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Crookhaven – it's the little sailing club with the big (award-winning) heart

February 22nd, 2018 5:05 PM

By Southern Star Team

Harry Hermon, chief executive, Irish Sailing, presents Peter O'Leary, rear commodore of Crookhaven Harbour Sailing Club, with the Volvo Training Centre of the Year award, with Patricia Greene, head of communications, Volvo Car Ireland.

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By Paddy Mulchrone

A TINY, part-time sailing club has just scooped a major national sailing award in the teeth of fierce competition.

The little Crookhaven Harbour Sailing Club (CHSC) has been named Ireland’s Training Centre of 2017, despite running for only a few weeks each year.

The club was presented with its title at a glittering awards ceremony attended by over 400 people at the RDS in Dublin last week. Organisers saluted their dedication to providing sail training opportunities in the region.

In its citation, Irish Sailing paid tribute to the club’s encouragement of new and returning sailors in Crookhaven Harbour. The citation also praised the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the club, its dedication to safety, and the support of a strong and active committee.

CHSC beat off stiff competition from shortlisted Bray and Galway City clubs to win the prestigious Volvo-sponsored Irish Sailing award. It was an incredible ‘David and Goliath’ victory for the part-time volunteers who give up their own holiday time to invest in children’s future lives on the water. The title was presented to the club’s rear commodore Peter O’Leary, who paid tribute to the seaside village club’s founding fathers and the many, many parents and friends who have given up their holiday time to help children gain confidence at sea.

Their dedication has led to club members going on to represent Ireland in national and international competitions. Four years ago, Charlie Moloney flew the flag for CHSC in the Laser class national championships and this year two more will compete in the Optimist class world championships in Lake Garda, Italy.

‘We have come a long way from a portakabin in a field 40 years ago,’ a delighted Peter O’Leary told The Southern Star. In 2000, with the help of a bank loan and five generous investors – who were all repaid by 2008 – the club bought and extended its present permanent home at the head of the slipway in Crookhaven village.

Now, for three weeks in July every year, over a hundred children learn everything from the basic rules of the water to expert skills at sailing Optimist, Topaz and Laser class yachts. Then in August, there are daily races and weekend competitions for children aged 10 to 18. The club also buys new dinghies every year which are available – at cost price – to club members to buy.

‘It was a wonderful night and a fantastic tribute to everyone who has got the club to where it is now,’ said Peter.

‘We should pay tribute to our founder, the later Prof Donal O’Donovan, and our backers who had the confidence to secure our sailing club premises, as well as all the volunteers who have given their time so freely over the years.

‘This is a phenomenal achievement for a club of our size that exists only part time.’

Summer visitors to tiny Crookhaven in Ireland’s most south westerly corner will be familiar with the explosion of organised chaos every July and August as dozens of dinghies prepare for daily training and race routines. 

Piers that lie empty all winter are packed with multi-coloured sails and hulls as wet-suited youngsters get to grips with their craft.

The club is already inviting applications for courses this summer, which include the recently launched Tri Sailing category for adults who want to get their first taste of the sea and sailing.

And the clubhouse – the first building you see entering Crookhaven village – will fly a flag proudly declaring: ‘Ireland’s sail training centre of the year.’

The Irish Sailing citation reads in full: ‘Crookhaven Harbour Sailing Club have won for their encouragement of new and returning sailors to truly enjoy the natural habitat of Crookhaven Harbour, and the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the club.

‘Sailors come first with child protection a priority backed up by training, strong communications and reporting. Their revised adult programme introduced this year has been a great success in bringing sailing to the entire family and has also helped build stronger relationships within the club.

‘They also think creatively about how to target membership by initiatives such as the boat purchase scheme and boat share facilitating which enables inclusion and access for all newcomers to the sport in Crookhaven.’

The citation concluded: ‘And all this is supported by a strong, active and supportive committee with well defined roles and an excellent shore based team of rostered volunteers.’

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