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#SailorOfTheYear - Robert Dickson and Seán Waddilove have been named Afloat Irish Sailors of the Year for 2018 in recognition of their gold medal victory in the 49er U23 Junior World Championships, amid another landmark 12 months for inspiring performances in Irish sailing.

September’s Olympic Sailors of the Month were presented with their prize by Minister of State Mary Mitchell-O’Connor at the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards gala in Dublin’s RDS Concert Hall this evening (Friday 8 February).

Robert Dickson (21) of Howth and Seán Waddilove (20) of Skerries rose to the challenge in Marseille last August and September as they battled a strong international field — and a Mistral at full strength — to score their first world gold, and their first major win.

“HowthHowth YC Commodore Joe McPeake (centre) at the reception to welcome home the new gold medallists Robert Dickson (left) and Sean Waddilove | Photo: Ian Dickson

It was down to the wire at the climax of the final race on Saturday 1 September as the Dublin duo led a chasing pack in the fleet of 52 boats.

However, their placing was no surprise to anyone following the former 420 pair’s performance during their week on the Cote D’Azur, with seven results out of their first nine races in the top five — and all that after starting out on only two days of training, with Robert levelled by a bout of food poisoning.

Going into the final day as leaders no doubt piled on the pressure, which must have doubled when gear failure in their 10th race saw them slip down the finish order.

But according to Robert, the pair played it cool. “We were still leading the regatta by three points which we didn’t know at the time,” he told Afloat.ie. “We never think about points. We need a clear mind to carry out our jobs on the water.”

What a job it was, too — and a testament to their skill and steely nerve that after that humbling stumble, they recovered to win the final and claim Ireland’s first ever major victory of their age group in the skiff class.

It was also vindication of more than year of extraordinarily hard work put in by both young men, after injury felled Seán in early 2017 and almost scuppered their campaign for the 2020 Olympics.

Far from it, the signs now look exceedingly bright for a stellar performance in Tokyo next year.

According to the International 49er Class — whose president Marcus Spillane must be delighted at his home nation’s achievements — the academy set-up in Ireland has been key to this country’s boost in competitiveness in the skiff. 

Despite the departure of Saskia Tidey to Team GB slowing down Irish 49erFX ambitions, on the men’s side the squad has grown since the split of Rio challengers Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern, the former forging a new partnership with Seafra Guilfoyle for Tokyo 2020 (McGovern retired last year and is now high performance manager with RYA NI). 

And indeed, Robert and Seán are an integral part of this growth.

Recounting for Afloat.ie his and Seán’s path to the title, Robert explains that for both it began well before any world-class ambitions. 

Each got into sailing as a child at club level, Robert sailing an Optimist alongside family in Lough Ree while Sean got his start via a taster course in Skerries. 

As their talent shone through and competitions became a matter of course, the two would meet and become friends on the national circuit, forming a bond as their success soon took them abroad. 

And after joining Irish Sailing’s Olympic Pathway in the Oppy class, it made perfect sense that they would team up to progress to the 420 class — in which they started training in their Transition Year — and then two years later to the 49er, often regarded as the ‘Formula 1’ of dinghy racing.

“Training with the 49er Development Squad and having a 100% committed coach makes training much more effective,” says Robert. “You can train solo but it’s not as effective as having a group of boats around you, pushing each other on and off the water to strive to be the best. This medal was certainly a team effort!”

That team, past and present, includes former 49er Development Team coach Tytus Konarzewski, Thomas Chaix, Ross Killian, ex-Olympic duo Ger Owens and Scott Flanigan, Graeme Grant, Philippe Boudgourd, John and David White, and sports physio Mark McCabe at SportsMed Ireland.

And that’s not to mention Robert and Sean’s families and fellow sailors, supportive clubs and sporting bodies — and their colleges that allow them to work classes and assignments around their full-on training schedule.

To confirm a suggestion proffered by the 49er class, the investment made in creating Olympic contenders like Laser Radial silver medallist (and 2016 Sailor of the Year) Annalise Murphy has indeed — in the success of Robert Dickson and Seán Waddilove — been leveraged in bringing the next generation of youth and junior talent into the top levels of their age categories.

WM Nixon will have a profile of the 2018’s Afloat Sailors of the Year as well as the many worthy nominees in his Sailing on Saturday column, available later tonight right here on Afloat.ie.

“GuestsGuests taking their seats at the 2018 Volvo Irish Sailing Awards | Photo: David O’Brien

Robert and Seán topped another incredible field of nominees for 2018, among them faces recognised from 2017’s shortlist and years previous, as well as a fellow Olympic contender.

Liam Glynn was a Sailor of the Month in July for his bronze at the U21 Laser Worlds, while Peter and Rob O’Leary were stars in the Star class. Wins at home and abroad put Justin Lucas on our radar, as was Irish Topper number one Hugh O’Connor, and Firefly duo Atlee Kohn and Jonathan O’ShaugnnessyBrendan Lyden captained UCC1 to victory at the University Sailing Association Team Championship.

Last year’s Sailor of the Year Conor Fogerty made the list again for his runaway victory in Class 3 at the RORC Caribbean 600 mere days after collecting his Afloat gong.

Tom Dolan topped the rookies in his first Figaro Minitransat, while Barry Byrne skippered the Irish Defence Forces to the top of the corinthian ranks (and second overall) in the Volvo Round Ireland Race, besides a successful defence of the Beaufort Cup at Cork Week.

Niall Dowling took line honours in the Round Ireland, while later in the year Vicky Cox and Peter Dunlop topped the ISORA standings.

The inspirational Enda O’Coineen was no April fool as he completed his delayed circumnavigation for his own personal Vendée Globe milestone.

Pat Kelly and company got off to a flying start on their J/109 Storm, while windsurfer Oisin van Gelderen set new Irish speed records in Luderitz.

Classic boating was ably represented by Ilen restorer Gary MacMahonDave Cullen’s Wave Regatta champion Checkmate XV and Mermaid fan Darragh McCormick, while Darryl Hughes found a fruitful partnership with his vintage ketch Maybird.

Peter Kennedy fought hard to claim his All-Ireland title, Molly Breathnach cruised her way to a spot on the list, Fintan Cairns showed true leadership vision with the DBSC Turkey Shoot, and Donal O’Sullivan bowed out from his role at the same club after decades of unparalleled contributions.

Former sailmaker Ross Kearney is now sailing for the love of it, while Mark Lyttleproved he’s still winning calibre with his Grand Masters title in September.

And Gregor McGuckin got a nod in September for his selfless actions during the Golden Jubilee Golden Globe Race, racing to the aid of the injured Abilash Tomy with his own storm-worn yacht under jury rig.

In the night’s other prizes, Irish Sailing president Jack Roy presented the Senior Instructor Award to Southern Region winner Ellen O’Regan of Schull and the Fastnet Marine & Outdoor Education Centre for her exceptional instructor management abilities and skills.

Bray Sailing Club took one of the night’s two new categories as the Inclusion Award was presented by Gina Griffin to senior instructor Jack Hannon for his work on the Watersports Inclusion Games. The club was also named Training Centre of the Year for 2018 (presented by Cllr Ossian Smyth).

Howth Yacht Club and the Royal Cork Yacht Club shared the inaugural Sustainability Award, presented by Irish Sailing’s new sustainability ambassador Damian Foxall.

And Youth Sailor of the Year, presented by Irish Sports Council chief executive John Treacy, is the National Yacht Club’s Nell Staunton, one of the standouts of Ireland’s Laser Radial youth squad and eighth-place finisher in last summer’s Youth Sailing Worlds in Texas. 

Hosted once more by master of ceremonies Fiona Bolger, the night as always welcomed guests from Irish club and high performance sailing — youth and veteran, professional and corinthian.

Among the 500 people in attendance at the RDS Main Hall were Volvo Car Ireland MD David Thomas and PR and events executive Emma O’Carroll; from RYA NI, chair Jackie Patton (also of the Atlantic Youth Trust) and chief executive Richard Honeyford; and UK Sailmakers’ Barry Hayes.

Representing the Olympic Federation of Ireland were CEO Peter Sherrard, secretary Sarah O’Shea and Colm Barrington, first vice president and former chairman of Irish Sailing’s Olympic Steering Group. 

From the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport were assistant secretary Deirdre O’Keeffe and Peter Horgan, principal officer of sports policy and the National Sports Campus, while Fianna Fáil spokesperson for sport Robert Troy also joined the evening.

From Dun Laoghaire’s waterfront were harbourmaster Simon Coate; National Yacht Club Commodore Ronan Beirne with Vice Commodore Martin McCarthy and club archivist Frank Burgess; Royal Irish YC Commodore Joseph Costello; Royal St George Vice Commodore Peter Bowring; and DMYC Commodore Frank Guilfoyle

Representing the rest of Co Dublin were Dublin Bay Sailing Club’s new honorary secretary Chris Moore; Howth YC’s Vice Commodore Emmet Dalton with the club’s Rear Commodores Paddy J Judge and Ian Malcolm, race officer Richella Carroll and communications officer Brian Turvey; and Malahide YC Commodore Matt Ryan and Rear Commodore Ciaran O’Reilly.

Also in attendance were Bray Sailing Club’s outgoing Commodore Darina Porter, incumbent Boris Fennema, treasurer Torren Gale, and Jack Hannon; Skerries Sailing Club Commodore Kathryn Collins with Vice Commodore Liam O’Callaghan; and Dublin Port Company assistant harbour master Tristan Walsh.

Cork’s flag was flown by Kinsale Yacht Club Commodore David O’Sullivan and Vice Commodore Michael Walsh, along with Baltimore Sailing Club Commodore Niall O’Neill, and Royal Cork’s Admiral Pat Farnan, general manager Gavin Deane and sustainability chair Aoife Deane.

RTÉ broadcaster Fergal Keane; Volvo Ocean Race photographer Brian Carlin; Sailing Into Wellness founder Colin Healy, World Sailing delegates Con Murphy and Paddy Boyd; Nobby Reilly, formerly of ICRA; and former ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney were also in attendance.

Guests were also given a special up-close look at some of the boat models sailed by Ireland’s next generation of high achievers in sailing at home and abroad.

“BoatsBoats on display at the rear of the RDS hall during the 2018 Volvo Irish Sailing Awards | Photo: David O’Brien

Ian O’Meara of Viking Marine and Pierce Purcell Jr and Nicky Bendon of CH Marine represented the dinghy scene presenting Lasers and a Topper respectively, while Kenny Rumball of the Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School brought along a training Optimist and RS Quest — and Gerry Salmon, Joss Walsh and Martin Salmon of yacht broker MGM Boats showed a scale model of the new Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300 that wowed the Paris Boat Show in December.

Hosted by Irish Sailing with Afloat magazine, the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards aim to highlight the breadth of sailing across the country.

Afloat’s Sailor of the Year awards have been running since 1996, recognising over 500 Irish sailors in that time. The awards “were originally formulated to bring a bigger profile to sailing achievements that do not get their fair share of the media coverage,” says editor David O’Brien. “Now these achievements are reaching a wider audience than ever before.”

Afloat.ie neared 1.3 million visitors in 2018 — an audience the publication is eager to share with Ireland’s sailing community.

“Afloat.ie wants to work with every club and every class in the country,” says O’Brien. “Please get in touch.”

Update Saturday 9 February: This article was corrected to show that Bray Sailing Club won Training Centre of the Year and not Lough Swilly Yacht club as previously indicated.

Published in ISA

The wait is nearly over to find out who will be named Afloat Irish Sailor of the Year for 2018 at the star-studded Volvo Irish Sailing Awards in Dublin’s RDS this Friday 8 February.

Once again the country’s finest sailors will be recognised for their achievements across a host of categories including youth sailing, training, inclusion and sustainability.

However, the award most pertinent to Afloat.ie readers will be the one they’ve had a hand in selecting from a year of remarkable feats at home and abroad via our online poll of the boating public and maritime community.

Winkie Nixon rounds up the worthy nominees from Afloat.ie Sailors of the Month between January and October, while the final list added five more picks from November and December: speed sailor Oisin Van Gelderen; offshore pair Vicky Cox and Peter Dunlop; Donal O’Sullivan, who recently retired as DBSC Honorary Secretary; Dun Laoghaire’s Fintan Cairns; and classic boat sailor Darryl Hughes.

Sailing’s best and brightest won’t be the only VIPs in attendance, as Minister of State Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Sport Ireland chief John Treacy and Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Cathaoirleach Ossian Smyth will be on hand to present awards on the night.

In addition, luminaries from Irish club and high performance sailing, national champions, class captains, club commodores, previous Sailors of the Year, and world and Olympic veterans and hopefuls alike will be among the more than 400 guests gathered at the RDS this Friday night for the annual celebration of excellence in Irish sailing, hosted by returning master of ceremonies Fiona Bolger.

Guests will also have an opportunity to get a special up-close look at some of the very boat models sailed by this year’s award nominees.

The dinghy scene will be represented by chandleries CH Marine and Viking Marine displaying the Laser Radial, Topper and Optimist, while the Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School’s RS200 will also be in the hall — and yacht broker MGM Boats will have a scale model of the new Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300 that wowed the Paris Boat Show in December.

In all it’s shaping up to be another fantastic night toasting the very best sailing in Ireland has to offer — and if you can’t be there in person on the night, be sure to stay tuned to Afloat.ie this Friday evening for the announcement of 2018’s Sailor of the Year.

Published in ISA

#NorthSails - New Volvo Irish Sailor of the Year Conor Fogerty has hailed North Sails Ireland’s role in his offshore success.

Following his award win last Friday, the Howth Yacht Club stalwart said: “North Sails have been a part of the Bam! story since her first launch in 2015.

“The new J2 and J5 played a key role in the OSTAR 2017 and I am looking forward to racing with the new 3Di main for the RORC Caribbean 600 Race.”

North Sails Ireland supplied the first inventory for Conor Fogerty back in 2015 with which he won his class in the 2016 RORC Caribbean 600 race. These sails were a mix of 3DL and 3Di plus nylon downwind sails.

In early 2017, for his epic OSTAR-winning attempt, North Sails Ireland supplied a new 3Di Code 2/3 reefing jib and a No 5 Radian jib for exceptionally heavy upwind work.

These sails sails did the business for Conor and Bam! as she took first place in the Gypsy Moth Class in the OSTAR.

North Sails also just supplied a new 3Di offshore main for Fogerty’s 2018 RORC Caribbean 600 Race, which starts next Monday 19 February.

Published in North Sails Ireland

#SailorOfTheYear - Conor Fogerty has been named Afloat Irish Sailor of the Year for 2017 for his astonishing performance in the Single-Handed East-West Transatlantic Race last summer during what was a particularly strong year for Irish offshore sailing.

June’s Offshore Sailor of the Month was presented with his prize by Minister of State Mary Mitchell-O’Connor at the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards gala in Dublin’s RDS Concert Hall this evening (Friday 9 February).

The accolade comes nearly eight months after the corinthian sailor from Howth Yacht Club found himself in definitive trophy contention, when a storm ravaged the OSTAR and TWOSTAR fleets in the North Atlantic in early June.

Irish Sailing Awards 2018 FogertyConor Fogerty, Howth receiving the Overall Volvo Irish Sailor of the Year Award from (L/R) Jack Roy, President Irish Sailing, Mary Mitchell O'Connor TD, Minister of State for Higher Education and Patricia Greene, Head of Communications Volvo Car Ireland at the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards 2018. Photo: Irish Sailing/David Branigan

With attentions immediately and understandably turned to the plight of those sailors and vessels worst affected by the extreme conditions, it was only in the aftermath that those not already on the Fogerty tip realised Ireland’s lone entry in the 2017 OSTAR was some ways west of the storm before it hit.

Make no mistake, this was no fluke. “[Fogerty] had been sailing his Sun Fast 3600 Bam! with such skill and determination that he had sailed beyond the worst of the weather,” Winkie Nixon writes.

That put Fogerty second only to clear race leader Andrea Mura’s Open 60 Venta di Sardegna in the OSTAR division, before the winds ruined the party behind them. What’s more, in the hours and days that followed, Fogerty was sailing Bam! in near-contact with TWOSTAR entry Rote 66, an Open 40 significantly larger than his own boat.

Indeed, even with a depleted fleet, it was remarkable that Fogerty was able to keep up with those bigger boats and take Bam! all the way to Rhode Island amid persistent tough conditions. As Winkie says: “His victory was no joyride.”

But a victory it certainly was. When Bam! crossed the line at Newport on 19 June to take that prize of prizes, the Gipsy Moth Trophy, Fogerty’s closest competition was 500 miles astern — and his only company in port were boats with far more muscle and speed potential. It was a prime example of a skipper making all the difference.

The hero’s welcome bestowed upon Fogerty on his return to Howth at the end of the month, as Winkie observes, was richly deserved.

Accepting his award this evening, Fogerty said it was great to see offshore sailing reaching new heights, and recognised the importance of having such a platform as the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards to share his and fellow ocean-crossers’ passion.

The Sailor of the Year for 2017 also extolled the virtues of the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association as a learning ground.

“For anyone who wants to get involved in offshore sailing, I’d recommend ISORA to get their feet wet,” Fogerty added.

Fogerty bested a worthy field of nominees in 2017, among them such offshore luminaries as Vendée Globe stalwart Alex Thomson, his Fastnet Race partner Nin O’Leary, and Volvo Ocean Race veteran Damian Foxall.

The ‘Flying Irishman’ Tom Dolan flew the flag for Ireland in France and the Mini Transat series, while recently retired RORC Commodore Michael Boyd finished in the top 10 of the Fastnet Race.

In the wake of Annalise Murphy’s big award last year, younger sailors featured prominently in 2017.

Trinity sailing team captain Richard Roberts and his UCC counterpart Liam Manning; Youth Pathways champ Ewan McMahon; Finn class Olympic hopeful Fionn Lyden and fellow Tokyo 2020 challenger Finn Lynch in the Laser; super junior Michael O’Suillebhain; and Dun Laoghaire all-rounder Lorcan Tighe were all in contention.

Saskia Tidey found a fruitful new 49erFX partnership with Great Britain’s Charlotte Dobson; while Aoife Hopkins, winner of the European Women’s U21 Laser Radial title, sat her Leaving Cert just a month after that achievement and gained a whopping 605 points in a testament to her dedication.

Stewart Hosford (who shared with Thomson); Pacific voyager Daragh Nagle; tactician Ian Moore; Rush’s Kelly family; cruiser John Maybury; Safehaven Marine powerboat specialist Frank Kowalski; Michael O’Connor and his Sin Bin crew; offshore duo Vicky Cox and Peter Dunlop; Rockabill VI campaigner Paul O’Higgins; Sydney-Hobart partners Gordon Maguire and Jim Cooney; and Clipper Race skipper Conall Morrison rounded out this year’s slate of Sailor of the Year nominees, with two notable exceptions.

The organisers flew in Santiago Alegre from Spain and Simon Hoffman from Australia to thank them for saving the life of Johnny Durcan, one of Ireland’s leading high performance sailors, who got into difficulty at the 29er World Championships in California last summer. The pair were special winners from Afloat last August for their efforts, and received the President’s Award tonight — as well as a standing ovation from the full house in attendance.

Irish Sailing Awards 2018 hoffmanSimon Hoffman, Australia with Santiago Alegre, Spain, Johnny Durcan, Crosshaven, Jack Roy, President Irish Sailing, Jay Stacy, Schull and Colin Byrne, Dun Laoghaire receiving the President's Award

Also recognised was Jay Stacy, who received the President’s Award for his actions that saved the life of one of his crew a rogue wave hit their boat off the Waterford/Wexford coast. Accidents like this are rare, but tonight was an opportunity for the sailing community to recognise their bravery and say thank you.

“IrishThe ‘fireside chat’ with lifesavers and President’s Award winners who received a standing ovation

In the night’s other prizes, the Senior Instructor Award went to Kate Caldwell of Mullaghmore Sailing Club, who recently left her role at the Co Sligo club after three years to study for a Master’s degree.

Training Centre of the Year for 2017 is Crookhaven Harbour Sailing Club, which since 1979 has specialised in training junior sailors in West Cork close to the sailing mecca of Schull.

Irish Sailing Awards 2018 8332Harry Hermon, CEO Irish Sailing presents Peter O'Leary, Commodore of Crookhaven Sailing Club with the overall Volvo Training Centre of the Year award with Patricia Greene

From the South West to the North Channel, Ballyholme/Donaghadee’s Dan McGaughey was named Youth Sailor of the Year for his incredible podium performance in the gold fleet at the Topper World Championships in Loctudy, France last August, where he finished third amid a top-class junior field.

Special recognition was made to Matt McGovern and his brother Russell for their storied performance careers, just days after Matt abandoned his Tokyo 2020 plans and announced his Olympic retirement.

The 34-year-old from Belfast Lough was one half of Ireland’s most successful skiff duo in the 49er dinghy with Carrickfergus helm Ryan Season, the pair competing at London 2012 and Rio 2016. McGovern was most recently mounting a new campaign with 2013 Laser youth champion Robbie Gilmore.

Irish Sailing Awards 2018 8346Carmel Winkelmann, Dun Laoghaire receives the President's Award from Jack Roy, President Irish Sailing

In his address earlier in the evening, Irish Sailing president Jack Roy emphasised that as much as high achievements in sailing have a place in the sport, “for most of us it’s about getting on the water, whatever your level of expertise.”

Citing the so-called ‘Annalise effect’, Roy noted “a bounce in the number of people sailing around the country last year.” In Irish Sailing’s Try Sailing initiative for 2017, half of those participating were women, and more than half were aged under 18 — showing the potential for growth is there.

Roy also took time to thank “the everyday heroes who don’t always get recognised by awards and trophies: the volunteers who dedicate so much time, energy and passion to our sport, and who share their knowledge and expertise with other sailors. Quite simply, our sport cannot function without them.”

Hosted once more by master of ceremonies Fiona Bolger, the night as always welcomed guests from Irish club and high performance sailing, including Irish Sailing's youth and Olympic squads, national champions at all levels, class captains, club commodores, previous Sailors of the Year, and world and Olympic competitors.

Among the hundreds of guests were Colm Barrington, vice chair of the Olympic Council of Ireland, and Robert Dix, chair of the Government’s national marine strategy.

Royal cork Sailing awardsRoyal Cork was well represented

There was a stron turnout from Royal Cork Yacht Club, now under new Admiral Pat Farnan. RCYC flag officers Colin Moorhead, Kieran O’Connell and Gavin Deane were in attendance, while Howth Yacht Club Commodore Joe McPeake was in attendance with Brian Turvey, chair of Howth’s New Wave Regatta.

Representing Dun Laoghaire’s waterfront was National Yacht Club Commodore Ronan Beirne with Vice Commodore Martin McCarthy and club archivist Frank Burgess, as well Alistair, Muriel and Kenneth Rumball of the INSS.

Nobby Reilly, formerly of ICRA; Peter Ryan of ISORA; Chris and Sandra Moore of the DBSC; and ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney were also in attendance, as was Irish Coast Guard chief Chris Reynolds following his return in 2017 from secondment to the Horn of Africa.

“IrishAnother successful year for the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards

Hosted by Irish Sailing with Afloat magazine, the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards aim to highlight the breadth of sailing across the country.

Afloat’s awards have been running since 1996, recognising over 500 Irish sailors in that time, says editor David O’Brien.

“[The awards] were originally formulated to bring a bigger profile to sailing achievements that do not get their fair share of the media coverage,” he adds. “Now these achievements are reaching a wider audience than ever before.”

Afloat.ie topped over 1.2 million visitors in 2017 — an audience the publication is eager to share with Ireland’s sailing community.

“Afloat.ie wants to work with every club and every class in the country,” says O’Brien. “Please get in touch.”

Published in News Update

#SailorOfTheYearOlympic hero Annalise Murphy has been named Afloat Irish Sailor of the Year for 2016.

August’s Sailor of the Month for her silver medal victory at Rio 2016 was presented with her prize by Irish Sailing Association (ISA) president David Lovegrove at the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards gala in Dublin’s RDS Concert Hall this evening (Friday 27 January).

Murphy was saluted by more than 300 of her fellow sailors, one of Irish sailing’s largest ever turnouts, for her Olympic triumph in the Laser Radial class – Ireland’s best achievement in sailing at the Games since David Wilkins and James Wilkinson won the Flying Dutchman silver at Moscow 1980.

That the National Yacht Club stalwart rallied from her heartbreak at London 2012, where she just barely missed out on a bronze medal, with an incredible display on the waters of Guanabara Bay made her success all the sweeter.

As Afloat.ie’s WM Nixon wrote in November, Murphy’s Olympic performance came after a 10-week transformation on the heels of a poor showing at the 2016 Worlds in Mexico:

“With her dedicated support team, she ensured that she’d become a hugely improved sailor, a fitter athlete and psychologically in a very good place, as she took on the Olympic challenge on August 8th with a cool confidence which in due course received its proper reward.”

It was an achievement that rightly captured the public’s imagination, too, providing Irish sailing with the greatest mainstream profile it’s enjoyed in years.

It’s already seen her recognised as The Irish Times/Sports Council of Ireland Sportswoman of the Year, Irish Tatler’s Woman of the Year, the Evening Echo’s Sports Star of the Year, and as one of Rehab’s two Sportspersons of the Year, not to mention her honorary membership of the Irish Sailing Foundation.

So it was surely to be expected that ‘Our Annalise’ would capture the public vote on Afloat.ie, as well as the votes of the judging panel to earn the prestigious award for a second time upon its 20th anniversary – two decades after first honouring that year’s own Olympic dinghy hero Mark Little, and four years on from her first win in recognition for her stellar efforts in London.

Accepting her prize, Annalise Murphy said: “As a kid I learned that maybe I wasn't the most talented, but I worked the hardest and that’s how I handled my sailing at the Olympics, and that’s what I’d advise all sailors to do now.”

Adding that the standing ovation from the ISA “means a lot to me”, she noted that it was “great to see all the Irish sailing achievements here, and that’s what I love in our great sport. It’s not all about the racing.”

Racing is still very much on Annalise’s agenda, however, with the first stage of her Tokyo 2020 campaign set for the Laser Radial Worlds this August.

Annalise’s accolade must also be seen in light of her fellow deserving nominees, all winners of Afloat.ie’s Sailor of the Month awards, and all of whom made remarkable and significant contributions to Irish sailing throughout the year.

Among them are a GP14 world champion in Shane MacCarthy, a Round Ireland record by Damian Foxall, a pioneering Vendée Globe effort by Enda O’Coineen, and youth sailor and future Olympic medal prospect Finn Lynch.

Irish sailing’s next generation was recognised in its own right on the night with the presentation of the Youth Sailor of the Year prize to Afloat’s racing Sailor of the Month for July, Ewan McMahon, alongside the Training Centre of the Year gong that this year went to Foynes Yacht Club, and two ISA President’s Awards – to Scottish Series racer Colin Moore, and Annalise Murphy's coach Rory Fitzpatrick, the latter of whom said of his eventful year: “It’s not just the Olympic result, it’s the inspiration of Annalise’s discipline routine in Dun Laoghaire that drives on our Laser sailors.”

 

In his address earlier this evening, ISA president David Lovegrove said he was “bowled over by the achievements of our sailors both at home and abroad.

“For such a small country, we achieve great things and our sailors are truly inspirational ambassadors for our sports and our country. 2016 was a year to make us all proud.”

But Lovegrove also took time to “celebrate the everyday heroes in sailing who don’t always get recognised by awards and cups – the volunteers who dedicate so much time, energy and passion to our sport, and who share their knowledge and expertise with other sailors.

“From the race officials to the instructors, to the coaches and the mark layers, the safety crews and those who carry out a multitude of tasks onshore: we simply could not enjoy sailing the way we do without you. Thank you.”

Hosted by master of ceremonies Fiona Bolger, chief executive of Spinal Injuries Ireland, along with Lovegrove and Afloat.ie’s own WM Nixon, the evening welcomed guests including members of the ISA Olympic and youth sailing squads, training centre principal, national senior and youth champions, class captains and club commodores, and a number of past Olympians and Sailors of the Year.

Among the crowd were the Royal Cork's Sally O’Leary and her husband Anthony, 2010's Sailor of the Year, who are looking forward to the club’s dinghy fest, along with a band of club mates including Gavin Deane, Admiral John Roche and Rear Admiral Kieran O'Connell and Tom Durcan, who has just welcomed home his son Johnny from Australia, and Ted Crosbie who recently retired from racing.

Brian O’Sullivan and Francis Clifford represented Tralee Bay Sailing Club in the audience this evening, while Paddy Boyd, who was returned from a stint as CEO of Sail Canada, was also present, as were Chris and Sandra Moore of the Dublin Bay Sailing Club, Peter Ryan of ISORA, ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney from Foynes Yacht Club, and Martin McCarthy of Annalise’s home club, the National YC in Dun Laoghaire.

Others in attendance included Cormac Devlin, Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, and Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy.

Published in News Update

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