Sunday 22 July 2018

Obituary: Martin Crotty

Barrister who became a celebrated influence in Irish sailing and design, writes Martin McCarthy

Terrific companion: Martin Crotty
Terrific companion: Martin Crotty

Martin Gerard Crotty, who died after a short illness last Saturday, served as President of the Institute of Designers of Ireland and Vice Commodore and Trustee of the National Yacht Club. He was described by Irish Independent Sailing Correspondent Winkie Nixon as one of the "great enhancers" of the sport of sailing in Ireland - a sport to which he gave freely of his time and expertise over a 50-year period.

His influence went far and wide, which was why Monkstown church was packed for his funeral service and to hear a moving and eloquent eulogy by his UCD classmate at King's Inns, Nicholas Kearns.

Martin was born on February 26, 1946 into a legal and political family in Kilkenny and went to school locally at St Kieran's College. Early family holidays in Duncannon, Co Wexford, engrained a love of the sea that was to last a lifetime. At UCD, Martin studied politics and economics, and went on to qualify as a barrister. Though he never practised, he maintained a strong friendship with a group of King's Inns classmates.

Ireland in the 1960s was struggling to prepare for free trade, and the poor standard of design was a grave concern to the Dept of Industry and Commerce. In the 1970s, Kilkenny Design Workshops and the Industrial Development Agencies of Shannon Development and Coras Trachtala (CTT) were helping to focus Irish businesses on design excellence and a precursor to business success. This became Martin's field.

Martin joined Shannon Development before going out on his own as and founding the pioneer firm VizMark and then Martin Crotty Design, before forming BFK Brand with Kevin Barry. His core expertise was design management and strategy, and his excellence in this arena led to his being elected President of the Institute of Designers in 1988. He was active in BFK Brand right up until May this year when cancer struck.

Martin had a great eye for things and a sense of wonder - and this led him not just to be an excellent sailor but to build a detailed understanding of the art of navigation by sextant and chart. He initially sailed a Flying 15 dinghy in the National Yacht Club at Dun Laoghaire with Jim Gorman. After success in this arena, he wanted to do more offshore and long-distance events and bought a share with his best friend Peter Cullen in the Cruiser Racer half-tonner, Eliminator. They were the first Irish boat to win the prestigious Victoria Cup run by the Royal Dee YC - a thrilling victory. Peter and Martin moved up to the yacht Nyala and while doing a Round Ireland race in 1991 pulled into Dingle for refuge and repairs. It was here that the plan to develop the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle (D2D) race was hatched. The pair sailed the yachts Koala and later Zig Zag on many great sea journeys between Ireland, UK, Spain and beyond.

Martin was the first Chairman of the NYC D2D and ran it successfully for 22 years - only stepping down this year. He served on the committee of the joint Clubs Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta and was Vice Commodore of the National Yacht Club in 1993. His sage advice was treasured by the Irish sailing community, and he served as Trustee of the National Yacht Club over the last three years. Peter Cullen told stories of their trips across the notorious Bay of Biscay, when in the midst of frightful winds and seas, Martin would remain composed, logical and humorous. He was excellent company, had a wide range of interests which combined with his excellent navigation and sailing skills made him a terrific companion on long voyages.

Martin was a private man, and it was only in later years that we heard that his only brother, Adrian, had died in the Moorgate London Underground crash of 1975, along with 44 others.

He shared the last 30 years with his partner Sabina Saar, and loved to spend time in Dromcollogher, Co Limerick, where they had a house. He is survived by Sabina, sister Marie Therese, nephew Luke and brother in law Noel Gardiner.

Sunday Independent

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