Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

In association with ISA Logo Irish Sailing

Marine Clothing

Ireland's 2017 Vendee Globe competitor Enda O’Coineen reveals a 'marriage' of two former Vendee Globe campaigns; his own with the French IMOCA 60, Le Souffe du Nord.  The Galway Bay solo sailor also confirms – from his boatyard base in New Zealand – that he intends to fulfill his dream of circumnavigating the globe and 'unofficially' finish the solo non–stop round the world race almost a year after a dismasting brought his voyage to a halt.

Greetings from Christchurch, New Zealand. It's Spring here, the birds are singing and all our KIWI friends are gearing up for Summer. 

Following a ‘rebuild‘ our IMOCA 60, “ Souffe du Norde Kilcullen Team Ireland” - has come out of the yard and is due for launch today – Tuesday. Early morning it involved closing the highway, then through a large mountain tunnel leading to Lyttleton, a commercial harbour with ‘depth’ and still in a bit of a mess from the earthquake a while back.

On launching, we plan some trials and then a training leg up along the coast. Then a hop to the North Island and Wellington, the Capital, around to Tangaroa and then Auckland.

Leaving the boat secure, I am then heading back to the Irish Winter and the magic of Christmas. Then in January, we sail from Auckland back around to Dunedin and Otago Bay. Hence to complete a circumnavigation of New Zealand. Could this be a first for an Irishman? Perhaps Afloat’s Mr William Nixon can advise?

After that, it’s the ‘ Big One” and will be non-stop singlehanded to Les Sables D'Olonne and hopefully “unofficially” finish the Vendee – around the World with ‘One Stop’ – taking in a lap of Kiwiland!

Originally, after 60 days at sea, I ended up in Dunedin with no mast and a broken spirit. Such is serendipity, that The Souffe du Nord boat was broken almost in half and had a good mast. She had something big and soft, probably a whale – and arrived in the same place.

Our teams seemed destined to marry. For me it was clear on first sight. For them the courtship took a while. Interestingly our meeting point was the same place that Ernest Shackelton set out for the Antartic – 100 years previously to the month…

No less than 11 teams dropped out on this leg. Essentially you take the risks and accept the consequences. That said, it was a massive blow after such a period of intensity, to be suddenly mastless and cast adrift from a fast armada powering through the Southern Ocean was dramatic and a downer.

Then my ambition switched to survival and to get safely back to land without calling the rescues services some 200 miles out. And now that has become a simple desire to complete the circumnavigation and finish the race " unofficially” in Les Sables D'Olonne.

Last February, on returning back to Ireland - other than a few immediate talks, I went back to work ( to pay for it all). Most offers were resisted - and I could have easily dined out on my disaster story all year. As you know, in Ireland sometimes to fail is more successful that success itself.

Many people kindly wish you on – which is great – but deep down they always secretly love you to see fail. It brings great satisfaction. Human nature makes many feel great and superior when others fail. And, sure is it not great to give people this small joy? Cheers to the begrudgers and those who begrudge the begrugers – may they both self-extinguish!

Kilcullen voyager IMOCA 60'Oversize' – The IMOCA 60 Kilcullen Voyager/Le Souffre du Nord arrives at the boatyard ready to be launched
Originally, I was going to acquire the Souffe eu Nord Mast and their boat was to be written off. However, in the end, it made sense for me to work with them to fix their boat and sell my hull.

So now both teams have merged on an equal basis and we share the costs. The boat, was owned by a group of French businessmen based around Lille. And while keeping the partnership, it made sense for Team Ireland to take over the ownership. They have built a support group of almost 2,000 – they are passionate and a lot of fun. Their skipper, hired–in for the event Thomas Ruyant is a great sailor. However, he simply wanted out and became a bit scared of the boat, and is currently doing a two handed trans-Atlantic, the TJV.

With a courtship period, defined by logic, with ceremony and fanfare in Lille, I have been appointed their “Ambassador”. After some soul-searching they decided that they really wanted to finish.

Amongst other things, this involves taking a stuffed Hummingbird to Dunkirk. It joins my bottles of whiskey that have accompanied me on my voyage – one of which is promised to Prince Albert in Monaco who is a whiskey collector - and the other he has agreed to auction off with is in his castle for the Atlantic Youth Trust.

And why the Hummingbird? As legend has it, there was a forest fire in South America. And a flock of Hummingbirds would dive into the ocean and carry water in their beaks to dump on the fire to save the forest. Needless to say, the birds failed miserably but their message is that if everybody “does a bit” we have a chance to save the world. Go figure!

And, should you wish to understand our Souffe du Nord partners more, you can meet them when they come to Dublin on the 30th November. We have a party with the French Ambassador and at the same time announce the Atlantic Youth Trust schools programme and a workshop on using ocean adventure as an education tool in schools.

We are also working to assist Joan Mulloy from Team Ireland Racing, Gregor McGuikian also from Team Ireland Racing and to work also with Nin O'Leary of Ireland Ocean Racing, a great project.

Nin was to come on the leg up to Auckland but at the last moment had some issues at the last moment and will now likely come on the leg from Auckland back around to Dunedin/Otago.

We were fortunate to be able to facilitate Stewart Hosford of Ireland Ocean Racing of getting hold of Great American IV. Ireland is such a small place and there is a powerful logic for all involved in the sport, and the development of ocean sailing, to work together,

These ocean projects are incubating professional sailing teams. It's ‘baby steps’ for the moment and it's necessary to focus on one step at a time and sure who knows where the journey may lead? A circumnavigaton of some more Pacific countries and Atlantic islands on route?

Published in Vendee Globe

Solo sailor Enda O'Coineen rejoins his Vendee Globe yacht Kilcullen Voyager this weekend some 11–months after its dismasting off New Zealand on New Year's Day. That's according to the Irish Times Sailing Column this morning here. The 61–year–old flies who flies out to Christchurch today told the newspaper he wants 'to finish what I started'. 

As Afloat.ie reported at the time, O'Coineen spent five days in January sailing Kilcullen Voyager just 240 miles under jury rig (when his best days run while in full racing trim was 395 miles) trying to make the coast of Dunedin. He succeeded without having to call for aid from the rescue services but admitted his dream of circumnavigating the world was 'shattered'.

The Irish Times has much more on the story here.

Published in Vendee Globe

There have been several Irish offshore racing sailors who have been making national and world headlines for some years now, but in recent weeks and months the wave of new enthusiasm for the big ticket events has surged to fresh heights.

One of the stories underlying all this is the potential for a specialist marine industry base in Cork Harbour serving the continuous needs of the most advanced racing machines, and providing a launch pad for global campaigns. The idea has been around for some time now, but as reported in Afloat.ie as long ago as April 1st 2015, while the goodwill may be there, a firm decision is still awaited.

Local minister Simon Coveney has since moved on from the Marine to other Government departments. His present very senior role in representing Ireland through the Department of Foreign Affairs in decidedly turbulent times will mean that the needs of something so difficult to gauge for significant political and economic benefits will scarcely be top priority.

Yet for the many leading Irish sailors – both men and women – who have launched themselves into the decidedly uncertain world of top level professional competition, the problem of resources and facilities to keep the show on the road is always present, and frequently at crisis levels. W M Nixon wonders how there is going to be enough in the sponsorship pot – both nationally and globally – to help them all fulfill their dreams.

On Tuesday, Afloat.ie received confirmation of a “virtual press conference” in Cork, in other words a clearcut announcement that Nin O’Leary’s co-skippering of the IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss with Alex Thompson was going to move on to a full-blooded Vendee Globe campaign by O’Leary himself, possibly with a new boat.

coveney thomson hosford2The then Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney, Hugo Boss skipper Alex Thomson, and Stewart Hosford at the announcement in Cork in 2015 of a possible international offshore racing hub on Haulbowline Island.

In the meantime, the word on the waterfront is that the two skippers may do the two-handed Barcelona World Race 2018 in the current boat. But beyond that, the campaign plan for the charismatic O’Leary, mentored by Thomson and orchestrated by Stewart Hosford, is rumoured to be the building up of enough resources to keep this boat, yet also build a new one.

This is because the boat is still almost state-of-the-art, she has some features still absent in other boats, and could be serious opposition in someone else’s hands. Thus the ideal scenario is to maintain control of their current technology and design, while moving on to the next stage of development with an even more advanced boat for the Vendee Globe in 2020.

nin oleary3Nin O’Leary – a charismatic figure for Ireland’s younger sailors

We’re talking mega-bucks here, and the relationship with Hugo Boss has been very fruitful, but the elephant in the room - which hasn’t been mentioned yet - is how long will the Hugo Boss sponsorship continue?

This may all become clearer within the next ten days, as Thomson, O’Leary and Hugo Boss are headed for Ireland, with Cork in their sights on Monday 28th and Tuesday 29th August, and then they’re in Dun Laoghaire for a very public appearance on Wednesday August 30th, and staying until the Friday, September 1st for the ongoing launch of their new brand Ireland Ocean Racing.

This puts them top of the billboards. But we mustn’t let it blind us to the hopes of other campaigners, and on Thursday of this week, Tom Dolan made his final public appearance in Ireland before returning to France for the countdown towards the start of the Mini Transat 2017 from La Rochelle at the beginning of October.

tom dolan boat4Although Tom Dolan has some sponsorship for IRL 910, there is still a shortfall in funding for the Mini Transat 2017 which starts at the beginning of October from La Rochelle

tom dolan and friends5Tom Dolan (right) and fellow skippers in the Mini 650 class at Concarneau. The camaraderie and mutual help among the sailors contributes to France’s dominant position in short-handed sailing

Although Tom has some support backers whose logos appear on his sails, he makes no bones about his overall situation, as his Pogo 3, IRL 910, currently enters races under the name of “Still Seeking a Sponsor”. Whether his presentation in the National YC on Thursday will turn on any money taps in Ireland remains to be seen, the fact is that it’s in France he makes most impact. But in Dun Laoghaire, his burning enthusiasm left an abiding impression, for although his chosen life-path may be more exciting than running the small family farm in Meath, there are times when it’s a massive struggle.

Tom is one of several Irish international offshore wannabees and established skippers who have made a point of having the cup of coffee with Marcus Hutchinson. Hutchinson has transformed himself from being a young sailor who first learned his craft in Howth into an international sailing campaign management figure who maintains his Irish connections through Kinsale, yet is now a key presence at the French-led cutting edge of specialist offshore programmes.

Marcus hutchinson6Marcus Hutchinson is first Port of Call for anyone seriously contemplating a short-handed offshore campaign

It’s rumoured that in Brittany he has access to a large warehouse full of IMOCA 60s and Open 40s and whatnot. What we do know for sure is that he was very much the background force in Paul Meilhat’s stunning victory in the IMOCA 60 SMA in the recent Rolex Fastnet Race, a neatly-read campaign whose success was highlighted by the inescapable fact that Hugo Boss finished eighth out of the nine IMOCA 60s competing.

SMA with her dagger boards was optimized for windward work, whereas Hugo Boss with her foils most emphatically wasn’t. But while those in the know are aware of this, Joe Public simply sees the final results and takes it from there.

sma fastnet7The Marcus Hutchinson-managed SMA was convincing winner of the IMOCA 60 Class in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017. Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

Marcus Hutchinson’s deep well of sound advice is available to those who seek him out, and he is generous with his knowledge and sensible thoughts. Talking to Afloat.ie yesterday morning, he made the point that of the current wave of French superstars in the bigger boats, many have done the Figaro Solo at least a dozen times, and he reckons that setting out to take on the Vendee Globe straight from a career – however successful – in fully-crewed boats, is akin to taking on Everest solo without first trying a few smaller mountains on your own.

The list of those specialist sailors from Ireland who have made a point of seeking advice and assistance at some stage from Marcus Hutchinson is both impressive and fascinating, as it includes Damian Foxall, Justin Slattery, Enda O'Coineen, David Kenefick, Joan Mulloy, Sean McCarter, Tom Dolan and most recently Conor Fogerty.

joan mulloy8Joan Mulloy of Westport in County Mayo has secured a Figaro through Marcus Hutchinson, but still requires sponsorship

david kenefick9David Kenefick of Cork is another solo sailor who was guided into the Figaro Class by Marcus Hutchinson

And a salient fact which emerges in talking to some of them is the thought that while the Alex Thomson/Hugo Boss campaign was impressive, its central ethos of being stand-alone was ultimately counter-productive.

Two of the lone skippers mentioned above went so far as to say that if the Hugo Boss campaign had been prepared to mix it a bit more with the strongholds of French single-handed sailing in Brittany, then they would have won the Vendee Globe instead of coming second.

That’s undoutedly one for the speculation mill. But it gets a certain reinforcement from a statement this week from Nin O’Leary, to the effect that moving the base from Portsmouth to Cork would have the beneficial result of making the major French centres seem more accessible, as there’s almost a feeling of being trapped in the Eastern Solent, whereas in Cork it’s open water – and open thinking - all the way to Ushant and beyond.

This desire for open water and open thinking is spreading. One of the most interesting news items of recent weeks was that Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy hoped to secure a berth aboard Dee Caffari’s Volvo 65 for the up-coming Volvo World Race. Unfortunately the knee injury Murphy exacerbated with a spectacular capsize at the conclusion of becoming the International Moth Women’s World Champion 2017 on Lake Garda has put that idea on hold, but this shift of interest from the grind of Olympic training on a tedious four year cycle to the more stimulating world of big-time offshore stuff, with maior events coming up in rapid succession, reflects a discernible pattern of changing public awareness.

turn the tide on plastic10The new Volvo 65 Turn the Tide on Plastic. Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy had to defer taking up a berth on Dee Caffari’s Volvo 65 because of a knee injury sustained during a capsize in the Moth Worlds at Lake Garda

So Olympic sailing, ever mindful of the need to continue to attract public attention by whatever means, is going to include a test offshore series, probably for two person boats, in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

This is of particular interest to any Irish sailor desperately seeking sponsorship, for the reality is that on our island, there are only half a dozen sports – if that - which are big enough to make an impact on their own. The minority sports - sailing included - only figure significantly in public awareness if they come up in the Olympic searchlight.

That Olympic searchlight in turn encourages others to get involved, thereby stretching the cloak of sponsorship ever thinner. So it will be some time, if ever, before we see a joint approach to the challenge of raising sponsorship for this branch of sailing. And Heaven knows, but it’s difficult enough to get an effective short-handed sailing campaign of international standard up to speed without the endless worry of finding the money. Yet that’s the way it is. But if you really do find the challenge irresistible, Afloat.ie’s advice is to make arrangements to have a cup of coffee with Marcus Hutchinson before you do anything else.

Published in W M Nixon

#SailingTalk - The next event in Greystones Sailing Club’s Winter Wednesdays series of talks hosts Neil O'Hagan of the Atlantic Youth Trust, the project that aims to bring about Ireland's next sail training tall ship.

O’Hagan is also on-shore co-ordinator for Kilcullen Team Ireland in the Vendée Globe, and he will have all the scuttlebutt on the highs and lows of Enda O’Coineen sailing Kilcullen Voyager, Ireland’s first entry in the round-the-world solo yachting challenge.

The date for diary is next Wednesday 25 January at 8pm, bar open from 7.30pm. You won’t want to miss it!

Published in News Update

The current Vendee Globe Race non-stop round the world is deservedly attracting enough attention without having to make over-stated claims on behalf of some of its participants writes W M Nixon.

The official website is today carrying a story that if Enda O’Coineen can succeed in his plan of sailing his dismasted IMOCA 60 Kilcullen Voyager from Dunedin at the south end of New Zealand under jury rig to Auckland 800 miles away to the north, where a loaned replacement masts awaits, then if he can continue the voyage back to les Sables d’Olonne round Cape Horn he will become the first Irishman to sail solo round the world.

Not so. Noted Dublin marine artist Pete Hogan, who sailed solo round the world in his gaff ketch Molly B, said today that the number of misapprehensions about who was first doing what in the Irish circumnavigation stakes is astonishing.

For instance, when he rounded Cape Horn in the 1990s, he was acclaimed as the first Irishman to do it alone, for of course Conor O’Brien had done it with the crewed Saoirse in 1925. Yet Pete Hogan found it very difficult to get anyone to listen when he subsequently tried to set the record by saying that Bill King of Galway with the junk-rigged ketch Galway Blazer was the first solo, and that was way back in 1973.

The fact that Bill King was a distinguished former British submarine commander may have projected the image of being non-Irish. But in fact he flew both the Irish tricolour and the
British red ensign, and his home was Oranmore Castle at the head of Galway Bay.

irish solo2Bill King’s purpose-designed Galway Blazer circumnavigated the world solo south of the great Capes in 1973.

Since then, other Irish sailors who have striven to circumnavigate include Declan Mackell, originally from Portaferry but Canadian-based by the time he undertook his voyage in a Contessa 32, with which he returned home to Ireland for a prolonged stay during his circuit.

Another lone circumnavigator, Pat Lawless of Limerick who completed his voyage with a Seadog ketch in 1996 at the age of 70, had hoped to take in Cape Horn, but rigging damage forced him into a Chilean port, and eventually he returned to Ireland via the Panama Canal. But his circuit was definitely completed, and completed alone.

And Pete Hogan believes there may be one or two other Irish lone circumnavigators who have done it without fanfare. For not everyone seeks the kind of publicity which the Vendee Globe inevitably provides.

Pat Lawless solo sailorLimerick circumnavigator – the irrepressible Pat Lawless aboard his world-girdling Seadog ketch

Published in Vendee Globe

#VendéeGlobe - Just days after admitting his “dream is shattered” after his dismasting off New Zealand at the halfway mark of the Vendée Globe, Irish skipper Enda O’Coineen is already preparing for a return to the water.

And as the Otago Daily Times reports, that’s all thanks to the kindness of Dunedin local Blair McNab, a plumber and yachtsman who read about the 61-year-old sailor’s plight and donated him a spare 9m mast.

Though smaller than his original rig, O’Coineen said it should be enough to get him to Auckland, where a replacement mast up to the task of the round-the-world offshore challenge might be sourced.

That would enable the first-time Vendée entrant to complete the route and sail Kilcullen Voyager back to Ireland, even if he’s no longer in official race contention.

"I’m the first Irishman to sail single-handedly halfway around the world — I’ve just got to do the other half,” he said.

The Otago Daily Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Vendee Globe

Enda O’Coineen may have exited the Vendee Globe in dramatic fashion on New Year’s Day when, as he drolly put it, Kilcullen Voyager stopped stone dead as she zapped into the back of a Southern Ocean wave, but his enormous mast just continued straight on with an almighty crash as it broke off clean at the deck. But this ruthless race continues on its way, and there’s still much of very specific Irish interest in it as the leaders approach the finish. W M Nixon gives us his own take on it all, and then tells us a tale out of school about Irish involvement.

It has to be the oddest geography lesson ever provided. And it has to be the most unexpectedly energetic way of promoting a relatively unknown region of France which was formerly almost exclusively associated with a relaxed way of life.

Once upon a time, the Vendee was a place which you’d usually associate with the gentler things in life. Things like good food and summer wine enjoyed in a sleepy siesta lifestyle in gently dusty villages inland from some fine beaches, villages where life moves slowly under the kindly shade of many trees, in a latitude which is not so far south as to be overly hot in summer, yet not far enough north to experience harsh winters.

vendee globeLittle place that thinks big – France’s Vendee region has put itself firmly on the world map by sponsoring the Vendee Globe

It’s about the size of an average Irish county. Yet right now, France’s modestly endowed Vendee region is being promoted as a place of world significance by extreme sportsmen taking part in a rugged sailing exercise with the most severe physical and life-threatening challenges, subsisting on a meagre diet which would rightly produce rioting in any self-respecting prison.

Welcome to the world of the Vendee Globe. That is, in the unlikely event that you aren’t already addicted to following it on a daily or indeed hourly basis. This still almost unbelievable round the world non-stop marathon continues to have an air of crazy novelty and enduring fascination, even though it was first staged in 1989.

vendee globePeaceful countryside. Deep in the heart of the Vendee, the sea seems far away
It boggles the mind to try and imagine the great French sailor Philippe Jeantot taking on the challenge of persuading the civil servants and politicians who run this relatively remote region of west France to permit, let alone sponsor, an event which is now utterly out on its own. Yet the regions of France quite rightly have an intense local pride. And if we in Ireland feel a tinge of envy at what they can achieve, just remember that last weekend it was announced that Wicklow Sailing Club had become the Mitsubishi Motors Club of the Year for 2017 thanks to their utter commitment to promoting the Round Ireland Race on a biennial basis, while at the same time continuing to function successfully as a club which caters for local sailing needs.

vendee globeA summer cornfield in the Vendee is about as different as you can get…

vendee globe cape horn….from rounding Cape Horn in a rising gale. Yet both are linked through the world’s most challenging race

It’s something which is unusual in an overly-centralized country like Ireland, where all major decision are made in the capital, and in sailing you’d expect one of the main centres such as Cork Harbour or Dublin Bay or Belfast Lough to be the home of the Round Ireland race. But it is dogged little Wicklow which has won through, and 2016’s race fully justified their faith.

However, in the Irish context it is a local sailing club which is setting the pace. But in France, it is the regional administration which has been persuaded to pull off a remarkable coup. Looking at the scale and publicity which accompanies the Globe race, you’d assume it starts and finishes in a major centre such as Brest, or Lorient, or La Rochelle. Au contraire. The Vendee Globe starts and finishes in the very artificial sand-surrounded port of les Sables d’Olonne, set on a long sandy coast off which just about the only object of interest is the intriguing little Biscay island of Ile d’Yeu.

les sables dolonneLes Sables d’Olonne, where the harbour is tucked in behind what used to be sand dunes

vendee globeThe start of the Vendee Globe 2016-2017

Yet despite the paucity of features of special interest along its sandy beaches, every three to four years sees Les Sables d’Olonne being swamped by hundreds of thousands of visitors when the Vendee Globe circus is in town. And this weekend, the focus sees the Race Headquarters move from their race-time base at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris back to the quayside at Les Sables in anticipation of the finish, some time in the middle of next week, of the two fleet leaders.

Yesterday, gales on the Biscay coast prevented the re-installation of the super-tented Vendee Globe Village in Les Sables. But by today the command control should be broadcasting again on all media, and we can resume our daily doses of a fascinating event which is reaching its most crucial stage in an unexpected way.

For after a week in which severe storms have been sweeping most of Europe, a great big high pressure area is showing every sign of settling in over the southwest approaches to the Bay of Biscay right across the track which the two leaders – Armel le Cleac’h on Bank Populaire VIII and Alex Thompson closing up from 130 miles astern on Hugo Boss – will have to take to get to Les Sables.

C’est ridicule! The seas off northwest Spain - Galicia, Finisterre, whatever you want to call it – should be one of the stormiest places in the world in the latter half of January. Yet here it is, in an increasingly benign mood, with the final stages of the world’s breeziest race threatening to become a battle of the zephyrs.

Enda O Coineen Stewart Hosford Enda O'Coineen and Stewart Hosford in Cork Harbour  in 2015

Under time-honoured traditional yacht racing tactics, all Le Cleac’h need to do is keep re-positioning himself so that he is directly between Thomson and the finish line. But these are not traditional yachts. Even in a zephyr, they can virtually create their own wind, and if the leader really does become so completely and utterly becalmed that he loses steerage way, the second-placed boat knows that his primary objective must be to maintain way even if it means actually heading away from the finish.

However, let’s face it, it is January, and it’s unlikely the total calm you might experience in high summer will ever settle in. That said, for le Cleac’h the situation is hugely challenging, for if there is one other skipper in the entire race who has the ability to pull off an audacious coup and snatch the lead, then it is 42-year-old Alex Thomson.

And in a sense, here in Ireland we can look on him as one of us. For five formative years of his childhood, he lived in the Crosshaven area, and his name can be found in the register of Templebreedy National School. His father Peter was a helicopter pilot on air-sea rescue duty, which meant that Alex was born in Bangor in North Wales as his father at the time was flying out of Anglesey, but then the move came to Cork airport, and the young Alex saw his first sailing off Weavers Point.

Sailing the seas of Cork at that time was young Stewart Hosford whose father Bill was one of the crew on Denis Doyle’s blue S&S designed Moonduster. Bill Hosford was also one of the consortium involved with Barry Burke in building the Ron Holland-desined Shamrrock racer-cruiser range, while for some added interest Bill and his wife Ann for ten years owned that deservedly renowned West Cork hostelry Mary Ann’s in the picturesque village of Castletownshend.

However, the challenge of life as an international banking executive drew young Stewart away from Cork, and he spent fifteen years in the City of London and another five in Edinburgh before the call of the sea returned, and he and his mates bought the Farr 65 Spirit of Diana in 2000 and linked up with the recent winning skipper in the Clipper Round the World Race, one Alex Thomson, to go racing. The rest is history.

vendee globe Alex Thompson keel“Alex does the sailing and the stunts…..” A spot of keel-walking with Hugo Boss

Hugo Boss Yacht shipwreckEven when things don’t go quite according to plan, somehow it still seems a success…

The synergy between the two men in creating a boat racing organization is extraordinary. Even though Stewart is now based back in Cork, life is totally peripatetic as he fulfills the role of CEO of Alex Thomson Racing, while Alex does the sailing and the stunts, and Sir Keith Mills is the third corner of a remarkable triangle for creating success.

The well-established link-up with Hugo Boss completed the package, and while on occasion things have gone spectacularly wrong, there’s something about an Alex Thomson Racing failure which makes it into a success. The man himself has a superhuman dedication and determination, and an ability to think completely outside the box, which makes their involvement in any event add greatly to its success.

Simon Coveney Alex Thomson Stewart HosfordThe then Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney with Alex Thomson and Stewart Hosford at a press briefing to put forward some proposals for developments on Cork Harbour

Most of us have lost count of how many different boats called Hugo Boss there have actually been, but there’s no doubt the current boat – after some setbacks which would have rebuffed a lesser squad – has evolved into on of the most formidable racing machines on the planet.

So even though it’s unlikely she’ll get starboard tack all the rest of the way to the finish in order for her lack of a starboard foil not to be a disadvantage, Hugo Boss racing has now reached such a level of attention that any outcome is ultra-newsworthy.

But though we talk of the Alex Thomson Racing challenges having reached a certain kevel, staying level is that last thing on the minds of these guys. They’ve all sorts of other ideas taking shape, and their track record is such that if they were so inclined, they could make a tidy living as consultants to nascent challenge projects. That is most unlikely. They’ve moved on a long way from Templebreedy. But even so, it still means a lot to Alex Thomson and Stewart Hosford when the latest Hugo Boss puts in an appearance at Crosshaven.

vendee globe Enda O’Coineen’s Kilcullen Voyager and the previous Hugo Boss off Crosshaven, where Alex Thomson spent five years of his childhood.

Published in W M Nixon

#VendeeGlobe - Enda O’Coineen says “it's a real possibility to finish what I started” despite the devastating mast break that took him out of the Vendée Globe on New Year’s Day.

The Kilcullen Voyager helm was forced to cut the rig free to protect the hull after dismasting some 180 nautical miles south-east of Dunedin in New Zealand — ending Ireland’s first ever challenge in the round-the-world solo yacht race at the half-way point.

In his final race log, the 60-year-old businessman described how the incident left him “shaken and struggling to get back to New Zealand”, with no motor on board and many miles from rescue.

However, 40-knot winds over the last few days helped to push his drifting vessel into range of a Dunedin trawler, on board which he was expected to reach land this morning (Friday 6 January).

Speaking to the Press Association ahead of his arrival, he confirmed comments from his last log that he wants to complete the race course, even if he is formally out of competition.

"It's a real possibility to finish what I started but it's a massive undertaking to do the repair," said Afloat.ie’s Sailor of the Month for December. "But I'm nervous about saying I'm going to do that.

“Doing that, resourcing it, making it happen, there's a lot of sacrifice for the family and all of that but that's one real alternative I'm contemplating."

Replacing the rig is one of three options open to O’Coineen, which include shipping the broken boat home, or leaving it behind.

Independent.ie has more on the story HERE.

Published in Vendee Globe

For months now, Enda O Coineen’s campaign in the Vendee Globe with the veteran IMOCA 60 Kilcullen Voyage has captured public imagination as the resilient 60-year-old lone sailor has battled the challenge of a lifetime in the most demanding sailing event in the world. By December, his progress had become a part of everyday life for his thousands of followers in Ireland and abroad. Far from being a dogged account of endless struggles with ferocious weather and the inevitable gear failure, his reports were often laced with lively humour, unflinching self-analysis, and the occasional highly entertaining declamation of poetry in mid-ocean.

As December progressed, his placing in the race continued to improve as others of the 29 starters fell by the wayside. It was becoming increasingly likely that if he eventually made it to the finishing line in Les Sables d’Olonne, he would have got into single figures on the leaderboard. December 9th was surely the highlight, when he logged 395 miles in a single day. But then, following a complete knockdown, one problem after another followed, and he’d to divert to Stewart Island off the southern tip of New Zealand for a day’s shelter and essential repairs.

The jobs done, he was on his way again as December drew to a close when a sudden squall from a new direction and a self-steering malfunction caused a couple of crash gybes, the second resulting in a total dismasting with the entire rig having to be cut away in violent seas. Eventually, resorting to engine power soon resulted in a stray rope jamming the propeller. Yet with a jury rig using spare mainsail battens as masts, he has been able to make his way unaided back towards New Zealand, where he will be brought into port with a pre-arranged tow from a fishing boat.

His spirit in the midst of these setbacks is reminiscent of Ernest Shackleton at his best. We’re well aware that a year ago, we made Enda O’Coineen January “Sailor of the Month” for his success in qualifying for a place in the Vendee Globe thanks to a third place in December’s Transatlantic Race. But his unsinkable spirit deserves a second award as our final gesture to what he has achieved in 2016.

Published in Sailor of the Month

Enda O'Coineen has been dismasted on New Year's Day off New Zealand bringing to an end Ireland's first ever Vendee Globe Challenge at the half way stage of the solo round the world race.

O'Coineen reported to Race Headquarters in Paris at 0830hrs UTC that the mast of Kilcullen Voyager - Team Ireland has broken.

Over the past 55 days Enda has sailed 13,153 nautical miles (over 24,000 kilometres) alone, through some of the worst weather imaginable. He has overcome rigging issues, electrical issues, the mental challenge, but losing the mast is something impossible to repair.

His position is now some 180 nautical miles to the south east of Dunedin, New Zealand. He was racing in 35kts of SSE wind when the rig broke. The skipper is uninjured and reported that he was starting to secure his boat and the broken pieces of the rig and planned to head to New Zealand which, in the current weather situation, is downwind for him. He should have enough fuel on board for the journey.

Enda is in contact with the Technical Team and Race Direction. A full assessment of his situation is being made and more details will follow.

Update at 1600hrs

In a few unfortunate moments the Vendée Globe solo round the world race came to a premature end for Irish skipper Enda O'Coineen. A sudden, unexpectedly strong gust at 35kts of wind overpowered his autopilot, resulting in two crash gybes leaving no time to get a running backstay on to support the mast.

In seconds the mast of Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland is broken, falling over the side of the boat.

Lying in 15th place in the famous round the world race, which represented the pinnacle of his lifetime of sailing and adventuring, O'Coineen had only just completed a series of necessary repairs 24 hours earlier, whilst sheltered in the lee of Stewart Island, at the very southernmost tip of New Zealand. Ironically only two hours previous to his mast crashing down, he had made a New Year's video, promising to recalibrate his natural affinity for risk.

Having just effected his repairs – principally to his autopilot and computers - and actually having profited from his experiences and his solid speeds in the Indian Ocean, O'Coineen today spoke of his deception and disappointment, which are felt all the deeper and harder because he considered himself to be in good shape to take on the second half of his round the world race:

“I am devastated. Things were going quite well. O'Coineen said, “I was in good shape. Having got this far I felt we could handle anything. There was just that little malfunction of the self-steering that set a whole train in motion. I have to accept responsibility. What happens, happens.”

In terms of his Vendée Globe, setting out on the 5,000 miles to Cape Horn, O'Coineen, 60, is fortunate to have been a little less than 200 miles SE of Dunedin when his mast came down. He cut is rig free but reported that he did not save the boom, or any part of the mast, and so has very limited jury rig options. He was heading slowly downwind towards New Zealand this Sunday afternoon.
“You roll the dice.” He told Race HQ in Paris after prefacing his description of the incident by wishing all a Happy New Year. “I was caught a little bit unawares. I was in 20-25kts of breeze and a very vicious 35kts squall came through and the self-steering malfunctioned just at the wrong moment. I did an involuntary gybe and then a gybe back. The boat was out of control and I was caught without the runner properly on and the mast snapped. I have to laugh because if I don't I will cry. The mast came clean off at the deck and in fact it was intact. But the whole rig went over the side. I had the difficult decision to make whether to try and save the rig or whether to save the hull of the boat.”
O'Coineen's humour, philosophy and his larger than life character, his predilection for wearing his big and passionate heart on his sleeve will be missed over the remaining weeks of this Vendée Globe.
“Look, you have to be philosophical. This sort of sailing is living on the edge. I have been doing this for 57 days and as the fella says if you are living on the edge you are taking up too much space. I was taking up too much space on the edge.”

“Ironically I had just done a little interview with myself for New Year. I celebrated with a small bottle of champagne. My alter personality asked me what my New Year's Resolution is. And my New Year's Resolution was to take less risk with my life. In business, in my life, I have taken a lot of risk. The risk enabled me to make enough money to buy this boat, to pursue the dream and to pursue my adventure. Bizarrely, only two hours earlier, I had recorded a video pledging to take less risk. And here I am. Risk is a four letter word, like a lot of meaningful four letter words in the English language.”
Of the 18 boats still actively racing, 29 having started in Les Sables d'Olonne on November 6th, some eight weeks ago, the leadership battle sees Armel Le Cléac'h having gained 43 miles in the 24 hours to 14:00hrs UTC. Second placed Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) will seek to minimise his time upwind on port tack because he has no foil to provide lift and traction.

Transcript from Enda onboard Team Kilcullen: 

"You roll the dice. I was caught a little bit unawares. I was in 20-25 kts of breeze and a very vicious 35kt squall came through and the self-steering malfunctioned just at the wrong moment. I did an involuntary gybe and then a gybe back. The boat was out of control and I was caught without the runner properly on and the mast snapped. I have to laugh because if I don't I will cry. The mast came clean off at the deck and in fact it was intact. But the whole rig went over the side. I had the difficult decision to make of whether to try and save the rig or whether to save the hull of the boat.  I thought of safety first. I cut the rig free from the boat. I was worried that the stump of the rig would hole the boat. The seas were pretty wild. There was a big sea running. I cut the entire rig free. I am mastless, the deck was holed. It is not a happy situation but there it is, you roll the dice. That is the risk you take. 

I am devastated. Things were going quite well. I was in good shape. Having got this far I felt we could handle anything. There was just that little malfunction of the self-steering that set a whole train in motion. I have to accept responsibility. What happens, happens. 

Look, you have to be philosophical. This sort of sailing is living on the edge. I have been doing that for 57 days and as the fella says if you are living on the edge you are taking up too much space. I was taking up too much space on the edge. 

Ironically I had just done a little interview with myself for New Year. I celebrated with a small bottle of champagne. My alter personality asked me about my New Year's Resolution. And my New Year's Resolution was to take less risk with my life. In business, in my life I have taken a lot of risk. The risk enabled me to make enough money to buy this boat. to pursue the dream, to pursue my adventure. The irony is that only two hours earlier I had recorded a video to pledge to take less risk. And here I am. Risk is a four letter word, like a lot of meaningful four letter words in the English language. 

What can you do? I have acted responsibly. 

It is January 1st.  It is a New Day and a New Year and it is time to move on. My Vendée Globe is over. I am appreciative of all the support I have had. "

Published in Vendee Globe
Page 1 of 5