An Irish sailing champion has used his 2014 offshore victory to highlight the compelling family aspect of the sport as a welcome riposte to falling numbers, especially among teenage ranks.
When Liam Shanahan (52) lifted the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association's (ISORA) top prize last weekend, the National Yacht Club (NYC) sailor emphasised how racing with his family offshore had created a 'band of brothers' and that they had overcome significant obstacles in a packed season to come through and win as a team.
Shanahan sails with his five children aged 13 to 22 as part of a successful eight man crew on the 35-foot J/109 cruiser-racer, ‘Ruth’, a boat named after his wife.
It was an uplifting account about the benefits of family sport and much more hopeful than the all too familiar stories of how teenagers, who, although having been shown the rudiments of sailing, often leave the sport.
The disappointing scenario is the focus of an ongoing Irish Sailing Association (ISA) investigation into a problem not restricted to Ireland.
In his acceptance speech last Saturday, Shanahan said a special ‘bond’ had been formed between his family and his offshore crew through adversity after a dozen - often grueling - long distance races across the Irish Sea.
The ISORA fixtures ranged from small 30-mile day races between Dun Laoghaire and Arklow as well as longer races across to Pwllheli in North Wales, a distance of 60-miles.
As much as last weekend's triumph, the Shanahan family had its fare share of disappointment this season too. Having led the Round Ireland race for most of the 704-miles in July, Ruth missed out on overall victory when a cruel combination of decreasing wind and increasing adverse tide held her up within sight of the Wicklow finish, losing overall by only six minutes after five days hard sailing.
Shanahan said he considered it an ‘honour and a privilege’ that he and his family and the other crew ‘banded’ together during his offshore campaign, sailing through thick and thin, often an emotional experience.
Coincidentally, the ISORA champion's points have been echoed this week at an international conference in Holland. The Amsterdam based 'Waking up the Sailing Industry' was focussed on how sailing needs to modernise if it is to retain participants. Alistair Rumball of the Irish National Sailing School (INSS) in Dun Laoghaire, who attended the conference, says reinvigorating the family sailing scene is at the heart of the matter. 'We need to refocus from single-handed sailing and provide equally for boys and girls participating in a family environment'.
Last week's ISORA gathering also heard more about Ireland's fabulous double-handed victory in the Round Britain and Ireland race. Liam Coyne and Brian Flahive's achievement was celebrated along with a number of practical tips from Coyne who described the 1800-mile voyage in a special presentation.
ISORA has revealed details of the 2015 race programme that has at its centre the Royal Dee Irish Sea Offshore Championship to be held in association with Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta from July 9-12. Four day offshore races are planned as part of Ireland's biggest sailing event.
Also last weekend in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin Bay Sailing Club (DBSC) brought its 130th season to a close with a 92-trophy prizegiving at the Royal St. George Yacht Club. Among the premier prize winners were Fireball dinghy sailor Stephen Oram who was presented with the Dr.Alf Delaney Cup for the best dinghy performance of the season. The Waterhouse Shield for best handicap performance was presented to the Cruiser II Red Rhum, sailed by the Nicholson brothers, Jonathan and Chris.
DBSC Cup and Trophy Winners 2014
Centenary Trophy - Lively Lady, Derek Martin (Saturday Echo overall); Knox-Gore Cup - WOW, George Sisk (Saturday IRC overall); Knox-Gore Bowl - WOW (Thursday Echo overall); Martin Cup - WOW (Thursday IRC overall);
Tiamat Trophy - Black Velvet, Leslie Parnell (Thursday Echo overall); Weir Cup - Bon Exemple, Colin Byrne (Saturday IRC overall); West Pier Officers Cup - Bon Exemple (Thursday IRC overall); Osterberg Cup - Jump the Gun, J. Kelly & M. Monaghan (Saturday Echo overall);
Centenary Cup - Antix, Derek Ryan (Thursday ECHO overall); T.P. Early Cup - Bendemeer, L J.Casey & Denis Power (Saturday Echo overall); Briscoe Trophy - Bendemeer (Tuesday Echo overall); Silver Foam Trophy - Black Sheep, Eoin Healy (Most improved boat); Silver Salver - Red Rhum, J.& C. Nicholson (Saturday IRC overall); Lady Shamrock Trophy - Red Rhum (Thursday IRC overall);
Smalldridge Cup - Quest B. Cunningham & J. Skerritt (Thursday IRC overall); Jack Kennedy Memorial Cup - Supernova J.McStay, J.Timbs J.Monaghan, J. Costello (Saturday IRC overall); Mercia Cup - Supernova (Saturday Echo overall); Viking Clock Trophy - Supernova (Thursday Echo overall); Whimbrel Rose Bowl - Cruisers 3(b), Eezee, Tiger, Olivier Prouveur, Thursday (Echo overall); Sanderling Trophy - Cruisers 3(b), Gung Ho, Grainne & Sean O'Shea (Thursday IRC overall); Annette Cup (90) - Cruisers 3(b), Papytoo, M.Walsh & Frank Guilfoyle (Tuesday overall);
White Sail Class Trophy - Persistance Charles Broadhead, Ian Stuart & Jerry Collins (Saturday IRC overall); Burford Trophy - Persistance (Thursday IRC overall); Anna Livia Trophy - Sweet Martini, Bruce Carswell (Saturday Echo overall); Gerry Henry Salver - Warrior, David Shanahan (Thursday Echo overall);
Rupert Bowl - Leeuwin, Henry & Caroline Leonard, Robert Kerr (1st Saturday Series-Trophy); Bective Lights Crystal Trophy - White Mischief, Timothy Goodbody (Saturday overall); Fireseal Sigma 33 Trophy - White Mischief, (Thursdays overall); J.B. Stephens Trophy - Sigmas 33 White Mischief (Thursday & Sats combined);
Horrigan Cup - Fiddly Bits, PJ Timmons,W.Quigley G.Murray, D.Breen (Thursday Overall -Echo); Feanor Trophy - Levana, Jean Mitton (Thursday overall One-Design); Long John Silver Cup - Levante, Michael Leahy & John Power (Saturday Overall- Echo); Arandora Trophy - Magic, David Espey (Saturday Overall-One Design);
Oxford & Cambridge Cup - Diva, Rick Johnson & R.Goodbody (Thursday overall); Old Time Cup - Diva, Rick Johnson & R.Goodbody (Combined Sunday & Thursday); RIYC Cup - Phantom, David J.H Williams Esq (Saturdays Overall); Torry Cup - Dragons,Whisper, Michael Cotter Esq (Special conditions);
Pterodactyl Cup - Glendun, Brian Denham (Thursday overall); Glen Challenge Trophy - Glendun, David Houlton (Crews races); Pair of Silver Vases - Glendun, Alison OBrien (Ladies Race); Hamilton Reid - Glendun, Brian Denham (Dalkey Island Race); Harry Maguire Memorial Cup - Glenluce, D and R. O'Connor (Saturday overall); The McMullen Cup - Glenluce, Donal & Richard O'Connor (Sat & Thurs combined + regatta); Commodore O'Meara Trophy - Glenluce, Donal and Richard O'Connor (Olympic races);
John Donnelly Perpetual Cup - Alias, David Meeke & Martin McCarthy (Best Tuesday Boat); British Airways Trophy - Bandit, A Kirwan, B Cullen, C Brown (Saturday Overall); Huet Trophy - Diane II, Chris Helme & Alan Claffey (Thursday overall); J.Lamont Brown Trophy - Ruffles, Michael Cutliffe (Sat & Thurs overall);
The Shipman Perpetual Trophy - Curraglass, John Masterson (Special conditions); The Malindi Cup - Gusto, Christine Heath (Saturdays overall); The Midweek Trophy - Gusto, Christine Heath (Thursdays overall);
Sunday SB3 Cup - Should be, Michael O'Connor (Sunday overall); Bealtaine Trophy - Should be (Special Conditions); Equinox Trophy - Should be (Special Conditions- 3rd series); Crichton Trophy - Should be (Thursday overall); Lunasa Trophy - Venuesworld.com Ger Dempsey Special Conditions (Sunday Series 2 etc);
G. Pugin Melden Trophy - Swift, Guy Kilroy (Wags Series 2); Goldsmith Cup - Swift, Guy Kilroy (Wednesday Overall); Blue Bird Trophy - Tortoise, William & Linda Prentice (Wags Series 1);
Brian S.Ryan Trophy - Fflogger, Alan Dooley (Saturday overall); Flying Fifteen Gun - Frequent Flyer, Chris Doorley & Alan Green (Thursday overall); Fifty Something Cup - Flying 15, Thingamabob, Tom Galvin (First Thursday Series); Blake Cup - Thingamabob (Special Conditions);
Stella Cup - Aideen, Br. Martin & Dan Brennan (Thursday; special conditions); Amy Cup - Aideen (Tuesday overall); Iolar Cup - Jill, Paul Smith & Patrick Mangan (Saturday overall); J.B.Kearney Shield - Tijuana, David Stedmon (Saturday-special conditions);
Shannon Cup - Perfection, Jill Fleming (Saturday Overall); Minx Trophy - Perfection (Thursday Overall); The Saturday Cup - Fireballs, Licence to Thrill, Louis Smyth (Saturday Overall); Nuits St.George Trophy - Fireballs 15061, Stephen Oram (Tuesday overall);
Melampus Cup - Dart, Pierre Long (Special conditions); Crews Challenge Cup - Dunmoanin', Therese Clarke (Special Conditions); The Kennedy Cup - Dunmoanin', Frank Hamilton (Saturday overall); Bay Cup - Slipstream, Julie Ascoop (Tuesday overall); Half-Way Trophy - Spray, Chris Corrigan (Special Conditions);
The Windmill Cup - Laser 192703, Ronan Kenneally (Tuesday overall); Sailcraft Tray - Laser 192703, (Combined Saturday & Midweek); Early Bird Trophy - Laser 192703, (1st series Tues, & Sat.combined); Lanaverre Cup - PY 177852, Richard Tate (Saturdays overall); Seapoint Cup - Optimists, 1475, Clare Gorman (Optimist September Series); Mitchell Cup - RS Feva, 1588, Laura Coleman (RS Feva September Series); PY Junior Trophy - 8655, Helen Sheehy (PY September Series); Lawson Cup - Toppers, 46767, Oscar Gleeson (Topper September Series); Pioneer Trophy - Lasers 4.7, 170857, Toby Hudson Fowler (Laser September Series); Jimmy Mooney Goblet - Laser, Radial 180244, Finn Coolican (Laser Radial September Series);
Dr Alf Delaney Cup - Fireball, 15061, Stephen Oram (Best Boat on dinghy course); Newsom Cup - Gusto, (Best one-design boat); Dun Laoghaire Harbour Trophy - Jigamaree, Ronan Harris (Best new Boat); Waterhouse Shield - Red Rhum (Best Cruiser on handicap); Brendan Ebrill Memorial Cup - Something Else (Special conditions); Viking Trophy - David O'Brien (Notable contribution to sailing).