CHATTING with Kieran O’Connell, the chairman of Volvo Cork Week, I couldn’t help thinking about the American comedienne Lucille Ball.
‘If you want something done,’ Ball once quipped, ‘ask a busy person to do it.’
Lots of hard work needs to be done for Volvo Cork Week – so in Lucille Ball-speak, who better to take it on than father-of-three Kieran O’Connell?
This is one busy man – he acts as a carer for his wife Joanne, who is blind, and is dad to Alex (9), Rebecca (7) and Ryan (4) and outside his heavy commitment to Volvo Cork Week, manages a number of student rental properties in the city.
As a result, Kieran juggles his time carefully. Mornings, when the kids are still in school, give him time to catch up on events at the Royal Cork Yacht Club (RCYC) which will be the main hub of activity for the Volvo Cork Week programme, while evenings, when family life is winding down, are set aside for meetings with the different heads of events involved in organising the hectic schedule for the event.
‘It’s very much about working around the children,’ he explains.
‘Family comes first. Joanne is hugely capable in her own environment, and the children are very helpful so between us all, we manage well.’
So it’s really all about juggling the complex logistics of organising this prestigious international event with the demands of a busy family life and his day job as a landlord.
‘I have a team of people working with me who are all voluntary, and who are all looking after different aspects of the event – everything from on-the-water racing to sorting out accommodation for visiting crews and organising social events,’ he explains.
Organising the Week is a huge commitment. ‘You are probably looking at three or four hours a day working on the event,’ he observes. ‘I spend a lot of time in the club in Crosshaven village with the club manager, Gavin Deane.
‘The two of us are working closely together,’ says the 38-year-old who volunteered for the role back in 2014 when the previous event ended.
Although Volvo Cork Week started as a small local event in 1978, within 20 years it had grown into one of the biggest events of its kind in the world, with more than 600 entries.
It received a battering from the global recession which hit in 2007 – and by 2014, the number of entries was down to 90. However, things are once again on the up – by around mid-June entries were in the region of 100, which means figures were already well ahead of the entry level at the same time in 2014.
For Kieran, it’s all in a day’s work: ‘I have quite an active role in the club even outside of Cork Week, because I’m also Rear Admiral in the club, on top of being chairman, and that involves organising racing at a club level.
He’s pleased with the positive response to the Beaufort Cup, to which national groups such as the RNLI, army, navy and Coastguard have been invited to compete at an amateur level.
‘It’s a huge success and we already have a large entry with racing teams from the UK, France, Ireland as well as two RNLI teams and the fisheries board. This will be great for the local economy because it brings in English, Welsh, French, South African and American sailors, who will be playing golf, going to the local restaurants and shopping.’
It’s all a long way from the urban environment of the Glasheen Road in Cork city where he grew up, yet, once he was introduced to sailing later in life by his step-father, Kieran recalls, he took to it like the proverbial fish to water.
‘I loved it and I kept going from there.’ And of course, once he met Crosshaven native Joanne and got married, his course was set.
Volvo Cork Week takes place between July 10th and 15th.