Mark Mills, of Co Wicklow, international boat designer, is 'Sailor of the Month' for January, with his star in the ascendant after sweeping victories in the Key West Regatta in Florida.
Boat designers need to be many things. Obviously, they need to be exceptionally good sailors. But they also need an eye for shape, a genius with computers, and engineering and sailmaking techniques.
Plus they need highly-tuned interpersonal skills -- after all, they have to deal with owners, builders, and manufacturers. And that's while they're putting together the package which attracts top sailors keen to be part of a dynamic and successful team.
In all, it makes for a rare combination. But during 2008, Mills was hitting the target, with his Mills 39 marinerscove.ie for Dave Dwyer of Cork continuing as one of the superboats of Irish sailing. And the Mills skills extended to every corner of the globe, with his DK 46 design Quantum Racing and her sister ships frequently in the frame throughout southeast Asia and Australia.
Then in the autumn, his impressive IRC 68 Alegre took line honours in the Middle Sea Race while the new Mills-designed King 40 was named "Boat of the Year'' in America.
Thus the stage was set for Key West Regatta which concluded this week. The King 40 lived up to the billing, and then some. Dan Woolery from San Francisco, with the new King 40 Soozal, did the business, and the Mills team saw another of their designs, Tony Buckingham's Mills 40 Ngoni, take second. In fact, all six Mills-designed boats racing at Key West gave a good showing. We get 2009 off to a good start with Mark Mills our first 'Sailor of the Month'.