THE mother of an Irish sailor feared drowned in a yachting tragedy alongside his childhood friend in the US told last night how her son had been "living his dream".
Noreen Cahill hailed her son Alan (36), from Cork, as a wonderful young man who was devoted to family and friends.
"Sailing was Alan's life, he loved the sea and his sailing friends," his mother said last night.
Mr Cahill, who is a professional sailor based in San Francisco, and fellow Corkman Elmer Morrissey (32), are both missing and feared drowned after their cruiser was struck by a monster wave last Saturday.
It happened during a yacht race off South Farallon Island some 30 miles off the Californian coast.
One crew member has already been recovered during a search by the US coastguard and US navy but there are still four missing crew members including the two Irishmen and an American man and woman.
The coastguard has called off its search as the four are not considered to have any chance of survival in the icy and treacherous waters of the Pacific.
The boat was rounding the largest of the Farallon islands during a 54-mile race when it was broadsided by a large wave, knocking several crew members overboard.
Three people survived, including boat owner James Bradford (41).
Mr Cahill had been a crewman for Mr Bradford, the Chicago-based owner of the 12-metre cruiser 'Low Speed Chase'.
Mr Cahill is from Killeens while Mr Morrissey is from Glounthaune, both on the outskirts of Cork city.
Mr Cahill's mother said: "Alan moved to San Francisco about 10 years ago. He married an American girl, Shannon, two years ago. She is a lovely person and they have two gorgeous children. Alan was living his dream.
"When he was in Ireland he sailed out of Crosshaven, Kinsale and Crookhaven. But he has been living in California."
In the prestigious San Francisco Yacht Club (SFYC), the Corkman was fondly known as "Irish Alan".
He adored the US but insisted on keeping in close contact with his Cork-based family which includes his parents John and Noreen, his sister Tracy and brother Mark.
"He came back to Cork fairly regularly and always went to Crosshaven and Kinsale to visit friends," said Mrs Cahill.
"Everyone out there (US) and here in Cork is devastated by this. We are absolutely heartbroken.
"We have priceless memories of Alan -- he was a fantastic son and a great guy who absolutely loved sailing. It was his life. We just cannot believe what has happened."
Mr Morrissey's parents, Michael and Ena, were on holidays in Spain when news of the tragedy broke. His sister Kelda was in the UK, but all three were returning to Ireland last night before travelling to San Francisco.
Members of the Cahill family are also expected to travel to the US with the Department of Foreign Affairs providing consular assistance.
Glounthaune parish priest Fr John Paul Hearty said the entire community was shocked by the double tragedy.
"We offered special prayers at Mass in the Sacred Heart Church for Elmer and Alan. This freak accident has shocked everyone," he said.
"He (Elmer) and Alan would have been accomplished sailors and they were good friends. Elmer's parents Michael and Ena are very much part of the community. Both Alan and Elmer were very fine sportsmen who liked the outdoors and were very athletic," he said.
Mr Morrissey's college friend, Phil Oakley, said he loved hockey and other sports and was "a great guy who was the life and soul of college parties".
He was due to be best man at a friend's wedding in August.
"Elmer was on the more adventurous side with sports. He also got into distance running, in fact, we both wrote a sports blog.
"He was just a fun guy, whenever he was introduced anywhere we would say 'this is Elmer' and there was always the caveat that it was actually his real name. You wouldn't forget him," Mr Oakley said.
Last Saturday's yacht race is staged annually in California.
The US coastguard recovered the body of a US national Marc Kasanin (46) from the sea after the freak wave struck.
"We are now well beyond the period when the average person would be expected to survive in these waters," a coastguard official told the Irish Independent last night.