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Displaying items by tag: Sailors of the Month

Who gets your vote for the Irish Sailor of the Year 2023?

Over 40 Afloat Sailors of the Month in 2023 demonstrate the strength and diversity of the sport of sailing in Ireland. 

Afloat's review of individual sailors, pairings and crews (below) is a roll call of all those who have excelled in their respective disciplines, be it offshore, dinghy, cruising, windsurfing, sailing administration, plus some amazing achievements in ocean rowing too!

In February, Afloat's judging panel will announce the Irish Sailor of the Year 2023 — and you can have your say by voting in our poll on any page of the Afloat website (see right of this page). 

JANUARY

Great way to start the year. Wicklow’s “Super-Rowers” crossed the Atlantic in 33 daysGreat way to start the year. Wicklow’s “Super-Rowers” crossed the Atlantic in 33 days

Wicklow’s “Super-Rowers” are “Sailors of the Month (Ocean Rowing)” for January

It had taken a while for regular success in ocean rowing to come Ireland’s way, but 2022 saw a massive leap forward with Galway Bay’s Karen Weekes and Damien Browne each completing the crossing, Karen east-west in April, and Damien west-east from New York to Galway in October. Yet 2023 was barely two weeks old when another remarkable achievement was added to the tally, with Wicklow’s five-strong “Row Hard Or Go Home” team crossing the finish line in Antigua on January 14th, after setting an east-west record from the Canaries of 33 days 12 hours and 38 minutes.

Wicklow is already a noted port for coastal and cross-channel oarsmen, but a new dimension had been convincingly added by the RHOGH crew of Tom Nolan, Shane Culleton, Derek McMullen, and brothers Diarmuid and Gearoid O Briain.

 The Man of Many Talents, Anthony O’Leary was the youngest-ever RCYC Admiral back in 2000-2002 The Man of Many Talents, Anthony O’Leary was the youngest-ever RCYC Admiral back in 2000-2002

Anthony O’Leary of Crosshaven is “Sailor of the Month” for January

It says everything about Anthony O’Leary’s long and successful involvement with sailing to affirm that he puts even more back into the sport than he takes from it. Already a well-established national and international winner when he became the youngest-ever Admiral of the Royal Cork YC back in 2000-2002, he has since gone on to be “Sailor of the Year” in 2010 and 2014 while continuing in many roles in service to sailing.

Yet in January 2023 there was clearly no slackening of the pace as he spearheaded the global spread of the Cape 31 class with a convincing victory in its first American regatta in Florida. Designed in the depths of County Wicklow by another former “Sailor of the Month”, Mark Mills, the Cape 31 is the hottest keelboat class for today and tomorrow.

FEBRUARY

Cold spring cruising – Duncan Sclare off Beachy HeadCold spring cruising – Duncan Sclare off Beachy Head

Duncan Sclare of Mayo Sailing Club is “Sailor of the Month (Cruising)” for February

The world of dedicated cruising moves at its own leisurely pace, and the publication of the Irish Cruising Club yearly awards only really becomes official at the Annual General Meeting in February. Thus our new “Sailor of the Month (Cruising)” is receiving the award for a successful venture which was actually completed in March 2022.

But when the ICC’s premier trophy, the Faulkner Cup which dates back to 1931, was confirmed on February 17th at the Club’s AGM in the Royal St George YC in Dun Laoghaire, it was rightly acclaimed as something fresh, and good news for the club. For in an era when ever-larger yachts seem dominant, it went to former Mayo SC Commodore Duncan Sclare for a determinedly executed delivery cruise from the North Sea to Clew Bay in limited time with his newly-acquired vintage 29ft Verl 900 Quibus.

Jack Fahy and the UCD Top Guns TeamJack Fahy and the UCD Top Guns Team

Jack Fahy & UCD Are “Sailors of the Month (Team Racing)” for February

Jack Fahy of Dun Laoghaire and the University College Dublin Sailing Club Team Racing Squad hit the target when they emerged as winners of the elite eight-team Top Gun Invitational Series, organised on the premier English team competition venue of Farmoor Reservoir by Oxford University.

It’s the first time that UCD has been invited to this exclusive “Championship of Champions”, but they rose to the challenge with style in a superbly-run series. It was of course very much a team effort, but in the time-honoured manner we make Team Captain Jack Fahy the Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month (Team Racing) for February, while ensuring that the entire squad are up in lights, and they are: Jack Fahy & Emily Riordan, Liam Glynn & Triona Hinkson, and Tom Higgins & Cian Lynch.

MARCH

Micheal O Suillebhain of University College Cork is “Sailor of the Month (Inshore) for March 2023

The winning University College Cork teamThe winning University College Cork team

The annual Intervarsities Keelboat Championship in the final weekend of March in Howth Yacht Club’s J/80s was very representative of rising talent, and a complete spectrum of winds and weather over the two-day event puts skippers and crews through a very rigorous test. And in the early stages, things were only looking so-so for University College Cork Firsts, skippered by Michael O Suilleabhain, as they emerged from the First Flight one point down on Technical University Dublin.

Nevertheless, they made it to the final, but even here, it went right to the wire, as they came out of the lee mark for the final beat with the spinnaker snagged at the masthead. Yet they sorted that in record time, and sailed the concluding beat like people possessed to take the win. We have to nominate the Captain for “Sailor of the Month” in a team-racing situation, but the total lineup was Micheal O'Suilleabhain, Sally O'Flynn, Cathal O Regan, Michael Carroll and Rosa Lyden.

A steady hand on the helm – Commodore David Beattie did a double-stint of service to successfully guide the Irish Cruising Club through the PandemicA steady hand on the helm – Commodore David Beattie did a double-stint of service to successfully guide the Irish Cruising Club through the Pandemic

David Beattie of the Irish Cruising Club was “Sailor of the Month (Cruising)” for March 2023

David Beattie enthusiastically follows many maritime interests. But it was a special blessing for the Irish Cruising Club, that he should become their Commodore as the Pandemic began to tighten its grip, for he has been willing to serve as Commodore for four years instead of the usual already demanding two years in the top role, ably supported by his wife Aoife. Their diligence in representing Irish cruising in events near and far was much appreciated by the world cruising community, and this resulted in Chris Otorowski, Commodore of the Cruising Club of America, which celebrated its Centenary in 2022, making a presentation of The Friendship Cup to the ICC at the Annual Dinner in March 2023 in Sligo.

APRIL

The Lady Min team at the International Classic Boat Awards 2023 in London are (left to right) Jim O’Keeffe, current Lady Min owner Simon O’Keeffe, classic boat-builder Tiernan Roe of Roe Boats, and Liam O’KeeffeThe Lady Min team at the International Classic Boat Awards 2023 in London are (left to right) Jim O’Keeffe, current Lady Min owner Simon O’Keeffe, classic boat-builder Tiernan Roe of Roe Boats, and Liam O’Keeffe

Tiernan Roe of Ballydehob became “Sailor of the Month (Classics)” for April

Irish classic boatbuilders and owners are no strangers to the podium at the annual International Classic Boat Awards in London, and 2023’s ceremony in April was no exception. Simon O’Keffe of Schull – current family owner of the 1902 gaff cutter Lady Min designed and built in Schull by his great-grandfather Maurice O’Keeffe – had the well-earned satisfaction of seeing master-boatbuilder Tiernan Roe being suitably honoured with the trophy for the best restoration for boats under 40ft LOA, a rare moment in the limelight for a craftsman who normally and quietly just gets on with the job.

The award-winning restored Lady Min sailing to success in Cork WeekThe award-winning restored Lady Min sailing to success in Cork Week

Tom Higgins helming to a win in the British Universities Open Team Championship in AprilTom Higgins helming to a win in the British Universities Open Team Championship in April

Tom Higgins of Dun Laoghaire is April “Sailor of the Month (Team Racing)”

University College Dublin are in such a roll in the 2023 Team Racing season that their captain Jack Fahy had already taken an SoM in February. Then in April 2023 at Grafham Water, they won the British Opens, the first time for an Irish team in 53 years since TCD took it in 1970 during a remarkable run of success.

Rocco Wright was in star form in April’s Youth Nationals at his home club of HowthRocco Wright was in star form in April’s Youth Nationals at his home club of Howth

Rocco Wright of Howth is “Sailor of the Month (Junior)” for April

The intensely-fought multi-race Youth Nationals at Howth in April saw many classes go right to the wire with only a point or two separating the leaders after the championship concluded. But in the “Senior Junior” class, the large-fleet ILCA 6, Rocco Wright of the host club, was literally in a class of his own, with the international Gold winner of 2022 returning to full competition in runaway style with a ten-point overall lead.

Gary Mac Mahon’s dreams of restoring classic Conor O’Brien vessels became a complete success in 2023Gary Mac Mahon’s dreams of restoring classic Conor O’Brien vessels became a complete success in 2023

Gary Mac Mahon of Limerick is “Sailor of the Month” for April

Twenty years ago, the thought that the two Conor O’Brien-designed and Baltimore-built ketches – the 1922 42ft world-girdling Saoirse and the 1926 56ft trader-ferry Ilen - would be sailing together at their birthplace in 2023, the Centenary Year of the start of O’Brien’s great pioneering circumnavigation, would have been dismissed as fantasy. Yet the plans for this unprecedented occurrence were already well in place in April for the Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival from May 26th to 28th. And while the re-restoration or re-birth of the two vessels may have involved many people, pivotal to it all was been one man, Gary Mac Mahon of Limerick, who devoted 27 years to bringing this all together. And then, with the job done, he stood back in April 2023.

The restored Ilen during a visit to GalwayThe restored Ilen during a visit to Galway

The new Saoirse – built by Liam Hegarty at Oldcourt for Fred Kinmonth – is a traditional classic with real star powerThe new Saoirse – built by Liam Hegarty at Oldcourt for Fred Kinmonth – is a traditional classic with real star power

MAY

The Winner from the West – Aongus O Cualain of Connemara with the Asgard Trophy in Poolbeg Y&BCThe Winner from the West – Aongus O Cualain of Connemara with the Asgard Trophy in Poolbeg Y&BC

Aongus O Cualain of Connemara is Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for May

Those of us who have found it challenging enough to get a sailing dinghy with a purpose-designed road trailer into a road-ready and race-ready condition were in awe of the achievements of Aongus O Cualain of Connemara and his team with their Galway Hooker at the Old Gaffers’ Dublin Bay Diamond Jubilee Regatta in the last weekend of May.

Their gleoiteog mor Blat na hOige is a lot of boat to be transporting right across Ireland on a slightly-modified lorry. But as the boat in some form or other has been around since 1895 or so - and with the family for much of that time - the honour of Connemara was at stake,

To talk of “Mission Achieved” is scarcely adequate. They dismissed queries about their superb suit of white sails by pointing out that tan-barking or the larding of pitch onto hooker sails is a relatively new idea in terms of the boats’ very long history. And then, despite a rather light breeze on Dublin Bay, they went out and won the Asgard Trophy, a prize of unrivalled historic significance as it was presented to the DBOGA by John Kearon, the conservator of Erskine & Molly Childers’ Asgard.

A superb suit of sails skillfully handled to help the Connemara crew to victory in Dublin BayA superb suit of sails skillfully handled to help the Connemara crew to victory in Dublin Bay

JUNE

Nigel Young of Crosshaven and Will Byrne of Dun Laoghaire are “Sailors of the Month (International) for June

Time was when the name “Swan 36” meant a semi-classic Olin Stephens design that introduced one of the world’s most famous yacht marques, way back in 1967. These days, a Swan 36 is a white-hot day-racing boat that looks totally functional, and competes in a series of international semi-private regattas which are the very opposite of the publicity-seeking logo-splashed razzmatazz which seems to pervade much top-level contemporary international sailing.

Yet when somebody does achieve an outstanding win in this rarefied yet extremely intense corner of world sailing, the news does seeps out. And the victory by Richard Thompson’s Black Seal in May’s Swan 36 Sardinia Challenge confirmed that Neil Young of Royal Cork YC and Will Byrne of the National YC were in the crew, and very worthy winners as “Sailors of the Month (International) for May.

Right at the heart of it. Neil Young and Will Byrne in the midst of Black Seal’s victorious crew at the Sardinia Challenge prize-givingRight at the heart of it. Neil Young and Will Byrne in the midst of Black Seal’s victorious crew at the Sardinia Challenge prize-giving

Job Done – Sam Hunt and Cian McCarthy relaxing in Dingle after winning the Two-Handed Division and placing second overall in the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle RaceJob Done – Sam Hunt and Cian McCarthy relaxing in Dingle after winning the Two-Handed Division and placing second overall in the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race

Cian McCarthy And Sam Hunt Of Kinsale Are “Sailors of the Month (Offshore)” for June

The attractive Sunfast 3300 Cinnamon Girl made an impressive post-pandemic impact with 2022’s Inishtearaght Race from Kinsale. But for 2023, her hand-in-glove team of Cian McCarthy and Sam Hunt made an international impression with a fantastic display of co-ordination and impressively high-speed sailing in a souped-up boat, setting larger headsails with a lengthened bowsprit.

In an otherwise big boat race from Dun Laoghaire to Dingle, they were right there with the second batch of leaders on the water, maintaining the full-on pace right to the end to finish second overall and win the two-handed division going away. A masterful performance by any standards.

With her lengthened bowsprit, Cinnamon Girl is an even more impressive performer in 2023With her lengthened bowsprit, Cinnamon Girl is an even more impressive performer in 2023

Winners all right…Ron O’Hanley and his Privateer crew (including Ben Fusco of Kinsale) in Dingle after their Volvo D2D overall victory. Photo: Domnick WalshWinners all right…Ron O’Hanley and his Privateer crew (including Ben Fusco of Kinsale) in Dingle after their Volvo D2D overall victory. Photo: Domnick Walsh

Ron O’Hanley of New York (and Roscommon) is “Sailor of the Month” for June

With a racing machine as complex as the canting-keel Cookson 50, crew and boat management demands are raised to a fresh level. But when Ron O’Hanley of the New York Yacht Club arrived with the already hyper-successful Privateer for the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, it was educational for all Irish sailors, as was their virtually flawless performance to take the win.

This was the Big Boys’ Game and no mistake. As to the rarity of their owner-skipper’s surname, we were told the O’Hanleys are descended from an elite Roscommon warrior group. We were even sent their Coat of Arms. So now you know.

The elite of East Connacht – the Coat of Arms of the O’Hanleys of RoscommonThe elite of East Connacht – the Coat of Arms of the O’Hanleys of Roscommon

“Not a dry eye in the house….” James Dwyer and many others receiving the Sovereign’s Cup after a clean sweep in Kinsale. Photo: Robert Bateman“Not a dry eye in the house….” James Dwyer and many others receiving the Sovereign’s Cup after a clean sweep in Kinsale. Photo: Robert Bateman

James Dwyer of Royal Cork YC was “Sailor of the Month (Inshore)” for June

Boats may be inanimate objects, but those who sail them seldom see them that way. The classic Half Tonner Swuzzlebubble certainly arouses special emotions, for there are senior sailors in Ireland who sailed her to success as ISORA Champion in 1980, when she was owned by the late Bruce Lyster of Dun Laoghaire’s Royal St George YC.

Forty-three years ago, she was quite a basic boat. But now, after surviving many vicissitudes and at least one unsuccessful attempt to get her to a landfill site, she is back in Ireland in a superbly re-furbished style, and her proud owner is James Dwyer of the Royal Cork Yacht Club.

Almost from the moment the first races started in the Simply Blue Sovereign’s Cup 2023 in Kinsale, it was clear that Swuzzlebubble and her crew were on a roll, and they took the title with a clean sweep of six wins, getting our Inshore Sailors of the Month for June title with it. And in December, it was announced that Swuzzlebubble was the ICRA “Boat of the Year” for 2023 after adding other successes.

Probably the coolest boat in Ireland – Swuzzlebubble making windward work in an Atlantic chop look easy at Kinsale. In December, it was announced she was the ICRA “Boat of the Year” for 2023. Photo: Robert BatemanProbably the coolest boat in Ireland – Swuzzlebubble making windward work in an Atlantic chop look easy at Kinsale. In December, it was announced she was the ICRA “Boat of the Year” for 2023. Photo: Robert Bateman

JULY

 Furthest west for the Quasquicentennial Celebration – Howth 17 Class Captain Dave O’Shea with Billy O’Sullivan in the latter’s family pub in Crookhaven in West Cork, most distant port reached during the Class’s 125th Anniversary Cruise-in-Company. Photo: Dave Nixon Furthest west for the Quasquicentennial Celebration – Howth 17 Class Captain Dave O’Shea with Billy O’Sullivan in the latter’s family pub in Crookhaven in West Cork, most distant port reached during the Class’s 125th Anniversary Cruise-in-Company. Photo: Dave Nixon

Dave O’Shea of Howth was July “Sailor of the Month (Classics)”

Although the bulk of the Howth 17 Class’s 125th Anniversary visit to West Cork took place in the final week of June when the weather was already deteriorating into its adverse July pattern, the last of these historic little boats had not returned safely home until early July, and it was only then that the full achievement and vision of Class Captain David O’Shea could be fully appreciated.

Getting such an inevitably idiosyncratic ancient class to move together in some sort of coherent manner can be akin to herding cats. But with great patience and the co-operation and warm welcome of key local establishments such as Baltimore Sailing Club, Cape Clear Distilllery, and O’Sullivan’s of Crookhaven, Dave O’Shea saw his vision through to successful fruition. The spirit of the class is stronger than ever, and their Captain is most deservedly the “Sailor of the Month (Classics) for July.

Hell for leather. The spirit of the Howth 17 class is exemplified by Deilginis making better than theoretical hull speed in a strong fair wind, bound for the Fastnet Rock from CrookhavenHell for leather. The spirit of the Howth 17 class is exemplified by Deilginis making better than theoretical hull speed in a strong fair wind, bound for the Fastnet Rock from Crookhaven

 The resumption of the biennial Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta after the pandemic involved even more leadership and administrative effort than usual for a 400 boat fleet, but longtime committee member and current chairman Don O’Dowd saw it through to success The resumption of the biennial Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta after the pandemic involved even more leadership and administrative effort than usual for a 400 boat fleet, but longtime committee member and current chairman Don O’Dowd saw it through to success

Don O’Dowd of Dun Laoghaire was “Sailor of the Month (Services to Sailing)” for July

An initially-discouraging weather pattern and an expanding fleet placed special demands on the organisers for the post-pandemic resumption of the biennial Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta. But the broad shoulders of longtime administrator and current Chairman Don O’Dowd backed the efforts of Regatta Director Paddy Boyd to pull a remarkable success out of a very mixed period of sailing conditions, and the result was diverse competition-filled waterborne sport in the very best Dun Laoghaire traditions, which go back to 1828 and beyond.

 A new level of performance has been drawn from John Minnis’s stylish A35 Final Call II in Dublin Bay. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien A new level of performance has been drawn from John Minnis’s stylish A35 Final Call II in Dublin Bay. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

John Minnis of Belfast Lough became July “Sailor of the Month (Regatta)”

John Minnis of Royal Ulster YC and his longtime helm Gareth Flannigan will look on Dublin Bay as their Happy Hunting Ground. For although the previous Minnis boat, the First 31.7 Final Call, and her distinguished successor, the very optimized Archambault 35 Final Call II, have both achieved notable success on either side of the North Channel, it has been during campaigns down south in Dublin Bay that they’ve really shone.

In July’s demanding Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, there was no doubt in the minds of seasoned observers that IRC 1 was the Grand Prix division, and the convincing way in which Final Call II worked her way to the head of its leaderboard, and stayed there through a wide variety of conditions and against other crews of all the talents, was very convincing indeed.

Happy budgies….the crew of Final Call II can finally relax after being in the right place at the finish of the last race in VDLR 2023. Photo: Michael ChesterHappy budgies….the crew of Final Call II can finally relax after being in the right place at the finish of the last race in VDLR 2023. Photo: Michael Chester

Arguably the most successful racing yacht in the world today. The luminous Caro – with Cian Guilfoyle in her crew – sweeps in with style to Cherbourg and the unassailable overall win the Fastnet Race 2023Arguably the most successful racing yacht in the world today. The luminous Caro – with Cian Guilfoyle in her crew – sweeps in with style to Cherbourg and the unassailable overall win the Fastnet Race 2023

Cian Guilfoyle of National YC: “Sailor of the Month (Offshore)” for July

Back in the dark latter days of the Pandemic, high-flying rumours began circulating about a new Botin 52 being completed in New Zealand. Normally, the multi-titled 52 class sees only incremental improvements as the latest boats take up this ultimate challenge on the modern scene. But the word was that this boat had more bright ideas than a waggonload of Einsteins - she would knock most other 52s out of the ballpark. And when this new boat Caro campaigned her first major at Hamilton Island, this did indeed prove to be the case, to such an extent that formerly dedicated TP owners reckoned it would be a step too far to try to keep up with this latest level of the arms race.

Caro is as international as she is successful. Designed in Santander in Northern Spain, she was engineered by Pure and built in New Zealand by Core Builders Composites under the supervision of Mark Turner, with the overall project management in the hands of Justin Ferris from Doyle Sails NZ.

Owner Max Klink has her down as registered in Switzerland, yet her sail numbers in 2023 seem to emanate from the Cayman Islands. Whatever, this supra-national mix has provided a boat of such exceptional speed and achievement that merely to be listed on her potential crew panel is high recognition. And to be on board – as Cian Guilfoyle of the National YC was - for a global peak like the 50th Fastnet Race was talent-recognition of a high honour .

So although they lost their supposedly-essential electronic masthead wand while getting an added pasting in the edge of Portland Race while outward bound, Adrian Stead and his crew always found that bit of almost super-natural extra speed for which Caro is increasingly renowned, despite having to use some very ancient helming skills to find it. And thus Cian Guilfoyle, the Irish member of this remarkable team, became our Offshore Sailor of the Month for July.

Cleaned up in every sense – Caro’s overall winners looking fresh and well in CherbourgCleaned up in every sense – Caro’s overall winners looking fresh and well in Cherbourg

Rory Whyte (WHSC & RCYC) receives his Topper Worlds trophy from Cork Mayor Frank Flynn at Crosshaven. Photo: Robert BatemanRory Whyte (WHSC & RCYC) receives his Topper Worlds trophy from Cork Mayor Frank Flynn at Crosshaven. Photo: Robert Bateman

Rory Whyte of Dunmore East is a Junior “Sailor of the Month” for July

Fifteen-year-old Rory Whyte of Waterford Harbour SC started his Topper 4.2 Worlds campaign at his alternative home club of RCYC at Crosshaven in less-than-perfect style, with an OCS in Race One. After such a score, the only way is up, and he immediately got up into the frame, and stayed there – reaching the very top – through a demanding race-packed series. The Rory Whyte Show was in town, and no mistake, and at the racing’s eventual conclusion, he was conveyed ashore aloft in his boat in true champion’s style.

Bringing it home….Sienna Wright adding to her silver collection in PolandBringing it home….Sienna Wright adding to her silver collection in Poland

Sienna Wright of Howth is Junior “Sailor of the Month” for July

Steadily rising star Sienna Wright from Howth recorded a formidable tally in the Under 17 Division in the ILCA 6s at two major regattas in Poland during July. The Youth Worlds early in the month saw her take the silver in the U17s, and then in the third week the Youth Worlds of the class (formerly the Laser Radials) saw her record her second international silver, again in the U17s.

The summer which eluded Ireland during July was generally very present in Poland, and her comment that it provided sailing which was “Quite tricky, very shifty conditions, long hours, but in the end it was a good result” well illustrated the kind of resilience and dedication which is required of Ireland’s young talent at this level.

AUGUST

Finn Lynch gives it the full effort at the Sailing World Championship at The Hague in August, when he transformed the mood of the Irish sailing summer of 2023 by securing a place in the 2024 OlympicsFinn Lynch gives it the full effort at the Sailing World Championship at The Hague in August, when he transformed the mood of the Irish sailing summer of 2023 by securing a place in the 2024 Olympics

Finn Lynch was August “Sailor of the Month (Olympics)”

Finn Lynch added nation qualifying for the Paris Olympics 2024 to his many ILCA 7 achievements, including a world silver medal from 2021. In a nerve-jangling conclusion to the Gold fleet series in the Men's single-handed event at the Allianz Sailing World Championships in The Hague in The Netherlands on 19th August 2023, the National Yacht Club ace secured one of the last Paris 2024 Olympics places for Ireland.

Lynch sailed out into the final two races for his event, needing only to deliver two safe results to maintain or improve on 14th place by nation. But after crossing the finishing line, he sailed ashore under the impression that he had missed qualification when he had actually managed to place 15th by nation and 23rd overall.

Elated with the outcome, he described qualifying Ireland for Paris 2024 as a "monkey off my back" and is now focused fully on preparations for the Olympics and selection for the national squad. And when, in October, he stepped aboard a Mermaid at Foynes for the Championship of Champions 2023, the stardust came with him - he won

 Dun Laoghaire’s Clementine & Nathan van Steenberg celebrate their World 29er victory at Weymouth Dun Laoghaire’s Clementine & Nathan van Steenberg celebrate their World 29er victory at Weymouth

Clementine & Nathan van Steenberge of Dun Laoghaire are Junjor Sailors of the Month for July

The International 29er is one of the most demanding boats on the global junior sailing scene. Yet the sister-and-brother crew of Clementine & Nathan Van Steenberge have carved their way through its international heights with style, speed and success. Their Championship title at the uniquely demanding Worlds at Weymouth in early August provided a Masterclass, with their all-winning final day of racing an exceptional performance worthy of the most experienced sailors.

 Ready for the road. In 2023 the J/24 Headcase crew were on the road to success in Easner Europe, winning the Euros in Hungary and the Corinthian Division in the Worlds in Greece Ready for the road. In 2023 the J/24 Headcase crew were on the road to success in Easner Europe, winning the Euros in Hungary and the Corinthian Division in the Worlds in Greece

Cillian Dickson Of Lough Ree & J/24 Headcase Crew Were “Sailors of the Month (Int. Regatta)” for August

The story of the restored J/24 Headcase in recent years has been a particularly heart-warming one of all-Ireland camaraderie and success, and in August 2023 the emphasis was firmly on international success with a final race victory to give a two point win in the J/24 Europeans on Lake Balaton in Hungary, racing against 42 boats from eight nations, following which they travelled south to Greece for the Worlds, and win the Corinthian Division.

Yet even with a team effort of this quality, we have to narrow the “Sailor of the Month” to one identifiable individual, and helmsman Cillian Dickson of Lough Ree YC and Howth YC has emerged as “The Face of Headcase”, spokesman for a close-knit yet multi-background squad which includes Marcus Ryan and Louis Mulloy of Mayo SC, Ryan Glynn of Ballyholme YC, and Sam O’Byrne of Howth YC

Welcome home. Tom Dolan comes into Kinsale thinking he’s second in the initial 2023 Figaro 620-mile leg from Normandy, but in fact he’s firstWelcome home. Tom Dolan comes into Kinsale thinking he’s second in the initial 2023 Figaro 620-mile leg from Normandy, but in fact he’s first

Tom Dolan of County Meath was “Sailor of the Month” for August

The rise in the international solo offshore sailing reputation of Tom Dolan, who has been known to describe himself as “an escaped farmboy from north Meath”, has been one of the great Irish sailing sagas of our time. For more than a decade, Afloat.ie has been recounting Big Tom’s progress from being identified as an exceptional talent by the now-defunct Glenans Ireland in Baltimore, to eventual hard-won solo sailing stardom in France via the well-established but ferociously competitive Mini-Transat and Figaro Solo routes.

These days, he is one of that elite band of Figaro Solo stars who are always included in any pre-race reckoning of success potential. And with the first full-on post-pandemic 54th staging of the offshore classic in late August and early September 2023, it was something special for the skipper of the Figaro 3 Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan to do well from the get-go, as its initial 620-mile stage was scheduled to finish – for the 21st time in the Figaro’s colourful history – back home in Ireland at Kinsale.

He came into port thinking he was second, but infringements by the supposed winner soon catapulted him into first place, making for a fantastic return home.

 On the road to international success. National YC Commodore Peter Sherry presents the Irish 29er National Championship trophy to Ethan Spain (centre) and Ben O’Shaughnessy in July in Dun Laoghaire during their progress towards winning the Euros in Sweden in August On the road to international success. National YC Commodore Peter Sherry presents the Irish 29er National Championship trophy to Ethan Spain (centre) and Ben O’Shaughnessy in July in Dun Laoghaire during their progress towards winning the Euros in Sweden in August

Ben O’Shaughnessy of Royal Cork YC & Ethan Spain of National YC are Sailors of the Month (Junior International) for August

The five day International 29er Europeans at the 1830-founded Royal Swedish YC’s base at Sandhamn near Stockholm was a global sailing highlight for 2023, as it attracted 173 teams from 24 countries for a week of racing very typical of the unsettled conditions of August this year. Yet young Irish sailors from the ultra-focused 29er racing development squad showed themselves well able for the enormous challenge, and in the final day’s racing, the Munster/Leinster pairing of Ben O’Shaughnessy (17) from Royal Cork at Crosshaven and Ethan Spain (18) from the National YC at Dun Laoghaire moved confidently from defending a near-certain Silver Medal win into ensuring that they were going home with the Gold for the Men’s Division.

Gold Medallists: Lucia Cullen from Dun Laoghaire and Alana Twomey from CorkGold Medallists: Lucia Cullen from Dun Laoghaire and Alana Twomey from Cork

Lucia Cullen from Dun Laoghaire and Alana Twomey from Cork are Junior International Sailors of the Month for August

There were 173 teams from 24 countries competing at the International 29er Europeans in Sweden in August, but the five crews sent from Ireland punched way above their weight in a challenging and complex boat which isn’t for the faint-hearted. And it seems that inter-provincial mixing of crews is the right way to go, as Dun Laoghaire’s Lucia Cullen (17) and Cork’s Alana Twomey (also 17) inspired each other through a week of racing in difficult wind patterns to clinch the Women’s Gold medal on the last day, a magic result for a crew whose sheer enjoyment of sailing is an inspiration for us all.

Barry Cunningham’s Chimaera heading for J/109 success in Dublin Bay. Photo: Key YachtingBarry Cunningham’s Chimaera heading for J/109 success in Dublin Bay. Photo: Key Yachting

Barry Cunningham of Royal Irish YC became “Sailor of the Month (Regatta)” for August

The first J/Cup Championship in Irish waters on Dublin Bay in August 2023 saw several classes of this leading marque represented in the 40-strong fleet, but there was little doubting that the most intensive competition was in the J/109s. This especially attractive product of the renowned Johnstone design range has not only hit the target for success in Dublin Bay, but the participation by boats from this fleet elsewhere has brought home many significant titles, so this was definitely the class to watch. The racing was intense in the extreme, but Barry Cunningham of the hosting Royal Irish YC with Chimaera and his team had a performance graph going the right way, for after a fifth in the first face, they found their groove to register two firsts and ultimately take the title.

Departing in style. Harry Dunne taking his leave from Optimist racing by winning the Nationals at Ballyholme in AugustDeparting in style. Harry Dunne taking his leave from Optimist racing by winning the Nationals at Ballyholme in August

Harry Dunne of Howth was “Youth Sailor of the Month” for August

In progressing through each phase of a sailing career, the received wisdom is that you should tick off each staging post while you’re ahead. Harry Dunne of Howth was registered with a Departure Lounge “Optimist Age” of 15 going into the 115-boat Nationals at Ballyholme, and thus it was irrevocably his farewell tour, his last chance to exit an already successful Optimist racing stage of life with a real flourish. And despite – or maybe because of – some very challenging sailing conditions, he did it with style, winning the seniors by a clear margin of nine points, and eventually heading for home with every trophy for which he had been competing.

SEPTEMBER

David Kenefick on his way to winning the 1720 Nationals at Dunmore EastDavid Kenefick on his way to winning the 1720 Nationals at Dunmore East

David Kenefick of Royal Cork YC took the September “Sailor of the Month (National)” title

The 1720 Sportsboat Class in Ireland has a certain something which means that when its annual championship comes around, it often attracts stars from other classes for this peak of sportsboat sport. And though the 2023 1720 Nats at Dunmore East with Waterford Harbour SC in September my not have attracted the significantly large numbers seen at some other venues in recent years, there was some very hot talent battling it out on the Waterford Estuary and the nearby Atlantic, with David Kenefick of Royal Cork came through the lineup of multi-class superstars to take the title ahead of a Who’s Who of 1720 talent.

 Johnny Murphy’s J/109 Outrajeous (seen here at the start of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race) went on to win the Champion Boat title at the ICRA Nationals at his home port of Howth in September. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O/Brien Johnny Murphy’s J/109 Outrajeous (seen here at the start of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race) went on to win the Champion Boat title at the ICRA Nationals at his home port of Howth in September. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O/Brien

Johnny Murphy of Howth: “Sailor of the Month (Regatta)” for September

One of the most popularly acclaimed victories in sailing in Ireland in 2023 was Johnny Murphy’s September winning of the “Champion Boat” award at the conclusion of the ICRA Nationals at his home port of Howth with his J/109 Outrajeous. With only one good – admittedly very good – day of racing out of a schedule of three, it was a nerve-racking contest, and Outrajeous had been having difficult in showing the kind of success which her owner-skipper had shown in campaigning an Albin Express and a 1720. But with emotionally-acknowledged crew support – particularly from first mate Neil Spain – Outrajeous emerged victorious to achieve well-earned and tumultuous applause at the prize-giving.

Still winning. Sailing legend Lawrie Smith with his winning crew in the Dragon Gold Cup 2023Still winning. Sailing legend Lawrie Smith with his winning crew in the Dragon Gold Cup 2023

Lawrie Smith of Glandore is “Sailor of the Month (International)” for September

Early in the 1960s, Stan Smith – a builder and developer from Bury near Manchester – secured the site for the modest holiday home of his dreams beside the harbour in Glandore in West Cork. Summers in Glandore with much sailing for his young son Lawrie became an essential element in Smith family life, and though Lawrie went on to a stratospheric career in international sailing, whenever possible he has listed Glandore Harbour Yacht Club as his home base. Thus in September 2023, thanks to Lawrie the Dragon Gold Cup – the class’s supreme prize – was added to Glandore’s trophy haul. It was a particularly timely outcome with the 2024 Gold Cup scheduled for Kinsale.

 Commodore Peter Darragh of County Antrim YC in Whitehead on Belfast Lough (left) with 2023 Flying Fifteen National Champions Niall and Ronan O’Briain of Connemara Commodore Peter Darragh of County Antrim YC in Whitehead on Belfast Lough (left) with 2023 Flying Fifteen National Champions Niall and Ronan O’Briain of Connemara

Niall & Ronan O’Briain of Connemara were “Sailors of the Month (Inshore)” for September

Sailing for sport in Connemara has long tended to be in a world of its own with the local traditional craft, but 2023 is very much a breakout year. One of our “Sailors of the Month” for July was the west’s Aongus O Cualain’s, who brought his optimized classic Gleoiteog Blat na hOige to the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Asgard Plate Race, and won overall against a fleet of every sort of gaff-rigged boat. And now in September, the growing Flying Fifteen fleet in the far west has made it to the top, with Niall & Ronan O’Briain of Flying Fifteen Chonamara winning a very hard-fought Irish Flying Fifteen Nationals at County Antrim Yacht Club in Whitehead on Belfast Lough.

Whitehead is about as far from Connemara as you’ll get Flying Fifteen racing in Ireland, but if anything the distance provided an added incentive to put down an important marker in the progress towards a more broadly-based outward-looking sailing picture in the far west.

OCTOBER

In October, Howth Yacht Club - the MG Motor Sailing Club of the Year 2023 - lost no time in proclaiming the latest success by one of their most talented international sailors. Photo: W M NixonIn October, Howth Yacht Club - the MG Motor Sailing Club of the Year 2023 - lost no time in proclaiming the latest success by one of their most talented international sailors. Photo: W M Nixon

Eve McMahon of Howth was October Sailor of the Month (Olympic)

The transition from ultra-successful international junior sailing to youth and adult competition can be a tricky one, but ILCA-racing Gold Medal-winning multiple junior champion Eve McMahon of Howth found the perfect stepping-stone with the ILCA6 U21 Worlds at a breezy Tangiers in October.

Going into the final race in one of the strongest winds of all, her 18 points overall lead did not make her totally unassailable. But all seemed secure as she approached the finish in third, only to capsize almost at the line.

Her resilience showed through, however, as she calmly but very quickly righted the boat and finished eighth, enough to give her the Gold Medal by a clear 14 points. If, as Ernest Hemingway observed, “Courage Is Grace Under Pressure”, then Eve McMahon has an abundance of courage to augment her great sailing talent.

ICC Rear Commodore Seamus O’Connor - he cruises regularly in southwest Ireland and on Iberian and Mediterranean watersICC Rear Commodore Seamus O’Connor - he cruises regularly in southwest Ireland and on Iberian and Mediterranean waters

Seamus O’Connor of Bantry is October Sailor of the Month For Cruising & Services to Cruising

By October, the last of the remarkably varied international fleet of boats that had attended the Irish Cruising Club’s Conor O’Brien & Saoirse Centenary Rally in Madeira had returned to their often very distant home ports. Thus it was felt that a line could finally be drawn under a unique event in which ICC Rear Commodore Seamus O’Connor, of West Cork and Portugal, had played the key role as Chairman of the Organising Committee.

The 3rd of July 1923 was a pivotal date in Saoirse’s pioneering global circumnavigation, as it marked her arrival at Funchal in Madeira to complete what was in effect the 1,100-mile maiden ocean voyage from Dublin Bay, sailing the new and relatively un-tested vessel to O’Brien’s own design.

Thus experienced voyagers tend to see Funchal as the real starting point for what went on to be an unprecedented amateur small-boat circumnavigation of the world south of the Great Capes. It was felt imperative that while there were Centenary festivities in Dun Laoghaire to mark the start of the voyage, O’Brien’s achievement deserved an extra effort with an international rally in Funchal starting on July 3rd 2023, centred around the restored trading ketch Ilen, Saoirse’s “big sister”, which is now the flagship in Ireland of Sailing Into Wellness.

Seamus O’Connor’s multi-talented Committee found themselves dealing with many and various Madeiran and Portuguese agencies and organisations in order to ensure a smooth welcome for ocean sailing boats which were approaching the island quite literally from every point of the compass. It all went well, by October all the participants were back where they meant to be for the winter months, and Seamus O’Connor and his Committee had deservedly earned everyone’s gratitude.

Ann Kirwan racing her co-owned Ruffian 23 Bandit in Dublin BayAnn Kirwan racing her co-owned Ruffian 23 Bandit in Dublin Bay

Ann Kirwan of National YC & Schull was Sailor of the Month (October) for Racing & Services to Sailing

The Golden Jubilee of the much-loved Ruffian 23 Class was well celebrated in 2023 at all its main centres in an enjoyable moveable feast, mostly in Ireland but culminating in Hong Kong in October with the triennial Inter-Port Championship in which the Irish fleets take on the strong Hong Kong fleet.

Former Dublin Bay SC Commodore Ann Kirwan – who successfully races two Ruffian 23s, Bandit in Dublin Bay and Orca II in Schull – played a role in all the Golden Jubilee events on most coasts. But for the winning Irish 20-person expedition to Hong Kong, she was both Team Captain and logistics organiser, filling both roles with such competence and good humour that she is a very worthy winner of a “Sailor of the Month” title for October.

NOVEMBER

In tune with each other and with their boat – Robert Dickson& Sean Waddilove getting the best from their 49er.In tune with each other and with their boat – Robert Dickson& Sean Waddilove getting the best from their 49er

Robert Dickson & Sean Waddilove: “Sailors of the Month (Olympics) For November

The “Fingal Flyers” Rob Dickson of Howth (and other clubs) with Sean Waddilove of Skerries brightened sailing spirits in the gloomiest month of the year, with an absolutely stellar performance in the Olympic 49er Euros 2023 at Vilamoura in Portugal. They swept all before them both for total victory in the event, leaving their way clear into the 2024 Sailing Olympiad at Marseille where they first leapt to fame while still very much newbies in the U23 49er Worlds in September 2018.

Since then, despite the various Covid interruptions, they have significantly matured into the top level, They’ve taken on board the harsh lessons learned at the Tokyo Olympics, and with their start problems coming well under control, they now have an on-track and determined campaign which has brought us all some early Christmas glitter.

Pamela Lee (right) and co-skipper Tiphaine Raguenau celebrate their arrival at the finuish of the Transat Jacques VabrePamela Lee (right) and co-skipper Tiphaine Raguenau celebrate their arrival at the finuish of the Transat Jacques Vabre

Pamela Lee of Greystones was “Sailor of the Month (Offshore)” for November

The short-handed long distance offshore racing scene from France is recognised as the world peak in a very specialised area. Design development at all boat sizes is at such a pace that in a hyper-hot division such as Class40, anyone racing a 2018 boat in 2023 was at a real disadvantage. Yet Pamela Lee of Greystones and her co-skipper Tiphaine Raguenau did just that with Engie-DFDS-Brittany Ferries in the Transat Jacques Vabre 2023, and in a mostly more modern fleet of 44 boats, they were recorded at 29th overall at the finish in Martinique, with several much newer male-sailed boats astern.

Not so long ago, it was quite an achievement just to sail the Atlantic. But at this competitive level, Lee & Ragueneau were up against an emergency return to Lorient for sail repairs which were quoted for a three hour delay, but it was six hours and more adrift on completion. Yet despite battling to get back into rhythm with the main peloton of the fleet, and further sail repair challenges while racing, they were very much on the pace at the finish, and increasingly recognised as a force to be reckoned with in a very tough competitive environment.

Russell Bolger of Royal St George YC was “Junior Sailor of the Month” for November

The David Harte created TR3.6s sailing at SchullThe David Harte created TR3.6s sailing at Schull

The David Harte-inspired Fastnet Marine & Outdoor Education Centre in Schull is a great resource for sailing in Ireland, as its well-managed setup facilitates flexibility when the weather has been disobliging. Thus although the Junior Championship of Champions scheduled for the first weekend of October was blown out, the Centre had no bother in setting up another championship a month later, immediately before their own annual Team Racing Training Week.

In those circumstances, it was more than appropriate that the Team Racing Nominee in the National Juniors, Russell Bolger of Royal St George YC crewed by Louis McGovern, emerged clearly as the new title-holder in the National Junior title after, successfully demonstrating that his team racing skills enabled him to keep close opponents well down the fleet as the full series unfolded. He won by a clear six points, making Russell Bolger our “Sailor of the Month (Junior)” for November.

A tough competitor in boat duelling – the 2023 Junior National Champion Russell Bolger of the Royal St George YC with his newly-won trophies in SchullA tough competitor in boat duelling – the 2023 Junior National Champion Russell Bolger of the Royal St George YC with his newly-won trophies in Schull

DECEMBER

Chris Bateman of Cork Harbour is “Sailor of the Month Dinghies)” for December

Former junior champion Chris Bateman is a top sailor who leads by example and inspiration. Having decided that the ever-young Fireball is the answer for junior and adult dinghy sailors who don’t want to go down the cheque-book route to racing, he has beavered away re-building the formerly popular and economically attractive class both in practical restoration, and in actively sailing the boat to championship level. The result has been a favourable and supportive response from Fireball sailors new and “old”, and a genuine re-invigoration of the class spreading outwards from Cork.

Chris Bateman on the helm racing a restored Fireball. Photo: Robert BatemanChris Bateman on the helm racing a restored Fireball. Photo: Robert Bateman

Paul O’Higgins of Royal Irish YC was “Sailor of the Month (Keelboats)” for December

While sailing in Ireland has its conspicuously attention-getting aspects, the real backbone of the sport continues to be the active club sailor who can quietly keep a usefully large crew panel together in order to have the right mix of talents when taking on any special challenge. Paul O’Higgins of the RIYC in Dun Laoghaire with the JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI is an excellent example of these quiet enthusiasts, these people who truly enjoy their sport, and his healthy approach was underlined during 2023 when – among other successes – Rockabill VI won the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association Championship 2023 in a cliffhanger conclusion with success in the final race.

 Finola Flanagan with ISORA’s Wolf’s Head champion’s trophy with her husband Paul O’Higgins (centre) and his crew of shipmates and friends who race the successful Rockabill VI. Photo: Michael Chester Finola Flanagan with ISORA’s Wolf’s Head champion’s trophy with her husband Paul O’Higgins (centre) and his crew of shipmates and friends who race the successful Rockabill VI. Photo: Michael Chester

Adrienne Cahalan of Lough Derg is “Sailor of the Month (Offshore) for December

It’s a very long time since Adrienne Cahalan was regularly near Lough Derg. But though she and her section of the family emigrated to Australia when she was very young, those left behind such as cousin Aisling Keller have been involved with sailing Derg, and they’ve been quietly celebrating her outstanding victory as navigator of the overall winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race 2023. On Cahalan’s correct advice, the Tasmanian-based RP66 Alive kept to the east of the direct line in the middle stages of the race, and for a boat of this size, it was the successful tactic.

Those astern such as the TP52s found it paid better to be down the middle of the continually changing conditions, but for Alive it was precisely the right call, and a remarkable achievement by a sailor/navigator/tactician doing her 31st Hobart race.

And for those who say we’re stretching it by saying Adrienne Cahalan is an Irish sailor, we’d point out that her two professional degrees are as a lawyer and as a specialist in applied meteorology, and if that’s not the most quintessentially Irish combination of qualifications, then we don’t know what is.

 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race 31-times veteran Adrienne Cahalan, navigator of the 2023 overall winner Alive (left), with Alice Parker, navigator of the second-placed overall URM Group Rolex Sydney Hobart Race 31-times veteran Adrienne Cahalan, navigator of the 2023 overall winner Alive (left), with Alice Parker, navigator of the second-placed overall URM Group

Sailor of the Year: Voting 2023

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 2023 by using our online poll (opening on January 15th 2024)

The judges welcome the traditional massive 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 elite. After more than 25 years, the awards have developed into a premier 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 2023.

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 15, until Wednesday, January 31st 2024.

CLICK THE LINK ON EACH SAILOR'S NAME TO READ THEIR ACHIEVEMENT FROM 2023 AND VOTE FOR YOUR SAILOR in the right-hand column (on desktop machines) and below on tablet and mobile.

ABOUT THE IRISH SAILOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

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

Since it began over 27 years ago, the awards have recognised nearly 900 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 Year
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Afloat.ie has already clocked 2.1 million readers during 2023, so we’re communicating with a large and often international readership, although the core of our regular visitors is still very much in Ireland.

And now, with just one day to go before we bid farewell to 2023 with its own special mix of weather (often adverse), high-level success on water (sometimes unexpected) and voluntary administration ashore and afloat (too often taken for granted), it’s time to highlight the contenders for the “Afloat.ie Sailor of the Year 2023” title, with your voting – a key part of a complex process – coming on line on Monday, January 15th 2024, and running until January 31st.

JANUARY

Great way to start the year. Wicklow’s “Super-Rowers” crossed the Atlantic in 33 daysGreat way to start the year. Wicklow’s “Super-Rowers” crossed the Atlantic in 33 days

Wicklow’s “Super-Rowers” are “Sailors of the Month (Ocean Rowing)” for January

It had taken a while for regular success in ocean rowing to come Ireland’s way, but 2022 saw a massive leap forward with Galway Bay’s Karen Weekes and Damien Browne each completing the crossing, Karen east-west in April, and Damien west-east from New York to Galway in October. Yet 2023 was barely two weeks old when another remarkable achievement was added to the tally, with Wicklow’s five-strong “Row Hard Or Go Home” team crossing the finish line in Antigua on January 14th, after setting an east-west record from the Canaries of 33 days 12 hours and 38 minutes.

Wicklow is already a noted port for coastal and cross-channel oarsmen, but a new dimension had been convincingly added by the RHOGH crew of Tom Nolan, Shane Culleton, Derek McMullen, and brothers Diarmuid and Gearoid O Briain.

 The Man of Many Talents, Anthony O’Leary was the youngest-ever RCYC Admiral back in 2000-2002 The Man of Many Talents, Anthony O’Leary was the youngest-ever RCYC Admiral back in 2000-2002

Anthony O’Leary of Crosshaven is “Sailor of the Month” for January

It says everything about Anthony O’Leary’s long and successful involvement with sailing to affirm that he puts even more back into the sport than he takes from it. Already a well-established national and international winner when he became the youngest-ever Admiral of the Royal Cork YC back in 2000-2002, he has since gone on to be “Sailor of the Year” in 2010 and 2014 while continuing in many roles in service to sailing.

Yet in January 2023 there was clearly no slackening of the pace as he spearheaded the global spread of the Cape 31 class with a convincing victory in its first American regatta in Florida. Designed in the depths of County Wicklow by another former “Sailor of the Month”, Mark Mills, the Cape 31 is the hottest keelboat class for today and tomorrow.

FEBRUARY

Cold spring cruising – Duncan Sclare off Beachy HeadCold spring cruising – Duncan Sclare off Beachy Head

Duncan Sclare of Mayo Sailing Club is “Sailor of the Month (Cruising)” for February

The world of dedicated cruising moves at its own leisurely pace, and the publication of the Irish Cruising Club yearly awards only really becomes official at the Annual General Meeting in February. Thus our new “Sailor of the Month (Cruising)” is receiving the award for a successful venture which was actually completed in March 2022.

But when the ICC’s premier trophy, the Faulkner Cup which dates back to 1931, was confirmed on February 17th at the Club’s AGM in the Royal St George YC in Dun Laoghaire, it was rightly acclaimed as something fresh, and good news for the club. For in an era when ever-larger yachts seem dominant, it went to former Mayo SC Commodore Duncan Sclare for a determinedly executed delivery cruise from the North Sea to Clew Bay in limited time with his newly-acquired vintage 29ft Verl 900 Quibus.

Jack Fahy and the UCD Top Guns TeamJack Fahy and the UCD Top Guns Team

Jack Fahy & UCD Are “Sailors of the Month (Team Racing)” for February

Jack Fahy of Dun Laoghaire and the University College Dublin Sailing Club Team Racing Squad hit the target when they emerged as winners of the elite eight-team Top Gun Invitational Series, organised on the premier English team competition venue of Farmoor Reservoir by Oxford University.

It’s the first time that UCD has been invited to this exclusive “Championship of Champions”, but they rose to the challenge with style in a superbly-run series. It was of course very much a team effort, but in the time-honoured manner we make Team Captain Jack Fahy the Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month (Team Racing) for February, while ensuring that the entire squad are up in lights, and they are: Jack Fahy & Emily Riordan, Liam Glynn & Triona Hinkson, and Tom Higgins & Cian Lynch.

MARCH

Micheal O Suillebhain of University College Cork is “Sailor of the Month (Inshore) for March 2023

The winning University College Cork teamThe winning University College Cork team

The annual Intervarsities Keelboat Championship in the final weekend of March in Howth Yacht Club’s J/80s was very representative of rising talent, and a complete spectrum of winds and weather over the two-day event puts skippers and crews through a very rigorous test. And in the early stages, things were only looking so-so for University College Cork Firsts, skippered by Michael O Suilleabhain, as they emerged from the First Flight one point down on Technical University Dublin.

Nevertheless, they made it to the final, but even here, it went right to the wire, as they came out of the lee mark for the final beat with the spinnaker snagged at the masthead. Yet they sorted that in record time, and sailed the concluding beat like people possessed to take the win. We have to nominate the Captain for “Sailor of the Month” in a team-racing situation, but the total lineup was Micheal O'Suilleabhain, Sally O'Flynn, Cathal O Regan, Michael Carroll and Rosa Lyden.

A steady hand on the helm – Commodore David Beattie did a double-stint of service to successfully guide the Irish Cruising Club through the PandemicA steady hand on the helm – Commodore David Beattie did a double-stint of service to successfully guide the Irish Cruising Club through the Pandemic

David Beattie of the Irish Cruising Club was “Sailor of the Month (Cruising)” for March 2023

David Beattie enthusiastically follows many maritime interests. But it was a special blessing for the Irish Cruising Club, that he should become their Commodore as the Pandemic began to tighten its grip, for he has been willing to serve as Commodore for four years instead of the usual already demanding two years in the top role, ably supported by his wife Aoife. Their diligence in representing Irish cruising in events near and far was much appreciated by the world cruising community, and this resulted in Chris Otorowski, Commodore of the Cruising Club of America, which celebrated its Centenary in 2022, making a presentation of The Friendship Cup to the ICC at the Annual Dinner in March 2023 in Sligo.

APRIL

The Lady Min team at the International Classic Boat Awards 2023 in London are (left to right) Jim O’Keeffe, current Lady Min owner Simon O’Keeffe, classic boat-builder Tiernan Roe of Roe Boats, and Liam O’KeeffeThe Lady Min team at the International Classic Boat Awards 2023 in London are (left to right) Jim O’Keeffe, current Lady Min owner Simon O’Keeffe, classic boat-builder Tiernan Roe of Roe Boats, and Liam O’Keeffe

Tiernan Roe of Ballydehob became “Sailor of the Month (Classics)” for April

Irish classic boatbuilders and owners are no strangers to the podium at the annual International Classic Boat Awards in London, and 2023’s ceremony in April was no exception. Simon O’Keffe of Schull – current family owner of the 1902 gaff cutter Lady Min designed and built in Schull by his great-grandfather Maurice O’Keeffe – had the well-earned satisfaction of seeing master-boatbuilder Tiernan Roe being suitably honoured with the trophy for the best restoration for boats under 40ft LOA, a rare moment in the limelight for a craftsman who normally and quietly just gets on with the job.

The award-winning restored Lady Min sailing to success in Cork WeekThe award-winning restored Lady Min sailing to success in Cork Week

Tom Higgins helming to a win in the British Universities Open Team Championship in AprilTom Higgins helming to a win in the British Universities Open Team Championship in April

Tom Higgins of Dun Laoghaire is April “Sailor of the Month (Team Racing)”

University College Dublin are in such a roll in the 2023 Team Racing season that their captain Jack Fahy had already taken an SoM in February. Then in April 2023 at Grafham Water, they won the British Opens, the first time for an Irish team in 53 years since TCD took it in 1970 during a remarkable run of success.

Rocco Wright was in star form in April’s Youth Nationals at his home club of HowthRocco Wright was in star form in April’s Youth Nationals at his home club of Howth

Rocco Wright of Howth is “Sailor of the Month (Junior)” for April

The intensely-fought multi-race Youth Nationals at Howth in April saw many classes go right to the wire with only a point or two separating the leaders after the championship concluded. But in the “Senior Junior” class, the large-fleet ILCA 6, Rocco Wright of the host club, was literally in a class of his own, with the international Gold winner of 2022 returning to full competition in runaway style with a ten-point overall lead.

Gary Mac Mahon’s dreams of restoring classic Conor O’Brien vessels became a complete success in 2023Gary Mac Mahon’s dreams of restoring classic Conor O’Brien vessels became a complete success in 2023

Gary Mac Mahon of Limerick is “Sailor of the Month” for April

Twenty years ago, the thought that the two Conor O’Brien-designed and Baltimore-built ketches – the 1922 42ft world-girdling Saoirse and the 1926 56ft trader-ferry Ilen - would be sailing together at their birthplace in 2023, the Centenary Year of the start of O’Brien’s great pioneering circumnavigation, would have been dismissed as fantasy. Yet the plans for this unprecedented occurrence were already well in place in April for the Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival from May 26th to 28th. And while the re-restoration or re-birth of the two vessels may have involved many people, pivotal to it all was been one man, Gary Mac Mahon of Limerick, who devoted 27 years to bringing this all together. And then, with the job done, he stood back in April 2023.

The restored Ilen during a visit to GalwayThe restored Ilen during a visit to Galway

The new Saoirse – built by Liam Hegarty at Oldcourt for Fred Kinmonth – is a traditional classic with real star powerThe new Saoirse – built by Liam Hegarty at Oldcourt for Fred Kinmonth – is a traditional classic with real star power

MAY

The Winner from the West – Aongus O Cualain of Connemara with the Asgard Trophy in Poolbeg Y&BCThe Winner from the West – Aongus O Cualain of Connemara with the Asgard Trophy in Poolbeg Y&BC

Aongus O Cualain of Connemara is Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for May

Those of us who have found it challenging enough to get a sailing dinghy with a purpose-designed road trailer into a road-ready and race-ready condition were in awe of the achievements of Aongus O Cualain of Connemara and his team with their Galway Hooker at the Old Gaffers’ Dublin Bay Diamond Jubilee Regatta in the last weekend of May.

Their gleoiteog mor Blat na hOige is a lot of boat to be transporting right across Ireland on a slightly-modified lorry. But as the boat in some form or other has been around since 1895 or so - and with the family for much of that time - the honour of Connemara was at stake,

To talk of “Mission Achieved” is scarcely adequate. They dismissed queries about their superb suit of white sails by pointing out that tan-barking or the larding of pitch onto hooker sails is a relatively new idea in terms of the boats’ very long history. And then, despite a rather light breeze on Dublin Bay, they went out and won the Asgard Trophy, a prize of unrivalled historic significance as it was presented to the DBOGA by John Kearon, the conservator of Erskine & Molly Childers’ Asgard.

A superb suit of sails skillfully handled to help the Connemara crew to victory in Dublin BayA superb suit of sails skillfully handled to help the Connemara crew to victory in Dublin Bay

JUNE

Nigel Young of Crosshaven and Will Byrne of Dun Laoghaire are “Sailors of the Month (International) for June

Time was when the name “Swan 36” meant a semi-classic Olin Stephens design that introduced one of the world’s most famous yacht marques, way back in 1967. These days, a Swan 36 is a white-hot day-racing boat that looks totally functional, and competes in a series of international semi-private regattas which are the very opposite of the publicity-seeking logo-splashed razzmatazz which seems to pervade much top-level contemporary international sailing.

Yet when somebody does achieve an outstanding win in this rarefied yet extremely intense corner of world sailing, the news does seeps out. And the victory by Richard Thompson’s Black Seal in May’s Swan 36 Sardinia Challenge confirmed that Neil Young of Royal Cork YC and Will Byrne of the National YC were in the crew, and very worthy winners as “Sailors of the Month (International) for May.

Right at the heart of it. Neil Young and Will Byrne in the midst of Black Seal’s victorious crew at the Sardinia Challenge prize-givingRight at the heart of it. Neil Young and Will Byrne in the midst of Black Seal’s victorious crew at the Sardinia Challenge prize-giving

Job Done – Sam Hunt and Cian McCarthy relaxing in Dingle after winning the Two-Handed Division and placing second overall in the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle RaceJob Done – Sam Hunt and Cian McCarthy relaxing in Dingle after winning the Two-Handed Division and placing second overall in the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race

Cian McCarthy And Sam Hunt Of Kinsale Are “Sailors of the Month (Offshore)” for June

The attractive Sunfast 3300 Cinnamon Girl made an impressive post-pandemic impact with 2022’s Inishtearaght Race from Kinsale. But for 2023, her hand-in-glove team of Cian McCarthy and Sam Hunt made an international impression with a fantastic display of co-ordination and impressively high-speed sailing in a souped-up boat, setting larger headsails with a lengthened bowsprit.

In an otherwise big boat race from Dun Laoghaire to Dingle, they were right there with the second batch of leaders on the water, maintaining the full-on pace right to the end to finish second overall and win the two-handed division going away. A masterful performance by any standards.

With her lengthened bowsprit, Cinnamon Girl is an even more impressive performer in 2023With her lengthened bowsprit, Cinnamon Girl is an even more impressive performer in 2023

Winners all right…Ron O’Hanley and his Privateer crew (including Ben Fusco of Kinsale) in Dingle after their Volvo D2D overall victory. Photo: Domnick WalshWinners all right…Ron O’Hanley and his Privateer crew (including Ben Fusco of Kinsale) in Dingle after their Volvo D2D overall victory. Photo: Domnick Walsh

Ron O’Hanley of New York (and Roscommon) is “Sailor of the Month” for June

With a racing machine as complex as the canting-keel Cookson 50, crew and boat management demands are raised to a fresh level. But when Ron O’Hanley of the New York Yacht Club arrived with the already hyper-successful Privateer for the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, it was educational for all Irish sailors, as was their virtually flawless performance to take the win.

This was the Big Boys’ Game and no mistake. As to the rarity of their owner-skipper’s surname, we were told the O’Hanleys are descended from an elite Roscommon warrior group. We were even sent their Coat of Arms. So now you know.

The elite of East Connacht – the Coat of Arms of the O’Hanleys of RoscommonThe elite of East Connacht – the Coat of Arms of the O’Hanleys of Roscommon

“Not a dry eye in the house….” James Dwyer and many others receiving the Sovereign’s Cup after a clean sweep in Kinsale. Photo: Robert Bateman“Not a dry eye in the house….” James Dwyer and many others receiving the Sovereign’s Cup after a clean sweep in Kinsale. Photo: Robert Bateman

James Dwyer of Royal Cork YC was “Sailor of the Month (Inshore)” for June

Boats may be inanimate objects, but those who sail them seldom see them that way. The classic Half Tonner Swuzzlebubble certainly arouses special emotions, for there are senior sailors in Ireland who sailed her to success as ISORA Champion in 1980, when she was owned by the late Bruce Lyster of Dun Laoghaire’s Royal St George YC.

Forty-three years ago, she was quite a basic boat. But now, after surviving many vicissitudes and at least one unsuccessful attempt to get her to a landfill site, she is back in Ireland in a superbly re-furbished style, and her proud owner is James Dwyer of the Royal Cork Yacht Club.

Almost from the moment the first races started in the Simply Blue Sovereign’s Cup 2023 in Kinsale, it was clear that Swuzzlebubble and her crew were on a roll, and they took the title with a clean sweep of six wins, getting our Inshore Sailors of the Month for June title with it. And in December, it was announced that Swuzzlebubble was the ICRA “Boat of the Year” for 2023 after adding other successes.

Probably the coolest boat in Ireland – Swuzzlebubble making windward work in an Atlantic chop look easy at Kinsale. In December, it was announced she was the ICRA “Boat of the Year” for 2023. Photo: Robert BatemanProbably the coolest boat in Ireland – Swuzzlebubble making windward work in an Atlantic chop look easy at Kinsale. In December, it was announced she was the ICRA “Boat of the Year” for 2023. Photo: Robert Bateman

JULY

 Furthest west for the Quasquicentennial Celebration – Howth 17 Class Captain Dave O’Shea with Billy O’Sullivan in the latter’s family pub in Crookhaven in West Cork, most distant port reached during the Class’s 125th Anniversary Cruise-in-Company. Photo: Dave Nixon Furthest west for the Quasquicentennial Celebration – Howth 17 Class Captain Dave O’Shea with Billy O’Sullivan in the latter’s family pub in Crookhaven in West Cork, most distant port reached during the Class’s 125th Anniversary Cruise-in-Company. Photo: Dave Nixon

Dave O’Shea of Howth was July “Sailor of the Month (Classics)”

Although the bulk of the Howth 17 Class’s 125th Anniversary visit to West Cork took place in the final week of June when the weather was already deteriorating into its adverse July pattern, the last of these historic little boats had not returned safely home until early July, and it was only then that the full achievement and vision of Class Captain David O’Shea could be fully appreciated.

Getting such an inevitably idiosyncratic ancient class to move together in some sort of coherent manner can be akin to herding cats. But with great patience and the co-operation and warm welcome of key local establishments such as Baltimore Sailing Club, Cape Clear Distilllery, and O’Sullivan’s of Crookhaven, Dave O’Shea saw his vision through to successful fruition. The spirit of the class is stronger than ever, and their Captain is most deservedly the “Sailor of the Month (Classics) for July.

Hell for leather. The spirit of the Howth 17 class is exemplified by Deilginis making better than theoretical hull speed in a strong fair wind, bound for the Fastnet Rock from CrookhavenHell for leather. The spirit of the Howth 17 class is exemplified by Deilginis making better than theoretical hull speed in a strong fair wind, bound for the Fastnet Rock from Crookhaven

 The resumption of the biennial Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta after the pandemic involved even more leadership and administrative effort than usual for a 400 boat fleet, but longtime committee member and current chairman Don O’Dowd saw it through to success The resumption of the biennial Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta after the pandemic involved even more leadership and administrative effort than usual for a 400 boat fleet, but longtime committee member and current chairman Don O’Dowd saw it through to success

Don O’Dowd of Dun Laoghaire was “Sailor of the Month (Services to Sailing)” for July

An initially-discouraging weather pattern and an expanding fleet placed special demands on the organisers for the post-pandemic resumption of the biennial Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta. But the broad shoulders of longtime administrator and current Chairman Don O’Dowd backed the efforts of Regatta Director Paddy Boyd to pull a remarkable success out of a very mixed period of sailing conditions, and the result was diverse competition-filled waterborne sport in the very best Dun Laoghaire traditions, which go back to 1828 and beyond.

 A new level of performance has been drawn from John Minnis’s stylish A35 Final Call II in Dublin Bay. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien A new level of performance has been drawn from John Minnis’s stylish A35 Final Call II in Dublin Bay. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

John Minnis of Belfast Lough became July “Sailor of the Month (Regatta)”

John Minnis of Royal Ulster YC and his longtime helm Gareth Flannigan will look on Dublin Bay as their Happy Hunting Ground. For although the previous Minnis boat, the First 31.7 Final Call, and her distinguished successor, the very optimized Archambault 35 Final Call II, have both achieved notable success on either side of the North Channel, it has been during campaigns down south in Dublin Bay that they’ve really shone.

In July’s demanding Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, there was no doubt in the minds of seasoned observers that IRC 1 was the Grand Prix division, and the convincing way in which Final Call II worked her way to the head of its leaderboard, and stayed there through a wide variety of conditions and against other crews of all the talents, was very convincing indeed.

Happy budgies….the crew of Final Call II can finally relax after being in the right place at the finish of the last race in VDLR 2023. Photo: Michael ChesterHappy budgies….the crew of Final Call II can finally relax after being in the right place at the finish of the last race in VDLR 2023. Photo: Michael Chester

Arguably the most successful racing yacht in the world today. The luminous Caro – with Cian Guilfoyle in her crew – sweeps in with style to Cherbourg and the unassailable overall win the Fastnet Race 2023Arguably the most successful racing yacht in the world today. The luminous Caro – with Cian Guilfoyle in her crew – sweeps in with style to Cherbourg and the unassailable overall win the Fastnet Race 2023

Cian Guilfoyle of National YC: “Sailor of the Month (Offshore)” for July

Back in the dark latter days of the Pandemic, high-flying rumours began circulating about a new Botin 52 being completed in New Zealand. Normally, the multi-titled 52 class sees only incremental improvements as the latest boats take up this ultimate challenge on the modern scene. But the word was that this boat had more bright ideas than a waggonload of Einsteins - she would knock most other 52s out of the ballpark. And when this new boat Caro campaigned her first major at Hamilton Island, this did indeed prove to be the case, to such an extent that formerly dedicated TP owners reckoned it would be a step too far to try to keep up with this latest level of the arms race.

Caro is as international as she is successful. Designed in Santander in Northern Spain, she was engineered by Pure and built in New Zealand by Core Builders Composites under the supervision of Mark Turner, with the overall project management in the hands of Justin Ferris from Doyle Sails NZ.

Owner Max Klink has her down as registered in Switzerland, yet her sail numbers in 2023 seem to emanate from the Cayman Islands. Whatever, this supra-national mix has provided a boat of such exceptional speed and achievement that merely to be listed on her potential crew panel is high recognition. And to be on board – as Cian Guilfoyle of the National YC was - for a global peak like the 50th Fastnet Race was talent-recognition of a high honour .

So although they lost their supposedly-essential electronic masthead wand while getting an added pasting in the edge of Portland Race while outward bound, Adrian Stead and his crew always found that bit of almost super-natural extra speed for which Caro is increasingly renowned, despite having to use some very ancient helming skills to find it. And thus Cian Guilfoyle, the Irish member of this remarkable team, became our Offshore Sailor of the Month for July.

Cleaned up in every sense – Caro’s overall winners looking fresh and well in CherbourgCleaned up in every sense – Caro’s overall winners looking fresh and well in Cherbourg

Rory Whyte (WHSC & RCYC) receives his Topper Worlds trophy from Cork Mayor Frank Flynn at Crosshaven. Photo: Robert BatemanRory Whyte (WHSC & RCYC) receives his Topper Worlds trophy from Cork Mayor Frank Flynn at Crosshaven. Photo: Robert Bateman

Rory Whyte of Dunmore East is a Junior “Sailor of the Month” for July

Fifteen-year-old Rory Whyte of Waterford Harbour SC started his Topper 4.2 Worlds campaign at his alternative home club of RCYC at Crosshaven in less-than-perfect style, with an OCS in Race One. After such a score, the only way is up, and he immediately got up into the frame, and stayed there – reaching the very top – through a demanding race-packed series. The Rory Whyte Show was in town, and no mistake, and at the racing’s eventual conclusion, he was conveyed ashore aloft in his boat in true champion’s style.

Bringing it home….Sienna Wright adding to her silver collection in PolandBringing it home….Sienna Wright adding to her silver collection in Poland

Sienna Wright of Howth is Junior “Sailor of the Month” for July

Steadily rising star Sienna Wright from Howth recorded a formidable tally in the Under 17 Division in the ILCA 6s at two major regattas in Poland during July. The Youth Worlds early in the month saw her take the silver in the U17s, and then in the third week the Youth Worlds of the class (formerly the Laser Radials) saw her record her second international silver, again in the U17s.

The summer which eluded Ireland during July was generally very present in Poland, and her comment that it provided sailing which was “Quite tricky, very shifty conditions, long hours, but in the end it was a good result” well illustrated the kind of resilience and dedication which is required of Ireland’s young talent at this level.

AUGUST

Finn Lynch gives it the full effort at the Sailing World Championship at The Hague in August, when he transformed the mood of the Irish sailing summer of 2023 by securing a place in the 2024 OlympicsFinn Lynch gives it the full effort at the Sailing World Championship at The Hague in August, when he transformed the mood of the Irish sailing summer of 2023 by securing a place in the 2024 Olympics

Finn Lynch was August “Sailor of the Month (Olympics)”

Finn Lynch added nation qualifying for the Paris Olympics 2024 to his many ILCA 7 achievements, including a world silver medal from 2021. In a nerve-jangling conclusion to the Gold fleet series in the Men's single-handed event at the Allianz Sailing World Championships in The Hague in The Netherlands on 19th August 2023, the National Yacht Club ace secured one of the last Paris 2024 Olympics places for Ireland.

Lynch sailed out into the final two races for his event, needing only to deliver two safe results to maintain or improve on 14th place by nation. But after crossing the finishing line, he sailed ashore under the impression that he had missed qualification when he had actually managed to place 15th by nation and 23rd overall.

Elated with the outcome, he described qualifying Ireland for Paris 2024 as a "monkey off my back" and is now focused fully on preparations for the Olympics and selection for the national squad. And when, in October, he stepped aboard a Mermaid at Foynes for the Championship of Champions 2023, the stardust came with him - he won

 Dun Laoghaire’s Clementine & Nathan van Steenberg celebrate their World 29er victory at Weymouth Dun Laoghaire’s Clementine & Nathan van Steenberg celebrate their World 29er victory at Weymouth

Clementine & Nathan van Steenberge of Dun Laoghaire are Junjor Sailors of the Month for July

The International 29er is one of the most demanding boats on the global junior sailing scene. Yet the sister-and-brother crew of Clementine & Nathan Van Steenberge have carved their way through its international heights with style, speed and success. Their Championship title at the uniquely demanding Worlds at Weymouth in early August provided a Masterclass, with their all-winning final day of racing an exceptional performance worthy of the most experienced sailors.

 Ready for the road. In 2023 the J/24 Headcase crew were on the road to success in Easner Europe, winning the Euros in Hungary and the Corinthian Division in the Worlds in Greece Ready for the road. In 2023 the J/24 Headcase crew were on the road to success in Easner Europe, winning the Euros in Hungary and the Corinthian Division in the Worlds in Greece

Cillian Dickson Of Lough Ree & J/24 Headcase Crew Were “Sailors of the Month (Int. Regatta)” for August

The story of the restored J/24 Headcase in recent years has been a particularly heart-warming one of all-Ireland camaraderie and success, and in August 2023 the emphasis was firmly on international success with a final race victory to give a two point win in the J/24 Europeans on Lake Balaton in Hungary, racing against 42 boats from eight nations, following which they travelled south to Greece for the Worlds, and win the Corinthian Division.

Yet even with a team effort of this quality, we have to narrow the “Sailor of the Month” to one identifiable individual, and helmsman Cillian Dickson of Lough Ree YC and Howth YC has emerged as “The Face of Headcase”, spokesman for a close-knit yet multi-background squad which includes Marcus Ryan and Louis Mulloy of Mayo SC, Ryan Glynn of Ballyholme YC, and Sam O’Byrne of Howth YC

Welcome home. Tom Dolan comes into Kinsale thinking he’s second in the initial 2023 Figaro 620-mile leg from Normandy, but in fact he’s firstWelcome home. Tom Dolan comes into Kinsale thinking he’s second in the initial 2023 Figaro 620-mile leg from Normandy, but in fact he’s first

Tom Dolan of County Meath was “Sailor of the Month” for August

The rise in the international solo offshore sailing reputation of Tom Dolan, who has been known to describe himself as “an escaped farmboy from north Meath”, has been one of the great Irish sailing sagas of our time. For more than a decade, Afloat.ie has been recounting Big Tom’s progress from being identified as an exceptional talent by the now-defunct Glenans Ireland in Baltimore, to eventual hard-won solo sailing stardom in France via the well-established but ferociously competitive Mini-Transat and Figaro Solo routes.

These days, he is one of that elite band of Figaro Solo stars who are always included in any pre-race reckoning of success potential. And with the first full-on post-pandemic 54th staging of the offshore classic in late August and early September 2023, it was something special for the skipper of the Figaro 3 Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan to do well from the get-go, as its initial 620-mile stage was scheduled to finish – for the 21st time in the Figaro’s colourful history – back home in Ireland at Kinsale.

He came into port thinking he was second, but infringements by the supposed winner soon catapulted him into first place, making for a fantastic return home.

 On the road to international success. National YC Commodore Peter Sherry presents the Irish 29er National Championship trophy to Ethan Spain (centre) and Ben O’Shaughnessy in July in Dun Laoghaire during their progress towards winning the Euros in Sweden in August On the road to international success. National YC Commodore Peter Sherry presents the Irish 29er National Championship trophy to Ethan Spain (centre) and Ben O’Shaughnessy in July in Dun Laoghaire during their progress towards winning the Euros in Sweden in August

Ben O’Shaughnessy of Royal Cork YC & Ethan Spain of National YC are Sailors of the Month (Junior International) for August

The five day International 29er Europeans at the 1830-founded Royal Swedish YC’s base at Sandhamn near Stockholm was a global sailing highlight for 2023, as it attracted 173 teams from 24 countries for a week of racing very typical of the unsettled conditions of August this year. Yet young Irish sailors from the ultra-focused 29er racing development squad showed themselves well able for the enormous challenge, and in the final day’s racing, the Munster/Leinster pairing of Ben O’Shaughnessy (17) from Royal Cork at Crosshaven and Ethan Spain (18) from the National YC at Dun Laoghaire moved confidently from defending a near-certain Silver Medal win into ensuring that they were going home with the Gold for the Men’s Division.

Gold Medallists: Lucia Cullen from Dun Laoghaire and Alana Twomey from CorkGold Medallists: Lucia Cullen from Dun Laoghaire and Alana Twomey from Cork

Lucia Cullen from Dun Laoghaire and Alana Twomey from Cork are Junior International Sailors of the Month for August

There were 173 teams from 24 countries competing at the International 29er Europeans in Sweden in August, but the five crews sent from Ireland punched way above their weight in a challenging and complex boat which isn’t for the faint-hearted. And it seems that inter-provincial mixing of crews is the right way to go, as Dun Laoghaire’s Lucia Cullen (17) and Cork’s Alana Twomey (also 17) inspired each other through a week of racing in difficult wind patterns to clinch the Women’s Gold medal on the last day, a magic result for a crew whose sheer enjoyment of sailing is an inspiration for us all.

Barry Cunningham’s Chimaera heading for J/109 success in Dublin Bay. Photo: Key YachtingBarry Cunningham’s Chimaera heading for J/109 success in Dublin Bay. Photo: Key Yachting

Barry Cunningham of Royal Irish YC became “Sailor of the Month (Regatta)” for August

The first J/Cup Championship in Irish waters on Dublin Bay in August 2023 saw several classes of this leading marque represented in the 40-strong fleet, but there was little doubting that the most intensive competition was in the J/109s. This especially attractive product of the renowned Johnstone design range has not only hit the target for success in Dublin Bay, but the participation by boats from this fleet elsewhere has brought home many significant titles, so this was definitely the class to watch. The racing was intense in the extreme, but Barry Cunningham of the hosting Royal Irish YC with Chimaera and his team had a performance graph going the right way, for after a fifth in the first face, they found their groove to register two firsts and ultimately take the title.

Departing in style. Harry Dunne taking his leave from Optimist racing by winning the Nationals at Ballyholme in AugustDeparting in style. Harry Dunne taking his leave from Optimist racing by winning the Nationals at Ballyholme in August

Harry Dunne of Howth was “Youth Sailor of the Month” for August

In progressing through each phase of a sailing career, the received wisdom is that you should tick off each staging post while you’re ahead. Harry Dunne of Howth was registered with a Departure Lounge “Optimist Age” of 15 going into the 115-boat Nationals at Ballyholme, and thus it was irrevocably his farewell tour, his last chance to exit an already successful Optimist racing stage of life with a real flourish. And despite – or maybe because of – some very challenging sailing conditions, he did it with style, winning the seniors by a clear margin of nine points, and eventually heading for home with every trophy for which he had been competing.

SEPTEMBER

David Kenefick on his way to winning the 1720 Nationals at Dunmore EastDavid Kenefick on his way to winning the 1720 Nationals at Dunmore East

David Kenefick of Royal Cork YC took the September “Sailor of the Month (National)” title

The 1720 Sportsboat Class in Ireland has a certain something which means that when its annual championship comes around, it often attracts stars from other classes for this peak of sportsboat sport. And though the 2023 1720 Nats at Dunmore East with Waterford Harbour SC in September my not have attracted the significantly large numbers seen at some other venues in recent years, there was some very hot talent battling it out on the Waterford Estuary and the nearby Atlantic, with David Kenefick of Royal Cork came through the lineup of multi-class superstars to take the title ahead of a Who’s Who of 1720 talent.

 Johnny Murphy’s J/109 Outrajeous (seen here at the start of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race) went on to win the Champion Boat title at the ICRA Nationals at his home port of Howth in September. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O/Brien Johnny Murphy’s J/109 Outrajeous (seen here at the start of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race) went on to win the Champion Boat title at the ICRA Nationals at his home port of Howth in September. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O/Brien

Johnny Murphy of Howth: “Sailor of the Month (Regatta)” for September

One of the most popularly acclaimed victories in sailing in Ireland in 2023 was Johnny Murphy’s September winning of the “Champion Boat” award at the conclusion of the ICRA Nationals at his home port of Howth with his J/109 Outrajeous. With only one good – admittedly very good – day of racing out of a schedule of three, it was a nerve-racking contest, and Outrajeous had been having difficult in showing the kind of success which her owner-skipper had shown in campaigning an Albin Express and a 1720. But with emotionally-acknowledged crew support – particularly from first mate Neil Spain – Outrajeous emerged victorious to achieve well-earned and tumultuous applause at the prize-giving.

Still winning. Sailing legend Lawrie Smith with his winning crew in the Dragon Gold Cup 2023Still winning. Sailing legend Lawrie Smith with his winning crew in the Dragon Gold Cup 2023

Lawrie Smith of Glandore is “Sailor of the Month (International)” for September

Early in the 1960s, Stan Smith – a builder and developer from Bury near Manchester – secured the site for the modest holiday home of his dreams beside the harbour in Glandore in West Cork. Summers in Glandore with much sailing for his young son Lawrie became an essential element in Smith family life, and though Lawrie went on to a stratospheric career in international sailing, whenever possible he has listed Glandore Harbour Yacht Club as his home base. Thus in September 2023, thanks to Lawrie the Dragon Gold Cup – the class’s supreme prize – was added to Glandore’s trophy haul. It was a particularly timely outcome with the 2024 Gold Cup scheduled for Kinsale.

 Commodore Peter Darragh of County Antrim YC in Whitehead on Belfast Lough (left) with 2023 Flying Fifteen National Champions Niall and Ronan O’Briain of Connemara Commodore Peter Darragh of County Antrim YC in Whitehead on Belfast Lough (left) with 2023 Flying Fifteen National Champions Niall and Ronan O’Briain of Connemara

Niall & Ronan O’Briain of Connemara were “Sailors of the Month (Inshore)” for September

Sailing for sport in Connemara has long tended to be in a world of its own with the local traditional craft, but 2023 is very much a breakout year. One of our “Sailors of the Month” for July was the west’s Aongus O Cualain’s, who brought his optimized classic Gleoiteog Blat na hOige to the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Asgard Plate Race, and won overall against a fleet of every sort of gaff-rigged boat. And now in September, the growing Flying Fifteen fleet in the far west has made it to the top, with Niall & Ronan O’Briain of Flying Fifteen Chonamara winning a very hard-fought Irish Flying Fifteen Nationals at County Antrim Yacht Club in Whitehead on Belfast Lough.

Whitehead is about as far from Connemara as you’ll get Flying Fifteen racing in Ireland, but if anything the distance provided an added incentive to put down an important marker in the progress towards a more broadly-based outward-looking sailing picture in the far west.

OCTOBER

In October, Howth Yacht Club - the MG Motor Sailing Club of the Year 2023 - lost no time in proclaiming the latest success by one of their most talented international sailors. Photo: W M NixonIn October, Howth Yacht Club - the MG Motor Sailing Club of the Year 2023 - lost no time in proclaiming the latest success by one of their most talented international sailors. Photo: W M Nixon

Eve McMahon of Howth was October Sailor of the Month (Olympic)

The transition from ultra-successful international junior sailing to youth and adult competition can be a tricky one, but ILCA-racing Gold Medal-winning multiple junior champion Eve McMahon of Howth found the perfect stepping-stone with the ILCA6 U21 Worlds at a breezy Tangiers in October.

Going into the final race in one of the strongest winds of all, her 18 points overall lead did not make her totally unassailable. But all seemed secure as she approached the finish in third, only to capsize almost at the line.

Her resilience showed through, however, as she calmly but very quickly righted the boat and finished eighth, enough to give her the Gold Medal by a clear 14 points. If, as Ernest Hemingway observed, “Courage Is Grace Under Pressure”, then Eve McMahon has an abundance of courage to augment her great sailing talent.

ICC Rear Commodore Seamus O’Connor - he cruises regularly in southwest Ireland and on Iberian and Mediterranean watersICC Rear Commodore Seamus O’Connor - he cruises regularly in southwest Ireland and on Iberian and Mediterranean waters

Seamus O’Connor of Bantry is October Sailor of the Month For Cruising & Services to Cruising

By October, the last of the remarkably varied international fleet of boats that had attended the Irish Cruising Club’s Conor O’Brien & Saoirse Centenary Rally in Madeira had returned to their often very distant home ports. Thus it was felt that a line could finally be drawn under a unique event in which ICC Rear Commodore Seamus O’Connor, of West Cork and Portugal, had played the key role as Chairman of the Organising Committee.

The 3rd of July 1923 was a pivotal date in Saoirse’s pioneering global circumnavigation, as it marked her arrival at Funchal in Madeira to complete what was in effect the 1,100-mile maiden ocean voyage from Dublin Bay, sailing the new and relatively un-tested vessel to O’Brien’s own design.

Thus experienced voyagers tend to see Funchal as the real starting point for what went on to be an unprecedented amateur small-boat circumnavigation of the world south of the Great Capes. It was felt imperative that while there were Centenary festivities in Dun Laoghaire to mark the start of the voyage, O’Brien’s achievement deserved an extra effort with an international rally in Funchal starting on July 3rd 2023, centred around the restored trading ketch Ilen, Saoirse’s “big sister”, which is now the flagship in Ireland of Sailing Into Wellness.

Seamus O’Connor’s multi-talented Committee found themselves dealing with many and various Madeiran and Portuguese agencies and organisations in order to ensure a smooth welcome for ocean sailing boats which were approaching the island quite literally from every point of the compass. It all went well, by October all the participants were back where they meant to be for the winter months, and Seamus O’Connor and his Committee had deservedly earned everyone’s gratitude.

Ann Kirwan racing her co-owned Ruffian 23 Bandit in Dublin BayAnn Kirwan racing her co-owned Ruffian 23 Bandit in Dublin Bay

Ann Kirwan of National YC & Schull was Sailor of the Month (October) for Racing & Services to Sailing

The Golden Jubilee of the much-loved Ruffian 23 Class was well celebrated in 2023 at all its main centres in an enjoyable moveable feast, mostly in Ireland but culminating in Hong Kong in October with the triennial Inter-Port Championship in which the Irish fleets take on the strong Hong Kong fleet.

Former Dublin Bay SC Commodore Ann Kirwan – who successfully races two Ruffian 23s, Bandit in Dublin Bay and Orca II in Schull – played a role in all the Golden Jubilee events on most coasts. But for the winning Irish 20-person expedition to Hong Kong, she was both Team Captain and logistics organiser, filling both roles with such competence and good humour that she is a very worthy winner of a “Sailor of the Month” title for October.

NOVEMBER

In tune with each other and with their boat – Robert Dickson& Sean Waddilove getting the best from their 49er.In tune with each other and with their boat – Robert Dickson& Sean Waddilove getting the best from their 49er

Robert Dickson & Sean Waddilove: “Sailors of the Month (Olympics) For November

The “Fingal Flyers” Rob Dickson of Howth (and other clubs) with Sean Waddilove of Skerries brightened sailing spirits in the gloomiest month of the year, with an absolutely stellar performance in the Olympic 49er Euros 2023 at Vilamoura in Portugal. They swept all before them both for total victory in the event, leaving their way clear into the 2024 Sailing Olympiad at Marseille where they first leapt to fame while still very much newbies in the U23 49er Worlds in September 2018.

Since then, despite the various Covid interruptions, they have significantly matured into the top level, They’ve taken on board the harsh lessons learned at the Tokyo Olympics, and with their start problems coming well under control, they now have an on-track and determined campaign which has brought us all some early Christmas glitter.

Pamela Lee (right) and co-skipper Tiphaine Raguenau celebrate their arrival at the finuish of the Transat Jacques VabrePamela Lee (right) and co-skipper Tiphaine Raguenau celebrate their arrival at the finuish of the Transat Jacques Vabre

Pamela Lee of Greystones was “Sailor of the Month (Offshore)” for November

The short-handed long distance offshore racing scene from France is recognised as the world peak in a very specialised area. Design development at all boat sizes is at such a pace that in a hyper-hot division such as Class40, anyone racing a 2018 boat in 2023 was at a real disadvantage. Yet Pamela Lee of Greystones and her co-skipper Tiphaine Raguenau did just that with Engie-DFDS-Brittany Ferries in the Transat Jacques Vabre 2023, and in a mostly more modern fleet of 44 boats, they were recorded at 29th overall at the finish in Martinique, with several much newer male-sailed boats astern.

Not so long ago, it was quite an achievement just to sail the Atlantic. But at this competitive level, Lee & Ragueneau were up against an emergency return to Lorient for sail repairs which were quoted for a three hour delay, but it was six hours and more adrift on completion. Yet despite battling to get back into rhythm with the main peloton of the fleet, and further sail repair challenges while racing, they were very much on the pace at the finish, and increasingly recognised as a force to be reckoned with in a very tough competitive environment.

Russell Bolger of Royal St George YC was “Junior Sailor of the Month” for November

The David Harte created TR3.6s sailing at SchullThe David Harte created TR3.6s sailing at Schull

The David Harte-inspired Fastnet Marine & Outdoor Education Centre in Schull is a great resource for sailing in Ireland, as its well-managed setup facilitates flexibility when the weather has been disobliging. Thus although the Junior Championship of Champions scheduled for the first weekend of October was blown out, the Centre had no bother in setting up another championship a month later, immediately before their own annual Team Racing Training Week.

In those circumstances, it was more than appropriate that the Team Racing Nominee in the National Juniors, Russell Bolger of Royal St George YC crewed by Louis McGovern, emerged clearly as the new title-holder in the National Junior title after, successfully demonstrating that his team racing skills enabled him to keep close opponents well down the fleet as the full series unfolded. He won by a clear six points, making Russell Bolger our “Sailor of the Month (Junior)” for November.

A tough competitor in boat duelling – the 2023 Junior National Champion Russell Bolger of the Royal St George YC with his newly-won trophies in SchullA tough competitor in boat duelling – the 2023 Junior National Champion Russell Bolger of the Royal St George YC with his newly-won trophies in Schull

DECEMBER

Chris Bateman of Cork Harbour is “Sailor of the Month Dinghies)” for December

Former junior champion Chris Bateman is a top sailor who leads by example and inspiration. Having decided that the ever-young Fireball is the answer for junior and adult dinghy sailors who don’t want to go down the cheque-book route to racing, he has beavered away re-building the formerly popular and economically attractive class both in practical restoration, and in actively sailing the boat to championship level. The result has been a favourable and supportive response from Fireball sailors new and “old”, and a genuine re-invigoration of the class spreading outwards from Cork.

Chris Bateman on the helm racing a restored Fireball. Photo: Robert BatemanChris Bateman on the helm racing a restored Fireball. Photo: Robert Bateman

Paul O’Higgins of Royal Irish YC was “Sailor of the Month (Keelboats)” for December

While sailing in Ireland has its conspicuously attention-getting aspects, the real backbone of the sport continues to be the active club sailor who can quietly keep a usefully large crew panel together in order to have the right mix of talents when taking on any special challenge. Paul O’Higgins of the RIYC in Dun Laoghaire with the JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI is an excellent example of these quiet enthusiasts, these people who truly enjoy their sport, and his healthy approach was underlined during 2023 when – among other successes – Rockabill VI won the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association Championship 2023 in a cliffhanger conclusion with success in the final race.

 Finola Flanagan with ISORA’s Wolf’s Head champion’s trophy with her husband Paul O’Higgins (centre) and his crew of shipmates and friends who race the successful Rockabill VI. Photo: Michael Chester Finola Flanagan with ISORA’s Wolf’s Head champion’s trophy with her husband Paul O’Higgins (centre) and his crew of shipmates and friends who race the successful Rockabill VI. Photo: Michael Chester

Adrienne Cahalan of Lough Derg is “Sailor of the Month (Offshore) for December

It’s a very long time since Adrienne Cahalan was regularly near Lough Derg. But though she and her section of the family emigrated to Australia when she was very young, those left behind such as cousin Aisling Keller have been involved with sailing Derg, and they’ve been quietly celebrating her outstanding victory as navigator of the overall winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race 2023. On Cahalan’s correct advice, the Tasmanian-based RP66 Alive kept to the east of the direct line in the middle stages of the race, and for a boat of this size, it was the successful tactic.

Those astern such as the TP52s found it paid better to be down the middle of the continually changing conditions, but for Alive it was precisely the right call, and a remarkable achievement by a sailor/navigator/tactician doing her 31st Hobart race.

And for those who say we’re stretching it by saying Adrienne Cahalan is an Irish sailor, we’d point out that her two professional degrees are as a lawyer and as a specialist in applied meteorology, and if that’s not the most quintessentially Irish combination of qualifications, then we don’t know what is.

 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race 31-times veteran Adrienne Cahalan, navigator of the 2023 overall winner Alive (left), with Alice Parker, navigator of the second-placed overall URM Group Rolex Sydney Hobart Race 31-times veteran Adrienne Cahalan, navigator of the 2023 overall winner Alive (left), with Alice Parker, navigator of the second-placed overall URM Group

Sailor of the Year: Voting 2023

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 2023 by using our online poll (opening on Jaunary 15th 2024)

The judges welcome the traditional massive 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 elite. After more than 25 years, the awards have developed into a premier 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 2023.

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 15, until Wednesday, January 31st 2024.

ABOUT THE IRISH SAILOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

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

Since it began over 27 years ago, the awards have recognised nearly 900 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
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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 that 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 ffhoenix, and his scorecard on Strangford Lough in tricky conditions to take a 16 point overall margin shows that his sailing has lost none of its magic.

Early days. John Lavery (right) racing Optimists at the National YC in 1967.Early days. John Lavery (right) racing Optimists at the National YC in 1967.

Published in Sailor of the Month
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For sure, the pandemic-plagued year of 2020 - with its stop-start framework of activity afloat and ashore - was something beyond most sailors' experience.

Yet ours is nothing if not a can-do sport. And while some sailing enthusiasts – particularly those at risk with underlying health conditions – may have reasonably decided to sit it out completely, there were many others who, with care and guidance and consideration for others, were able to get in some sailing – in certain cases quite a bit of sailing - without setting an irresponsible and selfish example.

Thus yet again, the diversity of those who feature in our annual list of monthly achievers is astonishing, and where necessary we have continued with the well-established tradition of often having more than one award. In the frantically busy month of September in particular, when clubs and classes worked successfully to complete programmes and championships before a fresh wave of restrictions kicked in, we have no less than four awards, and every one thoroughly deserves to be there.

It's an eclectic list, for our interests afloat are numerous and diverse. It's truly international, as our sailors are active in many parts of the world. And in all, it's a lineup of purest gold standard enthusiasts whose example will see us through the tough times ahead, into a renewed joy in boats and sailing as our sport eventually begins to return to normal.

JANUARY

CAPTAIN PAT FARNAN OF CORK HARBOUR

Captain Pat Farnan's retirement as Admiral of the Royal Cork YC on January 20th 2020 - after a two-year tour of duty in this top role - marked the completion of another chapter in an outstanding maritime career that took him straight from school to take up a Cadetship in Irish Shipping. As a Captain with wide-ranging sea service, he was recruited in 1980 into the frontline staff of the Port of Cork as Assistant Harbour Master where his 33-year career saw him become Harbour Master and then Deputy Chief Executive, serving also as President of the European Harbour Masters Association from 1996-1998.

Leading RCYC junior sailor Atlee Kohl with Capt. Pat Farnan, the first "Sailor of the Month" for 2020Leading RCYC junior sailor Atlee Kohl with Capt. Pat Farnan, the first "Sailor of the Month" for 2020. Photo: Robert Bateman

On retirement, he became Admiral of Royal Cork Yacht Club for the demanding two year period in the countdown to the RCYC's Tricentenary in 2020. Far from being over-shadowed by the approaching celebrations, 2018 and 2019 were such busy and successful years in RCYC sailing that the Royal Cork saw 2020 being ushered in with the announcement that they were the new Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year on the strength of outstanding achievements in 2018 and '19, and in recognition of Captain Farnan's quietly effective leadership

ROCCO WRIGHT OF HOWTH (Junior Award)

Rocco Wright (13) of Howth became Sailor of the Month (Junior) for January after twice taking silver in major Optimist regattas in both the southern and northern hemispheres. Early in the month in Sail Melbourne 2020 in Australia in a total fleet of 255 boats, he was overnight leader going into the final day. But a series of sometimes flukey winds produced its most fickle day of all to conclude with, the positions were inverted, and he did well to hold on to second overall.

Rocco Wright (left) Silver Medallist in the 401-boat Optimist Euromarina Trophy Regatta in Alicante at the end of January with Gold winner Alessandro Cortese (centre) and Silver Medallist Lisa VuccetiRocco Wright (left) Silver Medallist in the 401-boat Optimist Euromarina Trophy Regatta in Alicante at the end of January with Gold winner Alessandro Cortese (centre) and Silver Medallist Lisa Vucceti

In Alicante in Spain at the end of the month, conditions were breezy and almost wintry for the Euromarina Trophy and an astonishing total fleet of 401 boats. Here again he was overnight leader going into the final day's three races. With a ninth and a first in the two initial contests, things were looking good, but this time gear failure resulted in a DNC in the last race, and he'd to concede the overall lead to Italy's Alessandro Cortese while staying ahead of another Italian helm, Lisa Vucceti, who was also top girl.

Michael Boyd, former Commodore RORC, continued his winning ways with a class victory in the RORC Caribbean 600 in February.Michael Boyd, former Commodore RORC, continued his winning ways with a class victory in the RORC Caribbean 600 in February.

FEBRUARY

MICHAEL BOYD OF DUN LAOGHAIRE (OFFSHORE)

Michael Boyd of the RIYC may have first leapt to prominence in offshore racing with his overall victory in the 1996 Round Ireland Race in the J/35 Big Ears. But his enthusiasm remains undimmed such that he served as RORC Commodore, with achievements including the RORC Championship and other Round Ireland results well in the frame, and in late February 2020 he added yet another laurel with a key role in the successful Lombard 46 Pata Negra's class win in the RORC Caribbean 600 Race. 

DARAGH NAGLE OF VANCOUVER (CRUISING)

The worldwide spread of the Irish Cruising Club membership was in evidence at the AGM in Dun Laoghaire at the end of February 2020 when Daragh Nagle was awarded the supreme trophy, the Faulkner Cup. Originally of Portmarnock but now cruising from Victoria in British Columbia with his wife Cathy O'Neill in their 1987-vintage Moody 376 Chantey V, Daragh's 2019 venture was a properly-logged 2,500 miles-plus 90-day venture with more than 70 ports and anchorages visited, competently dealing with a mixture of extreme tides and open sea passages in exemplary style.

Cathy O'Neill and Daragh Nagle on the award-winning Chantey V in Mexican watersCathy O'Neill and Daragh Nagle on the award-winning Chantey V in Mexican waters

MARCH

JACK & ROSEMARY ROY OF DUN LAOGHAIRE

When Jack Roy of Dun Laoghaire (though originally from Greystones) retired from the Presidency of Irish Sailing on March 21st 2020, it marked the conclusion of a hugely successful three years in the top post in Irish sailing. They were years in which the active and enthusiastic President was always quietly but very effectively supported by his wife Rosemary as they involved themselves in all aspects of the sport in every part of the country.

Racing folk go cruising – Jack & Rosemary Roy on Tangaroa at the Fastnet Rock.Racing folk go cruising – Jack & Rosemary Roy on Tangaroa at the Fastnet Rock.

The commitment of "Team Roy" ranged from Race Officering up to Olympic level at one end, all the way to hospitable cruising with their ubiquitous Hallberg Rassy 48 Tangaroa at the other, with just about everything possible – including continuing as regular Race Officer and Timekeeper for Dublin Bay SC on the big-fixture Thursday evening programme – frequently and competently dealt with in between. 

DANIEL RAYMOND OF DUBLIN (Team Racing)

The energetically-organised Irish Inter-varsities team racers managed to get in their 2020 Championship early in March before the Covid-19 clampdown closed in. The venue was University of Limerick's watersports facility at Killaloe on Lough Derg, and in three decidedly hectic days of Firefly racing, University College Dublin Firsts emerged as overall winners. Their Sailing Captain is Daniel Raymond, so he gets the nod as our Team Racer of the Month, but it's all about team effort, and the complete lineup was Jack Higgins, Daniel Raymond and Patrick Cahill as helms, while crews were Alanna Lyttle, Kathy Kelly and Lucy McCutcheon, with Lucy McCutcheon (winner in 2019) taking the Irish Universities Sailing Association "Crew of the Year" title

The UCD Team at UCLSC's Killaloe base on Lough Derg after winning the 2020 Irish title captained by Daniel Raymond.The UCD Team at UCLSC's Killaloe base on Lough Derg after winning the 2020 Irish title captained by Daniel Raymond.

APRIL

CLAIRE MORGAN OF CROSSHAVEN

When the story of the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland finally comes to be written, there'll be many individuals - both voluntary and professional - who will be recognized as having contributed way beyond the call of duty in helping to fight the scourge. In choosing Claire Morgan of UK Sailmakers of Crosshaven, who worked night and day to change and operate the company's production line to meet the unprecedented demand for PPE gowns, we were honouring one in order to honour the many to whom we all owe our heartfelt thanks.

Claire Morgan after a 12-hour shift making PPE gowns at UK Sailmakers in CrosshavenClaire Morgan after a 12-hour shift making PPE gowns at UK Sailmakers in Crosshaven

MARK MILLS OF WICKLOW (International)

In a time of inevitable national introspection, the design work of Mark Mills was a breath of fresh and global sea air, taking us out of ourselves. Already in 2020, his design work had been recognised with the MDO Montecarlo Trophy for the quality of the biggest vessel to emerge from his County Wicklow design studio to date, the 30-metre Wallycento Tango. And his smaller designs continue to attract, with the rapidly-growing popularity of his Melges IC37 - in which Anthony O'Leary's Royal Cork team took the Bronze at September 2019's New York YC Invitational - a testament to the versatility of this talented naval architect, who has since created the world's first "post-America's Cup 2021 racer/cruiser" for an Italian owner

Mark Mills – his design studio in the heart of County Wicklow creates yacht designs for a global clienteleMark Mills – his design studio in the heart of County Wicklow creates yacht designs for a global clientele

The new 30 metre Wallycento Tango won Mark Mills a major design award. The new 30 metre Wallycento Tango won Mark Mills a major design award

MAY

IAN BYRNE OF HOWTH

With the complex COVID-19 regulations seeing their post-First Wave easing in May, many sailors with boats to fit out and get into commission had difficulty in assessing just what they were permitted to do or not do. But Ian Byrne, Commodore of Howth Yacht Club, made it his business to analyse in detail the national and local regulations and limitations. And then, as various stages were passed, he led his members afloat for a first sail, fully compliant with social-distancing, on Sunday, May 24th. This resulted in a gradual resumption of day sailing, with family and household crews becoming accustomed to the "new normal".

With an excess of information available as the first lockdown eased, HYC Commodore Ian Byrne made it his business to clarify the situation as to how much sailing was permissible, and in what form With an excess of information available as the first lockdown eased, HYC Commodore Ian Byrne made it his business to clarify the situation as to how much sailing was permissible, and in what form

DARIA & ALEX BLACKWELL OF MAYO

Daria and Alex Blackwell of Mayo SC are highly-experienced ocean voyagers, and they're Vice Commodore and Rear Commodore respectively of the Ocean Cruising Club, the global body which currently has hundreds of members' boats currently on long cruises. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these boats had been caught out on long passages not knowing what kind of reception they would get when they reached their destination. From their base on the shores of Clew Bay, Daria and Alex provided assistance and guidance - sometimes including negotiations with national authorities - for many sailors in potentially difficult situations.

The good shepherds…Alex and Daria Blackwell of the Ocean Cruising Club provided an invaluable service for voyagers caught at sea as the pandemic lockdowns closed in.The good shepherds…Alex and Daria Blackwell of the Ocean Cruising Club provided an invaluable service for voyagers caught at sea as the pandemic lockdowns closed in.

One-armed solo sailor Garry Crothers was one of those being monitored by the OCC as he returned home across the Atlantic.One-armed solo sailor Garry Crothers was one of those being monitored by the OCC as he returned home across the Atlantic. Photo: Ken Curry

JUNE

GARRY CROTHERS OF DERRY (OFFSHORE)

When Garry Crothers (64) of Lough Swilly YC solo-sailed his Ovni 435 Kind of Blue towards her berth in Foyle Marina in the heart of the City of Derry, it marked the completion of an extraordinary adventure which had started as the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown fell suddenly into place in the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten in early May.

Garry is one-armed as the consequence of a motorbike accident in 2007, and though he had managed short single-handed passages, he was reliant on crew flying into the shared Dutch/French island to help him sail home the 3,500 miles to Ireland. The rapid spread of the pandemic to central America and the Pacific islands beyond had completely closed off his long-distance cruising plans there, and with the Lockdown in the Caribbean being imposed with increasing severity and indefinite length.

Gary Crothers with his family of daughter Oonagh (left) wife Marie and daughter Amy on Kind of Blue in the Caribbean. Photo: Ken CurryGary Crothers with his family of daughter Oonagh (left) wife Marie and daughter Amy on Kind of Blue in the Caribbean. Photo: Ken Curry

Thus his only options seemed to be to either to sail the boat home with a locally-recruited crew if one could be found, or to lay up with the limited facilities in Sint Maarten, and fly home himself if he could get out. Neither option proved possible, so he simply sailed home by himself, single-handed in every sense of the term.

JOHN KILLEEN OF GALWAY (SERVICES TO THE MARINE)

John Killeen of Galway's services to sailing and the broader maritime world expanded still further in June, when he became Chairman of the RNLI Council for Ireland. This is in addition to his major role as Chairman of the Marine Institute, while he continues to fulfil other top positions – most of them on a voluntary basis – which reflect his deeply-held beliefs on building a better Ireland. In particular, he is devoted to improving the vitality of the national maritime movement, while also promoting the needs and potential of the western seaboard. All this is in addition to his personal enthusiasm for sailing, which was well expressed in the creation in Galway of his dreamship, the 70ft performance cruiser Nimmo.

John Killeen – the enormous input he makes into many aspects of the marina sphere in Ireland increased even further with his appointment as the Chairman of the RNLI Council for IrelandJohn Killeen – the enormous input he makes into many aspects of the marina sphere in Ireland increased even further with his appointment as the Chairman of the RNLI Council for Ireland

JULY

QUINLAN-OWENS FAMILY OF KINVARA

The Sailor of the Month contest has been running for a quarter of a century now, but this may well be the first time the award has gone to a single seagoing family. Vera Quinlan, her husband Peter Owens, and their children Lillian (now 12) and Ruairi (10) departed their home near Kinvara in the southeast corner of Galway Bay with their 43ft steel ketch Danu in June 2019 in anticipation of a comprehensive Atlantic circuit cruise to South America and the Caribbean, concluding back in Galway Bay at the end of August 2020. Despite their plans being battered by the massive international effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Danu and her crew managed to finish a very complete voyage of remarkable variety which include detailed travels ashore, and they thoroughly deserved the warm welcome and congratulations they received from family and friends when they arrived back into Kilronan in the Aran Islands on Wednesday 29th July.

The Quinlan-Owens family at the start of their cruise in June 2019The Quinlan-Owens family at the start of their cruise in June 2019

The 43ft 1993-built Bruce Roberts steel ketch Danu was given a very complete refit by Peter Owens and Vera Quinlan before their award-winning family cruise of the Atlantic circuit The 43ft 1993-built Bruce Roberts steel ketch Danu was given a very complete refit by Peter Owens and Vera Quinlan before their award-winning family cruise of the Atlantic circuit

KIERAN DORGAN OF COBH (SERVICES TO SAILING)

While other clubs have found it a big enough challenge simply resuming sailing in a regulation-compliant way, the 101-year-old Cove Sailing Club in Cork Harbour has also been bringing its new marina on stream, and in addition to resuming club sailing, it staged the first open event of the delayed 2020 season, the Squib Southerns, on July 25th-26th. It has been a superb team effort, but all teams need effective leadership, and CSC Commodore Kieran Dorgan has been providing it in a family tradition - his father Barry was in the same role, while on the water Kieran himself is no stranger to the front of the fleet with his First 36.7 Altair.

Kieran Dorgan of Cove Sailing ClubKieran Dorgan of Cove Sailing Club

AUGUST

MURPHY FAMILY AND NIEULARGO OF CROSSHAVEN 

There are many boats in Ireland that are in the happy position of being regarded as one of the family, yet few fulfil that role so completely as Denis and Annamarie Murphy of Crosshaven's beloved Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo. Aboard her, guesting superstars are swept into the onboard mood so totally that they become "honorary Murphys", and as likely as not when Nieulargo confidently overtakes you, you'll find that one of the talented Murphy sisters is serenely on the helm.

This very complete approach reached new heights in August, when Nieulargo took line honours and the overall win in the Kinsale-Fasnet-Kinsale race, and then a fortnight later took the overall win and second in line honours in the Fastnet 450. The Irish sailing world is a better place for Nieulargo being at the heart of it, and she puts us in the happy position of being able to honour another special Irish sailing family for the second month in a row.

Nieulargo's crew after winning the Fastnet 450 are (left to right, standing) Denis, Annamarie & Molly Murphy, Mark "Nipper" Murphy (no relation), Killian Collins and Clive O'Shea, front row Mia Murphy, Cian Byrne, James Fegan and Nin O'LearyNieulargo's crew after winning the Fastnet 450 are (left to right, standing) Denis, Annamarie & Molly Murphy, Mark "Nipper" Murphy (no relation), Killian Collins and Clive O'Shea, front row Mia Murphy, Cian Byrne, James Fegan and Nin O'Leary. Photo: North Sails 

ADMIRAL COLIN MOREHEAD OF CROSSHAVEN & COMMODORE MARTIN McCARTHY OF DUN LAOGHAIRE (SERVICES TO SAILING)

It is unusual to have two leading figures sharing the "Sailor of the Month (Services to Sailing)" award. And it surely unique when one is Admiral of the world's oldest yacht club, the Royal Cork at Crosshaven, in its Tricentenary Year, while the other is Commodore of the National YC in Dun Laoghaire as it marks its 150th Anniversary.

Colin Morehead, Admiral of the Royal Cork Yacht Club. His graceful acceptance of the pandemic lockdown's adverse effect on his club's planned Tricentenary, and his enthusiasm in getting sailing going again as soon as possible, set a fine example for the entire Irish sailing communityColin Morehead, Admiral of the Royal Cork Yacht Club. His graceful acceptance of the pandemic lockdown's adverse effect on his club's planned Tricentenary, and his enthusiasm in getting sailing going again as soon as possible, set a fine example for the entire Irish sailing community. Photo: Robert Bateman

Yet both have shared an indomitable spirit in encouraging and leading their members in whatever sailing and club activity is possible through the COVID-19 crisis, and both, in turn, have received their members' support with a sense of responsible community which is a credit to both clubs, and to Irish sailing generally.

Commodore Martin McCarthy took a hands-on approach to the club's annual lift-in at the end of April. Despite the frustrations of lockdown in the NYC's 150th Anniversary Year, he was able to host the start of the Fastnet 450, and also very successful Sesquicentennial Regatta.Commodore at work…NYC Commodore Martin McCarthy took a hands-on approach to the club's annual lift-in at the end of April. Despite the frustrations of lockdown in the NYC's 150th Anniversary Year, he was able to host the start of the Fastnet 450, and also very successful Sesquicentennial Regatta. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien

This was celebrated by a very special occasion on the morning of Saturday, August 22nd, when a small but select and carefully-choreographed gathering, hosted by Commodore Martin McCarthy at the National YC, marked the imminent start of the Fastnet 450 Race to the Fastnet Rock and Crosshaven.

Admiral Morehead attended from Cork – as did his predecessor Thomas G French for the first such race 160 years ago, in 1860 - and there too was the new Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Councillor Una Power, to show her support for the increasingly important role sailing fulfils in Dun Laoghaire Harbour, and to express the respect which Ireland's maritime world feels for the venerable Royal Cork Yacht Club.

nto the limelight – young Johnny Flynn of Howth takes the Irish Optimist nationals by one point at Crosshaven, RCYC Admiral Colin Morehead on right in a socially-distaned ceremony  Photo: Robert BatemanInto the limelight – young Johnny Flynn of Howth takes the Irish Optimist nationals by one point at Crosshaven, RCYC Admiral Colin Morehead on right in a socially-distanced ceremony Photo: Robert Bateman

Johnny Flynn of Howth (Junior)

One of the few national championships which was staged in 2020 was the AIB Optimist Irish Nationals with a 73-boat fleet at the Royal Cork YC in Crosshaven in mid-August. In sometimes flukey conditions, it went right to the wire with young Johnny Flynn of Howth taking the title by one point in the last race from Ben O’Shaughnessy of the host club, and Howth club-mate Rocco Wright in third.

SEPTEMBER

TOM DOLAN OF MEATH (INTERNATIONAL)

When Meathman Tom Dolan heads off for a solo or double-handed campaign with the Figaro 3 Smurfit Kappa from his French base at Concarneau, the Irish sailing community is with him all the way. But as the truncated 2020 season finally got going, we'd to control our hopes until it became clear whether or not the psychological coaching he'd been working with was paying dividends.

Tom Dolan brought his Figaro 3 Smurfit Kappa firmly into the frame in 2020Tom Dolan brought his Figaro 3 Smurfit Kappa firmly into the frame in 2020

His 2019 season with the new foiling Figaro 3 had been frustrating in the extreme, as he had the speed, but the tactics and strategy were way off target, and this put him well into the lower half of the fleet. Yet as 2020's main event, the Figaro Solitaire itself through the first three weeks of September, gradually took shape, it was clear that Smurfit Kappa had at least as much speed as before, but now it was in the most beneficial directions.

Even when he'd been down the numbers in the early stages of one of the legs, Tom Dolan and his boat were soon eating their way up through the fleet in any situation which demanded difficult tactical decisions. His fifth overall at the finish – the highest-placed non-French sailor and winner of the Vivi Cup – had him right among the international elite in one of 2020's few major events.

ROB O'LEARY OF BALTIMORE (INSHORE)

The O'Leary family of Crosshaven and Baltimore have a fine reputation for top-level competitive sailing allied with ready enthusiasm for volunteering in services to our sport, and Rob the youngest O'Leary brother is following this tradition. Having served successfully as Captain of his university sailing club, he is now a newbie on the Committee of Baltimore SC in West Cork as the Honorary Sailing Secretary in this most demanding of years, when flexibility in planning and nimbleness in organisation has been the essential approach in keeping sailing alive yet compliant. And he is equally a pace-setter afloat, having helmed the winning 1720 in the Baltimore Cup, the Southerns, and most recently the Munsters in Cork Harbour, racing in one of the most competitive fleets in the country.

Rob O'Leary, 1720 Champion of 2020Rob O'Leary, 1720 Champion of 2020. Photo: Robert Bateman

PAUL O'HIGGINS OF DUN LAOGHAIRE (OFFSHORE)

One of the many "little miracles" which kept Irish sailing alive and active during the continually-changing official restrictions in the summer of 2020 was the flexible and effective administration of the Irish side of the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association's annual programme by ISORA Chairman Peter Ryan of the National YC.

But in order to succeed in this, he needed the support of the skippers and crews who enjoy what ISORA has on offer, yet in a normal year would be able to plan their programme well in advance. This wasn't possible in 2020, but thanks to a generous spirit among those involved, the Irish boats in ISORA had a very good season in the circumstances. Once again it came down to the outcome of the last race in September, and once again the final race overall winner, and new 2020 champion, was Paul O'Higgins (Royal Irish YC) with the JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI.

Paul O'Higgins (Sailor of the Year 2019) successfully defended his 2019 ISORA title in 2020 with his JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI.Paul O'Higgins (Sailor of the Year 2019) successfully defended his 2019 ISORA title in 2020 with his JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien

BEN GRAF OF LOUGH REE (JUNIOR)

Teenage skipper Ben Graf of the 250-year-old Lough Ree YC became September's Junior "Sailor of the Month" on the strength of a remarkably varied lineup of successes which reached a new level during the late season. Having won the 420 Nationals at Dunmore East crewed by Alexander Farrell, he repeated the performance of gaining top slot at the 420 Northerns at Ballyholme, and then immediately transferred back to Lough Ree for another bout of successful helming in the SB20 Class. He has also figured in Shannon One Design racing, and in a new departure for 2020, he and Farrell made their impressive debut in the Fireball Class in anticipation of the Worlds in Ireland in 2021.

Ben Graf on helm and Alexander Farrell on wire as they shape their champion International 420 for a startBen Graf on helm and Alexander Farrell on wire as they shape their champion International 420 for a start.

Action stations. Catherine Hunt and Pamela Lee powering along on board the round Ireland record-breaking Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta Action stations. Catherine Hunt and Pamela Lee powering along on board the round Ireland record-breaking Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta

OCTOBER

PAMELA LEE OF GREYSTONES & CATHERINE HUNT 

The new Round Ireland Two-handed Record Holders, RL Sailing's Pamela Lee of Greystones SC and Catherine Hunt, were acclaimed as October's "Sailors of the Month" after a superbly-executed circuit of our island home which went way beyond their initial challenge of establishing a significant speed for a female two-handed crew. Their time of 3 days 19 hours and 45 minutes in the Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta was not only many hours clear of previous comparable circuits by any crews of two-handed sailors, but was impressively close to record times set by fully-crewed larger boats - and it was all done so stylishly that this was sailing as performance art.

Fast and steady and in the right direction- Iarracht Maigeanta with the kind of sailing that established the new Round Ireland Two-Handed Record Fast and steady and in the right direction- Iarracht Maigeanta with the kind of sailing that established the new Round Ireland Two-Handed Record

NOVEMBER

MARCUS SPILLANE OF CORK (INTERNATIONAL)

The election of Marcus Spillane – originally of Cork – to a Vice Presidency of World Sailing in November was the latest step in an extraordinary involvement in sailing which has seen him compete in many world championships – most notably in the International 49er – while at the same time playing key roles in global sailing administration. He did much of the heavy lifting in making the Olympic International 49er Association the force it is today, serving as Class CEO for six years and becoming President for eight. Then when the Olympic NACRA 17 class came into being, he was persuaded to take on its Presidency for its first four formative years. Though now US-based, he maintains his close links with Ireland through being Treasurer to Irish Sailing's Olympic Steering Group.

In the thick of it – new World Sailing Vice President Marcus Spillane and Rory Fitzpatrick racing a 49er.In the thick of it – new World Sailing Vice President Marcus Spillane and Rory Fitzpatrick racing a 49er.

DONAL O'SULLIVAN OF DUN LAOGHAIRE

Anyone who writes the history at the Centenary of one of his long-affiliated sailing clubs in 1984, and then writes the history of his other club at its 150th (Sesquicentennial) some 36 years later in 2020, is clearly someone profoundly committed to the legends and lore of our highly individualistic sport. In those circumstances, you might expect that his interest is academic rather than active. But Donal O'Sullivan – longtime Honorary Secretary of Dublin Bay SC and its Centenary history writer in 1984, and more recently historian of the National Yacht Club with his new Chronicles of the NYC published in November 2020 - is very much a longtime 'actif' in the Dublin Bay racing scene afloat, while his books bring a depth and breadth which enable him to put our sometimes narrowly-focused sport into its larger context, thereby defining its proper role in the national narrative.

Donal O'Sullivan – a fount of erudition in sailing and local historyDonal O'Sullivan – a fount of erudition in sailing and local history

DECEMBER

PETER RYAN OF DUN LAOGHAIRE (SERVICES TO SAILING)

Peter Ryan of Dun Laoghaire is a dedicated sailing enthusiast – particularly for offshore racing – whose affable exterior camouflages the fact that his brain is busily whirring with ideas for improving the sport. Thus when the challenges of pandemic shoreside shutdown arose, he grasped the opportunities provided by being Chairman of the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association and having access to a generously donated consignment of Yellowbrick trackers, and set about devising a coastal racing programme which would comply with regulations while still providing good sport.

Peter Ryan at the helm of the J/109 Mojito in the Fastnet RacePeter Ryan at the helm of the J/109 Mojito in the Fastnet Race

It may not have been offshore racing as we know it, as it lacked the post-race parties previously thought indispensable. But it was a proper racing programme nevertheless, while the general ISORA contribution to the legitimate continuation of the sport was also seen in the loan of the Yellowbricks for the excellent Fastnet 450 race in August, and the hugely successful Round Ireland Two-Handed Challenge by Pam Lee of Greystones and Cat Hunt with the Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta in October. 

DON STREET OF GLANDORE (INTERNATIONAL)

Don Street of Glandore and the Caribbean was celebrated in December to mark his continuing and inspirational joy in sailing at the age of 90, and in honour of the remarkable contribution he has made to our sport, both in the many areas of his active and successful involvement afloat, and in his writing of many books – cruising guides and technical manuals alike - which have been a source of encouragement for his international legions of followers.

Don's sailing is such a mixture of experiences that anyone can find something of interest in his writings, and for a connoisseur, it's all pure gold. In much of 2020, the lockdowns meant he was restricted to Glandore and the Dragons, but typically he made the most of it to inspire young and old alike. 

As keen as ever…..Don Street in GlandoreDon Street

The Afloat.ie Sailor of the Irish Sailor of the Year Award will be presented in February 2020.

Published in W M Nixon
Tagged under

Irish sailing may have gone very public and centre stage in the national consciousness in August 2016, when our Olympic squad performed with distinction. But all round the coast and on the lakes, and at major venues overseas, sailing events large and small, local, national and international, continued as before. W M Nixon looks back on the Afloat.ie “Sailors of the Month” awards for a very special year.

JANUARY SAILOR OF THE MONTH

ENDA O'COINEEN

In the countdown to Christmas, the thoughts of many in the Irish sailing community were in mid-Atlantic, where Enda O Coineen, was in an IMOCA 60 race from the Caribbean to Brittany.

He’d started a day after the rest of the fleet while a mechanical problem was being sorted. But then Kilcullen Voyager got going. to take third, qualifying for the Vendee Globe.

Enda OCoineen2All his Christmases come at once – Enda O Coineen celebrates as he closes in on third place in the Transatlantic Race
JANUARY YOUTH SAILORS OF THE MONTH

DOUGLAS ELMES AND COLIN O’SULLIVAN

Ireland’s youth sailing programme for 2016 got off to a rocket-assisted start with Doug Elmes (17) and Colin O’Sullivan (16) winning the bronze in the 420 Worlds 2015 in the final hours of the old year at Langkawi in Malaysia. Sailing conditions were brilliant – and so were they.

Douglas elmes Colin OSullivanDoug Elmes & Colin O’Sullivan with their Bronze Medals in January. Photo W M Nixon
FEBRUARY SAILOR OF THE MONTH (RACING)

CONOR FOGERTY

The very thought of the annual RORC Caribbean 600 relieves the February gloom, and 2016’s was vintage, with Conor Fogerty of Howth YC doing it as part of his Atlantic circuit voyage with his new Jeanneau Sunfast 3600 Bam! His superb overall win in Class 3 was a tonic for the folks at home.

Conor FogertyConor Fogerty, winner of Class 3 in the RORC Caribbean 600. Photo W M Nixon
FEBRUARY SAILOR OF THE MONTH (CRUISING)

ALAN ROUNTREE

The normally private world of cruising goes public in February with the announcement of the Irish Cruising Club’s annual awards, and veteran skipper Alan Rountree of Wicklow with his own-built 34 footer Tallulah took the top trophies for a textbook venture to Spain and the Azores, successfully returning single-handed in severe weather.

Alan rountreeAlan Rountree’s much-travelled 34ft Tallulah. Photo W M Nixon
MARCH SAILOR OF THE MONTH

CONOR PHELAN

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. Conor Phelan of Cork with his 2008-vintage Ker 36 Jump Juice was lying second in Class 2 during the wintry RORC Easter Challenge on the Solent until the final day, Black Sunday, brought extreme conditions and mayhem. Jump Juice simply flew through it to take the overall win

83ed564b3fb5127151983c8559f561f3 LConor Phelan's IRL 2007 Jump Juice gives chase on the Solent

APRIL SAILORS OF THE MONTH (OLYMPIC)

RYAN SEATON & MATT MCGOVERN

April’s Princess Sofia regatta in Palma was a major test for many Olympic hopefuls, and Belfast Lough’s Ryan Seaton & Matt McGovern in the 49er had to fight every inch of the way to snatch Gold by one point in the final race from Australian superstars Nathan Otteridge and Iain Jensen.

Ryan seaton Matt McGovernMatt McGovern and Ryan Seaton in their way to Gold in Palma
APRIL SAILOR OF THE MONTH

SHANE McCARTHY

The 2016 GP 14 Worlds in Barbados in April was a triumph for the enthusiastic Irish division of this vintage dinghy class. By a master-stroke of logistics, they managed to get 22 boats to the venue, and then Shane McCarthy of Greystones, crewed by Andy Davis, won the Gold Medal.

Shane McCarthyShane McCarthy & Andy Davis, GP 14 World Champions 2016
MAY SAILOR OF THE MONTH (OLYMPIC)

FINN LYNCH

The already-secure Irish place in the Men’s Lasers at the Rio Olympics August 2016 was still up for grabs at the personal level at the ISAF Worlds in Mexico in late May. Despite being impaired by a training injury, Finn Lynch of County Carlow (who had turned 20 only a few weeks earlier) secured the coveted slot after a year’s campaigning supported by voluntary contributions.

Finn LynchFinn Lynch, youngest sailor in the Olympics 2016
MAY SAILOR OF THE MONTH (POWERBOATS)

JOHN RYAN

In the round Ireland sailing record, challengers have been happy enough to chop and hour or two off the established time. But in perfect conditions in May for the powerboat record, John Ryan’s 40ft Team Hibernia was the right boat in the right place at the right time, and with the right crew – they knocked six hours off the previous best to go round in 12 hours 54 minutes and 24 seconds.

John RyanJohn Ryan at the helm in his formidable 40-footer Team Hibernia
MAY SAILOR OF THE MONTH

DARA O’MALLEY

Dara O’Malley is originally from Westport in Mayo, but he has long been based in Edinburgh and sails in Scotland. We know that the sailors in the Irish diaspora worldwide take a keen interest in our Afloat.ie Sailors of the Month, so it was a special pleasure to make Dara SoM May 2016 after he was overall winner of the Scottish Series with his Hunter 707 Seaword.

Dara OMalleyDara O’Malley (second left) after winning the Scottish Series
INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR MAY

SYDNEY GAVIGNET

The Round Ireland Record of 44-hours set by Steve Fossett’s catamaran Lakota in 1993 had long looked unbeatable. France’s Sydney Gavignet with the MOD 70 Oman Sailing had already tried three times when he took on the challenge again early in May 2016. This time they did it, bringing the time down to just above 40 hours.

JUNE INTERNATIONAL SAILOR OF THE MONTH (1)

GEORGE DAVID

The Volvo Round Ireland Race from Wicklow with its 63-strong star-quality fleet completely eclipsed everything else in June, and in the mono-hull division George David’s wonderful Rambler 88 eclipsed all others with a virtually perfect performance to take line honours and then hold onto the overall IRC lead by a huge margin. An unrivalled performance.

som 201612Cutting through….Rambler 88 looked like a winner from the start of the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016. Photo W M Nixon

JUNE INTERNATIONAL SAILOR OF THE MONTH (2)

DAMIAN FOXALL

An event as special as the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland Race deserved a cascade of awards. Ireland’s own international sailing superstar Damian Foxall played a key role in ensuring that three MOD 70s took part. And he raced on the winning boat Oman Sail to break the new record, giving him his own special place in the Round Ireland lineup of prize-winners.

som 201613Oman Sailing (left) finished ahead of Phaedo 3 (right) at the finish of the race round Ireland Photo: W M Nixon
JUNE SAILOR OF THE MONTH

DAVE CULLEN

With so many visiting super-boats, it was quite something to get into the frame in any division, and only one Irish boat actually won her class. This was the J/109 Euro Car Parks skippered by Dave Cullen of Howth, coming from behind to be outright winner of Class 3 after a very closely-fought race.

som 201614The J/109 Euro Car parks was the only Irish class winner in the Volvo Round Ireland race 2016. Photo: W M Nixon
JULY SAILOR OF THE MONTH (RACING)

EWAN MACMAHON

The KBC Laser Radial Worlds in Dublin Bay in July 2016 attracted a fleet of 350 boats from 34 countries, making it the year’s biggest dinghy event by far. Several young Irish sailors performed notably well, but 17-year-old Ewan MacMahon of Howth was in a league of his own, emerging with the Silver Medal after meeting the challenge with cool consistency.

Ewan MacMahonEwan MacMahon in action in the KBC Laser Radial Worlds
JULY SAILORS OF THE MONTH (CRUISING)

PARAIC O’MAOLRIADA & MYRA REID

Taking six years to cruise round the world with an Amel Super Maramu 54 ketch is about as different as possible from the experiences of a Laser-filled Dublin Bay. Yet this too is part of our diverse sport, and in July Paraic O’Maolriada and Myra Reid (they’ve been married 49 years) sailed quietly back into Kinsale with their ketch Saol Eile to complete a perfect venture.

PARAIC OMAOLRIADA  MYRA REIDMyra Reid and her husband Paraic O’Maolriada relax in Kinsale after completing their six year voyage round the world. Photo Bob Bateman

JULY SAILORS OF THE MONTH SPECIAL AWARDS

COMMANDANT BARRY BYRNE & THE IRISH DEFENCE FORCES BEAUFORT CUP CREW

Any biennial Volvo Cork Week is special, and 2016’s was extra special with the inauguration of the Beaufort Cup series for international competition between sailing crews from defence forces and national security agencies with a maritime arm. First winners were Commandant Barry Byrne and a crew from the Irish Defence Forces racing the J/109 Joker II provided by John Maybury.

Defence forces sailingThe Defence Forces crew on he J/109 Joker II, first winners of the new Beaufort Cup

AUGUST SAILOR OF THE MONTH

ANNALISE MURPHY

It was only in boat sports that Ireland won any medals in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The National Yacht Club’s Annalise Murphy win of the Silver Medal in the Laser Radial Women’s was richly deserved but hard earned in the concluding Medals Race, a cliff-hanger which had the entire country holding its breath for the final seconds until her Silver was confirmed on the line.

som 201618Out on her own, Annalise Murphy racing her Laser Radial on one of the less summery days in the Rio Olympics

SEPTEMBER SAILOR OF THE MONTH (INSHORE)

JOHNNY DURCAN

Young Johnny Durcan of the Royal Cork Yacht Club is normally a lone star of the Laser Class. But at the end of September, crewed by Flor Lyden of the National YC, he showed himself well able for a two-handed boat with a good overall win in the ISA All Ireland Junior Championship at Schull, racing the TR 3.6 dinghies.

Johnny durcanJohnny Durcan at home in his Laser. But he showed he could win the All-Ireland Juniors racing two handed

SEPTEMBER SAILOR OF THE MONTH (OFFSHORE)

STEPHEN TUDOR

The Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association is in a healthy growth phase these days, and a key player is Stephen Tudor of Pwllheli in North Wales, where has also done much to re-vitalise his home port. Thus his overall win of the 2016 ISORA Championship in the final race of the season was hugely popular on both sides of the channel.

Sgrech stephen tudorChampions of the Irish Sea – Stephen Tudor’s J/109 Sgrech from Pwllheli

OCTOBER SAILOR OF THE MONTH (INSHORE)

ALEX BARRY

RS 400 2016 National Champion Alex Barry of Monkstown and Royal Cork made history in the first weekend of October by winning the first All Ireland Championship to be raced in the new Ultra version of Crosshaven’s iconic National 18s. It was a true Championship of Champions, going right to the wire for the closest of victories.

Alex BarryHistoric moment. New All Ireland Champion Alex Barry with ISA President David Lovegrove (left) and Royal Cork Admiral John Roche (right).
OCTOBER SAILOR OF THE MONTH (OFFSHORE)

IAN MOORE

Renowned international navigator and tactician Ian Mooore – originally of Carrickfergus – had one of his best seasons ever in 2016 in a variety of front-line boats. But the clear overall victory he provided for the Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino in the Rolex Middle Sea was sweetest of all, as the same team missed the overall win in 2015 by just nine seconds.

Ian mooreIan Moore was one of the most successful navigator/tacticians in the world in 2016

November and December Awards will be made at the end of each respective month and are listed here

Voting for the Sailor of the Year opens on January 1st on www.afloat.ie. The awards ceremony will be held on Friday, January 27th at the RDS Library, Dublin

Published in W M Nixon
Tagged under

Dave Gorman and Chris Doorly of the National Yacht Club are our “Sailors of the Month” for September on the basis of a great half hour or so of sailing in Dublin Bay on the morning of Sunday 13th September.

Anyone who read Chris Doorly’s riveting account on Afloat.ie of the penultimate race of the Mitsubishi Motors Flying Fifteen Championship, and has raced a sailing boat at any level – whether local, regional, national or international – will have identified totally with this dedicated duo as they sailed their hearts out. And they did it all just to secure a third place, in order to put themselves in the happy position of knowing they were champions without having to sail the last race.

It would be quite something in a club race or a major regatta series. But this was the big one, the Irish Championship with visiting superstar Steve Goacher – three times World Champion – expected to sweep the board. And even if he was off form – which he wasn’t - the class in Dun Laoghaire is now in such vibrant condition, and growing, that the lively home fleet was putting up half a dozen crews who were in there with more than a shout.

But Chris and Dave did it. And being proper sportsmen, they stil sailed the last race anyway, but the fact that they were able to discard the fourth place it provided shows the kind of form they’d been in throughout the championship.

It cannot be said too often that winning a series is more a matter of solid consistency than occasional flashes of total brilliance. In the end, though, it can all come down to something so mundane as securing a third place at just the right time. But as Dave and Chris had been lying sixth until they realized the need to up their game, and saw a way of doing so, what they achieved is something we can all identify with, making them ideal “Sailors of the Month”.

Published in Sailor of the Month

#rorcsrbi –  Liam Coyne of Dun Laoghaire and Brian Flahive of Wicklow are the Afloat.ie "Sailors of the Month" for August 2014, following their stunning and comprehensive success in the 1,802 mile RORC Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race. In it, with the standard First 36.7 Lula Belle, they topped the Two-Handed Division, won two of the RORC classes against opposition which included fully-crewed boats, and finished sixth overall in a fleet in which the results were otherwise dominated by much bigger boats with a large professional element in their crews.

In fact, some of the crews were wholly professional. But the two Irish amateurs not only did the race out of their own time and resources, but they had to be their own shore management and technical support team as well.

In a very gruelling race in which they battled on to success in ferocious conditions which saw them having to cope with a wide range of gear and electronic equipment failure, their sheer enthusiasm and grit was an inspiration to the entire Irish maritime community for the 12 days of the race.

While their challenge was made through the National YC of Dun Laoghaire where Liam (47) is a member, Brian (31) is very much a stalwart of Wicklow SC, where he learned his sailing in the training progammes since childhood. Liam meanwhile didn't start sailing at all until he was 38, and his first club was Poolbeg (to which he retains close links), while the duo also used the ISORA programme extensively to develop their performance. With Brian providing the skill gained in years of sailing, and Liam making a huge input of entrepreneurial flair and unstoppable enthusiasm, the synergy between the two created a formidable challenge which has achieved well-merited international success. 

lulabelle rorcsrbi

On their way – Lula Belle sails fast eastward out of the Solent at the start of the 1802-mile antic-clockwise circuit of Britain and Ireland. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Published in Sailor of the Month

#irish49er – Their meteoric rise from 33rd to 11th in the ISAF Global Rankings for the 49er Olympic Class gave international recognition to the April achievement of Belfast Lough's Ryan Seaton (24) and Matt McGovern (26). They brought home the Silver Medal from the ISAF World Championship in Hyeres on France's Mediterranean coast, and although it was a high-achieving month for Irish sailing generally at home and abroad, it makes them clear winners of the Afloat.ie Sailors of the Month title for April.

This is no flash-in-the-pan success. Seaton, who calls Carrickfergus home, and longtime sailing partner McGovern from Bangor on the other side of the lough, have been genuine contenders in this demanding class since the buildup to the 2012 Olympics, when they emerged in the front ranks. While they're well aware that sailing conditions in Brazil in 2016 will be very different from the brisk weather which helped them to start making their mark at Weymouth two years ago, their campaign is steadily developing.

Next up for the busy duo – who have admitted it took a day or two for the full significance of their silver to sink in – is a series of majors in Europe as the 2014 season develops. It's a hectic pace with the Garda EuroSAF Championship from May 8th to 12th, the often blustery Delta Lloyd Regatta in The Netherlands (May 21st to 25th), and Sail for Gold at Weymouth in the first week of June. It's all serious challenges coming down the line. But for now we salute Ryan Seaton & Matt McGovern, Sailors of the Month for April 2014.

Published in Sailor of the Month

The sailing season is starting and selecting the Afloat.ie/Irish Independent "Sailors of the Month" for March has been a swift business, with the remarkable performance by Peter O'Leary of Cork and David Burrows of Malahide in the Olympic Star Class's legendary annual Bacardi Cup series in Miami emerging as the clear winner.

Admittedly the Irish duo only managed the runner-up slot in Florida. But in a fleet of 93 boats rampaging around in wildly varying conditions, it was an achievement to be at the top of the frame at all. And they were beaten by only one point, even if it was lost in the final race, which they'd started leading overall by a point.

Because the Stars are under a death sentence in the Olympic scene, with next year's Olympiad their final appearance in the five ring circus, the class has acquired an extra slightly morbid interest. And the boat tuning and tweaking knowledge acquired during their long Olympic career will see the class's measurement and equipment rules pushed to the uttermost for this last hurrah.

In fact, some Star fans have become emotional and compared the showdown to a combination of the OK Corral, the Alamo, and Custer's Last Stand in light of the Star's American origins, while the more internationally and nautically minded have invoked memories of Trafalgar and Lepanto.

And all this for one of the oddest looking and most demanding boats on the planet. The Olympic glow does that to people. This time round, we happily glow ourselves, as the O'Leary-Burrows team (each has figured as Sailor of the Month before, but this is their first time together) and the combinations shows every promise of having what it takes.

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