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Adults Sail Dinghies Too

23rd February 2020
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Moville Sailing Club brothers John and Donal McGuinness competing in their GP!4 dinghy. Nationally the GP14 is the biggest adult dinghy fleet in the country with about 40 boats at its National Championships Moville Sailing Club brothers John and Donal McGuinness competing in their GP!4 dinghy. Nationally the GP14 is the biggest adult dinghy fleet in the country with about 40 boats at its National Championships Photo: Afloat

I learned my sailing crewing aboard a National 18 in Cork Harbour. That opportunity came through an adult sailing course because it was in my late 20s that I gained access to the sport.

Back then was not a time when getting into sailing was as easy as it is today. From crewing I bought a new Mirror dinghy and then a Vagabond, because it was the dominant dinghy fleet at the time in the club I joined - Monkstown Bay SC. At one stage there was a fleet of 30 of these 12ft. dinghies, which didn’t carry a spinnaker like the Mirror, but which was more attractive for me – because Vagabonds were raced by parents and their children. It was a great class. Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, crewed for each other. The class had so many boats it qualified to have annual ‘national championships’ under then Irish Sailing Association regulations.

So adults sailed dinghies too!

But, gradually, ageing affected the Vagabond fleet, parents got older, younger and often better sailors took over in the natural evolution of things. The fleet continued to thrive until those youngsters moved on, getting jobs, moving away from the village and, gradually, the fleet died out.

Some of those young sailors went onto cruisers, others were lost to the sport, underlining a discussion which has followed my Podcast two weeks ago on the Irish Cruiser Racing Association’s Under 25 scheme, to encourage young sailors to get into cruisers as they come to an age when dinghies may no longer be their choice.

National 18 sailing Cork HarbourNational 18 dinghy sailing in Cork Harbour Photo: Bob Bateman

But, of course, there are adults who sail dinghies too. The National 18 fleet, where I learned to sail, is thriving in Cork Harbour. There are adults crews and fleets of Mermaids. Dublin Bay and Foynes are places I’ve reported about them. There are adult-crewed and active fleets of Wayfarers, Albacores, Lasers and others at various clubs and even, as has been pointed out to me, adults sailing Mirrors. Then there are other ‘open’ and ‘keel’ boats, the 1720s and 505s, Squibs and others, that are not cruisers, so there are other opportunities for young sailors to stay active in the sport.

"My underlying point is that adults sail dinghies too – so this is also an avenue for youngsters to remain in the sport …"

I was discussing this with Brian Raftery of ICRA whom I interviewed about the Under 25 cruiser racing programme to keep young people in sailing which he is leading. Listen to Brian Raftery here. He is a member of Sligo Yacht Club which has a very active GP fleet, a boat in which adults also sail in several clubs. “There are twenty GP14s in the dinghy park, 10-12 racing each week making up less than half of the club’s adult sailors. Nationally the GP is the biggest adult dinghy fleet in the country with about 40 boats at its National Championships every year,” he told me and added that the GP's have been successful in getting younger sailors into their fleet.

He said that he would “love to see someone take on the Under 25 area within dinghies.”

That is a good point. Why not?

As dinghy classes tend to operate somewhat in isolation in the sense of the various clubs where they are active, rather than the wider ambience of national cruiser organisation, it may be harder to develop a national/cross/class dinghy U25 approach.

My underlying point this week is that adults sail dinghies too – so this is also an avenue for youngsters to remain in the sport …

The important thing is to – KEEP ON SAILING.

• More on 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 Afloat.ie. He also presents the maritime radio programme This Island Nation on community radio stations around Ireland.

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