Irish Offshore Sailing News
Former British Primer minister Edward Heath, a top offshore sailor, once declared, in an often quoted line, that offshore sailing was like standing under a shower tearing up five pound notes.
Money – or the lack of it – has been a frequent excuse for lack of success on the race track but in recent times offshore fixtures at club level have suffered in reverse, from a dearth of crews who are cash rich but time poor.
Success in the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR), the Fastnet, Sydney-Hobart, Med Cup, Round Britain and Ireland, Azores and back (AZAB) – plus the current lead in the Barcelona world race – have all been notched up by pro and amateur Irish crews putting them at the very top of the international offshore scene.
A tot of Irish sailing's trophy haul reveals a healthy offshore account.
It is an elevated position that has inspired the entire sailing community.
But away from the international prowess of a handful of sailors, the domestic offshore fleet here until recently dwindled to the extent that Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association (ISORA) chairman John Rose at onetime in gave notice to nine clubs on both sides of the Irish sea that its 2007 agm would be the last.
It was bad enough that Rose would cite a 'lack of interest' in offshore sailing as the main reason behind the motion, but the mere mention of possible legal exposure of its officers when running races – as a reason for dissolving the 30 year old association – was inconceivable to many who knew it to be as safe as any other adventure sport.
Thankfulyl it did not happen thanks to offshore stalwart Peter Ryan and the good offices of the National Yacht club in Dun Laoghaire who took over the ISORA mantle.
It is no secret that the the Irish Sea scene has changed. Recent times have a seen a shift inshore towards cruiser racer courses lasting little over an hour, rarely venturing outside the Burford bank.
Big boats are now optimised for inshore racing only. Today, most offshore fixtures are event-based such as the biennial BMW Round Ireland. There are more stringent safety regulations for going offshore, even if it is only 30 miles or so.
The damage to fleets is even worse across the Irish Sea where, paradoxically as Welsh facilities such as marinas have improved, racing has declined.
Although crews may no longer have the time for long hikes on a Friday evening to the Isle of Man, there were many at the meeting who believed it was no reason to kiss the club goodbye.
Buoyed up by headline performances in recent Fastnet races such as Ger O'Rourke's Chieftain and a core of Dublin Bay die-hards, Dun Laoghaire's Peter Ryan countered Rose's motion with a proposal that the National Yacht Club would take over ISORA's affairs on a caretaker basis.
In spite of the unanimous support Ryan received from the nine clubs involved, he knew it was a last ditch attempt to breathe new life into an organisation that had been stuck in its ways. Unless ISORA changes it will die.
Significantly change appears to be on the way with this month's coincidental news that both the Irish Cruiser Racer Association (ICRA) and Cork Week are to dip their toes in deeper water with both organisations factoring in offshore fixtures as part of their line-ups next May and July respectively. White sail fleets will be accommodated too.
Ryan is also supported by Dublin's Lee Overlay offshore series and the Royal Alfred Yacht Club in his efforts to pull all interested parties together.
The Irish Sailing Association (ISA) supports many aspects of the sport but, in doing this, it cannot afford to overlook hidden assets.
When offshore results are held up against the drab performances offered elsewhere (including those in receipt of government funding), the majority of world class performances fielded in the past decade have come from the offshore discipline.
Ted Heath might have grumbled about the fivers but lets remember Ireland has entered the Volvo Ocean race in an eight million Euro entry twice, Irish sailing's biggest ever splash. It is a world away from a Friday night in Holyhead but by supporting the new investment in ISORA, Ryan will argue, we are supporting the exciting future of Irish ocean racing.
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