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Winter Sailing Tests Experience & Ability

14th November 2018
RCYC's second race of its winter league for Cruisers in Cork Harbour RCYC's second race of its winter league for Cruisers in Cork Harbour Credit: Bob Bateman

Hello and welcome to my weekly Podcast …. Tom MacSweeney here ….

As Winter approaches and onshore activity at clubs begins to focus on annual meetings, conversation topics, I find, seem to focus on perennial issues about the state of the sport of sailing, Topics which arise repeatedly are perennial – crewing difficulties, handicaps, costs of owning a boat, concern about keeping younger sailors in the sport, an ageing population of sailors and the importance of supporting club membership.

I’ve had my boat, a Sigma 33, Scribbler, hauled and laid-up for the Winter. I admire the hardy sailors who persevere into November and December, both cruisers and dinghies.

Getting so much use out of the boat is commendable and last Sunday at the RCYC in Crosshaven was very definitely so. See the report and pictures of the Winter race on here

As the cruiser fraternity gathered to race the November/December League, younger dinghy sailors were readying their Toppers and Lasers for their Frostbites. It seemed a benign weather morning for early November, but dark clouds were gathering to the west and, within an hour the scene had changed. Wind speeds hit 27 knots, gusts tore at the dinghies assembled for launching on the slipway. Rain poured down and later was described as “falling like stair rods.” Some sailors changed their minds about sailing, easily understood. “Only the toughest and those who could handle lots of breeze persisted,” race organisers said. So it proved. Wind gusts were reported later gusting at 37 knots. Sailing ability and experience was tested. Sailors dealt with their situations and races were finished.

Heavy weather has to be experienced in sailing. That was one of the topics when all were later safely ashore. It has to be dealt with individually, but the other perennial issues are wider. Crewing for cruisers continues to be a problem and a number of skippers, usually seen in Spinnaker classes, have put their boats into Whitesail in order to continue racing.

"Is ECHO too easy to be manipulated is a point which has come up in conversation?"

Increasing costs of insurance, boat storage and maintenance are issues, there is talk about the future of diesel and discordant voices about handicaps, IRC and ECHO, their differences and relevance and the growing attention, at clubs and at the recent ICRA conference, about duplication of race results between the handicaps and how to spread them wider. Is ECHO too easy to be manipulated is a point which has come up in conversation?

But, for those concerned about the future of the sport, there appears to be an over-riding concern – ensuring its future.

Listen to the podcast below

Published in Tom MacSweeney
Tom MacSweeney

About The Author

Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney writes a weekly column for He also presents the radio programme Maritime Ireland on radio stations around Ireland.

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