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What To Do When The Sailing Season Seems to Collapse?

30th March 2020
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The 2020 Round Ireland Yacht Race is the Round Ireland Yacht Race is still set for Saturday, June 20 The 2020 Round Ireland Yacht Race is the Round Ireland Yacht Race is still set for Saturday, June 20

One-by-one they came in this week – cancellations of planned events. The Royal Cork’s 300th celebrations. I commiserated with the club’s Admiral, Colin Morehead. A tough decision for him in his first few months in office. Cork Week had to be abandoned. The Squib National Championships at Kinsale which, when I wrote last week’s column were still going ahead, were also cancelled as were many other planned events.

One of my favourites, the Classics at Glandore Harbour Yacht Club in West Cork, which I’ve sailed in several times, are set for July 18-24 and were to connect with the RCYC’s 300th.

Commodore, Eamon Timoney has told club members that GHYC is still committed to the Classic 2020 schedule but, things may change: “Our strategy is to plan for our various events, including the Classic Regatta until such time as a cancellation or postponement is required. The Committee will endeavour to do this in a timely way.”

Another of the major events in which I take particular interest and raced three times - the Round Ireland Yacht Race - is still set for Saturday, June 20. Wicklow Sailing Club says it will “make a call on whether or not to go ahead with the race towards the end of April.”

This weekend, my own club the RCYC closed its entire site including access to the marinas until Easter Sunday, April 12.

So what to do when the planned sailing season seems to collapse? My plan had been for installing some new electronics on Scribbler, my Sigma 33. I was looking forward to that, all planned when the crisis hit. Now she sits amongst many other boats in the boatyard as the sailing fraternity waits to see what will happen.

Upwind & Downwind Sailing

So I’ve been turning my mind to thoughts of that beautiful moment at the start of each season when Scribbler lifts to the first wave after she’s been launched and wondering when I will feel that moment this year.

In this frame of mind, I’ve been considering upwind and downwind sailing.

When I took up the sport I was told that upwind is “toughest and worst” as the boat and crew beat a course to reach the windward mark. When the sea is bouncy it sure is not pleasant. As a novice learner I was told that the reward came with “freeing sails” and “setting the spinnaker.”

How then to account for my feeling of anxiety and concern that seems to encase my thoughts when that forward-bearing cloth goes up. I’ve sailed on various boats with different owners and listened to the shouts of “sheet; no get the guy; no I said sheet in; for pity’s sake let it out, it’s going to twist….” Those instructions are not always couched in pleasant terms and more brusque and blunt words have been used.

I’ve ”flown the spinnaker” on yachts of my own and on other people’s, on boats of various sizes; in the Round Ireland; across the Atlantic in the Whitbread Round the World Race. My family crew love “getting the spinnaker up,” with obvious delight and a feeling of fulfilment when it fills and Scribbler pulls away with the power of the crinkling upfront sail…

So, is my view of spinnakers because my early experiences of cruisers, contrasted from an owner whose view was “best left at home in the attic,” or the enthusiast for having his multi-coloured spinnaker flying when, as we cruised on a nice day off Schull, sun shining, the water nicely flat, happy with a sandwich and a glass of wine when he announced he wanted the spinnaker up and one of my crewmates replied: “Oh no, just when we were all getting along so nicely…..”

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

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