Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Kinsale’s Pace-Setting In Nurturing Ireland’s Young Sailing Talent

10th September 2022
Some Irish coastal towns almost ignore it. Others simply face it. But Kinsale embraces the sea
Some Irish coastal towns almost ignore it. Others simply face it. But Kinsale embraces the sea

Where other Irish harbours face the sea, Kinsale embraces it. And this generous geographical reality helps to provide a genuine sense of community interaction when any initiative at the hospitable south Cork port is put together to help get young people enthusiastically interested in boats and sailing.

But it’s a complex challenge. At a national level, this mixed though largely successful sailing year of 2022 has been remarkable for the emergence and rise of youthful Irish sailing talent, a situation which is as problematic as it is encouraging. It’s encouraging because in addition to enlivening the current scene, it bodes well for the future of our sport. But it is problematic in being a matter of continual judgment as to when an individual young sailor, or team of young sailors, should be highlighted – and to what level - in their growing achievements and potential.

It’s very easy to say that any publicity, if at all, should be kept very low-key until age 17. The simple ranking of ability, potential and maturity by something as narrowly-focused as the particular individual’s chronological age is now seen as almost embarrassingly unsophisticated, in an era when so many other measurable factors can be taken into account in a meaningful way.

 Reports and images of sailing children – however mature they may personally be – has always been problematic, yet this photo of Ireland’s Rocco Wright aged 12 has long since gone global. Photo: North Sails  Reports and images of sailing children – however mature they may personally be – has always been problematic, yet this photo of Ireland’s Rocco Wright aged 12 has long since gone global. Photo: North Sails 

Yet those who are trying to grapple with the big picture will inevitably find the number of statistics they deploy needs to get reduced to the basics, and in reporting and applauding junior achievement in Afloat.ie, we try to be restrained until the young star reaches the age of 17, and even then it is hoped to be moderate with publicity until they’re in their early 20s and evidently maturing well. 

STAR SHOWINGS NOWADAYS WILL BURST OUT ON SOCIAL MEDIA, NO MATTER HOW YOUNG THE PERFORMER

But there are some young sailors who manifest their talent at international level at such a young age that the good news keeps bursting out, however much the well-intentioned authorities, managers, coaches, parents and responsible communicators try to keep it under control. In the age of social media, rising stars not even into their teens are widely acknowledged in sailing as in other sports, becoming sources of too much interest before reaching the difficult years between 13 and 17 – and beyond – when so many factors for adult success and fulfilment are being set in place.

 The International 420 is internationally significant as a youth class, yet it often presents problems for reporters as the young sailors will be at their most formative and malleable stage The International 420 is internationally significant as a youth class, yet it often presents problems for reporters as the young sailors will be at their most formative and malleable stage

We all know of cases where the bright early light of potential talent has been allowed to burn so strongly that it soon burns itself out. But equally, we can all remember nascent but initially, low-wattage talents which might – just might – have burned increasingly brightly over time to reach their full potential, had there been the right environment of the optimal amounts of publicity, practical encouragement, and tangible support.

But all this is in the assumption that a significant proportion of up-and-coming young sailors – and their parents - aspire to a career ladder which will take them onwards and upwards to the demands of top-level international competition and the concentrated effort of high-performance training, thereby satisfying national sporting authorities, for whom a steady stream of successful international headline-grabbing talent is essential for their added income from public funds.

For in the final analysis, all that decision-making politicos with budgets to spend will really understand in sporting achievement is a gold, silver or bronze medal, and preferably in the Olympics, though a razzmatazz-filled World Championship title will do in the interim. 

CLUB SAILORS THE BACKBONE OF OUR SPORT

Facing this noisy reality, we must remember that, increasingly, people are inclining to life at a more civilised level, with several sporting and recreational interests. And the backbone of Irish sailing is the club sailor who may aim at the occasional regional and national championship, but does not wish to sign up to a total all-consuming commitment on course to the highest level. They aspire instead to have sailing as part of a balanced and sensible lifestyle, ultimately with family at the heart of it.

 Squib Class action at Kinsale. The family-friendly Squib successfully lends itself to worthwhile club racing and major championships without straying into the demanding realms of extreme commitment and total dedication Squib Class action at Kinsale. The family-friendly Squib successfully lends itself to worthwhile club racing and major championships without straying into the demanding realms of extreme commitment and total dedication

But nevertheless, there is a substantial area of interest and activity between the quietly routine life of club sailing and the all-absorbing demands of Olympian and other high-level life-consuming international ambitions. And we’ve been seeing much of that in Ireland this year with the National, Continental and World championships of classes which have managed to avoid the Olympic stranglehold, yet can still offer their members a complete suite of competition levels, from club racing to quite intense international contests, while keeping publicity and demanding expectations of the national squad’s performance within reasonable limits. 

THE ACTIVE AREA BETWEEN BASIC CLUB SAILING AND TOP-LEVEL COMPETITION

The classic case in point is the J/24, which you realize really is a unique proposition when one of their major championships comes to town. They don’t fit comfortably into any category, and they need a committed crew of five. Yet they have a devoted following worldwide, typified at the recent Euros in Howth by Germany’s Stefan Karsunke, who placed fifth overall with a crew of friends who have been happily sailing together for more than twenty years.

A boat and a sports level for all ages – the first race of the J/24 Euros 2022 at Howth is led by Seattle’s Admiral Denny Vaughan (USN, Retd), aged 83. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyA boat and a sports level for all ages – the first race of the J/24 Euros 2022 at Howth is led by Seattle’s Admiral Denny Vaughan (USN, Retd), aged 83. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

In Ireland, it’s some years now since the then ICRA Commodore Nobby Reilly proposed the establishment of a programme to encourage and support Under 25s into J/24 racing as an identifiable group. At the time, some thought that pitching the upper age limit at 25 was putting it a bit high – surely any real talent would have clearly manifested itself long before that? But as it happens, the peculiarities of economic realities in recent years have put young people at a disadvantage in hoping to mount their own campaigns, and that U25 ceiling seems more appropriate than ever.

J/24 U25 SCHEME HAS HAD VARIED LEVELS OF SUCCESS

The idea has been successful in several clubs, albeit somewhat unevenly, and for the last three years an outstanding product of the scheme has been the Headcase campaigns, where a crew – some now past 25 - from four different clubs in three Provinces have stayed together to campaign in Karsunke style.

It’s a setup which can only work with a high level of commitment from at least five young sailors. But last October a group was inaugurated in Kinsale, with Mikey Carroll as Team Captain, and former KYC Commodore Dave Sullivan as Mentor was inaugurated, though it was February 2022 by the time they’d secured a boat and had it all up and running.

The dream comes true – the “Kids from Kinsale” (right) successfully playing the Big Boys Game in some perfect racing weather at Howth. Photo: Christopher HowellThe dream comes true – the “Kids from Kinsale” (right) successfully playing the Big Boys Game in some perfect racing weather at Howth. Photo: Christopher Howell

But they were playing their cards very well indeed. For a start, they’d got themselves a gold standard boat. She may have been 31 years old, but she was the last J24 to be built by the great Jeremy Rogers of Lymington. As those of us who have had one will tell you, there are Jeremy Rogers boats. And there are “others”.

THE NAME “KINSAILOR” IS A STROKE OF GENIUS

A further stroke of genius was the choice of name. Failure is an orphan while success has many fathers, so it’s a moot point whom to praise. But whoever thought of calling the boat Kinsailor was a genius. For sure, if you’re naming a private boat for personal use, you can choose whichever whimsical name takes your fancy. But if you’re campaigning a community and club-supported boat with national and international effects in mind, a simple name which says everything in just one word is a pearl beyond price, and they have it here in spades.

The re-born Jeremy Rogers-built masterpiece is unleashed on the world in February 2022 with a real stroke of genius in the name.The re-born Jeremy Rogers-built masterpiece is unleashed on the world in February 2022 with a real stroke of genius in the name.

Certainly it hit the spot in Kinsale, and they soon had a strong crew panel in place to get training under way. But while there were some regional contests to start testing their mettle, Headcase was away on a trail of success through regattas in Germany and the UK, and it was the Nationals at Foynes at the end of July before the lines of battle were clearly drawn.

The Kinsailor crew of Mikey Carroll, Leslie Collins. Rachel Akerlind, Michael O’Suilleabhain and Jack O’Sullivan put in a solid performance, winning the U25 section and placing eighth overall in a star-studded fleet. But it still looked as if the Headcase team were in a world of their own.

However, that special Headcase world seemed a little less elevated in the Easterns at Howth in the weekend preceding the Worlds at the end of August. Headcase was right there nearly all the way with 1,1,(8.0),2,1 but Kinsailor dealt deftly with the strong opposition with a 2,(13),4.1,2.

FINDING TURBO POWER

Then they seemed to find an extra gear with additional turbo-charging in the Euros themselves, and it all came right down to the wire last Saturday. Kinsailor’s final scoreline of 21,2,6,(27), 5,11,3,12,4,2 says a lot. With ten races possible though with only one discard even with total completion, a 21st in the first race usefully took the focus off them. It meant some further races with much better scores had to be sailed before they were in the area of being a marked boat.

Nevertheless despite that real upset of a 27th in Race 4, they were still in the hunt for a podium place, but the permutations were so abstruse that we thought it would be tempting fate even to mention any distinct possibility of such a thing in Afloat.ie. For Headcase was right back in the hunt with two bullets on the Friday.

 Job done. The Kinnsailor team at Howth after sweeping to success in the final race in the Euros 2022 are (left to right) Mikey Carroll, Jack O’Sullivan, Leslie Collins, Francesca Lewis, Rory Carroll and Micheal O’Suilleabhain Job done. The Kinnsailor team at Howth after sweeping to success in the final race in the Euros 2022 are (left to right) Mikey Carroll, Jack O’Sullivan, Leslie Collins, Francesca Lewis, Rory Carroll and Micheal O’Suilleabhain

But last weekend was a magic time for Kinsale up in Dublin. Off Howth, Kinsailor rocketed through to take a second and leap into third overall just one point behind the tied first and second boats. And across in Dun Laoghaire, Cameron Good of Kinsale Dragon Class fame finally broke a club drought of many years to win the Dragon Nationals.

TEAM RACING PROGRAMME FOR TOWN’S TEENAGERS

Flushed with success at these double achievements firmly based in healthy club sailing, Kinsale Yacht Club is examining an initiative by Vice Commodore Anthony Scannell, together with Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre and Kinsale Community School, to develop a Team Racing Programme for Teenagers.

It is envisaged that up to six boats will be made available by KOEC who will provide training and safety boat cover. The boats will be stored in the dinghy park of KYC, and all participants will be students of KCS. It is the intention that training sessions would take place on Wednesday afternoons and some Saturdays.

Ultimately the success of such a worthwhile and genuinely community-based sailing project will be dependent on the goodwill and tangible support of ordinary Kinsale YC members. But the remarkable success of the Kinsailor campaign has amply demonstrated that as a group and a community within the Kinsale community, Kinsale’s club sailors really are the backbone of much good work. They’re an example to us all.

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.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

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

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2022

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating