Dubliner rows in with training cup

Sat, Aug 25, 2012, 01:00

DUBLINER HOLLY Byrne was awarded the Sail Training International Torbay Cup ahead of 7,000 international trainees, and Polish ship the Fryderyk Chopin was announced as the winner of the overall race at the Tall Ships Festival in Dublin yesterday.

These announcements came after a colourful parade featuring all the ships’ crews culminated at the Custom House.

Throughout the day, sailing types had been only too eager to enthuse about life on the ocean waves. Alana Kelly Gilligan, a 19-year-old working with Sail Training Ireland, has been sailing for four years.

“I’m visually impaired and the Jubilee Sailing Trust ships are fully equipped for disability,” she said. “They have aural compasses, braille, bridged walkways and wheelchair lifts.

“It’s not exactly a holiday – you have to work – but it’s amazing to wake at four in the morning for the sunrise. And I’ve been up the mast up to the fourth yard of the Tenacious.”

All these seafarers have a tendency to (metaphorically) drift off when talking about sailing. “The sea is something a sailor can feel inside,” said José Antonio Tolelano Tortolero, an officer aboard the Mexican ship the Cuauhtémoc, serenely ignoring the little girl battering the hell out of his ship’s bell.

Michael Linton, a shipman with the Ecuadorean ship the Guaya, said they recently navigated winds of 60 knots. “The first time you have to face that kind of adversity you don’t know how to react. But when you are at sea for a while you just deal with it.”

At Danish ship the Danmark, student sailor Damgaard Laursen gleefully recalled a moment when the ship’s deck was flooded with water containing phosphorescent algae: “The main deck looked like the stars.” Then he told me the story of the Copenhagen, a famed Danish sailing ship that went missing somewhere between the United States and Australia in the 1920s. “They never even found a plank,” he said.

“There was a mutiny in New York. Many of the sailors said: ‘We don’t want to sail any more’ and went drinking.

“The captain got his gun and went into the city and brought as many as he could back to the ship. But there was four he couldn’t find. They were the only crew members to survive.”

So is Laursen planning to hide out in Dublin? He laughed. “While Dublin is a very nice city, no, probably not.”