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The ISA May Have Changed; Do Our Clubs & Classes Want To Change?

23rd January 2015
The ISA May Have Changed; Do Our Clubs & Classes Want To Change?

#isastrategicplan – Afloat's occasional blogger 'Magerhamore' listened to the recent presentation of the ISA Strategic Plan and question and answer session in Dun Laoghaire last Wednesday and the following thoughts have come to mind:

The ISA seems to have radically transformed it's attitude. The Strategic Plan sets out clear strategies for developing sailing. However, at the centre of these strategies is a clear mission for the ISA to assist and support Sailing Clubs, Sailing Classes and Training Centres. The ISA may have changed; do our clubs and classes want to change? If they do, then things will happen. If they do not then nothing will change.

The present club model is largely based on offering a service to a relatively small number of boat owners, their families and their crew (many of who may not be members of the club). Many potential sailors (and their parents) have neither the intention or the finance to purchase a boat. Furthermore, present training schemes do not necessarily teach the skills needed to maintain and improve a boat.

If sailing is to tap in to the large potential market for sailing then clubs will have to change model, and develop 'pay for play' type activities. It is important to emphasise that this 'pay for play' should not be limited to beginners. There are many pathways into competition at the very highest level for those who do not own their own boats, including team racing and match racing. Worldwide, many events are based on charter fleets and many class championships are dominated by club owned boats.

The skills to operate such schemes exist in Ireland... but not necessarily in the clubs. Many training centres own and operate large fleets of boats. That expertise needs to be transferred to the clubs.

The long term development of year round activities - training, coaching, running 'pay for play' requires a radical transformation of the training and employment of instructors and especially senior instructors. If clubs are to develop new activities then they need full time, permanently employed staff with the management skills to run a sailing base. There are many Irish sailors with the required experience and skills.Very few of them work in Ireland.

Sailing needs to be ambitious. We are an island nation with a similar population to New Zealand. We have an incredible playground, our lakes and coastal waters, on our doorsteps. Sailing should be one of Ireland's biggest participant sports. Our ambition,should be that in a few years there are more active participants in sailing (a sport for life) than in Gaelic Football, Soccer or Rugby. This will not happen without a complete transformation of the way we manage and develop our sport.

A potential future Irish Ben Ainslie may be living in Tallaght, Tullamore or Termonfeckin. He or she will probably never set foot on a boat, or never enter a sailing club. Without parents willing to spend considerable sums he or she will never attain their potential. Surely our role is to allow all of those who want to mess about in boats the opportunity to do so.

READ MORE FROM MAGHERAMOREHow clubs can cash in on sailing's spectator appeal; The 'Great Dinghy Sailing Debate' Means Questions for ISA & Yacht ClubsIs 'Adventure Sailing' a New Tack for Dinghy Sailors?

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