Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

In association with ISA Logo Irish Sailing

Irish OK Dinghy Class News & Regatta Results

In the 21 years since the Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” awards were first introduced, we had always dutifully waited until the end of the month before allocating the plaudits, even when it had been clear for days or even weeks where the honours were going to be placed.

But special situations deserve special treatment, and 17–year–old Cork Harbour sailor Johnny Durcan’s heartfelt thanks to fellow 29er sailors Simon Hoffman of Australia and Santiago Alegre of Spain for saving his life in the Worlds at Los Angeles had served as a very timely reminder of the dangers of our sport at its most intense and competitive levels.

So a fortnight ago was the right time to first honour what they did. And what they did was so special that we regard it as a privilege to re-state it all after the end of the month has duly passed.

Even though capsizes are part and parcel of dinghy racing, in a complex trapeze boat like the 29er, an ordinary capsize can sometimes escalate into a rapidly deteriorating situation in which sailors are trapped in ropes, lines and sails, with the very lifejackets which are supposed to help them actually jamming them in situations where drowning becomes all too possible.

This is what happened with Johnny Durcan. But in the hectic rush of the fleet, other competitors scarcely noticed that this was something much worse than an ordinary capsize. Yet Simon Hoffman, who had recently received intensive first-aid training as part of his bid to become a fully-fledged sailing coach, sensed that this was a total emergency. He simply abandoned his own boat, tore off his lifejacket, and dived underneath the capsized boat to save Durcan in what was now a full-scale emergency.

durcan alegre2Johnny Durcan (left) is visited by Santiago Alegre
He was soon joined by Santiago Alegre, and between them they released Durcan and dragged him up through a mesh of ropes and sails to the surface. He had been immersed for maybe three minutes, and was in a very bad way. But he revived after CPR by Hoffman and Alegre, and fully recovered in hospital.

Just a few seconds more, or with less decisive action by Hoffman and Alegre, and this would not have been a story with a happy ending. We can all only hope that, faced with such a situation, our own instincts of humanity would guide us in the right way too. Yet that is something for which most of the rest of us can only hope. But Simon Hoffman and Santiago Alegre showed us what true instincts of humanity can achieve, and they deserve heartfelt gratitude from the entire world of sailing.

Published in Sailor of the Month

Johnny Durcan sailed in Crosshaven on Thursday night (10 August) for the first time since his dramatic capsize at the 29er Worlds in which he became trapped under his skiff.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the Royal Cork’s hottest youth sailing prospect almost drowned in the incident at Long Beach, California last weekend.

It was only the quick action of his fellow competitors that saved his life, he said.

The 17-year-old has since taken to the Facebook account he shares with his brother Harry to pay tribute to two sailors in particular, Australia’s Simon Hoffman and Spain’s Santiago Alegre.

Eighteen-year-old Hoffman, a devout Christian, believes it was God’s plan that saw him jump into the water from his boat without a second thought to try to save his trapped friend, as he told The Australian.

The New South Wales sailor was joined by Catalan racer Alegre in attempting to pull Johnny free from beneath the upturned skiff.

The pair finally succeeded after a few minutes, but then faced a difficult swim to a nearby motorboat with a lifeless Johnny.

“I still thought he was dead, because his eyes were still open, there was no breathing and he was limp,” Hoffman said after he and Alegre had attempted CPR for some time to no avail.

But the duo persevered till they saw a blink in his right eye, then a slight breath through his nose — small but vital signs of life.

Johnny Durcan has since made a full recovery, returning to the water just days after his life-threatening ordeal.

And he says he plans to record a video telling his side of the story on his return from the Laser Radial Youth Worlds in the Netherlands next week.

The full story is behind a paywall, so you may or may not be able to access it, without subscribing but here's some excerpts: 

Suffice to say that Mr Hoffman had recently received "intensive first-aid training as part of his bid to become a fully-fledged sailing coach. He took charge, and likely saved his Irish mate's life who, after CPR administered by Hoffman and Santiago, was revived. A Coast Guard boat arrived and rushed Durcan to a Long Beach hospital where he was admitted and recovered, and was later visited by Hoffman.

Two other revealing excerpts from the article:

“Some of the other boats yelled out ‘I think he needs help’ as they sailed past,” Hoffman said. “I found that really weird.

From his hospital bed, Durcan wasted no time in sending a message to the general email ­address of Australian Sailing to have Hoffman’s efforts officially acknowledged. “Simon Hoffman quite literally saved my life yesterday at the 29er worlds, and is the reason I’m alive to write this from hospital,” he wrote. “Maybe I can nominate him for some sort of special award.” Australian Sailing president Matt Allen said yesterday: “Simon’s efforts show great bravery. We will do everything we can to ensure he is recognised. Everybody is so proud.” Durcan and Hoffman, both safely back home, now have a lifelong bond.

Published in Youth Sailing

Royal Cork's top youth sailor Johnny Durcan has been involved in a serious incident competing at the 29er world championships where he was trapped under his skiff dinghy during a capsize. The top Laser sailor is recovering in hospital in Los Angeles after he ended up 'getting stuck beneath the water'. 

Durcan has described the 'hectic end' to the championships on social media and relates how, after his '[trapeze] harness was caught, it led to 'drowning and total respiratory failure i.e. 'I stopped breathing and passed out'.

The Cork Harbour ace was one of two Irish 29ers competing at Long Beach, California, the other boat sailed by his twin brother Harry and Harry Whitaker, also of Royal Cork Yacht Club.

Durcan admits 'things were looking quite bad because I was under the water, unconscious for a while but thanks to the many sailors on the course who jumped out to help, I'm still here and kicking'.

It is understood, his 11–year–old helm Lola Kohl, from Christiansted, St Croix in the USA, raised the alarm and fellow competitors and coaches rushed to Durcan's assistance.

CPR was performed on the Irish youth champion. He was rushed ashore from the race course and an ambulance brought him to hospital immediately.

'My fellow competitors helped save me. And that's something that makes sailing the sport it is.' the Cork youth declared on Facebook, posting this photograph below from his hospital bed.

Parent's Yvonne and Tom Durcan were one of the first to post a comment online in response: 'One seriously relieved Mom and Dad xxxxxx'

29er USA Durcan hospitalJohnny Durcan surrounded by well–wishers is recovering in an LA Hospital after a serious capsize incident at the 29er Worlds at Long Beach, California Photo: Facebook

We wish Johnny a speedy recovery and the Irish 29er team a safe trip home – Ed.

Published in Youth Sailing

Although December's youth sailing world championships did not deliver the result Johnny Durcan had hoped for, the young Crosshaven Laser Radial helmsman went on to race at the Australian National Championships in Adelaide last week. The Royal Cork and National Yacht Club sailor was competitive again and finished 19th overall despite two Yellow flags and a UFD which he says, 'really cost'. 

Making the most of his trip down under, Durcan competes tomorrow at his third Australian event, the Radial youth national championships at the same venue, before returning home to studies in Ireland. It's an event, he says, where he aims to 'keep the scorecard clean'.

Published in Youth Sailing

Ireland's Youth Laser Radial sailors are aiming for a top ten finish at the Youth Sailing World Championships after eight races races sailed in New Zealand. The National Yacht Club's Nicole Hemeryck is back in the top ten in the Girls Laser Radial fleet after scoring another consistent ninth place in race eight and Royal Cork's Johnny Durcan is up from 18th to 14th in the Boys fleet after a scoring a fourth place in race eight. Full up–to–date results are here.

Gold medals tumbled in Auckland at the 2016 Aon Youth Sailing World Championships as five winners were confirmed with a race to spare. Australia's Finnian Alexander has the boy's Laser Radial in his sights barring a complete final day meltdown and Germany's Hannah Anderssohn takes the initiative in a tight girl's Laser Radial battle.

More than 380 sailors from 65 nations sailing in more than 260 boats across nine disciplines are competing.

The final races are scheduled for 09:55 local time on Tuesday 20 December out of the Torbay Sailing Club.

Published in Youth Sailing

Both of Ireland's Youth Laser Radial sailors are battling hard to stay in contention at the Youth Sailing World Championships after six races races sailed in New Zealand.  The National Yacht Club's Nicole Hemeryck has dropped three places to eleventh in the Girls Laser Radial fleet and Royal Cork's Johnny Durcan went from 12th to 18th in the Boys fleet after a black flag starting line penalty in race six. Full up–to–date results are here.

In the boys fleet, Australia's Finnian Alexander (a strong performer at the KBC–Radial worlds at the Royal St. George Yacht Club this Summer) took two bullets to open up an 18–point gap back to Denmark's Patrick Doepping and New Zealand's George Gautrey who both have 33 in the boy's Laser Radial. Alexander however will tread with caution in the coming days as he has a disqualification on his scorecard from the very first race of the Youth Worlds. So far, so good for the Aussie sailor since then though.

Sandra Luli (CRO) is still top of the girl's Laser Radial, but Rio 2016 Olympian Dolores Moreira Fraschini (URU) is chasing hard. The Uruguayan took a bullet and a 10th compared to the sixth and discarded 20th Luli scored. The Croatian still leads by two points overall. Germany's Hannah Anderssohn rounds out the podium in third.

Racing continues at the Youth Worlds and is scheduled to begin at 09:55 local time at the Torbay Sailing Club on Monday 19 December.

Published in Youth Sailing

Both of Ireland's Laser Radial sailors are off to a strong start at the at the Youth Sailing World Championships after four races races sailed in New Zealand.  The National Yacht Club's Nicole Hemeryck is in the top ten of the Girls Laser Radial fleet Royal Cork's Johnny Durcan is 12th in the Boys fleet. Full results are here.

Hemeryck counts three results in the top ten (6, 9, 7) to be eighth overall in her 48–boat fleet.

It's tight at the top of both Laser Radial fleets as the discard came into play, allowing a chosen few to start forming breakaways from the rest of the field.

Conditions were mixed on the Hauraki Gulf as a light 4-6 knot breeze dialled up later in the day to the mid-teens. The mixed breeze brought mixed results as light wind specialists excelled one minute and suffered the next, and vice versa for the sailors who thrive in strong breeze.

Laser Radial leader Patrick Doepping (DEN) had mixed fortunes. Doepping finished day one with two bullets but in Saturday's racing the Dane fell right to the back of the fleet finishing a lowly 37th, "I think the difference is I am a full rig sailor,” explained Doepping. "I am 80-82 kilos so for me in the light breeze it's very hard to keep the speed. In the strong breeze I don't have the disadvantage I have in the light breeze and that's why I didn't do well today.”

Doepping followed up with a seventh as the conditions fell in his favour enabling him to discard his 37th. Despite a self-proclaimed disappointing day, Doepping remains ahead of the fleet and isn't letting this affect his mentality, "I have been very calm and haven't been in any situations so far. I will keep doing what I've done over the last couple of days and avoid any mistakes.”

Only four points separate the top five and Doepping's discard could play a big role at the end of the week if he does get in to any situations. Doepping will have to keep watch as Great Britain's Daniel Whiteley is ready to pounce, looking to move up from fifth. Whiteley has been sailing near the top of the fleet in every race so far, but it's not good enough, or great enough for the Briton, "It was pretty challenging out there today. I got a sixth in the first race and a 13th in the last race so I'm not too happy, but it leaves me in contention.

"Tomorrow I can go out and do a bit better and climb the leaderboard. I haven't properly messed up yet. I'm consistent and hopefully I can make it consistently great rather than consistently good.”

Whiteley's discarded 13th is better than those around him and that gives him a little breathing space, "Maybe I have a little less pressure, but you can't think like that. We've got another three days, another five races and that's over half the championship so we will have to see how it shapes up.”

Sandwiched between Doepping on top and Whiteley in fifth is George Gautrey (NZL) in second, Dominik Perkovic (CRO) in third and Finnian Alexander (AUS) fourth.

It was Sandra Luli's day in the girl's Laser Radial and the Croatian remains on top. Talking through her day Luli said, "Today it was light winds. Compared to yesterday, tactics and speed was more important as the wind was always changing. In the first race I finished eighth and second race I finished first.”

Luli can discard her eighth place finish which gives her a nice six point cushion over Rio 2016 Olympian Dolores Moreira Fraschini (URU) who discards her 17th and counts her second.

Sitting in third is Germany's Anderssohn who summed up the day for just about every Laser Radial sailor in Auckland, "For me I think it wasn't such a good day. The first race was okay but the second wasn't very good. I think it changed a lot and everyone had a bad race. It was very shifty so you don't know where to go and there was less wind. It was hard conditions.”

Of the day one frontrunners defending champion and Rio 2016 sailor Maria Erdi (HUN) dropped down to fifth after a 15th and a UFD, which she discards.

Erdi came ashore after racing and was left confused about her performance, "There are some pretty good people here, but I just wasn't expecting myself to do this bad in shifty winds.” The Hungarian will have to sail smarter for the rest of the championship to stay in contention.

Published in Youth Sailing

Royal Cork's Johnny Durcan and the National Yacht Club's Nicole Hemeryck are ready for battle at the 2016 Aon Youth Sailing World Championships in New Zealand this Friday. Both the Irish sailors will compete in the Laser Radial class which will see the most countries and possibly the most diverse experience levels of all the fleets taking part.

When the racing begins in Auckland on December 16, the Irish sailors will meet time international racers, Youth Olympians and even senior level Olympians.

The girl's fleet will boast three Rio 2016 Olympic competitors who will feel they can push for the podium positions in a competition where sailing as the only country representative is few and far between.

Uruguay's Olympic flagbearer, Dolores Moreira Fraschini and Malaysia's Nur Shazrin Mohamed Latif represented their countries at the summer Games and so did last year's Youth Worlds champion, Hungary's Maria Erdi.

Speaking about her title defence Erdi said, "I'm very excited. I've been waiting for this event all year and it's finally here. I can't wait to see all the people. I was only racing in the open fleet this year and I was missing the youth fleet a lot. It will be also interesting to see how much the girls have improved.”

Some of those girls focussing on improvement are the competitors from the emerging nations like Venezuela's Nicolle Gonzalez and Egypt's Khouloud Mansy who have been getting in some last minute coaching in New Zealand from the World Sailing nominated experts.

Realistic about her chances, Mansy said, "I'm looking forward to it because it's my first time taking part. I know I'm not going to get the best results but I came here to do my best and for the whole experience. Make new friends. The weather. The event as a whole and just gradually improving.”

Gonzalez is taking a different approach and praying for the right conditions to give her a little edge, "I hope that it's not too windy. Ideally I want 5-7 knots and if it is those kinds of conditions I hope to be near the top of the fleet. If not, I just have to do my best and take the experience forward for next year.”

As well as international regatta novices and Olympians, there is also the returning 2015 silver medallist from Germany, Hannah Anderssohn. Anderssohn will resume her dual with champion Erdi from Langkawi, Malaysia last year.

Also in the mix will be Aruba's Odile van Aanholt who holds a Youth Olympic Games (YOG) silver medal in the Byte CII from Nanjing 2014.

There will be a new champion in the boy's section as Australia's Alistair Young is aged out paving the way for New Zealand's George Gautrey and Great Britain's Daniel Whiteley to move up from the respective silver and bronze medals they won in 2015.

As Gautrey and Whiteley return, two sailors either side of the pair in terms of Youth Worlds experience are Guatemala's Matias Rosenberg Callejas and Slovakia's Patrik Melis.

"It's my first Youth Worlds,” said Callejas, "I'm just 14 and hopefully I will have four more Youth Worlds after this and I want to do the best now and then make sure I do better next year. This year is more about experience.”

Returning to the Youth Worlds, Melis is very much excited about the challenge ahead, "Of course I am looking forward to it. It's going to be my third Youth Worlds and I want to improve my results from the last two years. New Zealand is a great place and I'm really going to enjoy it.”

There is also some YOG experience in the boy's fleet with sailors like Teariki Numa (PNG) and Asri Azman (MAS) as well as the Nanjing 2014 Byte CII winner, Bernie Chin from Singapore.

The Laser Radial boys fleet will begin at 10:55 local time on 16 December and the girls fleet begin at 11:10. Both have two races.

Published in Youth Sailing

Johnny Durcan was the winner of Royal Cork Yacht Club's prestigious Pyewacket Trophy for his results in the Laser Radial class. It's a campaign boost to the Cork youth sailor's winter race preparations as he heads off to New Zealand on December 7th for the World Sailing Youth World Championships where a place on the podium would equal club–mate Seafra Guilfoyle's silver medal of 2014.

Durcan started his season with a third at the Youth nationals and received a place on the ISA academy and from there went on to Hyeres to finish ninth at the biggest Laser Radial Europa Cup of the year. Following that he finished fourth at the Holland Europa cup and then third at the Belgium Europa Cup. At home, the Royal Cork ace won the Leinsters a week before finishing seventh at the  KBC–sponsored Radial Youth World Championships at the Royal St.George on Dublin Bay. From there he travelled to Weymouth and became the British youth champion the following week. The last event of the summer was the national championships in Galway which he also won to earn himself a place at the Youth worlds in NZ next month. To cap off a season of highs he also won the Junior All Irelands in late September in Schull.

Durcan is heading off to New Zealand on December 7th. He has been training every weekend for the past three months. After New Zealand Durcan moves to compete in the Australian Radial Nationals.

In October 2001, the late Roy Disney, widely known American sailing enthusiast who had a home in West Cork, had strong ties with the Royal Cork Yacht Club, and participated in many Ford Cork Week Regattas, presented the club with the Pyewacket Perpetual Cup at a dinner in the club hosted by the then Admiral, Anthony O'Leary. The Pyewacket Trophy is presented each year to the youth sailor, who in the opinion of the Adjudicating Committee, has achieved the best results overall in his or her class.

Johnny's twin brother Harry was a nominee with Harry Whitaker was a nominee for the Pyewacket trophy following their success at the 29er British Nationals in August.

The twin's father Tom, is co–owner of the 1720 T–Bone, the winner of the 2016 Sports Boat Cup and last month's 1720 Class winner of RCYC's CH Marine Autumn Series. 

Read alsoIrish Youth Sailing Success Comes Centre Stage

Published in Royal Cork YC

When one of the most hectic and important weekends of major championships in the Irish sailing calendar occurs precisely in the first two days of October, it’s easy to forget that September 2016 didn’t actually end until midnight on Friday. And the adjudicators in the Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” awards don’t like rushing to conclusions as we’ve learned – ever since introducing this contest twenty years ago – that people take it very seriously indeed.

In fact, such was the profusion of success that we feel September deserves two categories – inshore and offshore – and we start with the Inshore Award going to Johnny Durcan of Cork for his keenly-fought win in the ISA All Ireland Junior Championship at Schull ten days ago.

Normally youth sailor Durcan is one of the leading helms in the Laser Radial. So it’s always fascinating to see how these lone stars shape up when they have to campaign a two-person boat, particularly when it’s a two-person boat such as the Dave Harte-inspired TR 3.6 dinghies at Schull, which are very different from a Laser in just about every way in rig and hull.

But young Durcan of Royal Cork, crewed by Flor Lyden, managed to put it away, though it was close enough as they’d 8 points to the 9 of runner-up Geoff Power and James McCann of Dumore East and Crosshaven. However, a result is a result, and Johnny Durcan is clearly SoM (Inshore) for September 2016.

Published in Sailor of the Month
Page 1 of 2

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

DBSC
nyc sidebutton flag

Featured Associations

ISA sidebutton
ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

chmarine sidebutton
viking sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
sellingboat sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating