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Eve McMahon is Irish Sailor of the Year 2021

5th February 2022
New “Sailor of the Year” Eve McMahon finding her way at speed through the spray of Lake Garda in July, en route to the World Title
New “Sailor of the Year” Eve McMahon finding her way at speed through the spray of Lake Garda in July, en route to the World Title

Eve McMahon of Howth Yacht Club, the Golden Girl of the international ILCA Classes, is Afloat.ie “Irish Sailor of the Year” for 2021, deservedly following an honoured track set over many years by Ireland’s legends in the sport.

Such elevation inevitably results in the top sailor seeming to function on a different level to the rest of us. And certainly, the 18-year-old’s international programme through 2021 was mind-boggling, made even more challenging by the frustrations of complying with pandemic regulations and restrictions in a situation made yet more demanding by the fact that some events were cancelled with relatively little notice, while others were put in place with only the briefest of run-in times.

Ten years hence, in looking back at her achievements through 2021, most of us will have long since forgotten that what looks like a smooth progression was at the time a potentially stressful process of constantly dealing with unexpected international travel and training problems. Problems of logistics and long delays and other hassle, problems where in times past a smooth travel transit was considered essential to approaching a major event in the right frame of mind.

The tension lifts at last…..new champion Eve McMahon (left) celebrates with team mate Ellie Cunnane on Lake Garda. Photo: Vasilij ZbogarThe tension lifts at last…..new champion Eve McMahon (left) celebrates with team mate Ellie Cunnane on Lake Garda. Photo: Vasilij Zbogar

Yet throughout it all Eve stayed the course and faced the competition with such composure that even in the darkest hours, there might be flashes of gallant humour. And her already substantial fan-base was enlarged even further by the fact that she seems to enjoy her sailing more than ever.

She showed herself to be both a stellar sailor and yet still one of us - as freshly keen as any tyro club sailor - by turning out for the first post-Christmas major of the approaching new year, the DMYC Viking Marine Christmas Cracker race in Dun Laoghaire on December 27th. Needless to say, she won, her last victory in 2021 to round out an impressive litany of success. But the fact that she wanted some sports fun afloat in the depths of winter was what most impressed.

At its peak, 2021 was winning the Gold Medal at the Laser Youth Worlds on Lake Garda on July, which made her clearly our July “Sailor of the Month”. As European sailing learned to live with the pandemic, Lake Garda emerged as a central location where restriction-compliant events could be staged with a minimum of fuss.

Nevertheless its situation makes for an extra challenge for sailors from more distant locations like Ireland, for despite its international status, Garda is very much at the heart of Italian sailing. Thus the more astute visiting sailors quickly realize that they’re – how shall we say? - playing a double game, a game which becomes even more complex as the conclusion approaches, and very challenging indeed if you’re within sight of a Golden Medal against local competition.

When it all became official – winner Eve McMahon at centre with runner-up Anja Von Allmen of Switzerland and third-placed Sara Savelli of Italy.When it all became official – winner Eve McMahon at centre with runner-up Anja Von Allmen of Switzerland and third-placed Sara Savelli of Italy.

Thus an amiable person such as Eve McMahon has to be one very street-smart sailor. Yet she realises that it is dogged application as much as sailing skills and strategic thinking at genius level which brings success, and with it there’s a demanding training programme into which she has somehow had to fit a continuing virtual series of courses with the Institute of Education in Dublin, in order to keep her life progress in contact with more mundane everyday realities.

While the Lake Garda Gold was the highlight of her 2021 season, there were many other international successes achieved to ensure that she is now the highest-ranked Irish female in the Star Sailors League, she has, of course, secured Sport Ireland Carding, and has been awarded a Paris 2024 Olympic Solidarity Scholarship from Sport Ireland.

So it’s onwards and upwards for Eve McMahon, sustained and supported in her efforts by one of Ireland's most remarkable sailing families. It’s highly likely that the best is yet to come. But for now, managing to achieve a sailing year of this standard through the pandemic problems of 2021 was truly exceptional, providing Ireland with an outstanding new Sailor of the Year.

Irish Sailor of the Year Award: Created in 1996 by Afloat, the awards represent all that is praiseworthy, innovative and groundbreaking in the Irish sailing scene. The national awards have recognised over 500 monthly award winners in the pages of Ireland's sailing magazine Afloat and these have been made to both amateur and professional sailors. 

WM Nixon

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WM Nixon

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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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