‘When you sail, it is impossible to think of anything else except the act of sailing’
Why I Love . . . Sailing
Niall Henry, who has sailed since he was four years old
I have been sailing since I was four years old, and competing at sailing competitions on and off for the last 35 years. Working as artistic director of Blue Raincoat Theatre Company means I’m always on a deadline, so the open sea is my stress release.
Ossian, my crew mate of 23 years, and I will leave for an event early on a Saturday morning. When you sail, it is virtually impossible to think of anything else except the act of sailing. Windy or quiet, flat or with waves, the experience is always the same. Strange as it may seem, with the wind at its wildest and in the biggest of waves, it is the silence and stillness you remember. It is usually only on our journey home the following evening that the first thoughts of work encroach.
I am listening to music by French composer Yann Tiersen in the gym at the moment. His music is used on the soundtrack for a documentary on the sailor Eric Tabarly, a famous transatlantic racer, lost overboard on his way to the Shetland Islands to attend the centenary celebrations of the construction of his boat the Pen Duick. His daughter Marie appears in the documentary.
She, like my daughter now, was 11 when Tabarly was lost. I often wonder what happened to her. I looked her up and was happy to see that she has become a sailor of some repute, and is currently sailing around the world highlighting the environmental crisis.
I am the third generation of my family to sail, my daughter Phoebe being the fourth. Sailing and the sea have been very good to me, and I hope that like Marie Tabarly, the sea will be good to Phoebe too. But of course, that is still hidden. As they say in Italy, in mare tutt è latente – in the sea everything is hidden.