#sailorofthemonth – The latest Afloat.ie/Irish Independent "Sailor of the Month" awards reflect the hectic pace of sailing at all levels this year, with the Monthly Award going to gold medallists in Olympic campaigning, while the International Award is for a French sailing family with strong connections to Ireland's west coast.
Fortunately, although the overall result in the Volvo Race at Galway is already clearcut with Groupama unbeatable on the leaderboard, today's in-port race will mark the proper conclusion of an event which has confirmed its position as the world's premier offshore contest. So the Volvo racers are July's men, and we can pause for a moment to salute the stars of June.
The Olympics next month will mark the conclusion of a rugged buildup, a continuing story which becomes ever more challenging as the main event nears. But the performance by Peter O'Leary and David Burrows in the preliminary regatta, the Skandia Sail for Gold in June, was outstanding in itself.
In terms of winning, they were always there or thereabouts. And most importantly, they were perfectly poised to make the win move when the opportunity arose. It was a stellar performance, and their Gold Medal, snatched from competition of the calibre of Percy & Simpson of Britain and Scheidt & Prado of Brazil, marked a new high for Irish sailing.
For the first time since its inception in 1980, the biennial Round Ireland Race from Wicklow saw overseas competitors outnumber Irish boats, a reflection of the race's growing international importance. The invasion aroused mixed feelings, with its increased likelihood of a foreign winner. But in the end, the deserved victory by the French-owned Ker 39 Inis Mor was seen as a fine win by one of our own.
With his boat named after the largest of the Aran islands, Bernard Gouy proclaims his enthusiasm for the west of Ireland. The family has a holiday place in Connemara, and race for Clifden Boat Club. But they're also regular performers at the front of the fleet in RORC events in the English Channel, and Inis Mor will be expected to turn out for France in the Commodore's Cup at the end of this month.
Bernard Gouy's Round Ireland winner Inismor, the winner of Afloat's International Sailor of the month award. Photo: Bob Bateman
However, their commitment to the Round Ireland race is nothing new. Before commissioning the present Inis Mor from designer Jason Ker, they campaigned a standard 40ft Jeanneau cruiser-racer and got into the frame. Their Round Ireland victory last weekend was the result of exemplary sailing and tactics throughout a very challenging race. It was textbook stuff, and we salute our International Award winners for showing the way.