A new wave of Irish offshore sailing campaigns went on show in Dublin this week when four separate round-the-world campaigns set out their next ocean-spanning goals in a joint appearance on the Liffey.
On top of this, three major marathon sailing events are crossing the Atlantic this month, each with Irish interest to spur on Ireland’s current offshore sailing love affair.
New enthusiasm for arguably one of the most mentally demanding aspects of the sport has been backed up by World Sailing proposals for a "demonstration" offshore competition in time for the Tokyo 2020 Sailing Olympiad. It's a discipline mooted as a possibility for Olympic silver medallist Annalise Murphy, who completed the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race into Capetown this week.
But – as if to remind us that offshore is far from plain sailing – the dangers associated with it surfaced this week in Co Kerry when the abandoned hull of an Italian transatlantic yacht – minus her keel – was discovered on Brandon Bay beach.
Ambitious plans – with Vendee Globe campaigns costing in excess of €1 million – were outlined on Thursday by Enda O'Coineen, Joan Mulloy, Nin O'Leary and Gregor McGuckin, who were all together in a rare occurrence on board O'Leary's Vendee Globe yacht on Custom House Quay in Dublin.
O’Coineen, whose own round-the-world race came crashing to a halt on New Year’s Day with a dismasting off New Zealand, has launched new plans to complete the voyage early next year, albeit in a different boat.
Mulloy and O’Leary are both aiming for the 2020 Vendee Globe startline, while McGuckin will set out next July in a 30-year-old-boat in an attempt to sail alone, non-stop around the world in the Golden Globe race.
Meanwhile, Italian solo sailor Michele Zambelli is coming to Ireland to get his abandoned OSTAR boat back. The Class 950 yacht he was forced to abandon back in June when "extreme conditions" wreaked havoc on the OSTAR fleet washed up on Brandon Bay beach, and recoverers says it is in remarkably good condition for its 3,000-mile journey from the waters of Newfoundland.
Eamon Crosbie's Discovery 55 Pamela from Dún Laoghaire has returned to the start-point in Gran Canaria in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) 2017 this week. After a week of racing, Crosbie, a former Round Ireland Race winner, has headed back to port following "a small amount of water ingress onboard', according to rally organisers. The ARC marks the start of a round-the-world voyage for Crosbie and his crew.
Irish Youth Worlds Radial hope Sally Bell from Belfast Lough, who departs for the China-based regatta next week, was among the stars of the RYANI awards on November 24th, where she was crowned top Northern Ireland youth sailor.
Irish Sailing (IS) has published its nomination procedures for the 2018 Aarhus Sailing World Championships in Denmark. It is a critical event next August because 40 per cent of all Tokyo Olympic berths are on offer at the Danish venue.
In the race for the Radial berth the IS nomination has given a little boost to Annalise Murphy over Aoife Hopkins and Aisling Keller, but both should get to Aarhus on the basis of their 2017 World Championships results. The other IS nominations made are in line with rankings.
The real question, however, is qualification for Tokyo, and Ireland can achieve it in Aarhus or have to wait until 2019 for another chance. Aarhus is infinitely preferable. The team will have to finish in the top 40 per cent by nation of places available at the Games, now more difficult than ever because Tokyo sailor numbers have been cut from 380 to 350.