It was a glorious day in Dun Laoghaire. I could see young sailors clustered on boats around a pontoon. The sound of their enjoyment at being afloat drifted across the water. I was there because Alistair Rumball, who set up the Irish National Sailing School forty-four years ago, had talked to me about his concept of sail training when we met at the annual meeting of the Irish Cruiser Racing Association in Limerick.
I made a presentation there, urging clubs to improve access to the sport. While acknowledging my opinions and encouragement of the development of the ‘Try Sailing’ project by the Irish Sailing Association and expressing the hope that it would be successful in widening participation, I noted that Alistair had another approach, which he suggested I should “come and see.”
He told me that his school “had small beginnings but was now “the largest sail training provider in Ireland” and has provided training for 80,000 since it was established.
The Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School is based on the West Pier in Dun Laoghaire, to where it moved from its original base on the main street of Dun Laoghaire in 1991.
“We introduced more people to the water than any other organisation and pioneered low-cost course fees, which showed that sailing need not be an expensive sport.”
Following our chat in Limerick I was curious about the contrast between Alistair Rumball’s operation and the ISA Junior and adult courses offered through clubs and its ‘Try Sailing’ project and ‘Crew Point’.
Alistair Rumball was forthright to me in saying he had differences with the ISA about aspects of what it does. He made it clear to me that his operation has a commercial approach and its success is dependent upon the services which it provides and for which people were obviously prepared to pay and appreciated what was provided. INSS courses include junior, adult, schools, colleges, corporate sailing and race training.
It has a team of full-time instructors led by Alistair’s son, Kenneth, who is Manager and Chief Instructor. His sailing record includes offshore campaigns, the Fastnet, Sydney–Hobart and Rolex Middle Sea. I met him when I called to the INSS where, during our interview, he put emphasis on the enjoyment of sailing: “Use the boat to enjoy it. A fine balance between competition and enjoyment makes the sport enjoyable. Focussing too much on competition can be a barrier to enjoyment. The most important approach is to enjoy going sailing,” were amongst the points he made.
Listen to Kenneth Rumball on the Podcast below.