Displaying items by tag: Sailor of the Month
#SAILOR OF THE MONTH – Our new Irish Independent/Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Month" is a boat enthusiast who does good work by stealth. In fact, "under the radar" is the apt term in every way when talking about Hal Sisk's maritime involvement. He makes a speciality of shining the light of enquiry into many aspects of boats and seafaring history which have not been getting their deserved attention.
Over many years now, the Dun Laoghaire sailor has unearthed neglected information and history, and presented it in a way which makes it accessible and interesting to less academic mariners. At a practical level, he has undertaken the restoration of ancient boats which provide an insight into the past, and bring it vividly to life.
One place this was seen was along the Dun Laoghaire waterfront. In the Coal Harbour Boatyard, there are always boats which don't get launched as each season approaches. But it took Hal Sisk to realise that one of the orphans, a skinny little boat called Vagrant, was significant, as too was an elegant clipper bowed craft called Peggy Bawn. The first was a pure example of the highly specialised racing boats of the 1880s (she dated from 1884), while Peggy Bawn was a fascinating example of a time of rapid change in design - she dated from 1894, and had the further interest of having been built in Ireland.
Both were long past seaworthiness, but Hal Sisk restored and sailed the little Vagrant back to her birthplace in Scotland, and she is now an exhibit in the Scottish Maritime Museum. Later, he did a meticulous restoration of Peggy Bawn, which he has kept for the special pleasure of sailing a living artefact of 118 yars ago. He has also been busy in research and publication, and six years ago he played a key role in bringing out a massive tome, Traditional Boats of Ireland edited by Cristoir Mac Carthaigh.
But in recent weeks, anyone who thought that this would be Hal Sisk's only great big boat book has had to think again. With an international team centred on Ireland, his new company of Peggy Bawn Press has brought out a monumental work by Martin Black, detailing the life story and designs of the Scottish naval architect George Lennox Watson (1851-1904), who was adjudged by the legendary Olin Stephens to have been the greatest yacht designer of all, but is unfairly neglected today.
Giving G L Watson his proper due has been a classic Hal Sisk project, and the international acclaim this handsome and profusely-illustrated book is receiving shows how deservedly he is the "Sailor of the Month".
#SAILORS OF THE MONTH – Fergus and Kay Quinlan are currently voyaging northwest through the South Atlantic from Cape Town headed towards Brazil in their 38ft sloop Pylades. But they're Afloat.ie/Irish Independent "Sailors of the Month" for February in celebration of their recent award of Ireland's most senior cruising trophy, the Faulkner Cup, for their ventures last year which took them and their own-built boat from Tahiti across the western Paifi to Darwin at the north tip of Australia.
The Sailor of the Month and the Sailor of the Year awards have been going quite some time now, in fact you'll have to dig good and deep into the previous millennium to find them in their earliest form. But time-honoured and all as they are, there's no way these awards can match the Faulkner Cup in longevity – it goes back to 1931.
So as cruising is an activity with a certain timelessness to it, we're more than happy to defer to the Irish Cruising Club's seniority, and stand back until they award their trophies each year. We even try to go along with their hope that everyone will realize that, as cruising under sail – particularly where it's to palm-fringed lagoons and islands such as Pylades has been visiting – is a non-competitive activity, then it's ancient Challenge Cups cannot be won. On the contrary, they're awarded.
That said, the Quinlans did have a certain amount of competition with the weather from time to time, and in one part of Paradise where they very much wanted to linger, the Society Islands, the anchorages are all 25 metres deep, and if you wrap your anchor chain around a coral head. You don't get that in their home waters of County Clare.
At another island, they were able to give a return for warm hospitality by accepting an invitation to tell the kids in the school about Ireland, and Clare in particular. When Fergus mentioned it's famous for music, he was immediately requested (ordered might be the word) to play some Clare music on his squeezebox. He says his music wouldn't get past first base in Kilfenora, but in the middle of the Pacific it did the business. There'll be plenty of music in the west when Pylades gets back this summer, meanwhile her crew are ideal Sailors of the Month, voyaging for all of us back home.
#SAILOR OF THE MONTH – Sophie Browne of Tralee Bay and Royal Cork is Afloat.ie/Irish Independent "Sailor of the Month" for January after taking the Silver Medal in the Girls Division in the Optimist Worlds in New Zealand. She added it to the Gold in the Girls, and fourth overall, which she won from an enormous fleet in the last major European regatta of 2011, at Palma, Mallorca in December.
Sophie in action abroad in Palma (top) and at home
It's some going when you're just fourteen. Sophie is back at school now, trying to make up for lost study time. But if she gives it the same total dedication she put into each sailing campaign during recent years, she'll sail into a good leaving cert in due course.
Dedication is the name of the game, and the Browne family in Tralee are a byword for it. Normally, the adjudicators for the Sailor of the Month are very reluctant to make the award to the most junior helms. They grow up so quickly, there's something ephemeral about it all.
But even at only fourteen, there's nothing ephemeral about Sophie's success. Other kids may think too much about the glitzy side of championships, but Sophie Browne is well aware of the sheer hard work and unglamorous dedication which goes into that podium place.
After the big regatta in Palma in December, the European Optimist squad went out to New Zealand with high hopes. But the pre-Worlds and the Worlds were salutary experiences. Thoughtful observers were well aware of the rising talents of southeast Asia, and South America too, as well as New Zealand and Australia, but for most it was a daunting learning experience.
It's Singapore which is most clearly setting the pace. Kimberly Lim from the vibrant city-state was both top girl, and the new world champion. Sophie Browne was second in the girls, but was back in 13th overall. Yet she was still one of the best of the Europeans – the top British sailor, for instance, was back in 21st.
It's the first time a 14–year old helm has taken the monthly sailor title. We've had younger sailors sharing a title as crews on a Mirror dinghy, but this is the first driver. And we're certain sure it won't be the last we'll hear of Sophie Browne of Tralee Bay in international sailing.
#SAILOR OF THE YEAR – At home and abroad, Irish sailors once again delivered an impressive range of results in 2011.
Review our top sailors by month here. The reviews are also in print in Afloat's Sailing Annual 2012 in shops now! And vote for them in our online facebook poll. You just need to be a facebook fan of Afloat to record your vote.
As in previous years, Afloat magazine is asking the public to give its view who should be crowned Ireland's Sailor of the Year for 2011.
The overall national award will be presented to the person who, in the judge's opinion, achieved the most notable results in, or made the most significant contribution to, watersports during 2011. Now you can log on to Afloat's facebook page and help select the shortlist from the last 12 months' top performers. Bios of each sailor of the month's performance are here.
The boating public gets to nominate their top three through the online poll, Afloat.ie gets a vote too and the Sailor of the Year judges decide the final winner.
Cast your vote by midnight February 18, 2012. The awards are administered and judged by Afloat magazine, the Irish Independent.
The judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
Thanks for your interest!
#SAILOROFTHEMONTH – Noelle Doran of Mayo is the latest Afloat.ie/Irish Independent "Sailor of the Month" in recognition of her December achievement in being the fastest woman in the world in 2011.
Her sustained speed of 36.88 knots along 500 metres of the Dungarvan speed strip in West Waterford gave her a ranking of sixth in the world against established records, while the fastest in the world, Britain's Zoe Davis and Belgium's Marie-Paula Geldhof, failed to shine in 2011, with Davis recording 35.31.
Doran also achieved a top peak speed of 38.17 knots. These performances are all recorded by GPS – in fact, precise analysis would be a massive logistical problem without GPS. Although Ireland is supposed to be a breezy country, the arrival of perfect wind conditions is difficult to predict more than an hour or so ahead, so the speed merchants have to be ready and waiting in the right place at very short notice.
Mayo may be one of Ireland's windiest counties - as recent experience has forcefully emphasized - but it lacks a perfect strip of flat water. Dungarvan can provide the water, but the wind doesn't always arrive to order, as was painfully shown in November 2010 when a stage of the World Speed Series came to West Waterford, and so did everyone else except the wind.
Lovely gentle weather doesn't break records. Thus the 42 year-old Doran had to be prepared to race down to Dungarvan from Westport as the December wind pressures rose darkly in the desired pattern. Nevertheless she'd made that demanding round trip – inevitably with night travel - some three times before it all came right, and her coach and mentor, record holder Oisin van Gelderen of Skerries, encouraged her to this remarkable peak achievement.
Out there in the raw early morning and a strong sou'west to west wind in the headwaters of Dungarvan Bay, it was perfect for speed, with Doran "lit like a banshee" as van Gelderen put it – we hope he meant it as "woman of the wind". The perfection of the moment was then rounded out by the coach himself notching a personal best of 47.88 knots in a quick zap along the beach.
So while everyone else in the depths of December was wondering what they might get for Christmas, Noelle Doran already had her gift. The drawback about such an achievement is that all your personal details go public. We now know her age, and her height too. She's just 5ft 4ins, which makes her The Mighty Atom. With her board setting an impossibly large sail, she was on the edge of becoming airborne. But she hung in and cut the mustard, a mighty achievement.
#SAILOR OF THE MONTH – Pat Kelly of Rush Sailing Club is the Afloat.ie/Irish Independent "Sailor of the Month" for November after his J/109 Storm - crewed by fellow-Fingallions - was celebrated as the Irish Cruiser Racer Association "Boat of the Year" at the ICRA annual general meeting in Dun Laoghaire at the weekend.
The sailors of north Fingal are on a roll these days. Back in September, Matt Davis of Skerries won our monthly award after his Sigma 400 Raging Bull retained the Irish Sea offshore championship. And another Skerries sailor, windsurfer Oisin van Gelderen, continues to be Ireland's fastest man afloat, his current official best speed being 44.23 knots.
Now it's the turn of Rush to top the podium. Not that Rush is new to successful sailing. Once upon a time, it was the top port on the east coast of Ireland for smugglers who veered into privateering and occasionally even piracy. To succeed in any of these activities, they needed fast ships and able skippers, and captains like Luke Ryan and James Mathews gave Rush its formidable sailing reputation.
Storm was made ICRA Boat of the year last weekend and this Saturday her skipper Pat Kelly becomes Sailor of the month for November. Photos: Bob Bateman
Highlight of Pat Kelly's season with Storm was his outright class win in the ICRA Nationals at Crosshaven. Five wins in six races is the sort of performance that would get the Luke Ryan/James Mathews seal of approval. Storm was also regularly in the frame in many other major events, and had frequent success in regattas and club racing with a dedication to sailing that does her skipper and crew proud.
Pat kept his previous 30-footer in the tide-riven anchorage at Rogerstown off Rush SC's attractive south-facing clubhouse, one of the few south-facing sailing clubhouses in the entire country. However, with the bigger boat it was necessary to find a berth at Howth, and in fact Storm sails as a joint HYC/RSC entry. But the club in Howth wouldn't begrudge this success to their smaller neighbours to the north. And with their own marina in fine shape (it hosts next year's ICRA Nationals in late May), they'd be the first to agree that the only thing holding back north Fingal sailing from even greater achievements is the lack of sheltered and conveniently accessible pontoon berthing on the entire coast between Malahide and Carlingford Lough.
More from WM Nixon in the Irish Independent here
Galway's Martin Breen is June's Sailor of the Month and the Waterford Tall Ships Parade of Sail Photos are here.
Reasons to be cheerful? You bet. Click here to read how Dublin Bay sailors celebrate these wins.
It's the fourth time that a Galway boat has won the Dingle race, giving Galway Bay SC unrivalled status, as the race has only been sailed a total of ten times. It was launched as a biennial event in 1993, and back in the day it was Donal Morrissey et al who started the process with two wins with the GK 34 Joggernaut. Then Eamon Conneely took both line honours and the handicap win with his first TP52 Patches, and now Martin Breen has done the business with his recently-acquired Reflex 38, which raced to Dingle under the moniker of Galway Harbour.
A former army captain, Breen's progress up the ladder of sailing achievement has been steady. He first made his mark with a successful Sigma 33, then there was more west coast sailing silverware taken with a Corby 33, and now he has the first Irish-based Reflex 38.
A hands-on skipper, for the race to Dingle he beefed up his usual ship's complement of family and friends with Galway's own Aodhan Fitzgerald, who in turn brought in Neil Spain and Johnny Murphy who had been on the Fitzgerald crew which won the round Ireland race.
Galway Harbour sailed a perfect first stage down the Irish Sea to lead everything on the water at the Tuskar Rock. On the long drag race to the Fastnet in a backing and strengthening southerly, only the Open 40 Pride of Dalkey-Fuji got ahead of the Galway boat, which managed to hang in despite blowing out a spinnaker and getting a tear in the mainsail.
By the time they reached the Fastnet, with the wind still veering they were already beating, and it was a slug into the Atlantic up to the next turn at the Skellig rock. The final stage into Dingle almost became a spinnaker reach, which would have been a problem as they'd blown out their reaching spinnaker on the south coast, but the wind stayed nor'west just long enough to get them into port and a superb win with a little bit of luck and a lot of talent
Colm Newport was the Master of the sail training brigantine Asgard II when she started taking in water from an unexplained leak in the small hours of September 11th 2008 off the coast of France.
Like all Asgard's commanders during the ship's remarkable 27 year career which took her all over the world, he had a special affection for Asgard II, a small square rigger which punched way above her weight in the company of the world's largest tall ships.
But this was no occasion for sentimentality, and the sadness could wait until later. In a seamanlike manner, Newport analysed the reality of the situation, and calmly ensured that his full-rime crew and the ship's complement of young trainees clearly realized that the order to take up stations to abandon ship was for real – it wasn't simply an unexpected safety drill.
Asgard II sinks by the bow on September 11 2008 off the coast of France. Photo: Courtesy French Search and Rescue Service
To the credit of all on board, the transfer to the liferafts took place in a calm atmosphere, and as the beloved ship's final hour afloat arrived, Captain Newport gave the order to move away from the vicinity of the vessel to avoid any danger of the liferafts being dragged down by the rigging.
No-one was injured, few had any time even to be frightened, and thanks to the captain and crew's professional skill, the horror of drownings to wipe out Ireland's sail training programme was avoided.
Asgard II being a government-owned ship, the follow-through was inevitably slow. And as the national economic crash was getting up its full head of steam, the priorities of a national sail training programme open to all young people slipped right down the scale, until the Department of Defence quietly wound up Coiste an Asgard, and the insurance money for the ship went into the rapidly shrinking national coffers.
But the spirit lives on, and the newly established Sail Training Ireland – a voluntary body open to membership and all sorts of support – has been set up by several who were involved in Coiste an Asgard. It is officially recognized as the successor to the Asgard programme, and is already strengthened with bursaries from the global body Sail Training International.
In time, we may have a new square rigger, and she really will be the people's ship. But the fact that it can be anticipated with hope and enthusiasm is in large part due to the calm efficiency of Colm Newport and his crew on the morning of September 11th 2008.
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Latest Tall Ships News from Ireland
As we learned in 2001 when the Mirror Worlds were staged in Ireland, although Peter Bayly of Lough Derg may have won that time round, the strongest national challenge was by the Australians. They've developed what was originally envisaged as a useful general purpose family sailing dinghy into a very potent racing machine.
Thus it was quite an achievement for the 25-year-old Kearney to win in the Oz home waters. But for the Cultra sailor it was extra special, as he is the first Mirror helmsman to win the worlds twice, having taken the title back in 2005, racing in Sweden.
The Mirror being a small boat, an athlete like Ross Kearney has to select his crew from junior sailors. In 2005 it was young Adam McCullough, this time round it was Max Odell, and he and his skipper showed their serious intent towards the Worlds with a very clear win in the Mirror Europeans in Sligo last September.
On the strength of his proven record in the class, Kearney works as a sailmaker and designer with leading English firm Pinner & Bax. They're based in Northampton, about as far from the sea as it's possible to be in England, and a bit of a culture shock for a young sailor who is accustomed to getting his sea sailing just yards from home. But with a second world title now logged, we can expect to see more of Ross Kearney on the sea, and on bigger boats than a Mirror dinghy.
Kearney wins Mirror Title Story HERE.