Eight bells: Dave Irish

3 December 2020

  David H. Irish passed away peacefully in his home in Harbor Springs, Michigan, at the age of 83. He is survived by his wife Ann, four children, 11 grandchildren, 4 great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews. From his home base in upper Michigan, where water turns to ice almost half the year, Dave nonetheless exerted significant positive influence on keelboat and offshore sailing at home, in the Great Lakes, and indeed around the world.

In 1961 he started Irish Boat Shop, an iconic boat yard and chandlery that provides not only expert service to the local and greater Lake Michigan community, but sales of many new model race boats as well, many of which he raced himself. This business has successfully expanded into now having three other locations in the region with nearly 100 employees. A founding member of the Little Traverse Bay YC in Harbor Springs, Dave also helped organize and promote this bucolic setting as host to the ever-popular Ugotta Regatta, where many teams from throughout the Lakes region come to race each year after the Chicago and Bayview Mackinac races. His own successful results in these races earned him enduring respect throughout the region, as did his active promotion and support of junior sailing.

Yet Dave’s service to the sport and influence was not confined to the Lakes region, having competed in numerous offshore and inshore national and international championships throughout the decades, both as skipper and crew. This experience and perspective led to him to develop both the vision and organizational skills that would later rewarded him with a brilliant political career in numerous national and international organizations. For example, Dave was brought into the ORC Council in the early 1990s, where he became Vice Chairman until 2001 when ORC merged for a short time into the structure of ISAF. Meanwhile, he was also US Sailing President from 1995-1997.

He continued his involvement with ISAF, first in the Keel Boat and Offshore One Design Committees then representing the USA on Council, followed by being Vice Chairman in the Executive Committee from 2004 until 2012. In the mid-1990’s he was instrumental in devising the Mumm 30 class rules that categorized “professional” and “amateur” sailors and the limits placed on their participation in class events. This was then expanded and codified for use in other popular keelboat and offshore classes under the administration of US Sailing before the system then being merged with the RYA’s similar scheme and adopted by ISAF as the Classification Commission, now re-named by World Sailing as the Categorization Commission.

This system has not always been popular and often difficult to implement, yet its importance can be seen in the huge database of sailors who registered for its use (>40,000) and the immense popularity and success of numerous keelboat and offshore classes that define and limit the participation of Group 3 sailors in order to preserve and promote the participation of amateurs.

Even now ORC’s World and European Championship events have popular Corinthian trophies that are defined using the World Sailing Categorization system. Fair winds Dave, the ORC family will miss your smiling and reassuring presence, and will not forget your legacy.



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