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Irish Sailor Wins Ocean Award for Voyage from Mayo to Russia

11th January 2014
northabout voyage
The award winning Northabout voyage by Jarlath Cunnane
Irish Sailor Wins Ocean Award for Voyage from Mayo to Russia

#cruising – Irish sailor Jarlath Cunnane has been awarded the prestigious Vasey Vase trophy by the The Ocean Cruising Club (The OCC) at its awards ceremony in London last night. The top prize in world cruising achievements is for the Mayo man's unusual and exploratory voyage through the White Sea Canal through Russia and around Scandinavia.

Jarlath and crew aboard his sailing vessel Northabout set out from Westport, Ireland for a journey to St. Petersburg and through the Belomorsk Canal into the White Sea. Northabout logged over 4500 miles in this adventure. She passed through 6 canals and river systems en route, including 115 locks.

Partly because of the difficulty normally inherent in making this transit as Prime Minister Putin had put severe restrictions on transit by any but government authorized transport vessels, few pleasure vessels have made this journey. In fact Northabout had planned to take that route after their successful transit of the Northeast Passage in 2004-2005 but were denied permission. As restrictions were somewhat eased, Jarlath made the decision to try again.

It was a most unusual journey to the Gulag Archipelago which included a visit to Sandermark, a burial ground where 7000 of Stalin's victims were laid to rest in mass graves. The canal itself, built by Gulag prisoners, was never the engineering marvel that Stalin envisioned. But it is a short cut that allows passage from the Baltic to the White Sea without the long journey through the Arctic Ocean. This voyage both unusual and exploratory is reflective of the spirit of the Vasey Vase.

Jarlath Cunnane, retired construction manager, boat builder and adventurer from Castlebar, County Mayo, Ireland, is currently building a new boat

Each year the OCC recognises the achievements of ordinary individuals doing extraordinary things on the world’s oceans and brings those achievements to the attention of the sailing community at large. 

The OCC Awards Sub-Committee made the announcement at the annual OCC London Boat Show dinner. This year, the recipient of the club’s premier award for members, The Barton Cup, is Jeanne Socrates, who at the age of 70 is the oldest woman to circumnavigate the world solo, non-stop. 

Two recipients share the OCC Award of Merit, an OCC award that recognises both members and non-members: Herb Hilgenberg and Laura Dekker. Herb assisted blue water sailors with ship-routing and weather advice for more than 25 years. Laura has shown the world that being the youngest circumnavigator was not derived from seeking fame and fortune but rather from a tremendous passion for sailing. 

Commodore John Franklin added, “I congratulate all award recipients and nominees, and I thank all adventurous cruising sailors for inspiring new generations to reach for extraordinary goals.” All winners are invited to attend the OCC Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony on 12th April 2014 aboard HQS Wellington (Head Quarters Ship and home of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners) in London, where formal presentations of the awards will be made. The full stories will be presented on the night and published in the subsequent edition of Flying Fish (the journal of the Ocean Cruising Club). 

The full OCC press release is available to download below.

Published in Cruising
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