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Sailing Helps Cope With Challenges

20th October 2020
Sailing can help us to endure more in the way of overcoming discomfort and physical, as well as mental challenges Sailing can help us to endure more in the way of overcoming discomfort and physical, as well as mental challenges Photo: Bob Bateman

There are choices in how to respond to maritime difficulties.

With skies darkening, wind and sea rising, the mind focuses on the immediate response to ensure that your yacht can manage what is going to hit it.

I've raced in various situations, pounding through seas, tossed around, wind tearing at the sails and one's clothing, sat on the rail, clinging to it for hours to add human ballast.

Eventually, the worst passes as does the weather system.

If the stomach has been held in place without spewing up, the sense of relief is strong, or so I've felt after encountering such afflictions.

This week I've been thinking about how our pastime of sailing can, perhaps, help us to endure more in the way of overcoming discomfort and physical, as well as mental challenges.

Sailing does provide one with more personal resources to fall back on, or so I believe.

There is overcoming fear. I've felt that at sea as bad weather approached.

I remember a number of Round Ireland Races with particularly bad weather and amongst them particularly the memory of rounding the Mizen and facing into a night where the skies were already darkening, where the forecast indicated unpleasant conditions ahead and it was right, Called up on watch at midnight where I saw the wind speed climbing and waves building as darkness crossed the sky, the sense of fear did permeate through the body. Instinct told me to be afraid of what could not be controlled. That had to be balanced with confidence in the boat and the ability of the crew to respond to what lay ahead.

I have been told that a good sailor must be able to think rationally and calmly when the conditions around are anything but. The conditions around racing in our sport are not great right now. The further restrictions announced this week are another blow to the hopes that had been held for running Winter League events in Cork Harbour and Dublin Bay.

Maintaining positivity is difficult in the prevailing circumstances, but the storms that afflict one at sea pass by and, hopefully, the future for sailing will be brighter next season.

Meantime, Scribbler, my Sigma 33, has been hauled into Castlepoint Boatyard in Crosshaven, her Winter home, tucked away, sails off, gear loaded into the attic to rest until 2021 dawns, hopefully with a new horizon clear of storms.

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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