Quinlans retain 'Faulkner' after another epic voyage
The ocean is a big place, which is just as well -- these days, boats seem to be crossing the watery wastes with such frequency that they need all the room they can find.
The recent Irish Cruising Club annual awards ceremony in Dublin honoured those who make their own quiet way to coasts near and far.
Time was when a modest venture from Ireland to Scotland would be enough to earn the club's premier award, the Faulkner Cup, which dates back to 1931.
But now, with the bar having been raised incredibly high, getting the Faulkner Cup is quite an achievement. And winning it two years in a row is very rare indeed.
Yet that is what Fergus and Kay Quinlan of Kinvara on the shores of Galway Bay have achieved.
They're sailing the world in the 38ft cutter Pylades, which they built themselves in steel.
They've won the trophy for the second time thanks to an intriguing voyage of exploration across the Pacific and on to Darwin in northern Australia. They took the honour last year for their voyage from Kinvara to Tahiti.
Fergus is an architect, and as there wasn't much work in prospect for him in 2008 with the building industry going pear-shaped, he concluded that he and Kay might as well set sail.
So, they've been away sailing in blue water for some time now. The Pylades cruise has been under way since 2009, and though the latest award is for a voyage to Darwin, the Quinlans have long since sailed on.
They spent Christmas in South Africa and this week they departed Cape Town, bound for St Helena and then Brazil.
They'll soon have completed a global circumnavigation, somewhere northeast of Brazil. They could well be back in Kinvara by late summer, with a remarkable voyage completed.
While Pylades sails on serenely, the boats in the Volvo Ocean Race were roughing it in the 'black tide'.
That's what sailors call the notorious Kuroshio Current in the South China Sea. It can run so strongly against the wind that it kicks up cliff-like breaking seas and if a modern Volvo 70 is given her head sailing through them, it's like putting a Formula One car up against a brick wall.
They were delayed for half a day at the start of the 5,000-mile Leg 4 from Sanya to Auckland in New Zealand to let a monsoon storm centre go through, then had to nurse their boats across this scary piece of water, taking each wave as gently as possible.
It was just about manageable in daylight, but at night there was a large element of luck required; the competitors had to anticipate what was coming from the noise of the approaching wave.
It shook up the placings, too. Even the veteran Chinese-Irish entry Sanya, skippered by Mike Sanderson, was at one stage showing ahead of the fleet, but now they're into more open water, Camper (Chris Nicholson) has taken to the front.
In the Caribbean 600, the 200-foot schooner Hetairos took line honours as expected, but Nik Zennstrom's 72ft Ran was the clear winner on corrected time. Mick Cotter's 78ft cruiser Whisper had a good race -- they were eighth out of the 39 boats.