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The West lead the Rest

15th July 2009
The West lead the Rest
Up to €50m in revenues could be harvested from the sea – and hundreds of full-time jobs created - if ports around the coast followed the lead provided by the men and women behind the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Galway.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, particularly those in government – we are living on an island, with hundreds of miles of scenic coastline. Now that Galway has shown the way, the opportunity to do the same at other ports should be grasped otherwise the memories of the past two weeks will just float away on the tide.

Of course, the established boating centres on the east and south coasts have been left scratching their heads, wondering how the West of Ireland, the equivalent of a marine wilderness because of its lack of facilities, managed to pull off the biggest sailing event ever staged here.
President McAleese was on hand to witness the way the West coast brought out the best in the world's top ocean race. The Volvo stopover shows what can be achieved if Government support is forthcoming. Galway docks was transformed but this progress needs to continue.
If there is to be any legacy from this great event, it must be a marina for Galway - not 20 berths but 200 - as a clear signal that we are serious about providing marine infrastructure.  A new facility would be an important link in a necklace of marinas around the coast. Currently there is no marina between the Shannon Estuary and Donegal.
There are many individual events around the country, none on the scale of the Volvo Ocean Race, but all capable of delivering a tourism benefit.
This Summer, Dingle welcomes the French Figaro race. In July, we have a 500-boat Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta. Next year, there’s the Round Ireland and Cork Week. Looking further ahead, we already know that the 2012 World Youth Sailing Championships are coming to Dun Laoghaire.
Clubs around the coast along with other marine bodies should use these past
two weeks in Galway to form a think–tank with a view to unlocking the
potential that lies in the ports and harbours around the coast.
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 they deserve.
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.
Ireland has a natural advantage in sailing events. Thousands want to come here to sail, if we just develop the facilities. And all that requires is some courage - Galway-style.
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