Sean Rahilly – Man and a boat profile

Sean Rahilly – Man and a boat profile

Between his Late father being a ship captain, and growing up close to the water in Sydney's eastern suburbs, it was inevitable that Sean Rahilly would take up sailing as a sport. It was a school friend, though, and not his father, who helped the primary school boy discover the pleasures of sailing.

As a child, Rahilly's father Paddy sailed for fun in hometown Ireland. However, on growing up, Paddy's long bouts at sea left little time for sailing, although on moving to Australia around nine years prior to Sean's birth, he spent years as part of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's on-water race management team.

Paddy kept busy with on-water duties up until he died in December 1997, the year his son contested his one and only Sydney-Hobart, which his father helped prepare the boat for. “It was important to go after all the help he gave us to prepare the yacht – Dad wouldn't have had it any other way,” the now 46 year-old says.

Well-liked and highly respected for his knowledge of the sea, Paddy also returned home now and again for Ireland's famous Cork Week, sailed out of his home town Crosshaven.

As a 12 year old, the young Rahilly first crewed a Sabot and then a Flying 11 with his school friend and later raced a Flying 11 with younger sister Anne-Marie.

Brother and sister cut their racing teeth at the Vaucluse 12ft Skiff Club, along with well respected names around their own age such as James Mayo, brothers Paul and Luke Ratcliff and Michael and Mark Walsh, and Simon Kurts, whom Rahilly's younger brother Seamus went to school and raced boats with.

Tragically, Seamus, along with three sailing and school mates from Waverley Boys College, was killed in the notorious ghost train fire at Luna Park in 1979. A special plaque was mounted at the Vaucluse 12ft Skiff Club in their memories.

Fast forward to 2006, some thirty years of sailing and racing miles later, Rahilly and his friend Justin Pelly visited the Sydney Boat Show where the Sydney 36CR caught their eyes.

“Justin and I had raced on a few boats and then we owned a yacht together for three years. We had been looking to buy a new yacht on and off for a few years.

“We went to the Boat Show in Sydney last year. I am happy to say that we looked at all the other yachts on offer and saw this model of the Sydney 36CR. It suited us best; it was everything in a boat both of us were looking for.”

Partnerships in yachts are not always an easy road to travel, particularly when buying a new boat, but Rahilly says there were no squabbles when it came to choosing from the multitude of yachts on offer these days.

“I guess we are lucky in that we owned our previous yacht together. When it came to buying again, both of us had the same goals in mind,” he explained.

“This is our first brand new boat,” the Bondi sailor enthuses. Having previously raced Sydney 38s, the two were well versed in the Sydney Yachts range. The pair had even considered buying a 38 or a Sydney 32. “They are both great boats, but the 36 is easier to sail; the whole package suited our purposes and needs better.

The friends said they wanted to be more competitive, but also wanted a boat their respective families could enjoy. Both are married, and Justin has one young son James, whom he is looking forward to teaching the delights of sailing to.

“In theory, the 36 is a one-design boat, but they designed to the IRC rule and everyone is doing different things with kites, some are going asymmetrical, others standard masthead – that's the big variation.

“The price was very reasonable compared to other designs. For $259,000 you can buy the standard yacht, but it also comes with a number of optional extras that you can

From the range of extras, he and Pelly have added $20,000 worth, including hot water, a ladder; fixed bowsprit; grab rails below and teak flooring.

“We love that it is a big boat with a nice big cockpit, non-overlapping headsails, asymmetrical kites and is simple to sail. The wheel is big; you get great visibility when you're steering without having to climb up and down the deck.

“Nor did we want a boat that became overpowered in 15 knots plus. This boat has nice flat sails and a lot of lead in the keel, so it's nice and stiff, it sails nice and flat,” Rahilly says.

“The immediate plan is to do twilight and winter series' and some summer series races. We'll probably do the CYCA Short Ocean Point Score next year and maybe some of the shorthaul races,” says Rahilly, adding, “but we haven't quite made our minds up yet; The boat is so versatile, we will probably harbour race her as well. We're not really interested in Passage Races and the major offshore events.

“We'll also use the boat a lot socially – for family and friends from Australia and overseas – it'll be a great way to show them Sydney and our Harbour. The roomy cockpit and space behind the wheel makes it a great boat for social sailing.”

Having used Ian Short sails on their previous boat, he and Pelly have elected to stay with Short. Rahilly says: “Ian has always been really good to us; he comes sailing with us and he's great at helping us get the boat going.

“We have had a long association with him now; he helped us win the Cavalier 28 NSW Championship for the past two years.” Their sails include a main, No 1 and 3 headsails and one asymmetrical kite. “We may add more sails later.”

Married to Frances for 14 years, the yachtsman says his wife particularly loved the yacht's interior. Featuring two comfortable double beds aft, down lights and a small neat galley in the open, light and bright interior, Frances feels at home on the yacht they have named Crosshaven. In fact the interior has a very 'homey' feel to it which appeals to both families.

“We went through a few names and Crosshaven was the best. We intend having the yacht long-term, so we wanted a name that was lasting,” Rahilly explains. It is also a tribute to his father's heritage.

“Frances loves the yacht and can't believe how big and fast it is. After she'd checked out down below, she came and sat on deck in the nice space behind the wheel while we sailed on the Harbour and was as happy as Larry!”

Along with Frances, Pelly's wife Karen will enjoy the social sailing and cruising Crosshaven's owners have planned.

“When we first got the boat, we went for a putter on Crosshaven with a friend and the kids. I was a bit worried, as it was blowing a 15-20 knot westerly, but under a No. 3 headsail we were pleasantly surprised that she did 6½ knots through the gusts and felt very comfortable. Our wives and the kids had a ball – they weren't frightened at all, because it sailed nice and flat.

“We are all looking forward to weekend trips away, to places like Pittwater, when work allows,” says Rahilly, the Head of Compliance in a French corporate and investment bank.

Taking delivery of the yacht this past June, the two have only been sailing with their crew three times and were looking forward to contesting their first race at the time of writing. Both were excited about trying out the final race Audi Winter Series at the CYCA where both are members.

“It's going to be very nice sailing a bigger yacht in large fleets like the winter series, because in a little yacht you get climbed over too much,” Rahilly muses.

“It's very exciting buying a new boat,” Rahilly says of his and Pelly's white-hulled 36, which is moored at the CYCA where both he and Pelly are members. “The challenge will be to keep it clean with all the water restrictions in place,” he laughs.

Di Pearson

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