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I'd Like to Go Yacht Racing This Season - But...

8th June 2020
macSweeney_podcast
Cork Harbour Marina at Monkstown Bay Cork Harbour Marina at Monkstown Bay

The sight of more masts appearing on the marina in my village of Monkstown on the edge of Cork Harbour was encouraging this week. Not that I have any disregard for the motorboat community who populate the Cork Harbour Marina year-round, but in this difficult and challenging season, it was good to see more yacht masts in the marina and other yachts going onto their moorings in Monkstown Bay.

That was the good news. The disappointing news was from Sail Training Ireland that they have had to cancel all Tall Ship voyages planned for this year.

Chief Executive Daragh Sheridan said this was inevitable because there was no way the organisation “could ensure the social distancing required to ensure the safety of trainees and crew.”

That is the issue which troubles me about the resumption of cruiser yacht racing.

The Government’s medical advisors and the Minister for Health have been making it clear that, as Mr.Harris has said: “social distancing will be with us for a long time.”

How can social distancing be achieved on a racing yacht?

Two metres is just over six feet, even one metre would be difficult, “impossible” is the description I’ve heard repeatedly in phone calls and read in Emails.

Two instances this week highlighted my thoughts about this “social” or “physical distancing.” One was when I was reminded of a 30-year anniversary and the lack of any “social distance” on my only TransAtlantic race, back in May 1990 as a crew member aboard NCB Ireland on the last leg of that year’s Round the World Race, then known as the Whitbread, from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton - 3,818 nautical miles sailed over 18 days. The crew shared “hot bunking”. Mine was the middle of three where when lying down there wasn’t enough space to raise a book to read.

Social or physical distancing wasn’t possible on the 83-foot NCB and I can’t see it either on Scribbler, the 33-foot Sigma which I sail with my son, grandsons and occasional other crew. We won’t even qualify as a family crew because we are in two households.

Yacht Racing at the 2019 Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Photo: AfloatYacht Racing at the 2019 Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta Photo: Afloat

Irish Sailing are doing their best, but there seems little official understanding of the requirements of sailing. How do you keep apart during the demands of racing, when more than one person may be needed to get a sail in or to launch and recover a spinnaker, or what about adding weight on the rail?

Solo racing will be ok, but there aren’t a preponderance of single-household cruiser racing crews, or so it appears from the reaction I’m receiving. Even with the easing of restrictions, the constant message is that social distancing stays in place…. So can cruiser racing be resumed?

All the comments I’m getting seem to be doubtful unless there are major changes in social distancing. I hope there are because I’d like to go sailing and racing this season.

This week’s Podcast is below...

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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