Saturday 23 September 2017

Sailing: Cork Ireland recovery puts crew back in mix

WM Nixon

Cork Ireland are back in the hunt in the Clipper Round the World Race. Derryman Richie Fearon and his crew on the 68ft cutter have been right in the frame in the West Australia to Singapore leg.

The Irish boat may be lying a lowly sixth overall on the points table in the fleet of 10, but that's because they withdrew from finishing the stage from Capetown to Australia after a collision at the start, for which Fearon accepted responsibility.

Things had been looking very good up until then, as they'd had a convincing win in the previous stage from Rio de Janeiro. And although Fearon soon made his decision to discount the stage to Australia across the Southern Ocean, nevertheless it became part of the recovery process. And having had to return to port for repairs, they then sailed to Australia a day faster than anyone else.

With Ireland encased in ice, the Cork crew ironically are gasping for good sailing breezes, not only to demonstrate their skills, but also to stay cool in the tropic heat as they head for their second crossing of the Equator.

With a thousand miles to go, they could be in within a week. With scoring gates and many more legs to sail, it's possible for them to return to the top of the leaderboard. But no more shunts, please.

John Killeen of Galway is the final 2009 Irish Independent/Afloat.ie 'Sailor of the Month' in celebration of the major role he played in providing Ireland's sailing highlight of the year -- the hugely successful stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race at his home port in late May and early June.

Killeen is a sailor's sailor. His own boat Nimmo is an inspiration to anyone who goes to sea. Built by Kileen and his specialist squad in a shed in Oranmore, Nimmo started out to be a cruising version of innovative French designer Jean-Marie Finot's notions of what an Open 60 should be like.

But Galway men being Galway men, their ideas developed as the big boat started to take shape, and it was soon realised that they needed to go to 70ft to meet all the requirements. So they did just that.

Yet the 70ft Nimmo looks all of a piece, and is one of the most remarkable sailing boats in Ireland, providing real comfort and being capable of high speed, while easily handled by a crew of two.

The idea of bringing the Volvo to Galway was equally off the wall. But Killeen and his team made it work, their ideas developing dynamically in tandem with the challenge of building Ireland's own boat Green Dragon in China to take on the world's most experienced campaigners from a standing start.

The Galway approach was underlined by realism. Key to it all was accepting that the Volvo stopover would have to be the trigger to creating a much larger festival of Galway and Ireland and the sea if it was to work at all, and ultimately show genuine economic benefit -- both short-term and in the long view -- in an increasingly difficult climate. The sailing would be only part of the bigger picture.

It's heartening to recall how well their lateral thinking succeeded. It all happened, the icing on the cake being Green Dragon's clear lead on the fleet all the way from Galway to the Fastnet Rock in demanding conditions throughout their racing on the Irish coast.

We salute John Killeen and the Galway spirit. They're pitching again for the Atlantic European stopover in the 2012 Volvo Race, but with Lorient in Brittany and Lisbon also making the challenge, it's going to be tough.

Ireland's Anneliese Murphy has made a strong start to her 2010 campaign with fourth overall in the Laser Radials in the first ISAF World Cup event of the year, Sail Melbourne. In the final race, she was in line to be in the medals, but was pushed back one place by half a metre. She had still placed equal third overall, but came in fourth on the countback.

In the annual 100-boat 628-mile Sydney-Hobart Race, line honours were taken by Sydney-based Kiwi Neville Crichton on the 100ft Alfa Romeo, with the Dublin-born sail consultant Noel Drennan (aged 46, he moved to Australia when he was 13 years of age) in a key role on board. Second-placed on-the-water was Wild Oats XI, recently lengthened to 100ft, with ex-Pat Adrienne Cahalane as navigator. Third across was Mike Slade's Leopard, and Justin Slattery of Wexford and Kinsale was bowman.

Gordon Maguire was lead helm on the new 63ft Loki in this his 16th race to Hobart, but Loki was off the pace, and the best performer in the mini-maxis was Swedish Nik Zennstrom's 72ft Fastnet winner Ran which won IRC 1, and held onto the overall handicap lead until northerlies brought the smaller boats up the rankings.

Two of the new Farr-designed Beneteau-built First 40s (successors to the globally successful First 40.7) took over the lead, and placed first and second overall with Andy Sales' Two True being both the IRC champion and the ORC winner.

Irish Independent

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