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Sailors of the Year

28th April 2008

As in previous years, Afloat magazine is asking the public to decide who should be crowned Ireland’s Sailor of the Year for 2010.

The overall national award will be presented to the person who, in the judge’s opinion, achieved the most notable results in, or made the most significant contribution to, watersports during 2010. Now you can log on to Afloat.ie and help select the shortlist from the last 12 months’ top performers by clicking on your sailor in the left hand column of the home page. The boating public gets to nominate their top three through the online poll, Afloat.ie gets a vote too and the Sailor of the Year judges decide the final winner.

Cast your vote by midnight February 18, 2011. The awards are administered and judged by Afloat magazine, the Irish Independent and the Irish Sailing Association.

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

Thanks for your interest!

 

Sailor of the Year 2010

January

John Kenny

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JK  is up to speed again, and he’s SoM. “JK” is John Kenny (37) of Ringsend in Dublin, and he’s the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for January after pushing the bounds of waterborne wind-powered speed in Ireland in winter’s big breezes.

Previously our Sailor of the Month in October 2008 when he set a new Irish record in Dungarvan, Kenny was disappointed with his showing in the final series of the Worlds at the same West Waterford venue last Autumn. He was in the frame, but not on top. But then as the rest of the country subsided into Yuletide torpor, he was back on form, this time in the almost suburban setting of the Burrow Beach at Sutton, where ideal conditions can develop in the inshore stretch of water between Portmarnock Golf Links and Howth Harbour.

Though it’s ultimately a case of working with elemental forces of nature, speed sailors on their boards rely on the best technology that can be provided by satellite navigation on GPS. For most folk, GPS is useful for telling you where you are. But for the speed freaks, it can be tweaked to tell you how quickly you went getting there.

Kenny achieved a personal best of a burst of 45.3 knots (it’s 84 kph) and averaged 42.52 for the 500 metres. For those of technical bent, he was on a Starboard Isonic Speed Special W49 board, with a Severne Code Red 5.9 sail. Having shone on the east coast, the New Year has found him on the west coast, in the first event of the 2010 at the popular setting of Elly Bay at Belmullet. In such pre-set events, you have to make the best of conditions as found, but Kenny was tops with an average of 34.74, three knots clear of the next contender. But though 45.3-plus is now the target, for now the fact that John Kenny has hit that speed under sail power gets the New Year off to a fine start.

 

February

Trevor Lusty (and Oscar)

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The new Afloat.ie/Irish Independent Sailor of the Month is a blue water voyager who sailed to South America crewed for much of the way by a dog.

But not any old dog. Oscar is a magnificent golden retriever who somehow happily coped with being cooped up on the Amel Super Maramu 54ft ketch Seafever of Cuan, skippered by Trevor Lusty of Strangford Lough, who has just been awarded the Irish Cruising Club’s historic Faulkner Cup (it goes back to 1931) for the best cruise of the year.

You can find more details of this and other ICC awards in the upcoming issue of Afloat Magazine, which hits the newsstands next week. Meanwhile, let’s hear it for Oscar - he may be a dog but he’s no woofer. As for his skipper, this is the first time Trevor Lusty has featured in the ICC awards. In fact, he has only been a member since 2004. But although he spoke at the awards ceremony with disarming modesty of his limited experience and the fact that no-one in his family had ever previously shown any interest in sailing, nevertheless it was clear that this is an inspirational seafarer and a worthy Sailor of the Month.

 

March

Peter O’Leary and Stephen Milne

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Peter O’Leary and Stephen Milne are the Afloat.ie/Irish Independent “Sailors of the Month” for March after their superb performance to place second overall in the Olympic Star Class Bacardi Cup series against an international fleet of 84 boats in Florida.

Though the north-south duo have teamed up only relatively recently, it seems that Cork Harbour and Belfast Lough can

do the business to produce a crew of world standard. At 26, O’Leary is only beginning to settle into the specialized and hugely demanding hothouse of Star class boats, but he has shown enough dedication and innate talent to be taken seriously in the big boys’ game.

He has linked up with German Star ace Marc Pickel, who is both a specialist builder of these exotic boats, and a leading coach. O’Leary and Milne were racing one of his P-Star boats, which outclass most others in the vital goal of getting weight amidships, and having the narrowest possible rudder and keel.

But there was much more to it than boat optimization. Pickel was in Miami as coach to the Irish crew, and for his part O’Leary has undergone an intense sports science programme which, in 18 months, saw him put on a weight gain of pure muscle from 80kg to 92kg in 18 months.

The breezy Miami event was a severe test of boats and crews, but in the Irish case, everything held together, and their final scoreline included a first and two thirds. Those astern included the double Olympic Gold Medallists Mark Reynolds and Hal Haehnel of the US, and defending champion Peter Brumby of Bermuda.

The Irish pairing’s next outing on the international stage will be in May. Meanwhile, their success in Florida has boosted business for Mark Pickel and the P-Star range. But those jumping in with an order will find that Peter O’Leary is already there – he has a deposit placed on an even more highly-tuned new boat.

 

April

Gareth Flannigan

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Gareth Flannigan of Ballyholme is the Afloat.ie/Irish Independent “Sailor of the Month” for April after rising through the 43-strong fleet at last weekend’s busy East Coast SB3 Championship in Dublin Bay.

Mobility was the core concept for the 20ft SB3 as Laser International and designer Tony Castro brainstormed their way in 2002 towards a lifting-keel easily-trailed performance three-four man boat which would capture the spirit of the original iconic Laser single handed dinghy.

While there are many SB3s based in the Dublin area, nevertheless the very competitive fleet seemed to emerge from nowhere and from every corner of Ireland onto the forecourt of the Royal St George YC for this, the class’s first major event of the 2010 season.

Expat Kiwi skipper Ben Duncan, who sails from Howth, was the overnight leader and seemed securely in place. But through the second day defending title-holder Gareth Flannigan of Belast Lough implemented a strategy which saw Duncan’s points lead eroded and then bested.  

With a team which included Stephen Milne who has recently launched himself onto the Olympic path with Cork’s Peter O’Leary in the Olympic Star, Flannigan cannily kept tabs on Duncan while keeping himself in the frame. His discard from Sunday’s three races was a 7th, while Duncan went down the tubes with a 19th and 18th in the two final jousts, after starting the day with a useful second.

In fact, it was Adrian O’Connell of the host club who showed best overall on Day Two, but Flannigan moved into a convincing overall lead, finishing on 15 points to the 24 of Duncan and O’Connell’s 26. It was a virtuoso performance which makes him a worthy winner of the monthly award, and it means Stephen Milne is right on line for an Oscar for best supporting actor – he has already been in lights for the second place in the Olympic Stars in Miami with Peter O’Leary in February.

 

 

May

Anthony O'Leary

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Anthony O’Leary of Crosshaven is the Afloat.ie/Irish Independent “Sailor of the Month” for May after a steady stream of success at the very sharp end of IRC racing in Ireland and Scotland. With his Ker 39 Antix making her debut in Irish waters, O’Leary has put in an inspirational performance which will raise the hopes of the Irish Commodore’s Cup team which he’ll be leading into international competition in August. Antix started the month by confirming her win in the Spring Series in Kinsale. She then went on to win overall in the Cork-Dun Laoghaire race on May 15th, and was on top form to clinch the class title in the Liebherr ICRA Nationals in Dublin Bay from May 21st to 23rd. Barely pausing for breath, the boat headed on for the following extended weekend’s four-day Scottish Series in Loch Fyne. With a significant French presence to give a hint of the Commodore’s series, the racing was demanding. But the Antix crew – including Olympic son Peter – went better and better, rounding out the series with two wins on the final day. This put them firmly top of the leaderboard in the senior class, and clearly made Anthony O’Leary Ireland’s supreme sailor for May 2010.

 

 

 

Sailor of the Year 2009

JANUARY
Mark Mills

Mark Mills of County Wicklow, international boat designer, is Afloat's "Sailor of the Month” for January, with his star on the ascendant after sweeping victories in the Key West Regatta in Florida. Boat designers need to be many things. Obviously they need to be exceptionally good sailors. But they also need an eye for shape, a genius with computers, and they need engineering and sailmaking techniques too. Plus they need highly tuned interpersonal skills. After all, they’ve to deal with owners, builders, and manufacturers. And that’s while they’re putting together the package which brings on board top sailors keen to be part of a dynamic and successful team.
In all, it makes for a rare combination. But during 2008, Mills was hitting the target, with his Mills 39 marinerscove.ie for Dave Dwyer of Cork continuing as one of the superboats of Irish sailing. And the Mills skills extended to every corner of the globe, with his DK 46 design Quantum Racing and her sisterships frequently in the frame in southeast Asia and Australia.
Then in the Autumn, his impressive IRC 68 Alegre took line honours in the Middle Sea Race. And before 2008 was out, the new Mills-designed King 40 was named “Boat of the Year” in America. Built in series production in Argentina, the King 40 is a very attractive package, as she offers genuine competitive ability with a level of comfort unimaginable in cut-throat racing machines.
Thus the stage was set for Key West Regatta, which concluded on January 25th. The King 40 lived up to the billing, and then some. Dan Woolery from San Francisco with the fresh new Soozal did the business, and the Mills design team had the additional satisfaction of seeing another of their designs, Tony Buckingham’s Mills 40 Ngoni, take second. In fact, all six Mills-designed boats racing at Key West gave a good showing. We get 2009 off to a good start with Mark Mills our first “Sailor of the Month”.

To vote for Mark Mills click here


FEBRUARY
Mary Bailey


Mary Bailey of Galway is the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for February. From a well-known Connemara seafaring family, during February she has become the face of traditional boat sailing in the west and nationally through her presentation of the attractive series An Bharr na dTonn on TG4.
A project of this scale and success involves mighty team effort by the film crew, and the enthusiastic and understanding involvement of those sailing the boats. Thus there were dozens – indeed, hundreds - of people making a dedicated contribution. So the adjudicators hope that in high-lighting Mary Bailey’s role, it is clear that it is the voluntary effort which goes into making the Galway Hooker Association’s annual fixtures list such a hit.
The commentary by John Darba O Flatharta and Johnny Sheamus O Conghaile perfectly captures the flavour of the racing itself, and the superb camera work – with the magic Connemara light captured for all time – includes some of the best sailing sequences you’ll ever see. So this month we salute the sailors of the west and their spokesperson Mary Bailey. An Bharr na dTonn does Ireland and sailing a great service.

To vote for Mary Bailey click here

MARCH
Adrian Lee

Adrian Lee of Dun Laoghaire is the Irish Independent/afloat.ie Sailor of the Month for March on the strength of his clear-cut win in the inaugural Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) Caribbean 600 Race with his Cookson 50.
Lee has campaigned the Round Ireland and other rugged events several times. As veterans of ‘many long cold nights on cold water’, he and his crew on the Farr-designed canting-keeled Lee Overlay Partners were enchanted with the sheer joy of zapping along at 18 knots and not minding when the warm spray shot across the deck. This kind of win places boat and crew firmly into the record books of the major events. The team have provided the kind of good cheer which Ireland is much in need of these days and we salute Lee.

To vote for Adrian Lee click here

APRIL
John Sheehy

John Sheehy is April’s afloat.ie Sailor of the Month after his stellar performance in the National Inland Match-Racing Championship at Dromineer on Lough Derg. Sheehy was on better-than-top-form in this demanding series on some of the best inland racing water in the country, using the Irish Sailing Association’s J80 SailFleet boats. A tally of 13 wins out of 16 matches was jousting of a high order, particularly when it’s noted that his closest challengers in second and third overall were two Olympians, Ger Owens (also of Dun Laoghaire) and Tom Fitzpatrick of Howth. This Dublin Bay sailor has very complete involvement with the racing world, as he has shown himself as an able helm aboard a wide variety of boats, both inshore and offshore. And like the other top contenders in Dromineer, John Sheehy will be making the scene afloat with other fleets as the season progresses. But their next shared target will be the Dublin series with the J80s at Howth on July 25–26.

To vote for John Sheehy click here

MAY
Peter O'Leary and Tim Goodbody

Peter O’Leary of Cork and Tim Goodbody of Dun Laoghaire share the honours as the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie “Sailors of the Month” for May after their fabulous victory this week in the Olympic Star Class Eastern European Championship in breezy weather at Hyeres in France.O’Leary and Goodbody have shown over the past 18 months that, as a team, they have what it takes to compete realistically with the top sailors in these exceptionally demanding boats. Until this week, however, their performance had been one of flashes of promise rather than a single outstanding result. But this time round, they’ve hit the target spot-on.

Second overall was eight times World Champion and multiple Olympic Medallist Robert Scheidt, who rivals current Volvo Ocean Race overall leader Torben Grael as the top sailor in Brazil. The Irish crew came through in the final race to have a total score of 24 pts to Scheidt’s 26, while Szabo of the US was third on 30 and Rohart of Switzerland was fourth on 34. This is a formidable lineup of global Star class talent, and the buildup to the 2012 Olympics is now well launched for the Irish crew.

To vote for Peter O'Leary and Tim Goodbody click here

JUNE
Barry Hurley

Barry Hurley is the latest Irish Independent/Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” , having hit the spot on June 22nd with his class win in the OSTAR – the single-handed Transatlantic Race. Highlighting Hurley’s achievement among so many successes during a remarkably busy sailing month has been a demanding task for the adjudicators. But the consensus is that everything about his win – it included taking line honours in the IRC Division – was an example for every sailor in these economically challenging times.

For this was no flash-in-the-pan. He did his research and training rigorously, and settled on the French-built Jeanneau 35 OD as being the ideal boat for the job. A 13-year-old version of the marque was sourced in Scotland, and so perfectly fitted his requirements and budget that he didn’t let any superstition about the age get in the way.

Indeed, he threw old superstitions aside in changing the boat’s name too – she became Dinah, named for the girl in the sailor’s anthem The Holy Ground about Cork Harbour. It was off Cobh that he started his sailing in childhood, and during 2008, Hurley and Dinah sailed many useful training miles offshore.

Apart from seagoing experience, he’s an ace at technology, and his employers O2 gave him the time off for the Atlantic race. Technology, sailing ability, and people skills – Hurley was on target with his shore team of his sister Aileen and Shore Manager Bob Hobby whom he’d met through Glenans Ireland. And on May 28th the race started from Plymouth, faced with everything the Atlantic could throw at Dinah and her skipper.

He was good at communication too, sending daily reports to an increasing fan base, and the sense of a genuine sailing enthusiast finding increasing please in sailing the ocean in all its mood captured the imagination. And the finish was perfect, nipping into the lead into Newport, Rhode Island, using inshore sailing skills honed in Cork Harbour.

In all, a marvellous yarn for the times that are in it. Barry Hurley joins a distinguished pantheon of stars from the current year. May’s joint winner was Peter O’Leary of Cork (he won the Olympic Star East European Champoionship, crewed by Tim Goodbody of Dun Laoghhaire to beat multiple world and Olympic winner Robert Scheidt of Brazil). He has since won the ICRA Championship in Tralee Bay, sailing Dave Dwyer’s Mills 39 Marinerscove.ie.

Designer Mark Mills of County Wicklow was our January “Sailor of the Month” for his success with the new King 40, the prototype of which - Eamon Rohan’s swift and attractive Blondie IV – won her class at the weekend’s Sovereign’s Cup series in Kinsale. Meanwhile, the production line of the King 40 in Argentina has come on stream , and Blondie’s sister-ships have been winning major events on both sides of the Atlantic, the most recent being Block Island Week in America. Two of the King 40s are head to head in next week’s four day Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta which starts on Thursday - Blondie IV and Scottish champion Argie Bargie (Allan Hogg)

To vote for Barry Hurley click here

JULY
Flor O'Driscoll

Flor O’Driscoll, overall champion of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2009. is the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for July after an inspirational performance which saw his veteran J/24 Hard on Port emerge as supreme champion from a fleet of more than 450 boats. O’Driscoll – who started his sailing on Cork Harbour with Cobh Sailing Club, but is now a Dublin Bay man – has shown what can be achieved with a highly motivated and well co-ordinated crew of friends, and an immaculately maintained and expertly-tuned veteran boat. The Rod Johnstone-designed, American-built J/24 has been around for several decades now. But while others have moved on to larger and more modern craft, O’Driscoll has stayed with his boat and gets excellent value from a 24-footer which is economical to berth or store, and can be easily road-trailered between events. Thus a boat for our times won the biggest sailing event of the year, a biennial regatta whose organizing committee, chaired by the indefatigable Phil Smith, is always ready to take on board suggestions from competitors after each staging of this major logistical and administrative challenge. This year, VDLR was rewarded with good sailing rounded out with magnificent sunlit sport. The wind is free and the sun – when it appears – is free too. So the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta was ideal for the realities of 2009, and Flor O’Driscoll epitomized the spirit of a great event.

To vote for Flor O'Driscoll click here

AUGUST
Annaliese Murphy

Annaliese Murphy is the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for August after her impressive showing in the Laser Radial Worlds in Japan. Racing in the first week of August, the 19-year-old National Yacht Club sailor was advancing a potential Olympic campaign with competition in an 87-strong fleet which included US Olympic Gold Medallist Anna Tunnicliffe and the Chinese Bronze Medallist Lijia Zu. In the end, the new champion was Finland’s Sari Multala, but apart from the Finn’s unbeatable scoreline of five wins, one of the most notable achievements was the steadily improving performance into the top ten by the Irish sailor. Murphy improved from fifteenth to tenth overall on the second-last day, and then with increasing confidence she finished in a convincing eighth overall. We have only to look at the calibre of the sailors in her wake to realize that this was a serious step towards the London Olympics of 2012, and Annaliese Murphy becomes a worthy representative of Olympic and dinghy sailing in our roll-call of sailing stars in 2009.

To vote for Annaliese Murphy click here

SEPTEMBER
Nicholas O’Leary

Nicholas ‘Nin’ O’Leary of Crosshaven is the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie Sailor of the Month for September after retaining the all-Ireland Helmsman’s Championship in demanding light wind conditions in Cork last weekend. Racing in the Irish Sailing Association’s flotilla of J80s, O’Leary was crewed by Adam McCarthy and Marty O’Leary in a nail-biting finish in which his closest challenger was his father Anthony. In fact, the duel between the two O’Leary helms became so intense that the Laser SB3 representative, New Zealander Ben Duncan from Howth, managed to pull off two first places in the two final races, resulting in separation for the podium places by fractions of points. The well-run championship achieved a worthwhile spread of top scorers, as John Driscoll from Belfast Lough, sailing for the Squib class, was fourth, while the Lasers’ Paul MacMahon was fifth. In the Juniors racing Laser Radials, Mattie O’Dowd (17) of Dun Laoghaire is the new champion, while Diana Kissane of Howth is the 2009 All-Ireland Girls Junior Champion. Selecting the Sailor of the Month for September has been a lively business, as the offshore scene has had Michael Cotter continuing his winning ways with his 78-footer Whisper, topping the cruiser-racer division in the Maxi Regatta in the Med, while Vincent Farrell of the National YC has become the 2009 ISORA Champion. Then too, new junior champion Mattie O’Dowd’s latest victory was the culmination of a fantastic season. However, as the month drew to a close, perhaps the best suggestion launched on the Afloat website forum was that Sally O’Leary of Crosshaven should be the winner for maintaining peace and purpose in a household of complete and utter boatnuts who are also into rugby.

To vote for Nicholas O'Leary click here

OCTOBER
Eamonn Rohan

Eamonn Rohan of Crosshaven is the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie Sailor of the Month for October. His prototype King 40 Blondie IV has taken the Class 1 championship in the Royal Cork’s Autumn League by 0.5 points, after the most hotly-contested end-of-season series ever staged by the world’s senior sailing club. It is Rohan’s perseverance and sailing management skills which are being celebrated this weekend. When the very new Blondie IV made her debut more than two years ago, she was so fresh out of the box, as the prototype of the latest Mark Mills 40ft design, that teething and tuning problems were inevitable. The concept was brilliant, and the performance potential was always there. But getting all the bells and whistles to ring on time and in tune with a boat which was being built in early series production on the other side of the world in Argentina posed mighty problems. Then too, there’s the credibility factor – the challenge of assembling and keeping a crew of all the necessary talents while bringing the boat to full seagoing and racing potential, a feat achieved so well in October in Cork Harbour. Thus we honour Eamonn Rohan, both as the new champion, and as the man who was prepared to put his head above the parapet for the new 40-footer.

To vote for Eamonn Rohan click here

 

NOVEMBER
Richard Colwell and Johnny & Suzie Murphy

Richard Colwell and Johnny & Suzie Murphy are the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie “Sailors of the Month ” for November on the strength of their Corby 25 Kinetic becoming the new Irish Cruiser Racing Asociation “Boat of the Year”.

ICRA’s supreme title is a coveted honour. It celebrates the boat, crew and season-long campaign held in highest regard by their peers, the other enthusiasts actively engaged in the Association’s nationwide programme at the most intense level.

So when ICRA Commodore Barry Rose announced the choice at the recent Annual General Meeting in Kilkenny, it rounded out a season in which Kinetic from Howth had won her section – Class 2 – in the National Championships on Tralee Bay, and had also been at the top of the fleet in other major events on every Irish coast.

It was a win on many fronts, both in sailing terms, and for management and crewing. At 25ft, Kinetic may seem like a nice manageable little boat. And so she is in some ways. If time is not available to sail her to the next big event, she is of a size that can be conveniently road trailered. But doing that involves de-rigging after each championship, and then re-rigging and re-tuning at the next venue. It’s always a logistical and technical challenge, particularly for a non-professional crew who lead busy lives.

And all that is before you start sailing. Although only 25ft long, Kinetic races among generally larger boats in Class 2, yet she is one of the higher rated participants. She’s narrow and sleek, but carries an enormous spread of sail. The sea poet John Masefield may have talked of the ocean wind as being like a “whetted knife”, but compared to many offshore racers, Kinetic is very much the wetted knife.

Anything she can’t go over, she goes straight through, and at speed. As for the mighty masthead spinnaker which zaps her along off the wind, that is definitely not for the faint-hearted. But for those with the nerve for it, the Corby 25 provides a formidable package which is well suited to these straitened times. As too is ICRA. It was established seven years ago at an exploratory meeting in Kilkenny, and last month they returned to the same venue to celebrate seven years in which the Association has become one of the pace-makers in Irish sailing. It was an idea whose time had come. And in Kilkenny with Kinetic, they celebrated a team and a boat which personified their ideal.

To vote for Richard Colwell and Johnny & Suzie Murphy click here

 

DECEMBER
John Killeen

John Killeen of Galway is the final 2009 Irish Independent/Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” in celebration of the major role he played in providing Ireland’s sailing highlight of the year – the hugely successful stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race at his home port in late May and early June.

Killeen is a sailor’s sailor. His own boat Nimmo is an inspiration to anyone who goes to sea. Built by John and his specialist squad in a shed in Oranmore, Nimmo started out to be a cruising version of innovative French designer Jean-Marie Finot’s notions of what an Open 60 should be like. But Galway men being Galway men, their ideas developed as the big boat started to take shape, and it was soon realised that they needed to go to 70ft to meet all the requirements. So they did just that.

Yet the 70ft Nimmo looks all of a piece, and is one of the most remarkable sailing boats in Ireland, providing real comfort and being capable of high speed, while easily handled by a crew of two.

The idea of bringing the Volvo to Galway was equally off the wall. But John Killeen and his team made it work, their ideas developing dynamically in tandem with the challenge of building Ireland’s own boat Green Dragon in China to take on the world’s most experienced campaigners from a standing start.

The Galway approach was underlined by realism. Key to it all was accepting that the Volvo stopover would have to be the trigger to creating a much larger festival of Galway and Ireland and the sea if it was to work at all, and ultimately show genuine economic benefit – both short term and in the long view – in an increasingly difficult climate. The sailing would be only part of the bigger picture.

It’s heartening to recall how well their lateral thinking succeeded. It all happened, the icing on the cake being Green Dragon’s clear lead on the fleet all the way from Galway to the Fastnet Rock in demanding conditions throughout their racing on the Irish coast. We salute John Killeen and the Galway spirit.

To vote for John Killeen click here





2008 Awards

In 2008, for the first time in the 12 year history of the competition, Afloat magazine is asking the public who should be crowned Ireland's sailor of the year.

JANUARY
Michael Holland

The first Cork Dry Gin/Irish Independent Sailor of the Month for 2008 was Michael Holland of Dun Laoghaire, who voyaged successfully with his 72ft ketch, Celtic Spirit of Fastnet, between the Arctic and Antarctic. In essence, this superbly-planned cruise was a private expedition to some decidedly rugged places. Private it may have been, but it later went public, as Celtic Spirit’s skipper and crew were awarded the Irish Cruising Club’s supreme award, the Faulkner Cup. Dating back to 1931, the Faulkner Cup tells us everything about sailing development in Ireland. First time round, 77 years ago, it rewarded a very modest cruise to Scotland in a 26ft wooden gaff cutter. This year in the National Yacht Club, it celebrated global voyaging in a special high tech 72ft vessel which sailed where other ships have been sunk by ice. We have surely moved on - and then some.


FEBRUARY
Damian Foxall

Damian Foxall was Cork Dry Gin/Irish Independent Sailor of the Month for February in celebration of his victory in the Barcelona World Race. And the Kerryman’s superb win on February 11th - precisely three months after starting the majestic global challenge with co-skipper Jeanne-Pierre Dick on the Open 60 Paprec Virbac 2 – was put into context later in the week with the finish of the fifth-placed boat, Mutual Madrilena. By the time the top Spanish entry returned home, Foxall had already been back to Ireland for rapturous applause at the Irish Sailing Association’s annual conference, and a reception from President McAleese, together with his wife Susy-Ann, son Oisin (aged seven months) and co-skipper J-P. Their win was given added lustre by analysis of the time recorded by runner-up Hugo Boss. The Boss had taken a 48-hour pit stop in New Zealand during the great race. Sailing folk still find it difficult to factor this business of pit stops into boat racing. Thus the total perfectionists were waiting to the bitter end to see how the absolute sailing times of the two boats compared. In other words, would Hugo Boss’s second place be less than 48 hours behind Paprec? The big black boat came in 56 hours astern. So the blue boat’s win was total. It was a good day for Derrynane.

 

MARCH
Norman Kean and Geraldine Hennigan

The Sailors of the Month for March were Norman Kean and Geraldine Hennigan of Courtmacsherry in West Cork, who have emerged as the “Honorary Guidance Service” for all who sail the coasts of Ireland. Norman and Geraldine – they’re husband and wife - sail aboard the vintage 48ft steel ketch Xanadu, and for the past two years Norman has been the editor of the Irish Cruising Club Sailing Directions, which cover our entire coastline in two fine books, and provide essential information for visitors and home sailors alike. With many harbours being re-developed, and navigational systems regularly up-graded, the continuous up-dating of information was becoming hugely demanding. The cruising club books have been produced in regularly expanded form since the early 1930s, but it was becoming a formidable challenge to maintain the required standard on a voluntary basis. It’s a challenge which Norman and Geraldine are prepared to undertake, and the publication in March of the 11th Edition of the guide for the east and north coasts shows just how thoroughly they have applied themselves to the task. It’s a monumental piece of work, a true sailor’s guide. In compiling it, Xanadu was sailed into 161 different places between Bloody Foreland and Carnsore Point last summer – and we all remember how much of last summer’s weather would have discouraged lesser mortals from such a major project. But the Xanadu crew – they’re tough cookies. And the ICC is fortunate in having noted aerial photographer Kevin Dwyer on the team – he grabbed a weather window last Autumn to provide superb photos to augment the information provided by words and harbour plans, while the club’s many members provided those essential snippets of local knowledge which boat people need. Then Norman and Geraldine pulled it all together, and the book is now available, a real boon for all sailors. We salute all involved,and we particularly salute the ship’s company of Xanadu.

 

APRIL
Nicholas O'Leary

“Sailor of the Month” for April was Nicholas O’Leary of Cork, captain of the Cork Institute of Technology crew which convincingly won the Intervarsities title racing the Irish Sailing Association’s SailFleet J/80s on Lough Derg early in April. Conditions were rough, but O’Leary showed true leadership in inpiring his crew to heroic efforts after a man overboard incident in the first race. The Corkmen battled their way back to second place in that opening joust, and then won each race thereafter. CIT thus qualified to represent Ireland at the Student Yachting Worlds in France in October, and in the meantime O'Leary kept in form by winning the Irish Match Racing title in Dun Laoghaire in September, and the Helmsman's Championship of Ireland in Howth at the beginning of October.

 

MAY
Dave Dwyer

Dave Dwyer of Cork became Sailor of the Month for May after a string of successes in both the top offshore class, and the International Etchells 22. In mid-May, he was crowned Irish Champion in Class 0 in the Nationals at Howth. Then at the end of the month he battled French champion Gery Trentesaux in the Scottish Series. But although the French skipper’s impressive new First 45 Lady Courrier took the title, Dwyer’s Mills 40 Mariners Cove was recovering her early season form, and rounded out the Scottish expedition with two straight wins on the final day. The style of the Dwyer achievement is underlined by his parallel success in a very different kind of boat, the Etchells 22. He’d been right in the frame while racing in the early season in Florida, and then when he transferred to the European Etchells racing in the Solent, he scored a clear win.

 

JUNE
Aodhan Fitzgerald

Aodhan Fitzgerald of Galway became June’s Sailor of the Month with his stylish overall win in the BMW Round Ireland Race, skippering the well-proven First 40.7 Ireland West. Fitzgerald is no stranger to round Ireland success on this boat, a Bruce Farr creation which is one of the all-time great designs for offshore racing – the Sydney-Hobart overall victory is another First 40.7 achievement. There are now hundreds of First 40.7s afloat and racing worldwide. Yet not all of them notch up classic event wins. But Ireland West certainly does the business. Back in 2004, Fitzgerald raced the same boat on the round Ireland in the two-handed division, and won. He sailed her fully-crewed as Ireland West in 2006, but that was one of the years when Eric Lisson’s Cavatina took the title. However, for 2008, the Galway men were back for more. Larry Hynes put the Ireland West package together, and Fitzgerald assembled a crew of all the talents drawn almost entirely from the Atlantic seaboard, though they did include helming ace Neil Spain as the token Dub. Throughout a ferociously demanding marathon, Ireland West was always in the top ten. And they sailed a tactically perfect race over the last hundred miles, which saw everything click into place. It gave them a sweet overall win by a clear hour and fifteen minutes, a decisive victory when it’s remembered the other top ten boats were generally placed within minutes of each other.

 

JULY
Anthony O'Leary

Anthony O’Leary of Cork was Sailor of the Month for July with a remarkable performance which included campaigning the top boat in class in the Commodore’s Cup, and then returning home to Crosshaven to mastermind attractive innovations on the water in Cork Week in his voluntary role as Race Director. The Commodore’s Cup achievement with the new Ker 39 Antix Eile was star stuff. The boat – new-built in Croatia and chartered from Colm Barrington - had some outstanding early season performances, but was off the pace at the Irish nationals in May. Modifications were made – one story talked of moving the keel all of eight inches. However, time was short for testing, and then the main event at the beginning of July served up some ferociously demanding racing conditions. But O’Leary was the man for the job, on top form. The tougher the going, the better they liked it, and on the final windy double-scoring day, they hauled the Ireland White team up nine points to second overall, and convincingly clinched the Class 1 individual win. Then came Cork Week. Some time last winter, the O’Leary Kitchen Committee in Crosshaven came up with the notion of an innovative new slalom course. For many boats, anything is more interesting than the windward-leeward format. But slalom also involves more work on the water for the mark-laying boats. The O’Leary family – including Olympic sailor Peter taking a break from China – did the business, and Cork Week had added flavour.

 

AUGUST
Pat and Olivia Murphy. Ger Owens and Phil Lawton

Global circumnavigators Pat and Olivia Murphy were co-winners of the August Sailor of the Month award, sharing the prize from a busy four-week period with Olympic race winners Gerald Owens and Philip Lawton. Taking nine years to fulfill the dream of sailing your own boat around the world may seem as far as possible from the hothouse cut-and-thrust of victory in two races in the Olympic cauldron. But the achievement of the Murphy husband-and-wife team is in its way as outstanding as any Olympic success. The welcome home for Pat and Olivia’s 41ft Aldebaran said it all. Even the weather smiled, and Howth YC Commodore Gerry O’Neill set the tone in hailing the achievement of the first Howth boat to sail round the world. Gerald Owens and Philip Lawton of Dun Laoghaire have made a huge commitment to the Olympic ideal, and their campaign in the 470 class was both long term and thorough. In the difficult sailing conditions at Qingdao – strong tides, popply sea conditions, and flukey winds – they showed well, and Irish prospects were good when the Owens-Lawton crew recorded two race wins, one of them very clear cut. But in one of the biggest classes in the Olympics – 29 boats – the pace was ferocious, and the Dun Laoghaire crew slipped down the rankings. In the end, they fetched up 16th overall. But for now, we cherish the memory of those two beautiful wins. And the achievement of Pat and Olivia Murphy is for all time, and all sailors.

 

 

SEPTEMBER
The Dickson Family

The Dickson family of Lough Ree became September’s Sailors of the Month after an outstanding season in which they made a significant input into the sport, both as volunteers and as enthusiastic participants. In 2007, David Dickson was a notably successful Commodore of the historic Lough Ree Yacht Club in Athlone (it dates back to 1770) and set it well on track to be the current ‘Club of the Year’. During 2008 he returned to active racing in his classic Shannon One Design, and won overall at both Lough Ree and Lough Derg Weeks, making him the very undisputed Shannon One Design champion. Came September, and the Ree boats raided south to Lough Derg once again for the Waterways Ireland Classic Boat Regatta, and the Dickson’s 1961-vintage boat (built by Walter Levinge of Athlone) was overall winner, sailed this time by David’s son Cillian, aged 15. Cillian is also an ace in the RS Feva class, so the Dickson family are multi-talented. They’re inspiring administrators, classic boat specialists, racing aces, and high tech sailors too – very worthy Sailors of the Month for September.

 

OCTOBER
John Kenny

John Kenny of Ringsend is Sailor of the Month for October, having set a new Irish speed record on a windsurfer in the big winds weekend of October 25th and 26th at Dungarvan in County Waterford. Kenny, a 35-year-old steelworker, happily describes himself as a speed freak. He has done his thing on motorbikes and mountainbikes, but his thrill in going fast now finds its purest expression on the water. He found ideal conditions when winds were so strong racing was cancelled at other venues. Last January, he achieved a personal best of more than 40 knots (that’s 73 kph) on the British speed sailing site in Essex. But naturally his ambition is to push to the limits in Irish waters, and the smooth but breezy waters in Dungarvan Estuary have been doing the business. His new Irish record is 38.379 knots, but as the Essex speed showed, there’s more to come. And the focus returned to Dungarvan at the end of November, with the World Production Windsurfer Record Championship is being staged there. The international entry list quickly topped the 50 mark, with numbers being capped at 80, and the word was that everybody who’s anybody in windsurfer speed would be there.

 

NOVEMBER
Ian Moore

Ian Moore of Carrickfergus, navigator on Green Dragon, is “Sailor of the Month” for November. The 37-yer-old expert, who is now based in Cowes when he isn’t calling the tactical shots on some of leading sailing machines in the world, has been on the list before, after he won the Volvo Ocean Race in 2001-2002 as navigator on Illbruck. But in his current role, Moore has been facing one of the most demanding challenges in his career. The pace is unrivalled in the history of the event, and the Irish-Chinese boat has been up against prodigiously powerful campaigns which are in a different league through superior resources of funding and time. Thus any success is gained against the odds, and it was Moore’s insistence on keeping the Dragon to the west of the fleet which enabled the Galway boat to be first at the vital scoring gate at the Fernando de Noronha islands off the coast of Brazil on Stage One. Then in at the start of the Second Stage from Cape Town to Cochin on the 15th November, the fleet was faced with strong winds in Table Bay, but sudden calms under the mountains. Moore called a highly individual course which saw the Dragon gain an advantage. As he drily puts it himself: “We had a good start, with a bit of a shimmy tactically, and that put us in a good position”. Since then, Green Dragon has had her share of problems, yet despite a broken mainboom Ian Moore plotted a course which saw her take a very useful third at the mid-stage scoring gate. Moore’s experience stands the entire team to the good, and it’s interesting to note that his own five favourite camoaigns include winning the TP 52 World Championship on Eamon Conneely’s Patches, a timely reminder that the Galway campaigner has played a key role in the Green Dragon project.

 

DECEMBER
Geraldine Foley and Peter Maxwell

The culmination of 175,000 miles of ocean voyaging and the beginning of a quest to find the perfect inland waterways cruiser is celebrated with Geraldine Foley and Peter Maxwell becoming “Sailors of the Month” for December. The intrepid couple built their own environmentally-friendly 50ft steel ketch Mithril, and sailed away from Ireland in 1991 on a lengthy circuit of the world south of the Great Capes. They returned to their home port of Newry, but then in 2006 they headed away again to visit family in Australia. The places they have sailed to range from the dauntingly spectacular to the usually inacessible. They were the first Irish boat ever to visit Kerguelen, and they’ve been to South Georgia. In the Autumn of 2008, Mithril arrived into Kinsale after cruising in Eastern Canada, and then after a coasting trip home to Newry, Geraldine and Peter confirmed that they were hanging up their seaboots, Mithril is for sale, but now they seek the ideal inland waterways cruiser - their choice of boat will be fascinating to follow.

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