2020 Irish Sailing Volunteer of the Year – John Leahy CAI

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2020 Irish Sailing Association Volunteer of the Year - John Leahy, Hon. Sec., CAI

The Irish Sailing Volunteer of the Year Award was reintroduced this year and won by John Leahy of Dun Laoghaire for his work during the pandemic with the Cruising Association of Ireland. He won out of dozens of nominations entered by the public from around the country. From the moment the pandemic hit John provided a constant stream of communication for CAI sailors – that consisted of talks, presentations and WhatsApp groups, but in reality, strengthened the bonds of their community and helped people enormously in a time of great crisis, loneliness and fear.

As one person wrote…

“John’s dedication to support us is commendable and no doubt helped some with the solitude they found themselves in”.

2012 Tall Ships

For 15 years or more, John has been a driving force behind the Cruising Association of Ireland. As Commodore, Honorary Secretary, Cruising Skipper and as instructor and teacher, John has worked tirelessly to promote the Association and ensure the safety and well-being of its members.

John has sailed since he was 8 years old, on a Firefly. He raced a lot on the Dublin Bay 21s and was “cabin boy” aboard Dermot Barnes’ 36 footer, “Cu na Mara” to Lisbon in 1965. Later he became an airline pilot with BOAC on the Boeing 707, and has told during one of his talks how it was navigated using a sextant in those days! He finished his career as Chief Pilot of the 747 with British Airways in 2003.

After retiring he became and RYA/ISA Yachtmaster and started Oceanmaster Sail Training teaching YM courses aboard his Rival 41 Xavantes. John brings his knowledge of navigation, aerodynamics and meteorology down to earth, or at least to sea level! He has owned many cruising yachts from the 70’s on Westerlys, to his current yacht – a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 43 DS. John uses these same skills to good effect in passing on his experience to his fellow cruisers on the regular navigation skills courses run over Zoom by the CAI.

In 2002 a steering committee led by Eamon Markey founded the Cruising Association of Ireland (CAI) and by 2005 John Leahy was a familiar sight among the CAI members. By 2008 John had organised one of the first major CAI flotillas taking in parts of Wales including the Menai Straits.

Wales IOM 2008

 By now the CAI was a well-structured organisation and John had quickly settled into a role as the CAI source of wisdom for matters of navigation, weather and seamanship in general, so much so that a formal committee post of ‘Sailing Master’ was created for John. From 2010, within the CAI, John had progressed to Commodore followed by a natural move into the position of Honorary Secretary taking over from Simon Parker. John’s proactive energies and diligence are strongly reflected in all aspects of the CAI’s development, from membership, training, webmaster, event management and as the focal point for the CAI public relations.

The CAI is thrilled and honoured that John as a key CAI member, reflecting the work the CAI does to promote all aspects of sailing, has been recognised by Irish Sailing in selecting John for the 2020 Volunteer of the Year award.

It is John’s award but John, in his typical casual manner, emphasised during the award ceremony….

“This really does reflect the hard work of many committees and members down the years in making the CAI what it is and I am proud to accept it for them.”

We’ll be happy to bask a little in his glory. The CAI Commodore Vincent, the Committee and John, our current Honorary Secretary are committed to delivering even better service to our growing membership, with talks, training, web services and as soon as permitted, real sailing events. The Cruising Association of Ireland welcomes new members at the remarkably low cost of only €30 individual and €45 family per annum. We will continue in our efforts to provide the members with safe adventures, comradeship, training, the safety of cruises-in-company and lots of fun into the bargain.

Vincent Lundy Commodore, CAI

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