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#sailoroftheyear – The voting is over, the judges have decided and today the 2014 ISA/Afloat.ie Sailor of the Year will be revealed at a Dublin city centre ceremony. 

Over 200 invitees are gathering this afternoon to celebrate some remarkable achievements from the 2014 sailing season.

Afloat's ownership of this award – based on Sailor of the Month winners - has a long history, going back to 1996, and it successfully highlights achievement in every area of sailing.

For example, one month there may be an exceptional voyage honoured, while the next month it might be a major international dinghy championship victory. The diversity is total. And just occasionally, to emphasise that we are a community, which functions afloat and ashore, the monthly award might go to someone who has given selflessly of their time for sailing administration.

A full list of the 2014 achievements is HERE.

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 2014.

The boating public has had a chance to nominate their top three through an online poll, Afloat.ie got a vote too and the Sailor of the Year judges have decided the final winner.

The winner will be announced this afternoon on Afloat.ie and WM Nixon will review today's awards celebration in his 'Sailing on Saturday' blog tomorrow morning.

Published in Sailor of the Year

#soy – The new stars of the Irish sailing firmament are Anthony O'Leary (57) of Cork and the successful Commodore's Cup team. In a gala ceremony in Dublin this afternoon to celebrate the many achievements of our sailors in 2014, O'Leary and his team mates were applauded as the crème de a crème, reflecting his own insistence throughout the exemplary Commodore's campaign that it was only by a close-knit group effort that success could be obtained.

The sharing of the award - presented in a crowded gathering of Ireland's diverse sailing community in the Royal College of Surgeons by Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney on behalf of the Irish Sailing Association and Afloat.ie - proved to be doubly appropriate, as O'Leary himself could not be present owing to a longterm commitment to a week-long sailing campaign currently under way in Florida.

However, his son Rob – a former Sailor of the Month himself - accepted the Afloat.ie Sailor of the Month award for June 2014 on his father's behalf. That award was to celebrate Anthony O'Leary's success in being the overall winner of the British Open IRC Championship.

But after that, his personal achievements continued at a high level throughout the season, as he became the Helmsmans Champion 2014 early in September racing with the J/80s in Howth, and then later that same month he won through to be the 1720 National Champion racing in Baltimore.

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Anthony O'Leary (right) and his crew Dylan Gannon (left) and Dan O'Grady celebrate All Ireland victory off Howth in the Helmsmans Champs. Photo: Jonathan Wormald

That this all occurred within weeks of his brilliant leading of the Commodore's Cup team during the last week of July gives some indication of the enormous contribution made by Anthony O'Leary to Irish sailing during 2014.

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1720 National Champions – Anthony O'Leary's Antix crew in winning form again off Baltimore. Photo: Aedan Coffey

 

But as the Commodore's Cup win also saw the Afloat.ie International Award for July being made to the entire team, the Sailor of the Year 2014 was jointly presented to Rob O'Leary standing in for his father, and to Michael Boyd, recently elected Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, who was one of the Irish skippers in the superb Commodore's Cup team.

It is the second time the Crosshaven skipper has won the Irish Sailor of the Year title, he lifted it first in 2010.

Published in Sailor of the Year

#sailoroftheyear – That final decision on the ISA/Afloat.ie Sailor of the Year 2014 award will be announced at the Sailing Awards celebration in Dublin on the afternoon of Friday March 6th March at a ceremony which will also see each Sailor of the Month individually honoured, the ISA Youth Sailor of the Year awarded, the ISA Training Centre of the Year honoured, and the ISA/Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year for 2015 announced.

The boating public and maritime community have been voting in very large numbers to help guide the judges in deciding who should be crowned Ireland's Sailor of the Year for 2014. According to our online poll, some popular front-runners have emerged with significant and often rapidly-varying levels of support. The judges welcome this 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.

In considering those voting trends, we are aware that some over-enthusiastic supporters may feel that they are helping their favoured sailor's prospects by exploiting the system. Please be assured that support of this kind can be negative in its ultimate effect. But equally, the judges will be able to make allowance for any artificial support in order that a deserving sailor's prospects are not impaired by it as they reach their final decision.

The national award is especially designed to salute the achievements of Ireland's sailing's elite. Over nearly 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 2014.

CLICK HERE TO READ EACH ACHIEVEMENT AND TO VOTE FOR YOUR SAILOR AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE.

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 19 years ago the awards have recognised over 300 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 Year
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#fullirish – It's not hard to argue that 2013 was the biggest year by far in David Kenefick's sailing career. And that he's still only 22 years of age makes his solo sailing achievements over the last 12 months even more remarkable.

Indeed, his performance in the demanding Figaro Solo alone was surely enough to secure his place in our esteem - and garner him Afloat's Irish Sailor of the Year Award for 2013.

Kenefick's prodigious talent backed his claim to the Rookie of the Year title (never before awarded to a non-French skipper) as the youngest in the field running a gruelling Gallic gauntlet of almost 7,000 offshore miles, nearly all of them single-handed.

His year of success began in February - just three months after launching his Figaro bid - when he raced his Figaro one-design yacht for the first time in the 140 nautical miles of La Grande Motte.

Finishing second out of six finishers, the result put Kenefick in good stead for the following month's ICOM Cup Méditeranée in Marseille, where fifth place in the final leg saw him tally 11th overall - one step closer to achieving his long-held ambition.

But qualification for La Solitaire du Figaro was only sealed in April's 320-mile Solo Arrimer race, the longest he'd sailed till that date. And he bettered that rookie podium finish with 15th in May's 30-boat Solo Concarneau, in which he was the second newcomer over the line.

"I now know a lot more about what this kind of racing is," Kenefick told Afloat after that third race, underlining the mental strength that long-distance solo sailing demands.

"It is about training your mind. Your eyes will close but your mind is still going... You have to go there to understand it. It's weird waking up when you are at the helm. It's quite amazing what your body and mind can do."

That invaluable race experience aside, Kenefick also benefitted from the guiding hand of coach and mentor Marcus Hutchinson, himself a Figaro veteran, who put the young Crosshaven sailor through his paces.

Still, it's one thing to prepare and another to actually do it: the Figaro Solo is a unique challenge, the 535 miles of its first leg enough to ward off the weak.

So it was disheartening, though not surprising, to see Kenefick make a poor start off the line from Bordeaux on 2 June, stuck among the backmarkers as the fleet headed up the Gironde Estuary.

Around him strong contenders fell by the wayside in this race of attrition. And Kenefick himself would not emerge unscathed, a "little collision" taking a chunk out of the keel of his yacht 'Full Irish'.

Ultimately, though, it was just a scratch - a battle scar to prove Kenefick's mettle as he completed the first leg in 33rd place out of 41 starters.

But he knew he could do better, rueing the mistake of not sleeping when he had the chance and winding up lost in a tangle of fishing boats.

Light winds saw leg two shortened to 300 nautical miles from Porto to the Spanish port of Gijon - the last 45 of which, as Hutchinson wrote in his Figaro blog, proved the most important.

Sailing much smarter now, Kenefick was in the middle group, best positioned to act upon the telltale signs of stalling winds ahead, and at one point made it to the top 10.

His 18th place finish was a huge boost to his confidence and his chances going into the penultimate leg from Gijon to Roscoff, starting with straight 200-mile run across the Bay of Biscay considered the hardest leg of the course, where barometric pressure trends matter more than tidal charts.

Kenefick suffered on the wrong side of the fleet, putting him far down the rankings to the point where strategy goes out the window and all that matters is staying awake and getting as much speed as possible. But he wasn't the only one, and still reached Roscoff third among the rookies.

After four days of much-needed shore leave, the fleet embarked on the final leg to Dieppe: 520 miles via the south coast of England, an unforgiving route tracing rocky coastlines and tidal gates that demands physical toughness and nerves of steel.

Surviving a scary night-time game of rock dodgems, Kenefick hoisted early and drove hard through the night from Wolf Rock to Needles Fairway, gaining 11 places on the way - though a violent gybe towards the end loosened his mainsail and left him scrambling to improvise a fix.

However, it failed to put a damper on an "amazing" leg for Kenefick, who crossed the line in the small hours of 23 June with a cumulative placing of 28th out of 40 finishers, third among the rookies - and becoming only the fourth Irishman to complete the race after Damian Foxall, Paul O'Riain and mentor Hutchinson.

"If you had said to me last year that I'd be at the finish of the Solitaire," he said, "I don't think I would have believed you."

What an achievement - and yet that wasn't the end of Kenefick's offshore season, as he followed with a strong showing in September's Tour de Bretagne ala Voile, and an even more impressive display in the Generali Solo around the Mediterranean, where he finished 12th as the best rookie in the fleet.

That was enough to clinch the title of 2013's best Figaro newcomer for the young Corkman, who we also recognised as our Sailor of the Month for October.

"No one comes into this scene and performs at the top in their first year," he said as the weight of his achievements began to sink in.

But he did it, and so it was only right that we honour David Kenefick with the Sailor of the Year Award for doing what was previously thought impossible.

For full coverage of David Kenefick's 2013 season click here.

Published in Sailor of the Year

#sailoroftheyear – W M Nixon reviews the lineup for the Afloat.ie Sailor of the Year 2013 for which voting concludes on February 17th, but only after he has considered some oddities and omissions in the annual circus of local, regional, national and global personal sailing awards. And he makes an important point about the history of Irish sailing awards.

It's a curiosity that in the slew of local, regional, national and international individual sailing awards which have been making it across the finish line as 2013 draws to a close and 2014 washes over us, none seem to have been made to anyone who was sailing in the America's Cup.

Maybe the Cup itself is seen as enough award for anyone. We've said it before, but we'll say it again: The America's Cup is the peak of sailing – alas. Yet this global distribution of gongs to anything and everything except the America's Cup tends to suggest that AC people are seen as functioning in some sort of parallel universe. Or maybe it's a compression chamber. Whatever it is, when a sailor goes into this rarefied zone, he ceases to be seen as a being to whom ordinary matelots can relate in any meaningful way.

The fact that AC crews are de-humanised by being kitted out in black crash helmets and the blackest of black uniforms, and sail on boats to which normal boaty terms scarcely apply (you can't really call it a "she" when it's called a platform in the first place), is all part of the oddity with its alien nature.

And when people are in this extreme world, they have attitudes and speak in ways which are at variance with their approach when they're in another sailing environment. But happily, the good news is that when they emerge from the AC hothouse back into the real world, they soon become as soppy and sentimental as the rest of us.

One of the toughest cookies of all when he's in America's Cup mode is Australia's Iain Murray. It has recently been confirmed that he's moved his focus back home to head up Bob Oatley's Hamilton Island YC America's Cup Challenge, a ferociously demanding role as HIYC are the Challengers of Record for the 35th series.

Thus Murray will have to be up to speed with, and indeed faster than m'learned friends as the legal negotiations get up a head of steam. All that and sailing too. Yet when he's outside the AC bubble, he seems to have attitudes to boats and sailing with which any of us can identify.

One of the joys as 2013 drew to a close was watching the unfolding drama of the Sydney-Hobart Race. There were all sorts of exiting new or totally re-vamped boats, for Australia has been by-passed by the global recession. But the popular money was on Bob Oatley's veteran hundred footer Wild Oats IX, a skinny and much-modified yoke which has had more face-lifts than an ageing Holywood star.

But unlike your Holywood star, the more mods she gets, the more people seem to like the gallant Wild Oats. And among those who frequently sail the big events on her – and whose tactical skill was seen at the start of the Hobart Race in Sydney harbour when Wild Oats carried the much-fancied Perpetual LOYAL (ex Rambler 100) above the crucial break line for the first turning buoy - was Iain Murray. After the race was over and Wild Oats had done the business for line honours yet again, Murray gave his heartfelt thoughts:

"Wild Oats is a bit of an old girl now" he said. "For her to stand up and deliver is special really. This boat and the crew have been around a long time and to keep the boat improving is a nice thing to do.

"I'm sure if you started with a clean sheet of paper now, you wouldn't build this boat, but she's a good all-round boat. She isn't great down-wind or a record breaker or a reaching boat; she is a good all-round boat and coupled with that she has a great, consistent crew that generally gets the most out of her.

"I think everyone in the crew was on their game this year. In the nine (Sydney-Hobart) races this boat has done, this was by far the best".

Read that out in sonorous tones with a lone violin in the background, and there wouldn't be a dry eye in the house. It's about as far from the coldly clinical approach that is essential to the modern America's Cup as it's possible to be, and the word is that Bob Oatley is himself nominated for a sailor's award on the strength of his commitment to the old Wild Oats and the Hobart Race, not for his growing involvement with the America's Cup.

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The skinny weird thing which is Wild Oats XI. "If you started with a clean sheet of paper now, you wouldn't build this boat, but she's a good all-round boat".

But while the America's Cup may be enough award in itself, in the bigger picture the variety is such that Sailor of the Month and Sailor of the Year awards are helpful in sensing what's going on, and keeping a record of what has been happening. However, you can soon have enough of a good thing, and too much very quickly. So here at Afloat.ie we're more than somewhat bemused by this week's announcement by the Irish Sailing Association of its up-coming Sailor of the Year award.

There are times admittedly when the ISA do things that make you think they're on another planet. So if they do something that suggests they're in another country, then maybe it's really no big deal. And perhaps we should gracefully accept that this sudden transformation of their Sailing Achievement Award of a year ago into a full-blown Sailor of the Year award this week is a case of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.

Whatever, out of respect for the 336 Afloat "Sailors of the Month" and 28 Afloat "Sailors of the Year" who have enhanced our sport since we inaugurated these awards back in 1996, we feel that due acknowledgement of their achievements, plus the facts of history, and the current situation in Irish sailing, means that we should at least stake our claim as prior users of the Irish Sailor of the Year title.

Enough said. Voting on the latest annual batch closes at 6.0pm on Monday February 17th. We're delighted with the response there has been right across the board, even if it hasn't been on the scale of the good old days before one-vote-per-voter electronic limitation was imposed, when one determined skipper voted for himself 3,000 times at the mad height of the Celtic Tiger years. We know who he was, and where he lives......

The lineup reflects the diversity of our sport. As recent online arguments about the reinstatement of the Star in the Olympics have emphasised, the majority of us sail in boats with keels, while beyond that there's a very large number of us who seldom if ever race, yet we love our boats and sailing. However, racing creates its own narrative, so inevitably the racing names push their way to the fore afloat and ashore.

JANUARY
GORDON MAGUIRE

In the first week of January 2013, ex-Pat Gordon Maguire celebrated 53 straight weeks of exceptional achievement in Australian sailing. The 63ft Reichel Pugh sloop Loki, aboard which he was sailing master, was confirmed as overall champion in the Australian Blue Water Points Score, which is based on a season-long seven race series with no discard, concluding with the 628-mile Sydney-Hobart.

While defending champion Loki may have had to concede the overall Hobart Race handicap win at the end of December 2012 to line honours winner Wild Oats XI, she was a very solid second to augment her overall victory a year earlier. As for conceding that one win to Wild Oats, it was the only time throughout the 2012-13 season that Loki had done so, and in the second-longest race of the series, the 384-mile Sydney-Gold Coast Race, Loki had been in top form for a convincing overall win.

Gordon Maguire's four years of growing success with a mixed amateur-professional crew aboard Stephen Ainsworth's Loki spoke volumes for his exceptional talents as a helmsman, his inspiring ability as a leader, and his high qualities as a team member. Added to his record as a champion round the world racer and a winner in many other events, this peak of achievement in January 2013 marked the latest chapter in a remarkable success story for Irish sailing.

FEBRUARY
SIMON & NANCY DE PIETRO

Simon and Nancy de Pietro of Kinsale Yacht Club were the Afloat.ie Sailors of the Month for February after their convincing win in Class 1 in the RORC Caribbean 600 Race. With strong family links to North Cork and Sligo, they fly the burgee of the popular club on the south coast of Ireland for their successful international sailing programme.

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Lilla, Class 1 winner in the RORC Caribbbean 600 2013

Although their 76ft Philippe Briand-designed Lilla is a much-loved 20-year-old veteran, the high standard of maintenance which is lavished by this enthusiastic sailing couple on their hard-working charter boat shows itself in the consistency of the boat's racing performance in a competitive programme which is fitted around a regular working life on the Caribbean cruise circuit.

The quiet season in the Caribbean is in the summer, and last year saw Lilla avail of summer's opportunity to come north in June and race in the famous biennial Newport-Bermuda Race, which was first sailed in 2006. With Simon as skipper and Nancy as navigator, they won overall in the cruising division. Lilla clearly likes racing to Bermuda, as she has also won overall in another contest to the "onion patch", the annual race from Marion in Massachusetts.

For the start of 2013, Lilla's charter programme was put on hold for a while as she geared up for the new sunshine classic, the RORC Caribbean 600. Although she has relatively shallow draft in order to maximize her cruising choices, she is raced so skillfully that the expected limitations on her windward performance simply don't seem to materialize.

MARCH
FERGUS & KAY QUINLAN

Fergus and Kay Quinlan's three year voyage around the world in their own-built 12m steel cutter Pylades was an inspiration to Ireland's sailing community. And it received international acclamation from the premier global voyaging organisation, the Ocean Cruising Club, which gave the County Clare couple – who sail from Kinvara on Galway Bay – the special OCC Award for those "who have done most to foster and encourage ocean cruising in small craft and the practice of seamanship and navigation in all branches".

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Living the dream. Fergus & Kay Quinlan's Pylades resting in Fiji. Photo: Fergus Quinlan

The magical cruise of the Pylades had already been awarded the Irish Cruising Club's senior trophy, the Faulkner Cup (which dates from 1931), for an unprecedented three years in a row. And for the many in Ireland who had been following the cruise, it came as no surprise that the experienced adjudicators in the Ocean Cr C also found the cruise of the Quinlans to be both an informative entertainment, and a realistic encouragement to those who would hope to do something similar.

APRIL
ROBERT O'LEARY
The O'Learys of Crosshaven have taken the Sailor of the Month title several times over the years with the remarkable achievements of father Anthony, and sons Peter and Nicholas. But the Spring of 2013 clearly demonstrated that there's a new O'Leary on the stage - younger brother Robert, who played a key role in Irish university sailing through March and April.

Previously in the baby brother position as the successful skipper of the family's "cruiserfied" 1720 Antix Beg, young O'Leary made the scene in that hotbed of college development, the University of Limerick. This admired institution's success does more to change public perceptions of the sometimes troubled Shannonside city than a whole raft of government inner city initiatives. But even so, when UL came into being in 1989, it would have aroused incredulity to suggest that, by 2013, it would be the clear pace-setter in the highly competitive and long established world of Irish college sailing.

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Robert O'Leary after winning the College J/80 Selection Series. Photo: W M Nixon

Yet such is the case. And what a pace they've been setting. Despite the coldest Irish spring in years, it was the Limerick college sailors who kicked the new season into action by hosting the three day Intervarsity Team Racing National Opens over the St Patrick's weekend in March. Run in Kerry in conjunction with the hospitable Tralee Bay SC, and sailed in Fireflies, the series attracted 26 teams. The logistical demands were such that Robert O'Leary stayed ashore as overall event manager, but UL was on a roll and they won the main title too, captained by Ross Murray.

Then in April O'Leary was very much afloat, skippering the UL crew in the Student Yachting Worlds Irish selection trials raced over three successive Saturdays in April in the ISA SailFleet J/80s, currently based in Howth. The format was demanding, as it involved getting your crew on site three times over a two week period, and then coping with very different conditions on three separate occasions. Yet UL won it in style .

MAY
ANNALISE MURPHY

Annalise Murphy (23) of Dun Laoghaire was runaway winner of the Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Month" title for May 2013 after her unprecedented tally of two Gold Medals in the month's top international events in Europe.

The venues could have not been more different. The Murphy run of success started at Lake Garda in Italy, racing among the mountains in the Italian Olympic Week 2013, a challenging event in which the Irish helm emerged supreme with just 2 points to the 5 points of next-in-line Tuula Tenkanen of Finland, and Tina Mihelic of Croatia.

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Annalise Murphy's race winning form from Weymouth continued in 2013

The competition became even more intense two weeks later in the wide open spaces at Medemblik in The Netherlands for the Delta Lloyd Regatta. The Dutch weather was still giving a fair impression of winter, and the fleet included Olympic Gold Medallist Lijia Xu of China, and Silver Medallist Marit Bouwemester of the host nation.

Ireland's sailor went into the final medal race in third place, two points behind Alison Young (GBR) and Bouwemester. But in a complete reversal of the form shown in the final race of the Olympics in August 2012, it was Murphy who came confidently powering through to win by more than a minute and take the Gold, while China's star Olympic performer had to be content with sixth overall.

JUNE
BRIAN O'SULLIVAN

Brian O'Sullivan of Tralee Bay was the Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Month" for June following his clear overall win by more than an hour and forty minutes in the biennial 280-mile Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race between June 7th and 10th.

It was an outstanding month for Irish sailing achievements at home and abroad. But there was something specially heartening in these difficult times about a skipper from one of our most westerly clubs buying up a 33-year-old cruiser-racer, and showing that with a keen crew, and the right conditions, you can still take on Ireland's best and win.

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Brian O'Sullivan's Amazing Grace had a stellar Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race. Photo: Michael Chester

As anyone who followed the ongoing D2D story and subsequent reports on Afloat.ie will be aware, the Oyster 37 Amazing Grace has played an important role in Irish sailing at ports such as Crosshaven, Kinsale and Fenit. Completed by Jim Fagan from a bare hull in a Cork farmyard (though to a standard that belies the tag of "home made"), this classic Holman and Pye design was only bought by Brian O'Sullivan from a fellow member of Tralee Bay SC as recently as the Spring of 2013.

But he knew he was getting a good boat with a decent set of sails. The challenge was to fulfill Amazing Grace's potential with a keen crew who could build up their enthusiasm for the big race from Dun Laoghaire, with Tralee providing a small but keen flotilla in the high quality 22-boat fleet. And when conditions fell their way through the race, they were keyed up to finish in the small hours of Monday morning, right in line for a great Kerry victory.

The crewing team on Amazing Grace were Finbarr O'Connell, Fergus Kelliher, Pearse Boyland, Tim Kelliher, Cian O'Donnell, Brendan Culloty and Michael McCormack, while the essential shoreside support and encouragement was provided by Frances Clifford. But ultimately, any successful team needs a capable leader, and aboard Amazing Grace they had that in Brian O'Sullivan, Sailor of the Month for June 2013.

JULY SAILOR OF THE MONTH
LIAM GLYNN

Ballyholme YC teenage helm Liam Glynn was the Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Month" for July after his comprehensive victory in a fleet of 102 boats at the Topper International Worlds at Loctudy in France in an intense week of racing at the Brittany venue from July 22nd to 26th.

Glynn arrived at the championship on top form with Silver already notched at the ISA Youth Nationals earlier in the season. But he showed his quality in depth by turning in an even better performance in France, despite very different conditions. The ISA Championship had been raced on the tide-free freshwater location of Lough Derg, but the Worlds were sailed in notably tidal salt water with often flukey breezes, and a sometimes lumpy sea state which was not always warranted by the wind strength.

Yet despite the huge fleet, the young Belfast Lough sailor put in the sort of consistent performance which is the ideal of any top skipper, senior or junior. His first four races were all top three placings, including two straight wins, which meant that as the series progressed he was building towards a comfortable cushion of 13 points over the next boat as the final day's racing arrived.

As it turned out, his work was done. The final day of racing was lost to calm, and Ireland had a new World Champion.

JULY INTERNATIONAL SAILING AWARD
BRUNO SROKA

From time to time, we honour sailors from other countries who have achieved outstanding success in Irish waters. But never has our International Award been for anything so extraordinary as French kitesurfer Bruno Sroka's 240 nautical miles voyage on Friday July 19th from L'Aber Wrach in northwest Brittany to Cork Harbour.

In a period of mostly light winds, Sroka was favoured by a beam reach 16 knot nor'easter which he carried with him almost all the way across the mouth of the English Channel, past the Isles of Scilly, and on across the Celtic Sea to a rapturous welcome in to Cork, the feat completed within his aimed time scale of 17 hours, the exact time being 16 hours and 37 minutes, an average of 14.45 knots.

The wind was fading as he neared the Irish coast, but there was just enough bite left in it to bring him to Roche's Point at sunset. A professional kitesurfer, he had already conquered the English Channel, and with his longterm ambition of being the first to get to Ireland from France fulfilled, he is now thinking in terms of the ultimate goal – New York to Brest in 2015.

AUGUST
JOHN TWOMEY

The summer of 2013 was the season in which world sailing came to Ireland. In addition to two World Championships, events such as the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta and the Sovereigns Cup at Kinsale brought many sailing visitors to our shores. Then too, being a Rolex Fastnet Race year, 2013 saw a fleet of record-breaking size rounding our most famous rock, an event in which a dozen Irish boats took part.

The events which were staged from Irish ports involved an enormous amount of voluntary effort from our own communities, large and small. And skilled effort at that. Well-meaning willing helpers can be a mixed blessing. But when experienced administrators build up their chosen team of specialists as the allotted time of each major event approaches, the effective administrative machinery - virtually guaranteed when Ireland is hosting a big event - slips smoothly into place.

After such a summer of so much success in event management, there are many volunteers whose efforts deserve to be highlighted. So in making John Twomey of Kinsale the Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Month" for August, we hope that other organisers will realise that we are applauding their efforts too.

But amongst the elite of organisers, John is the crème de la crème.
An active participant himself to Olympic level, his election in November 2012 as President of the International Association For Disabled Sailing was a well-earned indication of the high regard in which he is held in global sailing. And in bringing the Worlds to his home port and ensuring that it was a success which was popular with the general public too, John Twomey played a unique role, deserving of national recognition and celebration.

SEPTEMBER
FINN LYNCH

The adjudicators in the Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Month" award for September were in the happy position of having a proliferation of major achievements to choose from, and they have the bonus of being able to draw on the "Previous Award" clause.

Like everyone else, we agreed that Annalise Murphy's comprehensive sweeping of the board at the Laser Europeans & Worlds at her home club of the National in Dun Laoghaire had been in a league of its own. But we'd already been on the case with the Murphy performance in 2013, as she was SoM in May after taking two gold medals in major European regattas.

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Following a sensational debut in 2012, Finn Lynch consolidated his position as a rising star in 2013.

So with the award for Sailor of the Year 2013 now up for consideration, that May success is rated as a double win. But thanks to this bit of prestidigitation, we still had September's gong to give out, and that went to young Finn Lynch of County Carlow. He also counts the National YC as his home club, even if he did start his sailing at the lakeside club of Blessington up in the Wicklow hills.

When Lynch won the Silver at 2012's ISAF Youth Worlds in Dublin Bay, it was the maturity of the 16-year-old's approach which drew the most favourable comment. And in September 2013, at the ripe old age of 17, he was even more emphatically Irish sailing's Captain Cool. He took Gold in the U21 division, Silver in the Europeans, and Bronze in the Worlds. A phenomenal achievement, and a worthy September Sailor of the Month.

OCTOBER
DAVID KENEFICK

The French sailing scene is noted for its continuing national and international programme of encouraging young sailors in their early twenties into the top level of offshore competition. But even by the demanding Gallic standards of youthful participation against hardened veterans in events like the Figaro Solo, Corkman David Kenefick stood out as youngest of them all. He was just 21 when he qualified to become a Figaro 'rookie' mentored by Marcus Hutchinson, and though he turned 22 during June as the 2013 programme accelerated through a demanding season, he continued as the youngest in a schedule which saw him complete almost 7,000 offshore miles, nearly all of them single-handed.

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David Kenefick took a mighty leap in the dark with his Figaro involvement, but showed he had the right stuff

As the busy season drew on he also began to acquire a useful smattering of French. And though there were some some big races whose results were eminently forgettable, in October's 1600 mile three stage Generali Solo, the Mediterranean's equivalent of the Figaro Solo itself, he was very much in contention to move towards the coveted "Rookie of the Year" slot.

The Generali Solo reached a climax after its three offshore stages, with three inshore races in perfect yet sometimes quite demanding conditions of 15 to 22 knots of wind. Kenefick's tally of 13,10, and 9th much improved his position on the leaderboard, and he moved into a commanding 12th overall. With the next rookie back in 16th slot, his place was secure, and becoming Figaro Solo Rookie of the Year 2013 made David Kenefick the Afloat.ie Sailor of the Month for October 2013.

NOVEMBER
ADRIAN LEE

For many decades, the Straits of Hormuz were one of those potential flashpoints which could have ignited World War III. In an oil-rich region of extreme political and religious turbulence, this narrow channel connecting the The Gulf with the oceans of the world has been just about the last place you would have thought of routing an offshore race.

Yet there are few things more strongly symbolic of peace than a please boat sailing about her business, even if the business is the cut-throat matter of winning an offshore race. In fact, pleasure boating in all its forms is the essence of peaceful pursuits, something well-recognised by those who promoted the building of the Shannon-Erne Waterways right through the middle of a border area which was suffering grievously throughout Ireland's "Troubles" from 1969 to 1998.

And in offshore racing, these days we think it perfectly normal that Harry Donegan of Cork with his cutter Gull should have been one of the seven entrants in the inaugural Fastnet Race in 1925. Yet that first Fastnet Race was not only staged just three years after the Irish Free State had been established, but its course took the contenders right into the territorial waters of the Rebel County's most rebellious region of West Cork. The presence of the Gull in the race was a powerful gesture of peace and reconciliation.

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Adrian Lee's Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners sails sweetly and swiftly on her way to winning line honours, the course record, and first overall in the Dubai-Muscat Race

The 360 mile race from Dubai to Muscat in Oman may take place between two states which are receptive to western concepts, but with Iran looming close to the north and Saudi Arabia a huge presence to the south, it's a bizarre enough setting for something so western as modern offshore racing. Yet is has been staged annually for 22 years now, but it is only relatively recently, as the first green shoots of a greater peacefulness spread over the Gulf area, that it has been allowed to achieve the kind of publicity it deserves.

So from being a fleet of local Dubai-based boats which just nipped round the corner to Muscat, it has begun to attract high profile entries to race a course which re-traces part of the ancient spice voyaging routes. But though the local Dubai-based inshore racing sports dhows can reach remarkable speeds, for the demands of a 360 miles offshore in the first weekend of November 2013 it was a tried and tested classic modern offshore racer, the canting-keel Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners, which did the business to take a new course record of 2 days 53 minutes and 40 seconds and the overall win, adding them to her overall victory (as Chieftain) in the 2007 Fastnet Race, and her overall win in the inaugural 2009 RORC Caribbean 600 race.

Skipper Adrian Lee hit a happy moment, as his club, the Royal St George YC in Dun Laoghaire, was at precisely the same time celebrating its 175th anniversary by honouring the 597 members who had won major sailing prizes down the years. The Lee victory brought the total up to 598 before the weekend was over. Lee Overlay Partner's crew for the RORC Dubai-Muscat Race 2013 were James Hemingway, Ilya Lee Paveliev, Scott Wilson, Emmet Kerin, James Gunn, Tim Corney, Neil Harrison, Ruairi Herraghty, Robert Witte and Daniel McKeown, and their skipper Adrian Lee very deservedly became the Afloat.ie "sailor of the Month" for November.

DECEMBER
BEN DUNCAN

With a cut-off date at midnight on Christmas Eve, the lineup for Afloat.ie's "Sailor of the Month" title for December provided only three weeks of performance time, but it allowed the adjudicators to spread their net across the entire year's sailing.

And throughout 2013, one sailor was in close contention for the "Sailor of the Month" award more times than anyone else, yet always missed the top title by a hairsbreadth. But when his year-long performance was considered in its entirety, Ireland's resident Kiwi skipper Ben Duncan was in a league of his own. He became Sailor of the Month for December as the sleigh bells started to jingle.

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Finishing his season in style. Ben Duncan on his way to winning the All Ireland in a SailFleet J/80. Photo: Aidan Tarbett.

Duncan is best known for his scientific and extremely thorough approach to campaigning his SB20 at home and abroad. He has raised the sailing of these very special boats to a new level. And in October, after a season of success at home and abroad, he was on top of his form to win the concluding championship on Lough Derg.

But the Duncan success path in 2013 didn't end there. The end of October brought a highly specialised challenge to many top helms and Race Officer Neil Murphy. The All Ireland Championship at Howth in the SailFleet J/80s, scheduled as a two day event, had to be put through in just one day's very crisply organised racing as one big storm cleared to the eastward, and another roared in from the west.

To add to the unnerving situation, a weather front with gale force gusts came streaking through at mid-event, requiring everyone to return to the harbour. Yet despite the interruptions, the programme was completed with excellent racing, with sunshine for a bonus. And despite sailing in a boat other than his beloved SB20, Ben Duncan put in the performance of a lifetime for a runaway win to round out a great year.

Cast your vote – Click here to vote for your sailor 

Published in W M Nixon

Once again the time has come to decide who among the deserving winners of Sailor of the Month should take the top honour of Afloat's Sailor of the Year.

As in previous years, Afloat magazine is asking the public to make their choice from among Ireland's finest sailors who delivered on the water in 2013.

The overall national award will be presented to the individual or individuals who, in the judges' opinion, achieved the most notable results in, or made the most significant contribution to, Irish watersports during 2013.

This year voting will take place through Afloat.ie from January 1st 2014.

SCROLL DOWN TO READ EACH ACHIEVEMENT AND VOTE FOR YOUR SAILOR AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE. WE WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS IN OUR COMMENT BOX BELOW, TOO!

The boating public gets to nominate their top three through the online poll, Afloat gets a vote too, and the Sailor of the Year judges decide the final winner.

Cast your vote by midnight on February 18th. The awards are administered and judged by Afloat magazine. The judges' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

.........................

Gordon Maguire - Top helm down under

Though he's now based in Australia, Gordon Maguire maintains strong links with home, and his many successes as sailing master of the 63ft Reichel Pugh sloop Loki are shared by Ireland's maritime community.

Maguire began 2013 celebrating 53 straight weeks of achievement at the head of a mixed pro-am crew, confirming Loki as overall champion in the Australian Blue Water Points Score, the ultimate test of offshore racing dedication.

Four years of hard work are paying off in spades!

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Simon & Nancy de Pietro - Caribbean's dynamic duo

A convincing win in Class 1 in the RORC Caribbean 600 Race demanded that Simon and Nancy de Pietro be named Sailors of the Month for February.

The couple, with strong links to North Cork and Sligo, fly the burgee of Kinsale Yacht Club for their international sailing programme on the 76ft Lilla, alternating between racing success and a regular working life cruising the Caribbean.

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Fergus & Kay Quinlan - A worldwide double act

Fergus and Kay Quinlan's three-year voyage around the world in their own-built 12m steel cutter Pylades has been an inspiration to Ireland's sailing community.

And it's netted the Kinvara couple the Ocean Sailing Club's special OCC Award for doing so much to encourage small-craft ocean cruising. That's on top of their three years of Faulkner Cup awards.

But for the Quinlans, awards are less important than the "boundless horizons" of the ocean.

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Robert O'Leary - Consistency key for varsity success

He might be the youngest of the Crosshaven clan that includes a double Olympian, but Robert O'Leary is hardly overshadowed.

Indeed, the young skipper at the sporting hotbed University of Limerick played a key role in Irish varsity sailing through March and April this year - and was especially consistent at the Student Yachting Worlds selection trials in Howth.

Such success was more than enough for the younger O'Leary to be named Sailor of the Month for April.

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Annalise Murphy - Another outstanding performance

Annalise Murphy was the runaway winner of May's Sailor of the Month award for her gold medal success in Lake Garda and Medemblik.

The latter venue - at the David Lloyd Regatta - saw our Olympic hero make up for missing out on bronze at London 2012, while China's Olympic gold winner Lijia Xu had to settle for sixth.

It was a complete reversal of the form Murphy showed in the Olympic final, and bodes very well for her future.

http://afloat.ie/sail/sailor-of-the-month/sailor-of-the-month-2013-2016/item/22037-annalise-murphy-is-sailor-of-the-month-for-may

 

Brian O'Sullivan - D2D winner is Kerry's gold

June's Sailor of the Month Brian O'Sullivan secured victory by more than 1 hour 40 minutes in the 280-mile Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race.

The 33-year-old from Tralee Bay Sailing Club only took ownership of the storied Oyster 37 Amazing Grace in spring this year.

But he knew what he was buying, and made the most of her potential with an enthusiastic crew - and just the right conditions - to get a decisive win in the biennial race.

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Bruno Sroka - Kitesurfing king of the seas

Never has the mid-year International Award been presented for anything as extraordinary as kitesurfer Bruno Sroka's 240 nautical mile solo voyage from Brittany to Cork Harbour on Friday 19 July.

With just board and kite, the Frenchman defied the threat of light winds to catch a 16-knot nor'easter that carried him almost all the way across the mouth of the English Channel, past the Scilly Isles and over the Celtic Sea well under his target time of 17 hours.

http://afloat.ie/sail/sailor-of-the-month/sailor-of-the-month-2013-2016/item/22738-france-to-ireland-kitesturfer-bruno-sroka-wins-international-sailor-of-the-month-award

 

Liam Glynn - Topper teen's big week

Ballyholme Yacht Club's Liam Glynn arrived at the Topper International Worlds in France with a silver in the Youth Nationals and a win at the Topper Nationals already notched this year.

But the teenage helm turned in an even better performance in Loctudy from 22 to 26 July, despite difficult tidal waters and flukey breezes - and a 100-strong fleet.

Though day five was lost to calm, Glynn's work was done in the first four races. We have a new World Champion!

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John Twomey - A dab hand at sail and on land

An active sailor himself to Paralympic level, John Twomey's election last November as president of the International Association For Disabled Sailing (IFDS) was an indication of the high regard in which he's held in global sailing.

In bringing the Worlds to his home port - and ensuring it was a popular success - Twomey played a unique role deserving of national celebration. And his hand in next year's merger of the IFDS with the ISAF should bring further plaudits.

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Finn Lynch - Captain Cool's triple medal haul

September provided a host of achievements to choose from, but Laser sailor Finn Lynch stood head and shoulders above the rest for his trio of medals in Dun Laoghaire: gold in the U21 division, silver in the Europeans and bronze in the Worlds.

It's the second Sailor of the Month award in as many years for the 17-year-old from Carlow (but sailing from the National YC) who's been dubbed 'Captain Cool' - and with very good reason.

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David Kenefick - Figaro rookie holds his own

Figaro 'rookie' David Kenefick was the youngest sailor in the 2013 schedule, turning just 22 as the demanding Gallic season progressed.

But the Corkman - mentored by Marcus Hutchinson - only rarely let his age or inexperience show across 7,000 gruelling offshore miles, nearly all of them sailed single-handed.

And a decisive 12th place overall in the three-stage Generali Solo in the Mediterranean secured our October Sailor of the Month the coveted position of Figaro Solo Rookie of the Year.

http://afloat.ie/sail/sailor-of-the-month/sailor-of-the-month-2013-2016/item/23748-david-kenefick-is-octobers-sailor-of-the-month

 

Adrian Lee - Muscat Magic for offshore racer

 

Ireland's tame Kiwi Ben Duncan was in close contention for Sailor of the Month more times than any other skipper during the 2013 season, his successes in the SB20 being achieved at home and abroad. He also scored a convincing win in the All-Ireland Helmsman's Championship sailed in J/80s. Thus at year's end, we make him December's Sailor of the Month.ore racer

http://afloat.ie/sail/sailor-of-the-month/sailor-of-the-month-2013-2016/item/23974-adrian-lee-is-afloats-sailor-of-the-month-for-november

 

 

Ben Duncan - Helmsmans victory for Duncan

 

A comprehensive victory (including a new course record) in the annual 360-mile Dubai to Muscat Race by Adrian Lee (RSTGYC) with his Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners was November's top achievement in Irish sailing. It added further lustre to a remarkable boat whose successes include the overall win in both the 2007 Fastnet and the inaugural RORC Caribbean 600 in 2009.

http://afloat.ie/sail/sailor-of-the-month/sailor-of-the-month-2013-2016/item/24124-ben-duncan-sailor-of-the-month-for-december

 

Published in Sailor of the Month
Tagged under

#sailoroftheyear - You followed her impressive exploits right here on Afloat.ie throughout the year, and your votes counted. So it's only right that our Olympic sailing hero Annalise Murphy should receive the honour of being named Afloat.ie Sailor of the Year for 2012.

The young sailor was recognised for a remarkable 12 months of incredible achievement, capped off by her stirring performance at the London Olympics - and topped a shortlist that featured fellow Olympic challengers Peter O'Leary and David Burrows, and such up-and-coming talents as Sophie Browne, Finn Lynch and Fionn Lyden.

Murphy's simply outstanding fourth-place finish in the Laser Radial at the London Games was Ireland's best Olympic result in 30 years in any class. Despite the heartbreak of so narrowly missing out on Olympic bronze in the medal race, her accomplishment was appreciated far beyond the Irish sailing community, and raised the profile of the sport in Ireland immeasurably.

The then 22-year-old, who sails for the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, had the entire country on edge last August as she battled with what Afloat's own WM Nixon described as the "fierce challenge" of being top of the Women's Laser Radial class, in stature as well as performance.

At 6ft 1in, the woman they call 'The Irish Lever' was undoubtedly the tallest in her 41-boat fleet at London 2012, and some British yachting pundits were quick to put down her early regatta wins purely to her larger frame.

But Murphy - who headed to the Olympics with confidence after a podium finish at the Skandia Sail for Gold, and a medal at Weymouth the previous year - proved that her success was no fluke, holding the gold medal position for almost half the regatta and entering the last race in third place overall.

 

Facing unbelievable pressure as the regatta reached its final stages on the Nothe course in Weymouth, in tricky conditions that would spread wide the times of most club racers, it's to Murphy's estimable credit that she was able to keep so tight with the front-runners, and it was only in the last few seconds - and last few metres - that she was knocked out of the bronze position.

annalise merge

 

We'll never forget the tears she shed after the medal race's conclusion - the whole of Ireland shared in her heartbreak. But we also shared the belief that that was but one setback in a world-class sailing career that's only just beginning.

Considering the talented and dedicated NYC sailor and UCD student is still only 23, there's clearly plenty of sailing success awaiting in her future, and she starts 2013 on her 'Road to Rio' aiming to clinch a medal at the 2016 Olympic Games.

In spite of losing out on a podium finish at the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Miami earlier this month, the fact that she came so close - and led the charge in the early stages - proves that she can stand proudly with the elite in her class. And she'll have another chance to prove herself in the next round of the ISAF World Cup in Palma de Mallorca on 30 March.

The Sailor of the Year honour is the very least the amazing Annalise Murphy deserves for doing Ireland so proud in 2012.

Published in Sailor of the Year

#SAILOR OF THE YEARGeorge Kenefick of Cork is the new Afloat.ie/Irish Independent "Sailor of the Year" after an exceptionally diverse and successful season in which the 23-year-old Crosshaven skipper logged major successes at a wide variety of venues in an almost bewildering array of boat types.

When the international sailing season started, the focus was on Keneficks's campaigns with his family's little Quarter Tonner Tiger. But by the time he became "Sailor of the Month" in October, it was in honour of achievements as diverse as helming the 2012 Half Ton World Champion, and winning the Helmsman's Championship.

It might be over-stating it to assert that his 2011 record with Tiger ranked among the least of his year's achievements. After all, he did win the class in the ICRA Nationals 2011 at Crosshaven in June with six firsts and one second. But at the Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale which was staged a few days later, he seemed to have lost his mojo – Tiger was off the pace, even if they did finish in the top three.

Next up was the Quarter Ton Worlds in the Solent. It was serious business. So many boats carried at least one professional that a division for Corinthians was created. That was won by Kenefick, but as Tiger had been in contention in many races, we had dared to hope he might win overall.

However, while there he was recruited to helm a boat for an English owner in the Half Ton Worlds, due at the same venue in late August. It was a case of being dropped in at the deep end with a crew initially of strangers, and a huge fleet. But Kenefick kept his cool and there was no need to avail of any Corinthian clause – he won overall, first time an Irish helm has done so since Harold Cudmore in 1976.

Tiger

George Kenefick and his Royal Cork crew in winning form. Photo: Bob Bateman

Then came the all-Ireland championship on Lough Derg, racing the SailFleet J/80s. He scraped through to win by a whisker. But a win is a win, and it should be remembered that for much of 2011, Kenefick's sporting energies were taken up with his position as Chairman of the Irish University Sailing Association. He is much in demand to coach youngsters training in Optimist dinghies at Crosshaven, where his father Neil introduced him to skippering at the age of three by letting him out in an Optimist at the end of a very long rope.

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George celebrates the all Ireland win with crew men Mel Collins and John Downey. Photo: Brendan Fogarty

In this case, it has worked very well. At the end of October, Kenefick rallied his crew yet again to take the Cork team as Ireland's representatives to the Student Yachting Worlds in south Brittany. The only preparation they couldn't plan against was a draw for the boats – they were one of four international teams assigned to boats that were well past their sell-by date. Despite that, they tuned it to the utter most and gave it their very best, getting the Bronze Medal in this increasingly important event against a global lineup.

In all, a great year for George Kenefick. And good for Irish sailing too, as he has shown what can be done with the right attitude even if we are all in the midst of financial cutbacks.

Published in Sailor of the Year

Quarter ton sailor and All Ireland Sailing Champion George Kenefick has established an early lead in the readers poll for the 2011 Sailor of the Year Award. The Crosshaven helmsman has 81 votes so far, nearly triple that of the December Sailor of the Month winner, speed sailing champion Noelle Doran of Mayo.

12 monthly winners representing the very best achievements in Irish sailing are in the line up for the overall award. Sailor of the Year Judges will decide the winner on February 18th.

The readers poll via facebook opened last week and early voting shows 2012 Olympic sailor Annalise Murphy in third place with 14 votes to date. Behind her are Olympic team mates Peter O'Leary and David Burrows.

Comments on Afloat's Facebook page accompanied the voting to include:

"Has to be Annalise. No disrespect to the others who achieved great results, but Annalise is truly world class in an elite international one design fleet with Peter and David a very close second!" Dave Quinn.

Fastest woman on the planet...Noelle Doran' Warren McCreery

'Noelle all the way' Liam Hyland

sailooftheyearpoll

To vote or add your comment click here. Voting continues until February 18th.

Published in Sailor of the Year
Globally successful yacht designer Mark Mills of County Wicklow is the Afloat.ie/Irish Independent “Sailor of the Year 2009” after a year of exceptional achievements which built on his original accolade as Sailor of the Month a year ago.

Celebrating a designer as a top sailor may seem unusual, but even in today’s specialized world a successful sailor is capable of many tasks afloat. And equally, a successful designer must be a high achieving sailor in the first place in order to meet the hugely varying demands of his profession. Over the years, designers such as America’s Cup legend Nat Herreshoff have shown themselves well able afloat. Olin Stephens made his name by winning the Fastnet Race twice as helm and crew on boats of his own design, Ron Holland made his mark skippering his own boat to win the Quarter Ton Worlds in 1973, Doug Peterson likewise sailed to world standard, and Rob Humphreys began his design career with wins from his home port of Pwllheli on the Welsh coast.

When we made Mark Mills Sailor of the Month a year ago, it was in celebration of his success during 2008 – mostly with Cork owners – in boats which included Eamonn Rohan’s Blondie, first out of the mould of the Argentine-built Mills-designed King 40 production class.

The King 40 began to win in many events internationally, and in October 2008, it became Boat of the Year at the big exhibition in the US, the Annapolis Boat Show. Demand was such that production was moved to America, where a smaller sister, the Summit 35, was already being developed. The King 40 became the Summit 40, and success continued worldwide. Meanwhile the 2009 season was leaping to life, and Mills designs were hitting the headlines, most notably in Ireland where Dave Dwyer’s Mills 39 marinerscove.ie continued her successful progress, while visiting King 40s lifted class titles in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta and the Sovereign’s Cup at Kinsale.

However, there was only one Mills entry in the Fastnet Race, a DK 46 of 2003 vintage, so the lack of a serious challenge in that iconic event prompted suggestions that Mills boats were extreme racing machines in which crews were unwilling to campaign flat out in true offshore conditions. That was triumphantly refuted in the 620-mile Middle Sea Race out of Malta in November. The superb Mills-designed 68-footer Alegre (Andy Soreano) won overall in rugged conditions, beating the Fastnet winner Ran (a 72-footer) on a boat-for-boat basis.

It was a magnificent achievement, but the Mark Mills success wave was progressing on other fronts. The new Summit 35 became Boat of the Show at Newport in the US, while Kings 40s and Summit 40s were winning all over the world, the Summit 40 showing her quality by launching into 2010 with another win at January’s Key West Regatta.

Mark Mills goes all over the world to meet builders and owners and take in regattas and major races. But his base is in Wicklow – in the northwest of the county where the hills are beginning to become the Wicklow Mountains. In addition to his proven racing range, current projects include a 90-metre sloop, which will have a mast-top above the usual cloud base. In all, it’s a body of work of exceptional quality. Only a very able sailor could create the ideas, and see them through to completion, and Mark Mills is most deservedly our new Sailor of the Year.

Published in Sailor of the Year
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