Notable performances make it difficult to choose ‘sailor of the year’

For Barry Byrne’s squad the Round Ireland was just a warm-up for the Beaufort Cup that followed two weeks later during Volvo Cork Week

Robert Dickson of Howth Yacht Club and Sean Waddilove from Skerries Sailing Club who won gold and the under-23 World Championship title in the 49er skiff class at Aarhus, Denmark, in  August. Photograph:   David Branigan/Oceansport

Robert Dickson of Howth Yacht Club and Sean Waddilove from Skerries Sailing Club who won gold and the under-23 World Championship title in the 49er skiff class at Aarhus, Denmark, in August. Photograph: David Branigan/Oceansport

 

With the annual Volvo Irish Sailing Awards barely six weeks away, the shortlist of contenders for the overall “sailor of the year” does not make for easy choices. From offshore to inshore, 2018 featured many notable performances.

Early in the season Niall Dowling’s Baraka Gp emerged overall winner of the 704-mile Round Ireland Race thanks in part to a professionally-led crew that cranked out both line honours and the overall victory.

This year’s edition of the race was especially arduous, and while light airs also added to the course complications on the stage southwards from the north coast, it was the perseverance of the Dún Laoghaire skipper’s team in the big seas off the west coast that paid dividends at the finish.

Yet Dowling’s entry was not the only competitive entry and the first runner-up in that race was just as committed in the Atlantic stage, even venturing deep offshore, a move that earned Barry Byrne’s Irish Defence Forces crew a substantial share in the silverware.

For Byrne’s squad the Round Ireland was just a warm-up for the Beaufort Cup that followed just two weeks later during Volvo Cork Week, where he was defending his inaugural title from 2016, again competing on John Maybury’s Joker 2.

Against a record entry of military and rescue services teams, Joker 2 added another trophy to the season’s haul and continued the J109’s string of season wins.

Yet there are many more possible winners, all drawn from the Afloat magazine “sailor of the month” nominations throughout the season.

There were several notable performances at international level amongst the up and coming Olympians, and this helped offset the lack of any Irish qualifications for Tokyo 2020 at the first opportunity.

North Dublin duo

Chief amongst these must surely be Robert Dickson of Howth Yacht Club and Sean Waddilove from Skerries Sailing Club, who won gold and the under-23 World Championship title in the 49er skiff class. This championship was sailed in Marseilles that is slated to be the venue for the Paris 2024 Olympic sailing regatta, so the omens are favourable for this north Dublin duo.

Former Olympian Mark Lyttle from the Atlanta 1996 games returned to National YC and his home waters of Dún Laoghaire in September to win the Grand Masters title in the 302-strong Laser Masters World Championships in a breezy series. The 20-plus knot days took a toll, yet the championship was widely acclaimed as one of the best ever hosted.

Conor Fogerty was once again a monthly award-winner. The Howth sailor was on the podium in February this year for another offshore achievement: his class win in the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Caribbean 600 race.

branigandavid@gmail.com

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