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Not many were surprised when the Irish Sailing Youth National Championships, which have been taking place at the Royal Cork Yacht Club since Thursday, concluded early due to the landing of Storm Kathleen and a deteriorating forecast for the following day.

After four classes managed to complete their series earlier on Thursday, race management made the decision to abandon the remaining races for the safety of the sailors. 

Sean Evans, Irish Sailing High Performance Youth Development Manager, expressed his disappointment at the decision, stating, "It is with a heavy heart that race management has made the decision to cancel the remainder of the event due to the adverse weather. The safety of our sailors will always come first." 

Despite the cancellation, the one day of racing that did occur showcased an impressive level of talent, illustrating the bright future of Irish sailing. Talks from Faye St Leger, Development Strength and Conditioning Coach, and a Coaches' Development Conference were still scheduled to take place later in the day. 

The prizegiving event is scheduled to take place at 2:30 p.m., with Irish Sailing President John Twomey presenting the trophies. 

Irish Sailing Youth National Championships Final Results:

ILCA 6

Bobby Driscoll, Ballyholme Yacht Club
Andrew Kingston, Royal Cork Yacht Club
Lewis Thompson, Ballyhome Yacht Club

29ers

  1. Clementine Van Steenberg & Jessica Riordan, The National Yacht Club and The Royal St. George Yacht Club
  2. Oisin Pierse & Fionn Daly, Royal Cork Yacht Club
  3. Hugh Meaghar & Oisin Alexander, National Yacht Club

420

  1. Max Sweetman & Fionn Lynch, Waterford Harbour Sailing Club
  2. Cora McNaughton & Sean Cronin, Blessington Sailing Club
  3. Sean Lemonier & Killian Matthieu, Galway Bay Sailing Club

Opti

  1. Max O’Hare, Royal St. George Yacht Club and Malahide Yacht Club
  2. Patrick Fegan, Royal St George Yacht Club
  3. Juliet Ryan, Royal St. George Yacht Club, Malahide Yacht Club

Full results below

Published in Youth Sailing

The second day of racing at the 2024 Irish Sailing Youth National Championships at Crosshaven in Cork Harbour has been cancelled due to strong winds. 

Organisers completed a successful first day of races on Thursday for over 90 boats and more than 100 sailors, as Afloat reports here.

After a number of postponements this morning, Friday's racing was cancelled for all classes at lunchtime due to winds reaching over 30 mph.

Over 170 young sailors in six classes are set to compete in Ireland’s largest youth regatta, which was scheduled to continue this weekend.

However, the imminent arrival of Storm Kathleen, that has already altered other weekend sailing events, means organisers have deemed it 'unsafe to go on the water' for the rest of today or Saturday. 

'Based on current forecasts, all on-the-water activity is now postponed until Sunday 7 April', organisers note.

Bibs were also awarded to leading sailors after Day One's races with current positions standing:

ILCA 6

  1. Bobby Driscoll
  2. Andrew Kingston
  3. Lewis Thompson

29ers

  1. Clementine Van Steenberg & Jessica Riordan
  2. Oisin Pierse & Fionn Daly
  3. Hugh Maher & Oisin Alexander

420

  1. Max Sweetman & Fionn Lynch
  2. Cora McNaughton & Sean Cronin
  3. Sean Lemonier & Killian Matthieu
Published in Youth Sailing

Over 90 boats and more than 100 sailors competed on a wet opening Thursday at the Irish Sailing Youth National Championships ahead of Storm Kathleen's expected arrival in Cork Harbour this weekend.

The Royal Cork Yacht Club-hosted event saw three dinghy classes compete on one course—ILCA 6, 420, and 29er—while the Optimist class ran on a separate course.

Reigning world champion Clementine Van Steenberge of the National Yacht Club, sailing with new crew Jessica Riordan of the Royal St. Goerge Yacht Club, stamped their authority on the eight-boat 29er skiff fleet, winning two of the four races sailed to lead by seven points from Oisin Pierse and Fionn Daly on 13. Third is Hugh Meagher and Oisin Alexander on 16. 

With three wins from four races Max O'Hare of the Royal St. George Yacht Club leads the 38-boat Optimist class by seven points. Patrick Fegan lies second on 15 with last weekend's Brassed Off Cup winner at Howth, Juliet Ryan lying third. 

Belfast Lough's Bobby Driscoll has a three-point advantage at the top of the leaderboard after four races sailed in the 29-boat ILCA 6 class. The Ballyholme Yacht Club sailor won the first three races to be ahead of Andrew Kingston on 12 and Lewis Thompson on 20.

An ILCA 6 competitor completes a tack on the first day of the Irish Sailing Youth National Championships at Crosshaven in Cork HarbourAn ILCA 6 competitor completes a tack on the first day of the Irish Sailing Youth National Championships at Crosshaven in Cork Harbour

Waterford Harbour reigning Ulster champions Max Sweetman and Fionn Lynch lead by a point after four races sailed in the 16-boat 420 class from Cora McNaughton and Sean Cronin (BSC/MSC) on eight. Third is Galway Bay duo Sean Lemonier and Killian Mathieu on 10.

Sean Evans, High-Performance Development Manager for Irish Sailing, said, “The standard on the water was phenomenal, and it was obvious that a lot of hard work has gone in over the winter by these young sailors. I must congratulate the event committee for managing to run four races today, maximising the current sailable conditions ahead of storm Kathleen, which is forecast to hit our shores over the weekend. We will now look forward to the weekend hoping we can get in some more racing for the series.”

Racing is scheduled over the next three days.

Results below

Published in Youth Sailing
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Over 170 young sailors are set to compete in Ireland’s largest youth regatta, which starts today, April 4th at Crosshaven in Cork Harbour.

The 2024 Irish Sailing Youth National Championships, which will be hosted by the Royal Cork Yacht Club and sponsored by Waterman Kelly Consulting Engineers, is a four-day event that runs until April 7th.

The young sailors will compete for their chance to be noticed by Irish Sailing’s Youth Squad and Academy coaches, who are on the lookout for promising talent. The performance pathway programme offers an opportunity for hardworking sailors to enhance and develop their skills, allowing them to progress from junior and youth squads into senior development and the national team.

The Irish Sailing Youth National Championships is a unique event, bringing together different youth classes to compete, gain valuable experience on the water, and learn more about the Irish Sailing Performance Pathway Programme directly from the coaches. The host club is known for producing excellent youth sailors, including Irish Youth Sailor of the Year Ben O’Shaughnessy, and is home to current 49er campaigners Séafra Guilfoyle and Johnny Durcan.

The six classes competing in the championships have been identified as the best to facilitate progression through the Irish Sailing Performance Pathway: Optimist, Topper, ILCA 4, ILCA 6, 420s (above)and 29ers.The six classes competing in the championships have been identified as the best to facilitate progression through the Irish Sailing Performance Pathway: Optimist, Topper, ILCA 4, ILCA 6, 420s and 29ers Photo: Bob Bateman

Speaking about the event, Sean Evans, Irish Sailing Development Manager, said, “The Youth Nationals is a key event for those starting off their sailing career. It’s an opportunity for sailors from across the nation to test what they have been developing and perfecting within their clubs against the best competition. Regardless of where you are in your development, it’s a journey, and Irish Sailing’s youth and junior coaches will be out on the water and on the land to watch every start, tack, and gybe.”

The Irish Sailing Youth National Championships is the largest youth sailing event held in Ireland, and it provides a platform for young sailors to showcase their skills and compete against the best in the country. It promises to be an exciting and action-packed event, with the future stars of Irish sailing on full display.

Published in Youth Sailing

With just a fortnight to the first gun, confirmed entries for this year’s Waterman Kelly-sponsored Irish Sailing Youth National Championships in Cork Harbour have reached 165 sailors across the six competing dinghy classes.

While the April event is open to all, competitors are expected to be competent in sailing in a sustained fresh breeze and have experience competing in regional or national events for their chosen dinghy class within the last nine months.

The Irish Sailing Youth National Championships 2024 may form part of the selection trials for the 2024 World Sailing Youth Worlds, national squads, and IODAI team selection and are an indicator, among other events, for the Irish Sailing Academy.

As previous articles have highlighted, the Royal Cork Yacht Club will be hosting this year's event, and many members have been helping plan the activity for many months to ensure a successful and enjoyable event for travelling families.

The event will no doubt be an important warm up for August's European ILCA 6 Championships at Ballyholme Yacht Club in Northern Ireland which has already attracted sailors from 26 countries.

The early bird entry for the Youth Sailing Nationals closed at midnight on Friday, 15 March, but entry to the event remains open here.

Published in Youth Sailing

Three back-to-back races for the forty-nine boat J/70 fleet saw Anthony O'Leary's skippered 'Antix' succumb to a black flag penalty in race four of the Bacardi Cup in Miami, Florida on Friday.

Crewed by Ben Field, Harry Durcan and son Nicholas O'Leary, the foursome is the second Irish boat competing on Biscayne Bay, with another son, Peter O'Leary, sailing with Stephen Milne competing in the Star keelboat class.

The usual shifty breeze was around 8-10 knots with plenty of race track nuances.

The OCS penalty has not helped the overall standings with Royal Cork's Antix lying 32nd overall.

Laura Grondin’s ‘Dark Energy’ team stormed to the top of the leaderboard, from 13th at the start of the day, with scores of 2,1,5.

Brian Keane’s ‘Savasana’ also advance through to second overall, up from 7th, just one point adrift of Grondin. Margaret McKillen’s ‘Magatron’ remains in third overall.

The hot favourites on ‘Brutus III’ have failed to connect the dots in this series, although Charles Thompson’s team managed to win in the final race, giving some salvation to their otherwise challenging scorecard.

Provisional Results – Top 3 after Race 6

1. Laura Grondin / Taylor Canfield / Luke Muller / Malcolm Lamphere (USA 819) - 34 pts
2. Brian Keane / Thomas Barrows / Ron Weed / Conner Harding (USA 49) - 35 pts
3. Margaret McKillen / Orrin Star / Brian Kamilar / Dave Schreiner (USA 1523) – 45 pts

Published in Royal Cork YC
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Waterman Kelly Consulting Engineers has pledged its support for the upcoming Irish Youth Sailing Nationals, which is scheduled to be held at the Royal Cork Yacht Club in April.

The Cork Harbour competition is expected to draw around 200 sailors aged between the low to high teens from all over Ireland, who will compete in one of six dinghy classes.

Eric Waterman, Managing Director of Waterman Kelly Consulting Engineers, praised the event, stating, "We are delighted to be part of this event where the best of the best in Irish youth sailing will compete against each other over four days. Sustainability is very much to the fore at the event, and this is an area that Waterman Kelly places significant focus on when dealing with our clients."

The event is set to take place from April 4th to April 7th, and early bird entries will close on March 15th.

Those interested in participating can find more information on the Waterman Kelly Consulting Engineers website or by contacting [email protected] and entering the Irish Sailing Youth Nationals 2024 via the Entry Form on the Royal Cork Yacht Club website.

Event organiser for the Royal Cork, Tim McCarthy, expressed his delight at having a well-established business like Waterman Kelly Consulting Engineers supporting the event. "It is an opportunity to work with a company that shares many of the same values and helps profile all that is best about our sport in a positive manner," he said.

The Irish Sailing Youth National Championships are held in different locations around Ireland every April and are designed to showcase and develop youth sailing. It is billed as the 'premier event' for Irish youth sailors across a range of junior dinghy classes and attracts sailors aged in their early to late teens. While the event is open to all, it is expected that all competitors entering will be competent in sailing in a sustained fresh breeze and will have experienced competing in regional or National events for their chosen dinghy class within the last nine months.

Published in Royal Cork YC
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The Royal Cork Yacht Club is gearing up to host the 10th anniversary of the popular PY1000 dinghy race on Saturday, April 20th, 2024. The event, which has become a highlight of the club's calendar, is sponsored once again by Crosshaven House, a partnership that began in 2023.

The race will see Toppers and the RS Teras leading the charge out of the starting gates, heading for a turning mark at Coolmore House. The rest of the fleet will follow in hot pursuit.

This year's race will follow the same format as last year's, with boats starting in order of slowest to fastest. The first boat to cross the finishing line will be declared the winner, with placings on the water determining the final position. This format has proved popular with sailors and spectators alike, emulating the famous 'Bloody Mary' event held each year in London.

The PY1000 dinghy race is set to take place on high tide, and if weather conditions permit, the plan is to race in the river in front of Royal Cork Yacht Club Photo: Bob BatemanThe PY1000 dinghy race is set to take place on high tide, and if weather conditions permit, the plan is to race in the river in front of Royal Cork Yacht Club Photo: Bob Bateman

The winner of the 2023 event, Chris Bateman, was presented with the newly commissioned Crosshaven House PY1000 trophy and a prize of €700 by Stacey O'Sullivan of Crosshaven House.

This year's prize fund of €1,000 will be split among the top three finishers, with the winner receiving €700, second place receiving €200, and third place receiving €100. There will also be additional prizes for the youngest sailor, first female helm, and the oldest combined crew age.

The race is set to take place on high tide, and if weather conditions permit, the plan is to race in the river, providing a thrilling spectacle for spectators. So, dust off your boat, and get ready for an exciting day of sailing.

Published in Royal Cork YC
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Royal Cork Yacht Club Crosshaven, Co. Cork is all set to host the Youth Sailing Nationals from 4th to the 7th of April.

The event promises great sailing at Easter in Cork Harbour, and entry to the event is now open. Sailors in ILCA 6 & 4, 29er, 420, Topper, and Optimist can participate in the event under Principal Race Officer Anthony O'Leary.

This year, 210 sailors are expected to attend the event, and sailors are encouraged to enter early as places are limited. The event forms part of the selection trials for the 2024 World Sailing Youth Worlds, IODAI Team selection, and National Squads.

Ben O’Shaughnessy and Ethan Spain will be defending their 29er Youths title, while female European champions Alana Twomey and Lucia Cullen hope to top the podium.

U17 World Champion Sienna Wright will be in action in the ILCA6s in Cork Harbour in April U17 World Champion Sienna Wright will be in action in the ILCA6s in Cork Harbour in April 

In the ILCAs, Sienna Wright, who recently won the U17 ILCA worlds and was second overall in the ILCA 6 Youth worlds in Argentina, is expected to participate.

The Optimist fleet is also expected to be very strong, with more than just a title on the line, as these championships will finalise selection for the IODAI national team for 2024. Sailors are urged to refer to www.iodai.com for information about the IODAI selection policy and Optimist entry. 

With great sailing and tough competition, the Youth Nationals promises to be an exciting event. Don't delay, get your entry in now!

Published in Royal Cork YC

This week’s election of Annamarie Fegan as Admiral of the Royal Cork Yacht Club, the first woman sailor to fill the top posting in this extraordinary organisation’s 304-year history, is remarkable in that it doesn’t seem to have been seen within the sailing community in Ireland as something particularly remarkable at all.

Admittedly it has been well-signalled years in advance, thanks to the Royal Cork’s steady officer-promotion process. And if anything, that quietly reliable process is the club’s most remarkable feature. The Royal Cork’s continuing throughput of very able and multi-talented voluntary officers at all levels, and in every area of interest and activity in the complex functioning of this globally significant club, is a wonder to behold.

For although the RCYC may be global in outlook with an understandably large overseas membership keen to be part of this unique organisation, the fully-active home membership available to keep the wheels turning by renewing the active officer throughput is numerically quite small, even in comparison with some other Irish clubs.

Like every RCYC Admiral in modern times, Annamarie Fegan has worked her way steadily up through the voluntary ranks that fill the busy officer roles and run both the main committee and the essential sub-committees. Her own involvement afloat began with the demanding sport of coastal rowing from Crosshaven, and a key part of her policy as Admiral is encouraging newcomers into sailing Photo: Bob BatemanLike every RCYC Admiral in modern times, Annamarie Fegan has worked her way steadily up through the voluntary ranks that fill the busy officer roles and run both the main committee and the essential sub-committees. Her own involvement afloat began with the demanding sport of coastal rowing from Crosshaven, and a key part of her policy as Admiral is encouraging newcomers into sailing Photo: Robert Bateman

Yet the new Admiral has already well proven herself in key positions in the administrative hierarchy, both during and before the times of her immediate predecessors Colin Morehead and Kieran O’Connell, who were in the two-year office when the club was weathering and then emerging from the lockdown of much of its activities during the covid pandemic.

ROYAL CORK’S COURAGEOUS RESPONSE TO PANDEMIC

That this should have been at its most intense during the RCYC’s keenly-anticipated Tricentenary Year of 2020 would have severely tested the mettle of any organisation. But as we recently observed, in the context of another leading Irish female sailor overcoming a very challenging situation that threatened to deprive her of a world title in the final race of a very tough series, if courage is grace under pressure, then the Royal Cork rose above its problems with a grace that was the very real expression of group courage. The spirit of the ancient club in those ultra-challenging times was an inspiration for everyone.

Running the Royal Cork YC’s contemporary marina/clubhouse complex is a business in itself, and in the challenging lockdown period, the Club responded in a graceful and courageous way to the almost total cancellation of its long-planned Tricentenary. Photo: Robert BatemanRunning the Royal Cork YC’s contemporary marina/clubhouse complex is a business in itself, and in the challenging lockdown period, the Club responded in a graceful and courageous way to the almost total cancellation of its long-planned Tricentenary. Photo: Robert Bateman

And then, as the levels of permissible sailing expanded post-pandemic, with offshore racing one area in which a relatively high level of activity could be resumed, it was Annamarie Fegan and her husband Denis Murphy and their two keen-sailing daughters Molly and Mia with the family’s much-loved Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo who led the charge, their successes including the 2021 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race overall win.

The surest indicator that Cork Harbour was slowly returning to normal life. Nieulargo racing in the first post-pandemic Thursday evening race from Crosshaven, and with a woman helm too. Photo: Robert BatemanThe surest indicator that Cork Harbour was slowly returning to normal life. Nieulargo racing in the first post-pandemic Thursday evening race from Crosshaven, and with a woman helm too. Photo: Robert Bateman

TRADITIONALLY SALUTED VICTORY FOLLOWED BY BEST FASTNET RACE START

This was an inspiration to all sailing, such that then-Admiral Colin Morehead revived an old Royal Cork tradition of the 1800s by providing Nieulargo with a socially-distance-compliant three gun salute when the boat returned in glory to Crosshaven. But it emerged that that the Nieulargo crew were only starting in leading the post-pandemic sailing revival, for when the Fastnet Race got going in August, screen-viewers worldwide following the live stream had a brief but very real glimpse of Nieulargo getting the best start of the entire fleet.

The challenge of a Fastnet Race start into a sou’wester at Cowes is to arrive spot on at the inner end of the line, close under the RYS battery, with all rights to be on port tack only in a very narrow window. In the 2021 Fastnet, Nieulargo was officially recorded on the live stream as doing this beautifully to have the best start of the entire fleetThe challenge of a Fastnet Race start into a sou’wester at Cowes is to arrive spot on at the inner end of the line, close under the RYS battery, with all rights to be on port tack only in a very narrow window. In the 2021 Fastnet, Nieulargo was officially recorded on the live stream as doing this beautifully to have the best start of the entire fleet

By that time, the fact that Nieulargo always had at least three women in the crew, including long stints with one of them helming, had long since ceased to be a matter of comment in the sailing community. But then, female sailors have long had a special position in Irish sailing. Or more accurately, they have a position that would be regarded as special elsewhere, but is the norm here to such an extent that the elevation of Admiral Fegan in Crosshaven has arguably more to do with her exceptional sailing, administrative and can-do abilities, coupled with her infectious enthusiasm, than anything else.

An RS21 in full cry. The major significance of the RCYC Volvo Cork Week 2024 is underlined by the fact that this expanding class sees racing in Cork Harbour’s top regatta as an essential part of its international developmentAn RS21 in full cry. The major significance of the RCYC Volvo Cork Week 2024 is underlined by the fact that this expanding class sees racing in Cork Harbour’s top regatta as an essential part of its international development

And 2024 is going to be an extra-busy sailing busy year for the Royal Cork YC, bringing the highlight of the Biennial Volvo Cork Week from 15th to 19th July, with the Youth Nationals before that on April 4th to 7th. Cork Week is being fed entries by two passage races, one from Falmouth, and the other a re-enacting of the pioneering Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour Race of 1860, the “Kingstown to Queenstown”. And all of this is in addition to a busy home programme which has been a big part of life around Cork Harbour for centuries.

LONG TRADITION OF GENDER EQUALITY IN SOME OF IRELAND’S SAILING

They’ll be so busy at Cork Week that only the visitors from newer sailing areas with older attitudes will have the time to comment that there’s anything special about the historic hosting club having a female Admiral. For in Ireland, we’ve seen women office holders in many of the leading official positions in other important sailing organisations for half a century and more.

And while this column may sometimes seem to go over the top in enthusiasm for the maritime achievements of Grace O’Malley, the 16th Century “pirate” queen of Connacht, there is no doubt that she was a real force afloat and along the coast of the Atlantic seaboard, with plenty of tangible evidence of her existence and achievement to influence a gender-equal outlook in the Irish maritime mindset.

The new Admiral as just another crew, third from bow on Nieulargo’s weather rail. Photo: Rick TomlinsonThe new Admiral as just another crew, third from bow on Nieulargo’s weather rail. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

In more modern times, the world’s oldest One-Design class, the 1887-founded Dublin Bay Water Wags, has always seemed to set the pace in the best way possible, by sailing along as though gender differences were not of significant importance, and certainly not in the matter of who did what in the sailing of the boats. This has been such that as long ago as 1894, Yachting World magazine ran a feature about the female Wag sailors’ achievements to which we referred here

This may have been the situation because it’s possible that being a premises-free organisation provides greater natural freedom, whereas having a club operating through its own bricks-and-mortar clubhouse tends to emphasise gender differences in the rules and regulations.

EQUAL BUT DIFFERENT

Nowadays, no reasonable person claims that the sexes are anything other than equal. But only an unreasonable person would claim that they’re the same, and thus their basic shoreside needs are slightly different, thereby reinforcing any still extant dinosaur notion that one gender is necessarily superior to another.

But without a clubhouse, the simple lack of a need to define separate areas made gender equality the normal state of affairs, and today senior non-clubhouse organisations like Dublin Bay Sailing Club (founded 1884), the Water Wags (1887) and the Irish Cruising Club (1929) continue go about their activities with what may seem like a notably modern outlook on the interacting sailing roles of women and men, and their shared entitlement to play a full part in every aspect of the organisation’s functioning, both afloat and ashore.

The Water Wags of Dublin Bay may seem incredibly ancient to those seeing them for the first time, yet they have always been effectively gender-blind, and here they are shaping up for a typical Wedneday evening start in Dun Laoghaire Harbour with Mandy Chambers’ new-built No 50 nearest camera.The Water Wags of Dublin Bay may seem incredibly ancient to those seeing them for the first time, yet they have always been effectively gender-blind, and here they are shaping up for a typical Wedneday evening start in Dun Laoghaire Harbour with Mandy Chambers’ new-built No 50 nearest camera

Nevertheless there’s the inescapable fact that the average female sailor lacks the sheer physical strength of the average male sailor. But please note that we’re talking averages here. There is of course a large area of overlap, where a super-fit and highly motivated female sailor like Steph Lyons (originally of Kinsale YC) was far and away the first choice for bowman (her own choice of job description) on the successful Cookson 12 Calibre in the recent Sydney-Hobart Race.

Steph Lyons may be in her favourite crewing position on the bow here in Sydney Harbour’s sheltered waters, but she has now logged four successful if sometimes very rough Sydney-Hobart races in this demanding roleSteph Lyons may be in her favourite crewing position on the bow here in Sydney Harbour’s sheltered waters, but she has now logged four successful if sometimes very rough Sydney-Hobart races in this demanding role

CAHALAN’S HOBART COURSE A WORK OF ART

In that same super-tough race, Offaly-born Adrienne Cahalan was navigator/tactician on the overall winning RP 66 Alive. The course she plotted, through a rapidly-changing wind and weather situation in her 31st race to Hobart, was such a masterpiece of creative interpretation and appropriate action that they really should find some way of turning it into some form of inter-active art, and enter it for the next Turner Prize.

Navigational superstar. Adriennne Cahalan’s 31st Sydney-Hobart aboard the RP66 Alive brought her yet another overall winNavigational superstar. Adriennne Cahalan’s 31st Sydney-Hobart aboard the RP66 Alive brought her yet another overall win

Thus we find that nowadays the truly able women sailors have proven themselves the equal or better than the men, particularly when it comes to post-success communication. Even the youngest Irish international female sailing star seems to have the natural empathy that enables her to handle the media rather better than many of the most senior male sailing stars. Yet it remains an inescapable fact that Ireland’s supposedly supreme sailing contest, the Championship of Champions, has only once been won by a woman in its 77 years, and that was Howth’s Laura Dillon way back in 1996.

BONDING WITH SPECIFIC BOAT TYPES

But it might be that an ability to maintain a high level of helming performance through differing boat types is a situation where real gender differences do arise. Laura has always been exceptionally competent in steering successfully with whatever boat she might find herself in, with her current range including the tiller-steered J/99 Snapshot and the vintage wheel-steered S&S 41 classic Winsome.

The ultra-versatile helm Laura Dillon is still the only female sailor to have won Ireland’s Championship of ChampionsThe ultra-versatile helm Laura Dillon is still the only female sailor to have won Ireland’s Championship of Champions

Yet many sailors – both women and men – are much affected by the fact that sailing is a vehicle sport, and they’re at their best in the particular floating vehicle with which they feel a special bond. Thus, in a world in which nearly 150 different boat classes are officially recognised as being of sufficient international significance to merit their own World Championship, it’s confusing for outsiders.

For it means we have a bewildering number of World Champions in sailing, a situation made even more complex in that we’re fully aware that where those champions do step into another type of boat, they might never repeat their previous greatness. The apparent situation where this seems to affect women sailors more than men may be something we may have to accept, without making a song and dance about it.

The reality is that in the big picture of sailing in Ireland , we have been moving towards general gender equality – or even gender blindness – for very many years, albeit sometimes with glacial speed, but towards it nevertheless. Certainly there are times when you might think there’s some truth to the recent conclusion of a United Nations Committee that it will take another 286 years to close the gender gap in discriminatory laws, particularly as some countries now seem to be very deliberately going full astern.

IRELAND’S INTERNATIONAL FEMALE SAILORS ON TOP OF THE PACE

Be that as it may, another “more optimistic” time of 132 years is small consolation, but there’s real encouragement in Ireland’s sailing scene in which in terms of international results, women are out-pacing men. Of course they’re doing much of it in racing in women-only events, but civilised people should be able to cherish people’s differences, while placing a high value on their underlying equality.

Unprecedented. The crowd of well-wishing sailors from all over Ireland who thronged the National YC when Annalise Murphy brought home her Olympic Silver Medal in 2016. Photo: NYCUnprecedented. The crowd of well-wishing sailors from all over Ireland who thronged the National YC when Annalise Murphy brought home her Olympic Silver Medal in 2016. Photo: NYC

And the top women sailors seem to be able to enjoy their success in a less self-conscious way. It was natural that everyone should join in the spontaneous jubilation when Annalise Murphy won the Silver Medal in the 2016 Olympics, but the recent parade of sailing success for Ireland led by Eve McMahon, Serena Wright and others has shown an inspiring maturity in communicating the joy of achievement by our young female sailors which few of the males can match.

OLD-TIME LONDON BOAT SHOW REVEALED THE REAL GENDER DIVISION IN DECISION-MAKING

But perhaps the final world on where the genders stand in the sailing world comes from a recollection from the long-gone and much-lamented Earls Court Boat Show in the heart of London in the first part of January every year. It was a setting and a timing which made it both a real breakout from the post-Christmas torpor, and a lively and guaranteed international exchange for some of the most noted movers and shakers in world sailing and its supporting industries.

Earls Court Boat Show in the heart of London was staged annually in January from 1957 until 2007. At its most successful, it became the world of boats and sailing’s leading international information exchange and networking location, and at its heart was the legendary Guinness StandEarls Court Boat Show in the heart of London was staged annually in January from 1957 until 2007. At its most successful, it became the world of boats and sailing’s leading international information exchange and networking location, and at its heart was the legendary Guinness Stand

Another part of Earls Court was that you could comfortably rely on many of the ordinary punters turning up dressed as though they were about to go sailing. So I once asked a noted London-based cruising man - who was normally dressed - why so many of his compatriots arrived into the old concrete hangar in mid-winter dressed for sailing.

“Because their wives tell them to”, was his immediate reply.

All of which is now a very long way from the smooth changing of the watch down Crosshaven way last Monday night. Congratulations, Admiral Fegan. No better person. The sailors of Crosshaven are lucky. And they know it.

Annamarie Fegan, the new Admiral of the Royal Cork, may mark a change of some significance, but she is in the much stronger Crosshaven tradition of providing years of voluntary service to the club in other posts while steadily rising in the officer hierarchy.Annamarie Fegan, the new Admiral of the Royal Cork, may mark a change of some significance, but she is in the much stronger Crosshaven tradition of providing years of voluntary service to the club in other posts while steadily rising in the officer hierarchy.

Listen to a podcast with Annamarie Fegan here

Published in W M Nixon
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