The weight of sailing history in Ireland hangs on the golden thread of the helmsman’s championship

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We waited a year to use this header photo, which – due to some confusion with filing thousands of photographic negatives and images – was taken from the November 1970 issue of. had to be scanned Irish yachting and motor boating, the direct predecessor of Afloat Magazine and Afloat.ie.

But even if the energetic group photo half a century ago and more still has a certain contemporary touch, the cover of this obviously old magazine actually tells of a distant past, of a summer evening in Skerries, when the herons were still on the rise as the preferred youth class, and life went on under the curious delusion that we were moving at a more reasonable pace into an even more relaxed time known as The Leisure Age.

In a sense, we have. Aside from the fact that 21st Century Leisure is extremely hard work that is lived at such a wild pace that we very quickly forget the details of what we have just been doing while we are getting ready for the next grueling piece of relaxation sport. And so something like a simple record and overview of what actually happened quickly fades from the collective memory, in the mistaken assumption that someone has to keep an eye on it all, a clear case that everyone’s business is none of their business .

The way we were, over half a century ago on a summer evening in Skerries

So you will be surprised how often organizers have to refer to the inscriptions on a silver cup to check who won before and when. In such circumstances, it is obviously attractive to have a single core event that is a simple recorded backbone of the progress of our sport, even if sailing is a non-mechanical vehicle sport involving boats of many different types and the inherent contradictions that associated with the expectation of sailors to give their best in boats that they normally do not sail would be absolutely blatant unless, in a surprising number of years, the ultimate winner is not the representative of the class in which the championship of champions is sailed.

The champion of our sailing champions, Sailing All-Ireland? Our sailing community started with the idea for the first time 74 years ago. And while other countries have now developed their own versions with varying degrees of success, some of which have been reduced annually until the end, we have the helmsman’s championship – as it was called when it was opened in 1947 – simply held in a form on the street or another. And now that a junior championship traditionally takes place a week in advance, it’s just as much an integral part of our lives as … well, Christmas.

Clayton Love Jr. of Cork, Helmsman Champion 1955 and 1960. He was instrumental in transforming the Irish Dinghy Racing Association into the Irish Yachting Association and brought the Royal Munster YC and the Royal Cork YC together in time for 1966-67 the Millennium Celebrations in the Royal Cork's Quarter 1969-1970.Clayton Love Jr. of Cork, Helmsman Champion 1955 and 1960. He was instrumental in transforming the Irish Dinghy Racing Association into the Irish Yachting Association and brought the Royal Munster YC and the Royal Cork YC together in time for 1966-67 the Millennium Celebrations in the Royal Cork’s Quarter 1969-1970.

But while Christmas has gone through a lot of mutations to reach its current over-the-top version, the All Ireland Helmsman Championship – in both senior and junior versions – is a very focused affair of great Interest among those who qualified to participate and those who organize it, but it has never become the spectacle that attracts a lot of spectators.

Granted, if the resources were available to top it off with the kind of technological wizardry that Stan Honey and others developed for the international mega-events, interest would be greater at the time. But that wouldn’t result in viewers being out on the water in September with a real wind in the air all of a sudden, because all you need is access to a working screen and a warm place to sit.

Ted Crosbie of Cork became Helmsman's Champion in 1950.  Photo: Robert Bateman   Ted Crosbie of Cork became Helmsman’s Champion in 1950. Photo: Robert Bateman

In any case, it is very important for the Irish sailing community to know that the All-Ireland Sailing Championship takes place every year. So much so that at the beginning of last year, in pre-pandemic times, it was accepted by everyone for years – in a remarkable subconscious groupthink – that this would be the closing event of the Tricentenary of the Royal Cork in Crosshaven, just as it was fifty years ago The Quarter of Millennium Celebrations concluded.

Boats of all leading classes were used and in 1982 Sutton's Dave Cummins won the Shannon One Designs races at Dromineer with Gordon Maguire and Mossie Shanahan.  Photo: WM NixonBoats of all leading classes were used and in 1982 Sutton’s Dave Cummins won the Shannon One Designs races at Dromineer with Gordon Maguire and Mossie Shanahan. Photo: WM Nixon

This weekend, a pandemic break of the year below, we’re catching up the pieces to keep the golden thread intact, while being aware that after an exceptionally mild September, the first weekend of October is showing wind patterns that may be fleeting and then some. We can only hope, and meanwhile Afloat.ie has taken a look at the runners and drivers here

There has only been one female winner so far, and that was Howth's Laura Dillon in 1996.   There has only been one female winner so far, and that was Howth’s Laura Dillon in 1996.

But of all times we have to remember the predecessors in this year, all the way back to 1947 when Douglas Heard, the founding president of the shapeshifting Irish Dinghy Racing Association in 1946, presented the aspiring association with a large silver platter for a Champion of Champions in the year In 1947, and to his embarrassment, he was the first winner to ride the new IDRA 14.

Since then, at different stages of her successful sailing career, other names have come to the fore, other boat types have been used and an event has been held in many different locations that arguably works because the Irish sailing community is remarkably sticking together and it – and the island it sails around – seem to be exactly the size that best suits a somewhat eccentric competition of this kind.

The 2014 Howth winner was Anthony O'Leary of Cork, who drove a J / 80 and was manned by Dylan Gannon and Dan O'Grady.  Photo: Johnny WormaldThe 2014 Howth winner was Anthony O’Leary of Cork, who drove a J / 80 and was manned by Dylan Gannon and Dan O’Grady. Photo: Johnny Wormald

In 2015, Anthony O'Leary retained the title and drove J / 80s again, but this time in Dublin Bay at the National YC.  Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'BrienIn 2015, Anthony O’Leary retained the title and drove J / 80s again, but this time in Dublin Bay at the National YC. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Inevitably, some wins are remembered better than others, and I thought Anthony O’Leary’s last win in the J / 80 race at Howth in 2014 was very special because that year he ran the Commodore’s Cup. Team shoulders to victory mostly alone, and it was remarkable that at the end of the season he found something in reserve to win in such a completely different competition.

Others will ponder their own favorite victories in this long litany of outstanding sailors. It’s a record of sailing performance that reverberates over the centuries. And when the winner holds up the board for a few seconds, the world really stands still while we ponder the wonder of Irish sailing.

All Ireland sailing winners 1947-2019

year

Senior winner

Junior winner

Junior first girl

2019

2018

Michael O’Connor

Peter Kennedy

Chris Bateman

Atlee Cabbage

Alana Coakley

2017

Fionn Lyden

Michael O’Suilleabhain

Leah Rickard

2016

Alex Barry

Johnny Durcan

Kate Lyttle

2015

Anthony O’Leary

Peter McCann

Clare Gorman

2014

Anthony O’Leary

Harry Durkan

Gemma McDowell

2013

Ben Duncan

Séafra Guilfoyle

Megan Parker

2012

Peter O’Leary

Fionn Lyden

Corridor basement

2011

George Kenefick

2010

Nicholas O’Leary

Philip Doran

Sophie Murphy

2009

Nicholas O’Leary

Matthew O’Dowd

Diana Kissane

2008

Nicholas O’Leary

Philip Doran

Tiffany Brien

2007

Stefan Hyde

Chris Penney

Annalize Murphy

2006

Peter O’Leary

George Kenefick

Rachel Guy

2005

David Crosbie

Fionn Jenkinson

Lisa Tate

2004

Tom Fitzpatrick

Katie Tingle

2003

Neil Hegarty

Erica Tate & Lorraine Stallard

2002

Conor Walsh

Robert Collins & Kenny Keogh

2001

Feargal Kinsella

Peter Bayly & Niall Cowman

2000

Gerald Owens

Peter O’Leary

1999

Mark Mansfield

Nicholas O’Leary

1998

Tom Fitzpatrick

Gerald Owens

1997

Tom Fitzpatrick

Neil Spain

1996

Laura Dillon

Gerald Owens

1995

Ruan O’Tiarnaigh

Laura Dillon

1994

Tom Fitzpatrick

Evan Dolan

1993

Sean Craig

Evan Dolan

1992

John Ross Murphy

Tom Fitzpatrick

1991

Mark Lyttle

Tom Fitzpatrick

1990

Mark Mansfield

Robert Eason

1989

Marshall King

Conal Casey

1988

John Murtagh

J McWilliam

1987

Mark Lyttle

Dan O’Grady

1986

Mark Lyttle

T McWilliam

1985

Paul Rowan

Nicky Timon

1984

Paul Rowan

Niall Alexander

1983

Brian Craig

Niall Alexander

1982

David Cummins

Michael Stavely

1981

David Cummins

Mark Lyttle

1980

TW whiskers

Justin Maguire

1979

Chris Arrowsmith

Justin Maguire

1978

Wiclif McCready

John Gilmore

1977

Wiclif McCready

Mark O’Hare

1976

Adrian Bell

Bryan Maguire

1975

David Gay

Joseph English

1974

Peter Duffy

Alan McFarlane

1973

Owen Delany

David McFarlane

1972

Harold Cudmore

Robert Bleakney

1971

Adrian Bell

1970

Robert Dix

1969

Maurice R. Butler

1968

Vincent Delany

1967

TCM Morris

1966

John F. Russell

1965

James Nixon

1964

JK O’Reilly

1963

Owen Delany

1962

GM Sargent

1961

MC Walsh

1960

J Clayton Love Jnr

1959

JO McCleary

1958

JK O’Reilly

1957

J Somers Payne

1956

J Somers Payne

1955

J Clayton Love Jnr

1954

Neville D Maguire

1953

Johnny Hooper

1952

Neville D Maguire

1951

Richard Uren

1950

Ted Crosbie

1949

Richard Uren

1948

John Wearing

1947

R Douglas heard

When time stands still - 2018 winner Peter Kennedy of Strangford Lough YC and crew member Stephen Kane hold up their trophies after winning SB20s at Lough Ree YC.When time stands still – 2018 winner Peter Kennedy of Strangford Lough YC and crew member Stephen Kane hold up their trophies after winning SB20s at Lough Ree YC. Photo: ISA


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