Following on from last week’s article which kicked off the MSA’s series ‘Champions in the Spotlight’ this week we’re chatting to Derek Joyce who sails his Mermaid 187 Zuleika out of Wexford. A long time participant in the class from the mid 80’s up until 2010, Derek is now a living legend to budding Mermaiders having won the National Championship 5 times. Having been idle for a few years, Zuleika was overhauled and relaunched in 2016 much to the excitement and delight of the class. With a new deck, sails and trailer and looking about as slick as a Mermaid can get, she was the talk of the class last year.

The 2016 Leinsters event saw the Mermaids return to Wexford for the first time in a number of years. As a local man knowing the waters better than anyone and with a newly refurbished boat, Derek was always pipped to win, however no one was prepared for the conditions. A steady 21 knots gusting up to 33 had the fleet questioning whether racing would go ahead at all. Opting to race in the more ‘sheltered’ inner harbour 10 boats headed out for race 1 on the Saturday morning and within the first 5 minutes 2 had retired. 119, ‘3 Chevrons’ sailed off the start line and immediately headed for home as they realised they were sinking quite quickly (this was later discovered to be because of a 5 ft crack in a plank by the keelbox) and 191, ‘Maybe’ made the wise decision to retire due to an injury that meant the crew weren’t at 100% (something which was essential on this particular day!). A particularly nasty capsize for 146, ‘Fugitive’ also took them out of the race meaning only 7 boats finished the first and only race of the day.

Derek Joyce on 187 Zuleika with his crew James Sinnott and Cillian Joyce made a very welcome comeback to the fleet and certainly didn’t disappoint as they comfortably secured a 1st place on the day.The wind was so strong and visibility so poor for the start line that only one boat seemed to be anywhere near it! Indeed this Championship demanded boats, crew and trim to be 100%, any slip up or error at all equaled a wipe out. A young female helm in the Mermaid class, Anna Lowes from Foynes Yacht Club (who was 17 at the time) truly shone and proved her talent as an up and coming helm-to-watch by sailing and completing all of her races in what was undoubtedly some of the most demanding conditions Mermaid helms can be faced with.

The second and final day of the Leinster Championship on the Sunday saw similar conditions as 7 Mermaids headed back out to the inner harbour racing area for 1 final race. Lively conditions again kept everyone on their toes and thankfully there was only 1 retiree on the day. 188, Innocence who had been leading the race decided to fly the spinnaker and ended up breaking their mast which took them out of the race. Apparently, to the select few who just have ‘it’ (whatever the equivalent of the x-factor is in sailing!), winning events is like riding a bike and Derek Joyce smoothly claimed the Leinster title with two 1sts, having not sailed his Mermaid for a number of years. Here, MSA Captain Roisin Mc Cormack chats to Derek to find out a little bit more about his sailing background and some of his favourite sailing memories.

How did you first get involved with the Dublin Bay Mermaid sailing class?

Mermaids were a strong class in Wexford when I got “Pearl” 161 in the mid ‘80’s.  We had good racing 2 evenings each week and every second Sunday we did a passage race to Rosslare Harbour or Carne. And not to mention the class had a lively social scene (Beer!).

What is your favourite thing about the class?

The great camaraderie over the years and the good racing offered by the class.

Do you do any other sailing?

I also sail Lasers and do a good bit of Cruising.

What makes your boat go faster?!

It has to be minimum weight, a fair hull and foils make a big difference and paying attention to detail.

What was a key ingredient for securing your overall Leinster win last year?

It blew hard that day and as Gay Brennan often said: “A day for the ignorant”.

Can you tell us about your winning crew and how long you had all been sailing together prior to the win?

I had James Sinnott, a seasoned Mermaider and legendary crew and also Cillian Joyce who provided the bulk and brawn. We had never sailed together previously.

What is your favourite sailing spot in Ireland?

West Cork.

Can you tell us about one of your favourite sailing memories?

Any event with a lot of breeze and downwind with spinnaker but particularly one event stands out in my memory where we were on a 1720 in 30 knots and all the crew were standing behind the helm to keep the bow out!

Can you give one piece of advice for upcoming, budding Mermaiders?

A light fit crew, add in a lot of practice and mix with a good dose of perseverance.

What is next for you and your Dublin Bay Mermaid?

The boat was recently redecked (2016) and is now up for sale, full details here.


                     Mermaid 187 Zuleika sailing in Fenit

Sincere thanks to Derek for his time sharing some of his Mermaid memories. Next week we have the final article in our ‘Champions in the Spotlight’ series, we’ll be talking to Darragh Mc Cormack from Foynes Yacht Club who clinched the Munster Championship 2016 title. A long-time member of Mermaid sailing (having bought his first boat when he was 16) Darragh has recently been climbing the ranks considerably, finishing 2nd in the 2015 Nationals and 5th in last year’s Nationals, he’s a man on a mission and is certainly one to watch!