Shape I'm In: RTÉ reporter and sailing enthusiast, Fergal Keane

I'm fitter now than I have been in years says the RTÉ reporter and sailing enthusiast 
Shape I'm In: RTÉ reporter and sailing enthusiast, Fergal Keane
Fergal Keane, presenter of Seascapes on RTÉ Radio One.

RTÉ reporter Fergal Keane finds an oceanic sense of calm every time he sails into the open sea. “We sail every Thursday evening. You could leave the office and an hour later you’re outside Dún Laoghaire harbour — you can just feel the stress falling away behind you,” he says.

The song of the sea has been ringing in his ears since childhood in Cork.

“I always liked boats — I first went sailing with neighbours, but Shandon Boat Club Rowing was my first lengthy exposure to anything to do with water. After that, I started sailing in Eddie English’s Sailing School in Cobh, then a bit in Crosshaven. When I came to Dublin I got very seriously involved in sailing in Dún Laoghaire. Foredeck was my thing — you’re up at the front of the deck, you’re pulling and hauling and climbing.”

Compared to Britain, the sailing industry in Ireland, he says, is “microscopic”. The weather may be a factor. “It’s really tough — you get three of four days in the year in your shorts, the rest of the time you’re bundled up. So maybe that’s why people find it difficult. It’s also because as a leisure pursuit it is expensive unless someone is providing the boat.”

Married to Tara Buckley, he is a father of three children, aged 23, 21, and 16.

n  Fergal Keane presents Seascapes, RTÉ Radio One, Fridays, 10.30pm

What shape are you in?

I’m unbelievably fit. We do this thing called Crossfit — I go at least three times a week when I can four times. It’s a bit extreme — I’m fitter than I have been in years. Five or six years ago, our neighbour got involved in this gym and got us to join. My wife and I have been going there obsessively. I put on quite a bit of muscle — I’m quite bulky — and I feel fantastic.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

I don’t eat an awful lot of sweet things. Healthy eating for me is just not a massive amount of fats. Sometimes I’m good on salad but other times I’m not great — it depends on the dressing.

I get my cholesterol checked. My father died aged 51 from a heart attack — I was 15 years old at the time — so it’s something I am very conscious of.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

White bread and beer. Also, I’m addicted to coffee. I drink about four cups a day and have two at breakfast.

What would keep you awake at night?

Coffee — after three o’clock in the afternoon I don’t drink it. I’m usually pretty good not bringing work home with me in my head because most of the time we work to a daily deadline [on Drivetime] and tomorrow is another day.

How do you relax?

We do quite a bit of sailing. I used to sail a lot competitively in Dún Laoghaire for decades. Then a few years ago we bought a house in Baltimore, Co Cork, and we do our sailing down there now. And I like fly fishing, that’s my complete relaxation.

Who are your sporting heroes?

There are four and all have three letters in their names: Ali, ROG, JMB and BOD. People can work it out for themselves.

What’s your favourite smell?

I have a very poor sense of smell. But sometimes if you’re sailing long distances, like the round Ireland race which can take about six days, and you come anywhere near the west of Ireland and the wind is coming offshore, you can smell the heathery, peaty bog. It’s really striking.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

I’d like my hair to stop falling out. I’m told I’ve got a bald patch at the back. It doesn’t bother me that much.

When is the last time you cried?

We all shed a tear recently when Jack Charlton died.

What traits do you least like in others?

I don’t really like people being very confrontational and aggressive. You meet them from time to time, particularly in sailing.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

I can have quite a short fuse sometimes. And I also have the attention span of a gnat, which I don’t like.

Do you pray?

Only out of complete desperation. I did an MA in philosophy in UCC and it knocked all religion out of me.

What would cheer up your day?

If you’re working on something and it works out very well, that really cheers up my day.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

We bought a place in Baltimore nearly four years ago, a derelict farm. We’ve rebuilt the house and we’ve 10 acres of overgrown land that we are now starting to work on. It will be wildflower meadows and native trees and that kind of thing. It’s the plan. My other favourite location is the Greek islands. Cephalonia, where Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is set, is the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen.

Irene Feighan

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