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Doing a Lot for Nothing

26th July 2010
Doing a Lot for Nothing

A boating season in full swing and some great summer weather may yet make the 2010 season a memorable one. Dun Laoghaire has already staged the Irish Cruiser Nationals and Galway has welcomed powerboat action to its docks. In the next ten days, Wicklow celebrates the 30th Round Ireland race, then Kinsale welcomes the first European stopover of the Clipper Round The World Yacht race, and all this before Crosshaven open its doors to Cork Week in mid-July.

These regattas - all run by teams of volunteer clubs - form the backbone of Irish sailing and in a wider context they are icons of summer sport in Ireland. They demonstrate the economic value of local harbours to coastal communities and, in a positive move for the boating sector this summer, local government is supporting festivals connected to boating events such as the Round Ireland and the Clipper race.

Clubs around the coast along with other marine bodies should use these events to form a think-tank with a view to unlocking the potential that lies in our ports and harbours. The boating community needs to encourage more councils to see the advantage that lies in supporting water-based activity.

A high level forum could develop a national strategy for promoting water-based events that attract high-spend tourism. Dun Laoghaire Regatta and Cork Week, the two biggest regattas in Ireland, where a combined fleet of over 1,000 visiting boats regularly compete, should be involved. Galway organisers should also be asked for advice. The objective should be to determine the value of what comes in on the waves and get the tourism recognition that this deserves.

There are estimates that the industry is capable of growing by 20%, even in recessionary times, if we can bringing together various different interests that organise regattas and events and draw up a national policy for watersports.

But all of this will rely firstly on volunteers who have the passion and interest to organise events year after year. In what might be regarded as a text book example of how future editions of the Irish Cruiser Racer event might be run, the organisation of May’s event started a year ago. The 120-boat event was promoted well in advance throughout Ireland and the UK by the Royal St. George regatta team. There were 22 clubs from Ireland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland, bringing over 50 visiting boats to the bay.

This increased participation was brought about by attractive packages for visitors and communicated well to potential owners. The package included well-priced accommodation options, free lift-in and recovery of boats. It also included trailer storage and berthing, all for a fee of euro 125. The use of club committee vessels from Dublin Bay Sailing Club (DBSC), Royal Irish YC (RIYC) and Howth YC ensured that full programmes were completed for all divisions, operating over three separate race courses.

It was significant to see these waterfront clubs working together to get the job done. Imagine what could happen if links such as these in Dun Laoghaire could be forged right around the coast?

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