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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
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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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