser ace Sean Craig has been on top form in June. In addition to his usual input into racing and sailing administration, he’s in the frame in both the two Laser local weekly series currently being staged by DBSC. Meanwhile, at national level, he retained the Laser Masters Radial title at his home club of Royal St George in mid-June from a record fleet, and then in the final weekend of June in brisk conditions at Whitehead on Belfast Lough, he became the winner of the Laser Radial Ulster Championship hosted by County Antrim YC, the oldest winner (at 57) of any open Laser regional event in Ireland. 

JUNE SOM (OFFSHORE)

MURPHY FAMILY & NIEULARGO

The Nieulargo crew before the start of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race were (front row, left to right) Molly Murphy, James Fagan, Clive O'Shea and Ian Heffernan, and back row (left to right) Harry Durcan, Nin O'Leary, Brian Matthews, Annamarie Fegan Murphy, Mia Murphy and Denis MurphyThe Nieulargo crew before the start of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race were (front row, left to right) Molly Murphy, James Fagan, Clive O'Shea and Ian Heffernan, and back row (left to right) Harry Durcan, Nin O'Leary, Brian Matthews, Annamarie Fegan Murphy, Mia Murphy and Denis Murphy

Time was that if a victorious Royal Cork YC vessel returned after “success abroad”, she received a nine-gun salute on arrival from the Club battery. Even though we live in more noise-conscious times, the RCYC can still wheel out a five gun salute when appropriate, but it is used very sparingly. However, on the sunny evening of Monday, June 15th when the Murphy family’s Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo returned to Crosser fresh from a brilliant overall win in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, she got the full and richly-deserved treatment from Admiral Colin Morehead and his members. And though offshore racing is the boat and crew’s speciality, subsequently in the more inshore conditions of the Sovereigns Cup Coastal Division at Kinsale, Nieulargo was still right in the picture to place second overall, making for a remarkably well-balanced month of achievement which was extended well into Autumn when she was declared the ICRA Boat of the Year after winning her class in the RCYC Autumn League.

JUNE SOM (JUNIOR)

ROCCO WRIGHT

Rocco Wright gets himself into a race lead in the Optimist Worlds 2021Rocco Wright gets himself into a race lead in the Optimist Worlds 2021

As the Optimist Worlds got into their stride on Lake Garda in the first week of June, they found Howth’s Rocco Wright to be the target helm, as his countdown to the big one had been wellnigh perfect. Previously he’d taken Bronze in the Meringa Cup series on the lake, and then in the big one in a fleet of nearly 300 boats from 31 nations with Lake Garda in fine sailing form, he won overall by an astonishing nine points, convincingly making him Ireland’s outstanding junior sailor in June. This star position was to be further augmented in September, when he won the All-Ireland Junior Championship in Schull

SOM JUNE (INSHORE)

MIKE & RICHIE EVANS

Staying ahead of the pack – Sovereigns Cup Winner 2021 Snapshot (J/99, Mike & Richie Evans) breezing along in style ahead of the hunting mob of J109s at KinsalStaying ahead of the pack – Sovereigns Cup Winner 2021 Snapshot (J/99, Mike & Richie Evans) breezing along in style ahead of the hunting mob of J109s at Kinsale Photo: Bob Bateman

When the Irish J/109s hunt as a pack – as nine of them did at the Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale – there’s blood in the air, and anyone racing a brand new J/99 against such a mob will naturally feel vulnerable. But former Classic Half Ton Racers Mike & Richie Evans of Howth kept their cool with their fresh-out-of-the-box J/99 Snapshot. With talents of the calibre of Laura Dillon, Des Flood and Graham Curran on the strength, they were so game for the challenge that they emerged at the regatta’s conclusion as outright winners of the hyper-hot IRC 1, and the new holders of the overall trophy – the Sovereigns Cup - for good measure.

JULY SOM

EVE MCMAHON

Eve McMahon - star quality shone through in true champion's style at the Laser Radial Youth Worlds in ItalyEve McMahon - star quality shone through in true champion's style at the Laser Radial Youth Worlds in Italy

It says everything about Eve McMahon’s big-fleet sailing skills that she emerged as the clear winner of the Laser Youth Worlds Girls Division on Lake Garda on Saturday, July 31st with a generally consistent scoreline which would have done credit to a mature and seasoned campaigner in a senior event. Yet it was difficult for her to keep the head down and work quietly but steadily towards gaining, maintaining, losing and then regaining the overall lead, as her every movement in a boat speaks eloquently of sailing genius. This inevitably made her the target helm for the rest of the remarkably international fleet, but in the end her star quality shone through in true champion’s style. Then in December, she maintained her position as one of global sailing’s top juniors with a fourth overall in the Youth Worlds in Oman.

JULY SOM (SERVICES TO SAILING)

HAL SISK & FIONAN DE BARRA

The DB21 Naneen arrives in Kilrush in 2016 pre-restoration, with (left to right) Fionan de Barra, boatbuilder Steve Morris, designer Paul Spooner, and Hal Sisk

The restoration of all seven original Dublin Bay 21ft One-Designs (the oldest of them date from 1903) is still work in progress. But a major milestone in the process - the Cape Horn of a unique voyage – was safely put astern on Friday July 30th, when the first three superbly-restored boats sailed back into Dun Laoghaire after an absence of 35 years. Many craftsmen have been involved in this - most notably Steve Morris and his team at Kilrush Boatyard - but none of it would have happened without the undying belief of Fionan de Barra in the value of the project and its meaning for Dun Laoghaire and its maritime community, combined with the inspired support of Hal Sisk in fulfilling a vision which is a great service to sailing not only in Dublin Bay, but nationally and internationally as well. 

AUGUST SOM (OFFSHORE)

RONAN O SIOCHRU & THE CREW OF DESERT STAR

The crew of Desert Star, with the Fastnet finish approaching, buoyed up with success if red-eyed with exhaustionThe crew of Desert Star, with the Fastnet finish approaching, buoyed up with success if red-eyed with exhaustion

When a sailing school boat of a certain maturity starts to show consistently well in open competition in the decidedly challenging Rolex Fastnet Race, people start to take notice. And as the new-style and longer Fastnet Race of 2021 progressed, that attention increasingly focused on Irish Offshore Sailing of Dun Laoghaire’s Sunfast 37 Desert Star. She was skippered by Ronan O Siochru (RStGYC) with Conor Totterdell (NYC) as his right-hand man, but otherwise crewed by keen-to-learn sailors of limited offshore experience but boundless enthusiasm

With such a setup, the watching pundits expected that Desert Star would soon drop out of her position in the top three in Class 4, and would probably be in double figures by the time she’d negotiated the final difficult approach to the finish. But far from faltering, she never put a tactical foot wrong, and in Cherbourg she was just ten minutes short of winning Class IV overall. As it was, second in one of the biggest classes and 14th overall was a sensational performance, and her entire crew share our Sailors of the Month (Offshore) award for 2021.

AUGUST SOM (INSHORE)

JOHN LAVERY & ALAN GREEN

Serial champions – John Lavery and Alan Green with some of their latest haul. Alan Green has crewed to victory in at least five major Flying Fifteen championships with five different skippersSerial champions – John Lavery and Alan Green with some of their latest haul. Alan Green has crewed to victory in at least five major Flying Fifteen championships with five different skippers

The efficiently-organised Flying Fifteens are Ireland’s largest One-Design keelboat class, and despite the pandemic, they have managed to stage regulation-compliant National Championships in 2020 and 2021, at Dunmore East and on Strangford Lough respectively. With former world champions and Olympic sailors from several classes among their current members, F/F sailing provides intense competition even when numbers are limited. Thus it has been remarkable that these two National Championships have been won by veteran skipper John Lavery, with Alan Green as his crew in both Dunmore East and Whiterock.

In a long sailing career which began in Optimists at the National Yacht Club in 1967, John Lavery has failed in only one thing. Despite a couple of announcements that he is permanently hanging up his sailing boots, he hasn’t. He has been enticed back with a boat called Phoenix or maybe ffoenix, and his scorecard on Strangford Lough in tricky conditions to take a 16 point overall shows that his sailing has lost none of its magic.

SEPTEMBER (OFFSHORE)

TOM DOLAN

Tom Dolan and Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan have clear air and are on their way to first at the Fastnet RockTom Dolan and Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan have clear air and are on their way to first at the Fastnet Rock

The exceptionally-demanding final 642-mile stage of La Solitaire du Figaro 2021 took the 34-strong fleet from Morlaix in Brittany northwest round the Fastnet Rock, and then southeast to the finish at Saint-Nazaire on France’s Biscay Coast. After three frustrating stages, it was as though Ireland’s Tom Dolan on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan had been completely re-born as a solo sailor. He was first at the Fastnet, and while no-one could have staved off the multiple challenges from the chasing fleet in the flukey conditions, he still secured a podium place to take the bronze at the finish in a brilliant comeback.

SEPTEMBER (INSHORE)

CHARLIE CULLEN

Leave 'em gasping….." Charlie Cullen in full-on Waszp-racing concentrationLeave 'em gasping….." Charlie Cullen in full-on Waszp-racing concentration

A veteran of foil sailing at just 19, Charlie Cullen of the Royal St George YC has been cutting an increasingly impressive furrow through Waszp racing in 2021 as the national and international programme resumes. He reached new heights in the SailGP series in Saint-Tropez in mid-September to take silver, providing him with his fourth podium place in the majors of the current season (including European U20 and Slalom Championships), and further up-grading expectations for his continuing progress in the sharpest area of sailing. 

SOM OCTOBER

GER OWENS

In for the long haul - the multi-talented Ger OwensIn for the long haul - the multi-talented Ger Owens Photo: Bob Bateman

While some helms have won the All-Ireland Championship two or even three times within a relatively short time-span, none can match the Royal St George YC”s Ger Owens’ unique achievement of having a 21-year-gap between his two victories. He was a rising star when he first took it in 2000, having won the Juniors in 1996 & 1998. And with today’s greatly increased longevity, he still is a rising star. Most of his achievements in recent years have been in the GP 14s, but he has proven more than able in several classes Thus when the All-Ireland 2021 was staged in National 18s in Crosshaven at the beginning of October, he was soon at home in the class, taking the overall win in the Championship of Champions despite a trio of longtime National 18 sailors being in the line-up against him.

SOM OCTOBER (TEAM RACING)

JACK FAHY

Young sailors, old port……Inter-varsity team-racing off King John's castle at the historic port of CarlingfordYoung sailors, old port……Inter-varsity team-racing off King John's castle at the historic port of Carlingford

When 144 sailors descend on a club like the hospitable but relatively small (numerically-speaking) Carlingford Sailing Club for a festival of team racing, the pressure is on, both afloat and ashore. That pressure is in no way lessened by the 24 teams being drawn from nine universities all over Ireland.

All six members of the winning team have to keep their cool to make it to the top. But the pressure for this is most challenging on the winning team captain, and in October’s highlight of the 2021 Irish Universities Eastern Championship, it was a University College Dublin team captained by Jack Fahy, which took the trophy.

SOM OCTOBER (JUNIOR)

RIAN COLLINS

Rian Collins – his scoreline in the Youth Nationals was 1,1,2, 4,2,1, (11)Rian Collins – his scoreline in the Youth Nationals was 1,1,2, 4,2,1, (11)

Young Rian Collins of Royal Cork YC has been cutting a swathe through Irish Topper racing in 2021, maintaining the special reputation of an extended family long associated with Crosshaven sailing and success. He concluded his campaigning on a high in the 38-strong Topper class (the largest and most all-Ireland fleet racing) in the weekend’s Irish Youth Championship at his home port, recording a very clearcut 12 point overall lead. 

SOM NOVEMBER (OLYMPIC)

FINN LYNCH

From despair to delight – Finn Lynch made November into summer

As 2021 drew to a close, the Irish sailing community learned yet again that there’s nothing like a major international success by one of our own to brighten the dark days of November. And when that success comes to a popular sailor who has been enduring the seemingly endless frustration of a performance drought, it’s like the sun has come out with mid-summer vigour.

Olympian Finn Lynch of the National YC brightened all our days by getting on the podium with a solid second overall at the big-fleet ILCA Worlds in Barcelona in the depths of November. His resilience in doing so was fulsomely praised by a panel of experienced sailors, who know only too well the depths of solitary despair which can be experienced by formerly successful solo campaigners who seem to have become lost in a wasteland of setbacks. With a mighty leap, our hero had freed himself. And November was transformed.

SOM NOVEMBER (TEAM RACING)

NIAMH HENRY

Former 420 Champion Niamh Henry (pictured above with crew Max Pocock) has successfully transferred her sailing skills to Team RacingFormer 420 Champion Niamh Henry (pictured above with crew Max Pocock) has successfully transferred her sailing skills to Team Racing

Team Racing makes for great sailing sport, and is unrivalled in its effectiveness in honing close-quarters boat-handling skills. But it’s an especially unforgiving type of contest, for although everyone is mutually reliant for success, at the very end it can often come down completey to the relative individual showing of one helm at the tail end of the final race.

Niamh Henry of Royal St George YC, sailing for Technical University Dublin in the maelstrom of the Irish Team Racing Championship at Royal Cork in Crosshaven, found herself in this unsought yet key role. Despite capsizes being part of a volatile mix in the final, she kept her cool to maintain a two boat lead over her Baltimore SC rival to produce a tied 4 points apiece finish, but with TUD on track to win the tie break and the title.

It may have looked chaotic to a casual observer. But right at the heart of it, Niamh Henry knew precisely what was needed to carry the day, and she did it.

SOM DECEMBER (INSHORE)

MARK HASSETT

Match Racing Champion Mark Hassett with his crew of Adam Hyland (left) and Robbie EnglishMatch Racing Champion Mark Hassett with his crew of Adam Hyland (left) and Robbie English

The National Yacht Club’s flotilla of Elliott 6M match-racing boats came into their own early in December, when the club staged its inaugural Invitational Match Racing Series, successfully drawing in competition from near and far to bring together a highly competitive lineup, including National Champions and Olympic sailors.

But at the end of a very busy day’s racing with something of the Dawn Patrol about its start after adverse weather on the Saturday forced the compression of a planned two day championship into one, the four helms who proceeded to the semi-finals were Mark Hassett, Brendan Lyden, Tom Fitzpatrick and Seafra Guilfoyle, making for a fairly even spread between Cork and Dublin.

However, the final was all West Cork, Lyden versus Hassett, with the latter starting well with a win. But in Race 2 he was off the pace until his crew of Adam Hyland and Robbie English obliged with a very smart spinnaker gybe set at the weather mark which enabled him to zip into a better breeze in mid-harbour to take the title and become a Sailor of the Month in 2021’s last month of all. 

SOM DECEMBER (OFFSHORE)

CONOR HAUGHEY

Dedicated long-distance sailor Conor Haughey took nights at sea as they came to win Line Honours in the 2021 ARC +Dedicated long-distance sailor Conor Haughey took nights at sea as they came to win Line Honours in the 2021 ARC +

Conor Haughey of Malahide admits to an addiction. It’s to salt water, and long-distance voyaging. But though he has made several transoceanic passages, it wasn’t until he bought the comfortable yet swift Moody 54DS Hibernian that he reckoned he could take on the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) from the Canaries to the Caribbean in a reasonably competitive style, while continuing to be crewed by friends.

They elected to do the ARC +, the two stage version which takes in a stop at the Cape Verde islands, and it was the second stage from the Cape Verdes to Grenada that saw Hibernian confirm her position as one of the flyers in the fleet. She swept in to the finish ahead of expected time on December 3rd to take Line Honours in Class and in the Cruising Division, neatly ahead of an impressive fleet which included a notable number of much larger craft.  

SOM DECEMBER (INTERNATIONAL)

GORDON MAGUIRE

Gordon Maguire with the Tattersall Cup in Hobart on Friday December 31st 2021 – his fifth win of it, with the first in 1991Gordon Maguire with the Tattersall Cup in Hobart on Friday December 31st 2021 – his fifth win of it, with the first in 1991

A fifth win on December 30th 2021 of the annual Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race’s prized Tattersall Cup for overall victory – with the most recent successes being three in a row with Matt Allen’s TP52 Ichi Ban – saw ex-Pat Howth sailor Gordon Maguire confirming his position as one of Australia and the world’s most accomplished offshore racer.

His apparently easy-going demeanour disguises a will of steel when it comes to getting the best performance out of a boat, such that he is renowned for instinctively sensing the slightest change in wind conditions a nano-second before the electronic instruments give their first indications.

He sailed the 2021 Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race with the added emotions of having mourned - along with all the Irish sailing community -  the death a fortnight earlier at the age of 95 of his much-loved father Neville, an equally accomplished sailor. This made the 2021 win  - coming as it does a clear 30 years after his first Sydney-Hobart race overall victory – something very special indeed.  

Sailor of the Year Voting 2021

As in previous years, the boating public and maritime community can have their say to help guide judges in deciding who should be crowned Ireland's Sailor of the Year for 2021 by using our online poll.

The judges welcome the traditional huge level of public interest in helping them make their decision but firmly retain their right to make the ultimate decision for the final choice while taking voting trends into account.

Please note: One vote per person. Your vote DOES NOT necessarily determine the overall winner.

The national award is specially designed to salute the achievements of Ireland's sailing's elite. After more than 25 years in existence, the awards has developed into a premier awards ceremony for water sports.

The overall national award will be presented to the person who, in the judges' opinion, achieved the most notable results in, or made the most significant contribution to, Irish sailing during 2021.

By supporting your favourite nominee you are creating additional awareness of their nomination and highlighting their success.

Voting online is open to public view from Monday, January 3 until Sunday, January 30th 2021.

CLICK THE LINK ON EACH SAILORS' NAME TO READ THEIR ACHIEVEMENT FROM 2021 AND VOTE FOR YOUR SAILOR in the right-hand column (on desktop machines) and below on tablet and mobile.

ABOUT THE AFLOAT.IE SAILOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

Created in 1996, the Afloat Sailor of the Year Awards represent all that is praiseworthy, innovative and groundbreaking in the Irish sailing scene.

Since it began over 25 years ago the awards have recognised nearly 500 monthly award winners in the pages of Ireland's sailing magazine Afloat and these have been made to both amateur and professional sailors. The first-ever sailor of the year was dinghy sailor Mark Lyttle, a race winner at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

The judges' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Published in W M Nixon

Who gets your vote for Afloat Irish Sailor of the Year 2021?

Afloat Sailors of the Month in 2021 kept our sport going through adversity is the view of Winkie Nixon in his review of 24 individual sailors, pairings and crews (below) who have excelled in their respective disciplines, be it offshore, dinghy, cruising, windsurfing, or sailing administration.

In February, our judging panel will announce the Irish Sailor of the Year  — and you can have your say by voting in our poll on any page of the Afloat website (see right of this page).

Irish Sailors of the Month 2021

JANUARY

KIERAN COTTER

A pillar of the Baltimore community afloat and ashore, Kieran Cotter has retired as Baltimore Lifeboat Cox'n after 45 memorable years of service.A pillar of the Baltimore community afloat and ashore, Kieran Cotter has retired as Baltimore Lifeboat Cox'n after 45 memorable years of service.

The retirement of Kieran Cotter from the Baltimore Lifeboat after 45 years of distinguished service put the focus on a remarkable individual who combines a busy life afloat with solid community and commercial activity ashore, thereby playing a key role in the building of Baltimore’s prosperity and vitality.

His lifeboat service, as revealed here is probably unrivalled in its variety, and it’s certainly no exaggeration to say that he is one of Ireland’s best-known lifeboatmen.

His contribution has been augmented by his keen awareness of the lifeboat’s larger role in every aspect of an enthusiastic maritime community like Baltimore, and it was during his time as cox’n that the Baltimore Lifeboat sent forth a racing crew which sailed to second place overall in the Inter-services Racing for the Beaufort Cup in Cork Week at Crosshaven.

JANUARY (INTERNATIONAL)

BILL O’HARA

Busy man afloat and ashore. Bill O'Hara, Principal Race Officer, before the start of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean RaceBusy man afloat and ashore. Bill O'Hara, Principal Race Officer, before the start of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race

When the New Year was ushered in, the announcement that Bill O’Hara of Bangor had been awarded the OBE for Services to Sailing was a cause of special pleasure in the sailing community, not just in Ireland but worldwide. Our report at the time highlighted his multiple achievements in many areas, from Olympic participation to being Principal Race Officer for the Volvo Ocean Race, and particularly revealed his international status and unrivalled abilities across a wide spectrum of sailing life.

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

FEBRUARY

MAIRE BREATHNACH

Maire Breathnach aboard Annabel J off the Kerry coastMaire Breathnach aboard Annabel J off the Kerry coast

The pandemic lockdowns divided the sailing world into those who complained constantly about all restrictions and did little or nothing, and those who made the best of what was permissible. Maire Breathnach and her husband Andrew Wilkes, with their challenging but rewarding 64ft steel-built gaff cutter Annabel J of 1996 vintage, had a busy 2020, with a planned voyage from Waterford to South America – which, like North America, they circumnavigated on a previous cruise – being temporarily curtailed in the Canaries with the need to replace part of their wooden mainmast. Lockdown arrived, they endured it in extremely restricted circumstances for two month, and then as some local sailing became possible, they cruised the Canaries in detail.

Meanwhile, as Honorary Editor of the Irish Cruising Club Annual, Maire inspired her fellow members to make a special effort and produce “Narratives of Nostalgia” if they hadn’t managed a cruise of some sort. The result was an eclectic production, one of the most interesting ICC Annuals of modern times. And at the ICC Virtual AGM in February, Maire was awarded the ICC’s Rockabill Trophy for seamanship in recognition of the competent way in which she and Andrew had dealt with the demands of mast and rigging problems at sea, with just the two of them on a hefty ship which could handily carry a crew of six.

MARCH

ROBERT DICKSON & SEAN WADDILOVE

The magic moment at Vilamoura on March 26th – Sean Waddilove (left) and Robert Dickson have just secured a 49er place for Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics in JulyThe magic moment at Vilamoura on March 26th – Sean Waddilove (left) and Robert Dickson have just secured a 49er place for Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics in July

It says everything about the quality of the of the Dickson-Waddilove team’s securing of the Tokyo Olympics 49er place, that it not only sent the spirits of the Irish sailing community soaring skywards, but in these difficult times, it helped to raise the mood of the nation generally.

The inspiration has been heightened by knowing that the path of the “Flying Fingallions” to a Tokyo place has been specially challenging. They’d a carefully planned route towards a serious challenge for a full Olympic challenge in 2024. But their unexpected yet convincing victory in the U23 Worlds in September 2018 saw a re-alignment of objectives, with a new programme towards Tokyo which was in turn upset by the Pandemic-induced year’s delay in the 2020 Olympics.

It became a continuous character-testing situation in which the two seemed to find new reserves of mindset and performance which, in the final week of March in Portugal, produced a showing which went far beyond the minimum required, and was rounded out by a victorious showing in the Medal Race.

APRIL

JACK O’KEEFFE

Jack O'Keeffe's election as Chairman of the globally-spread Drascombe Association has highlighted the extensive voluntary work of someone who normally functions under the radarJack O'Keeffe's election as Chairman of the globally-spread Drascombe Association has highlighted the extensive voluntary work of someone who normally functions under the radar

There are many organisations in Ireland’s varied maritime life which don’t need a high profile to do good and useful work by stealth, and you’ll find Jack O’Keeffe of Carrigaline in Cork is involved with several of them. But his recent election as Chairman for two years of the internationally-operating Drascombe Association has inevitably raised his profile, and drawn fresh attention to a range of characterful little boats which almost defy categorisation.

Yet they’re undoubtedly multi-purpose, for although their ease of trailering is one of their key feature, several have made transoceanic cruises, while others have ventured – often in small lightly-organised groups – far into hidden rivers that more orthodox cruising boats can’t reach.

The flexibility of the Drascombes’ way of doing things meant that in the stop-start times of pandemic-plagued 2020, they probably managed a better cruising season than most other boat types. And Jack O’Keeffe’s willingness to take on the mantle of pre-research and organization while leading by example makes him a very worthy “Sailor of the Month”. 

APRIL SOM (ENVIRONMENTAL)

JIMMY MURRAY

The Irish Nautical Trust may have been functioning for years, but Jimmy Murray's enthusiasm is unabatedThe Irish Nautical Trust may have been functioning for years, but Jimmy Murray's enthusiasm is unabated

Jimmy Murray, Director of the Irish Nautical Trust in Dublin, is our “Sailor of the Month” for April in the Environmental category for the key role he played in the commissioning of the purpose-built Liffey Sweeper, which appropriately made its debut with the backing of Dublin Port on Earth Day, Thursday April 22nd.

The well-established Irish Nautical Trust has been active for years in bringing the port and the young people of the city together in various projects. But the innovative concept of the marine-debris-gathering Liffey Sweeper has captured public imagination in a special way by pressing all the right buttons regarding many contemporary environmental concerns.

Working with leading waste-recycling companies, the Sweeper is operating in the Liffey from Butt Bridge seawards, and will also gather rubbish in the Dodder and the Tolka Estuary. With the busy City of Dublin and the highly active Dublin Port located cheek-by-jowl with an Internationally-Recognised Biosphere, the value of the work being done by Jimmy Murray and his young crews simply cannot be over-estimated. 

MAY

JOHN MINNIS

John Minnis, successful First 31.7 campaigner in Irish and Scottish watersJohn Minnis, successful First 31.7 campaigner in Irish and Scottish waters

Despite continuing pandemic restrictions, there was a feeling that something resembling a sailing season was getting under way with the victory of John Minnis of Belfast Lough with his First 31.7 Final Call in the Scottish Series in the final weekend of May.

Skipper Minnis and his keen crew are no strangers to being in the frame both in First 31.7 and handicap racing. But it took a special level of enthusiasm for a flotilla of cruiser-racers from Belfast and Strangford Loughs to cross the North Channel for a very controlled Scottish Series, in which the racing was certainly real and officially recognised, but just about everything else was virtual and socially distanced, with three different venues being used in the eastern Firth of Clyde.

Thus it wasn’t felt appropriate to declare an overall winner, but had they done so, Final Call’s very impressive scorecard and clear class win would have made her the favoured contender for the top title. And she confirmed her “top boat” status in July when she came south for the First 31.7 Nationals in Dublin Bay, and won by an extremely convincing margin. 

JUNE SOM (SENIOR) 

SEAN CRAIG

Sean Craig at Laser racing – he puts even more into sailing than he takes from itSean Craig at Laser racing – he puts even more into sailing than he takes from it

Laser ace Sean Craig has been on top form in June. In addition to his usual input into racing and sailing administration, he’s in the frame in both the two Laser local weekly series currently being staged by DBSC. Meanwhile, at national level, he retained the Laser Masters Radial title at his home club of Royal St George in mid-June from a record fleet, and then in the final weekend of June in brisk conditions at Whitehead on Belfast Lough, he became the winner of the Laser Radial Ulster Championship hosted by County Antrim YC, the oldest winner (at 57) of any open Laser regional event in Ireland. 

JUNE SOM (OFFSHORE)

MURPHY FAMILY & NIEULARGO

The Nieulargo crew before the start of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race were (front row, left to right) Molly Murphy, James Fagan, Clive O'Shea and Ian Heffernan, and back row (left to right) Harry Durcan, Nin O'Leary, Brian Matthews, Annamarie Fegan Murphy, Mia Murphy and Denis MurphyThe Nieulargo crew before the start of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race were (front row, left to right) Molly Murphy, James Fagan, Clive O'Shea and Ian Heffernan, and back row (left to right) Harry Durcan, Nin O'Leary, Brian Matthews, Annamarie Fegan Murphy, Mia Murphy and Denis Murphy

Time was that if a victorious Royal Cork YC vessel returned after “success abroad”, she received a nine-gun salute on arrival from the Club battery. Even though we live in more noise-conscious times, the RCYC can still wheel out a five gun salute when appropriate, but it is used very sparingly. However, on the sunny evening of Monday, June 15th when the Murphy family’s Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo returned to Crosser fresh from a brilliant overall win in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, she got the full and richly-deserved treatment from Admiral Colin Morehead and his members. And though offshore racing is the boat and crew’s speciality, subsequently in the more inshore conditions of the Sovereigns Cup Coastal Division at Kinsale, Nieulargo was still right in the picture to place second overall, making for a remarkably well-balanced month of achievement which was extended well into Autumn when she was declared the ICRA Boat of the Year after winning her class in the RCYC Autumn League.

JUNE SOM (JUNIOR)

ROCCO WRIGHT

Rocco Wright gets himself into a race lead in the Optimist Worlds 2021Rocco Wright gets himself into a race lead in the Optimist Worlds 2021

As the Optimist Worlds got into their stride on Lake Garda in the first week of June, they found Howth’s Rocco Wright to be the target helm, as his countdown to the big one had been wellnigh perfect. Previously he’d taken Bronze in the Meringa Cup series on the lake, and then in the big one in a fleet of nearly 300 boats from 31 nations with Lake Garda in fine sailing form, he won overall by an astonishing nine points, convincingly making him Ireland’s outstanding junior sailor in June. This star position was to be further augmented in September, when he won the All-Ireland Junior Championship in Schull

SOM JUNE (INSHORE)

MIKE & RICHIE EVANS

Staying ahead of the pack – Sovereigns Cup Winner 2021 Snapshot (J/99, Mike & Richie Evans) breezing along in style ahead of the hunting mob of J109s at KinsalStaying ahead of the pack – Sovereigns Cup Winner 2021 Snapshot (J/99, Mike & Richie Evans) breezing along in style ahead of the hunting mob of J109s at Kinsale Photo: Bob Bateman

When the Irish J/109s hunt as a pack – as nine of them did at the Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale – there’s blood in the air, and anyone racing a brand new J/99 against such a mob will naturally feel vulnerable. But former Classic Half Ton Racers Mike & Richie Evans of Howth kept their cool with their fresh-out-of-the-box J/99 Snapshot. With talents of the calibre of Laura Dillon, Des Flood and Graham Curran on the strength, they were so game for the challenge that they emerged at the regatta’s conclusion as outright winners of the hyper-hot IRC 1, and the new holders of the overall trophy – the Sovereigns Cup - for good measure.

JULY SOM

EVE MCMAHON

Eve McMahon - star quality shone through in true champion's style at the Laser Radial Youth Worlds in ItalyEve McMahon - star quality shone through in true champion's style at the Laser Radial Youth Worlds in Italy

It says everything about Eve McMahon’s big-fleet sailing skills that she emerged as the clear winner of the Laser Youth Worlds Girls Division on Lake Garda on Saturday, July 31st with a generally consistent scoreline which would have done credit to a mature and seasoned campaigner in a senior event. Yet it was difficult for her to keep the head down and work quietly but steadily towards gaining, maintaining, losing and then regaining the overall lead, as her every movement in a boat speaks eloquently of sailing genius. This inevitably made her the target helm for the rest of the remarkably international fleet, but in the end her star quality shone through in true champion’s style. Then in December, she maintained her position as one of global sailing’s top juniors with a fourth overall in the Youth Worlds in Oman.

JULY SOM (SERVICES TO SAILING)

HAL SISK & FIONAN DE BARRA

The DB21 Naneen arrives in Kilrush in 2016 pre-restoration, with (left to right) Fionan de Barra, boatbuilder Steve Morris, designer Paul Spooner, and Hal Sisk

The restoration of all seven original Dublin Bay 21ft One-Designs (the oldest of them date from 1903) is still work in progress. But a major milestone in the process - the Cape Horn of a unique voyage – was safely put astern on Friday July 30th, when the first three superbly-restored boats sailed back into Dun Laoghaire after an absence of 35 years. Many craftsmen have been involved in this - most notably Steve Morris and his team at Kilrush Boatyard - but none of it would have happened without the undying belief of Fionan de Barra in the value of the project and its meaning for Dun Laoghaire and its maritime community, combined with the inspired support of Hal Sisk in fulfilling a vision which is a great service to sailing not only in Dublin Bay, but nationally and internationally as well. 

AUGUST SOM (OFFSHORE)

RONAN O SIOCHRU & THE CREW OF DESERT STAR

The crew of Desert Star, with the Fastnet finish approaching, buoyed up with success if red-eyed with exhaustionThe crew of Desert Star, with the Fastnet finish approaching, buoyed up with success if red-eyed with exhaustion

When a sailing school boat of a certain maturity starts to show consistently well in open competition in the decidedly challenging Rolex Fastnet Race, people start to take notice. And as the new-style and longer Fastnet Race of 2021 progressed, that attention increasingly focused on Irish Offshore Sailing of Dun Laoghaire’s Sunfast 37 Desert Star. She was skippered by Ronan O Siochru (RStGYC) with Conor Totterdell (NYC) as his right-hand man, but otherwise crewed by keen-to-learn sailors of limited offshore experience but boundless enthusiasm

With such a setup, the watching pundits expected that Desert Star would soon drop out of her position in the top three in Class 4, and would probably be in double figures by the time she’d negotiated the final difficult approach to the finish. But far from faltering, she never put a tactical foot wrong, and in Cherbourg she was just ten minutes short of winning Class IV overall. As it was, second in one of the biggest classes and 14th overall was a sensational performance, and her entire crew share our Sailors of the Month (Offshore) award for 2021.

AUGUST SOM (INSHORE)

JOHN LAVERY & ALAN GREEN

Serial champions – John Lavery and Alan Green with some of their latest haul. Alan Green has crewed to victory in at least five major Flying Fifteen championships with five different skippersSerial champions – John Lavery and Alan Green with some of their latest haul. Alan Green has crewed to victory in at least five major Flying Fifteen championships with five different skippers

The efficiently-organised Flying Fifteens are Ireland’s largest One-Design keelboat class, and despite the pandemic, they have managed to stage regulation-compliant National Championships in 2020 and 2021, at Dunmore East and on Strangford Lough respectively. With former world champions and Olympic sailors from several classes among their current members, F/F sailing provides intense competition even when numbers are limited. Thus it has been remarkable that these two National Championships have been won by veteran skipper John Lavery, with Alan Green as his crew in both Dunmore East and Whiterock.

In a long sailing career which began in Optimists at the National Yacht Club in 1967, John Lavery has failed in only one thing. Despite a couple of announcements that he is permanently hanging up his sailing boots, he hasn’t. He has been enticed back with a boat called Phoenix or maybe ffoenix, and his scorecard on Strangford Lough in tricky conditions to take a 16 point overall shows that his sailing has lost none of its magic.

SEPTEMBER (OFFSHORE)

TOM DOLAN

Tom Dolan and Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan have clear air and are on their way to first at the Fastnet RockTom Dolan and Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan have clear air and are on their way to first at the Fastnet Rock

The exceptionally-demanding final 642-mile stage of La Solitaire du Figaro 2021 took the 34-strong fleet from Morlaix in Brittany northwest round the Fastnet Rock, and then southeast to the finish at Saint-Nazaire on France’s Biscay Coast. After three frustrating stages, it was as though Ireland’s Tom Dolan on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan had been completely re-born as a solo sailor. He was first at the Fastnet, and while no-one could have staved off the multiple challenges from the chasing fleet in the flukey conditions, he still secured a podium place to take the bronze at the finish in a brilliant comeback.

SEPTEMBER (INSHORE)

CHARLIE CULLEN

Leave 'em gasping….." Charlie Cullen in full-on Waszp-racing concentrationLeave 'em gasping….." Charlie Cullen in full-on Waszp-racing concentration

A veteran of foil sailing at just 19, Charlie Cullen of the Royal St George YC has been cutting an increasingly impressive furrow through Waszp racing in 2021 as the national and international programme resumes. He reached new heights in the SailGP series in Saint-Tropez in mid-September to take silver, providing him with his fourth podium place in the majors of the current season (including European U20 and Slalom Championships), and further up-grading expectations for his continuing progress in the sharpest area of sailing. 

SOM OCTOBER

GER OWENS

In for the long haul - the multi-talented Ger OwensIn for the long haul - the multi-talented Ger Owens Photo: Bob Bateman

While some helms have won the All-Ireland Championship two or even three times within a relatively short time-span, none can match the Royal St George YC”s Ger Owens’ unique achievement of having a 21-year-gap between his two victories. He was a rising star when he first took it in 2000, having won the Juniors in 1996 & 1998. And with today’s greatly increased longevity, he still is a rising star. Most of his achievements in recent years have been in the GP 14s, but he has proven more than able in several classes Thus when the All-Ireland 2021 was staged in National 18s in Crosshaven at the beginning of October, he was soon at home in the class, taking the overall win in the Championship of Champions despite a trio of longtime National 18 sailors being in the line-up against him.

SOM OCTOBER (TEAM RACING)

JACK FAHY

Young sailors, old port……Inter-varsity team-racing off King John's castle at the historic port of CarlingfordYoung sailors, old port……Inter-varsity team-racing off King John's castle at the historic port of Carlingford

When 144 sailors descend on a club like the hospitable but relatively small (numerically-speaking) Carlingford Sailing Club for a festival of team racing, the pressure is on, both afloat and ashore. That pressure is in no way lessened by the 24 teams being drawn from nine universities all over Ireland.

All six members of the winning team have to keep their cool to make it to the top. But the pressure for this is most challenging on the winning team captain, and in October’s highlight of the 2021 Irish Universities Eastern Championship, it was a University College Dublin team captained by Jack Fahy, which took the trophy.

SOM OCTOBER (JUNIOR)

RIAN COLLINS

Rian Collins – his scoreline in the Youth Nationals was 1,1,2, 4,2,1, (11)Rian Collins – his scoreline in the Youth Nationals was 1,1,2, 4,2,1, (11)

Young Rian Collins of Royal Cork YC has been cutting a swathe through Irish Topper racing in 2021, maintaining the special reputation of an extended family long associated with Crosshaven sailing and success. He concluded his campaigning on a high in the 38-strong Topper class (the largest and most all-Ireland fleet racing) in the weekend’s Irish Youth Championship at his home port, recording a very clearcut 12 point overall lead. 

SOM NOVEMBER (OLYMPIC)

FINN LYNCH

From despair to delight – Finn Lynch made November into summer

As 2021 drew to a close, the Irish sailing community learned yet again that there’s nothing like a major international success by one of our own to brighten the dark days of November. And when that success comes to a popular sailor who has been enduring the seemingly endless frustration of a performance drought, it’s like the sun has come out with mid-summer vigour.

Olympian Finn Lynch of the National YC brightened all our days by getting on the podium with a solid second overall at the big-fleet ILCA Worlds in Barcelona in the depths of November. His resilience in doing so was fulsomely praised by a panel of experienced sailors, who know only too well the depths of solitary despair which can be experienced by formerly successful solo campaigners who seem to have become lost in a wasteland of setbacks. With a mighty leap, our hero had freed himself. And November was transformed.

SOM NOVEMBER (TEAM RACING)

NIAMH HENRY

Former 420 Champion Niamh Henry (pictured above with crew Max Pocock) has successfully transferred her sailing skills to Team RacingFormer 420 Champion Niamh Henry (pictured above with crew Max Pocock) has successfully transferred her sailing skills to Team Racing

Team Racing makes for great sailing sport, and is unrivalled in its effectiveness in honing close-quarters boat-handling skills. But it’s an especially unforgiving type of contest, for although everyone is mutually reliant for success, at the very end it can often come down completey to the relative individual showing of one helm at the tail end of the final race.

Niamh Henry of Royal St George YC, sailing for Technical University Dublin in the maelstrom of the Irish Team Racing Championship at Royal Cork in Crosshaven, found herself in this unsought yet key role. Despite capsizes being part of a volatile mix in the final, she kept her cool to maintain a two boat lead over her Baltimore SC rival to produce a tied 4 points apiece finish, but with TUD on track to win the tie break and the title.

It may have looked chaotic to a casual observer. But right at the heart of it, Niamh Henry knew precisely what was needed to carry the day, and she did it.

SOM DECEMBER (INSHORE)

MARK HASSETT

Match Racing Champion Mark Hassett with his crew of Adam Hyland (left) and Robbie EnglishMatch Racing Champion Mark Hassett with his crew of Adam Hyland (left) and Robbie English

The National Yacht Club’s flotilla of Elliott 6M match-racing boats came into their own early in December, when the club staged its inaugural Invitational Match Racing Series, successfully drawing in competition from near and far to bring together a highly competitive lineup, including National Champions and Olympic sailors.

But at the end of a very busy day’s racing with something of the Dawn Patrol about its start after adverse weather on the Saturday forced the compression of a planned two day championship into one, the four helms who proceeded to the semi-finals were Mark Hassett, Brendan Lyden, Tom Fitzpatrick and Seafra Guilfoyle, making for a fairly even spread between Cork and Dublin.

However, the final was all West Cork, Lyden versus Hassett, with the latter starting well with a win. But in Race 2 he was off the pace until his crew of Adam Hyland and Robbie English obliged with a very smart spinnaker gybe set at the weather mark which enabled him to zip into a better breeze in mid-harbour to take the title and become a Sailor of the Month in 2021’s last month of all. 

SOM DECEMBER (OFFSHORE)

CONOR HAUGHEY

Dedicated long-distance sailor Conor Haughey took nights at sea as they came to win Line Honours in the 2021 ARC +Dedicated long-distance sailor Conor Haughey took nights at sea as they came to win Line Honours in the 2021 ARC +

Conor Haughey of Malahide admits to an addiction. It’s to salt water, and long-distance voyaging. But though he has made several transoceanic passages, it wasn’t until he bought the comfortable yet swift Moody 54DS Hibernian that he reckoned he could take on the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) from the Canaries to the Caribbean in a reasonably competitive style, while continuing to be crewed by friends.

They elected to do the ARC +, the two stage version which takes in a stop at the Cape Verde islands, and it was the second stage from the Cape Verdes to Grenada that saw Hibernian confirm her position as one of the flyers in the fleet. She swept in to the finish ahead of expected time on December 3rd to take Line Honours in Class and in the Cruising Division, neatly ahead of an impressive fleet which included a notable number of much larger craft.  

SOM DECEMBER (INTERNATIONAL)

GORDON MAGUIRE

Gordon Maguire with the Tattersall Cup in Hobart on Friday December 31st 2021 – his fifth win of it, with the first in 1991Gordon Maguire with the Tattersall Cup in Hobart on Friday December 31st 2021 – his fifth win of it, with the first in 1991

A fifth win on December 30th 2021 of the annual Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race’s prized Tattersall Cup for overall victory – with the most recent successes being three in a row with Matt Allen’s TP52 Ichi Ban – saw ex-Pat Howth sailor Gordon Maguire confirming his position as one of Australia and the world’s most accomplished offshore racer.

His apparently easy-going demeanour disguises a will of steel when it comes to getting the best performance out of a boat, such that he is renowned for instinctively sensing the slightest change in wind conditions a nano-second before the electronic instruments give their first indications.

He sailed the 2021 Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race with the added emotions of having mourned - along with all the Irish sailing community -  the death a fortnight earlier at the age of 95 of his much-loved father Neville, an equally accomplished sailor. This made the 2021 win  - coming as it does a clear 30 years after his first Sydney-Hobart race overall victory – something very special indeed.  

Sailor of the Year Voting 2021

As in previous years, the boating public and maritime community can have their say to help guide judges in deciding who should be crowned Ireland's Sailor of the Year for 2021 by using our online poll.

The judges welcome the traditional huge level of public interest in helping them make their decision but firmly retain their right to make the ultimate decision for the final choice while taking voting trends into account.

Please note: One vote per person. Your vote DOES NOT necessarily determine the overall winner.

The national award is specially designed to salute the achievements of Ireland's sailing's elite. After more than 25 years in existence, the awards has developed into a premier awards ceremony for water sports.

The overall national award will be presented to the person who, in the judges' opinion, achieved the most notable results in, or made the most significant contribution to, Irish sailing during 2021.

By supporting your favourite nominee you are creating additional awareness of their nomination and highlighting their success.

Voting online is open to public view from Monday, January 3 until Sunday, January 30th 2021.

CLICK THE LINK ON EACH SAILORS' NAME TO READ THEIR ACHIEVEMENT FROM 2021 AND VOTE FOR YOUR SAILOR in the right-hand column (on desktop machines) and below on tablet and mobile.

ABOUT THE AFLOAT.IE SAILOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

Created in 1996, the Afloat Sailor of the Year Awards represent all that is praiseworthy, innovative and groundbreaking in the Irish sailing scene.

Since it began over 25 years ago the awards have recognised nearly 500 monthly award winners in the pages of Ireland's sailing magazine Afloat and these have been made to both amateur and professional sailors. The first-ever sailor of the year was dinghy sailor Mark Lyttle, a race winner at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

The judges' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Published in Sailor of the Month

Conor Haughey of Malahide admits to an addiction. It’s to saltwater and long-distance voyaging. But though he has made several transoceanic passages, it wasn’t until he bought the comfortable yet swift Moody 54DS Hibernian that he reckoned he could take on the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) from the Canaries to the Caribbean in a reasonably competitive style, while continuing to be crewed by friends.

They elected to do the ARC +, the two-stage version which takes in a stop at the Cape Verde islands, and it was the second stage from the Cape Verdes to Grenada that saw Hibernian confirm her position as one of the flyers in the fleet. She swept in to the finish ahead of expected time on December 3rd to take Line Honours in Class and in the Cruising Division, neatly ahead of an impressive fleet that included a notable number of much larger craft.

Swift yet comfortable – Conor Haughey’s stylish Hibernian, a Moody 54DS, proved a successful competitor at the December finish of the Transatlantic 2021 ARC +Swift yet comfortable – Conor Haughey’s stylish Hibernian, a Moody 54DS, proved a successful competitor at the December finish of the Transatlantic 2021 ARC +

Published in Sailor of the Month

Even in a pandemic-shortened season like 2021, by the time October is reached, some Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Month" award winners from earlier months are achieving further success. At year's end, these new successes are gathered in with their earlier achievements to add further lustre to their previous winning profiles in order to intensify the process of selecting a "Sailor of the Year". Meanwhile, as each month comes round, this approach clears the way for fresh names to come to the fore, and in October 2021's special circumstances, our latest listing of "Sailors of the Month" reflects this. 

In for the long haul - the multi-talented Ger OwensIn for the long haul - the multi-talented Ger Owens Photo: Bob Bateman

Ger Owens of Royal St George YC is "Sailor of the Month" for October

While some helms have won the All-Ireland Championship two or even three times within a relatively short time-span, none can match Ger Owens' unique achievement of having a 21-year-gap between his two victories. He was a rising star when he first took it in 2000, having won the Juniors in 1996 & 1998. And with today's greatly increased longevity, he still is a rising star. Most of his achievements in recent years have been in the GP 14s, but he has proven more than able in several classes Thus when the All-Ireland 2021 was staged in National 18s in Crosshaven at the beginning of October, he was soon at home in the class, taking the overall win in the Championship of Champions despite a trio of longtime National 18 sailors being in the lineup against him.

Published in Sailor of the Month

A veteran of foil sailing at just 19, Charlie Cullen of the Royal St George YC has been cutting an increasingly impressive furrow through Waszp racing in 2021 as the national and international programme resumes.

In mid-September, he reached new heights in the SailGP series in Saint-Tropez to take silver, providing him with his fourth podium place in the majors of the current season (including European U20 and Slalom Championships), and further up-grading expectations for his continuing progress in the sharpest area of sailing.

Slicing through – Ireland's Charlie Cullen zooms out from under the Norwegian and Italian contenders.Slicing through – Ireland's Charlie Cullen zooms out from under the Norwegian and Italian contenders.

Published in Sailor of the Month

When a sailing school boat of a certain maturity starts to show consistently well in open competition in the decidedly challenging Rolex Fastnet Race, people start to take notice. And as the new-style and longer Fastnet of 2021 progressed, that attention increasingly focused on Irish Offshore Sailing of Dun Laoghaire's Sunfast 37 Desert Star. She was skippered by Ronan O Siochru (RStGYC) with Conor Totterdell (NYC) as his right-hand man, but otherwise crewed by keen-to-learn sailors of limited offshore experience but boundless enthusiasm.

With such a setup, the watching pundits expected that Desert Star would soon drop out of her position in the top three in Class 4, and would probably be in double figures by the time she'd negotiated the final difficult approach to the finish. But far from faltering, she never put a tactical foot wrong, and in Cherbourg she was just ten minutes short of winning Class IV overall. As it was, second in one of the biggest classes was a sensational performance, and her entire crew share our Sailors of the Month (Offshore) award for 2021.

The vintage Sunfast 37 Desert Star – she has sailed every Fastnet Race since 2015, and several Dun Laoghaire to Dingles as well.The vintage Sunfast 37 Desert Star – she has sailed every Fastnet Race since 2015, and several Dun Laoghaire to Dingles as well.

In addition to Ronan and Conor they are Pat Hogan, originally from Limerick, now living in Dun Laoghaire; Tony Brennan, working in senior management in the civil service, marathon runner, from Cork originally; Eoin Cullinane, an engineer living in Co. Meath; Wayne Tyrrell, a pilot and barrister in the Air Corps where he was a lieutenant colonel, he was about to start a new job in civil aviation; Fergus McDonnell from Galway, very fit at 69, and the oldest crew member, a former rugby player who has his own online DIY business; and David O Connell, a witty GP from Dublin.

The doctor will see you now…….Dave O'Connell, missing from the header photo as he was the one who took it, on Desert Star's wheel during the Fastnet Race 2021. In another life, he is the skipper of the Howth 17 AnitaThe doctor will see you now…….Dave O'Connell, missing from the header photo as he was the one who took it, on Desert Star's wheel during the Fastnet Race 2021. In another life, he is the skipper of the Howth 17 Anita

Published in Sailor of the Month

The restoration of all seven original Dublin Bay 21ft One-Designs (the oldest of them date from 1903) is still work in progress. But a major milestone in the process - the Cape Horn of a unique voyage – was safely put astern on Friday, July 30th, when the first three superbly-restored boats sailed back into Dun Laoghaire after an absence of 35 years. Many craftsmen have been involved in this - most notably Steve Morris and his team at Kilrush Boatyard - but none of it would have happened without the undying belief of Fionan de Barra in the value of the project and its meaning for Dun Laoghaire and its maritime community, combined with the inspired support of Hal Sisk in fulfilling a vision which is a great service to sailing not only in Dublin Bay, but nationally and internationally as well.

The restored DB21 Garavogue (built James Kelly of Portrush in 1903) sails north into Dalkey Sound on Friday July 30th 2021, 35 years after she'd last sailed through the Sound, bound for Arklow and an uncertain future. Photo courtesy DB21 Assoc.The restored DB21 Garavogue (built James Kelly of Portrush in 1903) sails north into Dalkey Sound on Friday July 30th 2021, 35 years after she'd last sailed through the Sound, bound for Arklow and an uncertain future. Photo courtesy DB21 Assoc.

Published in Sailor of the Month

Time was - when a victorious Royal Cork YC vessel returned after "success abroad" - that she received a nine-gun salute on arrival from the Club battery. Even though we live in more noise-conscious times, the RCYC can still wheel out a five gun salute when appropriate, but it is used very sparingly. However, on the sunny evening of Monday, June 15th when the Murphy family's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo returned to Crosser fresh from a brilliant overall win in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, she got the full and richly-deserved treatment from Admiral Colin Morehead and his members.

And though offshore racing is the boat and crew's speciality, subsequently in the more inshore conditions of the Sovereigns Cup Coastal Division at Kinsale, Nieulargo was still right in the picture to place second overall, making for a remarkably well-balanced month of achievement.

Published in Sailor of the Month
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