EAST ANTRIM SPORTING GREATS: Mark and Paul Fekkes cemented their place as some of Ireland’s greatest-ever sailors, becoming GP14 world champions in the early 1990s.
The brothers, born and bred in Larne, were introduced to sailing by their father at the relatively late ages of 16 and 14. But, from the outset, their talent was obvious and within a year of sailing a 25-year-old boat bought by their dad, they became Ulster Junior champions in 1983 and represented Northern Ireland in the Four Nations Championship.
Their progression continued at both junior and senior level in 1984 with the Ulster and Leinster titles. In 1985, they added the Irish Junior Championships to their ever-growing list of achievements.
In 1986, after further dominance, they won the Irish Senior Championships and were crowned ‘The Top Dinghy Sailors’ in Ireland.
Their success continued and by 1988 they had entered into the global level of competition. In their first attempt at the World Championships they finished a very creditabble seventh.
Over the next three years the victories continued to roll in, including Irish, Ulster and Leinster titles, the Autumn Open, Purcell Trophy and the Gold League.
This progression, confidence and experience ensured they were better prepared for the World Championships in America in 1991.
Battling against the best in the world and hurricane winds, the brothers excelled and were eventually crowned GP14 World champions.
Indeed, 1991 was quite a year for the pair as they won every event they entered, ensuring their place as Irish sailing greats.
After the World Championships the Fekkes brothers continued on the local circuit but injury to Paul restricted their sailing. Eventually they moved into bigger keelboats and later into coaching.
The pair were inducted into Larne Borough Council’s Sporting Hall of Fame in recognition of their achievements.