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Will Sail Training Be Restored?

3rd December 2010
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I am glad to see that efforts are being made to restore the national sail training programme, but less sanguine about reposing any confidence in the present Government to give practical assistance.

I talked a few weeks ago with the Irish Sailing Association's Chief Executive about their involvement in moves to establish a new sail training organisation to replace Coiste an Asgard, which the Government abandoned. Harry Hermon told me that the ISA had been examining the possibilities of what could be done. They were providing a forum which has now led to the setting-up of a steering group aimed at establishing a new organisation, Sail Training Ireland.

Sail Training International which organises the Tall Ships Races has given support. The Tall Ships Race will start from Waterford Port next year and is due into Dublin in 2012.

Nigel Rowe, Chairman of the international body, has expressed confidence that the current moves will result in a plan to continue sail training in Ireland. Sail Training International has awarded a bursary to the emerging Irish organisation, providing financial support for young Irish sailors in the 2011 and 2012 races.

The ISA working group says it will make a formal launch of its plans in the next few weeks. At present it is putting together a feasibility study and a business plan which will be presented to the Government in the New Year.

While the ISA move is welcome, I wonder about the value of presenting a plan to the existing Government which destroyed sail training, abandoned Asgard II on the seabed off France and used the insurance compensation money for purposes other than sail training.

I understand that other groups, who may differ with the ISA approach, have been planning their own moves in sail training and that the ISA decided to establish its position in public first.

It also has to be noted that there was criticism of the former Coiste an Asgard committee which did not make any moves in public to oppose the Government closure, on financial grounds, of the sail training programme.

It would be regrettable if differences delayed positive developments, but a united approach, involving the widest possible support to the restoration of sail training would be best.

• This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website: www.eecho.ie

Published in Island Nation
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