Displaying items by tag: solo sailing
In 150 days, Gregor will set sail from Les Sables D’Olonne, France in what is one of sailing’s most extreme races. Competitors are restricted to 1960s technology meaning no GPS, no FaceTime, no iPod and no Kindle.
As one of the youngest competitors, Gregor will compete against 24 other sailors using just a compass, the moon and stars to guide him around the world.
“To be the first Irish person to sail around the world solo non-stop will be an amazing achievement, but I wholly believe that I have skill and determination to win the entire race,” said McGuckin.
Only 200 people have successfully sailed solo around Cape Horn, but for Gregor the biggest challenge will be surviving 270 days alone at sea and making sure that his boat can withstand the treacherous conditions.
Certainly, McGuckian, if he can complete the voyage, will join the ranks of few Irishmen to complete the solo circumnavigation – with stops and without – as Afloat.ie has previously reported here.
“The greatest challenge will not only be surviving without seeing another human being for nine months but finding the funding to make sure my boat is competitive as possible and can withstand the most extreme of storms.”
Gregor will have to carry all his food for nine months and find ways to catch rainwater to drink. He’ll have a sealed box with GPS in case of emergencies, but if he opens it he’ll be instantly disqualified.
There will be no communication with the outside world, only occasional communications with boats within radio distance and a weekly check in with the race centre.
2018 marks the 50-year anniversary of the Golden Globe Race, and only the second time in history that such a race has been attempted.
The new Colin Firth movie 'The Mercy' (released next week) is based on the original Golden Globe Race and follows the tragic tale of Donald Crowhurst. See a trailer for the movie here.
Golden Globe Race
The Golden Globe Race is a solo, non-stop, unassisted round-the-world sailing race via the three Great Capes of the Southern Ocean.
2018 marks the 50-year anniversary and the second running of the Golden Globe Race when Sir Robin Knox-Johnston became the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world.
This once-off event is unique as race entrants are restricted to using boats and equipment similar to that which was available for the original race in 1968.
During the race Gregor will navigate 30,000 miles solo non-stop without any GPS or other electronic instrumentation and will spend approximately 270 days at sea.
On completion, Gregor will become the first Irish person to complete a non-stop, solo circumnavigation of the world.
Raised in Goatstown, Gregor began sailing when studying Colaiste Dhulaigh. Originally a passionate windsurfer, Gregor moved to Mayo to pursue a career teaching watersports to children.
In 2013, Gregor moved to the south coast of the UK to train as a commercially endorsed Ocean Yachtmaster.
He’s logged approximately 50,000 miles as a yacht delivery skipper crossing the Atlantic and Indian Oceans many times.
At 31, he will be one of the youngest participants in the Race and will be one of only 200 people who have sailed solo around Cape Horn.
Gregor’s boat is a Biscay 36 ketch, which is one of the most competitive models permitted.
Currently, it is in Malahide Marina, Dublin and is being put through rigorous preparation and trials to ensure it is prepared for the journey ahead.
Westport’s rising sailing star Joan Mulloy visited her home town of on Wednesday December 20th with legendary sailing veteran Enda O’Coineen, and delivered a fascinating talk at the invitation of Mayo Sailing Club reports Afloat.ie’s Clew Bay Correspondent. Seeking sponsorship, she told a packed room of well over a hundred interested guests and friends about her sailing adventures and plans, and the national and international publicity this would bring.
Melding her engineering background with her love of sailing, she has already achieved a string of successes in the highly competitive racing scene, and is one of Ireland’s most promising offshore sailors. As part of Team Ireland, she is now planning to be the first Irish woman to participate in the Solitaire du Figaro, the gruellingly competitive 1600 nautical mile four-stage race, in which she will be competing against some of the world’s best solo offshore sailors.
"Having worked at the top level of ocean racing for over 5 years, the time is right for me to take the helm” she said. “Being part of Team Ireland brings a level of professionalism, structure, and experience that will greatly enhance my campaign."
Her enthusiasm quickly spread to the listeners, and it wasn’t long before the first sponsor stepped in. Then Vendee Globe and Mini-Transat veteran Enda O’Coineen, who is now mentor to Joan, gave insights into the race he was forced to abandon in New Zealand and now plans to finish as a personal goal.
As he explained, disaster sometimes leads to more fame than success, and he is using his experience and insights to help young sailors launch their careers and achieve success on the international stage. He urged the local community to support Joan at the grassroots level, which is the platform that helps secure the confidence of major sponsors. To learn more about Joan, or to become a sponsor, visit: www.JoanMulloyRacing.com
Enda also talked about his work with the Atlantic Youth Trust. The plans to replace the sail training ship Asgard II are progressing, if slowly, and support for this is needed.
Not surprisingly, the event drew attendees from all around the west coast. Some of the best-known adventurers in Connacht came to hear what’s new in the world of competitive offshore racing, and the mulled wine reception in advance of the talks gave everyone a chance to get up to speed with the latest developments.
Jaimie & Mary Young, of Killary Adventure Centre were in from Connemara. Jaimie is preparing his Frers 49 Killary Flyer for his next venture to the Arctic, and fundraising is always of interest. In the meantime, he is managing an expansion of the Adventure Centre, with the addition of The Killary Lodge due for completion in June 2018.
Alex Blackwell, Irish Cruising Club and Rear Commodore of the Ocean Cruising Club for Ireland, said he liked the gentle pace of a nice cruiser, but could appreciate the subtleties of wanting to go faster than the next boat, even when cruising in conversation with Matt Molloy. Matt, an avid sailor and musician, listened attentively but made it clear he had never ever had any ambitions to take up blue water racing. He too preferred to stop along the way, and smell the roses.
On the subject of roses, Jarlath Cunnane wanted to know if Enda shouldn’t be planning to prune roses instead of sailing across oceans now that he’s a grandfather. Enda said there was plenty of time for that, but right now he’s on a mission to finish what he started; after that, he wants to apply his knowledge to helping the up and coming young sailors, like Joan, who need to break into this competitive field. Then Jarlath asked detailed questions about the construction of Enda’s boat, which caused Enda to suggest that Jarlath may be thinking about building one himself.
Daria Blackwell, Rear Commodore of the Ocean Cruising Club, said she liked stopping along the way rather than passing anchorages by in a blur, but that following the passionate racers like Enda and Joan online was great fun.
Students from GMIT and NUI Galway came to fuel their imaginations and hopes, sensing that if Joan was able to muster the courage and the support, maybe they could too. The Galway crew that competed with success in the Fastnet Race were soaking up the details of the process of building experience and fundraising.
Joan’s childhood friends from Mayo Sailing Club’s excellent sail training programme came out in force to support her. Joan recognized those who had given her the first taste of offshore sailing, including John Lamb on whose boat she made her first exit from the protective safety of Clew Bay – and loved it. Ex-Commodores of MSC Rory Casey, Paul Murphy, and Damien Cashin arrived to lend their support, as did many other members.
Current Commodore Duncan Sclare, himself a single-hander, joined in the praise. He also invited everyone to attend the next talk by Mini-Transat sailor Tom Dolan on the 25th of January.
Mayo Sailing Club is a happening place, that’s for certain – and not just on the water. MSC welcomes new members at its clubhouse in Rosmoney. Members literally “get out there”, and so can you. No prior experience is required. No boat is needed. Visit here
Vendee Globe solo hero Enda O’Coineen will share the stage in Westport in Mayo in a week’s time, on Wednesday December 20th, in a double-bill with local star Joan Mulloy, who is carving her own career in the Figaro Solo class.
Hosted by Mayo Sailing Club, but conveniently staged in the midst of town in the Hotel Westport and open to the public, it promises to be an informative and entertaining event, getting under way with a reception at 6.00pm, and then the programme of presentations gets going at 6.30pm.
A fascinating insight will be provided into top-end solo racing, with Enda’s amazing personal stories from his own Vendee Globe and other experiences, and his plans for the future, while Joan will tell of how her career has developed since she started learning with Mayo Sailing Club at the age of eight. She has progressed since then through national team racing, round Ireland challenges, Volvo 70 racing in major events, and now the Figaro Solo.
It’s going to be a show with something for everyone including potential sponsors, a celebration of Ireland’s growing status in specialist offshore racing, and the ideal event to turbo-power everyone into the full Christmas spirit.
There's a rare chance for some of Ireland's most adventurous sailors to be in the same place at the same time tomorrow when Enda O’Coineen, Joan Mulloy, Nin O’Leary and Gregor McGuckin will be on board Nin O'Leary's Round the World Racing yacht in the heart of Dublin for a press event beside the Jeanie Johnston on Custom House Quay.
The photocall is to capture the unique line–up of Ireland’s solo sailors who are due to tell media about their own adventures that lie ahead; inlcuding non–stop single–handed round–the –world bids. The sailors include:
Enda O’Coineen attempted to race alone non-stop around the world last year. His attempt was cut short when he broke his mast south of New Zealand. In January 2018 he sets out to complete the trip.
Joan Mulloy Ireland’s only female solo sailor has a busy season ahead as she will compete in France’s top solo sailing circuit. A native of Mayo, an engineer, and the daughter of a Mussel farmer, Joan brings a new dimension to the traditionally male dominated end of the sport.
Nin O’Leary One of Ireland’s top racers has set his sights on solo racing following some intensive training and racing with Alex Thomson on his stunning Hugo Boss Yacht. Nin will have the Team’s boat in the heart of Dublin to provide tours.
Gregor McGuckin In July 2018 Gregor will set out in a 30 year old boat in an attempt to sail along, non-stop around the world. His race involves no modern technology and no GPS. If successful he will be the first Irish person to sail alone, without stopping, around the planet.
Meanwhile, an Italian solo boat abandoned during a transatlantic race in June has washed ashore in County Kerry. Skipper Michele Zambelli has told Afloat.ie he hopes to travel to Ireland to claim her. More on this story here.
After being abandoned mid–Atlantic during the short-handed OSTAR race in June, Michele Zambelli's Class 950 entry Illumina 12 has turned up on a beach in County Kerry this week.
The Italian Ostar skipper triggered his EPIRB after encountering keel problems, two weeks into the race. A Canadian Air Force helicopter, Rescue 911, picked up the solo sailor just six hours after the rescue was initiated. The skipper had no injuries.
As Afloat.ie reported at the time, storms wreaked havoc on the OSTAR fleet but Ireland's Conor Fogerty, racing in a separate division to Zambelli (See Conor Fogerty's correction via Facebook below–Ed) sailed on regardless to OSTAR triumph and the Gipsy Moth trophy.
Five month's later, Illumina has been discovered on a beach in Brandon Bay having travelled across the Atlantic to the south west coast of Ireland.
A local man, Mark Brodie, was one of the first to discover what was left of the state–of–the–art yacht.
Brodie was walking his dogs just a few metres from the site of the famous ship wreck of the Port Yarrock when his daughter asked him to come and look at a 'whale' that had been washed up on the beach.
'I was amazed to find the upside down yacht. It does not appear to be holed and the hull looks in excellent condition as well as the metal work,' Brodie told Afloat.ie
From the photo above it looks like the troublesome keel has long since gone but otherwise the hull, with some of the rig, still attached is all remarkably intact.
It is understood the hull has been removed from the beach by the local authorities.
Even as the huge fleet of cruisers and racers - including Eamon Crosbie’s Discovery 56 Pamela from Dun Laoghaire - are into the third day of their Transatlantic crossing in the ARC 2017 from Gran Canaria to St Lucia, on the other side of the ocean at St Marin in Martinique, the number-crunchers for the Mini-Transat La Boulangere 2017 are putting the last touches to their official statement of the overall final results writes W M Nixon.
These will emerge from the amalgamation of the official times of Legs 1 – from La Rochelle in France to Las Palmas in the Canaries, and Leg 2 – from Las Palmas via a gate in the Cape Verde Islands to Martinique. This may sound simple enough, but the tail enders were still tumbling in to St Marin right through the weekend, and with so much at stake with some quite substantial sponsorships involved among the 80 or so finishers, they have to be sure that no infringement of regulations is revealed after they have published results.
However, as an interim move this morning, they published the provisional results for Leg 2, and Ireland’s Tom Dolan is confirmed as fifth, just 48 minutes after third-placed Benoit Sineau. The brief official statement is as follows:
Erwan Le Draoulec (Emile Henry) crossed the finish line in the second stage of the Mini Transat La Boulangère on Thursday, November 16th at 2h50'15 '' (French time). His race time on this 2nd stage is 14 days, 12 hours, 42 minutes, 15 seconds at an average speed of 8.43 knots.
There has been a flood of finishers over the past few days, and these are the top ten finishers in the Proto and Series fleets for the second leg from Las Palma to Le Marin:
1. Ian Lipinski
2. Jorg Riechers
3. Simon Koster
4. Andrea Fornaro
5. Keni Piperol
6. Quentin Vlamynck
7. Camille Taque
8. Aurelien Poisson
9. Arthur Leopold Leger
10. Frederic Guerin
1. Erwan Le Draoulec
2. Clarisse Cremer
3. Benoit Sineau
4. Tanquy Bouroullec
5. Thomas Dolan
6. Pierre Chedeville
7. Valentin Gautier
8. Germain Kerleveo
9. Yannick Le Clech
10. Cedric Faron
Meanwhile, here are thoughts on his race from Production Boat Winner Erwan le Draoulec which give us some idea of what is involved:
“I brought a book with me, but I never thought to read it. I helmed, I ate, I slept, I answered the calls of nature, a real animal life. It was a nightmare.
The boat was soaked the whole time. I never dumped any sails, I just went up forward to reinforce my bowsprit. To get to sleep when I was under autopilot, I put on my headphones with some audio books and I listened again to the whole of Harry Potter. It was the only way of preventing stress whilst the boat was powering along at 18 knots, sometimes under autopilot, but I never eased off the pace.
It was only in the last two days where I dropped the large spinnaker in the squalls. I said to myself that it would be too silly to break everything so close to the goal. Prior to that though I really attacked hard. I knew I was risking a dismasting, but my line of thinking was that I was only twenty years old and that I’d have the opportunity to do another Mini-Transat. I didn’t make the most of it, I didn’t enjoy it. I’d like to the cross the Atlantic again, but gently so as to make the most of it.”
Ireland’s lone sailor Tom Dolan has been celebrating his fifth place with friends and fellow contenders in Martinique at the conclusion of the Transoceanic 2,750-mile Leg 2 of the Mini-Transat 2017 writes W M Nixon. After an improving performance which saw him finish nearly five hours ahead of longtime friend/rival Pierre Chedeviile in 15 days of intense racing, the finish raised the tension even higher, as second-placed Clarisse Cremer was shown as being stopped short of the finish, while Dolan was closing up from astern on second-placed Benoi Sineau and third-placed Tanguy Bouroullec.
The apparent stoppage of Cremer soon proved to be a computer glitch, but when she did cross the line, it was all of eleven hours astern of the “boy wonder” winner, 20-year-old Erwan Le Draoulac. Two and a half hours later, Sineau, Bouroullec and Dolan arrived within the space of 48 minutes, and the vid captures the mood and the moment as these tiny boats and dedicated skippers achieve their goal.
Fortunes have waxed and waned as the 80 little boats in the Mini Transat Boulangere close towards the finish of the 2,000 mile transoceanic leg from Las Palmas in the Canaries - via a mandatory gate in the Cape Verde Islands - to St Marin in Martinique in the Caribbean writes W M Nixon.
Bowling along in the fluctuating east to northeast tradewinds, as expected the Prototype Division’s Ian Lipinski with the scow-bowed Griffon.fr has led the fleet overall to the line. He finished yesterday, and Proto runner-up Jorg Riechers is only slowly approaching the line in locally very light airs for his finish this morning.
It’s a result which gives Lipinski a remarkable double, as he won the Production Class in the previous staging of this biennial classic two years ago – it’s the first time in the 40 year history of the event that the double has been achieved.
In this year’s Production Class, Ireland’s Tom Dolan has found himself entering the concluding two hundred miles in a four-way battle for the final position in the quartet which will fill the second, third, fourth and fifth places. However, “four way battle” is only a relative term imposed by the considerable distance being raced. This morning, twenty miles separate Clarisse Cremer in second from Dolan in fifth, as they have respectively 89.7 and 109.7 miles to the leader Erwan le Draoulec, who is in turn 145 miles from the finish.
Dolan has a good chance of improving to fourth as he is only 4 miles astern of Benoit Sineau currently in fourth, and the Irish sailor has marginally improved his position during the past four hours. But options for making major tactical gains are closing off as the finish is neared and the fleet’s tracks get closer together.
At the front of the Production fleet where the leaders are racing the Pogo 3, wunderkind Erwan Le Draoulec – he’s aged just 20 – is in a world of his own with those 145 miles still to sail. With nearly 90 miles clear of second-placed Cremer, his current speed of 7.7 knots is currently maintaining his lead. That said, as Jorg Riechers has been learning the hard way in recent hours, actually getting to the finish line off a Caribbean Island can sometimes be difficult for the final few miles. But nevertheless Le Draoulec has every reason for confidence.
World Sailing will hold a short–handed Offshore Sailing World Championship following approval from the Council at its annual conference in Mexico last week.
The new Offshore Worlds will be held in One Design boats to help promote and raise the profile of short handed offshore sailing which represents a significant element of the sport.
Selection of equipment, dates and venue as well as arrangements of the Worlds will be decided by World Sailing's Board of Directors after consultation with the Oceanic and Offshore Committee. Ireland's Paddy Boyd, a former CEO of both Ireland and Canada sailing sits on this committee. Sources say the boat is likely to be the Beneteau Figaro 3, as previously reported by Afloat.ie here.
Boyd was part of an Irish delegation that attended the World Sailing Conference that concluded at the weekend.
In further offshore proposals from the conference, a 'combined' Offshore Sailing World Championship will include the best results from the joint ORC/IRC Offshore World Championship as well as a separate long distance offshore component selected from existing major events. The scoring system will be defined between RORC and ORC with prizes awarded to skippers and crews, not the boat, enabling chartering of boats.
In an exceptional week for Irish international offshore sailors, the Michael Boyd-skippered Lisa has been confirmed as both the RORC Points Champion and the Boat of the Year, while the Damian Foxall-crewed Vestas 11th Hour Racing has emerged as the convincing winner of the first stage of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18. And at home, Nicholas “Nin” O’Leary has appeared with a newly-acquired IMOCA 60, his own first command in this extreme class for which the Vendee Globe Non-stop Solo Round the World Race is the ultimate objective. W M Nixon takes a look at a high-powered scene which has many facets, and outlines how one Mayo sailor hopes to progress her own career in it.
International offshore racing is a universe unto itself, a place where superhuman skills have to be allied with exceptional organisational ability. Needless to say, the presence of straightforward courage is taken as read. For many of us as we consider the year’s past achievements, which moved up a gear early in the season when Conor Fogerty won the prized Gipsy Moth Trophy in the Single-handed Transatlantic Race, it is at a level which we can barely grasp, let alone expect to emulate.
So how can you hope to get a foot on the ladder? Well, it depends on whether you want offshore racing to be your recreational sport, or perhaps even just one of several personal sports in a busy life with a day job, or whether you want it to be a fulltime career.
Here on Sailing on Saturday we have twice interviewed skippers who have won the Roger Justice Trophy (the sailing schools’ prize) for Ireland in the Fastnet Race, Ronan O Siochru of Irish Offshore Sailing with the Sunfast 37 Desert Star in 2015, and Kenneth Rumball of the Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School with the J/109 Jedi this year. Both gave considerable insight into what is involved in learning and training towards an acceptable level of competence with genuine race-winning potential.
Another route was shown by Michael Boyd skippering Lisa in the complete RORC programme. As Commodore of the club, he gives priority to encouraging youth sailors with the RORC into Lisa’s crew, and with his inspirational leadership, they blossom into capable offshore seamen. He was developing this way of doing things in 2016, when Lisa enabled him to be the top-placed Irish skipper in the Round Ireland Race, and by 2017 it had become so much a part of the boat’s campaigning that they could arguably have entered for the Roger Justice Trophy in the Fastnet Race themselves.
However, the Royal Ocean Racing Club is a substantial and long-established organisation, with a large international membership and professional headquarters staff, thus the structures to channel would-be offshore sailors into the sport can function smoothly. And in the end, the “graduates” will tend to see themselves as Corinthians rather than fulltime sailors.
But for hopeful young Irish sailors seeking to get into the fulltime offshore racing professional world, the promised land is France. That certainly was the route taken by Damian Foxall, who worked his way through France’s Figaro solo and two-handed scene and on into the exalted heights of Volvo racing, the Barcelona World Race, and massive multi-hull global record challenges, until now at the age of 48, with much achieved and busier than ever, his advice as dispensed on this week's Afloat.ie podcast is pure gold.
To succeed, Foxall says that basically you’ve to be a one-person business corporation. It’s not remotely enough just to be an ace helm, and handy on the foredeck with it. You have to truly know yourself, and realize the depths of dedication and sacrifice required, but at the same time you have to know everything – but everything - about boats, their rigs, their sails and the suppliers – and that’s before you even think about meteorology and strategy and tactics and effective handling of the media plus a zillion other things. And don’t forget to be an extremely efficient accountant too……
It may all seem a very long way from the dream of speeding across the blue ocean on a sunny day without a care in the world, with the winning line in sight and the rest of the fleet tucked in comfortably astern. But that’s the harsh reality which has been the lot of an extraordinary range of Irish sailing characters.
In the offshore sailing jungle angled towards France, you’re tangling with big beasts afloat and ashore, and the politics of it all are fraught. When we mention key names, it is merely a list, for it’s such a fluid world that link-ups are changing and being taken in completely new directions all the time. If you don’t know who we’re talking about in mentioning Enda O’Coineen, Marcus Hutchinson, Tom Dolan, David Kenefick, Stewart Hosford, Damian Foxall and Nin O’Leary – to name only seven – then you’re blissfully unaware of the rarefied heights where only the bravest will tread.
Somewhere in an outer orbit is the incredible Conor Fogerty, winner in June of the roughest Single-handed Transatlantic Race ever with his Sunfast 3600 Bam!. Fogerty is keeping his longterm cards very close to his chest, but for now he has recently sailed Bam! from the OSTAR finish port of Newport Rhode Island down to Antigua for the RORC Caribbean 600 in February. He’d a class win in it in 2016, and he has a dream crew pencilled in for next February’s race, a mixture of fulltime and top Corinthian with David Kenefick, Tom Dolan, Simon Knowles and Paddy Gregory going into the mix.
With the Gipsy Moth trophy collected at a convivial awards ceremony in the Royal Western Yacht Club in Plymouth last weekend, the re-location of Bam! back to the Caribbean has everything set up for a last hurrah with the successful Sunfast 3600 in the Caribbean 600, as Fogerty is another sailor keen for the really serious stuff, and is definitely in orbit round the IMOCA 60s.
But meanwhile, with a young family, he likes to have a handy little “cruising” boat at home in Howth. So just recently he bought the ultimate Ron Holland-designed 30ft Shamrock, Silver Shamrock herself, with which Harold Cudmore won the World Championship in 1976. She has been beautifully up-graded by Stewart Greenfield at Cowes, and as Conor’s partner is Suzanne Ennis whose sister Steph Ennis with Windsor Laudan successfully campaign the classic Club Shamrock Demelza (once raced for several seasons in Cork by a very young Mark Mansfield), then clearly with the Ennis approval of Shamrocks, acquiring Silver Shamrock was a no-brainer for someone who wants to maintain domestic harmony at home while pursuing grand designs on the high seas.
There are many starting points for getting started towards the serious offshore game. But at the moment all roads lead ultimately to France, even if those whose hearts are in Ireland hope to see this country providing more substantial shore bases where our our top sailors can be prepared to head forth for the big time events.
After all, if the Irish horse racing industry can provide tens of thousands of jobs for dedicated staff at every level, and ultimately produce the world’s greatest trainer in Aidan O’Brien with his record tally of major trophies won in every continent, then is it so unreasonable for these top offshore racing people we have listed to hope that Ireland – with immediate access to some of the best training water for offshore racing in the world – cannot do something similar for offshore sailing, albeit on a much more modest scale?
Their dream would be to provide a structure whereby young sailors of exceptional promise can be fast-tracked to offshore racing achievement. The French system has produced the crop of young sailors in their 20s who are among the pace-setters in the Mini-Transat Class, most notably Erwan Le Draoulec who is only 21, while top woman star Clarisse Cremer was “only another competent solo sailor” until she underwent the intensive French training and coaching which turns good sailors into race winners, with the Fastnet Race 2017’s top results being dominated by French boats.
The larger boat used in the Figaro Solo fleet likewise provides French and international wannabees with another route to the top, and both classes and the organisations around them now draw in solo racing hopefuls from all over Europe. But the pace is hectic, the standards are rising every year, and this makes it all more of a challenge for a sailor from Mayo who interest in the offshore racing game has now become central to her way of life.
When you journey to Westport, you feel you’re headed for somewhere remote. But once you’re there in this handsome town at the head of majestic Clew Bay, it’s the rest of the world which seems remote, indeed almost irrelevant. Joan Mulloy is Westport and the Western Ocean through and through, from a marine-oriented seafood-harvesting background in which a history including Grace O’Malley may well make West Mayo the most naturally maritime part of Ireland.
She started her sailing with a Mirror Dinghy with Mayo Sailing Club at Rosmoney, and had her first Laser by the age of 14, though her first experience of dinghy sailing at national level was crewing a GP14 for Blair Stanaway, currently Commodore of MSC.
Yet at the same time she had acquired another interest which well matches sailing - at the age of 12, she started rock climbing. By her late teens this was her dominant interest, so much so that after getting her Leaving Cert, she took two gap years to base herself in Sheffield, working for an online outdoor equipment company, and availing of the wide opportunities provided in the north of England to be trained in rock climbing to the most demanding standards.
But having reached the ultimate heights in every sense, she realized just how much she missed the sea, and returned to the west of Ireland and NUI Galway, where she took an honours degree in Civil Engineering while becoming much involved in the sailing club. Even before going off for the rock climbing period, she’d realised her true sailing interest was in offshore racing, so she was a natural for the NUI Galway SC crew skippered by Cathal Clarke which raced the Reflex 38 Lynx in the 2012 Round Ireland Race, in which they were second for much of the time, and still were a good sixth at the finish.
She worked for a while in civil engineering, but although the company was involved at the forefront of offshore engineering work, she found herself at a computer calculating the requirements for key structures. In some ways it was useful training for someone who would eventually be much involved with developing offshore racers, but more active involvement with the sea called, and she became a crewmember on the Volvo 70 Monster Project, logging thousands of offshore miles including Round Britain and Ireland, the Round Ireland of 2014, a Fastnet and a Middle Sea Race.
But in time, the draw was towards the Figaro Solo scene in France, and she became involved as a “preparateur”, one of the teams sorting the boats for the stars to race. The comparison with the horse racing industry is not inappropriate, and Joan Mulloy very much wanted to be a jockey rather than stable staff, so when a German owner offered her the loan of his well-used Figaro, No 77, she took it up. She based herself at Cowes, and she and her former skipper in the Round Ireland, Cathal Clarke, raced in the two-handed division in the Rolex Fastnet 2017, and came a respectable 17th in a class of sixty boats.
But before that, she’d met Enda O Coineen at the WIORA Championship in the Aran Islands in July, and he encouraged her to think that the setup in Ireland for people on her chosen career path was improving all the time, while in Cowes there was a distinct winding-down of activity. Whether it was the prospect of Brexit is anyone’s guess, but there’s no doubt that there’s a new buzz in Ireland to strengthen links with France and the Continent generally, and by September, Joan Mulloy had re-located her Figaro to Lorient, and returned to Ireland under the umbrella of Enda O’Coineen’s Team Ireland, while continuing to establish her own identity as a solo campaigner with Joan Mulloy Racing
It’s a busy time, with presentations to potential sponsors and then last night (Friday) she and Enda flew out to New Zealand to re-position the IMOCA 60 Kilcullen Voyager from Christchurch to Auckland as part of the preparation for the completion of his dismasting-interrupted solo Vendee Globe race, which will see him depart Auckland in January, complete a circuit of New Zealand to the point where he was dismasted at the very end of 2016, and then head on east for Cape Horn and the finish.
As for Joan Mulloy, her plan for January is to be right in the depths of solo sailing’s ultimate Boot Camp. She’s a very good sailor, she enjoys life, she’s great in boats, but as we pompously informed her at a meeting this week, she’s much too nice for her own good in top-level competitive sport.
She needs to be given a real racing edge. So the man to do that for her is the legendary coach/trainer/life-changer Tanguy Leglatin of Lorient. It’s said that a week at his Academy can transform a competent club racer into a potential world beater. Quite what it’s like providing a hothouse atmosphere in mid-January over a longer period we can only guess, but Joan Mulloy is determined to find out in the most thorough way possible. After all, it is Leglatin who brought forth the boy wonder Erwan Le Draoulec. Being under his tutelage is performance-transforming.
So we wish Joan Mulloy the very best of luck. For there’s something about this high-powered offshore scene that appeals in a special way. We were chatting yesterday with our man in Lisbon, who had in turn been talking with the manager of the Turn the Tide on Plastics crew. Apparently they’re a wonderful bunch to work with, as they all realize they’re on a near-vertical learning curve. And that healthy shared attitude is fully embraced by our own Silver Medallist, Annalise Murphy. She may be the Queen of Rio, but there are none of the usual prima donnas in the crew of Turn the ide on Plastics. Yet they’re all entranced by the special world of ultimate offshore racing. As is Joan Mulloy.