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Last Call To Honour Irish Sailing Stars of 2021 Who Inspired Us Through Pandemic

22nd January 2022
Irish Sailors of the Year 2021
Class of 2021 - The Irish Sailors of the Year. Scroll down for month by month citations and vote in our poll (panel on the right on desktop and at the bottom of the article on mobile and tablet)

Sailing and boating sports were more frustrated than many other activities during the highly-restricted peaks of the pandemic. For although it was universally agreed that there was nowhere more healthy and infection-free than aboard a boat out on the water in a good sailing breeze, the problem was in accessing those optimal circumstances without infringing local, national and international regulations. For sailors are nothing if not highly convivial folk who enjoy few things more than exuberantly discussing their specialist sports with like-minded individuals before and after going afloat.

Thus for the past two years, we have been inspired by some very special people who patiently complied with a myriad of often difficult conditions in order to keep our world of maritime sport and recreation - and indeed our maritime world generally – functioning in a meaningful way. And we honoured them with perhaps the most eclectic mix of Afloat.ie “Sailors of the Month” ever recorded in the 26 years in which we have been running the competition.

Inevitably with the prospect of restrictions being eased at an accelerating pace, the world of boats is looking to the future and the exciting prospects it offers. Already it looks as though 2022 will be the busiest season ever experienced, with four World Championships in Ireland just the peak of an extraordinary programme.

But today, as we enter the final week of January, it behoves us to look back with admiration and respect for those who gave so much during the difficult times of 2021. Voting on the Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Year 2021” concludes on Monday week, January 31st, and immediately as February gets underway, our Judging Panel will be considering your votes (see panel on right of this page) as a very important part of the adjudication process.

In this final overview of the stars of 2021, we salute some very special sailors, all of whom deserve our gratitude and appreciation

Irish Sailors of the Month 2021

JANUARY

KIERAN COTTER

A pillar of the Baltimore community afloat and ashore, Kieran Cotter has retired as Baltimore Lifeboat Cox'n after 45 memorable years of service.A pillar of the Baltimore community afloat and ashore, Kieran Cotter has retired as Baltimore Lifeboat Cox'n after 45 memorable years of service.

The retirement of Kieran Cotter from the Baltimore Lifeboat after 45 years of distinguished service put the focus on a remarkable individual who combines a busy life afloat with solid community and commercial activity ashore, thereby playing a key role in the building of Baltimore’s prosperity and vitality.

His lifeboat service, as revealed here is probably unrivalled in its variety, and it’s certainly no exaggeration to say that he is one of Ireland’s best-known lifeboatmen.

His contribution has been augmented by his keen awareness of the lifeboat’s larger role in every aspect of an enthusiastic maritime community like Baltimore, and it was during his time as cox’n that the Baltimore Lifeboat sent forth a racing crew which sailed to second place overall in the Inter-services Racing for the Beaufort Cup in Cork Week at Crosshaven.

JANUARY (INTERNATIONAL)

BILL O’HARA

Busy man afloat and ashore. Bill O'Hara, Principal Race Officer, before the start of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean RaceBusy man afloat and ashore. Bill O'Hara, Principal Race Officer, before the start of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race

When the New Year was ushered in, the announcement that Bill O’Hara of Bangor had been awarded the OBE for Services to Sailing was a cause of special pleasure in the sailing community, not just in Ireland but worldwide. Our report at the time highlighted his multiple achievements in many areas, from Olympic participation to being Principal Race Officer for the Volvo Ocean Race, and particularly revealed his international status and unrivalled abilities across a wide spectrum of sailing life.

Yet even with his high profile, Bill O’Hara is also a quiet and effective worker behind-the-scenes on behalf of sailing and sailors, a doer of good works by stealth. Thus while we’re honouring him as a major international figure, we’re reminding everyone that here is a sailor of quietly profound depths who plays a key role in our sport worldwide. 

FEBRUARY

MAIRE BREATHNACH

Maire Breathnach aboard Annabel J off the Kerry coastMaire Breathnach aboard Annabel J off the Kerry coast

The pandemic lockdowns divided the sailing world into those who complained constantly about all restrictions and did little or nothing, and those who made the best of what was permissible. Maire Breathnach and her husband Andrew Wilkes, with their challenging but rewarding 64ft steel-built gaff cutter Annabel J of 1996 vintage, had a busy 2020, with a planned voyage from Waterford to South America – which, like North America, they circumnavigated on a previous cruise – being temporarily curtailed in the Canaries with the need to replace part of their wooden mainmast. Lockdown arrived, they endured it in extremely restricted circumstances for two month, and then as some local sailing became possible, they cruised the Canaries in detail.

Meanwhile, as Honorary Editor of the Irish Cruising Club Annual, Maire inspired her fellow members to make a special effort and produce “Narratives of Nostalgia” if they hadn’t managed a cruise of some sort. The result was an eclectic production, one of the most interesting ICC Annuals of modern times. And at the ICC Virtual AGM in February, Maire was awarded the ICC’s Rockabill Trophy for seamanship in recognition of the competent way in which she and Andrew had dealt with the demands of mast and rigging problems at sea, with just the two of them on a hefty ship which could handily carry a crew of six.

MARCH

ROBERT DICKSON & SEAN WADDILOVE

The magic moment at Vilamoura on March 26th – Sean Waddilove (left) and Robert Dickson have just secured a 49er place for Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics in JulyThe magic moment at Vilamoura on March 26th – Sean Waddilove (left) and Robert Dickson have just secured a 49er place for Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics in July

It says everything about the quality of the of the Dickson-Waddilove team’s securing of the Tokyo Olympics 49er place, that it not only sent the spirits of the Irish sailing community soaring skywards, but in these difficult times, it helped to raise the mood of the nation generally.

The inspiration has been heightened by knowing that the path of the “Flying Fingallions” to a Tokyo place has been specially challenging. They’d a carefully planned route towards a serious challenge for a full Olympic challenge in 2024. But their unexpected yet convincing victory in the U23 Worlds in September 2018 saw a re-alignment of objectives, with a new programme towards Tokyo which was in turn upset by the Pandemic-induced year’s delay in the 2020 Olympics.

It became a continuous character-testing situation in which the two seemed to find new reserves of mindset and performance which, in the final week of March in Portugal, produced a showing which went far beyond the minimum required, and was rounded out by a victorious showing in the Medal Race.

APRIL

JACK O’KEEFFE

Jack O'Keeffe's election as Chairman of the globally-spread Drascombe Association has highlighted the extensive voluntary work of someone who normally functions under the radarJack O'Keeffe's election as Chairman of the globally-spread Drascombe Association has highlighted the extensive voluntary work of someone who normally functions under the radar

There are many organisations in Ireland’s varied maritime life which don’t need a high profile to do good and useful work by stealth, and you’ll find Jack O’Keeffe of Carrigaline in Cork is involved with several of them. But his recent election as Chairman for two years of the internationally-operating Drascombe Association has inevitably raised his profile, and drawn fresh attention to a range of characterful little boats which almost defy categorisation.

Yet they’re undoubtedly multi-purpose, for although their ease of trailering is one of their key feature, several have made transoceanic cruises, while others have ventured – often in small lightly-organised groups – far into hidden rivers that more orthodox cruising boats can’t reach.

The flexibility of the Drascombes’ way of doing things meant that in the stop-start times of pandemic-plagued 2020, they probably managed a better cruising season than most other boat types. And Jack O’Keeffe’s willingness to take on the mantle of pre-research and organization while leading by example makes him a very worthy “Sailor of the Month”. 

APRIL SOM (ENVIRONMENTAL)

JIMMY MURRAY

The Irish Nautical Trust may have been functioning for years, but Jimmy Murray's enthusiasm is unabatedThe Irish Nautical Trust may have been functioning for years, but Jimmy Murray's enthusiasm is unabated

Jimmy Murray, Director of the Irish Nautical Trust in Dublin, is our “Sailor of the Month” for April in the Environmental category for the key role he played in the commissioning of the purpose-built Liffey Sweeper, which appropriately made its debut with the backing of Dublin Port on Earth Day, Thursday April 22nd.

The well-established Irish Nautical Trust has been active for years in bringing the port and the young people of the city together in various projects. But the innovative concept of the marine-debris-gathering Liffey Sweeper has captured public imagination in a special way by pressing all the right buttons regarding many contemporary environmental concerns.

Working with leading waste-recycling companies, the Sweeper is operating in the Liffey from Butt Bridge seawards, and will also gather rubbish in the Dodder and the Tolka Estuary. With the busy City of Dublin and the highly active Dublin Port located cheek-by-jowl with an Internationally-Recognised Biosphere, the value of the work being done by Jimmy Murray and his young crews simply cannot be over-estimated. 

MAY

JOHN MINNIS

John Minnis, successful First 31.7 campaigner in Irish and Scottish watersJohn Minnis, successful First 31.7 campaigner in Irish and Scottish waters

Despite continuing pandemic restrictions, there was a feeling that something resembling a sailing season was getting under way with the victory of John Minnis of Belfast Lough with his First 31.7 Final Call in the Scottish Series in the final weekend of May.

Skipper Minnis and his keen crew are no strangers to being in the frame both in First 31.7 and handicap racing. But it took a special level of enthusiasm for a flotilla of cruiser-racers from Belfast and Strangford Loughs to cross the North Channel for a very controlled Scottish Series, in which the racing was certainly real and officially recognised, but just about everything else was virtual and socially distanced, with three different venues being used in the eastern Firth of Clyde.

Thus it wasn’t felt appropriate to declare an overall winner, but had they done so, Final Call’s very impressive scorecard and clear class win would have made her the favoured contender for the top title. And she confirmed her “top boat” status in July when she came south for the First 31.7 Nationals in Dublin Bay, and won by an extremely convincing margin. 

JUNE SOM (SENIOR) 

SEAN CRAIG

Sean Craig at Laser racing – he puts even more into sailing than he takes from itSean Craig at Laser racing – he puts even more into sailing than he takes from it

Laser ace Sean Craig has been on top form in June. In addition to his usual input into racing and sailing administration, he’s in the frame in both the two Laser local weekly series currently being staged by DBSC. Meanwhile, at national level, he retained the Laser Masters Radial title at his home club of Royal St George in mid-June from a record fleet, and then in the final weekend of June in brisk conditions at Whitehead on Belfast Lough, he became the winner of the Laser Radial Ulster Championship hosted by County Antrim YC, the oldest winner (at 57) of any open Laser regional event in Ireland. 

JUNE SOM (OFFSHORE)

MURPHY FAMILY & NIEULARGO

The Nieulargo crew before the start of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race were (front row, left to right) Molly Murphy, James Fagan, Clive O'Shea and Ian Heffernan, and back row (left to right) Harry Durcan, Nin O'Leary, Brian Matthews, Annamarie Fegan Murphy, Mia Murphy and Denis MurphyThe Nieulargo crew before the start of the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race were (front row, left to right) Molly Murphy, James Fagan, Clive O'Shea and Ian Heffernan, and back row (left to right) Harry Durcan, Nin O'Leary, Brian Matthews, Annamarie Fegan Murphy, Mia Murphy and Denis Murphy

Time was that if a victorious Royal Cork YC vessel returned after “success abroad”, she received a nine-gun salute on arrival from the Club battery. Even though we live in more noise-conscious times, the RCYC can still wheel out a five gun salute when appropriate, but it is used very sparingly. However, on the sunny evening of Monday, June 15th when the Murphy family’s Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo returned to Crosser fresh from a brilliant overall win in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race, she got the full and richly-deserved treatment from Admiral Colin Morehead and his members. And though offshore racing is the boat and crew’s speciality, subsequently in the more inshore conditions of the Sovereigns Cup Coastal Division at Kinsale, Nieulargo was still right in the picture to place second overall, making for a remarkably well-balanced month of achievement which was extended well into Autumn when she was declared the ICRA Boat of the Year after winning her class in the RCYC Autumn League.

JUNE SOM (JUNIOR)

ROCCO WRIGHT

Rocco Wright gets himself into a race lead in the Optimist Worlds 2021Rocco Wright gets himself into a race lead in the Optimist Worlds 2021

As the Optimist Worlds got into their stride on Lake Garda in the first week of June, they found Howth’s Rocco Wright to be the target helm, as his countdown to the big one had been wellnigh perfect. Previously he’d taken Bronze in the Meringa Cup series on the lake, and then in the big one in a fleet of nearly 300 boats from 31 nations with Lake Garda in fine sailing form, he won overall by an astonishing nine points, convincingly making him Ireland’s outstanding junior sailor in June. This star position was to be further augmented in September, when he won the All-Ireland Junior Championship in Schull

SOM JUNE (INSHORE)

MIKE & RICHIE EVANS

Staying ahead of the pack – Sovereigns Cup Winner 2021 Snapshot (J/99, Mike & Richie Evans) breezing along in style ahead of the hunting mob of J109s at KinsalStaying ahead of the pack – Sovereigns Cup Winner 2021 Snapshot (J/99, Mike & Richie Evans) breezing along in style ahead of the hunting mob of J109s at Kinsale Photo: Bob Bateman

When the Irish J/109s hunt as a pack – as nine of them did at the Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale – there’s blood in the air, and anyone racing a brand new J/99 against such a mob will naturally feel vulnerable. But former Classic Half Ton Racers Mike & Richie Evans of Howth kept their cool with their fresh-out-of-the-box J/99 Snapshot. With talents of the calibre of Laura Dillon, Des Flood and Graham Curran on the strength, they were so game for the challenge that they emerged at the regatta’s conclusion as outright winners of the hyper-hot IRC 1, and the new holders of the overall trophy – the Sovereigns Cup - for good measure.

JULY SOM

EVE MCMAHON

Eve McMahon - star quality shone through in true champion's style at the Laser Radial Youth Worlds in ItalyEve McMahon - star quality shone through in true champion's style at the Laser Radial Youth Worlds in Italy

It says everything about Eve McMahon’s big-fleet sailing skills that she emerged as the clear winner of the Laser Youth Worlds Girls Division on Lake Garda on Saturday, July 31st with a generally consistent scoreline which would have done credit to a mature and seasoned campaigner in a senior event. Yet it was difficult for her to keep the head down and work quietly but steadily towards gaining, maintaining, losing and then regaining the overall lead, as her every movement in a boat speaks eloquently of sailing genius. This inevitably made her the target helm for the rest of the remarkably international fleet, but in the end her star quality shone through in true champion’s style. Then in December, she maintained her position as one of global sailing’s top juniors with a fourth overall in the Youth Worlds in Oman.

JULY SOM (SERVICES TO SAILING)

HAL SISK & FIONAN DE BARRA

The DB21 Naneen arrives in Kilrush in 2016 pre-restoration, with (left to right) Fionan de Barra, boatbuilder Steve Morris, designer Paul Spooner, and Hal Sisk

The restoration of all seven original Dublin Bay 21ft One-Designs (the oldest of them date from 1903) is still work in progress. But a major milestone in the process - the Cape Horn of a unique voyage – was safely put astern on Friday July 30th, when the first three superbly-restored boats sailed back into Dun Laoghaire after an absence of 35 years. Many craftsmen have been involved in this - most notably Steve Morris and his team at Kilrush Boatyard - but none of it would have happened without the undying belief of Fionan de Barra in the value of the project and its meaning for Dun Laoghaire and its maritime community, combined with the inspired support of Hal Sisk in fulfilling a vision which is a great service to sailing not only in Dublin Bay, but nationally and internationally as well. 

AUGUST SOM (OFFSHORE)

RONAN O SIOCHRU & THE CREW OF DESERT STAR

The crew of Desert Star, with the Fastnet finish approaching, buoyed up with success if red-eyed with exhaustionThe crew of Desert Star, with the Fastnet finish approaching, buoyed up with success if red-eyed with exhaustion

When a sailing school boat of a certain maturity starts to show consistently well in open competition in the decidedly challenging Rolex Fastnet Race, people start to take notice. And as the new-style and longer Fastnet Race of 2021 progressed, that attention increasingly focused on Irish Offshore Sailing of Dun Laoghaire’s Sunfast 37 Desert Star. She was skippered by Ronan O Siochru (RStGYC) with Conor Totterdell (NYC) as his right-hand man, but otherwise crewed by keen-to-learn sailors of limited offshore experience but boundless enthusiasm

With such a setup, the watching pundits expected that Desert Star would soon drop out of her position in the top three in Class 4, and would probably be in double figures by the time she’d negotiated the final difficult approach to the finish. But far from faltering, she never put a tactical foot wrong, and in Cherbourg she was just ten minutes short of winning Class IV overall. As it was, second in one of the biggest classes and 14th overall was a sensational performance, and her entire crew share our Sailors of the Month (Offshore) award for 2021.

AUGUST SOM (INSHORE)

JOHN LAVERY & ALAN GREEN

Serial champions – John Lavery and Alan Green with some of their latest haul. Alan Green has crewed to victory in at least five major Flying Fifteen championships with five different skippersSerial champions – John Lavery and Alan Green with some of their latest haul. Alan Green has crewed to victory in at least five major Flying Fifteen championships with five different skippers

The efficiently-organised Flying Fifteens are Ireland’s largest One-Design keelboat class, and despite the pandemic, they have managed to stage regulation-compliant National Championships in 2020 and 2021, at Dunmore East and on Strangford Lough respectively. With former world champions and Olympic sailors from several classes among their current members, F/F sailing provides intense competition even when numbers are limited. Thus it has been remarkable that these two National Championships have been won by veteran skipper John Lavery, with Alan Green as his crew in both Dunmore East and Whiterock.

In a long sailing career which began in Optimists at the National Yacht Club in 1967, John Lavery has failed in only one thing. Despite a couple of announcements that he is permanently hanging up his sailing boots, he hasn’t. He has been enticed back with a boat called Phoenix or maybe ffoenix, and his scorecard on Strangford Lough in tricky conditions to take a 16 point overall shows that his sailing has lost none of its magic.

SEPTEMBER (OFFSHORE)

TOM DOLAN

Tom Dolan and Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan have clear air and are on their way to first at the Fastnet RockTom Dolan and Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan have clear air and are on their way to first at the Fastnet Rock

The exceptionally-demanding final 642-mile stage of La Solitaire du Figaro 2021 took the 34-strong fleet from Morlaix in Brittany northwest round the Fastnet Rock, and then southeast to the finish at Saint-Nazaire on France’s Biscay Coast. After three frustrating stages, it was as though Ireland’s Tom Dolan on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan had been completely re-born as a solo sailor. He was first at the Fastnet, and while no-one could have staved off the multiple challenges from the chasing fleet in the flukey conditions, he still secured a podium place to take the bronze at the finish in a brilliant comeback.

SEPTEMBER (INSHORE)

CHARLIE CULLEN

Leave 'em gasping….." Charlie Cullen in full-on Waszp-racing concentrationLeave 'em gasping….." Charlie Cullen in full-on Waszp-racing concentration

A veteran of foil sailing at just 19, Charlie Cullen of the Royal St George YC has been cutting an increasingly impressive furrow through Waszp racing in 2021 as the national and international programme resumes. He reached new heights in the SailGP series in Saint-Tropez in mid-September to take silver, providing him with his fourth podium place in the majors of the current season (including European U20 and Slalom Championships), and further up-grading expectations for his continuing progress in the sharpest area of sailing. 

SOM OCTOBER

GER OWENS

In for the long haul - the multi-talented Ger OwensIn for the long haul - the multi-talented Ger Owens Photo: Bob Bateman

While some helms have won the All-Ireland Championship two or even three times within a relatively short time-span, none can match the Royal St George YC”s Ger Owens’ unique achievement of having a 21-year-gap between his two victories. He was a rising star when he first took it in 2000, having won the Juniors in 1996 & 1998. And with today’s greatly increased longevity, he still is a rising star. Most of his achievements in recent years have been in the GP 14s, but he has proven more than able in several classes Thus when the All-Ireland 2021 was staged in National 18s in Crosshaven at the beginning of October, he was soon at home in the class, taking the overall win in the Championship of Champions despite a trio of longtime National 18 sailors being in the line-up against him.

SOM OCTOBER (TEAM RACING)

JACK FAHY

Young sailors, old port……Inter-varsity team-racing off King John's castle at the historic port of CarlingfordYoung sailors, old port……Inter-varsity team-racing off King John's castle at the historic port of Carlingford

When 144 sailors descend on a club like the hospitable but relatively small (numerically-speaking) Carlingford Sailing Club for a festival of team racing, the pressure is on, both afloat and ashore. That pressure is in no way lessened by the 24 teams being drawn from nine universities all over Ireland.

All six members of the winning team have to keep their cool to make it to the top. But the pressure for this is most challenging on the winning team captain, and in October’s highlight of the 2021 Irish Universities Eastern Championship, it was a University College Dublin team captained by Jack Fahy, which took the trophy.

SOM OCTOBER (JUNIOR)

RIAN COLLINS

Rian Collins – his scoreline in the Youth Nationals was 1,1,2, 4,2,1, (11)Rian Collins – his scoreline in the Youth Nationals was 1,1,2, 4,2,1, (11)

Young Rian Collins of Royal Cork YC has been cutting a swathe through Irish Topper racing in 2021, maintaining the special reputation of an extended family long associated with Crosshaven sailing and success. He concluded his campaigning on a high in the 38-strong Topper class (the largest and most all-Ireland fleet racing) in the weekend’s Irish Youth Championship at his home port, recording a very clearcut 12 point overall lead. 

SOM NOVEMBER (OLYMPIC)

FINN LYNCH

From despair to delight – Finn Lynch made November into summer

As 2021 drew to a close, the Irish sailing community learned yet again that there’s nothing like a major international success by one of our own to brighten the dark days of November. And when that success comes to a popular sailor who has been enduring the seemingly endless frustration of a performance drought, it’s like the sun has come out with mid-summer vigour.

Olympian Finn Lynch of the National YC brightened all our days by getting on the podium with a solid second overall at the big-fleet ILCA Worlds in Barcelona in the depths of November. His resilience in doing so was fulsomely praised by a panel of experienced sailors, who know only too well the depths of solitary despair which can be experienced by formerly successful solo campaigners who seem to have become lost in a wasteland of setbacks. With a mighty leap, our hero had freed himself. And November was transformed.

SOM NOVEMBER (TEAM RACING)

NIAMH HENRY

Former 420 Champion Niamh Henry (pictured above with crew Max Pocock) has successfully transferred her sailing skills to Team RacingFormer 420 Champion Niamh Henry (pictured above with crew Max Pocock) has successfully transferred her sailing skills to Team Racing

Team Racing makes for great sailing sport, and is unrivalled in its effectiveness in honing close-quarters boat-handling skills. But it’s an especially unforgiving type of contest, for although everyone is mutually reliant for success, at the very end it can often come down completey to the relative individual showing of one helm at the tail end of the final race.

Niamh Henry of Royal St George YC, sailing for Technical University Dublin in the maelstrom of the Irish Team Racing Championship at Royal Cork in Crosshaven, found herself in this unsought yet key role. Despite capsizes being part of a volatile mix in the final, she kept her cool to maintain a two boat lead over her Baltimore SC rival to produce a tied 4 points apiece finish, but with TUD on track to win the tie break and the title.

It may have looked chaotic to a casual observer. But right at the heart of it, Niamh Henry knew precisely what was needed to carry the day, and she did it.

SOM DECEMBER (INSHORE)

MARK HASSETT

Match Racing Champion Mark Hassett with his crew of Adam Hyland (left) and Robbie EnglishMatch Racing Champion Mark Hassett with his crew of Adam Hyland (left) and Robbie English

The National Yacht Club’s flotilla of Elliott 6M match-racing boats came into their own early in December, when the club staged its inaugural Invitational Match Racing Series, successfully drawing in competition from near and far to bring together a highly competitive lineup, including National Champions and Olympic sailors.

But at the end of a very busy day’s racing with something of the Dawn Patrol about its start after adverse weather on the Saturday forced the compression of a planned two day championship into one, the four helms who proceeded to the semi-finals were Mark Hassett, Brendan Lyden, Tom Fitzpatrick and Seafra Guilfoyle, making for a fairly even spread between Cork and Dublin.

However, the final was all West Cork, Lyden versus Hassett, with the latter starting well with a win. But in Race 2 he was off the pace until his crew of Adam Hyland and Robbie English obliged with a very smart spinnaker gybe set at the weather mark which enabled him to zip into a better breeze in mid-harbour to take the title and become a Sailor of the Month in 2021’s last month of all. 

SOM DECEMBER (OFFSHORE)

CONOR HAUGHEY

Dedicated long-distance sailor Conor Haughey took nights at sea as they came to win Line Honours in the 2021 ARC +Dedicated long-distance sailor Conor Haughey took nights at sea as they came to win Line Honours in the 2021 ARC +

Conor Haughey of Malahide admits to an addiction. It’s to salt water, and long-distance voyaging. But though he has made several transoceanic passages, it wasn’t until he bought the comfortable yet swift Moody 54DS Hibernian that he reckoned he could take on the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) from the Canaries to the Caribbean in a reasonably competitive style, while continuing to be crewed by friends.

They elected to do the ARC +, the two stage version which takes in a stop at the Cape Verde islands, and it was the second stage from the Cape Verdes to Grenada that saw Hibernian confirm her position as one of the flyers in the fleet. She swept in to the finish ahead of expected time on December 3rd to take Line Honours in Class and in the Cruising Division, neatly ahead of an impressive fleet which included a notable number of much larger craft.  

SOM DECEMBER (INTERNATIONAL)

GORDON MAGUIRE

Gordon Maguire with the Tattersall Cup in Hobart on Friday December 31st 2021 – his fifth win of it, with the first in 1991Gordon Maguire with the Tattersall Cup in Hobart on Friday December 31st 2021 – his fifth win of it, with the first in 1991

A fifth win on December 30th 2021 of the annual Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race’s prized Tattersall Cup for overall victory – with the most recent successes being three in a row with Matt Allen’s TP52 Ichi Ban – saw ex-Pat Howth sailor Gordon Maguire confirming his position as one of Australia and the world’s most accomplished offshore racer.

His apparently easy-going demeanour disguises a will of steel when it comes to getting the best performance out of a boat, such that he is renowned for instinctively sensing the slightest change in wind conditions a nano-second before the electronic instruments give their first indications.

He sailed the 2021 Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race with the added emotions of having mourned - along with all the Irish sailing community -  the death a fortnight earlier at the age of 95 of his much-loved father Neville, an equally accomplished sailor. This made the 2021 win  - coming as it does a clear 30 years after his first Sydney-Hobart race overall victory – something very special indeed.  

Sailor of the Year Voting 2021

As in previous years, the boating public and maritime community can have their say to help guide judges in deciding who should be crowned Ireland's Sailor of the Year for 2021 by using our online poll.

The judges welcome the traditional huge level of public interest in helping them make their decision but firmly retain their right to make the ultimate decision for the final choice while taking voting trends into account.

Please note: One vote per person. Your vote DOES NOT necessarily determine the overall winner.

The national award is specially designed to salute the achievements of Ireland's sailing's elite. After more than 25 years in existence, the awards has developed into a premier awards ceremony for water sports.

The overall national award will be presented to the person who, in the judges' opinion, achieved the most notable results in, or made the most significant contribution to, Irish sailing during 2021.

By supporting your favourite nominee you are creating additional awareness of their nomination and highlighting their success.

Voting online is open to public view from Monday, January 3 until Sunday, January 30th 2021.

CLICK THE LINK ON EACH SAILORS' NAME TO READ THEIR ACHIEVEMENT FROM 2021 AND VOTE FOR YOUR SAILOR in the right-hand column (on desktop machines) and below on tablet and mobile.

ABOUT THE AFLOAT.IE SAILOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

Created in 1996, the Afloat Sailor of the Year Awards represent all that is praiseworthy, innovative and groundbreaking in the Irish sailing scene.

Since it began over 25 years ago the awards have recognised nearly 500 monthly award winners in the pages of Ireland's sailing magazine Afloat and these have been made to both amateur and professional sailors. The first-ever sailor of the year was dinghy sailor Mark Lyttle, a race winner at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

The judges' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

Email The Author

William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago

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W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
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