Rugby hero looking to excel at National Yacht Club regatta

by James Hendicott

The National Yacht Club regatta this weekend – a highlight of the summer calendar – featured a high-profile competitor known more for his achievements in an entirely different arena.

Paul Wallace, a former British and Irish Lions, Leinster, Saracens and Ireland prop forward has always had a love for sailing alongside his passion for rugby.

The man once dubbed ‘the world’s best tight head prop’ has long had a passion for sailing that dates back to his rural Cork upbringing. It has been reignited in recent years as his media duties have mellowed and his weekends returned.

Wallace, who sails regularly with the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, helped launch Davy’s sponsorship of the event, which is notoriously competitive between four clubs all based within a stone’s throw of each other on the Dun Laoghaire seafront. Wealth managers Davy will also be sponsoring the 2019 junior regatta at the club.

Former Ireland man Wallace has lost none of his competitiveness. “Of course, I go out there to win in sailing, too” he says.

“It can be very helpful having a big guy on the ropes. The power is definitely useful for me.

“I grew up doing most of my sailing in Cork. I did some instructing and stuff like that before the rugby took over.

“Dublin Bay is great for being so close, and for big boat sailing, which I had to travel to Crosshaven for when I was younger. I do a lot of sailing with the club on Thursday nights, and the set up is excellent here, as are the rivalries.

“It’s not too tidal, and great for racing, and you can be out and going in about five or ten minutes,” he continues.

It might not seem like a natural jump, going from rigby to sailing but Wallace also sees some important transferable skills. “There are a surprising number of similarities between sailing and rugby. There’s a lot of useful cross-training,” Wallace says.

“There’s the strength, and then also the weight from a ballast point of view. I’m not sure I have the ideal amount of agility, but I do okay!

“Most of the crews are very experienced sailors so it comes down to small differences, and often to small errors in the races. It all comes together with the support of the other clubs, we can get a lot of crews out and some really good racing here. It’s the highlight of the season and really big for the club. It’s something to really look forward to.”

Commodore of the National Yacht Club, Ronan Beirne said of the event: “The Regatta had 150 entries and was the biggest event in the Club for some time.

“To coincide with Annalise Murphy’s wonderful achievement in finishing the Volvo Round the World Race in the Hague this weekend, on the yacht ‘Turn the Tide on Plastic’, we reduced the amount of plastic used in the Regatta, part of a long-term effort to reduce the use of plastic.”

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