Saturday 20 January 2018

Sailing: O'Leary and Burrows Stars of the show in Miami

WM Nixon

Selecting the Irish Independent Sailors of the Month for March has been a swift business, with the remarkable performance by Peter O'Leary of Cork and David Burrows of Malahide in the Olympic Star Class' legendary annual Bacardi Cup series in Miami emerging as the clear winner.

Admittedly, the Irish duo only managed the runner-up slot in Florida. But in a fleet of 93 boats rampaging around in wildly varying conditions, it was an achievement to be at the top of the frame at all.

And they were beaten by only one point, even if it was lost in the final race, which they had started leading overall by a point.

Because the Stars are under a death sentence in the Olympic scene, with next year's Olympiad their final appearance in the five ring circus, the class has acquired an extra, slightly morbid interest.

The boat tuning and tweaking knowledge acquired during their long Olympic career will see the class' measurement and equipment rules pushed to the utmost for this last hurrah.

In fact, some Star fans have become emotional and compared the showdown to a combination of the OK Corral, the Alamo, and Custer's Last Stand in light of the Star's American origins, while the more internationally and nautically minded have invoked memories of Trafalgar and Lepanto. And all this for one of the oddest looking and most demanding boats on the planet.

The Olympic glow does that to people. This time round, we happily glow ourselves, as the O'Leary-Burrows team (each has figured as Sailor of the Month before, but this is their first time winning together) show every promise of having what it takes.

Last year, one of the highlights of Irish sailing was Howth YC's hosting of the Etchells 22 World Championship, which drew significant entries from both hemispheres and saw John Bertrand, Australia's winning America's Cup helmsman, become the global king of this very special class.

Run by an organising committee chaired by Berchmans Gannon, the Etchells Worlds 2010 subsequently drew praise in international publications for Ireland and Howth.

It set the east coast club a standard which will be challenging to maintain, but this week Commodore Roger Cagney unveiled the club's programme for 2011 and beyond, and the policy of providing top-level sailing and event efficiency for visitors and members alike is being implemented with vigour.

Howth has had non-stop sailing since April 1974. The traditional opening of the summer season was in April that year.

But then, as the usual programme was drawing to a close in September, winter sailing for the new Laser class began, and continued right through until the following spring with its new sailing season.

Since then, with the first stage of the marina opening in July 1982, the Autumn League for all classes began, and some time later the legendary Brass Monkeys winter series for cruiser-racers filled up most of the remaining keelboat gaps.

But it's still the summer which provides the highlights for the country's biggest club. Apart from the popular club racing events, which provide sport most mid-week evenings and during the day at the weekends, they have national events for classes like the SB3s, the Feva dinghies, and the ISA's flotilla of J80s.

The big one on the international scale is the J/24 Europeans, four days of hot racing in September, while Howth's traditional annual Lambay Race -- well past its century and still going strong -- is on June 11.

Irish Independent

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