Cork woman makes history as first female Vice-Admiral at the oldest sailing club in the world

The Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven has its first ever female Vice Admiral, in Annemarie Fegan, writes COLETTE SHERIDAN
Cork woman makes history as first female Vice-Admiral at the oldest sailing club in the world

Annamarie Fegan. Picture: Bob Bateman

FOR the first time in its 302 year old history, the Royal Cork Yacht Club (RCYC) has a woman in the role of vice-admiral.

Annamarie Fegan, 56, will ultimately become the admiral of the club, having risen the ranks of the committee since joining the club around 25 years ago. She says it was “very brave” of the admiral, Kieran O’Connell (who at 44 is the youngest ever holder of that position) to appoint her.

Crosshaven-based Annamarie is a co-creational psychotherapist who is currently working towards a masters in the psychotherapy of relationship mentoring.

A busy woman, she is married to Denis Murphy and has two daughters, Molly, 21, and Mia, 20, who are great sailors.

“We did the Fastnet race this year and also on the Grand Soleil, we won the Dun Laoghaire Dingle race in the summer. The crew includes myself, my husband and the two girls. They drive the boat.”

Growing up, Annamarie said she would have ‘tinkered with sailing’.

“We never did dinghy courses or anything. My daughters are trained and did a lot of sailing around the country. We have a campaign for this summer. We’re going to do the Round Ireland Race which starts in Wicklow.”

Pyewacket Trophy presentation. Annamarie Fegan Vice Admiral RCYC, Johnathan O'Shaughnessy; Kieran O'Connell Admiral Royal Cork YC. Picture: Robert Bateman.
Pyewacket Trophy presentation. Annamarie Fegan Vice Admiral RCYC, Johnathan O'Shaughnessy; Kieran O'Connell Admiral Royal Cork YC. Picture: Robert Bateman.

Annamarie is also gearing up for Volvo Cork Week in July at which over 300 boats are expected. There will, she says, be great parties for the crews.

The elitist tag with which sailing is often associated is not actually valid, says Annamarie. She points out that not everyone can afford to own a boat but every boat needs a crew of ten.

“If you want to crew on a boat, the RCYC offers crew membership for €350 per annum.

“Being a crew member can be an amazing experience. What we’re trying to do is to get our kids off devices and let them make decisions for themselves. Sailing is like that. You go out on the water and the crew has to make decisions for themselves.”

There is the option of not joining the RCYC but instead paying €100.

“For that, your kids can sail for four weeks. We have 20 club boats that people can try out. There are pathways into the club for younger people through our Junior Sailing Academy. We also have an adult sailing programme.”

How does Annamarie feel about being in line to be the first female admiral of the club?

“I’m standing on the shoulders of lots of women who didn’t have the same opportunities. There’s a huge surge of support for me from both male and females.”

A great role model for her daughters, Annamarie recalls one of them getting into the car in a bit of ‘temper’.

“She said there were fellows talking about her. When I asked her what she meant, she said one of them pointed at her and said ‘that’s the girl who was steering the boat’. But my daughter didn’t see anything unusual about a 16-year-old girl steering a 40 foot. 

"My girls prefer to talk about people steering boats. They’re equal. They hate the woman tag. They are people who are at the helm and they’re equal to males.”

Annamarie ran a catering company for 25 years that did food for every race course in Munster as well as Chamber of Commerce dinners, weddings and other events. But she quit that line of work as it took up all her time.

Fastnet 450 Winner, Nieulargoâ, Denis Murphy and Annamarie Fegan passing the Cork Buoy after 37 hours of racing on way to win the Fastnet 450 Yacht Race. Picture: Bob Bateman
Fastnet 450 Winner, Nieulargoâ, Denis Murphy and Annamarie Fegan passing the Cork Buoy after 37 hours of racing on way to win the Fastnet 450 Yacht Race. Picture: Bob Bateman

She started her journey into psychotherapy six years ago under psychologist and lecturer, Tony Humphreys at UCC. She is doing her masters through the TUS (Technology University of Shannon). Annamarie’s thesis title is ‘Light in a Dark Place’. It highlights how the co-creational approach offers hope.

Everybody, she says, is involved in some sort of blame game.

“We take people where they’re at. Our kids and teenagers need to be listened to. No small child goes out to make life difficult for their parents. They’re just screaming out for us to see how difficult life is for them.”

Parenting, says Annamarie, “is rocket science.”

“If you’re not in touch with yourself and your own feelings, you’re in big trouble. The biggest problem for kids is the unlived life of parents. I love Desmond Tutu’s saying. He said we have to stop pulling young people out of the ocean and go upstream to find out why they’re falling in. That’s huge. 

"No parent sets out to be a bad parent and no child sets out to be a bad child. But if you’re not solid on your own feet, the first thing you do is blame others. The world is full of it and we need to come back from it.”

Annamarie feels strongly that there should be pre-parenting courses.

“It’s all about communication, helping parents to communicate better with their kids. Parents need to be supported, not blamed. It’s about revealing what’s going on for yourself. You know the way you can wake up in the morning in great form. But when you come across the first fellow to cut across you at the traffic lights, you get into a rage. You give away your happiness for the day. If you could instead say, ‘that man is in a hurry. He’s not taking away my happiness. I’m going to move on’. It’s about being centred.”

Mothers, in particular, “are running around like blue-arse flies trying to fix everyone,” she said. “But they fall down themselves and get ill. That’s because they’re busy minding everyone else but not themselves.”

Annamarie says that we all adapt self-protective behaviour as children.

“We think we have to keep doing it in order to be loved, such as being the good girl. It got us through (early) life but we hang on to these behaviours because we think we’ll need them. But you need to try and live your true self.”

Annamarie is doing just that, both professionally and in her hobby.

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