The 23-year-old helmsman won the Quarter Ton Classics Corinthian Division in July with his immaculately-restored boat Tiger, racing against a top lineup in the Solent. That performance saw him recruited to helm the English-owned boat Chimp in the Half Ton Worlds at the same venue in August. Kenefick showed the quality of his abilities by interacting with a crew he'd never sailed with before to become overall winner against an impressive international fleet.
George Kenefick, Mel Collins and John Downey celebrate their win on Lough Derg. Photo: Brendan Fogarty
Back in home waters, next up was the Waterways Ireland ISA National Championship on Lough Derg in the ISA's SailFleet flotilla of J/80s at the beginning of October. For this series Kenefick recruited Crosshaven clubmates John Downey and Mel Collins as crew. The opposition included former champion Mark Mansfield, who had returned to competitive sailing by winning the 1720 Europeans in Baltimore against a fleet including Anthony and Nicholas O'Leary, both former Irish Open Champions.
It went right down to the wire, with Mansfield and O'Leary emerging well ahead on 12–points apiece. On the countback, Kenefick was the new champion. Almost immediately, he was back in the thick of logistics and personnel organization in taking the Cork Institute of Technology sailing team to France for the Student Worlds, CIT representing Ireland as winners of our national series.
With sixteen college teams from all over the world, even in resources-rich French sailing the organizers were stretched in finding an evenly-matched fleet of sixteen Archambault keelboats. There were top class new boats, but some not so new boats, and a trio of boats well past their sell-by date. It was all in the luck of the draw, and the Irish and much-fancied Portuguese found themselves drawing the shortest straw.
In a demanding series, the Portuguese were never at the races with their tired mount, but the Irish simply refused to give up despite a boat which, with its equipment, was falling apart. There was ample opportunity to do this, as the series in the Bay of Biscay off La Trinite included some really rough stuff. In fact, the Irish revelled in the strong breeze, but in the light airs which settled in as the week drew on, it took pure skill.
By the final races last Saturday, they'd got themselves an unassailable third position, but the two British teams – defending champions are allowed an extra place – had miscalculated the points situation. So on the final day, they team raced, one of their boats sailing the Irish crew down the fleet in the best Ben Ainslie style. It was the first time Ireland had finished outside the top six, but they still had the bronze, the Brits took silver, and the French were well ahead to win overall.
More from WM Nixon in the Irish Independent here