Sailiing: There's never been a better time to jump on the bandwagon
Published 24/11/2012 | 05:00
Like all consumer sports, sailing has taken something of a battering in recent years, with the recession affecting participation numbers and interest levels.
The hard-core dedicated enthusiasts are still actively involved, for nothing will deflect the true old salt from his or her destiny in and around boats.
But many of those who took up sailing as just one of several lifestyle choices in the affluent times have faded away.
People are counting every penny these days, but for anyone thinking of returning to sailing, or maybe getting involved for the first time, there's no better time than the present.
The infrastructure is there to facilitate a swell of interest and the people running the sport are keen to recruit newcomers.
One area which is proving to be a happy hunting ground for new blood is university sailing.
The Galway University offshore racing boat was hailed as the ICRA Boat of the Year at the annual offshore racing conference last weekend – timely indeed. Up against the Galway juggernaut, all opposition fell astern.
Team leader Cathal Clarke and his squad have enjoyed a fantastic year with Martin Breen's Reflex 38. The entire crew are either students or recent graduates from NUIG.
Newly elected Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) commodore Norbert Reilly of Howth is in no doubt that Irish sailing numbers have scope for expansion, and the 2013 programme will certainly keep those involved busy.
From early June until mid-July, there will be an almost constant stream of offshore racing.
The Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race takes place on June 8, and the ICRA Nationals are in Tralee Bay from June 13 to June 15.
From Tralee, it's back to the south coast for the Sovereigns Cup at Kinsale from June 26-29, followed by a return to the east coast for the Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta from July 11-14.
The scope this programme provides for introducing new crews to the sport is enormous.
Meanwhile, the big guns will have their sights set on the Fastnet Race in August. It's a bumper period of sailing, the thoughts of which will comfort us through the winter months.
Looking farther afield, Cork sailor Kieran Walsh has passed a testing period with flying colours. He's working in Dubai, but had been sailing as crew aboard Doug Worrall's First 36.7 Shahrazad in the annual Dubai to Muscat race, a three-day RORC event, during the week.
Walsh and Co did the business too, emerging victorious after an admirable performance. It's a tough old life, but somebody has to do it.