The Irish Cruiser Racer Association must be applauded for providing a platform under the theme: 'we need to talk about cruiser racing' at tomorrow's conference in Limerick. Like an elephant in–the–room, the overcrowded Summer fixtures needs to be urgently addressed because it's not only the hosting clubs and competitors that suffer but the sport itself.
Between June 9 and July 9 Irish cruiser–racers have – in date order – the ICRA Nationals in Royal Cork YC (June 9–11), Sovereigns Cup at Kinsale Yacht Club, (June 21-24) Dun Laoghaire Regatta on Dublin Bay from (July 6-9) and Galway's WIORA on the Aran Islands from July 5–8.
These major events are icons of Summer sailing but how much do we lose by having them all within one month?
With a total available racing fleet of say up to 150 keelboats in Ireland, very few boats will do all five events, not least because WIORA and Dun Laoghaire regatta dates clash.
For many skippers, getting enough crew to do even two of these events will be an achievement in itself.
And, in what is becoming a well identified problem at club level, the successive nature of these events will certainly have a knock–on effect in crew availability for local racing.
Already Dublin Bay Sailing Club has taken a pragmatic approach and scrubbed its own long standing DBSC Cruiser Challenge because of this congestion.
It may seem blindingly obvious but it needs to be said, the Irish keelboat sailing calendar has just too many events for the times that are in it.
Does such congestion best showcase our sport? Attract sponsors or discourage them? And most importantly does it suit the sailors?
It's not the first time Water Rat has mentioned it. He raised it back in 2013 when one senior organiser saw fit to deny the situation and gave poor Water Rat a good talking to into the bargain. Unfortunately, the officer subsequently added that his muscular comments were off–the–record.
Four years later, nothing it appears, has changed except that new ICRA commodore Simon McGibney has invited all to the Limerick gabfest to talk about the future of cruiser racing.
Everyone supports the notion of the ICRA National Championships because it is an extremely worthy event that has, since its inception, done so much to raise the profile of cruiser-racing, an aspect of the sport hitherto poorly represented.
But in the current environment could this event not be included within a Sovereigns Week/Dun Laoghaire Week/Cork Week scenario thus reducing:
- crew demands
- volunteer fatigue within clubs,
- resources and logistics
At the same time, such a rejig would give a much needed boost to the regatta that would now include a 'National Championships'.
ICRA National Championship Must Keep its Own Identity
Equally, in such a set–up, it is essential the ICRA championship keeps its own identity. After all, it is a national championships, and that's the formula that proves popular with competitors, so it is vital it is not subsumed by any regatta.
ICRA could consider four year cycles. All the events to run from, say, a Wednesday to Saturday to maximise club takings. If it started next year then it could go to Cork Week, Dun Laoghaire in 2019, Howth 2020, Sovereign's in 2021 or some other rotation of this. A review could take place in year three of four to see if other venues wanted a piece of the action. Belfast, anyone? Existing venues also might want to drop out or change dates to fit the recast schedule.
This would not mean the ICRA Nationals concept falls away. On the contrary, ICRA instead works with the existing regatta committees to deliver it's goal of providing quality racing for IRC and ECHO boats and to enable the growth of the sport and to maximise the numbers of people afloat. This all happens. ICRA are merely using existing regattas as their vehicle to deliver. ICRA becomes more overseer than organiser and the regattas benefit from the additional UK exposure that ICRA manages to attract.
ICRA should be applauded for bringing everyone together to discuss this subject. Lets see what overhaul comes out of round table discussions at Castletroy.