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Afloat Sailor of the Month September - Fionn Lyden

28th September 2012
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Afloat Sailor of the Month September - Fionn Lyden

Arise, Schull, and take your place among the great sailing centres of the world. Move over Sydney. Newport stand aside. Cowes make room. The port in West Cork is punching way above its weight, and last weekend it hosted a superb National Junior Championship which saw a local boy as runaway winner against the best that Ireland can produce.

Fionn Lyden (17) is the Afloat.ie/Irish Independent "Sailor of the Month" for September after nine wins in nine races in the Irish Sailing Association Junior All Ireland Sailing Championship, racing in a fleet of 21 of the top helming talents recruited nationwide.

But what we're celebrating here isn't just one special talent, rather it's the entire Schull spirit with a thriving Community College which has sailing and maritime studies at the heart of its curriculum. It's not something which has happened overnight. It has been built up by many dedicated enthusiasts over decades, and today's rich legacy of healthy involvement with boats and sailing invigorates the town and its part of West Cork, an enormous credit to those who have worked away in the background to make it happen, and keep it happening.

These days the leading organisational figure is David Harte. Lucky indeed is Schull, that this was the place this exceptionally talented sailor, teacher and boat builder always called home while he developed his early career at the sharp end of international sailing all over the world.

The racing last weekend under Harte's direction was in the boats of the Schull-developed TR 3.6 class, and as they're sailed two up it could be argued that this gave an advantage to those accustomed to double-handed dinghies. But that's the way it is in sailing, and as the programme of close racing in good condition in a steady easterly unfolded, it was clear that the local duo of Fionn Lyden and school colleague Anna O'Regan were in a league of their own.

Their closest challenger initially was Finn Lynch of the National YC in Dun Laoghaire, winner of the Laser Single-handed Silver Medal at the ISAF Youth Worlds in July (when he was Sailor of the Month). In the end with Lynch being tripped by a tenth in the final race, it was Lydens all the way, as Eoin Lyden made it first and second for Schull, with Lynch third, while Anna Keller of Lough Derg was first girl at 7th overall, Laura Gilmore of Strangford Lough taking second at 9th OA.

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