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Friday 19 September 2014

Novice race crew hope for plain sailing

Published 22/06/2014 | 02:30

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SHIPSHAPE: The crew of 'Desert Star', a Jeanneau Sunfast 37 racing yacht, are undergoing intensive training to prepare for the gruelling Round Ireland event. Photo: Karol Tracz

ONE woman and six men who have hardly sailed before will take on the might of the wild Atlantic and the often treacherous Irish Sea, sharing a prison cell-sized cabin for six gruelling days.

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It promises to be one of the most intense experiences of their lives as they live, eat and sleep – in the 11m by 4m space.

In addition, they will be expected to survive on minimal sleep, battle the currents of the waters around the Irish coast and make tactical navigational decisions day and night.

Three bakers, one biochemist, two company owners and one industrial worker – most with little or no prior sailing experience – will take on one of the world's toughest sailing challenges from June 28 when they compete in the 2014 Round Ireland Yacht Race aboard Desert Star, a Jeanneau Sunfast 37 racing yacht.

Corkman Ronan O'Siochru has made the dream possible for the novices. Passionate about sailing since the age of 10, he knew how difficult it was to get into sailing with no experience or knowledge. Three years ago he set up Irish Offshore Sailing in Dun Laoghaire, a business that allows him to indulge his own passion for sailing whilst also opening the sport up to a wider audience.

He came up with the novel idea of opening the Round Ireland Yacht Race to beginners by providing the racing yacht and bringing the seven crew together. He then worked around their hectic work and family schedules to provide the intense training and the minimum 300 nautical mile sailing experience required to enter the race.

Ronan says the seven crew, who range in age from from mid-30s to mid-50s, are in for an intense adventure.

The crew consists of Louise Gray, 31, a biochemist, from Monaghan; Yoav Arkin, 35, based in Ranelagh; Ukraine- born baker Vladimir Yemets, 54; Scott Nolan, 49, from the UK, who works for Nokia; Noel Heary, 48, from Kilkenny; Brendan Coghlan, 60, a baker from Dublin; and Polish-born Karol Tracz, 39, who runs a bakery, cake and confectionery business.

"The sense of risk and dependence on each other galvanises people in a way you could never imagine," says Ronan. "By some strange twist of fate, three of the crew are bakers – but they couldn't be more different in personality. We have a very diverse bunch! Life aboard Desert Star is set to be very interesting during the Round Ireland."

Crewman Brendan Coghlan says it is so important to live life to the full while you can. When he saw a close friend pass away in a skiing accident last year, he realised that "you can't wait around to do these things".

"The Round Ireland is an amazing challenge. It's one of the things I want to do while I still can. I'm 60 now and won't have a lot of time left to do things like this. We will be undertaking a huge challenge, sailing around the country battling the Irish sea," he says.

"I don't believe in waiting around to live life. I want to do it now, while I can do it and I have the fitness. When you get older, there is no guarantee! Next year or the year after, I may not be able to do it."

Brendan says bonding with the crew will be vital. "It is essential that the crew work well and get on well together. We need to trust and support each other. When spirits are low, I intend to lead from the front, stay good-humoured and let the other crew members know they can depend on me."

Brendan, who runs a bakery in Kildare, says he would love to bring on some baked treats for the crew – "If Ronan will let me! He is very particular about weight on the yacht."

Sunday Independent

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