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Who gets your vote as Afloat Sailor of the Year 2017? The past year, in the view of Winkie Nixon, has produced some 'extra-special sailors', and over the past 12 months we have picked out 28 individual sailors and pairings who have excelled in their respective disciplines, be it offshore, dinghy, cruise or powerboating.

On Friday, February 9, our judging panel will announce the Sailor of the Year at the RDS in Dublin — and you can have your say by voting in our poll on any page of the Afloat website

The overall award will be announced at a ceremony which will also see each Sailor of the Month individually honoured.

As in previous years, the boating public and maritime community can have their say to help guide judges in deciding who should be crowned Ireland's Sailor of the Year for 2017 by using our online poll (see right of page). The judges welcome the traditional huge level of public interest in helping them make their decision, but firmly retain their right to make the ultimate decision for the final choice while taking voting trends into account.

Please note: One vote per person. Your vote DOES NOT necessarily determine the overall winner.

The national award is especially designed to salute the achievements of Ireland's sailing's elite. After two decades the awards has developed in to a premier awards ceremony for water sports.

As in previous years, the overall national award will be presented to the person who, in the judges' opinion, achieved the most notable results in, or made the most significant contribution to, Irish sailing during 2017. You can read more from Afloat's WM Nixon here.

By supporting your favourite nominee you are creating additional awareness of their nomination and highlighting their success.

Voting online is open to public view from January 1 until Friday, January 26th 2018.

CLICK THE LINK ON EACH SAILORS' NAME TO READ THEIR ACHIEVEMENT FROM 2017 AND VOTE FOR YOUR SAILOR in the right hand column (on desktop machines) and below on tablet and mobile.

ABOUT THE AFLOAT.IE SAILOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

Created in 1996, the Afloat Sailor of the Year Awards represent all that is praiseworthy, innovative and groundbreaking in the Irish sailing scene.

Since it began 20 years ago the awards have recognised over 320 monthly award winners in the pages of Ireland's sailing magazine Afloat and these have been made to both amateur and professional sailors. The first ever sailor of the year was Dinghy sailor Mark Lyttle, a race winner at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

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

Published in Sailor of the Month

The Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” awards were established twenty-one years ago in 1996. But as the adjudicators have always been allowed an element of flexibility, sometimes there have been more than one award in a particular month, so any talk of a total of 252 awardees over the past two decades and more is way short of the mark. W M Nixon takes us on quick tour of 2017’s extra-special sailors.

JANUARY

STEWART HOSFORD & ALEX THOMSON

The dark depths of winter in early 2017 were much brightened by the excitement of the finish of the Vendee Globe Race. Alex Thomson’s very respectable second with Hugo Boss reminded us that not only was his shore chief Stewart Hosford a peripatetic Corkman, but Alex himself spent several years as a child in Crosshaven, more than enough to qualify for this double success.

coveney thomson hosford2The Cork team – Minister Simon Coveney TD with Alex Thomson and Stewart Hosford

FEBRUARY (Cruising)

DARAGH NAGLE

Cruising being the most leisurely and individualistic form of sailing, its honours are difficult to evaluate, and are dispensed at leisure. But in February the Irish Cruising Club revealed that Vancouver Island-based Daragh Nagle had won their historic Faulkner Cup (it dates back to 1931) for an exemplary Pacific islands cruise with his 37ft sloop, and we felt his achievement deserved to be more widely known.

daragh nagle3Cathy & Daragh Nagle on their Mooody 376 Chantey V in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico during their award-winning Pacific Islands cruise.

FEBRUARY (Racing)

IAN MOORE

Ian Moore is one of the world’s top ten racing navigators. And though he is based in Cowes, the fact that he comes from Carrickfergus means he figures regularly in the “Sailor of the Month” awards. His achievement in February 2017 was calling the shots to such perfection aboard the American Maxi 72 Bella Mente in the RORC Caribbean 600 that she won overall in what was very much a navigator/tactician’s contest.

rorc caribbean4A typical Ian Moore tactical master-stroke. In the RORC Caribbean 600, the start is usually to windward off the cliffs on the southeast coast of Antigua. The best start is obtained by being right in on the cliffs on starboard tack as the gun goes, and then being able to call for water and tack into a commanding position on top of the fleet. Here, the Maxi 72 Bella Mente navigated by Ian Moore has done it to perfection, and now has her rival, the Maxi 72 Proteus, neatly tucked away. Photo Rolex

MARCH

RICHARD ROBERTS

You might think that in Ireland, the weekend of March 10th-11th is a bit early in the year to expect good sailing with sunshine. But the Irish Universities Sailing Association found both in the unusual but hospitable setting of Clifden in Connemara, where Clifden Boat Club gallantly hosted 160 student sailors in a hard-fought team contest. Trinity College Dublin – captained by Richard Roberts – won out from University College Cork. Ironically, Richard is himself from Cork……

richard roberts5The magic of Connemara. Even in March, Clifden Boat Club was able to provide sparkling conditions for the Irish Universities Championship 2017

richard roberts6Traditional celebration for winners Trinity College Dublin – captain Richard Roberts on left.
APRIL (JUNIOR)

EWAN McMAHON

It was the biggest Irish Sailing Youth Pathway Nationals yet seen, and the 2017 Championship at Ballyholme on Befast Lough – 190 boats, 208 sailors – lived up to expectations in a variety of sailing conditions in late April. The Laser Radials inevitably became the Battle of the Titans, and Ewan McMahon of Howth – Silver Medallist at the Laser Radial Worlds in Dublin Bay in 2016 - beat off challenges from every direction to take the top title.

isa youth nationals7With 190 boats and 200 sailors, the Youth Nationals in April were the biggest ever, and while Ewan McMahon (photo at top of this blog) was the supreme star, every class had its contests, and this is Rob Keal from Cork battling in the Toppers
APRIL (OFFSHORE)

TOM DOLAN

Tom Dolan from County Meath has ploughed a sometimes very lonely furrow to make his way in top level Mini-Transat offshore racing in France. In one of the most demanding and competitive fleets in the world, getting into the top ten is a real achievement, while a podium place is stellar. But in April’s 300-mile opening event of the season in the Bay of Biscay, Tom was on form to take the Bronze.

tom dolan8Tom Dolan in flying form in his Pogo 3 IRL 910. In April he took Bronze in one of the first major races of the Mini-Transat season. He currently lies third in the final Transoceanic stage of the Mini-Transat 2017

APRIL (OLYMPIC)

SASKIA TIDEY

Saskia Tidey of Dun Laoghaire’s enthusiasm for racing the 49erFX to Olympic level is such that after she’d exhausted every possibility of finding  a sailing partner towards Tokyo 2020 within Ireland, she had to cast the net towards Britain, and found herself teaming up with Scottish sailor Charlotte Dobson.  Dobson is from Helensburgh, which is as near as you can get to a Scottish equivalent to Dun Laoghaire, and their new partnership was immediately fruitful, as they took the Bronze at the World Cup series at Hyeres in April after just four months of training together.  

tidey and dobsonSaskia Tidey of Dun Laoghaire and Charlotte Dobson of Helensburgh won the 49erFX Bronze at Hyeres in April after just four months of training together

MAY

THE KELLY FAMILY OF RUSH

Anyone who races against the J/109 Storm, campaigned by Pat Kelly and his close-knit family from Rush Sailing Club, quickly realises that they are up against something special in sailing. The tidal anchorage at Rush means that Storm is a welcome resident of Howth Marina, but Rush Sailing Club was where the party was held when she won her class in the Scottish Series 2017, and in October she went on to win the Irish J/109 Nationals.

j109 storm9The Kelly family’s J/109 Storm in a typically race-winning position

JUNE (OFFSHORE)

CONOR FOGERTY

When the fleet racing in June’s Single-Handed East-West Transatlantic race was struck by a ferocious storm, so much media attention went to sailors who had to be rescued that attention was diverted away from Conor Fogerty of Howth. He had been sailing his Sunfast 36000 Bam! with such skill and determination that he had sailed beyond the worst of the weather, but his victory was no joyride, and he thoroughly deserved his win and the prestigious Gipsy Moth Trophy.

conor fogerty howth10Conor Fogerty spills the beans to his clubmates back home in Howth soon after his win in the Singe-Handed Transatlantic Race

JUNE (INSHORE)

JOHN MAYBURY

The J/109 Joker 2 is the very embodiment of the well-managed racing yacht, and owner John Maybury of Dun Laoghaire is attentive to both detail and the big picture in getting the best from boat and crew. His hugely impressive third win in a row in the ICRA Nationals – this time at Crosshaven – bears eloquent testimony to the successful Maybury way of doing things.

j109 joker11“A very well-managed racing boat” – John Maybury’s Joker 2 (RIYC) is one of the most consistently successful boats in Ireland

JULY

NICHOLAS ‘NIN” O’LEARY

The success of the Royal Cork’s DinghyFest at the end of June and the beginning of July came after months of meticulous planning. This behind-the-scenes work was so well done that when lead organiser Nin O’Leary was invited to spearhead the single-day Round the Island campaign of the JPK 10.80 Yes! in England, somehow he managed to fit it in while DinghyFest was on, and won overall against a fleet of more than 1,500 boats.

yes rir12The JPK 10.80 Yes! with Nin OLeary on board, on her way to wining the Round the Island race 2017 from a huge fleet

JULY (SPECIAL AWARD)

FRANK KOWALSKI

The magic idea of a 2000 kilometres-plus Round Ireland and Rockall Powerboat Record came from Frank Kowalski of SafeHaven Marine. With his specialized team, he designs and builds some of the world’s most remarkable boats in an efficient production unit in Youghal. They excelled themselves in creating the arrow-like 17m (53ft 6ins Thunder Child, and in July 2017 this wonderful machine took them round Ireland and Rockall in 34 hours, an average of 32 knots.

thunder child13Designed in Ireland and built in Ireland, the Frank Kowalski-mastermined Thunder Child has set a formidable Round Ireland & Rockall Record

JULY (OLYMPIC CLASSES)

AOIFE HOPKINS

From being a top junior sailor, Aoife Hopkins of Howth is maturing into a seasoned campaigner with Olympic prospects. She showed her capacity to deal confidently with a very wide variety of conditions by taking overall victory in the European Women’s U21 Laser Radial Championship at Douarnenez in Brittany in July, racing in very open waters in winds and weather which changed on a daily basis.

aoife hopkins new14Aoife Hopkins on her way to Gold in the open waters off Douarnenez

AUGUST (SPECIAL AWARD)

SIMON HOFFMAN & SANTIAGO ALLEGRE

In the 29er Worlds at Los Angeles, Johnny Durcan of Cork became trapped under his capsized boat. The complex 29er can become a cat’s cradle when capsized, and the Irish sailor was trapped and drowning. In the hectic rush of the race, just two other sailors were observant enough to notice that this was no ordinary capsize. Simon Hoffman of Australia and Santiago Alegre of Spain abandoned their own boats to swim and then dive to help their Irish friend. They saved his life.

hoffman durcan15After they’d rescued their mate Johnny Durcan during the 29er Worlds in California, Simon Hoffman (above) and Santiago Alegre (below) went to see how their friend was doing as he recovered in hospital

durcan alegre16

AUGUST (OLYMPIC CLASSES)

FIONN LYDEN

The Olympic Finn single-hander is a demanding beast of a boat, and currently only two Irish sailors are facing the challenge of travelling in search of Finn competition. Fionn Lyden of Baltimore is the newest recruit, and in August in Hungary he took Bronze in the 2017 U23 Finn Worlds on Lake Balaton in Hungary. Then in October he became the 2017 All Ireland Champion Helm, racing GP 14s on Lough Owel at Mullingar.

fionn lyden17Fionn Lyden was on his own when he won Bronze in the Finn U23 Worlds in August, but in October he needed the crewing help of Liam Manning (right) to win the All-Ireland Championship at Mullingar
AUGUST (OFFSHORE)

MICHAEL BOYD

Being Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club is a fulltime job in itself, but current incumbent Michael Boyd of the Royal Irish YC believes in leading by example in active offshore racing, and he not only skippered the First 44.7 Lisa to an excellent overall placing and best Irish in the Rolex Fastnet Race, but by season’s end Lisa was both RORC Champion and “Boat of the Year”. 

Michael Boyd speaks for offshore racers everywhere after the conclusion of the Rolex Fastnet race 2017:

SEPTEMBER

VICKY COX & PETER DUNLOP

The Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association annual championship went to the wire at the final race in September. New champions J/109 Mojito (Vicky Cox & Peter Dunlop) are Welsh-based, but look on the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire as their home from home. They also raced the stormy Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race to second overall, and in the record-breaking Fastnet Race, were ninth overall in the 312-strong fleet at the rock itself.

j109 mojito18Mojito (Vicky Cox & Peter Dunlop) ISORA Champion 2017, limbering up before the start of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race 2017, in which she placed second overall

SEPTEMBER (JUNIOR AWARD)

LORCAN TIGHE

The record-breaking 2017 RORC Rolex Fastnet Race had so many entries and trophies that it took time before some prizes found their rightful home, but in September it was announced that the Irish National Sailing School’s winner of Class 3B, the J/109 Jedi skippered by Kenneth Rumball, was also outright winner of the Roger Justice Trophy for the top sailing school entry. Youngest member of Jedi’s crew was 17-year old Lorcan Tighe of Dun Laoghaire, already a Round Ireland Race veteran at age 16 in 2016.

lorcan tighe19The Youngest Old Salt in Town – at 17, schoolboy Lorcan Tighe of Dun Laoghaire is already a veteran of both the Round Ireland Race and the Fastnet Race

SEPTEMBER (INSHORE AWARD)

MICHAEL O'CONNOR

Michael O’Connor of Royal St George YC convincingly became Afloat.ie Sailor of the Month (Inshore) for September with two championship wins – the Corinthian Division overall win in the SB 20 Worlds on the Solent early in the month and then, in an intense three day series of multiple sailing conditions at Howth from Friday 15 to Sunday 17 September, he and shipmates Davy Taylor and Ed Cook took the Irish title.

SB20 YachtMichael O’Connor, Davy Taylor and Ed Cook (right) on their way to winning the SB20 Corinthian World Title in the Solent in September

OCTOBER

DAMIAN FOXALL

A Volvo Ocean Race without Damian Foxall involved would be very unusual, and for 2017’s start from Alicante on October 22nd, the multi-talented Kerry sailor was in a key role aboard Vestas 11th Hour Racing. As the first 1450 miles stage to Lisbon round Porto Santo off Madeira progressed, Vestas steadily lengthened away, and even a localised calm approaching the finish failed to deprive Foxall of another win.

vestas racing20When the going is good, in a Volvo OD 65 the going is wet, wet, wet…..Vestas 11th Hour Racing in action

OCTOBER (JUNIOR AWARD)

MICHAEL O’SUILLEBHAIN

For Irish junior sailing, Schull in West Cork is one of the main focal points, and the Fastnet Marine & Outdoor Education Centre’s special TR 3.6 dinghies have made an enormous contribution to sailing development. At the beginning of October, Schull and the TR 3.6s provided the ideal setup for a sometimes breezy All-Ireland Junior Championship, and Michael O’Suillebhain of Kinsale, crewed by Michael Carroll, is the new title-holder.

junior all ireland22The All Ireland Juniors 2017 under way at Schull, training and competition Mecca for youth sailing

junior champs23On top of the podium – 2017 Junior Champion Michael O’Suillebhain with the salver, and his crew Michael Carroll sharing the top place with him at Schull

The November “Sailors of the Month” are: 

Paul O’Higgins is Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month (Offshore)” for November

Liam Manning is November’s “Sailor of the Month (Inshore)

and the December winners are: 

Conall Morrison is December Sailor of the Month for Seamanship

Finn Lynch is 'Sailor of the Month (Olympic)' for December

Jim Cooney & Gordon Maguire are Afloat.ie International Awards Winners for December

The Afloat.ie Sailor of the Month Awards and the Afloat.ie Irish Sailor of the Year Award will be presented at the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards in the new year

Published in W M Nixon

If you accept that West Cork begins at Kinsale, then West Cork has made a clean sweep of Irish Sailing’s All-Ireland Titles for 2017. Before Fionn Lyden of Baltimore put his stamp on the Seniors’ historic silver salver at Mullingar in the second weekend of October, a week earlier as the new month was being ushered in, young Michael O’Suillebhain of Kinsale was successfully dealing with a wide variety of conditions in Schull to clinch the Junior Title.

Crewed by Michael Carroll and racing in the Fastnet Marine & Outdoor Education Centre’s TR3.6 dinghies with the Centre’s own David Harte as PRO, the event logistics were supported by an enthusiastic team of helpers who kept the show on the move through wind, rain and mist - a marvellous community effort, typical of the Schull spirit.

And for those who would argue that West Cork doesn’t really begin until you’re west of the Old Head of Kinsale or even further down the coast, we hear what you’re saying, but would point out that O’Suillebhain is one of the great West Cork family names.

Published in Sailor of the Month

It was the biggest ISA Youth Sailing Pathway Nationals yet seen, and the 2017 Championship at Ballyholme Yacht Club – 190 boats, 208 sailors – lived up to and beyond expectations in a variety of sailing conditions between 20th and 23rd April.

It was the Battle of the Titans in the Laser Radials that inevitably drew most attention. For the top sailors - with the cut-off age hovering in the background - it may be their final appearance on this hugely significant home stage. For Ewan McMahon of Howth, Silver Medallist at the Laser Radial Worlds in Dublin Bay in 2016, it was a series with challenges from every direction. The word was that serious rising stars were emerging from the hotbed of junior sailing in Rush, while Johnny Durcan of Royal Cork – All-Ireland Junior Champion 2016 – had spent part of the winter in Australia honing his Laser racing skills.

Ewan McMahon sailed a masterful series. With some flukey conditions, he wasn’t always top of the leaderboard, but he was inevitably there or thereabouts. And when the wind came in with sufficient vigour to give his tall slim frame its natural advantage, he took control to emerge as overall winner by a clear margin in a textbook exhibition of well-managed series racing.

Published in Sailor of the Month

Back in the Autumn of 2015, the CEO of Alex Thomson Racing, Stewart Hosford of Cork Harbour, had just received news that the very new IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss, with Thomson on board testing his latest craft to the limit, had sustained seriously disabling damage off northwest Spain.

To say that Hosford took the news calmly is an understatement. He put his team into action to retrieve the boat and have a rigorous investigation and repair/rebuild programme ready for immediate implementation once the new Hugo Boss was directly available. And then he continued his evening’s programme in Dun Laoghaire, where he’d been invited to be a keynote speaker at the Annual General Meeting and dinner of the Irish Atlantic Youth Trust.

A less able CEO would have been temporarily floored by something which most others reckoned to be a total setback for the campaign. But instead, Hosford’s calmly yet enthusiastically-delivered and informative talk included much of interest about the structure of the Alex Thomson Racing/Hugo Boss setup, and he enlivened it with speculation as to what specifically might have gone wrong in this case, leaving us in no doubt that whatever the challenge the latest in carbon boat-building and engineering might pose in solving the new problems, his team would be able to deal with it and Hugo Boss would be race-ready, properly tested, and a serious contender for the Vendee Globe in Les Sables d’Olonnne in November 2016.

Hugo Boss Vendee globeHugo Boss in the final stages of the Vendee Globe Race, when her lack of a starboard foil hampered performance

The boat’s subsequent performance in this Race of Races has been the stuff of legend, leading for a while, and then - despite breaking the starboard foil - making a serous challenge for the win in the final stages. It was not to be, with the final leg into the finish in the Bay of Biscay from the northwest being on port tack, which needed the missing foil, thus diminishing Hugo Boss’s performance relative to winner Banque Populaire. But Alex Thomson sailed a great race nevertheless, and as he was born on the coast of North Wales and is thus of the Irish Sea, and also spent five years in Crosshaven as kid while his father was a helicopter pilot at Cork Airport, we’re delighted to make Stewart Hosford and Alex Thomson joint Afloat.ie “Sailors o the Month” for January 2017.

alex thomson sailorAlex Thompson at the finish of the Vendee Globe

Published in Sailor of the Month

The 2016 ISA All-Ireland Championship in the first weekend of October was one of the closest-fought ever seen, with at least four helms in with a chance in the final stages on the second day, as a good sailing breeze settled in to banish memories of the morning’s frustrating calm.

The historic Crosshaven venue at the Royal Cork YC was appropriate to the concluding drama of the event, and the sense of something very special being under way was heightened by the boats of the day being the Ultra, the new Phil Morrison designed take on the classic National 18 design.

This is a class development in which the Royal Cork Yacht Club has played a generous supporting role, and while the boats were raced without use of spinnakers, nevertheless it provided a useful opportunity to showcase one of the most exciting recent developments in Irish dinghy racing.

As for the outcome, it was if anything too exciting, with all sorts of permutation in countback being required to declare who really was the overall winner after an entire raft of races for a fascinating selection of superstar sailors from a wide variety of boat backgrounds. But finally the nod was given to RS 400 champion Alex Barry, whom the Royal Cork can claim as one of their own, but he is also a leading member of Monkstown Bay SC further up the harbour.

Alex Barry is the Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month (Inshore)” for October. And a year hence, he will be defending champion in the 70th Anniversary ISA All-Ireland Helmsman’s Championship, which already promises to be something truly historic.

Published in Sailor of the Month

Ace navigator and tactician Ian Moore, originally of Carrickfergus but long based in Cowes, is first choice as navigator/tactician for any serious international offshore campaign. Last year, he guided the RP 63 Lucky for a stunning win in the Transatlantic Race, and was also calling the shots on the Maxi 72 overall Champion after playing a key role in Bella Mente’s domination of Cowes Week.

The only fly in the perfection of 2015’s ointment was losing the overall win in the Rolex Middle Sea Race with Vincenzo Onorato’s Cookson 50 Latino Mascalzone by just nine seconds. But all that was put right at the end of October 2016 in Valetta, when Latino Mascalzone was declared overall winner of the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2016 by a very handsome margin.

And it was a classic Moore success. Mascalzone Latino’s crew knew that at a crucial stage of the race, a 50 degree windshift was approaching. The Moore speciality is in placing the boat in the best possible position to maximize advantage from any new wind direction, and this year’s Middle Sea Race provided him with the opportunity to give a masterclass in hitting the change spot on.

In all, it was a great race for those old warhorses the Cookson 50s, as another one was tops in ORC. And Irish sailors had a good time of it too, with ex-Pat Barry Hurley of the RIYC and Kenneth Rumball of the Irish National Sailing School crewing on the XP 44 Xp-Act, which came second in Class 4. But as the bubbles settle and the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2016 gets the full analysis from the number crunchers, it is Ian Mooore’s calling of the shots on Latino Mascalzone which clearly makes him the Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month (Offshore) for October.

ian moore2Ian Moore of Carrickfergus is among the top navigators in the world

 

Published in Sailor of the Month

In a year in which one of our 'Sailor of the Month' awards went to America’s irrepressible George David for his fabulous overall victory in the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 in Rambler 88, we see no reason at all why we shouldn’t extend the same accolade to another overseas sailor who has not only achieved regular success in Irish waters during the past season, but over the years has contributed enormously to the pleasure everyone gets in sailing the Irish Sea.

You don’t get to win the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association Annual Championship without being a steady and regular competitor and a very capable skipper, and Stephen Tudor of Pwllheli has been all of those things for many years, rounding out a busy 2016 season by winning the ISORA Championship in the last race of all with his J/109 Sgrech.

He has done this with a crew drawn from both sides of the Irish Sea. Indeed, it is one of the most attractive features of ISORA that several boats are based on crew panels from the two sides of the channel. The Brotherhood of the Sea is alive and well in ISORA, and when the fleet is racing to or from Pwllheli, they are well aware that in a different shoreside guise, Stephen Tudor has played a key role in transforming the waterfront and marina facilities in that pleasant port on the Snowdon Riviera where he has been a member of the Pwllheli SC since the age of eight, helping to make him a very worthy Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month (Offshore)” for September 2016.

Published in Sailor of the Month

The conditions for the KBC Laser Radial Worlds in Dublin Bay could be tough. Not because the weather was severe, but because the wind kept taking off just when everyone hoped they’d settled into some good racing. Frustration takes it toll on competitors and Race Officers alike, and when it was reckoned that the only way to make a real series out of it was to start getting the fleet afloat at 0800 hrs on the final Saturday and put in three races while conditions suited, the pressure was stepped up even further.

In such situations, some get fussed, some stay cool, and some actually seem to thrive. Ewan MacMahon (17) of Howth fitted in somewhere between the latter two categories. While American Henry Marshall seemed assured of the Youth Gold, MacMahon was going so well that his most enthusiastic supporters felt he might sail straight up through the Silver and on into Gold.

That was expecting a bit much, but his winning of the Silver Medal was done in real style to emphatically confirm Ewan MacMahon as “Sailor of the Month (Racing)” for July.

Published in Sailor of the Month

It was a real light-bulb moment when the initial notion of the brilliant idea which became the Beaufort Cup first surfaced. The concept of a series-within-a-series, a special programme for offshore racers crewed at least 50% by members of the Defence Forces within the overall umbrella of Volvo Cork Week, had a lot going for it from Day One.

As it developed, it became better and better, with the net spreading wider to include the lifeboats and the coastguards and other emergency services with a maritime angle. Thus the success of the event – which started with a 140-miles offshore race from the Naval Base in Cork Harbour round the Fastnet Rock, and ashore included the highlight of a black-tie dinner in the Officer’s Mess on Haulbowline – seems so obvious in hindsight. Yet it was such a novel idea when initially launched with just six months to go that the organisers thought they’d do well to muster three or four boats.

But it captured the imagination of the sailing community such that 12 competitive boats became available. And once it was under way, it captured public imagination too – there was something specially attractive about men of war and people who usually deal with maritime emergencies going to sea for sport and fun.

As this unusual sailing competition unfolded within the ambit of Volvo Cork Week, we found it attracted special attention. It merits a Special Award. And as we have to put one name to the Afloat.ie Special Award for July 2016, it goes to Commandant Barry Byrne who skippered the J/109 Joker 2, first winner of the Beaufort Cup, crewed almost entirely by members of the Defence Forces. But in truth the Special Award goes to everyone who was involved in adding this visionary event to the Irish sailing calendar.

Published in Sailor of the Month
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