Social distancing isn't a problem when you're out on the high sea

Social distancing isn't a problem when you're out on the high sea

Cork Harbour Pilot Tony Kingston and wife, Alice.

KINSALE Yacht Club’s director of the successful biennial Sovereign’s Cup is returning to the Round Ireland Race and will be on the start line at Wicklow on Saturday, August 22.

Tony Kingston, a Cork Harbour Pilot, has entered his Swan 40, Shindig, in the two-handed class. It was the 40th entry in the race, delayed due to the pandemic from its usual start later this month.

His crew will be his son, Jack, “depending upon whether he can get back from the United States in time.”

If Jack doesn’t, Tony’s wife, Alice will be his crew and it won’t be her first time on the race! They sailed their previous yacht, Cracker, in the 2008 race and finished 21st.

Tony has raced the biennial Round Ireland several times on crewed boats. In 1994 Amazing Grace out of Kinsale YC finished 12th.

“I’ve raced it five times fully-crewed, but two-handed is my choice for this race,” he told The Echo this week.

“It’s a fabulous race and I’ve really enjoyed it. Alice and myself thoroughly enjoyed it in the two-handed section and we were even still talking at the end of it!. Jack has done a lot of sailing in the States and expressed an interest and I’m delighted to do it again. I am really looking forward to it.”

2008 was a “rough, rough race,” he said and recalled that off Tory Island on the North/West Donegal coastline, another boat the same size as Cracker took down its mainsail and was still doing 13 knots under bare poles – with no sails up!

“That was a stand-out memory,” he said and added that the race, “is demanding for two people, you have to set up the sails and the watches differently but the most important thing was, in the latter stages of that race in 2008. 

"When exhaustion sets in your decision-making can become flawed and that is when you are facing down into the Irish Sea and the East Coast, with tactical challenges for course and maybe sail changes as you head for the finish line.”

Alice and Tony checked charts and tide tables after they passed Inistrahull Lighthouse, six miles north of Malin and made their way across the northern tip of Ireland, before facing the last part down to Wicklow.

They decided on their best course and stuck to those decisions.

“It worked out quite well. Dealing with fatigue adds another dimension to the race for two-handers and it is very important to be prepared for it.”

The later time of the year for this race in August will increase the hours of darkness that sailors will encounter, compared with the month of June when the round Ireland has usually been raced. That won’t create problems for Tony Kingston. His work as a harbour pilot involves duty periods around the clock.

“It won’t make that much of a difference to me as I work over 24-hours anyway. There is a huge advantage to be able to function in darkness and light and that may be an advantage to me.”

The first night at sea in the race, after the adrenalin ‘rush’ of the Saturday afternoon start with all the spectator hype and when all the entered yachts are grouped as they fight for clear air to get advantage over rivals, battling their way out of Wicklow and heading south, can set the pace and positions for the rest of the race. 

From my own experience of three times in the race, that first night was always a test of the mettle of the crew as the race bore down towards Tuskar, then swung for Hook Head and across the South Coast.

Social distancing will be less of a problem with two of the same family crewing a 40-footer.

“Once you are at sea it is isolation anyway, so I’m delighted that the race is going ahead. It is so important to the sport this season which has been so much disrupted by Covid-19 and so important for Wicklow Sailing Club where the welcome and hospitality is legendary.”

More in this section

Sponsored Content