Tuesday 17 October 2017

Sailing: Sheehy's stirring title comeback scoops award

WM Nixon

John Sheehy of Dun Laoghaire is the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie "Sailor of the Month" after retaining his title as National Match Racing champion in Kinsale on October 24.

Recovery and retention became the theme of a hotly-fought series, as Sheehy had seemed to be off form on the opening day, finishing back in fourth. Things were still rocky on the second day as Sheehy battled on all fronts to stay in contention after taking a beating from Ben Duncan of Howth, who seemed on track to be the new champion.

But Sheehy and his crew of Darragh O'Connor, Paddy Kirwan and Marty O'Leary returned to the fray fired up on all cylinders, to go into the final series with eight wins, while Duncan had nine.

However, by this stage there was no stopping the Sheehy onslaught. He clinched two more excellent starts and retained the lead despite ferocious pressure in both matches from Duncan, who was clear second overall, while Sam Hunt was third, narrowly ahead of Prof O'Connell.

It was a classic championship, and once again the Irish Sailing Association's SailFleet of JK/80s proved their worth. Their next public appearance will be the finale of the All-Ireland Helmsman's Championship in a fortnight's time.

Meanwhile, next week the annual conference of the Irish Cruiser Racing Association in Crosshaven will be in an understandably celebratory mode as the offshore racing brigade look back on an extremely successful season.

The ICRA Nationals in Dun Laoghaire in May, hosted by the Royal St George YC, had good weather and sailable breezes, with a better turnout than either the Scottish or British Championships -- and in both of those, ICRA boats were to the fore.

Then in Cork Week in July, ICRA boats were once again at the front of the fleets, but that paled into history as the International Commodore's Cup series was staged from the Solent in mid-August, and Ireland won well with a team made up of Anthony O'Leary's Ker 39 Antix, Dave Dwyer's Mills 39 marinerscove.ie, and the Rob Davis/Andrew Creighton squad on the Corby 36 Roxy.

So ICRA is on a roll, and head honcho Barry Rose has built on these achievements to put together an interesting conference programme which will include input from leading designers Mark Mills and John Corby, while Rory Staunton will unveil his proposals for a new 30ft offshore one design which could race competitively under IRC as well as providing level racing at regattas.

Ireland has been in this territory before with the 30ft Ron Holland-designed Shamrocks, which became especially popular in the Club Shamrock version.

In the right hands, they can still win, as Steph Ennis and Windsor Laudan have shown with the veteran Demelza. But the Shamrock made her debut back in 1975, and it was 1976 when Harold Cudmore won the Half Ton Worlds with one, so it's definitely time for another bite at the cherry.

Irish Independent

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