George Kenefick of Crosshaven is the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie Sailor of the Month for October after rounding out an already successful season with an inspired performance in the Student Worlds in France.
The 23-year-old helmsman won the Quarter Ton Classics Corinthian Division in July with his immaculately restored boat Tiger, racing against a top line-up in the Solent.
That performance saw him recruited to helm the English-owned boat Chimp in the Half Ton Worlds at the same venue in August. Kenefick showed his qualities by interacting with a crew he'd never sailed with before to become overall winner against an impressive international fleet.
Back in home waters, next up was the Waterways Ireland ISA National Championship on Lough Derg in the ISA's SailFleet flotilla of J/80s at the beginning of October. For this series Kenefick recruited Crosshaven clubmates John Downey and Mel Collins as crew. Opposition included former champion Mark Mansfield, who had returned to competitive sailing by winning the 1720 Europeans in Baltimore against a fleet including Anthony and Nicholas O'Leary, both former Irish Open Champions.
It went right down to the wire, with Mansfield and O'Leary emerging well ahead on 12 points apiece. On the countback, Kenefick was the new champion.
Almost immediately, he was back in the thick of logistics and personnel organisation in taking the Cork IT sailing team to France for the Student Worlds, representing Ireland as winners of our national series.
With 16 teams from all over the world, the organisers were stretched in finding an evenly-matched fleet of 16 Archambault keelboats. There were top-class new boats, but some not-so-new, and a trio of boats well past their sell-by date. It was all in the luck of the draw, and the Irish and much-fancied Portuguese found themselves drawing the shortest straw.
In a demanding series, the Portuguese were never at the races with their tired mount, but the Irish simply refused to give up despite having a dilapidated boat in really rough stuff in the Bay of Biscay off La Trinite. However, the Irish revelled in the strong breeze, but in the light airs which settled in as the week drew on, it took pure skill.
By the final races last Saturday, they'd got themselves an unassailable third position, but the two British teams -- defending champions are allowed an extra place -- had miscalculated the points situation. So on the final day, they team-raced, one of their boats sailing the Irish crew down the fleet in the best Ben Ainslie style. It was the first time Ireland had finished outside the top six, but they still had the bronze, the British took silver, and France easily won overall.
The Volvo Ocean Race gets under way today from Alicante in a global marathon which will conclude in Galway early in July next year. The short in-port race last weekend was inconclusive as the course had to be shortened as calms set in, but Ian Walker's Abu Dhabi won to notch six points which could be very useful next summer.
Superficially, the boats look similar, but there are some differences which should become apparent as they race the 6,500 miles to Capetown.