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Proposal Seeks 'Shake-up' of ISA Policy to Stem Dinghy Sailing Decline

26th February 2013
Proposal Seeks 'Shake-up' of ISA Policy to Stem Dinghy Sailing Decline

#isa – A full 'shake–up' for sailing is on the agenda at Saturday's Irish Sailing Association (ISA) agm when a former dinghy champion takes aim at current policies he claims are 'damaging the sport'.

GP14 and Mirror dinghy sailor Norman Lee, an active Wicklow boater with a reputation for introducing people to the sport in both dinghy and cruising boats, says he wants 'the ISA focus off elite sailing and the emphasis instead to be on enjoying sailing for fun as per the association's own articles of association'.


'I want a full shake-up. Lets take the focus off the Olympics and have a root and branch reappraisal of sail training'.

A failure to provide support and encouragement to clubs and class associations in all parts of the country has led to a decline in dinghy sailing numbers according to the proposal published by the ISA on its website. The agm notice is also downloadable as a word doc below.

The agm is scheduled for Saturday, March 2nd at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire.

Lee is a member of Greystones Sailing Club, Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club and Lough Derg Yacht Club.

Lee says he wants a proper reappraisal of the sport.  'The ISA needs to amend its policies and return to its original objectives of the  amateur sport in Ireland'.

In particular Lee says the ISA currently has an over 'emphasis of the training of selected juveniles by the creation of elite squads of possible future Olympians'. This, says Lee, is without proper regard to the interests of those failing (for whatever reasons) to meet that standard or who are not able or cannot afford to give the time or family/financial commitment and this discourages people who are lost to the sport. 

Lee says the ISA needs to refocus on the original objective set out in article 2 of its Memorandum of Association, which is 'to promote the amateur sport of sailing in Ireland' and amend its policies and practices to address the matters referred to."

The full proposal in accordance with the ISA's Article 33 is as follows:

"That the meeting recognises that the current policies being followed by the ISA are causing or contributing to the decline in numbers participating in dinghy racing by:-

Failing to structure the Association's sail training schemes so as to encourage as far as possible the continued participation of young participants in the sport, so as to make sailing a "sport for life". The system produces 'Instructors' who put no value on participation in club activities, continue to see themselves as 'Juniors' and have not been exposed to 'Senior' fleet sailing. Experience shows that those that have participated in 'senior' racing in their teens are much more likely to continue sailing or come back at a later stage.

Discontinuing the log book requirement for juniors to prove participation in club and Class events has contributed to a general lowering of standards and the demise of some junior classes.

Failing to provide necessary support and encouragement to clubs and classes associations in all parts of the Country for the provision and continuation of well managed and competitive dinghy racing at club and national level.

Emphasising the training of selected juveniles by the creation of elite squads of possible future Olympians, without proper regard to the interests of those failing (for whatever reasons) to meet that standard or who are not able or cannot afford to give the time or family/financial commitment and who are thereby discouraged and lost to the sport.

And that ISA refocus on the original objective set out in article 2 of its Memorandum of Association, which is 'to promote the amateur sport of sailing in Ireland' and amend its policies and practices to address the matters referred to." would like to hear from as many sailors as possible on the proposal raised by Norman. Please leave your comments on this story in the box below.

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  • Comment Link Simon Knowles 22nd February 2013 posted by Simon Knowles

    I also support Norman's views , the ISA need to put the majority of emphsis on sailing for life, sailing for fun, overnight sailing ,distance sailing as well as their efforts into racing and wining. Too mush emphsis on the later for many years is however pushing people away who might enjoy saing but who do not want to race. Those who want to progress to the Olympic dream will always do so.

  • Comment Link WP Roger Bannon 22nd February 2013 posted by WP Roger Bannon

    Norman has taken an important initiative which is positive, practical and encouraging. The ISA's primary responsibility is to it's 20,000 plus grassroot club members and it must listen to them and respond proactively. Support for elite and Olympic sailing is vitally important and in years gone by, the ISA was careful to ring fence this role, both operationally and financially, from the core developmental objectives of promoting active sailing in Ireland.
    The ISA historically use to rely on immense input from committed volunteers, who were active in all aspects of sailing in Ireland, particularly in junior and youth training. Maybe a "disconnect" has emerged as greater reliance was placed in recent years on the increasing number of professional staff employed by the ISA to provide initiative and leadership in these areas, instead of a more direct influence from the frontline in Clubs. Hopefully the debate that Norman has kicked off will result in improving this.

  • Comment Link TomS 22nd February 2013 posted by TomS

    Seems to me like everyone is shooting the messenger here......

  • Comment Link gavin 22nd February 2013 posted by gavin

    I think the issue here not how the ISA measure their success every four years, that is an important part of sailing and should be supported to the fullest extent.
    The biggest problem in my opinion is that there is too great a gap between the youth programmes and senior sailing. The gap is defined when a youth sailor who isn’t interested in going on to be an instructor the vast majority fall out of the sport never to be seen in a boat again. As a youth the pinnacle of your training was to become an instructor and little else is provided for.
    The ISA need an initiative to bridge this gap and keep tonnes of young sailors in the sport each year, perhaps that initiative includes a social aspect (maybe team racing) or provision of training beyond gaining an instructor cert and something for those who do not want to teach.

  • Comment Link Brian McDowell 22nd February 2013 posted by Brian McDowell

    I agree with most of the comments made so far, but let’s try to keep the debate as positive as possible. ISA policy will only change if enough members turn up and ask for it at forums and the AGM at our Annual Conference.

    I have been involved in sailing for nearly 40 years and have gained some in experience as a sailor, as an instructor, and more recently as a parent, junior organiser & a committee member in a class association.

    As members of the ISA, I feel we need to:-

    1) Work towards a practical, no nonsense, integrated approach to developing sailing, which encompasses all areas and all levels of our sport.
    2) Shift our emphasis from acquiring certificates (or green lifejackets) towards developing skills.
    3) Encourage more participation in sailing outside structured training, through the use of club racing, cruising in company, return of the logbooks, etc.
    4) Raise the standards of training, particularly in the Small Boat Training Scheme.
    5) Make sailing as inclusive as possible by sharing knowledge and providing access to ISA/club/class association boats.
    6) Encourage greater respect for our fellow sailors, the Rules of Sailing and the boats and equipment we use.
    7) Focus our efforts on the development of sailing in clubs, where the vast majority of our fellow members do most of their sailing.

    If we genuinely want to promote sailing as a sport for life, we need to refocus the resources of the ISA towards giving appropriate training and opportunities to enable people who are new to sailing to continue their participation in the future. We also need to look at the reasons why so many talented and not so talented sailors drop out of our sport at junior level.

    I am looking forward to seeing how this discussion develops both here and at the ISA Conference.

    Brian McDowell
    420 Class President

  • Comment Link Bob Murphy 22nd February 2013 posted by Bob Murphy

    Norman has put out in the open what most of us have been thinking for many years. The reason the ISA focus on the elite side or that 5% of the sport is that it is this element that brings in the Sports Council money. Without this funding there would be no jobs for the boys. However the other 95% of participants of our beautiful sport who pay their annual sub see little or no value for our money. This unfortunately has been the way for sometime now and perhaps Norman's proposal will start the discussion which might bring about change, however I feel like many of my fellow sailors that the issues will be ignored or swept under the carpet as it does not suit those who currently occupy the ISA chairs.

  • Comment Link Jim.Ryan 22nd February 2013 posted by Jim.Ryan

    I support this motion.Irish Dinghy sailing had an amasing opportunity to attract young people to dinghy sailing since the Olympics in Annalaise Murphy's fine performance and her huge following of young and potentially great young sailors but she has been locked away by the the Irish Olympic administrators from giving talks to clubs to promote the sport. We were told you must travel to Dublin ISA conferrence to hear her speak!.. madness.
    Jim Ryan, Killaloe Sailing Club.

  • Comment Link Glen Ward 22nd February 2013 posted by Glen Ward

    Oh dear... is the ISA finally getting a wake up call?

    It's pretty much an administrative organisation with a reactive nature, rather than a pro-active agenda. The problem here is that any proposal will require the pen pushers to get off their backsides and actually do something. Basically, it's like asking a civil servant to do a days work. An independent audit is required surely and some level of bench-marking with real accountability.

    Good Luck Norman and you will be well supported, but why waste your time doing a job you are already paying someone else to do? I would think perhaps, that your efforts would be better spent lobbying a higher level than simply begging the foot soldiers.

  • Comment Link Markham N 22nd February 2013 posted by Markham N

    When I was training to be a Senior Instructor (1999, perhaps) several groups of instructors slammed the ISA's change in policy in a number of regards, specifically pointing out the abandonment of the log-book as a massive error which would have a dramatic effect on dinghy racing. We did so in feedback sessions with the ISA but were dismissed out of hand. The objections we raised were steamrolled over. I'd welcome the logbook requirements back, there has been a deterioration in the quality of instructor as a result of the lack of demand for sailors to spend time on the water.

    It's worth also noting that there is much greater external competition for the attention of young would-be sailors than ever before, and the vast majority of those other activities are cheaper, less exclusive and less time-consuming than sailing, while offering at least some of the same benefits of community. Innovation in how sailing is presented is interesting. Losing people to cycling? Run a combined cycling/sailing two-day duathlon like the Royal St George did last year. Think outside the box. Think chess-boxing.

    I don't think it's a factor of single-handers. I grew up sailing Oppies and Lasers, but also enjoyed sailing Laser IIs and Fireballs later on. Many youngsters also get drawn into team racing in many clubs at a young age, which sates the need for teamwork in many ways. Oppies & Toppers are largely cheaper than 420s or other double-handers.

    One final note. Cast the net wide. Sailing is not accessible. Sailing is expensive. Sailing is time-consuming. If it is to grow as a sport, it has to find a way to open its doors to everyone. I may even step back into a boat if sailing gets it right.

  • Comment Link Patrick Blaney 22nd February 2013 posted by Patrick Blaney

    I support this debate and welcome the fact that it is being brought to the ISA AGM.

    The core problerm is that sail training today for whatever reason (and I think the issue of single handed boats is a key one) is not succeeding in making our junior sailors for life.

    To my mind there are a few things we could do to help this:

    1. We need a root and branch review of what the sail training programme is now doing. This has been ISA Management led for many years, and perhaps has gotten out of kilter with what is being done/needs to be done at local level to encourage greater participation levels and over a longer time period. Most junior sailors just do the few "weeks", get their level, and nothing else until next year. The ISA Management would be hugely helped by having the input of experienced and lifetime sailors, those that have been through the mill and know what works.

    2. Clubs/classes need to share what works. Much as we all love to bitch about what the ISA does or doesn't do, the solution to this problem is more about grass roots, local inputs, albeit guided by a good strategy and equivalent course structures.

    This is the type of thing which should be discussed at the ISA AGM, and we should all be grateful to Norman and Bryan for getting it on the agenda.

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