Afloat.ie’s W M Nixon may have received the Royal Irish YC’s “Maritime Journalist of the Year” Award on Saturday night for his “ability to make even the most advanced and complex sailing issues understandable and of interest not only to ordinary sailors, but to non-sailors too”, but he reckons the blog for this coming weekend will pose one of his biggest challenges ever, as he will be trying to explain what goes on in the annual Irish Cruiser Racing Association Conference.
Having attended last Saturday’s capacity gathering in Limerick, it was clear that while in some localities and some areas of interest, sailing appears to be in decline, the popularity of national Irish Cruiser-Racer Conferences is greater than ever.
And as for the irresistible attraction of an historic and distinguished yacht club handing out its Oscars……well, the RIYC could teach Hollywood a thing or two. Despite a packed-out dining room, it was all smoothly done after a very fine and convivial dinner with efficiency and humour, combined with a palpable sense of community. Nixon promises us he’ll try to do justice to it and ICRA on Saturday, but admits that having apparently spent the weekend zapping back and forth across Ireland, he is still waiting for his soul to catch up with his body.
Additonal reporting from ICRA: Declining fleets and youth engagement nationwide led to a wide-ranging discussion that started the annual Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) conference in Limerick.
More than 70 sailors from all corners of Ireland were in attendance to hear proposed solutions from the ICRA leadership that received an enthusiastic reception.
John Maybury’s J109 Joker 2 from the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire was announced as the ICRA Boat of the Year following a successful 2016 season that included the IRC national championship title and victory for the Irish Defence Forces team in the Beaufort Cup as part of Volvo Cork Week.
Addressing the twin problems of falling fleet numbers and poor youth participation, ICRA’s Denis Kiely led a broad discussion that found similar stories from clubs and organisers around the coast.
In spite of the problems being experienced by the majority of clubs, ICRA is actively delivering solutions aimed at helping some of the issues. Several programmes were outlined at the conference including:
Crew Point – a physical and online scheme to link sailors and boats;
Cruiser Training Grant – applicants can receive €1,000 supporting grant;
Training Curriculum for Cruiser Racing – in development.
There were also calls for more investment, particularly in club fleets of small keelboats, professional coaching and recruitment, better collaboration between neighbouring clubs and a clearer pathway into keelboats for dinghy sailors and varsity teams.
“We’ve got to get our act together, we’ve got huge potential!” commented former ICRA Commodore Norbert Reilly. Clubs should be in contact with local schools and improve collaboration to get more people into the sport.
In other modules at the ICRA Conference, Paul Tingle of the Royal Cork YC outlined plans for the annual ICRA National Championships to be held over three days at Crosshaven from 9th of 11th June 2017. Free berthing, coastal courses, space for camper vans and assistance to deliver boats to Kinsale for the Sovereigns Regatta are among many features for the championships.