Galway mourns loss of legendary mariners

Galway and Irish sailing is mourning the loss of two giants of the sport.

Local sailing legends, Dave Fitzgerald, aged 90, passed away in Dublin at the weekend, following the recent death of clubmate Henry Lupton.

Dave Fitzgerald of Kinvara was best known on the west coast for his duel exploits in sailing and mining. A seasoned campaigner in the Round Ireland Yacht Race, he became the first western commodore of the Irish Cruising Club.

In January Dave was joined by his many friends in international sailing and the global mining industry to celebrate his 90th birthday in the Royal St George YC in Dun Laoghaire, hosted by his daughter Grainne.

Both Dave Fitzgerald and Henry Lupton loved life on the water, encouraging youngsters and adults to take up the sport. According to Afloat editor Winkie Nixon, Henry Lupton was an "eloquent example" of contemporary Galway and the way the city and its surrounding area interact both with the sea and the most modern research industries.

Henry, the son of popular former Galway mayor, the late Angela Lupton, passed away aged 52 after a long battle with cancer.

His first interest in boats was in rowing, and at NUI Galway he was a successful captain of the rowing club, while also winning the Galway Sports Star of the Year in 1987. His interest in sailing gradually took over as he built his pioneering medical and surgical business, but he continued as a mentor to rising rowing stars, and played a key role in Gavan Hennigan’s solo Transatlantic rowing achievement. Along with his wife Marina, he championed the Accessible Sailing in Galway branch.

He owned a selection of craft at Galway Bay Sailing Club, starting with the GK 29 Young Nick, and then developing his sailing interests further with a Formula 28 called Starlet, followed by the First 31.7 Quelle Surprise which he campaigned in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race.

When his company was taken over by a large conglomerate, he and Marina fulfilled their dream with the First 40.7 Beoga and an Atlantic circuit cruise. They also sailed long distances to 1720 class championships despite the 1720 having not been designed with offshore passages in mind.

"Throughout all this, Henry continued as a source of warm encouragement and useful information for other owners at every boat size level and experience range – the GBSC forum reveals fond memories of a man of wisdom and inspiring example," says Nixon and GBSC's Pierce Purcell.

"He would encourage others not to dream of the unattainable, but rather to 'sail the boat you have', and in his final years he re-ignited his enjoyment of club-based round-the-cans and WIORA racing with a share in another Formula 28, RhocStar.

"As for his cruising interests, where others might have seen a weekend of poor sailing weather developing, Henry and Marina always felt sure that it would relent at some time or other. Almost invariably, when that flash of unexpected sunshine came through on the Sunday afternoon, it would illuminate the spinnaker of their last cruiser, an Ovni 485 - also called Beoga - breezing back up Galway Bay, having succeeded in getting to the Aran Islands for the weekend against all the odds, and now returning with glorious sailing in a fair wind. That is how Henry Lupton will be remembered, and our heartfelt condolences are with Marina and their many friends and shipmates."

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