Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Displaying items by tag: Sailor of the Month

31st December 2012

Irish Sailor of the Year 2012

Help us decide...

As in previous years, Afloat magazine is asking the public to help decide who should be crowned Ireland's Sailor of the Year for 2012.

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 watersports during 2012.

This year voting will take place through from January the 1st.


The boating public gets to nominate their top three through the online poll, gets a vote too and the Sailor of the Year judges decide the final winner.

Cast your vote by midnight February 17, 2013. The awards are administered and judged by Afloat magazine and the Irish Independent. (UPDATE: VOTING IS NOW CLOSED. THANKS FOR YOUR VOTES!)

soy2012 pagetopper


Sophie Browne – Browne's an early riser

Sophie Browne of Tralee Bay and Royal Cork took the silver medal in the girls division in the Optimist Worlds in New Zealand. That's some going for the then 14-year-old, especially after a gold in the girls - and fourth overall - in Mallorca last December. But she's well aware of the sheer hard work and unglamourous dedication that goes into a podium place. For more:


Fergus and Kay Quinlan – Quinlans repeat their feat

Lightning strikes twice for Fergus and Kay Quinlan, who repeated their Sailor of the Month award in February 2011 with the same accolade 12 months later. And again they lifted the Faulkner Cup - Ireland's most senior cruising trophy - for their ventures across the Pacific in their 38ft sloop Pylades, which they purpose-built themselves for the journey. They finally ended their circumnavigation in their home waters of Co Clare this past July, yet the impression of their achievements lives on. For more:


Hal Sisk – Sisk celebrates the past

Boat enthusiast Hal Sisk is commendable for his work both in researching Ireland's seafaring history, making it accessible to less academic mariners, and in restoring ancient boats that provide an insight into the past. His work on the 1880s clipper Peggy Bawn in particular is a fascinating window into a time of rapid change in design, something he's also made the focus of his new company Peggy Bawn Press with a biography of Scottish boat designer George Lennox Watson. For more:


Stephen Hyde – Like son, like father

Usually it's children who follow in their parents' footsteps, but for Crosshaven's Stephen Hyde it's the other way round, matching his son Stefan's Sailor of the Month award in 2006 with his own honour this April. It's a well deserved one, too, in light Stephen and his wife Aileen's recently completed global voyage, joining ocean-crossing events stage by stage around the world, and even winning their class in this year's Oyster Caribbean Regatta. For more:


Team Toy Yacht – Smallest boat, biggest prize

Testing their part-time sailing skills and their self-restored vintage Julian Everitt design Evolution 22 to the limit, Team Toy Yot swept Class 4 IRC in the record-breaking BMW ICRA Nationals at Howth this May. But considering three of the four – Stephen Mullany, rigger Gavin Lavery, mechanic Dave Carroll and student Gavin Pitcher - work in the hands-on end of the marine industry keeping boats running throughout the season, this strong performance should really be little surprise. For more:


Peter O'Leary & David Burrows – Star pair's stellar year

It was a stellar year for the Star class pair of Peter O'Leary and David Burrows, as they followed their strong performance in June's Skandia Sail for Gold with a 10th place finish in the medal race at the London 2012 Olympics. Giving established duos such as Percy and Simpson of Great Britain and Scheidt and Prado of Brazil a run for their money, O'Leary and Burrows' results marked a new high for Irish sailing. For more:


Bernard Guoy – Guoy's one of our own

Bernard Guoy's enthusiasm for the West of Ireland even extends to the name of his Ker 39, Inis Mor, in which he and his family won the latest edition of the Round Ireland Yacht Race. But the Frenchman is no invader, as his kin have strong and lasting connections to sailing in the region, racing regularly for Clifden Boat Club. Their exemplary performance in the race was seen as a fine win by one of our own. For more:


Finn Lynch – Carlow's Captain Cool

Just 16 years of age, Carlow's Finn Lynch can already claim a silver medal at the 2012 Youth Worlds to his name. His style of winning - staying calm and finishing in control of the race - is something that many older sailors could learn from.

Racing Toppers from the age of eight, Lynch is now a world class talent in the Laser Radial for the National Yacht Club, the same that produced Olympic heroine Annalise Murphy. For more:


Annalise Murphy – Annalise is outstanding

It's a well deserved honour for Annalise Murphy following her outstanding performance in the Laser Radial at the London Olympic this summer. She produced Ireland's best Olympic result in 30 years in any class, only narrowly missing out on the bronze in the medal race - and raised the profile of the sport in Ireland immeasurably. Meanwhile, considering the NYC sailor and UCD student is still only 22, there's still so much sailing success awaiting in her future. For more:


Fionn Lyden – Lyden's runaway victory

Local boy Fionn Lyden was runaway winner against the best Ireland can produce at the Junior All-Ireland Nationals in Schull this September. The 17-year-old's nine wins fromnine races in the 21-strong fleet of the country's top helms marks him as a talent to watch among a rising crop of young sailors from the West Cork town. Lyden's success is a credit to those who have worked in the background to make it happen.

For more:


Barry Hurley – All down to Hurley

Barry Hurley's victory in the two-handed division in the Rolex Middle Sea Race off Malta earns him his second Sailor of the Month award since June 2009. As the race judges themselves declared, Hurley's dedication and determination ensured his JOD 35 Dinah was in full racing trim and ready to go in the record fleet in this year's Mediterranean marathon - an experience he described as "the most intense" race he has ever sailed. For more:


UCD Sailing Team – Top of the Class

Never before have we had ten Independent "Sailors of the Month" in the one month. But with Christmas approaching it's time for gifting all round, and the adjudicators have agreed the entire UCD team that clinched the Student Yachting Worlds in France four weeks ago are Sailors of the Month for November. UCD Sailing Club Captain Cathal Leigh-Doyle made best use of the extensive resources of talent available in Ireland's largest university by taking along a squad of ten, even though the boats used are actually raced by eight. More here.


Brian Craig – Super Organisation Brings Home the Goods for Dun Laoghaire

Only with a very exceptional administrator and delegator leading an inevitably complex organization can such a satisfactory outcome be achieved. Irish sailing in general, and Dublin Bay in particular, is fortunate in being able to call on the services of Brian Craig to lead the administration in events as demanding as the ISAF Worlds. Not only did he put in the long hours necessary to ensure its smooth running, but long beforehand he gave generously of his time to ensure that Dublin Bay's claim to stage this event was internationally acknowledged and approved. Brian Craig is the "Sailor of the Month" for December in celebration of his unrivalled contribution to the sailing season of 2012. More here.


Published in Sailor of the Year

#sailorofthemonth – Barry Hurley is the Independent October "Sailor of the Month" to mark his victory last weekend in the two-handed division in the 606-mile Rolex Middle Sea Race out of Malta with his JOD 35 Dinah.

Hurley (32), originally from Cobh, had a very capable shipmate with him in the form of Andrew Boyle, who has raced several times on major events as the No 2 on Dinah. But the adjudicators felt that as it was Barry Hurley's dedication and determination which ensured that Dinah was in full racing trim and ready to go in the record fleet in this year's Mediterranean marathon, the success was primarily his personal achievement.

He has been Sailor of the Month before, back in June 2009 when he won his class with the same boat in the Single-Handed Transatlantic Race. In fact, single handed racing is very much his thing – back in June this year, when the Irish sailing community was mainly focused on the Round Ireland Race, three boats raced out of Galway on the inaugural 750-mile Round Rockall Race, and Dinah with Hurley won the two boat solo division from Jamie Young of Mayo in the Frers 49 Killary Flyer.

For most sailors, battling out round Rockall would be enough for any one season. But Dinah's owner-skipper has shown his determination by getting his boat out to the Med and ready to race in what is now firmly established as Malta's primary annual maritime event. Indeed, at the prize giving, Malta's Tourism Minister Mario de Marco described it as Malta's most prestigious international event full stop.

This time round, 83 boats crossed the starting line, and after a race plagued by light winds, but with a mighty thunderstorm which provided more than enough wind for one section of the fleet, the overall winner was the Welbourn 46 Hi Fidelity (Eddie de Villiers, South Africa).

The five boats in the two-handed division went right down to the wire, as the race has a seven day time limit, and though Hurley and Boyle knew they were in with a shout for their class win as they came towards the finish line last Saturday, in the end they only had 25 minutes to spare before time ran out.

For Hurley, it was "the most intense" race he has ever sailed. The Irish ambassador to Malta, Jim Hennessy, was there with supporters to welcome them in to an emotional finish as they beat the clock by that crucial 25 minutes, which enabled them to take a clear corrected time win of six hours in the two-handed division.

#sailor of the month  – Annalise Murphy of the National YC in Dun Laoghaire is the Irish Independent "Sailor of the Month" for August following her outstanding performance in the London Olympics. The talented and dedicated 22-year-old had the entire country in thrall as she battled with the fierce challenge of being top of the Women's Laser Radial class, and her fourth place overall, shy of a medal by fractions of a second, is the best Irish Olympic Sailing Result for thirty years.

Merely to describe her result as fourth overall fails completely to capture the essence of Murphy's performance. For about half of the regatta, she was in the Gold Medal slot. Then having slipped down to bronze rankings, she regained the top place with only one race to sail.

At this level of sailing, being top leaves a helm open to all sorts of joint challenges by those nearest in rankings. Like it or not, this is the way it is in sailing. Because there are ten boats involved, and with the wind being the motive power, the opportunities to block off a clear breeze or create other distractions for those heading the points table are there for the taking. When a leader is slowed back by one boat, two or three others can climb up the rankings at the previous leader's expense.

With four of the world's top women sailors in contention for the Gold going into that final race, the pressure was unbelievable. And with the race being staged in the fluky breezes close in off the Nothe at Weymouth, tiny gains could suddenly become significant gaps through vagaries of the wind.

It tells us everything about the stratospheric level of sailing in the Olympics that despite conditions which would have seen club racers spread over a wide time band, the Women's Laser Radials were finishing in tight order. But within that order, it was the Irish girl who - after leading for most of the series - lost out in the final leg.

But despite the outcome, throughout Ireland - maybe for the first time - people fully appreciated what is involved. Through her achievements and popular appeal, Annalise Murphy did more to raise the profile of our sport than any other Irish sailor in this extraordinary year, or indeed for many years.


The National Yacht Club, current Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year, is setting a hectic pace throughout 2012, and tomorrow sees the international sailing focus swinging towards the club in its hospitable corner of Dun Laoghaire harbour as the European Tour of the five new MOD 70 class boats gets going from Kiel on Germany's Baltic coast, racing north round Scotland and on towards Ireland and the NYC in Dun Laoghaire.

Back in July, these 70ft trimarans leapt into prominence with their first major race, the Krys Transatlantic from New York to Brest. Not only did they see two of the boats average better than 25 knots across the pond to establish a new Transatlantic record, but they arrived in good order nicely on time for Bastille Day, and just after Groupama had won the Volvo Race for France. For the French sailing community, it was as good a Bastille Day as anyone could remember.

Since then, other nations have been making the global sailing headlines with the Olympics, and more recently the acceleration of the America's Cup programme in San Francisco. But as of tomorrow, France and the mighty MOD 70s will be top of the bill. They'll be in and around Dublin Bay from 5th to 9th September. After the rather sedate Parade of Sail which concluded the visit of the Tall Ships last weekend, next week we're going to have the opportunity to see sailing in which "sedate" will most emphatically not be the mot juste.


A Centenarian on the silver sea – Ainmara has been stepping out in style for her hundredth birthday. Photo: W M Nixon


We took a break from last weekend's posting to go off with Dickie Gomes for the Centenary Cruise of his 1912-built 36ft yawl Ainmara. Those who knew Tiger Gomes in his glory days as a round Ireland record-maker and ace skipper of some notable top end offshore racers may not be aware that, since 1966, he has also been the owner of Ainmara, the first yacht designed and built in Ringsend by John B Kearney.

Admittedly the demands on the Gomes sailing talent were such that Ainmara spent many years as the sleeping princess in a shed at the Gomes farm. But with the Centenary coming up, her prince bestirred himself, she was put afloat for the first time in 28 years last year, and for this season a Centenary Cruise to familiar stomping grounds in the Hebrides was mooted.

It was back in 1960 that I made my first charter cruise in Ainmara to the Scottish west coast. She seemed quite an old boat then, at the age of 48, so getting the head round the fact that she's now a hundred takes a bit of doing. Although these days she carries a Bermudan rig with three headsails on an alloy mast which Dickie built himself back in the 1960s, her hull is still almost totally original, and even her rather brutal coachroof (you get used to the look of it) is simply built on top of the original cabin – this was a tasty little low profile effort, but it provided zilch in the way of headroom.


Dickie Gomes, Round Ireland Record Holder 1986-1993, relaxing aboard his beloved hundred year old Kearney yawl Ainmara in the Sound of Mull, August 2012.

I joined Dickie and his shipmate Denis Fusco (son of legendary sailor the late Victor Fusco) in Ballycastle on Tuesday August 7th. Ballycastle with its much-improved harbour is to Ireland's northeast corner as Kilmore Quay is to the southeast – a mighty-handy point of departure. I'd hopped on the DART that morning in Howth, yet that evening we were comfortably ensconced in the Ardview Inn at Port Ellen on Islay, starting to meet a continuous line of intriguing characters which continued throughout the Hebrides – with so many samey looking boats around these days, when you arrive in with a eccentric-looking Centenarian like Ainmara, it's a very effective calling card.

By going to the Hebrides, we got into the good weather which the areas well north of the jetstream have been enjoying for much of the summer. There's actually a water shortage in the isles. Inevitably with such weather the wind was lacking at times, hut we'd some marvellous sails, memorably trundling up the sea of the Hebrides with the jib tops'l and mizzen staysail added to the basic four sails.


Summertime for an old boat and an even older castle – the Centenarian Ainmara wafts about a visitor's mooring off Kissimul Castle, the ancient stronghold of the MacNeils, at Castlebay in Barra in the Outer Hebrides. Photo: W M Nixon

In all, the spritely Centenarian got to twelve islands in twelve days, our furthest north being Harris where we treated ourselves to a centenary dinner in Donald MacDonald's hospitable inn beside the enchanting little anchorage of Rodel. When that bit of filthy weather swept through Ireland on Wednesday August 15th, we were far enough north to be roaring along towards the Kyle of Lochalsh in a sunny easterly which gave us a smooth water speed burst of 7.8 knots, yet without trailing a roaring quarter wave behind us – John Kearney surely knew how to create a sweet hull.

Even Dickie Gomes is not as young as he used to be, but until this cruise he'd disdained the old man's rig of mizzen and headsails only, with the main kept neatly furled. But with a brisk westerly as we came down down the Sound of Mull, and just the two of us aboard as Denis the Gentle Giant had left ship as planned at Mallaig, he gave the OMR a try, and Ainmara obliged by effortlessly notching 6.7 knots as a squall came off the dark Mull hills.


Grand breeze – Ainmara sails in style up Loch Carron in Wester Ross

A new crew joined at Oban on Monday while I returned to Howth via Donegal (that's another story), and Ainmara is now back at her moorings at Ballydorn off the Down Cruising Club's lightship headquarters in Strangford Lough. The lightship is also celebrating her centenary this year – she was built on the north side of the Liffey in 1912 when Ainmara was being completed at Ringsend on the south side. A Centenary Party will be staged this month, and beyond that cruising plans for 2013 are already taking shape – cruising a boat aged 101 will probably be even more entertaining than cruising an ordinary Centenarian.

Published in W M Nixon

#sailorofthemonth – The latest Independent "Sailor of the Month" awards reflect the hectic pace of sailing at all levels this year, with the Monthly Award going to gold medallists in Olympic campaigning, while the International Award is for a French sailing family with strong connections to Ireland's west coast.

Fortunately, although the overall result in the Volvo Race at Galway is already clearcut with Groupama unbeatable on the leaderboard, today's in-port race will mark the proper conclusion of an event which has confirmed its position as the world's premier offshore contest. So the Volvo racers are July's men, and we can pause for a moment to salute the stars of June.

The Olympics next month will mark the conclusion of a rugged buildup, a continuing story which becomes ever more challenging as the main event nears. But the performance by Peter O'Leary and David Burrows in the preliminary regatta, the Skandia Sail for Gold in June, was outstanding in itself.

In terms of winning, they were always there or thereabouts. And most importantly, they were perfectly poised to make the win move when the opportunity arose. It was a stellar performance, and their Gold Medal, snatched from competition of the calibre of Percy & Simpson of Britain and Scheidt & Prado of Brazil, marked a new high for Irish sailing.

For the first time since its inception in 1980, the biennial Round Ireland Race from Wicklow saw overseas competitors outnumber Irish boats, a reflection of the race's growing international importance. The invasion aroused mixed feelings, with its increased likelihood of a foreign winner. But in the end, the deserved victory by the French-owned Ker 39 Inis Mor was seen as a fine win by one of our own.

With his boat named after the largest of the Aran islands, Bernard Gouy proclaims his enthusiasm for the west of Ireland. The family has a holiday place in Connemara, and race for Clifden Boat Club. But they're also regular performers at the front of the fleet in RORC events in the English Channel, and Inis Mor will be expected to turn out for France in the Commodore's Cup at the end of this month.


Bernard Gouy's Round Ireland winner Inismor,  the winner of Afloat's International Sailor of the month award. Photo: Bob Bateman

However, their commitment to the Round Ireland race is nothing new. Before commissioning the present Inis Mor from designer Jason Ker, they campaigned a standard 40ft Jeanneau cruiser-racer and got into the frame. Their Round Ireland victory last weekend was the result of exemplary sailing and tactics throughout a very challenging race. It was textbook stuff, and we salute our International Award winners for showing the way.

#SAILOR OF THE MONTHSailing being a very strong family sport, it's not unknown for sons and daughters to repeat their parents' achievement in being the Independent "Sailor of the Month". Sometimes the accolades can occur close together, despite the span of the generations. But it's very unusual for the younger generation to become SoM before their seniors have taken the prize. And for a son to win it all of six years before the old fellow gets a place on the podium is unprecedented.

Stefan Hyde of Crosshaven was "Sailor of the Month" back in 2006 when he was 24. And he became the Helmsman's Champion of Ireland the following year. At that time, his father Stephen was providing his newly-acquired Oyster 56 for Race Officer duties off Cork Harbour. But the word was that when he soon retired from a busy life as an architect, he and his wife Aileen would begin a round the world voyage with the new boat, with friends joining them as crew at different stages.

This was not going to be some sort of global vagrancy. It was quietly but efficiently organised. Where possible, the plan was to take part in ocean crossing fleet events, such as the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. This takes the hassle out of arriving in remote ports, it also provides companionship with other boats because the ocean can often seem a very large and empty place, particularly with piracy on the increase, and fleet participation provides the occasional race which, in the case of the Hyde boat, saw many notable successes.

Last summer, they completed their global circuit of 36,395 miles, of which 30,775 were totally under sail. Then they cruised on up the east coast of America instead of returning to Ireland. This year, they're heading home to Cork, but first they went back down to the Caribbean, and with a strong crew which son Stefan brought from Cork, they won their class in the Oyster Regatta in mid-April. It's an event which is gently glitzy on the surface, but the racing is very much for real. There'll be a great welcome when the boat – she's called A Lady – returns to Crosshaven this summer. But meanwhile, Stephen Hyde is "Sailor of the Month" for April.

#SAILOR OF THE MONTH – Our new Irish Independent/ "Sailor of the Month" is a boat enthusiast who does good work by stealth. In fact, "under the radar" is the apt term in every way when talking about Hal Sisk's maritime involvement. He makes a speciality of shining the light of enquiry into many aspects of boats and seafaring history which have not been getting their deserved attention.

Over many years now, the Dun Laoghaire sailor has unearthed neglected information and history, and presented it in a way which makes it accessible and interesting to less academic mariners. At a practical level, he has undertaken the restoration of ancient boats which provide an insight into the past, and bring it vividly to life.

One place this was seen was along the Dun Laoghaire waterfront. In the Coal Harbour Boatyard, there are always boats which don't get launched as each season approaches. But it took Hal Sisk to realise that one of the orphans, a skinny little boat called Vagrant, was significant, as too was an elegant clipper bowed craft called Peggy Bawn. The first was a pure example of the highly specialised racing boats of the 1880s (she dated from 1884), while Peggy Bawn was a fascinating example of a time of rapid change in design - she dated from 1894, and had the further interest of having been built in Ireland.

Both were long past seaworthiness, but Hal Sisk restored and sailed the little Vagrant back to her birthplace in Scotland, and she is now an exhibit in the Scottish Maritime Museum. Later, he did a meticulous restoration of Peggy Bawn, which he has kept for the special pleasure of sailing a living artefact of 118 yars ago. He has also been busy in research and publication, and six years ago he played a key role in bringing out a massive tome, Traditional Boats of Ireland edited by Cristoir Mac Carthaigh.

But in recent weeks, anyone who thought that this would be Hal Sisk's only great big boat book has had to think again. With an international team centred on Ireland, his new company of Peggy Bawn Press has brought out a monumental work by Martin Black, detailing the life story and designs of the Scottish naval architect George Lennox Watson (1851-1904), who was adjudged by the legendary Olin Stephens to have been the greatest yacht designer of all, but is unfairly neglected today.

Giving G L Watson his proper due has been a classic Hal Sisk project, and the international acclaim this handsome and profusely-illustrated book is receiving shows how deservedly he is the "Sailor of the Month".

Tagged under

#SAILORS OF THE MONTH – Fergus and Kay Quinlan are currently voyaging northwest through the South Atlantic from Cape Town headed towards Brazil in their 38ft sloop Pylades. But they're Independent "Sailors of the Month" for February in celebration of their recent award of Ireland's most senior cruising trophy, the Faulkner Cup, for their ventures last year which took them and their own-built boat from Tahiti across the western Paifi to Darwin at the north tip of Australia.

The Sailor of the Month and the Sailor of the Year awards have been going quite some time now, in fact you'll have to dig good and deep into the previous millennium to find them in their earliest form. But time-honoured and all as they are, there's no way these awards can match the Faulkner Cup in longevity – it goes back to 1931.

So as cruising is an activity with a certain timelessness to it, we're more than happy to defer to the Irish Cruising Club's seniority, and stand back until they award their trophies each year. We even try to go along with their hope that everyone will realize that, as cruising under sail – particularly where it's to palm-fringed lagoons and islands such as Pylades has been visiting – is a non-competitive activity, then it's ancient Challenge Cups cannot be won. On the contrary, they're awarded.

That said, the Quinlans did have a certain amount of competition with the weather from time to time, and in one part of Paradise where they very much wanted to linger, the Society Islands, the anchorages are all 25 metres deep, and if you wrap your anchor chain around a coral head. You don't get that in their home waters of County Clare.

At another island, they were able to give a return for warm hospitality by accepting an invitation to tell the kids in the school about Ireland, and Clare in particular. When Fergus mentioned it's famous for music, he was immediately requested (ordered might be the word) to play some Clare music on his squeezebox. He says his music wouldn't get past first base in Kilfenora, but in the middle of the Pacific it did the business. There'll be plenty of music in the west when Pylades gets back this summer, meanwhile her crew are ideal Sailors of the Month, voyaging for all of us back home.

Tagged under

#SAILOR OF THE MONTH – Sophie Browne of Tralee Bay and Royal Cork is Independent "Sailor of the Month" for January after taking the Silver Medal in the Girls Division in the Optimist Worlds in New Zealand. She added it to the Gold in the Girls, and fourth overall, which she won from an enormous fleet in the last major European regatta of 2011, at Palma, Mallorca in December.

oppie sophie

Sophie in action abroad in Palma (top) and at home


It's some going when you're just fourteen. Sophie is back at school now, trying to make up for lost study time. But if she gives it the same total dedication she put into each sailing campaign during recent years, she'll sail into a good leaving cert in due course.

Dedication is the name of the game, and the Browne family in Tralee are a byword for it. Normally, the adjudicators for the Sailor of the Month are very reluctant to make the award to the most junior helms. They grow up so quickly, there's something ephemeral about it all.

But even at only fourteen, there's nothing ephemeral about Sophie's success. Other kids may think too much about the glitzy side of championships, but Sophie Browne is well aware of the sheer hard work and unglamorous dedication which goes into that podium place.

After the big regatta in Palma in December, the European Optimist squad went out to New Zealand with high hopes. But the pre-Worlds and the Worlds were salutary experiences. Thoughtful observers were well aware of the rising talents of southeast Asia, and South America too, as well as New Zealand and Australia, but for most it was a daunting learning experience.

It's Singapore which is most clearly setting the pace. Kimberly Lim from the vibrant city-state was both top girl, and the new world champion. Sophie Browne was second in the girls, but was back in 13th overall. Yet she was still one of the best of the Europeans – the top British sailor, for instance, was back in 21st.

It's the first time a 14–year old helm has taken the monthly sailor title. We've had younger sailors sharing a title as crews on a Mirror dinghy, but this is the first driver. And we're certain sure it won't be the last we'll hear of Sophie Browne of Tralee Bay in international sailing.

#SAILOR OF THE YEAR – At home and abroad, Irish sailors once again delivered an impressive range of results in 2011.

Review our top sailors by month here. The reviews are also in print in Afloat's Sailing Annual 2012 in shops now! And vote for them in our online facebook poll. You just need to be a facebook fan of Afloat to record your vote.

As in previous years, Afloat magazine is asking the public to give its view who should be crowned Ireland's Sailor of the Year for 2011.

The overall national award will be presented to the person who, in the judge's opinion, achieved the most notable results in, or made the most significant contribution to, watersports during 2011. Now you can log on to Afloat's facebook page and help select the shortlist from the last 12 months' top performers. Bios of each sailor of the month's performance are here.

afloat sailor of the year

The boating public gets to nominate their top three through the online poll, gets a vote too and the Sailor of the Year judges decide the final winner.

Cast your vote by midnight February 18, 2012. The awards are administered and judged by Afloat magazine, the Irish Independent.

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

Thanks for your interest!

#SAILOROFTHEMONTH – Noelle Doran of Mayo is the latest Independent "Sailor of the Month" in recognition of her December achievement in being the fastest woman in the world in 2011.

Her sustained speed of 36.88 knots along 500 metres of the Dungarvan speed strip in West Waterford gave her a ranking of sixth in the world against established records, while the fastest in the world, Britain's Zoe Davis and Belgium's Marie-Paula Geldhof, failed to shine in 2011, with Davis recording 35.31.

Doran also achieved a top peak speed of 38.17 knots. These performances are all recorded by GPS – in fact, precise analysis would be a massive logistical problem without GPS. Although Ireland is supposed to be a breezy country, the arrival of perfect wind conditions is difficult to predict more than an hour or so ahead, so the speed merchants have to be ready and waiting in the right place at very short notice.

Mayo may be one of Ireland's windiest counties - as recent experience has forcefully emphasized - but it lacks a perfect strip of flat water. Dungarvan can provide the water, but the wind doesn't always arrive to order, as was painfully shown in November 2010 when a stage of the World Speed Series came to West Waterford, and so did everyone else except the wind.

Lovely gentle weather doesn't break records. Thus the 42 year-old Doran had to be prepared to race down to Dungarvan from Westport as the December wind pressures rose darkly in the desired pattern. Nevertheless she'd made that demanding round trip – inevitably with night travel - some three times before it all came right, and her coach and mentor, record holder Oisin van Gelderen of Skerries, encouraged her to this remarkable peak achievement.

Out there in the raw early morning and a strong sou'west to west wind in the headwaters of Dungarvan Bay, it was perfect for speed, with Doran "lit like a banshee" as van Gelderen put it – we hope he meant it as "woman of the wind". The perfection of the moment was then rounded out by the coach himself notching a personal best of 47.88 knots in a quick zap along the beach.

So while everyone else in the depths of December was wondering what they might get for Christmas, Noelle Doran already had her gift. The drawback about such an achievement is that all your personal details go public. We now know her age, and her height too. She's just 5ft 4ins, which makes her The Mighty Atom. With her board setting an impossibly large sail, she was on the edge of becoming airborne. But she hung in and cut the mustard, a mighty achievement.

Page 8 of 10

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Associations

isora sidebutton

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating