Finding my tribe
With less than a month to go before the Sia Partners Women at the Helm Regatta, we caught up with Antonia O’Rourke of the National Yacht Club who is entering the event for the first time as helm. She came to sailing relatively late and lights up when she talks about getting on the water. You can read her story here ...
“I've never been a believer in anything other than you can't change the past and everything else is uncertain.
Finding the right tribe isn't always immediate, sometimes it isn't easy and often can be painful if you are a square peg in a round hole. Sailing brought all of that to a thundering halt. My voyage into sailing didn't start until I was 40, having returned to Dublin to look after my father. On a return journey from a friend's house in Cork, my passenger - a very interesting character - offered to take me out sailing as neither of us could believe I had never been on a sail boat.
I had no idea what to wear, I had no idea what to expect and I had never been into a sailing club before, I just knew it was important to be warm and dry.
I'll never forget the feeling when we left the dock with the boat healed over - and we took off without any panic shouting or screaming, just teamwork and a calm, steady communication of actions and observations which worked fluidly to propel us.
Thankfully my brain worked faster than my mouth and I quickly realised this particular 45-degree angle was probably quite normal - I suppressed any urge to voice my internal concern, looked around, breathed in the fresh sea air and exhaled any doubts I had about boats or what the hell I was doing with people I barely knew. Soon there was a glow of rapture on my face. Elbows were nudged, nods in my direction and smiles grew on the faces I couldn't see anymore, I was completely focused on the moment and knew I wanted to repeat this feeling endlessly.
Sailing either on your own or with a crew is hugely rewarding across a spectrum of skills. It sometimes takes a completely different situation for you to realise that time on the water teaches you about communication and how to look at the big picture. But the biggest reward is mindfulness. Everything fades when you are sailing, the stress, the worries, the to-do lists.
Since that very first moment on the water, I’ve taken every single opportunity to get out on the water and cruise, race or deliver boats up and down the East Coast. As a single parent, it has taken a lot of organising and fantastic family support and encouragement. I've circumnavigated Ireland twice; once as the only female and once as part of a mixed crew. I’ve made friends for life, continue to race inshore in Dublin, offshore in the Mediterranean and cannot underline enough how very easy it is to go from zero to sailor, simply by stepping onboard a boat. In most situations the mere hint at an interest in sailing will have your phone pinging with an offer of joining a "jolly" for a sunny afternoon or a chance to go racing with a generally happy bunch of people who will mind you and well and teach you the ropes!”.
To find out more or to register for the Sia Partners Irish Sailing Women at the Helm, taking place on 27 & 28 August 2022 at the National YC, Dun Laoghaire ...