Sailing: Bath's sterling work rewarded
The final Irish Independent/ Afloat.ie Sailor of the Month for 2010 is someone who typifies the voluntary enthusiasm and quiet effort which makes boating in all its forms possible throughout Ireland.
In appropriately gentle style during the autumn, Waterways Ireland officially reopened the Royal Canal from Dublin to Longford, providing the long-lost link to the Northern Shannon. The fact that it had been brought back to life after decades of decay and virtually total closure was due to the unflinching optimism and effort of many volunteers, channelled through the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (which counts numerous sailing folk among its countrywide membership) and the Royal Canal Amenity Group.
The RCAG was brought into being mainly through the efforts of Ian Bath and the late Eddie Slane way back in 1974, after the canal had been officially closed for more than 10 years, and effectively out of action for 20. But they had a vision.
Communities along the beautiful waterway were inspired by it, and gradually the restoration gathered steam, a true communal effort involving local work parties and endless campaigning.
In these troubled times, their dedicated voluntary work to achieve the reopening of one of Ireland's most attractive waterways is inspirational for us all, and we are honoured to name Ian Bath as Sailor of the Month for December 2010.
Far indeed from the deep peace of the Royal Canal were the offshore waters of south-east Australia in recent days. As forecast, a south to southeast gale provided a real battering as the leaders in the 628-mile Rolex Sydney Hobart Race were crossing the Bass Strait, with winds gusting to 50 knots and ferocious seas. It's all to the credit of modern boat builders that, of the 87 starters, only 18 boats retired, and all the retirees made their way safely to port.
The pre-race favourite for the line honours win, Bob Oatley's continually updated Reichel Pugh 100 Wild Oats XI, fulfilled all expectations by getting to Hobart nearly four hours ahead of next in line, the 100ft Investec Loyal.
Aboard Wild Oats, Irish-born navigator Adrienne Cahalan said it was the roughest bit of sailing she'd ever experienced racing to Hobart, and she's a veteran of 16 races, more than any other woman sailor.
Another Irish-born race veteran was Gordon Maguire, also on his 16th contest, but it will be one he'll probably prefer to forget, as the 63ft Loki on which he was boat captain got the wrong side of wind shifts and was back at 15th overall and eighth in Division 1.
That said, line honours victor Wild Oats had a corrected place of 23rd, for it was a race for 50-footers, with the overall winner being Secret Men's Business 3.5 (Geoff Boettcher, South Australia).