Afloat Ireland's boating Magazine!
Afloat, in over 50 years of production, is a vibrant specialist magazine in print online which has continually adapted to the demands of its readership, with an industry insight which is quite simply unique. Edited by David O'Brien (50), a former European and World sailing champion and Olympic sailor from the 2000 Games, it is produced by a group of dedicated watersports enthusiasts and has become essential reading for all those who have more than a passing interest in the development of Irish watersports.
Afloat is the only publication dedicated to serving the needs of the sector, and it does so with a truly independent voice. Afloat's association with the industry's twin governing bodies the ISA and IMF allows it to offer an insider view, but the magazine maintains independent editorial control.
Packaged as a glossy magazine with an emphasis on colour photography, no other specialist magazine in Ireland offers such an impressive range of comment, information and advice in such an attractive format.
50 years on Irish waters a waterborne success
The most obvious indicator of Afloat's success lies in its increased sales, which have grown steadily to a current figure of 8,000, rising to over 10,000 for boat show editions.
Online, the Afloat.ie website recorded €1m unique visitors in 2016. This has been over the past eight years by building a tightly knit online community around Afloat.ie. We did this by achieving top Google Search rankings and also by having a great social media presence within our niche. Afloat.ie's combination of opinion, hard news and features puts it at the very heart of the national conversation on sailing, boating and maritime affairs.
We cover sailing and also other Irish watersports including rowing, canoeing, angling, kitesurfing, diving and waterskiing.
Reader comments are encouraged through our letters page, and through Afloat's unique tie-in with Seascapes, RTÉ Radio One's maritime current affairs programme. Seascapes presenter, Marcus Connaughton, contributes a regular column to the magazine, and devotes considerable space to the views of listeners who have contacted that programme's comment line.
Arm in arm with the IMF, Afloat submitted a plan to government in 1994 and again in 2004 detailing how and where future marina berths should be located around the coast. Seven years later, new coastal marinas are taking shape around the coast using the IMF/Afloat proposal as a template. The commitment by the Minister for the Marine, Frank Fahey, to invest £4.5 million in this marina network followed directly from this IMF/Afloat campaign, and the magazine is the only Irish publication to track and monitor the progress of this programme of expansion.
Afloat conducted a reader's poll in 1998 on the future of the State's first sail-training vessel, Asgard. The results of this poll which favoured restoring and refloating the 1914 gun-running vessel by a majority of 9 to 1 laid the foundations for the subsequent campaign by the Asgard Restoration Project, led by entrepreneur Harry Crosbie. Restoration work on the Asgard has now begun, and the government has committed to contributing half the estimated £800,000 cost of the project, which Afloat continues to monitor and support.
In association with the IMF, Afloat has also been at the forefront of efforts since 1985 to reduce VAT levels on Irish marine products to encourage growth across the industry. While this rate has been lowered from 35 per cent to 20 per cent over this period, the Irish marine industry still faces a competitive disadvantage in relation to the British rate of 17.5 per cent. Afloat is committed to continuing its involvement in this campaign until this rate difference disappears.
Produced by watersports enthusiasts, for watersports enthusiasts Afloat's reader focus doesn't read as easily as our magazine, but it lies at the core of our success.
Watersports differs from most other leisure activities in that it lacks a significant spectator class. Regardless of age or infirmity, if you're passionate about water, then you're probably going to be found on it.
Everyone at Afloat from the editor, through our contributors, to the production staff sails, cruises or surfs. In a very real sense then, Afloat is produced by and for those people whose lives on the water are interrupted by their work on land.
But this relatively simple focus hides a more complex agenda. The Irish watersports industry with some 70,000 participants is anything but homogenous. Moving from sailing and cruising to windsurfing and jetskiing, Afloat faces the challenge of providing a comprehensive monthly service to what is, in effect, a range of very different sports. A further indication of the sector's dynamism and complexity lies in the emergence of a growing band of professional sailors for whom watersports is, quite literally, a way of life.
Afloat has risen to the challenge of catering for this disparate market because of our strong roots within the sector. Regular features on diving, canoeing and rowing have been curtailed not simply because of sheer pressure on editorial space, but also because of reader feedback across Ireland's clubs and harbours. Afloat would like to publish with the promise: 'If it floats, we're on it, but the industry's continuing growth has made that an impossible goal.
Instead, Afloat now serves those readers, from teenagers to octagenarians, whose boats are powered by wind or motor. Our readers range from the professional elite of offshore racers and Olympic campaigners through to the passionate amateurism of weekend canal cruising. Although disparate, this readership shares a common objective the desire to fully exploit Ireland's greatest natural resource without taking from the beauty of our unique playground. This readership turns to Afloat for reports of past events and news of upcoming challenges, for coaching and safety advice, for boat reviews and sales, for profiles of leading sailors and their achievements, and for an informed debate on the future of the sport in Ireland.
Afloat's guiding editorial policy has been born out of our desire to provide a resource base for Irish watersports. Since our first edition appeared in 1972, Afloat has followed a policy of encouraging increased public access to watersports, while maintaining a consistent focus on safety. More specifically, these twin objectives are met in the following ways:
Afloat serves as the official publication of the two principal Irish watersports organisations - the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) and the Irish Marine Federation (IMF). These organisations maintain a dialogue with their members through our pages - publicising events, debating policy and advocating change. Afloat supports this process and has adopted an editorial policy of following and adapting to this debate. In 1994, for example, Afloat and the IMF submitted a detailed plan to government showing how and why the growth of marinas should be encouraged around the Irish coastline.
As a natural consequence of that campaign's success, Afloat adopted an editorial policy of encouraging the development of regional watersports by increasing its coverage of events outside the traditional centres of Dublin and Cork.
Serving an industry in which safety is critical, Afloat publicises and supports all initiatives from the ISA, IMF, Department of the Marine and the Irish Water Safety Council which are aimed at decreasing risk on water. Two recent features are typical of this focus - one examined the spate of fatalities on Irish waters in late spring and early summer of this year, while another focussed on the lack of disposal facilities for out-of-date distress flares in Ireland.
Afloat provides practical navigation information on inland waterways, publishing guides in co-operation with relevant local authorities. Our most recent publication, for example, was timed to mark the re-opening of the Limerick-Killaloe stretch of the river Shannon, a navigation on which no other reference guides are available.
Afloat has fostered debate on the development of sail training in Ireland by focussing over the last two years on the future of the Irish training vessel, Asgard II, the restoration of the original craft, Asgard, and the use of the two most recent additions to the national fleet, the Jeanie Johnston and the Dunbrody.
Afloat has consistently encouraged the development of disabled sailing, in line with its overall policy of increasing access to Irish waters for all. Regular features and news reports on disabled sailing have been accompanied by appeals for greater assistance to the sector, an initiative which has been supported fully by Afloat.
Afloat's recent cover story - focussing on the victory of an Irish teenage duo in the World Mirror class championships - reflects our policy of encouraging youth sailing through increased coverage.
In an effort to foster excellence on Irish waters, Afloat instituted a Sailor of the Year scheme seven years ago. With support from sponsors Irish Distillers and the Irish Independent newspaper, the award highlights the achievement of an individual sailor or crew each month, and presents an overall prize each year.
The biennial Irish boat show, organised by the IMF, serves as the shopfront for the Irish watersports industry, and is heavily supported through the pages of Afloat. A number of pre-show features are published to encourage attendance at the event, and a special boat show issue is used to guide visitors around the show.