Irish Sailing Hero - Shirley Gilmore nee Matthews

Irish Sailing Hero - Shirley Gilmore nee Matthews

Shirley Gilmore (nee Matthews) - Ireland’s ONLY Woman Entry in the 2018 Laser Masters World Championships

Passionate Sailor and Primary School Teacher


The 2018 Laser Masters World Championships had one Irish woman entry – Cork woman Shirley Gilmore.  At this highly competitive but very fun event, competitors are grouped by age. Shirley was in the Master Category (45-54 years old) and has every intention of continuing her Laser sailing to the Legend Category of 75+.

When you are not sailing, what do you do ?

I am the Deputy Principal in Delgany National School.  I have spent the last 25 years raising my two children, now 22 and 25 years old. A lot of my life is for other people, but my sailing is for me.

How old were you when you started sailing?

I started sailing at the age of 12. I owe my love of sailing to my father, Bruce. He built our first Mirror and taught me everything I know... not just about sailing but about seamanship. His keen interest in boats and the sea has inspired me throughout my life and still does to this day. As a teenager, I bought by first Laser and Kinsale Yacht Club became a second home for me; I went on to become an Irish Sailing instructor.  I married in 1990s, sold my beloved Laser, had children and did no sailing for eight years. Then, when the children were a little older I got the bug for sailing again and went on to race dinghies and into cruiser racing.

What got you back in to a Laser?

About 4 years ago I bumped in to some old sailing friends and they convinced me to re-consider dinghy sailing and join the growing Laser fleet in Dun Laoghaire. I joined the Royal St George Yacht Club, bought a Laser and started the Frostbite series. Starting in the most difficult time of the year has meant I now sail all year round.

What keeps you going?

The encouragement I receive from other club members and Laser sailors is amazing. There is great fun and banter amongst all the sailors both on and off the water. In breezy conditions the Laser is a very physical boat and I like the fact that I get a good work-out on the water - much nicer than the gym, in my opinion!

What made you decide to enter in to the Laser Masters Worlds event?

I thought it would be amazing to compete with so many different people of my age from all over the world.  It was such a wonderful opportunity to represent Ireland and be part of the team. I feel so lucky and it is a fabulous memory.

How did you prepare for the Laser Masters Worlds?

I had to qualifying by going to regional events. I found these races long and physically exhausting. I was out there racing against teenagers and 20 somethings.

Do you have a message you would like to give other women about getting out and taking the helm?

You don’t have to be number 1 or a medal holder. Sailing is great fun on all levels. Many women almost get to what they consider to be their goal in results and then drop out because they feel they haven’t succeeded.  I believe if you can sail you are already a winner.

Shirley likes this old George Bernard Shaw quote –…

“We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

If you’re inspired by Shirley, go to to find out more on how you can get out on the water.