Ireland’s entry in the solo Vendée Globe race, Kilcullen Voyager, ended abruptly on New Year’s Day following a dismasting 180 nautical miles southeast of Dunedin, New Zealand, while racing in 35 knots of SSE wind. 

Vendee Globe Kilcullen

                                                                                                                             Photo: RNZ/Lydia Anderson

Ten days later however, O’Coineen says he is “contemplating his next move”: whether to ship the boat back to Europe or to refit and sail home.

“I’m not in a massive rush – my family don’t expect me back for a while! It’s tempting to get a mast and try to sail the boat home, but that’s a huge logistics effort in itself. So I don’t really know, the ball is in the air.”

Messages of support worldwide have given an unexpected platform for O’Coineen to highlight his goal to secure a sail training vessel for Ireland under the Atlantic Youth Trust which aims to deliver a world-class educational programme on a purpose built ship for young people from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.


Over the previous 55 days, Enda O’Coineen had sailed 13,153nm through major storms, overcoming rigging and electrical issues and extremely testing mental challenges.

In gallant voice speaking to race officials he outlined being caught “a little bit unawares” when a sudden and vicious 35kt squall hit just as the self-steering maljunctioned.

“I did a involuntary gybe and then a gybe back. The boat was out of control and I was caught without the runner properly on and the mast snapped,” he explained.

The mast severed at the deck and went overboad, taking with it the entire rig.

“I had the difficult decision to make of whether to try to save the rig or whether to save the hull of the boat. I was worried the stump of the rig would hole the boat……There was a big sea running. I cut the entire rig free.”

Rather then calling for help, he fashioned a crude sail from the broken pieces and headed towards New Zealand, eventually being picked up by a fishing vessel. 

Back on terra ferma, O’Coineen described being “devasted” as things had been going quite well. “Having got his far I felt we could handle anything. I have to accept responsibility. What happens, happens.”It is January 1st.

“It is a New Day and a New Year and it is time to move on. My Vendée Globe is over. I am appreciative of all the support I have had.” 

Interview with Sean O’Rourke, RTE