Tuesday 20 February 2018

Newport rewarded for safely steering sail training

W M Nixon

Captain Colm Newport is the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie Sailor of the Month for April in honour of the key role he played in ensuring the continuity of Irish sail training through a difficult period.

Newport frequently served as commander of the national sail- training brigantine Asgard II over the years, and was in command for many successes.

But his greatest test came when the Asgard II started taking in water from an unexplained leak in the small hours of September 11, 2008 off the coast of France.

Like all Asgard's commanders during the ship's remarkable 27-year career, which took her all over the world, he had a special affection for this vessel, a small square rigger which punched way above her weight in the company of the world's largest tall ships.

But this was no time for sentimentality. In a seaman-like manner, Newport analysed the reality of the situation, and calmly ensured that the ship's complement of young trainees transferred to the liferafts for a safe exit before the vessel sank.

No one was injured, few had any time even to be frightened, and thanks to the captain and crew's professional skill, further disaster was averted.

Asgard II being a Government-owned ship, the follow-through was inevitably slow. And as the national economic crash was getting up its full head of steam, the priorities of a national sail-training programme, open to all young people, slipped right down the scale of public spending, until the Department of Defence quietly wound up Coiste an Asgard, and the insurance money for the ship went into the rapidly shrinking national coffers.

But the spirit lives on, and in April the newly established Sail Training Ireland -- a voluntary body open to membership and all sorts of support -- was established by people who were involved in Coiste an Asgard. It is officially recognised as the successor to the Asgard programme, and is already strengthened with bursaries from the global body Sail Training International.

In time, we may have a new square rigger, and she really will be the people's ship. But the fact that it can be anticipated with hope and enthusiasm is in large part due to the calm efficiency of Colm Newport and his crew on the morning of September 11, 2008.

The Dubs may be doing well in shoreside sport, but they were thin on the prize list at last weekend's ISA Mitsubishi National Youth Championship on Dublin Bay, which had a complete programme of five national titles, despite losing Monday's racing to a strong easterly coming straight from Siberia.

Philip Doran of Courtown (where they know a thing or two about dealing with onshore easterlies) took the Laser Radial trophy, but it was the Royal Cork which notched two national titles, Seafra Guilfoyle winning the Laser 4.7, and Crosshaven crew Patrick Crosbie and Chloe Crosbie won the 420s.

The Optimists winner Sophie Browne of Tralee is entitled to a journey to the Worlds in New Zealand in December, with Ben Walsh of Skerries also to the fore, while the Toppers were dominated by northern sailors.

The Feva title went to the Johnston/Flynn Byrne crew from Howth, thus the only Dublin Bay winner was Sian Kneafsey of the National YC, the new Laser 4.7 Girls Champion.

Irish Independent

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