Saturday 16 December 2017

Sailing: Inspirational O'Leary a worthy Sailor of the Year

WM Nixon

Anthony O'Leary is the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie Sailor of the Year for 2010 in celebration of his outstanding achievements nationally and internationally, and to honour his dedication to sailing in all its forms, both as a participant and an administrator. The Corkman's pace afloat and ashore belies his age of 53. He was Sailor of the Month last May for an already remarkable list of wins with his Ker 39 Antix.

Having topped the April Series in Kinsale, he then won the Crosshaven-Dun Laoghaire race overall, went on to win his class and be one of the top points scorers in the ICRA Nationals in Dublin Bay. He then travelled to Scotland to win his class overall with a nail-biting brace of wins on the final day of the Scottish Series.

To achieve all that before May was out was exceptional, but the O'Leary progress was only beginning.

The big picture was to maintain momentum towards the international Commodore's Cup in the Solent in August. Antix was one of the three-boat squad, and her skipper was also the team captain in a campaign which was light years away from the glossy efforts which dominated the boom years of Irish affluence.

In previous seasons, Ireland had been able to muster enough boats for two or even three teams, yet had never won, despite being within inches of success.

But this time round, only three boats were game for it, and only one -- Rob Davis' Corby 36 Roxy -- was new. Yet with Dave Dwyer's ever-keen Mills 39 marinerscove.ie filling the third slot, O'Leary headed a potent force, and he himself sailed with style and inspiring sportsmanship to give Ireland a commanding overall win.

O'Leary is the personification of Irish sailing at its very best. With the enthusiastic support of his wife Sally, he is father to a family which has logged outstanding sailing success at all levels.

Yet he himself is, in many ways, the quintessential club sailor. He is as happy racing the Autumn Series at Crosshaven with a 1720 or the West Cork regattas with a cruiser-racer, as he is competing at the highest levels.

He has been among the front runners for the title of Ireland's Sailor of the Year several times. And now, as with all his wins, when he does do it, O'Leary does it with style.

Meanwhile, Ireland's voyagers across the oceans were honoured in Dublin last night with the annual awards of the Irish Cruising Club, whose premier trophy, the Faulkner Cup, has been highlighting the achievements of those who have been going down to the sea in small ships since 1931.

New holder of the trophy is Fergus Quinlan of Kinvara in Galway, who is currently on a global circum-navigation with his wife Kay on their 38ft steel cruiser Pylades, which they built themselves. The adjudicator, Brian Cudmore of Cork -- a noted voyager himself -- praised their gallant spirit, and their informative account of remote places beyond the seas.

Antigua in the Caribbean used to be a remote island best reached in your own boat, but it's a busy place today, as we saw with the Skippers' Briefing for the RORC Caribbean 600 which starts on Monday.

We could all use a bit of that sunshine, but they tell us the sailing can be tough, and shades and sunscreen are essential. Tough, indeed.

Irish Independent

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