from the Irish Times

Hurley sails ‘Dinah’ to class win

Friday, June 19, 2009


A THREE-WEEK epic in one of the longest-standing ocean yacht races ended earlier this week with Ireland’s Barry Hurley winning his class and placing fifth overall. The Original Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic Race (OSTAR) was given a traditional welcome into Newport, Rhode Island by crowds lining the quays and cannon-fire from the shore.

Hurley and his yacht ‘Dinah’ followed in the wake of Francis Chichester who first won the event 49 years ago though his dream was more inspired by the adventures of French yachtsman Eric Tabarly. In keeping with the rigours of the original race, just five of the eight Class 1 starters actually completed the race.

The overall winner of the race finished on Wednesday when Britain’s Will Sayer and his Sigma 33-footer Elmarleen won on IRC handicap after half the original entry of 34 boats completed the course from Plymouth.

Hurley’s dream-project began two years ago and though he has sailed all his life, this was the biggest race to date “by a long shot”. His preparations started two years ago with the OSTAR in mind with the purchase of a 13-year old Jeanneau One-design.

He says he was lucky to find one originally sold into Scotland rather than a French boat that tend to be sailed very hard. It was then converted for solo distance-racing with its keel plan strengthened, rig upgraded and water-ballast added.

He qualified for the event over a year ago in the BluQube Solo 1000-mile race as well as other offshore events.

Since January, he has sailed from Dun Laoghaire for a few hours alone each evening after work though he maintains his other sailing commitments as well. “I haven’t gone purely down the route of solo sailing and still sail dinghies plus sail cruisers in Howth and Dun Laoghaire once a week,” he said.

Hurley estimates a typical campaign is possible on a budget of between €25,000-€30,000 with boat purchase at around €15,000 plus another matching amount in campaign costs.

Second half of the competition came down to a two-horse race for the 1500-miles and swapped places four or five times even though geographically quite separated except for one chance when he was on the horizon but that was it for the whole race.

His low-point was over the Grand Banks on the northern side of a low pressure system and he had to stop sailing for three hours. “Mentally, that was incredibly difficult, knowing that my competitors were still sailing on through the night in different conditions,” he admitted. “But the position report the next morning showed I hadn’t lost anything.”

The high-point actually had little to do with racing and took place exactly mid-Atlantic for just a couple of minutes when he enjoyed some free surfing, “off-piste, thundering down some huge waves and knowing that you had got there all on your own.”

He pays tribute to his supporters in Ireland and elsewhere, especially the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire and Cove Sailing Club in Cork.

With his sister and a friend, Hurley will sail Dinah from New York’s Ellis Island back to Cobh for August Bank-holiday weekend.

O2 have been very supportive for allowing him un-paid leave to accomplish his goal.

As for the future, he would consider a Figaro campaign but this would need three years and a permanent move to France.

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times.

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