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Raising the Profile of Sailing & Making the Sport More Accessible

12th December 2018
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Record numbers participated in December's Winter Sailing Series on Dublin Bay Record numbers participated in December's Winter Sailing Series on Dublin Bay Photo: Afloat.ie

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

The last race of the Winter League ended the sailing season in Cork Harbour …..

Around the country, December racing, for those still with the ability and determination to take part, brings the season to a conclusion and focus turns towards annual meetings and plans for next year. For me, the most important task still, is to raise the public profile of sailing and increase its inclusiveness ….

When I write and broadcast about sailing, people occasionally point out the contrasts – big, expensive boats and wealthy people who can afford them, exclusivity allegedly in some clubs, those aspects remain amongst criticism, contrasted with the - “how can you get into sailing…” and me pointing out that there are so many levels of the sport, so many different types of boats, so many different people, so many different aspects which can reasonably be afforded to get into the sport. I’ve heard all of these so many times that they are an expected chorus which, do not reflect the inclusivity which most existing participants want the sport to have – though there are some who may have a different opinion –and I’m also aware of that.

I’ve been highlighting the importance of getting more young sailors interested in cruiser racing as well as dinghies, so that there can be a seamless progression as their age profile increases, because the future of the sport needs this transition…It’s encouraging that this appears to be happening, as more youngsters are seen helming and crewing their family boats… We’ve had this on my boat, Scribbler, for some seasons and it has been a positive experience. Giving up the helm is not an easy decision, but when there are better youngsters that can do it, that is the way to go… Not all youngsters will want to helm, but they have youth, enthusiasm and ability, adding experience is what older sailors can do, to all aspects of sailing a boat.

So, for the annual club meetings, perhaps thought should be given to developing a pathway from dinghies to cruisers to keep in the sport those who seem to slip away to other pursuits when they decide to leave dinghies?

And there could be a discussion about how inclusive the sport is, about reaching out to new entrants.

The national sailing association has put forward programmes to do this, but I still hear the statement: “It’s not easy to get into sailing….”

Is there need to make it easier?

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Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney writes a weekly column for Afloat.ie. He also presents the maritime radio programme This Island Nation on community radio stations around Ireland.

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