With 420 boats in 25 classes milling about in Dublin Bay this morning in confident anticipation that summer is returning to bless the four-day Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, we take a quick look back to recent achievements for our latest Irish Independent/Afloat.ie 'Sailor of the Month' award.
The title goes to Martin Breen of Galway with his clear-cut overall win in 2011's main offshore event in Irish waters, the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle classic.
It's the fourth time that a Galway boat has won the Dingle race, giving Galway Bay SC unrivalled D2D status -- the race has only been sailed a total of 10 times since its inauguration as a biennial event in 1993.
Breen did the business with his recently-acquired Reflex 38, which raced to Dingle under the name of Galway Harbour. A former army captain, his progress up the ladder of sailing achievement has been steady. He first made his mark with a successful Sigma 33, then there was more west coast sailing silverware taken with a Corby 33, and now he has the first Irish-based Reflex 38.
A hands-on skipper, for the Dingle race he beefed up his usual ship's complement of family and friends with Aodhan Fitzgerald (now of Galway but originally Dingle), who in turn brought in Neil Spain and Johnny Murphy -- they'd been on the Fitzgerald crew which won the Round Ireland race in 2008.
The tough course to Dingle had winds of many strengths and most directions. But with a bit of luck and a lot of skill, the Breen team got it all together in masterful Galway style, and thoroughly deserved their victory.
Even at this morning's mid-regatta stage in Dun Laoghaire, anyone who thinks they can confidently predict the overall winner is probably deluded, as the permutations possible with a varied fleet this size would defy a powerful computer. What is beyond doubt is that the formula of classic Dun Laoghaire regatta spiced with an element of international competition is hitting the target.
The format, developed over the years by a dedicated committee and run by an army of volunteers and a navy of support boats, provides a good-value, user-friendly combination of local sport with that essential edge of visiting stars.
In recent years, the overall winners have included an Impala 28 and a Squib, and last time round it was Flor O'Driscoll's J/24 Hard on Port, which is back in the fray. With more boats than ever (420 really is a stupendous fleet) predictions are impossible territory, though for pure performance potential, it could well be that the O'Driscolls are succeeded by the O'Learys, as the noted Cork sailing tribe provide a formidable team with their lidded 1720 Antix Beag in IRC 1, despite a fierce rating.
And as for analysing too closely the reasons for the event's success, maybe that would take away its magic. For this season's regatta, the organisational chair has been taken over by Adam Winkelman in succession to Brian Craig. But Craig's remarkable organisational skills have not been lost to sailing -- he leads the committee preparing for next year's Youth Worlds in Dublin Bay.