Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Sailing in Ireland – An Activity Which Defies Analysis?

22nd May 2021
Cometh the hour, cometh the boat. The Laser may have been around for more than fifty years, but thanks to being solo sailed, it was one of the real
Cometh the hour, cometh the boat. The Laser may have been around for more than fifty years, but thanks to being solo sailed, it was one of the real "Saviours of Sailing" when easings of lockdown were permitted. The Irish Class will be staging the first officially-sanctioned Dinghy Nationals, with their MGM Boats-sponsored Championship at the Royal St George YC on June 12th-13th

"Sailing is a lifestyle activity which evolves as an expression of a vehicle sport afloat". There you go. So now you know. And please note that it's "lifestyle" and not "lifetime", though the latter also applies. Yet you were thinking it was just boats and sailing………….

This definition is a Sailing on Saturday distillation of several attempts at pinning down our sometimes incomprehensible aquatic interests for a wider world, and it results from many nautical minds devoting themselves to some deep thought during the pandemic lock-downs.

The irony is that those who are good at sailing in its competitive aspects will probably seldom think at all – in fact, probably not at all - about what exactly they're doing in the broader sense. For them, focus on specific performance-improving actions is totally dominant, they just get on with it, with their absorption in activity so totally involving every aspect of their being in the moment, and in what they're doing, that it effectively excludes any mental space for self-indulgent semi-philosophical reflection.

Nevertheless, the effects of the pandemic, the way we handled it while it was at its height, the way various organisations in sailing and boating made the best of the situation as it obtained at different stages, plus the way we're coping as we somewhat unevenly emerge (and let's hope we are emerging, for a Civil War in Japan over the Olympics wouldn't surprise us at all) tells us much about ourselves and our sailing and boating interests.

Going down the mine? At such times, the lone sailor is unlikely to be reflecting on whether or not sailing is a lifestyle activity that evolves as an expression of vehicle sport afloat.   Going down the mine? At such times, the lone sailor is unlikely to be reflecting on whether or not sailing is a lifestyle activity that evolves as an expression of vehicle sport afloat 

Overall, the abiding impression in Ireland has been of a notably cohesive and responsible society. Oh for sure, there were those who selfishly transgressed - some quite spectacularly. But in general, and certainly among those in the sailing and boating community, the sense was of a shared responsibility to keep things under control in a self-policing way, without requiring some government agency to mount some sort of patrols.

Yet equally, there was an obligation – and it really was an obligation – to get in as much sailing as possible when it was permitted during periods of easing. But even here, there were those who indicated that they preferred to sit it out until the complete all-clear was confirmed, and sailors were good at understanding and respecting the wishes of their fellow-enthusiasts who saw it that way.

In terms of achieving activity afloat, it became a case of the smaller and more specialist the organization and form of sailing involved, the more nimble it could be in having sailing while complying with the regulations of the moment. Single-handed dinghies made hay, with the Lasers in Dun Laoghaire a particular case in point, while two-handed races found their time has come, with Howth's annual Aqua Restaurant Two-Hander in July having its best turnout ever.

Just add water – Drascombes gathered on one of Ireland remotest waterways, on the uppermost Shannon where it enters Lough Allen. Thanks to a mastery of communications, the compact Drascombe Association are well able for what are in effect pop-up eventsJust add water – Drascombes gathered on one of Ireland remotest waterways, on the uppermost Shannon where it enters Lough Allen. Thanks to a mastery of communications, the compact Drascombe Association are well able for what are in effect pop-up events.

But in a very different area of sailing interest, the Drascombe Association in Ireland had one of their busiest seasons. It's a curious reality that the more quaint the boat involved, the more up-to-speed at within-class communications are those involved with sailing them.

The diverse standing army of Drascombe fans may not be completely happy with their prides-and-joy being described as "quaint", so let us assuage them by commenting that when the time is right, all you need to do is add water for an efficiently organised smoothly-communicated Drascombe gathering to take place, and 2020's expeditions up the River Boyne and into the remotest corners of Lough Corrib were classic cases in point.

The larger class organisations such as the notably effective GP 14 Association of Ireland found themselves more restricted, particularly as their originally-planned seasons had involved bringing international fleets to Ireland. But they maintained good lines of communication to members, which leaves them well-placed to accelerate into action when sailing resumes full time.

Thanks to 136 years of race organisation experience, Dublin Bay SC was able to demonstrate how to get "the mostest boats out there the fastest" whenever restrictions were raised. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'BrienThanks to 136 years of race organisation experience, Dublin Bay SC was able to demonstrate how to get "the mostest boats out there the fastest" whenever restrictions were raised. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien

When many restrictions were lifted for two months last summer, Dublin Bay Sailing Club got the mostest afloat the fastest, and for sheer effectiveness in these unprecedented circumstances, it's the groupings which amount to virtual organisations which have proven themselves the most nimble in providing sport, but it sometimes seemed the fewer involved in the actual running of events, then the more effective it became.

Rudyard Kipling once wrote an odd poem called Winners, whose sentiments were dismissed by George Orwell as being vulgar. Be that as it may, its regularly drummed-home theme was in the two lines:

"Down to Gehenna, or up to the Throne,
He travels the fastest who travels alone".

It's natural to think of its sentiments as coarse selfishness. Yet in running the Irish side of ISORA, Peter Ryan has been largely travelling alone, but it has been for the most unselfish of reasons – the speedy provision of events which comply with regulations yet provide the necessary training buildup for the glamour event which we hope will signal that as good a sailing season as we can reasonably expect in 2021 is getting underway, and that's the National YC's Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race on June 9th.

The smile on the face of the tiger…..Peter Ryan of ISORA says little but does a lot - largely working on his own – such that suddenly the offshore fleet finds itself with viable training races.   The smile on the face of the tiger…..Peter Ryan of ISORA says little but does a lot - largely working on his own – such that suddenly the offshore fleet finds itself with viable training races.  

We're now in a sort of limbo for the next two weeks with "Training Racing" permitted, but full-blown sport afloat not permissible until Monday, June 7th, and even then there will still be restrictions ashore, which means that effectively only half of our "lifestyle activity" can be fully activated.

Quite what a "Training Race" involves could be a matter of debate, and there were those who commented that last weekend's vigorous 35-mile ISORA Training Race from Dun Laoghaire looked very much like proper racing under another name.

The inaugural ISORA Training Race 2021 last weekend reinforced the feeling that the best training for offshore racing is going offshore racing. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien   The inaugural ISORA Training Race 2021 last weekend reinforced the feeling that the best training for offshore racing is going offshore racing. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien  

"Not so" say those who took part. Many crews were very surprised by just how rusty they were at various sail changing exercises, which normally ran as smoothly as a frequently-rehearsed ballet movement in the old days. And then as further proof it was "just training", the result was changed after the first post-race announcement when it was discovered that Outrajeous, the J/109 part-owned by Irish Cruiser-Racer Association Commodore Richard Colwell, was racing with an outdated and higher rating than was actually the case. In real racing, you usually expect the results to be based on the rating you enter with, but in Training Racing, it seems you're cut a bit of slack.

(Richard Colwell writes: Reading your article this morning. A point of order required. Outrajeous did enter under our correct rating, it was provided to the organisers 5 days before the training event happened, but was NOT updated by the event organisers in their files till afterwards! )

Ben Colwell and his father Richard (ICRA Commodore) aboard the J/109 OutrajeousBen Colwell and his father Richard (ICRA Commodore) aboard the J/109 Outrajeous.

Nevertheless, when the venerable Dublin Bay Water Wags went out in Dun Laoghaire for their first two "Training Races" on Wednesday of this week – a weekly programme for which 21 boats have signed up – it looked for a while as though officialdom at the highest level was keeping an eye on them to see if their training is for real. For the Naval Service's LE George Bernard Shaw came into port in such a way that the word is the "Training Race Officer" had to cancel the first race because of "an obstruction on the course".

"What's going on here then?" We are assured that the Naval Service's LE George Bernard Shaw was not on a Training-Not-Racing Patrol when she arrived into Dun Laoghaire on Wednesday in the midst of the Water Wags' first Training Race of the season.   "What's going on here then?" We are assured that the Naval Service's LE George Bernard Shaw was not on a Training-Not-Racing Patrol when she arrived into Dun Laoghaire on Wednesday in the midst of the Water Wags' first Training Race of the season.

"Power gives way to sail…." The view from the bridge on the LE George Bernard Shaw as a Dun Laoghaire Water Wag nips across"Power gives way to sail…." The view from the bridge on the LE George Bernard Shaw as a Dun Laoghaire Water Wag nips across.

However, the whisper on the waterfront is that every so often the navy ships are in Dun Laoghaire on a mock gunnery exercise to see how quickly they could level the still-controversial DLR Lexicon in the same way as the Helga did in the GPO in 1916. And the experience gained in such training could of course be re-directed to eliminating the proposed superstition-rejecting 13-storey apartment block supposedly approved for the Dun Laoghaire waterfront.

Be that as it may, sending a gunboat to check out whether or not the Water Wags really were on a Training Race would be an absurd waste of resources at a time when the Russians are clearly softening up the country – through preliminary cyber-attacks – for some sort of invasion. For as one experienced Water Wag sailor observed:

"In a fleet as diverse in sailing style as the Water Wags, it is always easy to discern a significant number of boats which are quite clearly involved in some sort of training exercise, rather than in any serious racing".

Nevertheless, the Water Wags can now cherish an unprecedented entry to their lengthy record of racing, which goes back to 1887:

Wednesday, May 19th 2021:

Training Race 1: Cancelled mid-race due to intervention of gunboat.

Training Race 2: Cancelled mid-race due to lack of wind.

Ominous sunset. Despite the calm which stopped the Water Wags second attempt at a Training Race on Wednesday, the late evening sky gave every sign of Thursday's approaching storm.Ominous sunset. Despite the calm which stopped the Water Wags second attempt at a Training Race on Wednesday, the late evening sky gave every sign of Thursday's approaching storm.

Published in W M Nixon, ICRA, ISORA
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

Email The Author

William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2021

vdlr21 sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating