Tuesday 20 March 2018

Golden boys O'Leary and Burrows hit new heights to earn monthly award

WM Nixon

The latest Irish Independent/ afloat.ie Sailor of the Month awards reflect the hectic pace of sailing at all levels this year.

The monthly award went to gold medallists in Olympic campaigning, while the international award was landed by a French sailing family with strong connections to Ireland's west coast.

Although the overall result in the Volvo Race at Galway is already clear-cut, with Groupama unbeatable on the leaderboard, today's in-port race will mark the proper conclusion of an event which has confirmed its position as the world's premier offshore contest. So, the Volvo racers are July's men, and we can pause for a moment to salute the stars of June.

The Olympics next month will mark the conclusion of a rugged build-up, a continuing story which becomes ever more challenging as the main event nears.

But the performance by Peter O'Leary and David Burrows in the preliminary regatta, the Skandia Sail for Gold in June, was outstanding in itself. The pair were always in the mix, and in the ideal position to make the winning move when the opportunity arose. It was a stellar performance and their gold medal -- ahead of the likes of Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, and Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prado -- marked a new high for Irish sailing.

For the first time since its inception in 1980, the biennial Round Ireland Race from Wicklow saw overseas competitors outnumber Irish boats, a reflection of the race's growing international importance.


As it happened, the fantastic victory by the French-owned Ker 39 Inis Mor was seen as being a success for one of our own.

His boat is named after the largest of the Aran Islands, and Bernard Gouy has a huge affection for the west of Ireland. The family has a holiday place in Connemara, and race for Clifden Boat Club.

But they're also regular performers at the front of the fleet in RORC events in the English Channel, and Inis Mor will be expected to turn out for France in the Commodore's Cup at the end of this month.

Their commitment to the Round Ireland race is nothing new. Before commissioning the present Inis Mor from designer Jason Ker, they campaigned a standard 40ft Jeanneau cruiser-racer.

Their Round Ireland victory last weekend was the result of exemplary sailing and tactics in a very challenging race. It was textbook stuff, and we salute our international award winners for a superb performance.

The Volvo Ocean race has been a thrilling ride, with neck-and-neck racing from Lorient to Galway.

Damian Foxall with the Groupama team earned an overall win, but there's destined to be some drama in today's in-port race.

It tells us everything about the calibre of the sailors involved that although there are only four truly competitive boats in the race, it has generated more excitement than you'd get with a huge fleet.

Maybe small fleets with top-quality sailing is the way to go. Certainly that's the way it will be off Salthill this morning.

Irish Independent

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