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Dubliner Paul Keogh Receives Top Trophy For His Dedication to Promoting Traditional Gaff Rig

17th January 2022
Gaff rig leaders Stiofan O Laoire, Paul Keogh and Johnny Wedick in Poolbeg Y&BC. Paul Keogh was honoured by the international Old Gaffers Association at their AGM at the weekend with the prestigious Jolie Brise Trophy for his long years of dedicated service with the Clondalkin-built Galway Hooker Naomh Cronan
Gaff rig leaders Stiofan O Laoire, Paul Keogh and Johnny Wedick in Poolbeg Y&BC. Paul Keogh was honoured by the international Old Gaffers Association at their AGM at the weekend with the prestigious Jolie Brise Trophy for his long years of dedicated service with the Clondalkin-built Galway Hooker Naomh Cronan Credit: Dave Owens

For many years until her transfer to Galway in 2021, the Clondalkin community-built Galway Hooker Naomh Cronan was a feature of sailing life in Dublin’s River Liffey at Poolbeg Y&BC in Ringsend, and she was a regular attendee at traditional and classic boat events throughout the Irish Sea and further afield.

Maintaining both her seaworthiness and the high level of activity which was central to her successful existence involved many people, but the one man who became known as “The Keeper of the Show on the Road” was Paul Keogh, who was her Sailing Manager for eighteen years after joining the building team which brought her construction to completion.

The result of a remarkable community effort – the Clondalkin-built Galway Hooker Naomh Cronan in Dublin Bay. Photo: W M NixonThe result of a remarkable community effort – the Clondalkin-built Galway Hooker Naomh Cronan in Dublin Bay. Photo: W M Nixon

Paul’s quiet yet very determined enthusiasm, and his sometimes heroic patience as he ensured that Naomh Cronnan was always fully crewed - with newcomers being steadily recruited to the cause - was something for celebration. So when it came to a close in the summer of 2021 with the Cronan’s satisfactory transfer to Galway City custodianship, his fellow members of the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association began preparing a proposal that Paul’s unique contribution should receive the ultimate recognition, the Jolie Brise Trophy, which is the supreme award of their central organisation, the Old Gaffers Association.

She really is breath-taking – the magnificent Joile Brise making knotsShe really is breath-taking – the magnificent Jolie Brise making knots

The award was confirmed in the online and partly active Annual General Meeting of the OGA in Newcastle in northeast England at the weekend, and will be followed by a further presentation in Dublin in due course. Meanwhile, it is timely to note that in celebrating Paul Keogh’s achievement, we are also celebrating what is arguably the greatest working gaff cutter ever built, the 56ft 1913-vintage Le Havre pilot cutter Jolie Brise. She served only briefly on pilot duties before being superseded by powered vessels, but since then has gone in to an unrivalled career as an offshore racer – she won three Fastnet Races – and sail training vessel.

An impression of latent power – Jolie Brise in Belfast Lough in 2015, on her way to being overall winner of that season’s Tall Ships Races. Photo: W M NixonAn impression of latent power – Jolie Brise in Belfast Lough in 2015, on her way to being overall winner of that season’s Tall Ships Races. Photo: W M Nixon

Jolie Brise is a frequent visitor to Ireland, a notable occasion being in 2015 when she was in Belfast Lough during that year’s programme of Tall Ships Race, in which she excelled herself by being winner of both her class and the overall fleet when the series concluded. She is a magnificent vessel which never fails to excite admiration, and young Tom Cunliffe - the John Arlott of English sailing – captures it well in this enthusiastic video

WM Nixon

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WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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Dublin Bay Old Gaffers

The Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association aims to promotes interest in traditional gaff rig and seamanship, to offer help, advice and comradeship to members and to organise races and rallies for members in the Dublin Bay Area. 

The Dublin Bay Old Gaffers normally organise a regatta, two rallies and four races during the summer season and a varied, interesting and well-supported series of talks during the winter (proceeds raised are donated to the RNLI). 

Many Dublin Bay members also travel to regattas and rallies organised by other Irish Sea OGA areas. 

While the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers activities are focused on  Dublin Bay, they also have a cluster of members in the Cork area and have members from all over Ireland and some in Britain too.

The Association is working up lans to celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2023.  In 2013 a fleet of boats set off around the UK and Ireland to celebrate OGA50.

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