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#circumnavigation – A traditional global circumnavigation was celebrated in Dun Laoghaire last night with the award of the Irish Cruising Club's premier trophy, the Faulkner Cup, to Fergus Quinlan of Kinvara on Galway Bay for the log of the third stage of the 40,486 mile global circumnavigation he completed last year with his wife Kay aboard the 12M steel cutter Pylades, a van de Stadt design which he built himself between 1995 and 1997.

Those of us who have stayed on in Ireland to live through the recession should maybe have taken more notice when, around four or five year ago, architects like the skipper of Pylades started finalising plans to take off for the dream cruise, round the world in easy stages until there was a chance there might be some signs of the green shoots of recovery back home. Of all trades, it was the architectural profession which would have been the first to notice that the flamboyant growth of the tiger years was starting to wilt.

A previous decade in which long distance cruising came top of the agenda was the 1930s, when the Great Depression likewise gripped the world. Then about ten year ago when New Zealand was in localised recession, people simply spent more time sailing in what is a sailing paradise. They already had the boats to do it with, now they'd the free time. But as they didn't have the money for fancy new sails and other gear, they made do with the equipment they had. So this upsurge in sailing activity was of little benefit to the marine industry, but by living frugally afloat the people could enjoy themselves, and returned to work refreshed as the economy stared to pick up.

But in any case, when you've built a boat as good as Pylades, long distance voyaging is the only way to go. She's all of a piece, and is yet another manifestation of the versatility of Dutch designer Ricus van de Stadt (1910-1999). A couple of weeks ago, we were discussing his vision in the use of plywood construction with the Black Soo type from 1956, and Zeevalk before that in 1949. But in 1955 he was also ahead of the posse in glassfibre with the appropriately named Pionier 9, one of Europe's first production boats in GRP. Though long out of production, they're still going strong – there's one of them lying to a mooring in Malahide Estuary, just across the channel from the yacht club.

And as you'd expect from a Dutchman, he was tops with steel. The Caribbean 12 design from which Pylades was built is double chine for ease of construction, yet is still a handsome boat of the ideal size – for the life of me I can't see why anyone needs a proper cruising boat to be more than 38ft long.

With Pylades, Fegus and Kay Quinlan have made the ideal circumnavigation, quietly adhering to their own rule of staying with the boat all the way – they didn't do the usual modern thing of flying home from time to time. But they maintained an informative website, and as someone in a creative profession and a traditional musician too, Fergus is a dab hand with the words and the notions, His log is filled with much entertainment and information and the sort of thoughts that come to you on the long ocean passages – did you know, for instance, that continental separation continues at about the same speed as your fingernails grow?

It's the third year running that Pylades has been awarded the Faulkner Cup, which dates back to 1931 but hasn't been taken three times on the trot before, so history was made last night at the ICC AGM. You don't of course "win" cruising trophies, you're awarded them, which quietly deals with the notion that the essence of cruising is its non-competitive nature.

But were it not for cruising awards, we'd have few enough sources of information to trace the development of this branch of sailing, and to inspire others. Yesterday evening the adjudicator Brendan O'Callaghan had to allocate a round dozen cruising achievement trophies, while there were six other special awards by the committee, including the Wright Salver which went posthumously to Mike Balmforth for his remarkable book Cruising Ireland, published last June, while Sean Flood received the Donegan Cup for his tireless work as Ambassador for Sail Training International. Olympic sailor Annalise Murphy and her parents Con Murphy and Cathy McAleavy were awarded the John B Kearney Cup for services to sailing by this very special family whose breadth of involvement in our sport is unrivalled.

Other cruising trophies included the Strangford Cup to Jarlath Cunnane of Mayo for a 4,500 miles venture north of Russia with his much-travelled Northabout, the Atlantic Trophy went to Maire Breathnach of Dungarvan for the transoceanic crossing which completed the circuit of North America by the gaff ketch Young Larry, Paul Butler of Dun Laoghaire took the Round Ireland Cup for his informative account of a classic circuit, Brian Black of Strangford got the Rockabill Trophy for his voyage to Greenland with the 35ft Seafra, and Dickie Gomes (also of Strangford Lough) received the Fingal Cup for the Centenarian 36ft Ainmara's cruise to the Outer Hebrides and Scotland's west coast.

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The John B Kearney-designed and built 36ft yawl Ainmara anchored off at Plockton in Wester Ross during her Centenary Cruise to Scotland which was awarded the ICC's Fingal Cup. The club's John B Kearney Cup for Services to Sailing, commemorating Ainmara's renowned designer-builder, was awarded last night to leading Dun Laoghgaire sailing family Con Murphy and Cathy MacAleavy and their daughter, Olympic sailor Annalise Murphy. Photo: W M Nixon

In other cruises, Garry Villiers-Stuart received the Wild Goose Cup for a "pilgrimage voyage" with the 1890-vintage cutter Winifeda of Greenisland, the Marie Trophy for the best cruise by a boat less than 30ft LOA goes to Mick Delap whose gaff cutter North Star is just 24ft long, the Glengarriff Trophy goes to former Fireball champions Adrian and Maeve Bell from Strangford for a cruise in Irish waters which was good despite the weather, the Perry Greer Bowl for a first log goes to Ann Lyons for a cruise among Celts fom Cork eastward, the Wybrants Cup for the best cruise in Scotland goes to Harry Whelehan of Howth whose venture to the Hebrides with the 32ft Sea Dancer found itself providing support for a currach from Kerry delivering an Irish language Bible (the first such apparently) to the religious community at Iona, and the Fortnight Cup for the best cruise in 16 days went to David Williams of Strangford Lough who managed to take the owner-built steel cutter Reiver to southern Brittany, 600 miles in the fortnight, and they got far enough south to be clear of the baleful effects of the jetstream which was blighting the weather over Ireland.

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Awarded the Fortnight Cup. The 35ft steel cutter Reiver, to a design by Ian Nicolson of Alfred Mylne, was self-built by David and Peter Williams of Strangford Lough, and launched in 1988.

THE CARIBBEAN 600 SHOW GOES ON

Irish hopes in the RORC Caribbean 600, which starts on Monday from Antigua, received a horrible setback a week ago when Alan McGettigan of Dun Laoghaire's recently-acquired Swan 48 Wolfhound foundered just north of Bermuda. The boat was on a very challenging delivery passage from Connecticut via Bermuda to Antigua to take part in the race, and the crew of four with the owner in command were in no doubt about the scale of the task they faced. But with snowstorm Nemo developing over northeast America, the conditions in the Gulf Stream became extreme, and with multiple systems failures, a rescue by activating the EPIRB became necessary.

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Wolfhound was a Swan 48 to this 1994 Frers design.

Nevertheless the sinking of a boat of this quality is extremely unusual, but we'll have to await the word from the crew (the ship which picked them up gets to Gibraltar next Tuesday) to learn if it was impact against the ship which sank Wolfhound. She was one of the Frers designed Swan 48s of which 57 were built between 1995 and 2003. The design was developed as the natural successor to the very successful Sparkman and Stephens-designed Swan 48 which was one of the classics which established the Nautor brand, so although Wolfhound was called a Swan 48, she was in fact just a smidgin under 51ft. This gives her even more Irish interest, as it means that at the time of her building, she was a sort of up-dated production version of Denis Doyle's legendary Moonduster, built by Crosshaven Boatyard in 1981, which was last reported to be based in Norway with an offshore sailing school in Trondheim.

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The Duster sails on. Denis Doyle's famous Frers sloop steps out seven years ago near her home port of Trondheim in Norway.

Meanwhile out in Antigua Irish hopes in the Caribbean 600 now rest with Dun Laoghaire's Michael Boyd, Niall Dowling and John Cunningham with the chartered First 40 Lancelot, the Reichel Pugh 78 Whisper skippered by Mark Dicker, and Northern Ireland's Peter Metcalfe in command of the 100ft Liara, though of course American Ron O'Hanley with the highly-fancied Cookson 50 Privateer, will find he immediately reverts to the nationality of his ancestors if Privateer does the good deed.

Defending champion Ran, the JV 72, isn't taking part this year, but her newer near sister Bella Menta (Hap Fauth, USA) is probably the bookies' favourite, though Mike Slade's ubiquitous hundred footer Leopard is on a roll after setting a new record in the Transatlantic race (she was on charter to Nik Zennstrom of Ran who fancied a bit of extra comfort to cross the pond) and can never be ruled out of contention.

NAOMH BAIRBRE AND A SILE NA GIG

The addictive Turas Huiceara on TG4 at 9.30 pm on Thursdays continued this week with Donncha and his hard-working pair of shipmates on the giant Galway Hooker Naomh Bairbre managing to get their enormous mainsail back in action with the new boom made from a tree felled in Stornoway.

Their voyage in search of Gaelic links along the Celtic seaways brought them to the Orkneys where - as suggested here last week - there's little enough trace of the Gael in a Viking-dominated archipelago. But a visit to St Magnus Cathedral, the remarkably fine mediaeval church in the Orcadian capital of Kirkwall, discovered what is apparently the most northerly Sile na Gig, a piece of unsubtle Celtic statuary incorporated into a stone archway.

There is no doubting what this little stone carving is all about - it makes even the most blatant Playboy centrefold seem totally demure by comparison. If this is the image of Irish womanhood being given to the Vikings of Orkney, no wonder they came down here in their hundreds expecting rape and pillage.

Finally heading south, the Naomh Bairbe found her way into the Caledonian Canal, with the site of the Gaelic-destroying Battle of Culloden nearby providing a mournful visit. But such are the demands of a continuous cruising narrative that there wasn't time to put Culloden into perspective, relating it to 1745 and the expedition into Scotland by that world-class messer Bonny Prince Charlie. You could understand, though, why he mightn't be mentioned – it's difficult to be serious about a man named after three sheepdogs.

Going down Loch Ness, there were interesting insights into the survival or otherwise of Gaelic in Scotland, with one speaker making the point that its disappearance means that people aren't really able to properly read the maps of their homeland, as the names of the significant features are all based on Gaelic.

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The Gaelic says it all. The Scottish mainland's exposed most westerly point is Ardnamurchan. It means the Headland of the Great Seas – this photo was taken in unusually smooth conditions, with the wind off the land, a rare experience0. Photo: W M Nixon

In fact, both the Clyde Cruising Club Sailing Directions in Scotland, and the ICC books on the Irish coast, make a point of including a large glossary of Gaelic coastal terms, as it does indeed greatly aid in "reading" a coastline. It may be a help to the survival of the old tongue, but on the other hand it simply reinforces Gaelic's featherweight status as no more than a holiday language.

Next Thursday sees the final episode of the Turas Huiceara saga. Whatever about its success as a television programme, it has been a fascinating cruise on an interesting boat, and I can only hope the crew of the Naomh Bairbe start to get some quiet enjoyment as they get nearer to home in Connemara.

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Published in W M Nixon

#dinghy –In a welcome boost for Irish dinghy sailing,  senior sailors are invited to what is Ireland's first ever 'dinghy summit' to hear 'thought provoking' comment from some of the country's leading exponents of the sport, including 2012 Irish Olympic Laser sailor James Espey and former Laser II world champion Noel Butler.

Butler will talk about his psychology of winning, being prepared and some specific Fireball topics.

Butler will also cover his story about how he came into the sport late and took a measured approach towards training to eventually win a world championship.

James Espey is expected to share tips for going fast in a Laser.

Also speaking is Graham Elmes who has represented Ireland in many classes including the Mirror, SB20, Etchells, Firefly (team racing).

Following on from his very popular talk on starting techniques and the first beat Graham plans a revised version of this talk.

The event takes place on 23rd Feb from 10:30am in the Royal St. George George Yacht Club's Junior Room. A fee of €10 at the door.

Published in RStGYC

#islandnation – Making sailing less elitist; BIM addressing difficulties between fishermen and processors;Captain defends his sunken ship; Cork brotherly angling duo amidst lots of cod; Using one sea to help another; RNLI independence and a giant squid is filmed.

CREATING A BETTER ATTITUDE IN SAILING

I believe strongly in making sailing a sport for everyone, that every opportunity should be taken to encourage more people into sailing and that clubs should be active in this regard. But there are still people who regard sailing as an exclusive sport which is difficult to get involved in and it has to be said that some clubs, by the attitudes they display, create an unwelcome aspect of elitism and exclusivity. The Irish Sailing Association has made the availability of the sport to everyone a keynote of its development commitment, but I am still approached by people who tell me that they have found it difficult to get into the sport.

I have been telling Norbert Reilly, Commodore of the Irish Cruiser Racing Association that I welcome the Association's launching of a nationwide 'Crew Recruitment and Training Programme.' He is enthusiastic about the project:

"ICRA represents 4,300 keel boat sailors and the objective is to create a pathway to get on to a racing yacht, promote local training and provide national standards for the various positions on a racing boat. It is open to all levels of sailors from those interested in midweek social racing, right up to a position on the Irish Commodores Cup Team. The initial roll-out of the programme will take place on April 21at Howth Yacht Club in Dublin where 120 slots will be available on the ISA's J80 yachts. The programme will consist of both water and shore-based sessions led by top Irish sailors"

ICRA will be working with the ISA and yacht clubs under the slogan: 'More Sailors...More Sailing'. I hope it succeeds. For those interested in getting involved go to the website www.cruiserracing.ie to register.

I'm delighted to see that Barry Rose is remaining actively involved with ICRA and the creation of a Commodores Cup team. ICRA has invited declarations of interest from owners to participate in an Irish challenge for the cup which was won in 2010 by the team of Anthony O Leary's Antix; Dave Dwyer's Mariners Cove and Rob Davie's Roxy. The Commodores Cup won't be sailed again until next year, so there is time to prepare an Irish team. Barry Rose will be the ICRA rep looking after the Ireland Team. Email for those interested: [email protected]

VOLVO RACE PORT ANNOUNCEMENTS

There will be two stop-overs at ports in Brazil for the next Volvo Race, the 12th edition. Itajaí, in the state of Santa Catarina, has been named in addition to Recife. The remainder of the route for the 12th edition of the Volvo Ocean race will be revealed over the coming weeks. Ireland is not expected to be involved.

Fishing – BIM DEALING WITH DIFFICULTIES BETWEEN FISHERMEN AND PROCESSORS

There have been on-going difficulties between fishermen and fish processors about the difficulties fishermen have claimed in selling their fish, getting poor prices, while processors were alleged to be buying more foreign-caught fish than supporting the Irish industry. Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the State fisheries board, has become involved and has held a number of meetings involving both sides. It seems that agreement has been reached acknowledging that there has been "poor communication between fishermen and processors" and that this has led "to a lack of supply and quality in the whitefish sector."

That is according to BIM whose CEO, Jason Whooley, has said that the whitefish sector faces serious challenges and that on-going profitability is "difficult for many of the vessels and businesses involved. Processors are competing in an extremely demanding market in terms of volume, consistency of supply and the high level of standards and quality checks that must be achieved to maintain contracts in these markets. Fishermen are working under the constraints of fuel costs, quotas, difficulties, knowing what species of fish are required by the market and when and how prices are affecting the sustainability of the catching sector to reinvest in their business," says BIM. "All parties agreed that working together, as a united entity, with greater communication would lead to an improved whitefish sector. It was agreed that the main issues to resolve were a clear communication system between fisherman and processor, scheduled landings and improved quality for some vessels."

BIM is to facilitate a pilot scheme addressing these issues over a four-to-six-week period after which fishermen and processors will meet again with BIM. This appears to indicate progress.

Shipping – CAPTAIN DEFENDS HIS SUNKEN SHIP

77-year-old Captain Apostolos Mangouras, Master of the Bahamas-flagged tanker Prestige which broke up off the coast of Spain in November 2002 has told a court there that the decision of the maritime authorities in Spain to refuse his ship a place of refuge when it was in trouble was "the worst possible" decision to make. He faces a possible sentence of 12 years in jail if found guilty of causing environmental damage when the tanker broke up and spilled over 70,000 tonnes of oil causing heavy coastal pollution. He has argued that this would not have happened if the ship had been allowed into sheltered waters to deal with problems which had occurred. He said the 1976 ship had never suffered a single detention for safety problems and should have been give refuge.

The former Head of Spain's Merchant Marine Directorate has also been put on trial over the incident, accused of causing environmental damage and he has defended his decision not to allow the Prestige into sheltered waters.

The vessel was forced to remain at sea in heavy weather for six days before it broke in two when it was about 200 nautical miles off the Spanish coastline.

The case is highlighting the problems for Shipmasters when they need a port of refuge in difficulties and are refused. The shipping industry has argued that this attitude by port states increases the danger of pollution and environmental problems.

Lifeboats – RNLI WILL REMAIN INDEPENDENT

I met Martyn Smyth, Divisional Inspector and Operations Manager for the RNLI in Ireland at Helvick last week when we discussed improvements and upgrading of the service planned by the organisation. He made it clear that the RNLI will remain independent of State involvement.

Looking over the annual rescue statistics for the RNLI in Ireland they show that the majority of calls were to pleasure craft, which accounted for 482, though this number was down from 505 in 2011. There were 115 emergency calls to fishing vessels. The call-outs indicate a lot of problems on the water, with more than half caused by people on leisure craft, including mechanical failure, running out of fuel and grounding. Twenty people a week were rescued by Irish lifeboat crews last year during which they spent over 10,000 hours at sea on emergency call-outs.

ENNIS ENTHUSIAST HONOURED

One of the country's best-known lifeboat supporters and enthusiasts, a former Valentia lifeboatman himself, Dick Robinson, is to be honoured with the award of a Gold Badge by the RNLI. This is the highest award to lifeboat supporters. Dick is also an historical expert on the lifeboat service in Ireland.

Angling – CORK BROTHERLY DUO

Brothers Noel and Christy Lane from Cork are pretty adept anglers, having made several good catches and are in the news again with the landing of a 3.18 lbs. specimen whiting off Cork when they were fishing along with other anglers out of Kinsale aboard charter skipper Butch Robert's boat Sundance Kid. Christy made the catch using mackerel-baited 'Shamrock Red Devil' lures.

BIG COD IN CORK!

Anglers have been taking catches of big cod off Cork Harbour. On Joe Lynch's Wreckhunter a 14lb. fish was caught while other catches of cod up to 12 lbs. are also reported.

COMPUTERISED FISHING ROD

An enthusiastic angler and inventor in Kansas in the USA has devised a computerised angling rod. The 'POLETAP SMARTROD' has an alarm and flashing red LED lights which go off when a fish takes a fly on the end of the line. The electronics are said to be water-resistant and the system works with any reel. It has an 'accelerometer' which will immediately detect with a high-sensitivity setting when a fish takes a lure.

The inventor, Ed Hope, says the alarms can be turned off after a fish strikes – in order not to annoy other anglers! Additionally, once the user starts reeling the line in, the fish-detecting microprocessor temporarily shuts down. This keeps the rod from flashing, shrieking "and generally carrying on throughout the fish-landing."

But will it take the fun and anticipation out of angling?

Marine Environment – USING ONE SEA TO HELP ANOTHER

A report issued by the World Bank has said that the Red Sea could be used to replenish the shrinking Dead Sea. The possibility of linking the two has been suggested for over a century. It gained urgency when the shores of the Dead Sea were found to be receding at a rate of 3.3 feet every year. An underground pipeline could channel water from the Red Sea 112 miles north to replenish the Dead Sea according to the Bank but this suggestion has been criticised by environmental groups who warned of adverse effects, such as changing the Dead Sea's colour or underground fresh water springs if they were polluted with seawater from the Red Sea.

CREATING A NEW ISLAND

The Belgian Government is considering a plan to build a new island in the North Sea to store wind energy. The intention is to build it from sand 3 kilometres off the coastline from the town of Wendnine. By pumping water out of a hollow in the middle of the island, the intention would be to store power, even though scientific opinion is that there are difficulties in storing energy generated from wind power. The Belgians are taking this approach to reduce dependence on nuclear power after two of the country's nuclear stations were shut down when cracks were found in reactor casings. It could take five years, however, to go through the planning stages and build the new island.

GIANT SQUID FILMED

Video footage of a giant squid filmed in its deep ocean habitat has caused huge interest in the marine world. It was filmed from a small underwater research submarine in the North Pacific Ocean, was about 30 feet long and silver and gold in colour. Marine biologists who shot the footage, said it was missing two tentacles

and its stomach had been removed, seemingly because of a hole in its body. "Something strange must like to eat those parts," said Dan-Eric Nilsson of Lund University. He also noted that the squid seemed to have a colour-changing system, which contained pigment and reflected light, very deep inside the giant squid's body cavity.

In recent months, researchers have also learned more about giant squid eyes. The diameter of these eyes measures two to three times that of any other animal. Giant squid eyes measure 10 inches, making them about the same size as a large dinner plate. Big is optimal for sight in deep-water environments apparently. It is believed that a giant squid can grow up to 55 feet long.

Email: [email protected]

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Published in Island Nation
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#sailorofthemonth – As we look back over the extraordinary mixture of memories stirred up by the Irish sailing season of 2012, one exceptionally good deed stands out in a sometimes slightly wicked world.

Questions were asked about some major events in Ireland and abroad during 2012, while in others, distasteful rows blew up which could have been much more competently handled. But over and above it all, and glowing with increasing strength as the passing of time enhances the recollections, is the happy memory of the Four Star Pizza ISAF Youth Worlds in Dun Laoghaire in July.

With 63 nations involved, it was the most international sailing event ever seen in Ireland. It involved the active input of an army of volunteers ashore, and a navy of volunteers afloat. With so many people taking part at some level or other, the scope for friction – at the very least – was incalcuable.

Yet the ISAF Youth Worlds seemed to effortlessly achieve that true spirit of local, national and international goodwill to which to many comparable events aspire, but not all realize. It made a lasting impact, and was lavishly and deservedly praised by outgoing ISAF President Goran Petersson at the ISAF Conference in November.

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

IT'S GREEN FOR GO IN HOBART

Irish sailors in Australia have been on a roll in the annual 628-mile Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, with major input into the crewing of the two top boats. After a virtually perfect race in tactical and navigational terms, veteran owner Bob Oatley's hundred footer Wild Oats XI took line honours, and in doing so knocked 16 minutes off the course record she established in 2005.

As Oatley's team - headed by skipper Mark Richards – constantly update and re-tune the big boat, the Wild Oats which established the new record yesterday was a very different beast from the winner of 2005. But the course they had to sail was the same challenging slog down the coast of New South Wales, across the Bass Strait, and up the often flukey estuary of the Derwent River to the city centre finish in Hobart.

One false call from experienced navigator Adrienne Cahalane – whose people hail from Offaly – and a mountain of effort beforehand and afloat would have amounted to nothing. But after blasting away from a perfect start to establish what is believed to be a record for the first short stage from the harbour to Sydney Heads, Wild Oats never put a foot wrong.

At times she was even showing as the overall handicap leader, which is unusual for the biggest boat in the fleet. But for much of the race, the handicap lead was being battled between the defending champion, Steve Ainsworth's 63ft Loki with Gordon Maguire (originally from Howth) as sailing master, and the hot new boat on the block, Peter Harburg's 66ft Black Jack, whose crew - including Olympic Gold Medallist Tom Slingsby - made no secret of targeting Loki.

Being slightly larger, Black Jack seemed to be establishing an unassailable lead, as the quicker you could get south, the more favourable the easterly winds became. This meant that far ahead, not only did Wild Oats end up sailing her own race, but she carried the breeze right to the end, while the wind was losing power out at sea. As the hours ticked by after the big boat was finished, the chances of either Black Jack or Loki saving their time on the Oatley boat evaporated. Wild Oats XI had the treble – line honours, course record, and overall win. But in the private race with Black Jack, Maguire and his team somehow found extra microns of performance, and though they were beaten by Wild Oats by more than two hours on corrected time, they in turn beat Black Jack by 2 hours 3 minutes.

It's a good weekend for Irish sailing down Hobart way. Jeff Condell of Limerick was also on the race, on the strength of veteran skipper Syd Fischer's 100ft Ragamuffin Loyal, and though with some gear breakages they weren't able to match the blistering pace set by Wild Oats, they still took second on line honours, quite an achievement when you remember the hands-on skipper is 85 and his unmatchable CV in sailing includes the overall Fastnet win way back in 1971.

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Wild Oats on track for the treble in the Rolex Sydney Hobart 2012. Photo: Daniel Forster/Rolex

SO FAREWELL THEN, EUROPEAN YEAR 2012 FOR ACTIVE AGEING AND SOLIDARITY BETWEEN GENERATIONS, AND HELLO TO THE GORB

Did you know that we've just lived through European Year 2012 for Active Ageing & Solidarity Between Generations? Me neither. And even if someone had told me, I'd have forgotten the beginning of a title of such length and contrivance before I'd even got through to the end.

May God in His Mercy protect us from well-meaning bureaucracies. We know that there are agencies in Brussels which make a tidy living out of putting an often costly structure on activities which any healthy local community would regard as so normal as to be scarcely worthy of comment. But the European Commission for Employment, Social Affairs, and Inclusion, with its European Year 2012 for AA & SBG, surely takes the biscuit.

The reason we've come across this absurdity is that in mid-November we received a news release from Brussels telling us that two Irish AA & SBG projects took second and third prize in a competition throughout Europe which attracted 1300 entries in six categories.

Millstreet Community School's Living Scenes programme, running for seven years, has seen retirees and teenagers "brainstorming together to come up with creative multi-media projects aimed at bridging the gap between young and old".

That won a second place in "Intergenerational Encounters", while third place in Journalism went to a four part RTE series about Age and the City, which we're assured was "highly entertaining for all ages".

This sort of thing is all very well, but is it life as we should know it? The whole business of ageing and retirement is built around chronological ageing, which misses the point entirely. It's what you do and how you feel that gives a much more accurate gauge of real age, rather than a sum of years. There's a large cohort of seniors out there who are so busy, so absorbed in getting on with multiple interests, that they would no more think of joining active ageing groups or taking part in formalized inter-generational encounters than they would contemplate no longer owning a boat, or not having a dog about the place.

Back in August I went cruising to the Western Isles in a hundred year old boat, and was Ship's Boy for a Skipper and First Mate who were both 74. But our doughty skipper belies all received opinion about ageing, as he looks after his high-maintenance old boat himself, plus he is also Senior Mechanic and Retrieval Driver for various vintage vehicles which his wife and daughter need for their string of show-jumpers.

As for the First Mate, he plays rugby for the Perennials, and just last winter the highlight of their season was a tour to the rugby paradise of Limerick. He reminisced during our cruise about the techniques required going shoulder-to-shoulder against Peter Clohessy – not an experience for the faint-hearted.

With this splendid double lineup of Active Ageing, I had to supply the Solidarity Between Generations, even if the Skipper was much more agile than the Ship's Boy. This was demonstrated when the Skipper became so irritated by the flapping of the leech of the high cut jib that, off the coast of Skye, he quickly climbed on the First Mate's shoulders in order to tension it.

There are some unkind people who suggest that if I was really interested in promoting Active Ageing, then I should have let fly the jib sheet while these venerable gymnasts were doing their thing. That undoubtedly would have added a certain je ne sais quoi to the performance. But instead I took a photo, for here indeed was something for Brussels' attention. If we're going to encourage active ageing, then we're going to have to accept that senior sailors are going to be clambering about on the broadest shoulders aboard in order to adjust the rig of their ancient boats. And we're going to have to accept that they're of a generation that regards safety harnesses and lifejackets as restrictive of movement.

So in the first instance, let Brussels commission us for a Feasibility Study for a GORB – a Golden Oldie Rescue Boat. This would follow the seniors about as they wander across the ocean, and gather them in when they fall off their own ancient craft. The GORB would need to be a proper cruising vessel, and as her crew would include a significant proportion of seniors, she in turn would need another GORB to follow her.

And another one again. We'd build up a fleet, eventually sailing round in a vast circle. We'll call it The Gathering Cruise.

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These guys need a GORB. The combined age of this acrobatic troupe is 148 years, with neither safety harness nor lifejacket in sight. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in W M Nixon

#sailmakers – American Volvo Ocean Race veteran and world champion sailor Ken Read will become president of North Sails Group in early January, 2013

Read will return to North Sails in the role of president and take over from current president Gary Weisman, who has served at the helm of the world's largest sailmaker for 16 years, and who plans to retire within the next 4 months.

"This is an important and exciting time in the world of sailing, sailmaking and in the history of North Sails," said North Technology Group CEO Tom Whidden. "We are absolutely thrilled to have Kenny back in the mix transitioning into the role of North's president."

"Gary has done an absolutely fantastic job and he will be missed dearly by not only me, but all North Sails employees who have gotten to know him so well during his 39-year career at North," Whidden continued. "Gary plans to stay involved with the company in the short-term and he and Kenny will work closely to make the transition as seamless as possible."

Read started working for North Sails in 1996, yet has taken four sabbaticals to participate in some of sailing's elite events. He was the CEO of PUMA Ocean Racing and skippered PUMA's Mar Mostro during the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) and il mostro in the 2008-09 edition of what is known as the "world's toughest sailboat race." Prior to the Volvo Race, Read skippered two America's Cup teams for Dennis Conner on Stars & Stripes in 2000 and 2003.

"Sailing has been my lifeblood since I was very young and it's such an honor to return to what I consider the marine industry's top brand" said Read, who has been involved with the sailmaking industry for 29 years. "My number one goal is to continue to build on the success of North Sails, which includes helping to educate sailors about the technology behind every North sail that is designed and delivered," continued Read, who will be based in Newport, RI. "But I also want to help the sport of sailing grow here in the United States. After sailing around the world twice, I have visited dozens of countries where sailing is huge. In Europe, the South Pacific, South America, and even the Far East, sailing is equivalent to football and baseball here in the U.S. and I will work hard to help make our sport more visible so everyone in the sailing industry can benefit," he said. "I look forward to getting back into the business of selling and developing North Sails products. I've been the largest North Sails customer in North America for the past six years so I have a unique perspective on how North Sails works from the inside and outside, and where there are possibilities for improvement."

Gary Weisman, who started working for North Sails in 1974, has bittersweet emotions about stepping down as president. "A part of me is really sad to leave this company that has allowed me to sail with some amazing people and be part of building what is now the biggest and most technologically advanced sailmaking company in the world," Weisman said. "But another part of me is excited to hand over the reins to a very capable and well-known sailmaker and sailor - Ken Read - who I know will do a remarkable job. When I look back on my years here at North, I have some great memories and will always be thankful to Lowell North who hired me nearly 39 years ago and to Terry Kohler who invested in all of us and helped grow North Sails to what it is today," Weisman concluded.

Published in Marine Trade
Tagged under
24th November 2012

Sailing Needs Students

#icra – Like all consumer sports, sailing has taken something of a battering during the years of recession. The hard core dedicated enthusiasts are still actively involved, for nothing will deflect the true old salt from his or her destiny in and around boats. But many of those who took up sailing as just one of several lifestyle choices in the affluent times have faded away.

It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good. For anyone thinking of returning to sailing, or maybe getting involved for the first time, there's no better time than the present. The infrastructure is there to facilitate manageable expansion, and the people running the sport are keen to recruit newcomers, and bring back those who have strayed.

One area which is proving to be a happy hunting ground is university sailing. That said, it could equally be argued that it is the prodigious pace being set by the college matelots which is prodding the rest of the sailing community into positive action. Call it as you like, but the fact that the Galway University offshore racing boat was hailed as the latest ICRA Boat of the Year at the annual offshore racing conference last weekend struck us as being a very timely move.

We say that despite last week's column being prepared to wager a portion of the housekeeping on another boat altogether. We'll spare their blushes by not naming them, but up against the Galway juggernaut, all opposition fell astern. Team leader Cathal Clarke and his squad from the City of the Tribes put in a fantastic year with Martin Breen's Reflex 38, and as the entire crew were either students or recent graduates from NUIG, they provide the perfect personnel profile to make a healthy and useful longterm input into sailing.

Newly-elected ICRA Commodore Norbert Reilly of Howth is in no doubt that Irish sailing numbers have scope for expansion, and the 2013 programme will certainly keep those involved mighty busy. From early June until mid-July, you could be sailing with an offshore orientation almost continually, with the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race on 8th June, then on from Dingle to the ICRA Nationals round the corner in Tralee Bay from June 13th to 15th, then it's back to the south coast for the Sovereigns Cup at Kinsale from 26th to 29th June, followed by a return to the east coast with the Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta from 11th to 14th July.

The scope which this programme provides for introducing new crews to the sport is enormous, and it will certainly sort out the faint-hearted. The real hard chaws meanwhile will barely be up to speed by mid-July - like the Galway college offshore racing team, they'll be thinking in terms of the Fastnet Race in August.

And for anyone who complains that this is an awful lot of sailing, the answer is usually a brusque comment that, once your time comes, you'll not be sailing for a very long time indeed. Thus our thoughts this weekend are with Cork sailor Kieran Walsh. He's working in Dubai, but this week has been sailing as crew aboard Doug Worrall's First 36.7 Shahrazad in the annual Dubai to Muscat race, a three day RORC event.

You need to do such things to offset the rigours of working in the desert. But they did rather better than that. They won. It's a tough old life, but somebody has to do it.

THE GAFFER OF THE GAFFERS

Tim Magennis, newly-elected President of the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association, was in fine form on Tuesday night as he welcomed an eclectic and enthusiastic audience to Sean Cullen's presentation about INFOMAR in Poolbeg Y&BC under the auspices of the Old Gaffers. INFOMAR is the twenty year programme - currently in its twelfth year – to survey the seabed around Ireland and the adjacent ocean in unprecedented detail, and Sean Cullen has proven such a dab hand in charge of the survey ship that he is consulted by other nations keen to get in on the acquisition of knowledge of the deep.

timagennis

The Boyd men of Poolbeg. Owners of Herbert Boyd-designed classics at the OGA gathering in Poolbeg Y&BC are (left to right) Tim Magennis (Marguerite, 1894), Ian Malcolm (Aura, 1898) and Sean Cullen (Eithne, 1893). Photo: W M Nixon

As for Tim Magennis, it made for a high profile week, as he had something of a starring role on Thursday night in TG4's extensive filmed documentary about Erskine Childers. Most appropriately, the guru of the gaffers was involved on the television programme to explain the skills involved in sailing the engineless Asgard to Howth with the cargo of guns in July 1914, and especially to highlight the sheer brilliance with which Molly Childers helmed Asgard to bring her gently alongside the pier, neatly head to wind in a strong nor'wester, a formidable display of seamanship.

Sean Cullen's work in surveying the seas of Ireland and their hidden depths is fascinating. And it's a bit scary to discover just how much is still to be discovered, when we tend to assume every major hazard has been known about and on the charts for decades. The most striking example of this is a previously unknown pinnacle rock a few miles westward of Slyne Head. There's 12 metres over it, which explains why it has gone undetected for so long. But as the rock is a bit like St Patrick's Cathedral plonked down in the middle of an otherwise fairly flat bit of the seabed, until it was discovered it represented a potential danger for any supertankers which happened to be proceeding up the west coast of Ireland.

OLD BOATS ON A COLD COLD SEA

The gaff enthusiasts of Dublin Bay are gearing themselves up to welcome fellow gaffers at the June Bank Holiday weekend next year, as Dublin Bay will be an important focal point in the Irish Sea for the rolling cruise-in-company with which the many branches of the OGA will be celebrating its Golden Jubilee.

Of course, for some folk in Ireland, making a song and dance about preserving gaff rig seems decidedly weird. It's not that this select group have rejected gaff rig entirely. On the contrary, as far as the Howth 17s are concerned, it never went away. They still sail their boats rigged exactly as they were designed in 1898 by Herbert Boyd, and they see little reason to change.

The OGA gathering in Poolbeg provided a rare opportunity for the owner-skippers of three different Herbert Boyd-designed gaff classics to get together. Sean Cullen owns the 25ft Eithne, the first Boyd yacht, built by Boyd himself in the boathouse at Howth House in 1893. Tim Magennis owns the 24ft Marguerite (that was Marguerite in the early part of the Childers film), which was built by Jack Wellington, a sailor/boatbuilder from Scandinavia who somehow acquired the name Wellington when he settled in Malahide. And Ian Malcolm owns the Howth 17 Aura, one of the original batch of five Howth 17s which were built by John Hilditch of Carrickfergus in 1898, and sailed home to Howth by their owners.

h17heavyweather

Baby, it's cold outside.... Ian Malcolm's Howth 17 Aura sailing from Carrickfergus to Howth on the evening of April 15th 1998 to celebrate the Centenary of the first five boats of the class making the same delivery passage in April 1898. The land just visible is the County Down coast on the left, the Antrim coast in the distance, and Copeland Island on the right. Photo: Damien Cronin

That inaugural voyage of the Howth 17s was replicated for the Class's Centenary in April 1998 in a strong and very cold nor'easterly wind. At least it was a fair wind, but conditions were otherwise Arctic. As one of those who took part, Ian Malcolm, was uniquely qualified on Tuesday night to tell the OGA enthusiasts about what is involved in sailing vintage gaff rigged yachts from Belfast Lough to Dublin Bay, which will be part of the Golden Jubilee programme.

But at least they'll be doing it in June rather than April, and they'll be doing it in boats with lids rather than a Howth 17, which passes the Number One test for a genuine classic – they're diabolically uncomfortable boats to crew aboard, even in pleasant conditions. In April 1998 with temperatures plunging towards freezing point during the overnight 85 mile sail, they were torture chambers, but the crews didn't notice - they were completely numb with cold......

Published in W M Nixon
Tagged under

#helmsmans – The stakes are raised in this weekend's All Ireland Senior Sailing Championship at Dromineer on Lough Derg following the success of the Junior Championship in Schull a fortnight ago. In some of the best sailing conditions of 2012, the new junior title holder by a clear margin was West Cork's Fionn Lyden (17), who has since been declared the Afloat.ie/Irish Independent "Sailor of the Month" for September.

But Lyden has been allowed little time to reflect on his success. He's back in the fray this weekend in the seniors event, and the lineup he will face racing in the SailFleet J/80s contains some formidable talent, including defending champion George Kenefick (24) of Crosshaven.

Former champion Mark Mansfield has been on top form recently, heading the racing in the 1720s, and he is fired up to avenge the narrow defeat inflicted on him by Kenefick at the same venue a year ago in this championship.

As the racing is in a specialized boat which does not feature as a supported class at any Irish sailing centre, the hope is that the competition will be as even as possible among sailors who usually helm craft of many different types. But of course the wind strengths will play a major role regardless of how even the racing is in theory, and predictions for this weekend suggest a wide variety of conditions.

Today's expected light breezes could inflict havoc in the programme, but the prospect of a freshening southeaster tomorrow – albeit with rain later – will provide ample opportunities to get a result before the weekend is out.

The lineup includes an interesting mixture of sailing specialities, including two veterans of the 2012 Olympics, Star class helm Peter O'Leary from Cork and the 49er's Ryan Seaton from Ballyholme.

Carrickfergus is putting forward Trevor Kirkpatrick, the helm from the Ruffian 23 class on Belfast Lough. It is of course the hope of all club sailors that some day the All Ireland will throw up an unexpected winner from one of the minor leagues. But that hasn't happened for a long time now, and by tomorrow afternoon the smart money is betting that it will be the big guns yet again in the final shootout.

Thus the likelihood of Royal Cork dominating with Mansfield, Kennefick and O'Leary setting the pace is high, but as well there are several highly possible contenders in the form of Tim Goodbody, Ben Duncan, David Dickson, Fionn Lyden, and Alan Ruigrok.

THE SOD IS YOUR FLEXIBLE FRIEND

When you consider the nationwide spread of the home ports of these top sailing talents, there's inescapable logic in staging the All Ireland on Lough Derg, as it and Lough Ree are about as central as you can get in Ireland. It was back in 1982 that I first saw what Dromineer could do when the Helmsmans Championship was staged in Shannon One Designs, and the winner was Dave Cummins of Sutton, crewed by Gordon Maguire no less, and Joe MacSweeney.

There was no lack of wind at that championship, but as John Lefroy's 1874-built all-iron former steam yacht Phoenix was the committee boat, the race officers (Jock Smith was OOD) at least were comfortably ensconced, and when the racing was completed we took the Phoenix up the lough at full chat just for the hell of it, giving a passable impression of a destroyer at the Battle of Jutland.

SailSatpic2

She'd turn round and look at you". Even in a moderate breeze, the Shannon One Design (sailed here by Sid Shine of Lough Ree) develops a marked twist in her hull.

As for the Shannon One Designs being sailed as hard as they could go by Ireland's brightest and best, they coped remarkably well, though inevitably there were breakages. The design having been developed from slim lake boats, the clinker hulls tend to twist a bit when pinned in for hard windward work - as Pompey Delaney used to say, in a breeze they'd turn round and look at you.

Both Dave Cummins and Gordon Maguire have been Australia-based for many years now, and of course Gordon was sailing master aboard the superb 63ft Loki, overall winner of the most recent Sydney-Hobart Race. He was home recently with his family for a few weeks holiday, and caught me out round the back of Howth YC in the boatyard in the midst of the keel and rudder re-configuration which is the current boat project (and has been for quite some time). Fortunately the great man dropped by at a stage when the job was going well, which isn't necessarily always the case. It's a bit unnerving, to say the least, to have your work evaluated by a Sydney-Hobart winner who is also trained in engineering, but if he thought the whole thing was crazy, he was still too polite to say so.

DESJOY FOR DESJOYEAUX

The fantastic trimarans of the MOD 70 class will by now be cherishing their memories of the great racing they had in Dublin Bay in good breezes on Saturday September 8th, as they have finally completed their European Tour at Genoa, and lack of wind has been a problem for much of the southern section of the programme.

Michel Desjoyeaux emerged as overall winner of the EuroTour on Foncia. But "emerged" is very much the word, as the final miles into Genoa saw these mighty machines crawling along at just two knots in the finest of zephyrs. It looked as though Spindrift Racing had it all sewn up, but by snatching a couple of places virtually on the finish line – just as he did on the stage from Kiel to Dun Laoghaire – the Foncia skipper carried off the cup, while Spindrift Racing was the season's winner when the Transatlantic results are combined with the EuroTour points.

Despite the subdued finish, the potential of this new class to provide spectacular sailing in a manageable budget has been amply proven, and it provides a marked contrast with the America's Cup, where the focus has swung to San Francisco and next year's series.

SailSatpic3

Foncia (Michel Desjoyeaux, seen here in Dublin Bay) has won the MOD 70s EuroTour, while Spindrift Racing is the season's champion. Photo W M Nixon

That will be raced in 70ft catamarans, and the first of these awesome and unbelievably expensive machines has been showing her paces. But meanwhile not everyone is a happy budgie in San Francisco, where a proposed major development of two piers to provide useful shore bases for challengers has been changed into an intention to have all the action focused more on the Golden Gate Yacht Club.

As ever with the America's Cup, massive sums of money top the agenda, and you can understand the frustration of the few remaining challengers as they take on the huge resources of Larry Ellison. After all, how can a few guys from New Zealand and their mates expect to face up to someone who has recently been able to buy quite a substantial Hawaiian island out of pocket money?

Published in W M Nixon

#sailing – Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring has approved a grant of €400,000 for sailing, the biggest of all grants awarded today to 22 national sports bodies to buy new equipment and boost participation in sports and improve performance.

The sailing grant which is 15% of the total payout is awarded for "mobile training fleets, transport vans, coach boats, coaching equipment, Olympic sailing equipment and training camp equipment (excluding eyewear)."

The ISA says the funds will be spent on coaching equipment including coach boats, vehicles and training equipment, Olympic sailing equipment including a fleet of 420's, Laser Radials and a 49er with associated spares for training camps and training camp equipment which includes strength and conditioning apparatus to be used on training camps.

The ISA will also fund for four mobile training fleets for use on introductory ISA training programmes. The aim is to provide support for organisations looking to develop junior, schools and introductory adult programmes.

The funding has been awarded to a range of National Governing Bodies including the Athletics Association, the Irish Rugby Football Union, Irish Wheelchair Association Sport, Canoeing Ireland, the GAA, the Irish Sailing Association, the Football Association of Ireland, and the Ladies Gaelic Football Association.

The new equipment will include items as diverse as a mobile Olympic Handball arena, scrum machines, a 'cricket factory' where you can try out cricket for fun, and martial arts arenas.

It includes a grant of €160,228 to the Irish Wheelchair Association Sport to provide new equipment for sports like basketball, athletics, hand cycling and rugby, boccia, table tennis, archery, frisbee, tennis, powerlifting and gym equipment.

Minister Ring said: 'The real beneficiaries from this funding will be the thousands of sportspeople across Ireland who head out on weeknights and weekends to train with their local club. Although some of the equipment will be used at national level by the governing bodies, a significant portion will be utilised at local level. I hope it will encourage more people to get involved in sport'.

The equipment aims to help a diverse range of sports to attract more participants, run better competitions, monitor performance and train more effectively, building on the success of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Applications were invited through the Irish Sports Council. All 22 organisations which applied are being funded under the scheme.

Organisation Allocation Grant purpose
Athletics Association of Ireland €350,000 club athletic equipment, sports hall indoor competition, track and field competition, speed gates, dartfish analysis, GPS heart rate monitors and lactate machines
Badminton Ireland €90,000 para badminton chairs, school kits, target cage, posts and nets
Canoeing Ireland €75,000 boats, racks and gym equipment
Community Games €85,899 national finals equipment upgrade/replenishment, area equipment packs (165) and county equipment packs (40)
Cricket Ireland €105,921 performance analysis equipment, cricket factory (to allow people to try cricket), BOLA fielding machine
Football Association of Ireland €220,000 footballs, training equipment, fitness equipment, goalposts and football for all specialist equipment
GAA €220,000 footballs, sliotars, bibs, cones and portable goalposts
Institute of Sport €121,489 performance analysis, strength and conditioning, medical, physiotherapy and physiology
Irish Hockey Association €30,000 throw down lines, hockey sticks, outdoor and indoor hockey balls, equipment bags, backboards and heart rate monitors
Irish Martial Arts Commission €84,525 mobile stage, boxing ring and floor mats
Irish Olympic Handball Association €98,000 balls, iGoals, match equipment, mobile arena
Irish Rugby Football Union €257,517 equipment for clubs and schools, defibrillators, GPS tracking system, scrum machines, match and training equipment
Irish Sailing Association €400,000 mobile training fleets, transport vans, coach boats, coaching equipment, Olympic sailing equipment and training camp equipment (excluding eyewear)
Irish Table Tennis Association €7,000 tables, surrounds, nets, training equipment
Irish Wheelchair Association Sport €160,228 basketball, athletics, hand cycling, rugby, boccia, table tennis, archery, frisbee, tennis, powerlifting and gym equipment
Junior Golf Ireland €17,500 golf kits for schools
Ladies Gaelic Football Association €15,000 tutor packs
Motor Cycling Ireland €16,867 timing system
Special Olympics Ireland €26,153 athletics throws, bocce carpets, floorball rink, tennis and table tennis
Swim Ireland €249,586 UL, National Aquatic Centre and Connacht high performance centres
Volleyball Association of Ireland €11,390 international standard equipment for suitable sports halls
Weightlifting Ireland €20,430 weightlifting Equipment
Total €2,662,505  
Published in News Update
Tagged under

#peteroleary – Peter O'Leary and David Burrows have produced Ireland's top Star class result at the London 2012 Olympics but it will be small consolation for the pair who won gold at the pre-Olympic regatta just six weeks ago. 

O'Leary finished 10th in the medal race and 10th overall, eclipsing Mark Mansfield's 12th at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 also crewed by David Burrows.

The regatta represented the final regatta for the 20 foot design after a 100 year stint as an Olympic class bringing an end the mens keelboat category.

The Cork-Dublin pair were 9th overall beginning the medal race this afternoon but due to their points on the leader board, they were not in contention for a medal.

Sweden's Fredrik Loof and Max Salminen won the Star Medal Race to upset the favourites and take the gold medal.

Having trailed overnight leaders Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson (GBR) by 12 points ahead of the Medal Race the Swedes won by four seconds over Hamish Pepper and Jim Turner to overcome the Brits who finished eighth.

The Brits had to finish sixth or better to guarantee gold but in a tense final run Norway's Eivind Melleby and Petter Morland Pedersen, America's Brian Fatih and Mark Mendelblatt and Brazil's Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada finished less than two seconds ahead of the Brits squeezing them into eighth and down into silver medal position. The Brazilians subsequently fell into bronze medal position.

Final top three:

1. Fredrik Loof and Max Salminen (SWE) - 32pts

2. Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson (GBR) - 34pts

3. Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada (BRA) - 40pts

The ISA's James O'Callaghan said "While it is the best result Ireland have achieved in the Star class it is still disappointing. We came here hoping to be fighting for a medal. That plan has not worked out in a way we could have foreseen".

Published in Olympics 2012

#sailingonsaturday – Captain Cool of Carlow is the Afloat.ie/Irish Independent "Sailor of the Month" for July. Captain Cool is Finn Lynch, winner of the Silver Medal at the Youth Worlds 2012, and he's just sixteen. So maybe it would be more correct to refer to him as Cadet Cool. But as his style of winning - staying mentally calm and finishing in control of the race - is something that many much older sailors could usefully emulate, we'll acclaim him as Captain.

In fact, the entire country, afloat and ashore, could learn from his way of doing things. But how does a young lad from Bennekerry in the depths of north county Carlow come to be setting a national sailing example? Well, his father Aidan (a Dub) acquired a taste for sailing during ten years in Australia. Then back in Ireland his mother Grainne took up a job offer in Carlow, than which there is no lovelier county in Ireland.

The family settled there in Bennekerry, which as Aidan cheerfully admits is the middle of nowhere even by Carlow standards. But as it's in the north of the county, lake sailing at Blessington wasn't so very far away, and the three boys - Ben, Rory and young Finn - were introduced to sailing with the Topper fleet at the hospitable Blessington Sailing Club, where Aidan stood his watch as Honorary Treasurer.

All three emerged as top class sailors, and their Topper skills were soon noticed. Each in turn graduated into sailing the Laser Radial, and that led on to the subtle recruiting moves from Dun Laoghaire. The word is that it was Con Murphy of the National Yacht Club, father of Olympian Annalise, who was the talent scout in this case, and the Bennekerries found themselves sailing with the NYC star junior squad.

Even by those standards, Finn was something special. He'd been racing Toppers since he was eight, he was into Lasers in his teens and earlier, and now at sixteen he's proven world class, with three clear years of international youth sailing in front of him.

At the moment thanks to his Silver Medal, Finn Lynch is sailing in Denmark at a youth elite regatta in Aarhus, then it's on to the Euopean Youth Championship in Belgium at mid-month, and after that......well, after that, Captain Cool goes back to school.

The nail-biting classes are doubling their numbers by the minute as the Annalise Murphy challenge battles on through he sailing Olympics. It's deadline in two days time, with the double points scoring Medal Races bringing it all to a conclusion. For once, Baltimore Regatta on Bank Holiday Monday will have to accommodate itself to a lower slot on the national sailing scale.

Meanwhile in the Finn Class we can enjoy a majestic gladiatorial contest without an excruciating depth of personal involvement, as it's the battle of the Ben of Britain and the Great Dane reaching its conclusion tomorrow.

Ben Ainslie's 2012 Olympics got off to a terrible start with one mediocre performance after another, by his standards anyway, while Jonas Hogh Christensen of Denmark was putting in a showing matched only by Annalise Murphy in the Women's Laser Radials. But by Thursday, Ainslie was making a comeback, having made the throwaway comment that missing out on the Gold wouldn't be a setback, it would be a disaster.

Ben analysts wonder if this means that his contract with the America's Cup 2013 (which he takes up immediately after this Olympiad) is dependent in any way on his performance at Weymouth. Stranger things have happened. Be that as it may, it's battle to the death tomorrow, after less than harmonious scenes yesterday and on Thursday.

Thursday saw the Dane and Dutch helm Pieter-Jan Postma shout to Ainslie that he had hit a mark. He took the penalty turns but afterwards was in a real strunt about the whole business, claiming there had been no contact. When Ainslie has one of his moods, it's awesome, and the Dane in particular was upset.

Then in yesterday's second race, Ainslie was leading with the Dane second approaching the finish. Ainslie slowed back in his classic style to sit on the Dane and allow the Dutchman through to second, with the result of GB first, Netherlands second and Denmark third making it very close indeed for the up-coming medal races. The Dane still narrowly leads on points, but the number crunchers are already working out all the possible permutations which can provide another Ainslie gold.

asgard2nixon

Asgard may have been small for her role as a naional sail training vessel, but she definitely punched above her weight in racing success.

Next week, Erskine Childers' Asgard is put on permanent display in her conserved form in Collins Barracks. John Kearon and his team have done a wonderful job in the painstaking task of saving as much of the original as possible while capturing the spirit of the gallant ketch which Childers sailed to Howth in July 1914.

As one of the finest creations of the Norwegian designer and shipwright Colin Archer, the 1905-built Asgard is of international importance over and above her role in Irish history. But in the midst of all this, let us not forget that between 1969 and 1974 she served as Ireland's first sail training ship. She was too small, she was too old, yet she did her very best, and thanks to the skill of Archer's design, she achieved some notable racing success in her brief sail training career.

During those five years under the command of Eric Healy, more people – including many young trainees – would have sailed on Asgard than in all the rest of her sailing life. It meant a lot to them, it meant a lot for Irish sailing. Forty years on, they will appreciate this new display in Collins Barracks even more than the rest of us. Just the job for a day out on the travel pass. Photos of the restored Asgard at the museum

W M Nixon's sailing column is in the Irish Independent on Saturdays

Published in W M Nixon
Page 9 of 109

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