Eve McMahon nets three international sailing championships

‘To end my youth career by winning all three events ... I just couldn’t believe it’

A dream scoreline of not one but three international championships has rocketed Howth’s Eve McMahon to global sailing attention after her weekend victory in Houston, Texas.

The 18-year-old single-hander was defending her ILCA6 class Youth World Championship title that she won in Italy last year.

The event was the third of three season goals she had set herself that might easily have been dismissed as “ambitious” in the doubtful use of the term.

Except that anyone who has met her cannot miss her steely resolve and assured manner that is anything but pushy.


“I was going into the last day with some nerves but when I found out that I’d done it with a race to spare I was absolutely thrilled,” McMahon told The Irish Times. “To end my youth career by winning all three events ... I just couldn’t believe it and couldn’t put it into words.”

Keeping her nerve meant taking each day in isolation as if starting the event afresh and keeping it all simple and “control the controllables. It was a very tricky regatta, especially with the heat which as Irish we’re not used to and it definitely makes you more tired.”

In the space of five weeks, a punishing schedule saw her first win the ILCA class Youth European Championship title in Greece.

The following week saw her head to The Hague for World Sailing’s own Youth World Championships, an event that is a hint of the Olympic regatta that so many of the entrants aspire to.

She won gold there as her form was clearly improving. Her club-mate Rocco Wright matched her result in a historic regatta for Irish Sailing as he marked his transition from the junior Optimst dinghy to the Laser.

Within days of taking the podium in the Netherlands, both were on a plane to Texas for the ILCA6 Youth World Championships and her 2021 title defence.


McMahon won all six races in the qualification round before a hiccup most sailors would happily accept — second and third place — before resuming her form with two wins on Saturday’s final day to comprehensively seal the championship.

In fact, the fourth place finish at the regatta was just one of six occasions that she finished outside the top three places in the 30 races that comprised the three championships this summer.

Since the Europeans in Greece at the end of June where she averaged fourth place, this improved to just over second place at the Youth Worlds and then just over first place in the 11-race series that ended in Texas at the weekend.

Even at youth level, the hat-trick of golds is unprecedented.

“Eve’s performance during the last month has been nothing short of incredible,” Olympian and international umpire Bill O’Hara told The Irish Times. “To win that many races in a club points series would be difficult, but to do it at international level probably hasn’t happened before.

“I am convinced that at some stage in her life she will win an Olympic medal. It may not be for a couple of cycles because the Olympic level is another step up but she really is an incredible athlete and a credit to her family, Irish sailing and her country.”

McMahon sailed the memorably breezy Irish Sailing Youth National Championships to victory at Ballyholme in April after a dearth of Covid enforced regatta opportunities before stopping sailing for her Leaving Certificate exams.

Next comes some rest at home for a few weeks before leaving for Portugal and the Under-21 World Championships where she joins her brother Jamie as they both eye their senior career options.

Nor will they be alone; their older brother Ewan is already campaigning for Paris 2024 as Ireland shifts its sailing attention to Howth.

David Branigan

David Branigan

David Branigan is a contributor on sailing to The Irish Times