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Home > Editorials > Captains of Ships – Clive Deasy

Captains of Ships – Clive Deasy

Clive and his three brothers – one older, two younger – grew up in Crosshaven on Ireland’s bewitching southwest coast.  Living a hop, skip, and a jump from The Royal Cork Yacht Club, the world’s oldest founded in 1720, it was inevitable that the family would become engaged with the sea.

When Clive was a young teenager, his father bought an Enterprise dinghy for the family to sail, but it wasn’t just sailing that piqued his interest.  Clive got hooked on windsurfing, kayaking and canoeing and, age 15, took his dream summer job as a trainee instructor at Oysterhaven Outdoor Adventure Centre.  During time off, Clive would glass collect at the yacht club, then grab his gear and windsurf.  So far, so wonderfully good.

“My first firm nudge in the direction of a sailing career came courtesy of local yacht broker, offshore race navigator and Cork Week co-founder, Donal McClement.  He needed a crew to sail the Dubois 54 Stormbird (ex Dumptruck) from Hamble to Dublin and asked my parents if they’d volunteer myself and my older brother – they agreed.”

“It was February, snowing, and we were a crew of four doing single watches on a fractional rigged boat with no autopilot.  Charging downwind, we were all briefed not to, under any circumstances, gybe the boat.  To alert the other crew, we had to jump up and down on the deck.  I vividly recall the speed, the power, the size of the rig, and the buzz of having such great responsibility at just 16 years of age.  My eyes were opened.”

Clive added yacht racing to his windsurfing at the weekends.  He worked his way through the club racing ranks all the way up to the Frers 51 Moonduster – a prominent boat in the Cork community.  It was a rite of passage to crew on Moonduster, and Clive did two Fastnet Races and one Round Ireland Yacht Race on that iconic yacht.

By now, Clive had stumbled across his next passion and interest in life – architecture.  In 1998, he moved to Dublin to embark on a degree at the Dublin School of Architecture. To keep his fun fund topped up, he bartended at Vicar St (sister to Dublin’s famous Point concert venue) during term time.

“Despite giving architecture my all, I refused to let my sailing slip, so completed my RYA Yachtmaster in Northern Ireland in 1998 and devoted all my summers to racing.

This ticket also allowed me to commission and deliver boats around the country for Donal and the like, building invaluable skippering experience and beer tokens.  The summer of 1999 proved to be particularly pivotal.  To begin with, Donal asked me to help deliver Swan 53 Rambler from Ireland to the Solent with its new owner.  Then, I had my first taste of professional remunerated racing in a ‘posh’ regatta – the Rolex Swan European in Cowes.”

“I sailed to the Isle of Wight with my bag and no real plan but was immediately blown away by Cowes, the Royal Yacht Squadron, the heritage and the traditions.  Cowes provided a million opportunities for sailing, so I wrote a postcard home saying I wouldn’t be back until university started in September.  There was something quite satisfying about writing that postcard – I felt a real sense of freedom.”

“I got a job at Pier View pub on Cowes High Street, while based onboard Rambler docked in Cowes Yacht Haven.  I then raced on anything and everything I could.  I was bowman on the famous quarter tonner Purple Haze and we won our class in Cowes Week with eight straight bullets.  Then, to round off the summer, I did the Fastnet on Moonduster and grabbed a free ‘lift’ back to Ireland.”

After another year of architecture, Clive was back behind the bar at The Royal Cork Yacht Club and schmoozing the owners and captains of Europe-wide campaigned racing boats, who were in town for the biennial Cork Week 2000.

“I found myself serving rum punch to London property developer, Richard Loftus, and learned he was putting together a Med campaign crew for his Swan 65 Desperado.  He said I was ‘in’, so I jotted down his office number on my hand and was advised to call his secretary.  She said she would make travel arrangements for me to attend the Swan Cup in Sardinia, so I sat by my postbox waiting for the flight tickets.”

“A ticket to London arrived, alongside a booking for a hotel room in Kensington.  I was told to be in the lobby at 10am.  How was I getting to Italy?  I had my answer when Richard pulled up in a Williams Renault Clio and drove us hair-raisingly to his twin prop at Elstree Aerodome.  Built in 1974, his Cessna was a full three years older than his classic Swan.  What’s more, Richard was going to fly the thing with me as co-pilot.”

“As we took off, Richard explained we would make our first stop in Southampton – one, to collect Owen Parker, long-time tactician for Sir Edward Heath, and two, because the plane only had enough fuel for Southampton to Sardinia, not London to Sardinia.  To say I had cold feet would be an understatement.”

“Midway through the flight, I was given the task of switching fuel tanks from primary to reserve.  Ominously, I had to do it at the last possible moment.  I watched 25-year-old gauges bouncing about and made the port wing change.  I was about to do the starboard, when its engine spluttered and the wing suddenly dropped.  In a panic, I made the second change, the engine recovered its revs and the plane gradually stabilized.  I looked like a ghost, Mr Parker had almost fainted in the back.  Richard chirruped, “Well done, you got all the fuel out of that”.  We landed on fumes and took a taxi to Porto Cervo where the assembled crew laughed at me:  “Oh, it was your turn this time, so you passed the initiation!”  You only fly Loftus Airways once.  It was worth it, we finished third overall in the Cup.”

Swan 60R Island Fling was moored alongside Desperado during the event, and Captain Steve ‘Taff’ Dodd took Clive on for the sail back to Hamble via Palma, where they changed sails and stored the race gear in the team container.  It was Clive’s first taste of Mallorca.

In 2001, Clive raced almost exclusively with Island Fling for their UK, Med and Asia programme.  The same for 2002 – with the addition of the RORC Commodore’s Cup.  This Corinthian (amateur) version of The Admiral’s Cup featured three-boat teams from across Europe and it was an honour for Clive to represent his country.

2003 signalled a year out of studies and Clive went backpacking in South America with Alice, a fellow architecture student who he’d romanced at Cork Week 2002.  He hatched a plan to pay for the trip and get them a free ride home.

“We flew from south to north, Newport Rhode Island to be specific, and looked for daywork in NEB Marina and Hinckley Yachts.  Despite never having sailed before, Alice quickly became more employable than me, as there were plenty of lads around to compete for daywork, but not so many girls.  The Dolan family, owners of Madison Square Garden and yachts such as 118ft Knickerbocker and 73ft Encore, hired her as a hostess for their Independence Day party and she was paid a fortune.”

“Meanwhile, I got invited to do the Swan American Regatta on Swan 56 Vanish 2 skippered by Volvo Ocean Race veteran Dubliner Gordon Maguire.  Then, we just had the small matter of getting home in time for the 2003/4 academic year.  Thankfully, Swan 82 Innovision captained by Mathew Sweetman, now at the helm of 40m Rainbow JH2, was looking for a delivery crew back to the Mediterranean.  Alice and I got off in Gibraltar then flew to Dublin.”

In summer 2004, after a hellish but memorable adventure round Ireland on the bright orange Ker 11.3 Minnie the Moocher, Clive flew to the Nautor’s Swan yard in Finland to help Taff commission the new Island Fling, a Swan 601 which they sailed down to Cowes Week and the Rolex Swan Cup in Porto Cervo.  By summer 2005, after seven years hard study, Clive and Alice graduated and the professional sailing came to a halt.

“We moved to Cork, became architects at different firms, bought a house and got engaged.  I returned to amateur club racing, sometimes with my father who had upgraded from the Enterprise to a Sunfast 32 called Bad Company.  I also had a second more successful stab at The Commodore’s Cup in 2006 onboard the Mills 39 Mariner’s Cove.  We led the entire event until the last half hour of the last day when the wind ran out and everyone caught up – France overtook Ireland for the win.”

“In May 2008 Alice and I got married.  Renovations on the house were finished and we contemplated the idea of a sabbatical, believing we’d make a great captain-chef team – after all, architecture would always be there for us.  At Cork Week 2008, I chatted to the ex-captain of Swan 56 Lolita, Kate Mardel, in the beer tent.  She mentioned the owner was looking for a new crew.  The sabbatical idea was germinating.”

“As 2008 progressed, the economy was stalling.  I was starting to query the stability of our jobs and Ireland’s construction boom.  We sent our applications in for Lolita.  By pure coincidence, Alice was offered voluntary redundancy at the same time we were offered the job.  I quit the architecture firm, packed up, rented the house and, as the wheels fell off the global economy, I began my first captain job in October.”

“We enjoyed 18 months of performance cruising Lolita, summers in New England – including a week day-sailing from Battery Park in New York City – and winter in the Caribbean.  Lolita’s owners weren’t onboard too much during the winter so we took advantage and sailed almost every island.  Ultimately though, Alice had decided the sea wasn’t for her and she’d rather start a food business back in Ireland.”

“In April 2010, I finished with Lolita and jumped on Swan 56 Tenacity – a sister ship, easy handover.  Alice flew home and I went on to spend the summer doing extended family cruising in Maine followed by another Caribbean winter.  In November, Alice signed a lease on a café in Dublin.”

Tenacity then sailed to Europe, so at least Alice and I were in the same continent, and did a summer cruise in Norway.  We covered all of it, Bergen to Oslo, and snow-skied in July.  It was incredible.  Then back to Hamble for an elaborate winter refit, where I brought my architecture skills into play to redesign the galley, bathrooms, deck layout and colour scheme.  I lived in Dublin and commuted to Hampshire.”

In summer 2012, Clive sailed Tenacity around the handsome Galician coastline and then it was back to the Caribbean for the winter.  Serendipitously, the elaborate refit that he’d had completed on Tenacity was rewarded with a Concours d’Elegance trophy at the inaugural Rolex Swan Cup Caribbean in March.

“We’d been married five years and it was time to start a family.  As an immaculate conception was out of the question, I sailed Tenacity back to New York and handed the boat over in Manhattan.  By June 2013, we were extending Alice’s blossoming White Tea Café and by December we had a baby boy.”

Keen to stay close to his new family, Clive based himself in Dublin Bay and his next captain role was for a corporate day charter business in Dublin – www.gosailing.ie.  They ran teambuilding events on a 53ft Hanse and 8m RIB.  By pure fluke, his co-worker Bref, was the guy he was trainee instructor to at Oysterhaven some 20 years before.

“At this point, we were both firmly re-bedded in Ireland and extremely busy in our respective fields.  But, we found that our lives had become chaotic without adequate family time – was a reset required?  Our question was answered while I was doing some temp work on a Swan in Lymington. The 65ft Swan Constanter was seeking a new captain – in Palma.”

So, in April 2015 after selling their café business, Clive, Alice and their 16-month-old packed up and moved to Mallorca – they have been here ever since.

Constanter is a fantastic sailing yacht.  She has been in the same family since she was built in 2002, and is continuously upgraded each year adopting the latest technologies.  She sails nonstop all over the Med during the summer season looking after the owner’s family and an ever-growing loyal charter client base.”

“Yachts this size are fantastic.  Guests can actively participate in all aspects of their operation, under our professional guidance of course, and really become part of the story instead of just a spectator in it.  Crew member Charlotte and I research our cruising grounds thoroughly and ensure that our guests experience the very best of each location.  In winter, I apply my architecture skills and design and implement upgrades and refinements.  Last year, I envisioned and installed a full cocktail bar onboard.”

Alice and the children (the family of three became four in December 2015 with the addition of a daughter) are also enchanted by Mallorca.  The little’uns are at Spanish school and chitchat away in Castellano to their friends, they scoot and cycle up and down Palma’s Paseo, and mess about on the water in the Deasy family RIB.  Meanwhile, Alice has embarked on a postgrad with a view to becoming an international school teacher.  Island living certainly suits them.

“So, what’s next for me?  Well recently, I have formed an alliance with Jens Oomes, CEO of Invisible Crew.  This winter I will manage the refit of one of his fleet, a Solaris 72 Black Pearl, with the intention of managing other members of the Invisible Crew fleet in winters to come.  I am looking forward to the next chapter in my blended sailing-architecture career.”

By Sarah Forge, sarah@purplecakefactory.com