Tuesday 20 March 2018

Sailing: Hyde family fortunes as Stephen lands top prize

WM Nixon

WITH sailing being a very strong family sport, it's not unknown for sons and daughters to repeat their parents' achievement in being Irish Independent/Afloat.ie 'Sailor of the Month'.

Sometimes the accolades can occur close together, despite the span of the generations. But it's very unusual for the younger generation to become 'SoM' before their seniors have taken the prize. And for a son to win it all of six years before the 'old fellow' gets a place on the podium is unprecedented.

Stefan Hyde of Crosshaven was 'Sailor of the Month' back in 2006 when he was 24 and he became the Helmsman's Champion of Ireland the following year. At that time, his father Stephen was providing his newly-acquired Oyster 56 for Race Officer duties off Cork Harbour.

But the word was that when he soon retired from a busy life as an architect, he and his wife Aileen would begin a round the world voyage with the new boat, with friends joining them as crew at different stages.

This was not going to be some sort of global vagrancy as it was quietly, but efficiently organised. Where possible, the plan was to take part in ocean crossing fleet events, such as the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. This takes the hassle out of arriving in remote ports, it also provides companionship with other boats because the ocean can often seem a very large and empty place -- particularly with piracy on the increase -- and fleet participation provides the occasional race which, in the case of the Hyde boat, saw many notable successes.

Last summer, they completed their global circuit of 36,395 miles, of which 30,775 were totally under sail. Then they cruised on up the east coast of America. This year, they're heading home to Cork, but first they have gone back down to the Caribbean and with a strong crew which son Stefan brought from Cork, they won their class in the Oyster Regatta in mid-April.

It's an event which is gently glitzy on the surface, but the racing is very much for real. There will be a great welcome when the boat -- she's called A Lady -- returns to Crosshaven this summer. But meanwhile, Stephen Hyde is 'Sailor of the Month' for April.

The Volvo Ocean Racers were at last feeling the benefit of the northeast trade winds on Thursday on the final 1,600 miles to Miami from Brazil as the three leaders recorded speeds above 20 knots, but as they were so close together when reaching the breeze, nobody had got significantly in front.

American Ken Read's Puma was only five miles ahead of NZ's Chris Nicholson's Camper, with overall leader Telefonica (Iker Martinez, Spain) 18 miles astern again, but with breezy off-wind sailing in prospect and three boats neck-and-neck for the rest of Leg six, those gaps can disappear in hours.

Puma has led narrowly all the way from Itajai, but only by dint of finding some new and often untried sail combination or trim. The new Volvo rule that they couldn't do any pre-race training matched with another boat meant that these have been the first prolonged and intensive boat-for-boat sessions they have experienced.

The newly-launched defending 2011 Irish Sea champion Raging Bull, Matt Davis of Skerry's Sigma 400 Raging Bull, will miss the early races of the ISORA programme as she broke her moorings off Skerries in the recent severe northeasterly gales.

Sounds unfortunate, but the Bull was lucky. Other Skerries boats were smashed to smithereens, but the Davis champion came in on the only tiny patch of sand in an otherwise totally rocky bit of foreshore, and can be repaired. Some day, some time, we'll see a proper harbour at Skerries.

Irish Independent

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