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Sailors of the Month – January

2nd February 2016

In Irish sailing, January is far and away the longest month. Publishing schedules for the printed Afloat Annual mean that December’s “Sailor of the Month” has to be announced on December 15th. So as though January weren’t quite long enough already, we just go right ahead and extend it to six weeks…….

But the thought that January, however long, isn’t a sailing month in Ireland has been well and truly turned on its head. In all, we have three sailors who have made the standard between December 15th and January 31st, and they well represent the diversity of our sailing scene.


enda ocoineen imoca 60
Enda O’Coineen’s Kilcullen Voyager match racing with Alex Thompson’s Hugo Boss in Cork Harbour

In the countdown to Christmas, the thoughts of many in the Irish sailing community weren’t on the usual festive fare. At least parts of their minds were in mid-Atlantic where Enda O'Coineen, arguably Galway’s most stubborn sailor, was battling against the odds in an Open 60 race from St Lucia in the Caribbean to La Foret near Concarneau in Brittany.

“Against the odds” scarcely does the situation justice. Everything seemed to be stacked against him. He’d started a clear day after the rest of the fleet while a mechanical problem was being sorted, but then Kilcullen Voyager and her indomitable skipper found their mojo and fairly streaked across the ocean.

With a mighty leap, our hero freed himself….. It became a race of attrition, with others falling by the wayside through damage or injury. But the Galway boat just kept getting better and better. And they didn’t merely record a respectable finish. They placed third. A podium place. The perfect Christmas present.

enda ocoineen
It’s Christmas and the celebrations have started as Enda O’Coineen closes in for third place at La Foret


Ireland’s youth sailing programme for 2016 got off to a rocket-assisted start with Doug Elmes (17) and Colin O’Sullivan (16) winning the bronze in the 420 Worlds 2015 in the final hours of the old year at Langkawi in Malaysia.

Sailing conditions were brilliant with good breezes and sunny warm weather. However, a delay in the delivery of the allocated fleet of new boats meant that the practice race was the first time any of the boats had been sailed. But the technological expertise of helmsman Doug Elmes gave the Irish challenge an edge in the race against time to get the boats ready, and though their campaign had its ups and downs, overall it was an impressively cool performance by a team who knew how to put on the pressure and make the right calls when it really mattered.

douglas elmes colin osullivan
Doug Elmes and Colin O’Sullivan on their return to Dublin Airport with the Bronze medals. Photo: W M Nixon

420 dinghy
Sailing conditions were perfect in Malaysia in late Decemberm and the Irish duo revelled in it. Photo: Ross Killian

Elmes is from Kilkenny while O’Sullivan is from Malahide, but it’s the International 420 class’s focal point of Howth YC, with coach Graeme Grant giving the two an extra edge, which had them set up and ready to go to the worlds with ISA Coach Ross Killian.

They had the traditional heroes’ return at Dublin Airport a few days into the New Year, and the weekend saw Howth YC laying on the celebrations with new Commodore Berchmans Gannon putting the medallists through an entertaining question and answer session which set this remarkable success into its proper perspective.

The secrets revealed…..Colin O’Sullivan and Doug Elmes in an entertaining Q & A session with HYC Commodore Berchmans Gannon at the party in the club to celebrate their success. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in Sailor of the Month Team

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