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Jack Roy’s Huge Contribution To Sailing Was Only One Part Of An Exceptional Life

14th December 2021
“The quiet charm of a self-effacing Power Couple” – Rosemary and Jack Roy in Kinsale
“The quiet charm of a self-effacing Power Couple” – Rosemary and Jack Roy in Kinsale Credit: Robert Bateman

When we published a comprehensive overview of Jack Roy’s achievement-filled career ashore and afloat on 14th July 2017, it was in light of his recently-elected position as President of Irish Sailing. With someone who lived life a hundred per cent and beyond, this intriguing story naturally included some thoughts about his subsequent retirement plans. He was already formulating these with imaginative thoroughness and enjoyment, even if he was giving most of his readily-focused attention to his many interests and duties in the here and now in the summer of 2017.

For Jack Roy was the very embodiment of the old saying that if you want anything done, then ask a busy man to do it. And the thought that he has suddenly been taken from among us all too early at the age of 63 leaves us initially with a sense of numbness, and then the feeling of an enormous void in the pattern of Irish life.

It is something which is widely shared, for in the social restrictions of these pandemic times when frequent casual meetings are no longer part of everyday life, relatively few people were aware that Jack’s appearance had recently been showing signs of his battle with cancer. Though some outside his circle of family and close friends might have given a socially-distanced greeting to him across the marina or elsewhere, those who did meet him in this slightly remote way were more likely to appreciate his usual interested sociability than precise details of his appearance.

“Always ready to take a joke” – during a very challenging flukey wind pattern at the Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale, Race Officer Jack Roy takes a personal prize in the proper spirit at the evening awards ceremony. Photo: Robert Bateman“Always ready to take a joke” – during a very challenging flukey wind pattern at the Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale, Race Officer Jack Roy takes a personal prize in the proper spirit at the evening awards ceremony. Photo: Robert Bateman

That is how he would have liked it, for although any assessment of Jack and Rosemary Roy would indicate that they were a true Power Couple of the best sense of the term, they were a Power Couple in the most self-effacing and empathetic way. Thus while they inevitably had a very public profile both in sport and in business and in Irish life generally, they managed to keep their private life very private, and their thriving and very warm family life was private with it.

Beset as we are by the many and varied demands of the modern world, achieving such a healthily balanced existence could be an enormous challenge if one saw it as such. But Rosemary and Jack so perfectly complemented each other that they seemed to manage it effortlessly. It can’t have been effortless, but they would have regarded it as very bad manners to make any sort of song and dance about all that they had signed up to do.

Consequently, it was a wonder to many how such a busy couple were always there on time on summertime Thursday evenings to head the team organising the main Dublin Bay Sailing Club fixture, for it meant that in effect they were running a weekly regatta. In fact, Jack’s race-organising abilities took him to Olympic level and an international role, but in doing this he always kept himself firmly grounded at home through having at least one family boat on the go, and usually more if he reckoned he’d time on his hands. That said, if Jack Roy found he’d time on his hands which most folk would have thought appropriate for a well-deserved rest, he would quickly find something to do, such as restoring a near-derelict Squib.

He was a wonderful combination of strategic and tactical thinking, and straightforward practicality. For many years he was a successful stalwart of the Flying Fifteen fleet at the National Yacht Club, and former NYC Commodore Ronan Beirne fondly recalls Jack coming up with a beautiful solution to the challenge of getting the F/F fleet ashore with a minimum of fuss after a day’s racing. For it was Jack who came up with the idea of a compact winch-windlass and long line which brings the Flying Fifteens on their trailers seamlessly up the slipway and into their hard standing, a continuous process which is still very much in use today, and is much quicker than the hassle of individual craning.

There were giants in those days……Jack Roy presents the Presidential Award to the late Carmel Winkelmann of Dun Laoghaire to celebrate her Golden Jubilee of Services to sailingThere were giants in those days……Jack Roy presents the Presidential Award to the late Carmel Winkelmann of Dun Laoghaire to celebrate her Golden Jubilee of Services to sailing

On the administrative side, his breadth of interests and locations was reflected in his clubs, as he maintained his boyhood base with membership at Greystones Sailing Club, and showed his broadening of interests with membership of the National Yacht Club and the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, while his high summer focus was reflected in his membership of Kinsale YC, and his changing emphasis from all-out racing with occasional cruising to a growing enjoyment of cruising was structured with membership of the Irish Cruising Club.

This breadth of interest was reflected in his modus operandi in being President of Irish Sailing, when he made it his business to visit – preferably in his Halberg Rassy 48 cruiser – every club in Ireland. But whatever means of transport was used, he would readily go where and when invited, and Pierce Purcell of Galway recalls for Galway Bay SC fellow-members this outgoing and infectiously-enthusiastic approach:

“Sad news with the passing of Jack Roy, International Race Officer, former President of Irish Sailing and a thorough gentleman.

Rory Carberry and I served with him on the IS board and arranged a number of meetings in the west. And many of you will remember Jack arriving in Kilronan in the Aran Islands early one morning in 2019 for the start of WIORA, and then heading back to Dun Laoghaire to start the Volvo series all in the same day, and seemingly not a bother on him.

He was Guest of Honour at GBSC’s annual presentation of prizes and Laying Up Supper in 2019. Jack had become great friends over the years with Alan Crosbie of Kinsale and Peter Crowley of Crosshaven with their shared interest in serving sailing through first class race management, and their approach is highly respected throughout Ireland.

Jack’s roots were from a small club and he had the height of regard for the achievements of clubs like Galway, who are holding their own with much larger clubs. I’m personally devastated, and had been since recently learning of his illness. He was a pleasure to work with and someone who could relate to so much in sailing in Ireland.

At a family level, my sons Pierce Jnr and Mark worked with him all over the country, mark laying at regional, national and international events, and they would never want to miss a championship if Jack phoned and asked will we see you in Kinsale or Dun Laoghaire? He was their legend and kept the sailing family around the country, and additionally knew how important it was to keep in contact with clubs.”

Celebrating outstanding offshore racing success – President Jack Roy with Round Ireland and Beaufort Cup winner Commandant Barry Byrne of Wicklow with his wife, the interior designer Suzie McAdam.Celebrating outstanding offshore racing success – President Jack Roy with Round Ireland and Beaufort Cup winner Commandant Barry Byrne of Wicklow with his wife, the interior designer Suzie McAdam.

While Jack Roy could be the most relaxed, charming and entertaining company with a genuine interest in those with whom he was talking, there was always a background Jack Roy working out ways in which he could best handle an up-coming project. In line with this and through his extensive Swedish business connections, he had developed a dynamic relationship with Hallberg Rassy in order to cruise his HR 48 Tangaroa to the Baltic for a summer, and then lay up at Hallberg Rassy HQ for a complete refit to prepare the vessel for his and Rosemary’s long-planned retirement cruise.

But with the pandemic, it had to be deferred. And now, it is not to be. It says everything about Jack Roy’s special position in sailing in Ireland that we all feel the ending of that attractive personal project as a shared loss. Our most heartfelt sympathies are with Rosemary, daughters Suzi and Jill and extended family and those friends who are many, for she and Jack shared a wonderful gift of ready and real friendship.

Jack Roy’s funeral cortege will proceed past the Dun Laoghaire waterfront yacht clubs at approximately 1.15 pm tomorrow (Wednesday).

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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