English died peacefully yesterday afternoon at St Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork after a 10-year battle with Alzheimer’s.
The Crosshaven man was one of Ireland’s best known yachtsmen and competed from an early age in dinghies and classic Cork Harbour One-designs.
Born into a proud sailing tradition — his parents both serving as Commodores of Cove Sailing Club — English had a fascination for ocean sailing, and competed in the infamous 1979 Fastnet Race with the late Denis Doyle.
He moved to Sydney and took part in many racing events there as well as trans-Pacific deliveries. In 1980, he met April Murphy, his wife to be who came from another well-known sailing family and the couple returned to Australia from where he sailed at events ranging from Admiral’s Cup to America’s Cup and was a winner of both the One and Two ton cups during the peak years of the International Offshore Rule in the 1980s.
After signing up for the NCB Ireland campaign in the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race, he was appointed skipper barely two months before the start of the race, in September 1989.
He led his crew of 22 in the Ron Holland-designed maxi that was built in Ireland in the biggest entry the race has seen, with 23 competitors, and placed 12th overall.
English continued racing in the following Whitbread four years later but joined friends in Crosshaven to spearhead the development of a new class of club racing boat.
Named the 1720 after the founding year of the Royal Cork Yacht Club, 115 boats were built in a far-reaching project that he supervised.
However, while working with McWilliam sailmakers in Cork years ago, he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.
Joe English is survived by his wife April, daughter Aoife, sons Robbie and Conor, brothers Eddie, Denis and Jean-Paul and a wide circle of friends and sailing mates in Ireland and around the world.