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Sailing: Veteran Vroon honoured as Tonnerre lands Boat of the Year accolade

Three years ago, Ger O'Rourke's Cookson 50 Chieftain from Kilrush was effectively the European Offshore champion, for that is what being the Royal Ocean Racing Club 'Boat of the Year' really means.

The august club's annual programme, and its imprimatur on events like the Round Ireland Race, in addition to its own Fastnet, gives the RORC a remarkable central role.

It was quite something for an Irish boat to take the title, but with Chieftain's win in that year's Fastnet, added to successes in many events over a two-year period, the Limerick skipper was out on his own. The award is truly international, and since then it has been won by a French boat, and more recently a British one.

And the 2010 selection honours a great Dutch sailor who has been at the forefront of European offshore racing for 50 years.

In Ireland, we well know just how successful Piet Vroon's Ker 46 Tonnerre de Breskens can be. The owner-skipper wasn't aboard for June's Round Ireland triumph, having been taken ill the day before, but despite his 80 years, he came bouncing back, and sailed on Tonnerre in the 1,800-mile Round Britain and Ireland Race in August.

Tonnerre led for most of the marathon course, but in the end the dice fell another way, and they had to be content with a podium place. However, as the skipper observed with a grin, they had won the same race back in 1978. Vroon also won the Fastnet overall in 2001.

And just to add icing to the cake of a fine year for Irish sailing, the Humphreys 36 Psipsina which topped the two-handed division sailed by Paddy Cronin and John Loden in the Round Ireland race, has also won the RORC's two-handed overall championship.

Although the traditional season is drawing to a close with Autumn Leagues taking their final shape (the Howth series concludes with back-to-back races today), there's life in 2010 yet further south.

Malta is gearing up for the Middle Sea Race in a week's time, and there's the Student Yachting Worlds in France, an event where Ireland has a good track record. Cork IT skippered by George Kenfick emerged as the Irish challengers from a weekend of intercollegiate J80 racing in Crosshaven.

Meanwhile, last weekend saw Ben Ainslie making his first international appearance since Britain's Team Origin withdrew from the 2013 America's Cup.

Ainslie and his team took part in the match-racing series in Bermuda for the Gold Cup, and stitched up the opposition in convincing style for a clear win. Origin may be down, but Ainslie is up for it.

Irish Independent