‘People’s Skipper’ sailor Joe English dies at 58

The death has taken place of Cork yachtsman Joe English, the former skipper of Ireland’s first entry in the Whitbread Round the World Race.

The 58-year-old was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s seven years ago, a disease which ended his successful career as a professional sailor.

Dubbed ‘The People’s Skipper’, Joe was an immensely popular sailor who was also acclaimed internationally.

As a child, Joe’s love of sailing was nurtured by parents Eamonn and Mary. His older brother Eddie also went on to become a successful international sailor.

A Corkman through and through, Joe learned his skills at the family home in Cobh, and across the harbour in Crosshaven.

His first sea adventure took place at the tender age of nine, when he sailed to Spike Island on a small clinker-built dinghy.

Among the first recruits to the Irish Yachting Association, Joe won the Junior Helmsman championship with lifelong friend Neil Kenefick.

He first represented Ireland at the Youth World Sailing Championships in Scotland the next year, turning professional shortly afterward when he joined the staff of North Sails Loft in Kinsale at aged 20.

In 1989, Joe was appointed skipper to the NCB Ireland — the 82ft yacht built in Dublin’s Ballyfermot for the Whitbread Round the World Race.

The NCB crew competed with distinction over the 33,000-mile course, facing several technical difficulties before finishing safely after nine months around the globe.

Shortly after Joe was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2007, his sailing friends set up the Joe English Trust to help care for him in his final years. Joe participated in an RTÉ Prime Time documentary in association with the Alzheimer’s Society. He was extremely open about his condition, and highlighted the devastating impact Alzheimer’s has on sufferers and their families.

After years of dedicated care, Joe passed away peacefully at St Finbarr’s Hospital, Douglas Rd, yesterday.

He is survived by his wife April, daughter Aoife, sons Robbie and Conor, and brothers Eddie, Denis, and Jean-Paul.

Removal to Crosshaven Church will be held today at 7pm followed by a funeral Mass tomorrow morning.


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