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Displaying items by tag: Vendee Globe

Galway Bay's Vendee Globe sailor Enda O'Coineen left the port of Dunedin in New Zealand this morning local time under a cloudy sky and a wind from 10 to 15 knots in his new boat and is bound for France.

As Afloat.ie previously reported this week, the Irish sailor was accompanied by six young people from the Spirit of Adventure programme for his long voyage to the starting line in Les Sables D'Olonne.

Published in Vendee Globe

“I’m that bad nobody would come with me….”

That’s what Enda O Coineen told me when he confirmed that he will be completing his round-the-world voyage which he started as part of the Vendee Globe Race, alone to complete the round-the-world solo voyage.

“Round the world with just one stop, forced upon me, not by choice, but I’m going to complete it. Maybe 50 days at sea when I leave New Zealand after circumnavigating it from Dunedin, but it’s a solo voyage and that’s my aim,” he said when we discussed the completion of his round-the-world sail.

It will be a year since his yacht, KIilcullen Voyage was dismasted during the Vendee Globe Race off New Zealand on New Year’s Day. The 61-year-old sailor spent five days of January getting the damaged yacht 240 miles with a temporary ‘jury rig’ towards safety off Dunedin from where he will restart.

“It will be challenging because there will be no race back-up this time, nor other boats in the racing fleet.”

I asked him why he was going to complete it alone. Listen to his response on my Podcast.

• Listen to ENDA O COINEEN on my weekly Podcast below

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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Vendee Globe solo hero Enda O’Coineen will share the stage in Westport in Mayo in a week’s time, on Wednesday December 20th, in a double-bill with local star Joan Mulloy, who is carving her own career in the Figaro Solo class.

Hosted by Mayo Sailing Club, but conveniently staged in the midst of town in the Hotel Westport and open to the public, it promises to be an informative and entertaining event, getting under way with a reception at 6.00pm, and then the programme of presentations gets going at 6.30pm.

A fascinating insight will be provided into top-end solo racing, with Enda’s amazing personal stories from his own Vendee Globe and other experiences, and his plans for the future, while Joan will tell of how her career has developed since she started learning with Mayo Sailing Club at the age of eight. She has progressed since then through national team racing, round Ireland challenges, Volvo 70 racing in major events, and now the Figaro Solo.

It’s going to be a show with something for everyone including potential sponsors, a celebration of Ireland’s growing status in specialist offshore racing, and the ideal event to turbo-power everyone into the full Christmas spirit.

joan mulloy2Solo sailor Joan Mulloy – originally from Westport – will be sharing the stage in her home town in a special show with Enda O’Coineen on December 20th.

Published in Solo Sailing
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There's a rare chance for some of Ireland's most adventurous sailors to be in the same place at the same time tomorrow when Enda O’Coineen, Joan Mulloy, Nin O’Leary and Gregor McGuckin will be on board Nin O'Leary's Round the World Racing yacht in the heart of Dublin for a press event beside the Jeanie Johnston on Custom House Quay.

The photocall is to capture the unique line–up of Ireland’s solo sailors who are due to tell media about their own adventures that lie ahead; inlcuding non–stop single–handed round–the –world bids. The sailors include:

Enda O’Coineen attempted to race alone non-stop around the world last year. His attempt was cut short when he broke his mast south of New Zealand. In January 2018 he sets out to complete the trip.

Joan Mulloy Ireland’s only female solo sailor has a busy season ahead as she will compete in France’s top solo sailing circuit. A native of Mayo, an engineer, and the daughter of a Mussel farmer, Joan brings a new dimension to the traditionally male dominated end of the sport.

Nin O’Leary One of Ireland’s top racers has set his sights on solo racing following some intensive training and racing with Alex Thomson on his stunning Hugo Boss Yacht. Nin will have the Team’s boat in the heart of Dublin to provide tours.

Gregor McGuckin In July 2018 Gregor will set out in a 30 year old boat in an attempt to sail along, non-stop around the world. His race involves no modern technology and no GPS. If successful he will be the first Irish person to sail alone, without stopping, around the planet.

Meanwhile, an Italian solo boat abandoned during a transatlantic race in June has washed ashore in County Kerry. Skipper Michele Zambelli has told Afloat.ie he hopes to travel to Ireland to claim her. More on this story here.

Published in Solo Sailing
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Ireland's 2017 Vendee Globe competitor Enda O’Coineen reveals a 'marriage' of two former Vendee Globe campaigns; his own with the French IMOCA 60, Le Souffe du Nord.  The Galway Bay solo sailor also confirms – from his boatyard base in New Zealand – that he intends to fulfill his dream of circumnavigating the globe and 'unofficially' finish the solo non–stop round the world race almost a year after a dismasting brought his voyage to a halt.

Greetings from Christchurch, New Zealand. It's Spring here, the birds are singing and all our KIWI friends are gearing up for Summer. 

Following a ‘rebuild‘ our IMOCA 60, “ Souffe du Norde Kilcullen Team Ireland” - has come out of the yard and is due for launch today – Tuesday. Early morning it involved closing the highway, then through a large mountain tunnel leading to Lyttleton, a commercial harbour with ‘depth’ and still in a bit of a mess from the earthquake a while back.

On launching, we plan some trials and then a training leg up along the coast. Then a hop to the North Island and Wellington, the Capital, around to Tangaroa and then Auckland.

Leaving the boat secure, I am then heading back to the Irish Winter and the magic of Christmas. Then in January, we sail from Auckland back around to Dunedin and Otago Bay. Hence to complete a circumnavigation of New Zealand. Could this be a first for an Irishman? Perhaps Afloat’s Mr William Nixon can advise?

After that, it’s the ‘ Big One” and will be non-stop singlehanded to Les Sables D'Olonne and hopefully “unofficially” finish the Vendee – around the World with ‘One Stop’ – taking in a lap of Kiwiland!

Originally, after 60 days at sea, I ended up in Dunedin with no mast and a broken spirit. Such is serendipity, that The Souffe du Nord boat was broken almost in half and had a good mast. She had something big and soft, probably a whale – and arrived in the same place.

Our teams seemed destined to marry. For me it was clear on first sight. For them the courtship took a while. Interestingly our meeting point was the same place that Ernest Shackelton set out for the Antartic – 100 years previously to the month…

No less than 11 teams dropped out on this leg. Essentially you take the risks and accept the consequences. That said, it was a massive blow after such a period of intensity, to be suddenly mastless and cast adrift from a fast armada powering through the Southern Ocean was dramatic and a downer.

Then my ambition switched to survival and to get safely back to land without calling the rescues services some 200 miles out. And now that has become a simple desire to complete the circumnavigation and finish the race " unofficially” in Les Sables D'Olonne.

Last February, on returning back to Ireland - other than a few immediate talks, I went back to work ( to pay for it all). Most offers were resisted - and I could have easily dined out on my disaster story all year. As you know, in Ireland sometimes to fail is more successful that success itself.

Many people kindly wish you on – which is great – but deep down they always secretly love you to see fail. It brings great satisfaction. Human nature makes many feel great and superior when others fail. And, sure is it not great to give people this small joy? Cheers to the begrudgers and those who begrudge the begrugers – may they both self-extinguish!

Kilcullen voyager IMOCA 60'Oversize' – The IMOCA 60 Kilcullen Voyager/Le Souffre du Nord arrives at the boatyard ready to be launched
Originally, I was going to acquire the Souffe eu Nord Mast and their boat was to be written off. However, in the end, it made sense for me to work with them to fix their boat and sell my hull.

So now both teams have merged on an equal basis and we share the costs. The boat, was owned by a group of French businessmen based around Lille. And while keeping the partnership, it made sense for Team Ireland to take over the ownership. They have built a support group of almost 2,000 – they are passionate and a lot of fun. Their skipper, hired–in for the event Thomas Ruyant is a great sailor. However, he simply wanted out and became a bit scared of the boat, and is currently doing a two handed trans-Atlantic, the TJV.

With a courtship period, defined by logic, with ceremony and fanfare in Lille, I have been appointed their “Ambassador”. After some soul-searching they decided that they really wanted to finish.

Amongst other things, this involves taking a stuffed Hummingbird to Dunkirk. It joins my bottles of whiskey that have accompanied me on my voyage – one of which is promised to Prince Albert in Monaco who is a whiskey collector - and the other he has agreed to auction off with is in his castle for the Atlantic Youth Trust.

And why the Hummingbird? As legend has it, there was a forest fire in South America. And a flock of Hummingbirds would dive into the ocean and carry water in their beaks to dump on the fire to save the forest. Needless to say, the birds failed miserably but their message is that if everybody “does a bit” we have a chance to save the world. Go figure!

And, should you wish to understand our Souffe du Nord partners more, you can meet them when they come to Dublin on the 30th November. We have a party with the French Ambassador and at the same time announce the Atlantic Youth Trust schools programme and a workshop on using ocean adventure as an education tool in schools.

We are also working to assist Joan Mulloy from Team Ireland Racing, Gregor McGuikian also from Team Ireland Racing and to work also with Nin O'Leary of Ireland Ocean Racing, a great project.

Nin was to come on the leg up to Auckland but at the last moment had some issues at the last moment and will now likely come on the leg from Auckland back around to Dunedin/Otago.

We were fortunate to be able to facilitate Stewart Hosford of Ireland Ocean Racing of getting hold of Great American IV. Ireland is such a small place and there is a powerful logic for all involved in the sport, and the development of ocean sailing, to work together,

These ocean projects are incubating professional sailing teams. It's ‘baby steps’ for the moment and it's necessary to focus on one step at a time and sure who knows where the journey may lead? A circumnavigaton of some more Pacific countries and Atlantic islands on route?

Published in Vendee Globe

In an exceptional week for Irish international offshore sailors, the Michael Boyd-skippered Lisa has been confirmed as both the RORC Points Champion and the Boat of the Year, while the Damian Foxall-crewed Vestas 11th Hour Racing has emerged as the convincing winner of the first stage of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18. And at home, Nicholas “Nin” O’Leary has appeared with a newly-acquired IMOCA 60, his own first command in this extreme class for which the Vendee Globe Non-stop Solo Round the World Race is the ultimate objective. W M Nixon takes a look at a high-powered scene which has many facets, and outlines how one Mayo sailor hopes to progress her own career in it.

International offshore racing is a universe unto itself, a place where superhuman skills have to be allied with exceptional organisational ability. Needless to say, the presence of straightforward courage is taken as read. For many of us as we consider the year’s past achievements, which moved up a gear early in the season when Conor Fogerty won the prized Gipsy Moth Trophy in the Single-handed Transatlantic Race, it is at a level which we can barely grasp, let alone expect to emulate.

So how can you hope to get a foot on the ladder? Well, it depends on whether you want offshore racing to be your recreational sport, or perhaps even just one of several personal sports in a busy life with a day job, or whether you want it to be a fulltime career.

Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School

Here on Sailing on Saturday we have twice interviewed skippers who have won the Roger Justice Trophy (the sailing schools’ prize) for Ireland in the Fastnet Race, Ronan O Siochru of Irish Offshore Sailing with the Sunfast 37 Desert Star in 2015, and Kenneth Rumball of the Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School with the J/109 Jedi this year. Both gave considerable insight into what is involved in learning and training towards an acceptable level of competence with genuine race-winning potential.

irish offshore justice2Ronan O Siochru (third from right) with his crew from Irish Offshore Sailing after their success in the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race

jedi fastnet start3Another successful Irish challenge for the Roger Justice Trophy gets under way – the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi (left foreground) at the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017

Another route was shown by Michael Boyd skippering Lisa in the complete RORC programme. As Commodore of the club, he gives priority to encouraging youth sailors with the RORC into Lisa’s crew, and with his inspirational leadership, they blossom into capable offshore seamen. He was developing this way of doing things in 2016, when Lisa enabled him to be the top-placed Irish skipper in the Round Ireland Race, and by 2017 it had become so much a part of the boat’s campaigning that they could arguably have entered for the Roger Justice Trophy in the Fastnet Race themselves.

Royal Ocean Racing Club

However, the Royal Ocean Racing Club is a substantial and long-established organisation, with a large international membership and professional headquarters staff, thus the structures to channel would-be offshore sailors into the sport can function smoothly. And in the end, the “graduates” will tend to see themselves as Corinthians rather than fulltime sailors.

theo and michael4Successful administrators. Theo Phelan (left) organizer of the Volvo Round Ireland Race, with RORC Commodore Michael Boyd after the latter had finished the race at Wicklow as top-placed Irish skipper in 2016

Damian Foxall

But for hopeful young Irish sailors seeking to get into the fulltime offshore racing professional world, the promised land is France. That certainly was the route taken by Damian Foxall, who worked his way through France’s Figaro solo and two-handed scene and on into the exalted heights of Volvo racing, the Barcelona World Race, and massive multi-hull global record challenges, until now at the age of 48, with much achieved and busier than ever, his advice as dispensed on this week's Afloat.ie podcast is pure gold.

To succeed, Foxall says that basically you’ve to be a one-person business corporation. It’s not remotely enough just to be an ace helm, and handy on the foredeck with it. You have to truly know yourself, and realize the depths of dedication and sacrifice required, but at the same time you have to know everything – but everything - about boats, their rigs, their sails and the suppliers – and that’s before you even think about meteorology and strategy and tactics and effective handling of the media plus a zillion other things. And don’t forget to be an extremely efficient accountant too……

It may all seem a very long way from the dream of speeding across the blue ocean on a sunny day without a care in the world, with the winning line in sight and the rest of the fleet tucked in comfortably astern. But that’s the harsh reality which has been the lot of an extraordinary range of Irish sailing characters.

In the offshore sailing jungle angled towards France, you’re tangling with big beasts afloat and ashore, and the politics of it all are fraught. When we mention key names, it is merely a list, for it’s such a fluid world that link-ups are changing and being taken in completely new directions all the time. If you don’t know who we’re talking about in mentioning Enda O’Coineen, Marcus Hutchinson, Tom Dolan, David Kenefick, Stewart Hosford, Damian Foxall and Nin O’Leary – to name only seven – then you’re blissfully unaware of the rarefied heights where only the bravest will tread.

conor and charlie5Conor Fogerty finally receives the Gipsy Moth Trophy at the Royal Western Yacht Club in Plymouth last weekend from RWYC Commodore Charlie Thompson

Conor Fogerty

Somewhere in an outer orbit is the incredible Conor Fogerty, winner in June of the roughest Single-handed Transatlantic Race ever with his Sunfast 3600 Bam!. Fogerty is keeping his longterm cards very close to his chest, but for now he has recently sailed Bam! from the OSTAR finish port of Newport Rhode Island down to Antigua for the RORC Caribbean 600 in February. He’d a class win in it in 2016, and he has a dream crew pencilled in for next February’s race, a mixture of fulltime and top Corinthian with David Kenefick, Tom Dolan, Simon Knowles and Paddy Gregory going into the mix.

With the Gipsy Moth trophy collected at a convivial awards ceremony in the Royal Western Yacht Club in Plymouth last weekend, the re-location of Bam! back to the Caribbean has everything set up for a last hurrah with the successful Sunfast 3600 in the Caribbean 600, as Fogerty is another sailor keen for the really serious stuff, and is definitely in orbit round the IMOCA 60s.

But meanwhile, with a young family, he likes to have a handy little “cruising” boat at home in Howth. So just recently he bought the ultimate Ron Holland-designed 30ft Shamrock, Silver Shamrock herself, with which Harold Cudmore won the World Championship in 1976. She has been beautifully up-graded by Stewart Greenfield at Cowes, and as Conor’s partner is Suzanne Ennis whose sister Steph Ennis with Windsor Laudan successfully campaign the classic Club Shamrock Demelza (once raced for several seasons in Cork by a very young Mark Mansfield), then clearly with the Ennis approval of Shamrocks, acquiring Silver Shamrock was a no-brainer for someone who wants to maintain domestic harmony at home while pursuing grand designs on the high seas.

silver shamrock6The Ron Holland-designed Silver Shamrock, Half Ton World Champion at Trieste in 1976 under Harold Cudmore’s command, has been brought to Howth “as a useful little family sailer” by Conor Fogerty. Photo W M Nixon

There are many starting points for getting started towards the serious offshore game. But at the moment all roads lead ultimately to France, even if those whose hearts are in Ireland hope to see this country providing more substantial shore bases where our our top sailors can be prepared to head forth for the big time events.

After all, if the Irish horse racing industry can provide tens of thousands of jobs for dedicated staff at every level, and ultimately produce the world’s greatest trainer in Aidan O’Brien with his record tally of major trophies won in every continent, then is it so unreasonable for these top offshore racing people we have listed to hope that Ireland – with immediate access to some of the best training water for offshore racing in the world – cannot do something similar for offshore sailing, albeit on a much more modest scale?

Joan Mulloy

Their dream would be to provide a structure whereby young sailors of exceptional promise can be fast-tracked to offshore racing achievement. The French system has produced the crop of young sailors in their 20s who are among the pace-setters in the Mini-Transat Class, most notably Erwan Le Draoulec who is only 21, while top woman star Clarisse Cremer was “only another competent solo sailor” until she underwent the intensive French training and coaching which turns good sailors into race winners, with the Fastnet Race 2017’s top results being dominated by French boats.

figaro racing7The 30ft Figaro Solo boats provide another introduction to top level offshore racing.

The larger boat used in the Figaro Solo fleet likewise provides French and international wannabees with another route to the top, and both classes and the organisations around them now draw in solo racing hopefuls from all over Europe. But the pace is hectic, the standards are rising every year, and this makes it all more of a challenge for a sailor from Mayo who interest in the offshore racing game has now become central to her way of life.

mulloy figaro boat8The logo location on the topsides of Joan Mulloy’s Figaro Solo will become available to any major sponsor

When you journey to Westport, you feel you’re headed for somewhere remote. But once you’re there in this handsome town at the head of majestic Clew Bay, it’s the rest of the world which seems remote, indeed almost irrelevant. Joan Mulloy is Westport and the Western Ocean through and through, from a marine-oriented seafood-harvesting background in which a history including Grace O’Malley may well make West Mayo the most naturally maritime part of Ireland.

She started her sailing with a Mirror Dinghy with Mayo Sailing Club at Rosmoney, and had her first Laser by the age of 14, though her first experience of dinghy sailing at national level was crewing a GP14 for Blair Stanaway, currently Commodore of MSC.

Yet at the same time she had acquired another interest which well matches sailing - at the age of 12, she started rock climbing. By her late teens this was her dominant interest, so much so that after getting her Leaving Cert, she took two gap years to base herself in Sheffield, working for an online outdoor equipment company, and availing of the wide opportunities provided in the north of England to be trained in rock climbing to the most demanding standards.

But having reached the ultimate heights in every sense, she realized just how much she missed the sea, and returned to the west of Ireland and NUI Galway, where she took an honours degree in Civil Engineering while becoming much involved in the sailing club. Even before going off for the rock climbing period, she’d realised her true sailing interest was in offshore racing, so she was a natural for the NUI Galway SC crew skippered by Cathal Clarke which raced the Reflex 38 Lynx in the 2012 Round Ireland Race, in which they were second for much of the time, and still were a good sixth at the finish.

lynx round ireland9The Galway students with Lynx put Wicklow Head astern shortly after the start of the 2012 Round Ireland Race

She worked for a while in civil engineering, but although the company was involved at the forefront of offshore engineering work, she found herself at a computer calculating the requirements for key structures. In some ways it was useful training for someone who would eventually be much involved with developing offshore racers, but more active involvement with the sea called, and she became a crewmember on the Volvo 70 Monster Project, logging thousands of offshore miles including Round Britain and Ireland, the Round Ireland of 2014, a Fastnet and a Middle Sea Race.

But in time, the draw was towards the Figaro Solo scene in France, and she became involved as a “preparateur”, one of the teams sorting the boats for the stars to race. The comparison with the horse racing industry is not inappropriate, and Joan Mulloy very much wanted to be a jockey rather than stable staff, so when a German owner offered her the loan of his well-used Figaro, No 77, she took it up. She based herself at Cowes, and she and her former skipper in the Round Ireland, Cathal Clarke, raced in the two-handed division in the Rolex Fastnet 2017, and came a respectable 17th in a class of sixty boats.

joan mulloy cathal clarke10Joan Mulloy and Cathal Clarke racing Figaro 77 in the Rolex Fastnet 2017

Enda O'Coineen

But before that, she’d met Enda O Coineen at the WIORA Championship in the Aran Islands in July, and he encouraged her to think that the setup in Ireland for people on her chosen career path was improving all the time, while in Cowes there was a distinct winding-down of activity. Whether it was the prospect of Brexit is anyone’s guess, but there’s no doubt that there’s a new buzz in Ireland to strengthen links with France and the Continent generally, and by September, Joan Mulloy had re-located her Figaro to Lorient, and returned to Ireland under the umbrella of Enda O’Coineen’s Team Ireland, while continuing to establish her own identity as a solo campaigner with Joan Mulloy Racing

It’s a busy time, with presentations to potential sponsors and then last night (Friday) she and Enda flew out to New Zealand to re-position the IMOCA 60 Kilcullen Voyager from Christchurch to Auckland as part of the preparation for the completion of his dismasting-interrupted solo Vendee Globe race, which will see him depart Auckland in January, complete a circuit of New Zealand to the point where he was dismasted at the very end of 2016, and then head on east for Cape Horn and the finish.

As for Joan Mulloy, her plan for January is to be right in the depths of solo sailing’s ultimate Boot Camp. She’s a very good sailor, she enjoys life, she’s great in boats, but as we pompously informed her at a meeting this week, she’s much too nice for her own good in top-level competitive sport.

She needs to be given a real racing edge. So the man to do that for her is the legendary coach/trainer/life-changer Tanguy Leglatin of Lorient. It’s said that a week at his Academy can transform a competent club racer into a potential world beater. Quite what it’s like providing a hothouse atmosphere in mid-January over a longer period we can only guess, but Joan Mulloy is determined to find out in the most thorough way possible. After all, it is Leglatin who brought forth the boy wonder Erwan Le Draoulec. Being under his tutelage is performance-transforming.

joan mulloy winter12Winter training. January will provide the training and testing for Joan Mulloy

So we wish Joan Mulloy the very best of luck. For there’s something about this high-powered offshore scene that appeals in a special way. We were chatting yesterday with our man in Lisbon, who had in turn been talking with the manager of the Turn the Tide on Plastics crew. Apparently they’re a wonderful bunch to work with, as they all realize they’re on a near-vertical learning curve. And that healthy shared attitude is fully embraced by our own Silver Medallist, Annalise Murphy. She may be the Queen of Rio, but there are none of the usual prima donnas in the crew of Turn the ide on Plastics. Yet they’re all entranced by the special world of ultimate offshore racing. As is Joan Mulloy.

Published in W M Nixon

Solo sailor Enda O'Coineen rejoins his Vendee Globe yacht Kilcullen Voyager this weekend some 11–months after its dismasting off New Zealand on New Year's Day. That's according to the Irish Times Sailing Column this morning here. The 61–year–old flies who flies out to Christchurch today told the newspaper he wants 'to finish what I started'. 

As Afloat.ie reported at the time, O'Coineen spent five days in January sailing Kilcullen Voyager just 240 miles under jury rig (when his best days run while in full racing trim was 395 miles) trying to make the coast of Dunedin. He succeeded without having to call for aid from the rescue services but admitted his dream of circumnavigating the world was 'shattered'.

The Irish Times has much more on the story here.

Published in Vendee Globe

Ireland Ocean Racing, the team behind Nicholas O'Leary's 2020 Vendee Globe Challenge, are back in Dun Laoghaire, this time with their own IMOCA 60 racing yacht.

The team tweeted this morning 'We are super excited to announce that we have our own Ireland Ocean Racing IMOCA 60! Come and visit us at Dun Laoghaire Marina'

O'Leary has just completed the Rolex Middle Sea Race where with Alex Thomson in the IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss they have turned in a virtuoso offshore performance to be third home across the line, bested only by the significantly larger Rambler and the 100ft Leopard.

The new boat for O'Leary is the former Great American IV, an Owen Clarke designed boat from 2006 aboard which Dominique Wavre took part twice in the Vendée Globe (retired in 2008/2009, 7th in 2012/2013). This 60-footer has clocked up an impressive number of miles. She has taken part in two Barcelona World Races, the double-handed round the world race and one Route du Rhum.

Bought by the American solo sailor Rich Wilson in 2013, the boat underwent an important refit in late 2014-early 2015 after being struck by lightning.

For his debut Vendée Globe, the young Irish skipper has a boat which has shown herself to be reliable if he intends doing the race in her or just using her for a training boat. Aboard this very same boat, Dominique Wavre completed the race in 90 days in 2013.

Listen to ‘Nin’ O’Leary on the podcast here and to Stewart Hosford, CEO of ‘Ireland Ocean Racing,’ formally launched in Cork this summer to “increase the profile of competitive Irish ocean sailing and racing, inspire a new generation of competitors and deliver future Irish champions in the sport.”

Hosford managed the Hugo Boss Alex Thomson campaign of which he has been CEO, so brings to the Irish campaign significant experience and expertise. “This is the start of a journey,” . “It will need sponsors and investors. What can be achieved is huge.”, Hosford said during this Summer's launch.

Only 100 sailors have succeeded in sailing single-handed non-stop around the world and no Irish sailor has yet completed the Vendée Globe. 

Team statement:

Ireland Ocean Racing (IOR) has acquired their first IMOCA 60 racing yacht, confirming their intention and commitment to competing in the IMOCA circuit, the pinnacle of solo offshore sailing.

The yacht is due to arrive in Dublin this morning (Wednesday) skippered by Cork sailor Nin O’Leary. O’Leary, an Irish sailing champion and IOR skipper, is particularly excited about the 60-foot monohull, as it demonstrates the momentum within IOR and provides a great platform to showcase Ireland’s sailing prowess internationally. “Ireland Ocean Racing is a great new sailing initiative, and I am excited about the opportunity to represent Ireland and compete in the IMOCA circuit with this boat” said O’Leary, who will be sailing the yacht into the Royal Irish Yacht Club at Dun Laoghaire from Brittany, France, on Wednesday 1st November. O’Leary, who has ambitions to compete in the 2020 Vendee Globe, and become the first Irish sailor to complete the 26,000 mile race, has established himself as a competitive skipper within the IMOCA class.

This year O’Leary has completed both the Rolex Fastnet Race and Rolex Middle Sea Race onboard Alex Thomson’s IMOCA 60 HUGO BOSS.

The IOR IMOCA 60 was designed by leading naval architect Owen Clarke, and was originally constructed in New Zealand in 2006. The yacht has successfully competed in the last two editions of the Vendee Globe, most recently with American sailor Rich Wilson. IOR CEO Stewart Hosford said, “Following the launch of Ireland Ocean Racing, we have had fantastic support for the team and Nin’s offshore campaign.

The acquisition of IOR’s IMOCA 60 is a sign of our confidence in our team and our investors. We are fully confident we can produce great success both with Nin, and new up and coming Irish sailing talent, putting Ireland Ocean Racing at the forefront of offshore sailing.” The public are welcome to visit and view the new Ireland Ocean Racing IMOCA 60 at the Dun Laoghaire Marina from Wednesday 1st November.

Published in Vendee Globe
Tagged under

Four young offshore sailors, including two from Northern Ireland, Mikey Ferguson and Andrew Baker, are on standby for an assault on the Length of Britain Challenge, from Land’s End to John O’Groats. The current record held by British sailor Phil Sharp stands at 3 days, 11 hours, 52 minutes, 15 seconds at an average speed of 7.39 knots.

The team who will be racing onboard the Open 60 Artemis Ocean Racing are currently waiting for an optimum weather window for this iconic 620 nm British course. The team sails along the English & Welsh coastline westabout up to Pentland Firth on the north coast of Scotland, the final marker before the finish line off John O’Groats.

Launched in 2016, Vendee2020Vision is an initiative to nurture Britain’s Offshore sailing talent along the path to success in yacht racing’s most challenging event - the Vendée Globe, the quadrennial singlehanded non-stop round the world race. This record attempt will see the current candidates test their skills in some of the coldest and most challenging conditions off Britain’s coastline.

No stranger to setting records, in 2014 Artemis Ocean Racing took the World Record for Monohulls 60 feet and less for Round Britain and Ireland in a time of 5 days, 14 hours, 00 minutes and 54 seconds.

The crew features two of the Vendee2020Vision’s current candidates, Lizzy Foreman and Andrew Baker. They will be joined by Artemis Skipper and Boat Captain Mikey Ferguson and a new addition to the team for this record sail is Jack Trigger. Jack is one of Britain’s up and coming offshore sailing talents, and also the youngest crew member onboard. He has sailed across a variety of classes most notably he has been part of the record-breaking crew onboard the MOD70 Concise.

Alongside the assault on this British record, the team will also use this opportunity to test several pieces of wearable technology to provide vital data to assist the team in improving overall performance and health at sea. From monitoring sleep cycles and baseline vitals during an offshore race, the team will also work with Jack Trigger, a Type 1 diabetic, to see how wearable tech can assist in the management of his condition offshore.

Published in Vendee Globe

The rapidly-developing partnership between solo offshore veteran Alex Thomson and proven star of fully-crewed boats Nin O’Leary of Cork has been the focus of much attention this week as they visit Cork and Dun Laoghaire.

Thomson’s eye-catching IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss was leader for significant stages in the 2016-2017 Vendee Globe Race, and placed second at the finish in January. During August, his linkup with Crosshaven’s Nin O’Leary and the new Cork-based set–up of Ireland Ocean Racing has had the rumour mills running in overdrive, with much speculation and comment. W M Nixon found that the unique position of Dun Laoghaire provided a special occasion and a relaxed setting in which the prospects for this new and dynamic sailing relationship could be quietly and usefully discussed.

Every so often, the rest of us who sail from other ports are reminded that, in the final analysis, Dun Laoghaire is our sailing capital. Cork Harbour may be very much the national maritime centre, with Galway also making notable research input. But the extensive nature of Cork Harbour is such that it has several places and organisations which could claim to be its main focal point, so the effect is diffused. And while Galway successfully punches way above its weight, the fact that as a city it is only a fraction of the size of Dublin inevitably counts in rating its influence.

Thus Dublin is very much the capital, the place where major decisions are taken in all national areas including the maritime sphere. Dublin Bay is the main area for its sailing, well ahead in the numbers game. And Dun Laoghaire is uniquely the focal point for that sailing, a remarkable and historic artificial harbour through which the pulsing metropolitan energy interacts with the sea and recreational seafaring.

huge boss riyc2The brooding presence. The all-black IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss berthed at the Royal Irish Yacht Club. Photo: W M Nixon

Yet at a different level, it is also the home port of many hobby sailors who simply see it as the conveniently-located local harbour which has ample facilities for their own sailing needs. Admittedly the affluence of the area in which it is located has meant that Dun Laoghaire has seen a significant influx of new non-woooden boats over the years, and it has lost some of the historic local One-Design classes which were once the bedrock of its highly-developed sailing scene. But even here, once it became clear that an important heritage was under threat, there has been a growing movement to preserve and expand the most historic class of all.

That has succeeded with the current great good health of the Dublin Bay Water Wag, the world’s first One-Design class, which started life as a simple double-ended little slip of a lug-rigged 13ft sailing dinghy in 1887, but by 1900 was in process of changing itself into a heftier transom-sterned gunter-sloop-rigged clinker-built boat 14ft 3ins long and 5ft 3 ins beam, with a heavy centreplate.

The new design commission was entrusted to boatbuilder J. E. Doyle in what was then Kingstown, but it’s generally reckoned the real designer was his daughter Maimie Doyle, whose talent lay in putting manners on her father’s extremely rough and often nonexistent sketches.

Whatever the design origins, the new boats were soon popular. But with other larger One-Designs available locally, each with its own adherents, it was thought good going if the racing turnout for the new Water Wags climbed above the fifteen mark before the Great War of 1914-1918.

water wags on port3Race on! The Water Wags and Dun Laoghaire Harbour seem made for each other. Photo: W M Nixon

Dublin Bay proved to be ideal for the encouragement of several One-Design classes, but over the years the classic larger wooden boats left the stage to be replaced by more modern plastic boats, with the Dublin Bay 21s exiting in 1986, while in 2004 the Dublin Bay 24s sailed their last race, yet today it could be argued that they’ve been replaced by the growing Dublin Bay J/109 fleet.

A couple of post-World War II timber-built classes are still active in the Glens and the IDRA 14s, but the 17ft Dublin Bay Mermaids of 1932 provenance which originated in Dun Laoghaire are only a token presence, even if they thrive elsewhere. So now the main thrust of Dun Laoghaire enthusiasm for genuine classics sailing has devolved on the Water Wags, which today prosper as never before, and in 2017 with noted maritime historian Hal Sisk as the very active Class Captain, it was hoped they might finally achieve a racing turnout of 30 boats on the starting line.

One hundred and thirty years to become an overnight success? It could only happen in Dun Laoghaire. But as the Water Wags have been such a key part of the sailing fabric of this great harbour for so long, those in the know were well aware that the evening of Wednesday 30th August was the date set for the very special big push, the extra effort towards topping the thirty mark with the racing for the Captain’s Prize, with the fleet including helms and crews with Olympic experience.

mixed water wags4With the class rules’ insistence that spinnakers be set classical style entirely to weather, speed of setting varies enormously. Photo: W M Nixon

That racing in turn would be rounded out by a dinner held in the Captain’s own club to end the season’s evening racing. The Water Wags’ home bases are spread along the three older waterfront clubs, so the Captain’s Prize dinner 2017 was already scheduled for Hal’s own club, the Royal Irish, when news emerged that the mighty Hugo Boss, with the new Thomson/O’Leary combo on board, hoped to visit Dun Laoghaire for a couple of days in the last week of August, and could the RIYC accommodate their promotional needs to be seen, be accessible, and provide a base for shore entertainment?

The visit would clash either with the Water Wags special race on Wednesday, or with the regular big-turnout Dublin Bay Sailing Club keelboat racing on Thursday. It fell to the RIYC’s Rear Commodore (House) Jacqueline McStay to decide how to play it, and she played a blinder.

Where others saw a problem, she saw an opportunity. She suggested that the planned dinners for the Water Wags and those involved with Hugo Boss should be turned into one single free-form event, using the RIYC’s historic dining room and spreading into the drawing room next door. She further suggested that as the Water Wags had seniority, Hal Sisk should be the main – indeed, possibly the only - speaker at the actual dinner.

But then, with a touch of genius, she suggested that while the Water Wags were out racing, it would be ever so obliging if Alex, Nin, and their genius boffin-organiser Stewart Hosford could give a little presentation to an audience of members and friends, in the club’s extensive basement room, about themselves, their own plans, and the boat’s movements in the weeks, months and maybe years ahead.

water wags spinnaker5The leaders begin to emerge from the pack, with eventual winner Moosmie leading from Eva (33, Katie Tingle & Dermot O’Flynn), Swift (38, Guy Kilroy, sailed by David Somerville) and Pansy (3, Vincent Delany) Photo: W M Nixon

It was a masterplan for non-stop nautical entertainment for about six hours, beginning with the sniff around the Hugo Boss (“mighty machine” is an inadequate phrase here) followed by seeing the early stages of the Water Wags’ historic race, then breaking away to take in the presentation by the Talented Three in the basement, followed by the dinner when history and modernity got together, with the enjoyment of this providing a relaxed atmosphere for the exchange of information.

Pessimists would reckon this complex programme for one night in one club had endless opportunities for the wheels to come off, but it went so well you’d swear they did this sort of thing at least five nights a week. As with all Irish events of an outdoor/indoor nature, the Great Imponderable was the weather, and the forecast 24 hours earlier wasn’t at all cheerful. Yet despite that they managed to rouse out a world record of 31 “new” Water Wags, and the photos say everything about perfect conditions for the last evening race of the summer.

st michael rowing club6A shared harbour. Trainee crew out for the evening with St Michael’s Rowing Club.Photo: W M Nixon

It also provided ideal circumstances for a consideration of the current condition of Dun Laoghaire. The place isn’t helped by being in a state of limbo. I’d optimistically hoped that I could get a good shoreside overview of the race by somehow getting myself to the end of St Michael’s Pier at mid-harbour, but it’s still all blocked off as they battle back and forth about the provision or otherwise of a liner berth.

In other words, the shoreside of the harbour is basically inaccessible to the public except down the marina breakwater, but even that limited viewpoint showed that this was a race in a million. And the quality of construction of the main harbour is such that it’s a joy to behold on such an evening, while within it the Water Wags shared the space with skiffs of St Michael’s Rowing Club and boats out from the Irish National Sailing School. Conditions improved as the race went along, with a freshening breeze sharpened up by a long black cloud which moved slowly over towards Howth, leaving crisp evening sunshine behind it, and a markedly veering breeze for the final beat of a four leg windward-leeward course.

moosmie water wag7Moosmie (15) seems to have it nicely under control going over to the tricky west side of the harbour…….Photo: W M Nixon

moosmie water wag8……but finds herself at the weather mark temporarily behind Swift (38, Guy Kilroy sailed by David Somerville) and Pansy (3, Vincent Delany) Photo: W M Nixon

moosmie water wag9Moosmie clear ahead again. Photo: W M Nixon

swift water wag10Modern sail-making materials have greatly improved the appearance of the Water Wags. With cotton sails, they often had a starved look, but today’s sailplan looks well fed. This is Guy Kilroy’s 2001-built Swift raced on Wednesday to fifth place by David Somerville. Photo: W M Nixon

Thus although David and Sally MacFarlane in the 107-year-old Moosmie (no 15) had overcome a setback or two to retain the lead and sometimes show well clear ahead, the finish came with a bit of a rush of boats in from the right hand side of the beat. While Cathy MacAleavey and Con Murphy were second across in her new Mariposa, finish signal came there none - they’d been OCS. But it was the night of nights for the class’s only Howth owners, Ian & Judith Malcolm with the 102-year-old Barbara. They’d been 21st round the leeward mark, but went onto port and headed straight at that black cloud sitting plumb over their house on the southwestern flanks of the Hill of Howth.

They got themselves a mighty freeing for the tack to starboard, and came roaring in toward the finish picking off places by the handful, and finding that the leaders for much of the race were in a bit of a tangle towards the line. So they weathered the lot of them and swept in to take a neat second, making it non-Dun Laoghaire sailors in two of the top places for this Race of Races, as Katie Tingle of Cork was third and winner of IB with Eva, crewed by Dermot O’Flynn.

hugo boss and winning wag11 Back to base. Hugo Boss waiting to welcome William Prentice & Moiselle Hogan’s Tortoise (42, built 2006, placed 4th) and winner Mousmie (built 1910) as they return to the Royal Irish YC. Photo: W M Nixon

wags on slipway12Help is always welcome when hauling a Water Wag on the slip, even at high water. Photo: W M Nixon

moosmie on terrace13The perfect evening. The winner Moosmie (foreground) is un-rigged after being the first to win from 30 other boats, and Hugo Boss is there to see it all happen. Photo: W M Nixon

It’s a good idea to do well in the racing, as it lessens your queuing time to get up the club slips. The atmosphere around the Water Wags is so basically light-hearted – even when they’re hauling these quite heavy little boats back up the slip – that it took a while to adjust to the next mood-stage of the evening, the underlying utter seriousness involved in racing an IMOCA 60 like Hugo Boss, and particularly in such totally extreme sport as the Vendee Globe Race. Alex Thomson does a wonderful line in light-hearted patter, but what he does is mind-blowingly all-involving, and as he talked us through the financial, physical and most importantly psychological requirements for anyone even beginning to contemplate such a thing, you were left in bewilderment in grasping the scale of it all.

As to the matter of how and why he moves about the boat without being apparently concerned about being directly attached to her, he created a certain silence by saying that as you’re often sailing at 25 knots, going overboard on the end of a wire or something similar would bring the certainty of getting dragged to a particularly nasty drowning death.

Only a hundred or so people have managed to sail round the world non-stop, so there’s a real sense of community among those who have done it, and they in turn respect those who have made a whole-hearted attempt to do the same. A real high-point came when Enda O Coineen burst out of the audience and went forward to present his old mate Alex Thomson with a replacement cap for one which had been exchanged a long time ago.

alex with enda cap14Alex Thomson with his new cap from Enda O Coineen. Photo: W M Nixon

Stewart Hosford didn’t quite bewilder us with science, but he has such mental energy that there are times you think he’s operating on a different planet, while as for Nin O’Leary, he talked of their hopes and how he is finding it all coming together - or not. He faces a monumental challenge.

Certainly fund-raising is something that all these sailing superstars seem to gravitate towards pretty quickly, and it was in the Water Wags/Hugo Boss dinner afterwards that we could ask real questions, for the gathering in the basement room had been a pubic presentation and emphatically not a press conference. Come to that, nor was the dinner either, but things gets said across a table, and an early revelation from a notable Man Who Knows in the RIYC was that the next America’s Cup will be in skinny 73ft monohulls with enormous canting keels, which would seem to indicate that the Alinghi man who was the real backer of Team NZ is carrying the day.

Then, in his Water Wag Class Captain’s speech, Hal Sisk was in fine form, handing out the prizes with style, and taking the opportunity to present Alex Thompson with his fascinating book which convincingly argues that Dublin Bay was the cradle of modern yacht racing. Knowing that Baghdad was the cradle of civilisation, I’m not too sure that being the cradle of anything is necessarily a good thing for future prospects, but doubtless the book will have a special place in Hugo Boss’s on-board library.

As a very pleasant evening wore on, the talk became more relaxed, and in chatting about the lack of Fastnet Race success, Nin O’Leary confirmed that the construction of Hugo Boss is so specialised that any modification to fit ordinary dagger boards instead of foils would be prohibitively expense, and of limited use in hitting the overall target of a boat designed specifically for Vendee conditions, which are 90% offwind.

Thus in that frustrating upwind slog from Land’s End to the Fastnet, when holding on port tack was soon the only choice because of the huge Traffic Separation Zone, they were making ten degrees of leeway. And once they finally got to the Fastnet, there just weren’t enough miles left in getting to Plymouth to take more than one place in the IMOCA 60 class.

hugo boss at fastnet15Hugo Boss with the fan club as she arrives at the Fastnet. The extreme offwind foil configuration means she makes about ten degrees of leeway when hard on the wind

The problem is that with such a purpose-designed boat, the number of useful events is limited. In the interim, between races which suit, they have to make do with what’s available, so their next outing will be the Middle Sea Race on 28th October. The winds in that are notoriously all over the place, but who knows, they might get lucky, and it’s all experience even though they’re allowed to carry extra hands. But it won’t be more than three at most, as more bodies just get in the way in a cockpit optimised for one.

For Alex Thomson, the Hugo Boss sponsorship, with major support from Mercedes, is in place for 2020, but his team are willing to take in any extra interest, as the boat we were being amazed by at the Royal Irish cost a basic of €5 million, and a new one won’t be any cheaper. As for Nin O’Leary, he seems to be aiming for a boat he can initially secure for €3.6 million, but will need continuing investment thereafter.

stewart and nin16Stewart Hosford and Nin O’Leary

You cannot but be intrigued by the Hugo Boss setup. The boat looks and is the quintessential expression of modern German industry and commerce. Yet she’s sailed by a jolly Englishman whose main performance theatre is provided by France. And the technical management behind it all is provided by a peripatetic Corkman.

Into this whirling maelstrom of possbilities and challenges has stepped a 31-year-old Irish sailing star who is learning just as fast as he can by sailing as co-skipper on Hugo Boss, yet the logic is that he in time will have to think of his own boat. In fact, everybody is taking a very mature approach to this. The only relative certainty is that they’ll be doing the Middle Sea Race together in eight weeks time. Beyond that, the ideal might be the two-handed Barcelona World Race in May 2018, but if Nin O’Leary has his own boat by that time, then he’ll be going with that, and Alex Thomson will have to find another co-sailor.

It’s a world of long-term goals in which you have to be prepared for changing situations from minute to minute, or even second to second. We’re astonished by the sheer challenge of the big events, without thinking of the shoreside work. The bigger the sponsorship, the more demanding the sponsor will expect to be of the star’s time.

Set against the innocent amateur sport of Water Wag racing, the contrast was total. You really couldn’t have asked for a better way of grasping the enormity of what these guys take on.

Published in W M Nixon
Page 14 of 23

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