The O'Learys of Crosshaven have taken the Sailor of the Month title several times over the years with the remarkable achievements of father Anthony, and sons Peter and Nicholas. But the season of 2013 has clearly demonstrated that there's a new O'Leary on the stage - younger brother Robert, who played a key role in Irish university sailing through March and April.
Previously in the baby brother position as the successful skipper of the family's "cruiserfied" 1720 Antix Beg, young O'Leary is currently making the scene in that hotbed of college development, the University of Limerick. This admired institution's success is doing more to change public perceptions of the sometimes troubled Shannonside city than a whole raft of government inner city initiatives. But even so, when UL came into being in 1989, it would have aroused incredulity to suggest that, by 2013, it would be the clear pace-setter in the highly competitive and long established world of Irish college sailing.
Yet such is the case. And what a pace they've been setting. Despite the coldest Irish spring in years, it was the Limerick college sailors who kicked the new season into action by hosting the three day Intervarsity Team Racing National Opens over the St Patrick's weekend in March. Run in Kerry in conjunction with the hospitable Tralee Bay SC, and sailed in Fireflies, the series attracted 26 teams. The logistical demands were such that Robert O'Leary stayed ashore as overall event manager, but UL was on a roll and they won the main title too, captained by Ross Murray.
Then in April O'Leary was very much afloat, skippering the UL crew in the Student Yachting Worlds Irish selection trials raced over three successive Saturdays in April in the SailFleet J/80s, currently based in Howth. The format was demanding, as it involved getting your crew on site three times over a two week period, and then coping with very different conditions on three separate occasions. But it was an ideal selection method, as the Worlds in France at the end of October – to be sailed in J/80s –will make a considerable demand on resources and organisational ability, so those who could cope with the special challenges of the Howth series are clearly made of the right stuff.
On top of that, with no discards, consistency afloat was vital. The great Robert Scheidt of Brazil, probably world sailing's best-liked superstar, remarked very recently that in the final analysis, modern sailing is a consistency sport. Before he'd said it, the Limerick college sailors showed they were well aware of this reality. On each of the three Saturdays, Rob O'Leary sailed them to a first and second. Three firsts and three seconds is "quite a consistent scoreboard". Coupled with his achievements in March in ensuring the success of the staging of the team racing championship, Robert O'Leary is a very worthy Afloat.ie Sailor of the Month for April 2013.