Sailing: 'Nin' rewrites record books to land monthly award
Nicholas 'Nin' O'Leary of Cork has rewritten the Irish sailing records -- and he's only 24. The new All-Ireland Champion Helm is the clear winner of the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie 'Sailor of the Month' award for November after a nail-biting finale in difficult conditions off Kinsale.
That makes it three-in-a-row for this junior skipper, who was winning major titles with impressive scorelines well before he was out of his teens.
As anticipated in these pages, the wind was drawing from the east for last weekend's shootout in the ISA's SailFleet of J/80s. But the challenge lay in the fact that, after a week of strong winds up to gale force, a massive swell was rolling in past the Bulman Buoy to provide sea conditions which were out of sync with the strength of the breeze.
Yet the three top Royal Cork helms showed they were up to the challenge.
In fact, it was Neil Kenefick, in the championship through being on top in the ICRA series in 2010, who best got to grips with the racing in the early stages, posting two wins, with Anthony O'Leary second in the first race, and son Nicholas was second in the next.
But the junior O'Leary moved closer to retaining the title by winning the third, though his father was right there in second spot, while James Espey from the Lasers posted a third. Kenefick was in touch with a fourth, but that became his discount as he nailed a couple of thirds in the two concluding races.
Going into the fifth and final race, the three Crosshaven helms were neck-and-neck on points, but O'Leary Junior put it neatly away by slicing in ahead of his father, with Kenefick third.
The Corkmen were out on their own, as next in line was Puppeteer 22 Champion Garret May, but he concluded with 18 net points.
Kenefick was on eight, Anthony O'Leary on seven, while 'Nin' became the supreme champion on six --making a bit of history while he was at it as the first three-in-a-row in the 'All-Ireland' for 54 years.
Elesewhere, there's the beginnings of new movement on the sail training front. Since the loss of Asgard II in September 2008, the whole concept of a tall-ships sail-training programme led by Government involvement has been under scrutiny.
The scheme was one of the more immediate targets for the Bord Snip axe as the recession deepened its bite.
There are very few tall ships run by Governments as national ventures, with most managed by trusts and voluntary organizations, funded in many ways.
Although the Asgard programme was partially supported by the National Lottery, it was increasingly inappropriate for it to be run by the public service. In recent months a working group, chaired by Sheila Tyrrell of Arklow Shipping and including Harry Hermon, Chief Executive of the Irish Sailing Association, as well as key people involved with Coiste an Asgard, has been exploring ways of bringing a new organization into being, and Sail Training Ireland will be up and running by Christmas.
The working group has been in consultation with Sail Training International, the global organization which will be providing a bursary to assist young Irish people to go to sea under sail and the stage is being set for active involvement when the Tall Ships return to Waterford next year, and Dublin in 2012.