Forty people, thirty days, a daily jump into the sea – last November, DU Sailing Club members raised funds for men’s mental health charities by swimming in the sea each day of Movember. The fundraiser was one of a handful of times the club have made it out to the water this year – albeit not on their boats. With university sailing competitions cancelled and restrictions on training over the last twelve months, the club is set to introduce not one, but two years’ worth of new students to its fleet come September.
DU Sailing Club – more commonly known as Trinity Sailing – sails out of the Royal St. George’s Yacht Club in Dún Laoghaire with a fleet of Firefly dinghies. Its primary focus is team racing, which involves two teams of three boats with two sailors each. The club also offers keelboat training and competes in the student yachting nationals. In team racing, “the aim is to use speed and the sailing racing rules to be the team with the lowest combined score,” Kate Lyttle told Trinity News.
Lyttle, a Law and Business student, is the club’s newly-elected captain. She previously served as Freshers’ Rep, Sailing Captain, and International Officer. “We go to international events with Trinity Sailing, but I did not have to organise, unfortunately, any teams to go to international events this year.”
In a usual year, the clubs train every weekend in Dublin Bay. “We train at Dún Laoghaire, so it’s very easy to get the Dart straight out, which is what most people do if they’re staying in town,” Lyttle said. “We train every Saturday, so it usually starts at 9am. We get everyone down, we bring the boats up – the Royal St. George Yacht Club are very accommodating to us – and we head out in the water, set up our course and train for a few hours. We’re usually finished by about two o’clock.” In addition to its Saturday sessions, the club started to offer midweek training to accommodate people who were busy at the weekend. While members usually bring their own gear, there’s some that the club can provide: “There’s usually an abundance of life jackets going around!”
“We managed to get out sailing on the water a few times in between lockdowns.”
But since the start of the pandemic, the club has been mostly stuck on shore. Along with other colleges around the country, Trinity shut down from the middle of last March and pushed students to return home. On March 24, then-Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed that all sporting events were cancelled. The Irish University Sailing Association (IUSA) followed suit by calling off its events. Since then, restrictions have fluctuated nationally and within Trinity. “The pandemic did prevent us from training for most of the year,” Lyttle said. “All the IUSA events were cancelled, unfortunately, but following Irish Sailing’s Covid-19 guidelines, we managed to get out sailing on the water a few times in between lockdowns.”
Members have stayed connected through game nights over Zoom and attending webinars and talks on sailing, as well as its charity work – swimming in the sea to raise funds for Movember and an Ireland-wide run last May in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Jigsaw Youth Mental Health.
“We’ve really, really experienced sailors sailing with us, but we also encourage people who have never sailed before to join…”
Next on the agenda is introducing another cohort of Junior Fresh students into the club. “The Freshers did really well this year and it’s a shame that we haven’t gotten to meet them personally, but we’re very excited to welcome two years into the club next year,” Lyttle said. The club is open for students with any level of experience to sign up, whether they’re a master or a novice. “The great thing about Trinity Sailing is that we’ve really, really experienced sailors sailing with us, but we also encourage people who have never sailed before to join, so we cater for all levels of abilities in the club.”
“Sign up during Freshers Week, or if you want contact us during the year, we’re pretty active on Instagram, on Facebook, on our website. Everyone’s super accommodating and friendly,” Lyttle said. “We’ll help you provide you with gear, if that’s an issue, because I know lots of international students can’t come over with their life jackets! I’d really say just reach out to us because we cater for all levels of abilities. It’s really fun sports-wise and we’ve got a great social side as well.”
The club’s first wish is to “get back out training every Saturday” in the next academic year, or as soon as possible in line with restrictions. DU Sailing has been tasked with arranging the first IUSA event of the year, which would see it organise an event for all the university sailing clubs throughout Ireland. “That might be able to go ahead in October, so we’re starting to plan that,” Lyttle said. “We’re hopefully very excited for a busy season next year!”