#sailorofthemonth – Barry Hurley, who learnt his sailing on Cork Harbour out of Cobh, is best known as a star of the short-handed offshore racing scene. But in recent years he has been carving a formidable reputation as a team co-ordinator on board fully-crewed boats, and the recent 606-mile Middle Sea Race out of Malta against a record fleet of more than 120 boats has been an outstanding achievement for him.
In a central role aboard Josef Schultheis's Xp44 XpAct, Hurley and his shipmates took first in class on IRC and ORC, and second overall in both IRC and ORC. It was his tenth Rolex Middle Sea Race, and again it was aboard a boat which as always was immaculately presented, while the gathering of crew from far andwide for XpAct resulted in ten very experienced sailors from five differentcountries coming together in Malta a week before the start.
From Ireland they had Andrew Boyle trimming, a bow team of Kenny Rumball and Phillip Connor, and Barry Hurley as a driver. They opted for four helmsmen, four trimmers, and two bow so as to push hard throughout. Boat preparation had been relentless during the long summer, with the commissioning of a new carbon bowsprit twice the length of the original. They'd a full suit of nine sails to work all the angles to maximise the potency of an already very strong boat, and having finished second in class in 2013 with her, they knew they could do better with a few minor adjustments.
It was a race of two halves. Very light airs for the first three hundred milesgave XpAct the opportunity to recover from some early sail issues , and be in the hunt at the half way point North of Sicily. A strong Mistral then allowed them to push the boat to its limits for the second half, and with non stop trimming in enormous seas they completed the second 300 miles in just over 24hrs. They hit 22.9 knots max boatspeed, and averaged mid teens on the legs to Pantelleria, Lampedusa, and home to Malta, carrying an A3 and one reef in well over 30 knots approaching the finish. The fact that the Volvo70 and some of the other big offshore racing boats only got past them on the last leg shows how hard they were pushing their 44ft 'cruiser racer'.
XpAct's achievement was the peak of a remarkable Irish performance in a challengingevent, with Irish sailors also finishing sixth overall, as well as notching many good placings in individual classes. Next on Barry Hurley's personal agenda is the 70th edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race at Christmas, for which he expects to have Irish sailors in the crew. But for now, he is very definitely the Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Month" for October 2014.