Eamonn Rohan of Crosshaven is the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month ” for October. His prototype King 40 Blondie IV has taken the Class 1 championship in the Royal Cork’s Autumn League by 0.5 points, after the most hotly-contested end-of-season series ever staged by the world’s senior sailing club.
It is Rohan’s perseverance and sailing management skills which are being celebrated this weekend. When the very new Blondie IV made her debut more than two years ago, she was so fresh out of the box, as the prototype of the latest Mark Mills 40ft design, that teething and tuning problems were inevitable.
The concept was brilliant, and the performance potential was always there. But getting all the bells and whistles to ring on time and in tune with a boat which was being built in early series production on the other side of the world in Argentina posed mighty problems.
Then too, there’s the credibility factor - the challenge of assembling and keeping a crew of all the necessary talents while bringing the boat to full seagoing and racing potential. Thus in a sense, although Blondie (pictured below by Bob Bateman) looked like a winner from the start, equally there has always been this feeling that she was work in progress rather than a complete show on the road.
As the old frontier saying would have it, pioneers get shot so that settlers can prosper. By the end of 2008, the King 40 marque was shaping up so well that she was named “Boat of the Year for 2009” at the October 2008 Annapolis Boat Show, the supreme American trend-setting event.
By then, several of Mark Mills’ other designs had also been scoring well, so much so that he was our “Sailor of the Month” back in January this year. His career has since become stratospheric, reaching even higher peaks with the overall win in October’s Middle Sea Race for his 68ft design Alegre.
But meanwhile, the King 40 has had so many wins that she is shaping up to be a defining boat for our times. So successful is the design (they’ve won everywhere in the last ten months) that they’ve had to rationalize the building to Summit Yachts in Florida, so now she has become the Summit 40, the big sister of the newer Mills-designed which was already being built in The Sunshine State.
Thus a genuine King 40 will have rarity value, and Blondie IV will be the queen of them all. Even as the win was being clinched in Crosshaven last weekend, across in the Chesapeake at Annapolis they were preparing for the final races of the US East Coast IRC Championships. The winner? White Heat, another first mould King 40.
So we honour Eamonn Rohan, both as the new champion, and as the man who was prepared to put his head above the parapet for the new 40-footer.