The world of sailing in Ireland and internationally is much diminished by the sad passing of Douglas “Dougie” Deane of Crosshaven at the age of 82, after a very fully-lived life in which he contributed much to the sports with which he was involved, both in personal involvement and in several administrative roles, while at the same time being a life-enhancing and active member of the larger Crosshaven community in which he and his wife Liz had an extraordinarily generous family role.
Dougie Deane was the embodiment of all that is best in Cork life. He was excellent company with an infectious enjoyment of the moment, he was an able performer both as an individual and team player, and he quietly did much good work as he progressed through life.
Like many of his friends and family, he was deeply into sailing and rugby. His father Harry was Vice-Admiral of the Royal Cork Yacht Club from 1973 to 1975, and President of the legendary Cork Constitution Rugby Club, so-called because it was founded by staff members of the now long-defunct Cork newspaper of that name. But while Dougie was sufficiently involved with rugby to become a founder and later President of Crosshaven Rugby Club in which all of his five sons played, sailing was his special passion.
He became a junior member of the Royal Munster YC in Crosshaven in 1952, racing the IDRA 14 Maybe with Donal McClement, who was one of his many good friends - in Donal’s case, it was a lifelong camaraderie. They soon realised that while the O’Brien Kennedy-designed IDRA 14s were theoretically one-design, some boats were undoubtedly “more one-design than others”, and when they managed to move on from the appropriately-named Maybe to the legendary Dusk, major prizes started coming their way, with the prestigious Dognose Trophy being taken by the pair in 1959.
But the young Dougie’s talents had already been well-recognised as early as 1955 when, with George Henry, he formed part of the Ireland team in the International Junior Regatta at Dun Laoghaire, a pioneering effort at a time when junior sailing as a category on its own was only beginning to be developed in Ireland.
His dinghy interests went on to take in busy campaigns as an owner with an International 505 and a National 18. But in classic Crosshaven style, his sailing abilities were readily transferred to cruising and offshore racing, and in 1965 he became a member of the Irish Cruising Club mainly on the strength of a voyage to Spain with Stan Roche, Joe Fitzgerald and Charlie Howlett on Stan Roche’s characterful 29-ton ketch Nancy Bet.
In the work side of life, he had started early with what was to become Irish Distillers in their Cork administrative centre, where he went on to become Manager, and those managerial and administrative skills were quickly recognized in the sailing world, where he was a youthful member of the Royal Munster committee, rising to become Rear Commodore in 1965.
Then when the Royal Munster and the Royal Cork amalgamated in 1966-67 to become the Royal Cork Yacht Club in time for the Quarter Millennium in 1970, he was on the new RCYC General Committee when it first met in March 1967.
Thus he was to play a key role in the complex yet very successful Quarter Millennial Celebrations of 1969-70, and was much looked up to, as one who had actively been there for the Quarter Millennium, in order to give highly-valued advice for the up-coming Royal Cork Tricentenary next year. When his final illness struck with extreme rapidity, this made his sudden loss particularly painful in Crosshaven, where his eldest son Gavin is CEO of the Royal Cork YC, and had already been drawing on his helpful father’s exceptional experience in planning the very special year ahead.
For Douglas Deane - in addition to his many other attributes - was a wonderful father and family man. He married Liz Lucey in 1972 with Brian Cudmore as his Best Man in a perfect example of the inter-linking of Cork sailing families - when Brian in turn went on to marry Eleanor, Douglas was their Best Man.
Douglas and Liz went on to have five sons and a daughter Lucy, Crosshaven youngsters through and through, yet with a much larger breadth of vision than their strong sense of belonging to one locality might suggest.
And there was generosity and love too – when Lucy was 16 and their family virtually raised, Dougie and Liz were faced with the sudden death of Liz’s sister who left two sons younger than Lucy - Andrew and James. They were simply taken into the generous Deane household in Crosshaven, and in the end Dougie and Liz raised a family of eight.
They were a wonderful pair together, yet Dougie was able to continue his sailing, going into cruiser-racer ownership for a while with a share in the 37ft Dalcassian, and then being a regular member of the O’Leary crew on several boats with the family name of Irish Mist, particularly the two Tonner Irish Mist III which, under a subsequent owner, was seriously damaged on a stranding in the entrance to Cork Harbour after a steering failure. When she was beautifully restored by Jim McCarthy, Dougie transferred to the McCarthy crew, and stayed with him when he sought a new direction with an X99.
When the new 26ft 1720 Cork Sportsboat concept to a design by Tony Castro was being developed in time for the 1994 season, Dougie Deane was an enthusiastic supporter, so much so that he was able to persuade his directors in Cork Gin to back him in buying 1720 Sportsboat Hull No 1, which very conspicuously became Cork Dry Gin, for this was a quarter of a century ago, and such advertising seemed the most natural thing in the world.
Today, Gavin Deane vividly remembers his first sail with his father in this new boat. While his father was not particularly athletic in appearance, like Dennis Conner he became something different at the helm of a sailing boat, particularly one with a performance edge. All his experience with IDRA 14s, the 505, and the National 18 came to the fore, and the new sports machine zapped across Cork Harbour at a prodigious speed with Dougie Deane serenely at the helm and everything under control.
It was a metaphor for the way he lived his life. Donal McClement says of him: “He was a gentleman in every possible sense of the word. Quiet spoken yet effective in communication, and very highly-respected and well-liked by all who knew him. And they were many”.
For the last ten years of his life, Dougie owned a Sea Ray 22 fast power-cruiser, built in Cork, capable of 20-25 knots, with a couple of bunks in a little cabin should the urge come on him for a night or two of convenient cruising, and handy for viewing the occasional race. But sailing continued to be his favourite way of being afloat, and he was day sailing with friends and family well into the summer of 2019.
Then there was a family holiday in the south of France, where at the age of 82 he was seen diving with enthusiasm into the blue Mediterranean, to the amazement of his grandchildren. On returning home, his illness quickly manifested itself, and for his friends, he was gone in five weeks. It was a shock, a great sadness, but with the healing help of time, we can see that here was a truly great man who led an exemplary life.
Our heartfelt condolences are with his extensive family and his many close friends.