I have been vocal over the past few months in expressing concern about improving access to sailing and combating the impression that the sport is elitist. I spoke about the need for initiatives at the annual conference of the Irish Cruiser Racing Association in Limerick and at the annual meeting of the South Coast Offshore Racing Association in Kinsale. Scroll down to listen to the podcast below.
While both are racing-focussed organisations they were the two which offered an opportunity to raise the subject and credit to them for doing so. Both meetings acknowledged the need for increasing recruitment into the sport and the difficulties experienced in many clubs of holding onto members and crewing cruisers for racing. And issues were raised as to whether clubs and boat owners were sufficiently welcoming to potential newcomers, whether the cost of memberships was too high and whether there was too much emphasis on racing and the ‘fun’ element of the sport had been lost.
There is more to sailing than the competitive aspect and more also than cruiser racing. However, dinghy fleets, while having less of a ‘numbers’ requirement to sail boats, have also been experiencing the need to ensure their future and they share a common desire to increase club memberships and active sailors.
So I am glad to see the response of the Irish Sailing Association in the launching of the TRY SAILING programme. The official launch will be on Monday next, Bank Holiday Monday in Kinsale Yacht Club in Co.Cork at 1p.m. where a number of schools and groups with disabilities from the local area are going to do a ‘try sailing’ session.
Ciaran Murphy, the ISA Regional Development Officer, specialising in Access and Participation, is leading the Try Sailing initiative. He was Manager of Lough Derg Yacht Club before joining the Irish Sailing Association. On this week’s THIS ISLAND NATION PODCAST, I discuss its purpose, where and how it will be implemented and whether it will eradicate that impression of elitism.
There may be some expense involved in training programmes, but at a low cost and there are other opportunities being offered alongside TRY SAILING, such as the CREW POINT which a number of clubs have committed to trying this season to encourage potential newcomers to approach clubs directly on sailing days and evenings.
Combined, these are encouraging new approaches to increasing interest in sailing.