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Irish Sailing is on the Up and Up; 50% of Clubs Experience Membership Growth – ISA

28th March 2017
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One of the ISA successes in 2016 was the Try Sailing campaign to introduce new people to sailing One of the ISA successes in 2016 was the Try Sailing campaign to introduce new people to sailing

David Lovegrove stepped down as President of the Irish Sailing Association last Saturday, here is his third and last annual report on ISA activities.

It has been three interesting years for which I am delighted to have had the opportunity of being President of such a terrific sport. The one thing that stands out in my memory is the large number of fantastic sailors that I have had the honour and pleasure of meeting during my term. I also want to acknowledge the support that I have had from my fellow Board Members. The average sailor has no idea of the amount of time that the Board spends working on behalf of sailing and sailors in Ireland.

2016 has been another year of change for the Association and for sailing in Ireland.

However, I am delighted to report that as a sport we are on the up and up, for example:

• According to our Try Sailing statistics, almost 50% of clubs experienced a growth in membership last year
• There have been the incredible results of our high-performance sailors in Rio and a host of other notable successes by Irish Sailors in major events.
• Cruising sailors continue to fly the flag in foreign parts and undertake exciting voyages of fantasy
• A sailor was Grand Marshall at the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin.

Not bad for a minority sport!

Looking back over the past season, one of the successes has been the Try Sailing campaign, which has been a keystone of the Access and Participation Programme. It has taken some time to establish this important brand for the ISA, but it is now very much part of clubs and training centres most used vocabulary. There are many success stories particularly in the small to medium sized clubs around the country where assistance was appreciated in putting this programme together.

We encourage clubs to engage with their RDO early in the season, fix their Introductory Day and start recruiting new sailing members. We were delighted to learn of one club recruiting forty members in 2016 as a result of following through after courses. We were pleased to have the support of the Marine Institute in promoting Try Sailing and look forward to working with them again this year.

Without doubt the highlight of the ISA’s Performance programme in 2016 was the Rio Olympics. Not only did the programme deliver on a long coveted Olympic medal through Annalise Murphy’s heroics, we also had our 49er team of Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern compete in the medal race final. Andrea Brewster and Saskia achieved a personal best of 12th overall in the 49erfx and Finn Lynch debuted in the Laser as Ireland’s youngest ever helm at an Olympics. The team’s performance was recognised as they picked up “Team of the Year" at the Irish Sports Awards.

In addition, 2016 was also our best ever season at youth level. Ewan McMahon from Howth claimed the silver medal at the Laser Radial Youth Worlds and Nicole Hemeryck was seventh in the girls’ division. Overall the Irish team were the best performing at this event. The rest of the Academy had great results through the season, too many to list here. Our junior sailors were not to be left off the podium and at the Topper Worlds in July our girls filled all three top spots, with Sophie Crosbie from RCYC leading the way. We also had a first in the Optimist class with Tom Higgins winning the British National title.

The representation policy group has been working hard on areas which affect us all and represent the interests of Irish sailors in respect of statutory affaires and legislation. The main focus is to develop a strategy to effect change in the way Government and State Agencies view sailing and lobby to promote safe and responsible participation

Effecting change within the statutory agencies through lobbying is by its nature a slow process and a number of issues are currently under discussion with the relevant departments.

Since the Department of Transport’s request for the ISA to withdraw the ISA’s small craft register on the grounds that it was being used illegally, the ISA has continued its discussions with the Department in introducing the statutory registration system that has been promised. We are informed that work on the implementation of a voluntary register for pleasure craft will commence in 2018 but will depend on the progress of the implementation of an electronic register for commercial vessels currently being developed.

In 2016 the ISA introduced a Certificate of Identity, which incorporates all the services that ISA members avail of in respect of their craft into a single document. This includes racing handicaps administered by ISA, racing sail numbers issued by ISA and other services. It provides details of vessels for use in search and rescue operations and also identifies the person/people taking responsibility for the craft relating to ISA matters.

World Sailing is the International Governing Body for Sailing. In 2016 John Crebbin retired after 19 years of diligent service to the ISA on World Sailing Council. We owe him a debt of thanks for the enormous amount of work he has done on our behalf over the years.

Marcus Spillane who is a member of our Olympic Steering Group has taken John’s place to represent our interests on World Sailing Council, and has worked with us to ensure we had key people appointed onto strategic committees in order to effectively represent the interests of the ISA members.

Dinghy participation in racing appears to have seen a slight increase across many Clubs, while others struggle in areas of lighter population density. RDOs continue to work closely with classes and clubs to assist with event management where required, and to identify local Club ‘pathways’ that will build on local/regional penetration with several Clubs having invested in fleets of double-hander training boats in the last 12 months.

The Dinghy Competition Policy Group was reformed in 2016 to specifically focus on youth transition and retention.

A youth participation survey went out to the 17-30 year age groups with particular emphasis to pass it on to former sailors. This has thrown up some interesting evidence regarding youth attrition:

  • 1/3 of all respondents had given up sailing: 
  • 41% gave work and academic commitments as main reason; 48% gave friends dropping out as 2nd or 3rd reason
  • Overwhelming carrot to return to the sport is identified as fun and friends with accessibility to boats and Club membership also being key.
  • Several comments on lack of guidance after Optimist sailing.
  • Some youth sailors transitioning do not feel they fit in with new class because of age
  • 60% of all respondents use a gym regularly, this is a clear opportunity for Clubs

IUSA, Third Level Sailing and Racing, looking to the ISA to provide support and continuity, became another focal point of the group. The potential to expand the use of the varsity Firefly fleets to Clubs on a loan basis while providing team racing during the summer months, to a wider group, is being explored.

Growth strategies for Dinghy Classes will be discussed at the Classes Forum following the AGM. The gap between Try Sailors and Club racers can be bridged. The success of Try Sailing, IUSA connectivity and Clubs looking to streamline their fleets, provide abundant potential to be exploited where classes are willing to put in the legwork.

Event management templates and documents are nearing completion for the ISA online library to assist classes, clubs and colleges to develop standard documents to maintain continuity when administrations change and give Class specific event guidance to host Club and Race Officer.

The Race Officials Policy Group took a number of steps during the year to broaden the scope of the Group to include Measurement, Mark Laying and Safety. This now ensures all aspects of race officials are represented and active within the group. There is now for the first time a Local/Regional and National scheme in place for Mark Layers. With plans in place for Measurement and Safety courses

2016 was the busiest year to date in terms of our continuing drive to deliver educational courses to all disciplines of Race Officials, an area that is critical if we are to delivery top class events both for our local sailors and to attract overseas championships. A total of 16 courses were run in 14 venues throughout the country, with 273 attendees, delivered by 10 instructors who generously give of their time to pass on their expertise and experience.
The ISA Passport System has been successfully rolled out for Race Officials and already over 120 Officials have been logged on.

For the second year since the ISA reengaged with the Eurosaf Officials Exchange Scheme in 2015, we have 5 overseas Judges and Race Officers attending 3 events in Ireland this season and in turn we are sending 5 officials to the events in Denmark, UK, Spain and Germany.

The new Racing Rules of Sailing 2017-2020 is now available on line and in hard copy from the office. In conjunction with this, a number of Rules talks have already taken place and more are scheduled.

While there are no International Championships on our waters this season. we do have a number of large events in addition to all the usual Class Regional and National Championships. For example, the second running of “DinghyFest” in Royal Cork at the end of June is a great opportunity for dinghies to have a terrific event in the company of other classes. July sees the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta which promises to be one of the largest regattas in Europe for Dinghies to Class 0 Cruisers and all classes in-between.

  • On the cruising side, the ISA has continued to try to be more involved in this side of the sport. For example:
  • A second successful Cruising Conference was held, this time in Cork. A special Cruising Newsletter was published for the conference and to be included in the next ISA Newsletter. Also, a survey and feedback from attendees has been completed and will help inform the structure of next year’s event, which will be held in Dublin
  • Support and advice given to the Cruising Association of Ireland.
  • Database of Visitors’ moorings maintained and updated
  • Advising many sailors on issues mainly around Registration difficulties

2016 was another busy year for ISA Training.
The Staff, Instructor Trainers and Training Policy Group (TPG) continue to work together to improve ISA support to our training centres and developing the skills of our instructors.

The availability of qualified Instructors to clubs and centres remains a key area of attention as we continue to focus on improving the skills, the consistency in standards and the availability of Instructors and Senior Instructors. In 2016, the activity in this area was:

  • a total of 84 courses - attended by 515 instructors across sailing, powerboating and windsurfing.
  • qualified an additional 57 Senior Instructors
  • and added 3 new trainers to the Instructor Trainer panel.

The consolidation of the changes to the Small Boat Sailing Scheme are now complete with all the updated course materials, documentation, training aids and manuals in place for the coming season.

Simplifying the top end of the Small Boat Sailing Scheme is part of the overall strategy to focus it on the development of basic skills in dinghies, keelboats and racing. Coupled with this change, is the strategy to add a new coaching scheme aimed at those sailors and instructors aspiring to take competition to the next level.

The piloting and development work on the new Club Coaching scheme was completed during the year and 2017 will see it being rolled out by clubs and classes around the country. It is hoped that will fill the void that existed previously between ISA training schemes and the activities of the ISA high-performance section.

Working groups have also been active under the TPG in reviewing the existing schemes and the ongoing operation of cruising, powerboat and windsurfing training.

We look forward to the establishment of the Sailing Passport and electronic logbook across our clubs and centres this coming season and welcome the recent appointment of Dave Garvey as ISA Training Development Officer who brings the added knowledge and experience required to better support our centres and further develop training within the ISA.

Another exciting activity will be the development of a cruiser racing training scheme. We are currently in discussions with ICRA on this topic.

I am required under the terms of our Sport Ireland grant to report on our current status in respect of anti-doping. I am delighted to say that in 2016 we had no instances of positive dope testing, which means we remain a drug free sport.

On the staffing side, there have been changes in the roles of the office-based staff along with a clearer focussing of the RDOs to concentrate on the key areas of: Try Sailing, Cruising and Competition.

We appointed a new Head of Communications during the year. Treasa Cox joins us from McKinsey & Company where she held a similar role. Treasa has formulated and is implementing a new communications strategy for the Association which will make use of all communication channels available to us, and which will permeate through the sailing community to our grassroot members.

We have attracted Volvo as our first major sponsor for the Core organisation and we believe that such a prestigious endorsement of Irish Sailing will significantly enhance the profile and reputation of our sport. Volvo’s involvement in sponsoring the 2016 Irish Sailing Awards is, to those that were there at least, an early indicator of the improvements in presentation and professionalism which we will see in future. We are in the complicated throws of updating our computer systems to further enhance communication between the core organisation and members and to streamline the updating of the membership database.

Finally, we expect to announce shortly a further tie-up of significant commercial sponsor again for our core activities. We continue to work at attracting significant sponsorship and support for High Performance and are aware that we have a window of opportunity to exploit the success of our sailors at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

In conclusion, I want to say a most sincere thank you to the staff of the ISA, under the guidance of CEO Harry Hermon, for the unstinting effort that they have put in over the past year and for the support that I have received during the past three years.

Leave a comment

1 comment

  • Comment Link Iain McAllister 2nd April 2017 posted by Iain McAllister

    There is nothing here about increasing access possibilities to sailing and boating by people living with disabilities, yet there is some good work going on. "Access" in ISA speak never seems - at least as written - to refer to accessibility/ sailability.

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