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The ‘Macho’ Element in Sailing

29th March 2019
Extreme sailing conditions Extreme sailing conditions

I don’t particularly like the ‘macho’ element which crept into sailing during the past few years.

“Macho” has been defined as “behaving in a way that is thought to be typical of a man, especially by seeming strong and powerful but also seeming too determined to avoid showing weakness and sympathy.” The definition refers only to the male species …

I use it in regard to the attitude I’ve seen and heard of “we’ll go sailing whatever the conditions and show what we can do…”

I’ve had a few lively differences of opinion about races being staged in conditions which I thought questionable. All sailors must have experience of heavy weather and so be able to cope with it and Skippers have the responsibility to decide whether to take the boat out in prevailing weather conditions. I accept all of that. Race Officers have a responsibility too, for deciding whether a race should go ahead. Offshore racing, transAtlantic, world racing will inevitably encounter varying conditions.

"How can heavy weather experience be gained if not by experiencing it? But is racing the way?"

There will be contrasting views and there will be those who ask how can heavy weather experience be gained if not by experiencing it? But is racing the way?

Sailing is a challenging sport in which weather conditions can change rapidly. As the sailing season gets underway, my emphasis after many years, still remains on going sailing for enjoyment. I’ve experienced the heavy weather, in offshore, transatlantic, Round Ireland Races, October Leagues, etc. For me, the primary aspect of the sport is enjoying being out on the water. In this regard, Whitesail, in which I had the pleasure with the late Jim Donegan of being involved in its initial introduction to Cork Harbour, offered a new opportunity for racing involvement in perhaps more benign racing mode and its development has been rapid.

So, this week my Podcast is about making the decision to take the boat out.

At Irish Sailing’s cruising conference in Lough Ree Yacht Club, Mary Healy who with Paul Scannell, took the 37-foot and 41-year-old motor cruiser, Arthur - which had been more used on the inland waterways - on a voyage of over 900 nautical miles around the coast of Ireland over a nine-month period, described how they made the decision to go out, in prevailing weather conditions.

ARTHUR OFFSHORE37-foot and 41-year-old motor cruiser, Arthur

• Listen to the Podcast here

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 maritime radio programme This Island Nation on community radio stations around Ireland.

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