SAILING can provide huge opportunities for people, sometimes even enabling them to explore the world.
And, you don’t even have to own a boat, according to Eddie English who runs SailCork, watersports and training centre.
Mr English believes sailing and water activities should be actively promoted in schools, just as sports like rugby and football are.
He also thinks Cork needs more landing facilities so that people can come ashore at different points and do so safely.
"We’re very, very lucky," he said.
"we have one of best natural harbours in the world and it’s reputed to be the second largest natural harbour in the world. The geography of it is fantastic, it's brilliant for teaching sailing but it’s also brilliant for sailing, and for motorboating and exploring. We have an amazing place but, the biggest problem is that there aren't enough facilities for people to get ashore."
Mr English said while we have seen extra facilities in recent years - East Ferry, Monkstown and Cork city - added to existing marinas in Crosshaven, a marina where boats can tie up is important.
"There isn’t any real designated place in the town of Cobh, the biggest town on the harbour, and one of the biggest towns next to the sea in Ireland, I think it’s the second biggest town on the sea after Dun Laoghaire and there isn’t a proper public facility to get ashore," he said.
"We need these public landing spaces to be created. Over the last 10 years or so we've seen a facility created in Aghada, where there's a floating pontoon, and also there’s one in Passage, but we could do with these in Blackrock in Cork city, we could do with one in Cobh, East Ferry on the Middleton side and a number of other locations around the harbour.
“It makes it easier, but more importantly safer for people to get on and off boats and it would help to drive an economy around the harbour as well."
Mr English said that local authorities and government agencies need to get on board. He said that local communities can do their part, too.
"I’m loathed to criticise, but the County Council must get involved and local communities must get involved; it has to happen. It’s happening but it’s happening too slowly.
"My fear is someone's going to get hurt or someone’s going to lose their life getting on and off a boat in the wrong place.
"My big thing is that I’d like to see a facility in Cobh more so than anywhere else. There is the possibility of a marina in the wings, but that will be a mile to the west of the town. I would like to see some sort of a landing facility in Cobh itself, along with other places."
Just as schools encourage students to play hurling, football and rugby, Mr English thinks sailing should be promoted to students also.
"We’re blessed by virtue of the fact that were next to the harbour and other than getting national schools coming down for their annual school tour I’d like to see people coming on a regular basis to learn."
He’d particularly like to see secondary school pupils learn basics sailing skills so they have the option to pursue seagoing careers.
"Sailing is a sport that opens up huge opportunities for people," he said.
"I have two brothers who managed to sail around the world, without owning their own boats so to speak. My late brother Joe was the captain of the first Irish round-the-world, in a yacht, race. He managed, through his sailing, to get places.
"Unfortunately he died of Alzheimer's a number of years ago but not without exploring the world."
Mr English’s younger brother John Paul also sailed the world while working in the industry for 20-years.
"And I’ve been lucky enough to sail in several different continents and different oceans," he said.
"If somebody has the ability and knowledge to crew on a boat they can explore the world - it just creates a huge opportunity for people."
Despite having sailed in several different continents and oceans, Cork harbour fascinates Mr English. His great grandfather came to Cobh in the 1860s and the English’s have been there ever since. Mr English has never lived anywhere else and he loves the town’s connection to the sea.
"I think that the architecture in Cobh is a feast for the eyes and to behold Cobh from the sea is a very special sight every time I look at it," he said.
"I bring visitors out on boats and they go: “Wow, that's fantastic” and I'll go: “Wow, that's fantastic”.
"It's a nice town, there are nice people here and I’d find it very hard to live anywhere else."
Sailing has been his hobby since he was a child. His father was commodore of the sailing club and Eddie used help out. At 16, he became an instructor.
He taught in sailing clubs nationwide and in 1974 ran his first sailing course in Cobh; he hasn’t looked back since.
Mr English said, "I just wanted to share the knowledge I have and that’s still one of the driving forces."
In 1981 he bought a property in Cobh’s town centre and opened a school to train people in sailing and windsurfing. The business grew, offering courses in navigation, yachting, powerboating and the school became Ireland’s first powerboat school.
He also ran courses in conjunction with the VEC to train people to work in the industry as sailing instructors and skippers.
"Over a period of 15-years, we produced nearly 100 graduates from that program, many of whom are in important roles in the sport around the world now at the moment," he said.
"There’s great amount of satisfaction in that."
One of those alumni is Justin Slattery whose competed in several round-the-world races.
In 2004 the business moved from Cobh to East Ferry where there was more room to store boats.
He’s taught VHF radio courses, kayaking, raft building and powerboating, he posts a daily weather report on his social media sites and he and his wife, Jo - who he calls a lynchpin in the business - run courses in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
The best thing about his job is that it’s his hobby and, every day, he gets to share his knowledge with others, and he gets to work in the town that he loves.
"I’m on the hill in Cobh and I’m looking on to the entrance of the harbour, it’s a view that I couldn't do without and a view I share with people every day and when you see it you’ll know why," he said.