Gordon Maguire (58) may now be recognised as Australia’s leading all-round professional offshore/inshore keelboat skipper - his World Sailing Code Number is unmistakably GMA#1 writes W M Nixon. But somewhere in there is the exceptionally talented sailor, son of renowned all-round winner Neville Maguire, who cut his racing teeth in Howth and the Irish Sea.
It was in 1991 that he was first was introduced to Australia, when he and Kieran Jameson organised “the Howth boat” for the three-boat Irish Southern Cross Team with the charter of the 40ft Beyond Thunderdome in Sydney. Beyond Thunderdome was putting in a superb performance in the early contests, but then she was dismasted in a collision (the other boat was adjudicated at fault) in the final inshore race before the series culminated in the Sydney-Hobart.
While Thunderdome was given total redress, there was no way she was going to race to Hobart. But in some pretty ruthless crew re-allocation, Team Captain Harold Cudmore dropped one of his people from John Storey’s 43ft Atara for the Hobart challenge, and took Maguire on board.
Cudmore and Maguire….It looked like the Dream Team. And it was the Dream Team. They won the Sydney-Hobart race overall, Ireland won the Southern Cross Trophy, and Gordon Maguire began a love affair with Australian sailing which eventually saw him taking out citizenship, though his career afloat had taken him all over the world in many boats, including participation in something like five Volvo Ocean Races with success at one extreme, and showing people how to go down the mine good and proper with Lough Derg YC’s Jocelyn Waller on the BH 41 Silk in a Solent gale-force squall during Cowes Week at the other.
In Australia he has become involved in the campaigning of such stellar owner-skippers as the successful Stephen Ainsworth of Loki (Hobart Race overall win 2011) and more recently that extraordinary bundle of energy Matt Allen, whose boats called Ichi Ban (Japanese for Number One) have been so numerous that on occasion there have been two Ichi Bans of different sizes on the entry list for the Rolex Sydney-Hobart, with the decision on which to take being made as late as possible.
With his engineer’s training and incredible natural sailing skill, plus the fact that he was reared in a household where his father was always innovating something, Gordon Maguire has provided the prefect mind-set to match Allen’s restless experimentation, but in recent years they’ve focused increasingly on a boat which, by the standards of the fleet with which she sails, is multi-purpose.
The resulting Botin 52 Ichi Ban has so successfully encompassed the requirements off the most rugged offshore racing with a configuration which can be reasonably quickly modified to give peak performance in a regatta series with a more inshore orientation. It has meant that during the past year her results list has been truly stellar, such that she has been short-listed down to the final three in World Sailing’s 2019 Goslings Boat of the Year Award.
This ambitious global contest was introduced as recently as last year, when the 2018 winner was Niklas Zennstrom’s latest boat, the Carkeek-designed Ran VII which brought so many ideas with success to the Fast 40+ circuit that it will take time – years, indeed – for the best of them to percolate through to the wider sailing scene.
Unfortunately the fact that Ran VII won last year will militate against Ichi Ban’s chances of success in 2019, as they cover broadly the same area of high end IRC racing, and Ichi Ban is up against two very different boats, the F50 high-performance catamaran which is aimed at sailing as a high-drama spectator sport, and the new Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300, which is aimed at the affordable end of offshore racing.
The Sun Fast 3300 is in some ways a scaled-up Mini Transat Boat, and the prototype made a successful debut by coming second in the two-handed division in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race, beaten only by the formidable Jean-Pierre Kelbert with his new JPK 10.30 Leon, a boat which probably costs very much more then the target figure for the Sun Fast 3300.
Thus in the way of these annual competitions, the odds are against the “Gordon Maguire Boat” getting the nod at the 2019 World Sailing Conference in Bermuda on October 29th. But nevertheless we very much hope she will, and if she doesn’t, then we’re all for the interesting Sun Fast 3300.
Whatever way it turns out, the next stage in the process is the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race 2019 on December 26th, when the Sun Fast 3300 will be making her Southern Hemisphere debut against a fleet which will, of course, include Ichi Ban. Meanwhile, before you look at the circus photos below, take a thoughtful read of this interview from 2010 which continues to be valid for explaining why Gordon Maguire holds such a special place in world sailing: