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Displaying items by tag: Sligo Yacht Club

The Irish weather is no respecter of history, and sailing history in particular. Apart from the fact that it regularly appears to break meteorological records with an insouciant disregard for their significance and the patient effort that our ancestors put into noting such things in the first place, the mere fact that a date of unique importance is approaching is no guarantee whatsoever of good sailing conditions. On the contrary, the more trouble a hosting club or class association go to in preparing for a major event, the more certain we can be that the Weather Gods will rain mightily on their parade, with winds of destructive power.

So marked is this tendency – particularly in 2021, when we already don't have to seek our troubles – that there must be sailing club Honorary Sailing Secretaries who have felt tempted to pin an announcement on their public notice board to the effect that: "Absolutely Nothing Is Happening at This Club This Weekend", while secretly going ahead with planning races for all classes.

It might fool the Mysterious Might of Meteorology on one or two occasions, and in an era when every sporting happening afloat and ashore is built on a basis of desperately-sought publicity, it will probably prove a runaway winner in gathering attention.

But such sagacious hindsight is of little use to a national event last weekend which deserved to have perfect sailing conditions and much attention, but ended up with all the three days planned racing crammed into the Friday. That got a result of sorts, but Saturday and Sunday saw gales of such power that the competitors – who had come from many parts of Ireland – were glad enough to get home without their boats and towing vehicles being blown clean off the road.

Where it all started 200 years ago – Lough Gill immediately inland of Sligo town was the scene for the first races for the Ladies Cup.Where it all started 200 years ago – Lough Gill immediately inland of Sligo town was the scene for the first races for the Ladies Cup.

2021 is the Bicentenary of Sligo Yacht Club, which started its sailing in 1821 with races on the sheltered and microclimate-blessed waters of Lough Gill inland of the seaport town. To encourage their men in this worthy and character-building activity, the womenfolk of Sligo immediately got together to present the Ladies Cup "for the encouragement of fast sailing boats on Lough Gill". That Deed of Gift may well have had a double intention, for apart from encouraging manly sport afloat, the gradual elimination of slow boats would mean there'd be no excuse for some matelots returning home late, smelling of strong drink and the truth not in them. Even so, the hopes of achieving that in all cases were probably just about zero.

The main hazard for the SYC Ladies Cup in its 200 years of existence is that people have tended to look after it too well, with one valuer in 1891 commenting: "The original weight was 69.5 troy ounces, from repeated cleaning it now weighs only 68 ounces, but it is in excellent condition".The main hazard for the SYC Ladies Cup in its 200 years of existence is that people have tended to look after it too well, with one valuer in 1891 commenting: "The original weight was 69.5 troy ounces, from repeated cleaning it now weighs only 68 ounces, but it is in excellent condition".

Such innovation was part of the developing sailing scene in the northwest, and nearby in Fermanagh - where the myriad waters of Lough Erne are so all-pervasive that having a boat/yacht was often the best way to get about - by 1818 they were racing, and by 1820, and possibly earlier, Lough Erne Yacht Club was established primarily to organise yacht racing, the world's first sailing club with that specific purpose.

But whereas in the greater Lough Erne area they weren't above selling off historic silver yacht racing trophies after a bad harvest, in Sligo there seems to have been a greater reverence for such things, or for the Ladies Cup at least, and it has survived. This makes it the world's oldest continually-competed-for sailing trophy. Age-comparable bits of silverware in the Royal Cork were challenge cups for just one race – the oldest is from 1829 – and they thus remain in the trophy cupboard, while some more ancient trophies in the Royal Thames are likewise one-offs, and anyway the word is they're replicas of lost prizes.

Yet the Ladies' Cup is a true perpetual trophy, it just keeps sailing along, even if it took a few years for them to cop on that its usefulness to the sailing world would be improved by inscribing the names of each year's winner, although the first is believed to have been Owen Wynn (1755-1841) of Hazelwood, the big house of Lough Gill.

Despite the convenience to the leading local land-owner and first citizen of being able to keep his race-winning boat at the bottom of the garden, Lough Gill in high summer could be oppressively hot and heavy, and in time the Club re-focused its activity on the sea at Rosses Point, where the anchorage in the widening mouth of the Garavogue River is briskly tide-rode, but the healthy fresh sea air is served up in king-size portions.

Sligo Yacht Club at Rosses Point, with the distinctive Ben Bulben beyondSligo Yacht Club at Rosses Point, with the distinctive Ben Bulben beyond

Admittedly their continuing use at Rosses Point of the Ladies Cup implies a certain cavalier disregard for its original specification in the Deed of Gift, which was clearcut for racing on Lough Gill. And certainly from time to time - being the northwest of Ireland - the winds are appropriately robust, so much so that on occasion there's an impulse to return from Rosses Point to the comparative peace of Lough Gill.

Such thoughts must have surfaced with added strength last weekend, when they hoped to celebrate the Bicentenary of the SYC Ladies Cup properly by making it the premier trophy for the 2021 J/24 Nationals. For the J/24 is popular in Sligo, and the entry list for these special nationals covered such an extensive range of clubs that they merit listing, the lineup including Royal Cork YC, Sligo YC, Carlingford SC, Mullaghmore SC, National YC, Greystones SC, Foynes YC, Wicklow SC, Lough Erne YC, Howth YC, Western YC, Bray SC, Tralee Bay SC, Mayo SC, and Lough Ree YC.

Sailing at Rosses Point as it can be. Sligo YC is hosting the Mirror Nationals from August 20-22nd.Sailing at Rosses Point as it can be. Sligo YC is hosting the Mirror Nationals from August 20-22nd.

So not only was the stage set, but the props for the historic drama were right on target, as the original conditions for the award of the Ladies Cup was that it be restricted to boats not more than 26ft and 3ins long. Thanks to the limiting size of the Johnson brothers' parents' garage in which the first J/24 was created in 1976, everything was compliant for making the Bicentenary Award of the Ladies Cup harmonious with history. So all that was needed was a bit of co-operation from the weather, but just to be on the safe side they made it a three-day event, with the 24-strong fleet assembled by Thursday night, and a full day's racing scheduled for Friday, August 6th.

Atlantic horizon for J/24s off Rosses Point on the FridayAtlantic horizon for J/24s off Rosses Point on the Friday

We're grateful to Oisin Brennan for this insider's view of an event that may merit Veterans Medals in due course:

Friday 6th of August: 

With a heavy forecast looming, the competition was always under threat but all competing boats made it out to begin racing. Four races were planned with the wind steady around 15 knots and gusting 16 but continually dying off as the day went on. By the time the first race was underway the wind had dropped down to a much more manageable 8-10 knots gusting closer to 12. 

The first race began with the usual chaos at the start line but no recalls. 2019 National Champions Headcase started the defence of their title well with a first with Tadgh O'Loinsigh's Janx Spirit from Tralee Bay Sailing Club in second and JP McCaldin's Il Ricco from Lough Erne Yacht Club finishing in third. The second race introduced the first recalls of the event with Jobs for the Buoys and Jevan being called back. Again Headcase took the race with Il Ricco in second and Stouche claiming third. With the wind dropping again, Stouche were one of a few boats hoping for an increase to climb further up the podium. A general recall split the fleet with some boats benefitting and others missing out on impressive starts. Even with what they considered less favourable conditions, Stouche continued their run of improving results and finished second overall once again behind Headcase. Il Ricco followed up third matching their result from the first race. The final race started with no recalls and promised to be a perfect ending to a great day of racing but huge wind shifts saw the final upwind leg become a tight reach. Headcase were not put off by this shift and finished out with four bullets. Just for the fun of it, Sligo Yacht Club finished with their best result of the competition in second, with Hard on Port from Bray taking a third place finish.

Nervy start, restless sky – the one day of racing had to cover a host of requirements.Nervy start, restless sky – the one day of racing had to cover a host of requirements.

Saturday 7th of August:

The day began with a two hour postponement and a general acceptance that it would be followed by a further delay. As expected there were two more official delays eventually culminating in a cancellation for the day. There was clear frustration in the fleet with a number of boats relying on the discard to improve their result. There wasn't long to be disappointed, however, with the much-anticipated dinner later that night - it was a memorable occasion, and a fantastic night was had by all.

Sunday 8th of August:

Cancellation for the day was quickly called on the Sunday with the expected heavy forecast. With no discard, results remained the same from Friday with Headcase winning both the Ladies Cup and the 2021 J24 National Championship. Il Ricco finished second and Jana following up in third.

SYC Commodore Ken Draper (right) with the U25 Champions from Howth YC who were racing Kilcullen, they are (left to right) Philip McDowell, William Lacey, David Johnston, Sam Crawford and Jack McMahon.SYC Commodore Ken Draper (right) with the U25 Champions from Howth YC who were racing Kilcullen, they are (left to right) Philip McDowell, William Lacey, David Johnston, Sam Crawford and Jack McMahon.

Seven under 25 teams were entered in this year's National Championships with six taking part, each funded by the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) development programme. Kilcullen, helmed by David Johnston from Howth Yacht Club, are the J24 U25 National Champions, Jasper 2 from Foynes Yacht Club were second and Just a Minute from Greystones Sailing Club in third. Kilcullen also finished top of Silver Fleet.

Darkside, helmed by twenty-year-old Oisín Brennan of Sligo Yacht Club, sailing with a crew of family and friends ranging in age from fifteen to sixty-seven and all new to competitive sailing, finished first in the Bronze Fleet.

First in the Westerly Fleet was Conor Haughton's Jade from Wicklow Sailing Club.

Full results available here


Despite a few notable absentees, there are 40 entries for this weekend's GP14 Nationals at Lough ErneDespite a few notable absentees, there are 40 entries for this weekend's GP14 Nationals at Lough Erne

This weekend, the focus in the history-laden northwest has switched to Lough Erne YC and the GP14 Nationals, the combination of another historic class with another historic club. In a cruel twist of fate, the problem might just be a lack of wind, but it's looking quite hopeful for some decent sailing nevertheless.

Published in W M Nixon

This year’s Mirror World Championships in Sligo Yacht Club have been postponed due to the ongoing travel restrictions around the pandemic.

“The backdrop of COVID-19 presented so many challenges in terms of the organising and logistics for such a large scale event,” says Mirror Sailing Ireland’s Emmet Duffy.

“With sailors, their families and friends expected from many countries, travel restrictions and uncertainty would have limited participants.

“A Mirror Worlds needs the global Mirror family from both near and afar to make it such.”

Duffy adds: “I know that behind the scenes, Sligo Yacht Club and Irish Sailing have put in a lot of work and planning to date which will still benefit the rescheduled event.

“We now watch for restrictions to ease and for sailing, be it training and events to happen again soon. The plan is to get our own regional events in over the summer and we will have an events calendar out soon.”

Published in Mirror

County Sligo was a big winner in the Fisheries Local Action Groups awards announced today with Sligo Yacht Club getting €33,465.00 to improve the facilities and Sligo County Council were awarded €32,396.84 for a Temporary Pontoon Project.

On the East coast, Greystones Sailing Club got an 80% grant of €7,920.00 Junior and Adult sail training programme. And in North Dublin, Skerries Rowing Club got an 80% grant of 49,318.40 for Design Team Fees for its Rowing Club Boathouse.

Scroll down for the full allocations below

The Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., announced the award of further grants worth €1.2 million to 56 local community groups and micro enterprises by the seven Fisheries Local Action Groups established under Ireland’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Programme. The grants are co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Union.

Announcing the grant awards, Minister McConalogue said: “I am delighted to announce today a further 56 coastal projects to benefit from EMFF funding through the seven Fisheries Local Action Groups established as part of my Department’s EMFF Programme supporting the development of our seafood sector and coastal communities. These latest grant awards mean a total of €2.7 million FLAG funding has been awarded this year alone to 155 coastal projects”.

Minister McConalogue added: “Many of the projects benefitting from EMFF FLAG funding are non-commercial projects benefitting the whole community in their coastal area. Such projects can often secure up to 80% of the project cost, making a real difference to the viability of such projects. This is just one of the ways in which my Department’s EMFF Programme is making a real difference for our coastal communities”.

Details of the individual grant awards are set out below for each of the 7 FLAGs.

 FLAG North


Project Title

Support Rate

Total Cost

Grant Aid

Cumann Staire agus Seanchais na nOileán 

Cumann Staire agus Seanchais na nOileán (benches) Phase 2




Inver Community Centre Company Limited by Guarantee

Inver Community Centre - Enhancing an Existing Community Asset Phase 2




Forest View Lodges

Forest View Lodges Phase 2




Uachtar Reoite Bunglas

Uachtar Reoite Bunglas Phase 2




Croi na Farraige/Heart of the Sea - Digital Media Maritime Heritage Project & TV Documentary

Inishowen Community Media Network (ICMN) Phase 2




Áislann Chill Chartha

Riverside Cáfe, The Áislann Phase 2




Atlantic Coastal Cruises

Underwater Drone




Niall Sweeney

Improving Local Services




Gola Island Outdoor Education

Launch and retrieval of rescue craft / Transportation of equipment to main pier. (Trailer, Kayaks etc.)




Seirbhísí Mara An Uillinn Teo

Provision of a crane on workboat




Laurentic Legacy

The Ulster Canada Initiative




Michael Bonner Engineering

Provision of a Mobile Sand Blasting Unit




Donegal Bay Rowing Club 

Safety Boat Upgrade




Donegal Bay Sub Aqua Club Search & Recovery 

St John's Point - railings




Niall Mór Community & Enterprise Centre

Centre Upgrade




Malin Head Fishermans Co-operative Society

Fork Lift




LAN Ctr (Lárionad Acmhainní Nádúrtha Cuideachta faoi Theorainn Ráthaíochta)

Ag Leathnú Cumais (Added Capacity)




Seabound Engineering Ltd

Mobile generator and other specialized engineering equipment




Donegal County Council

St. John’s Pier Development




Donegal County Council

Ice Making Equipment for Rannagh Pier




Total Fitness PLC

Total Fitness Outdoor Project




Killybegs Catch Ltd. Trading as Shines Seafood

Head office and storage unit refurbishment










FLAG NorthWest


Project Title

Support Rate

Total Cost

Grant Aid

Eachtrai UISCE Teoranta T/A UISCE

U.I.S.C.E. Business Development Plan 2020/21




Ballyglass Crew Yachtmaster

Ballyglass Crew Yachtmaster




Sligo County Council

Temporary Pontoon Project




Newport 300

Year long celebration of 300 year History




Grainne Uaile Search & Recovery Unit

Dry suits & surface suits for diving & surface searching




Bia Mara Inis Toirc

Bia Mara Inis Toirc




Cumann Iascairí Chois Chósta Iorrais Teo

Mobile Boat Lifting Trailer




Sligo Yacht Club

Improve the facilities at Sligo Yacht Club




Muintir a' Chorrain Teo

Maritime Information Boards








FLAG NorthEast


Project Title

Support Rate

Total Cost

Grant Aid

Fingal County Council

Fingal Operational and Technical Harbour Marine Supports Pilot Project




Irish Commercial Charter Boats

Purchase of new workboat




Skerries Rowing Club

Design Team Fees for Skerries Rowing Club Boathouse




WSHI Limited trading as Howth Castle Cookery School

FLAG South

Lawrence Cove Ferries Ltd

Crane Upgrade for Vessel ‘An tOileanach’




Fish Seafood Deli Ltd

The Fresh Fish Deli




Cork County Council

Provision of Sweeper for collection of Net Repair Trimmings, Union Hall, Baltimore & Kinsale




Aghada Sea Scout Group (Scouting Ireland)

Safety Boat Upgrade








FLAG South West


Project Title

Support Rate

Total Cost

Grant Aid

Caherciveen Rowing Club

Seine Boat Restoration











Project Title

Support Rate

Total Cost

Grant Aid

Galway Bay Seafoods Ltd

Galway Docklands Experiences




Ionad na Feamainne

Ionad Suathaireachta na Feamainne - The Seaweed Therapy / Holistic centre




Bláth na Mara Teoranta - Aran Islands Seaweed

eCommerce development for new retail product line and tourism & education aspect




M O Malley Shellfish

Upgrade access to and renovate existing grading shed and holding tanks




Comharchumann Forbartha Árann Teoranta

Sales & Marketing & Branding Campaign for Bia Farraige Arann  - Seaweed Processing




Killary Fjord Shellfish Ltd

Hard-framed weather proof long gazebo




Comharchumann Forbartha Árann Teoranta

Up grading of seaweed processing facility









FLAG SouthEast


Project Title

Support Rate

Total Cost

Grant Aid

Helen Blake Community Group

Preparation, Development and Marketing of Helen Blake Replica Lifeboat as a Major Tourist Attraction




Rathangan Senior Citizens Housing Association CLG

McCall's Community Centre




Waterford Institute of Technology (on behalf of the Creaden Project Steering Group).

Creaden Project




Greystones Sailing Club

Junior and Adult sail training programme




Ray McGrath

Gaultier Heritage Rambles book.   The book is entitled Heritage Rambles in Gaultier, Waterford's Maritime Barony




Queen of Peace Adventure Youth Club

Upgrading/replacement of old canoes




6th Wexford (Tuskar) Sea Scouts

Provision of Sea Scout Pontoon in Small Boat Safe, Rosslare Hbr




Tintern Trails Committee

To purchase and install a suitable external sign at the entrance to Tintern site.




Cheekpoint Development Group

Cheekpoint Lower Harbour Wall Painting








Published in News Update
Tagged under

The International Mirror Sailing Association Ireland (IMCAI) has announced that Sligo Yacht Club will host the Mirror World Championships in 2021.

The Rosses Point club will welcome the world’s top Mirror dinghy talent from 16-22 August 2021, preceded by the Irish Nationals from 13-15 August that year.

Sligo Yacht Club, which will also celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2021, previously hosted the Mirror Worlds in 1987. More recently it was the venue for the Mirror Europeans in 2010, and regularly hosts regional championships.

Further details are expected to emerge over the next few months.

Published in Mirror

There were weekend tributes to J24 Class supremo Flor O'Driscoll who stood down as Class President to great acclaim and a standing ovation at Saturday evening's dinner not only for his service to the fleet but also his continuing success afloat, that has included national titles as well as Dun Laoghaire Regatta Boat of the Week in 2007. As an appropriate send–off, the weekend National Championship at Sligo Yacht Club fielded one of the big Irish fleets for some time.

Lough Erne Yacht Club's JP McCaldin emerged overall winner after a blustery three-day regatta.

The Northern Ireland victory follows a similar outcome at the J24 Western Championships in May on the Shannon Estuary at Foynes Yacht Club.

Sailing against a 26–strong fleet - a record turnout for recent times - plus a match-race challenge from runner-up Stefan Hyde, McCaldin scored all first and second places for the eight race series.

His principal challenger was almost as consistent with four wins as well but the Royal Cork skipper also had to count a fourth and a third to admit defeat by just three points.

The duelling leaders were followed by a closely bunched pack led by Sligo yachtsman Martin Reilly on Crazy Horse who comfortably secured third place going into the final thanks to a consistent run ofmostly top five results.

Howth Yacht Club Race Officer Derek Bothwell returned to Sligo with the J24's once more and delivered the series in challenging weather, particularly for the first two days that saw strong winds whip big seas that provided thrilling surfing conditions for the fleet.

Published in J24
Tagged under

Tomorrow's All Ireland Junior sailing championships looks like it will get off to a wet and windy start for the 16–nominated junior sailing stars drawn from seven yacht clubs from around the country.

The Under–18 championships is scheduled to race over two days in West Cork's own TR3.6 two handed dinghies but the weather forecast for the Schull venue shows winds topping 40–knots for Saturday and the same again on Sunday.  

xc weatherXC weather forecaster shows big winds in Schull, West Cork tomorrow

In a show of strength for Dublin's Royal St. George Yacht Club more than a third of the participants are drawn from the Dun Laoghaire club. RStGYC juniors are representing the RS200 (Toby Hudson Fowler), the RS Feva (Henry Start), Laser 4.7 (Peter Fagan), Optimist (Tom Higgins), Topper (Jack Fahy) and Kate Lyttle from the 420 class.

Tom HigginsMulti–champion in the Optimist class, Tom Higgins from the Royal St. George, is nominated for this weekend's All Ireland Juniors  in Schull

Royal Cork Yacht Club is the next biggest club on the water in Schull with four sailors involved. 29er skipper Harry Durcan and twin Johnny representing 29er and Laser Radials respectively. Harry Twomey represents the Optimist class and Sophie Crosby sails for the Toppers. 

The National Yacht Club's Clare Gorman represents the Laser 4.7 and will defend the girls title and the NYC's Leah Rickard sails for the Optimists.

TR3.6 dinghiesSchull's own TR3.6 dinghies ready for the junior all Ireland sailors. Photo: Fastnet Marine

The West coast is represented by three clubs.Topaz sailors Adam Byrne and Dylan Reidy representing Dingle SC and Foynes YC respectively and Sligo Yacht Club sends Mirror ace Sarah White.

The 420 class is represented by Geoff Power of Waterford Harbour Sailing Club

Full nominee list below

RS200 Junior Toby Hudson Fowler Royal StGeorge YC
RS Feva Henry Start Royal St George YC
Mirror Sarah White Sligo YC
Laser 4.7 Clare Gorman NYC
Laser 4.7 Peter Fagan Royal St George YC
Laser Radial Johnny Durcan RCYC/NYC
Topaz Adam Byrne Dingle SC
Topaz Dylan Reidy Foynes YC
Topper Jack Fahy RSTGYC
Topper Sophie Crosby RCYC
420 Geoff Power WHSC
420 Kate Lyttle RStGYC
29er Harry Durcan RCYC
Published in Youth Sailing

The Irish RS400 fleet took its first foray into the North West last weekend, dipping their toes, and in many cases their heads, in the strangely mild waters of Sligo Bay. Sligo Yacht Club, under the watchful eye of Mick Spain, welcomed the fleet for the first time, and despite the drizzly conditions, ran a superb event in what must be one of the best race areas in the country. Download results below.
In the absence of Alex Barry, Gareth Flannigan and Dave Fletcher in 1259 from Ballyholme were rather dominant, with only John Downey and Sandy Rimmington in 522 from Monkstown able to properly put them under pressure. Welcome too to Conor Clancy, who was giving it a first rattle in the fleet gypsy, Pinkie, brought up from Belfast for them to use.
Winds started lightish on Saturday, and Race Officer Robin Gray, who now knows the fleet well enough to get the Black Lady out rather quickly, managed to get three good three lap races off, and still got us back ashore to catch the Northern Ireland Wales match – strong work Robin. Matters were largely uneventful for the 18 tubs, with much place changing and congested mark rounding, and most folk seemed happy to save their more eccentric manoeuvres for the windy forecast on Sunday.

Gareth Flannigan Dave Fletcher

Winners Gareth Flannigan and Dave Fletcher from Ballyholme

After a very boisterous Saturday evening, which spilled into Austies pub in the next street, the locals being no doubt delighted to be serenaded by the RS400 choir in full voice, singing such classics as Eric Cantona’s “Will Grigg’s on fire”, a foggy looking fleet dragged themselves into their wet coldsuits, and drifted out onto the river to pay the penalty that they had earned the night before. As the winds topped out at a fruity 18 knots, Red Cards were handed out to Brian Holmes, Trevor Darcy, and in the last race, John Downey, with repair bills, and Liam Donnelly, Robbie O’Sullivan, Michael Ferguson, Dave Cheyne and Owen Laverty, with swimming lessons, generally at the wrong point in the race. In fact with the frequent kite trawling at the top mark (well, we haven’t raced in more than 3 knots of wind all year so far it feels, so a bit out of practice), matters were rather less professional looking than the previous day.
After a few cracks at starting under black, the viz went poor, and Robin Gray wisely declared a generalised drag race back to the slip, with kites popped and a full foam up back to the slip (needless to say all arriving at the same time, doh!) and some wave jumping in the standing waves at the river entrance. 
So Gareth and Dave continue to rise, and it looks like the Nationals will be a hard battle with Alex, and plenty snapping at their heels, with in particular Dave Rose and Ian Hef finally starting to get their act together, and John Downey going ever quicker. Next is off the Inlands at Lough Ree in July.

Published in RS Sailing
Tagged under

A Howth Yacht Club J24 team won last weekend's Northern championships at Sligo YC with a race to spare. The K25 team beat JP McCaldin's Jamais Encore from Lough Erne Yacht Club for the top slot in a 19–boat fleet. Flor O'Driscoll's HArd on Port from the Royal St. George YC was third. Results are downloadable below. 

Currently, the winning K25 team are in Poole in Dorset, a major J24 centre and are aiming to defend their ICRA title on home waters next month.

Published in J24

Lough Ree Yacht Club's Caoilin Croasdell & Alexander Farrel were the Overall and Gold Fleet Winners of the Mirror dinghy Western Championships at Sligo Yacht Club at the weekend.

Second place went to Oisin MacAllister & Rory MacAllister of Royal Cork Yacht Club. Silver Winners were Oscar Langan of Sutton Dinghy Club & Lughaidh Croasdell of Lough Ree Yacht Club.

Other placings

2016 Silver 2nd place Michael Broaders and Cian Lynch-Kealy of Sligo Yacht Club

2016 Silver 3rd place Sarah White and Eoghan Duffy of Sligo Yacht Club
2016 Bronze Winner Matthew White of Sligo Yacht Club and Niall MacAllister
2016 Bronze 2nd place Patrick Whyte and Jack Hayes of Mullingar Sailing Club GP14 & Mirror
2016 Bronze 3rd place Jack Curren and Ellen Curren of Sligo Yacht Club

Published in Mirror
Tagged under

#irishsailing – Ireland's national sailing authority has been going through turbulent times in recent years. With unprecedented expansion of ISA staff numbers as the country revelled in the boom years of the Celtic Tiger, the arrival of the inevitable and abrupt financial downturn found an Association bloated, unfit to cope, and out of touch with ordinary sailors.

High profile events, top level training and international participation had become so dominant in the ISA's range of activities that many of the ordinary sailors of Ireland already felt the Association was no longer relevant to their own low key personal pursuit of friendly sport afloat.

When the crash came, it led to a marked decrease in active sailing numbers as disposable incomes fell away. People focused on keeping their jobs and businesses afloat rather than their boats sailing, while many promising young sailors were forced to emigrate.

This new reality was reflected by the growing disillusion of club officers, who saw their membership subscriptions decreasing even while the ISA – which is largely reliant on subvention from the clubs for its own income – seemed always to be looking for more money. And at the height of the boom years, when all the major clubs had put through significant expenditure in developing their facilities to international standards, the ISA had shown its lack of contact with the reality of club life by proposing its own stand-alone National Sailing Centre in Galway, a facility which would in effect have been run in rivalry to the main clubs. To the mutterings in the grass roots were added the rumblings from above as major clubs threatened to withhold their annual payment to the ISA unless real reform was initiated. W M Nixon takes up the story.

In a classic grass roots revolution, club sailors Norman Lee from Greystones in County Wicklow and Bryan Armstrong from Sligo were at first rebuffed when they tried to voice their concerns about the ISA's increasing irrelevance to the needs of the vast majority of sailing enthusiasts, people at local level who were doing their very best to keep the sport alive through torrid times.

The Irish sailing community now owes these two men and their supporters a debt of gratitude, for they believed in what they were saying and they refused to be turned aside. Eventually, in November 2013 moves were in place to establish a Review Group for the urgent analysis of all ISA activities, and its personnel drew comprehensively on Ireland's remarkable pool of people with hands-on experience of running successful sailing events and organisations.

It was chaired by Brian Craig of Dun Laoghaire who has headed up the organising team on more major and notably successful international sailing events in Dublin Bay than probably anyone else, and its able personnel included two former ISA Presidents - Roger Bannon of Dun Laoghaire and Neil Murphy of Malahide and Howth - who had both been noted for their skill in running a tight ship when they were in charge. With them was highly regarded International Race Officer Jack Roy of Dun Laoghaire, and renowned sailmaker/activist Des McWilliam of Crosshaven, who each year is inevitably seen in busy involvement afloat in more Irish sailing centres - large and small - than anyone else in the boat world.


Bryan Amstrong of Sligo on the helm for a Mirror race

Also on board was one of the men from the barricades, Bryan Armstrong of Sligo. His background in a relatively remotely-located club which nevertheless has a long and distinguished sailing history made him uniquely qualified to voice the concerns of the grass roots. And we have to remember that all these people were giving voluntarily and generously of their time to this project in a period when Irish life was largely a matter of just getting through each day, while staying economically afloat was something of an achievement.

Primarily, the Review Group's function was to analyse the Association work on behalf of ordinary club sailors, as it was agreed that the Olympic and High Performance Divisions of the ISA's activities – which receive direct Sports Council grants – were in effect functioning as a different entity.

The Strategic Review Group was still work in progress when the ISA acquired a new President in David Lovegrove in March 2014, but by August the SRG published proposals which led to the setting up of a more formal body, the Planning Group. If this seems like a case of kicking the can down the road, it was anything but - these were people in a hurry, they'd got through the first stage of analysing areas where action was required, now they had to be more structured in coming up with clearcut ideas and concrete proposals.

This new Planning Group, which went into action in early Autumn 2014, was chaired by Neil Murphy, and its members included ISA President David Lovegrove, ISA Board Member Brian Craig, Ruth Ennis, Peter Redden, Sean Craig, and ISA CEO Harry Hermon, with noted Dun Laoghaire events administrator Ciara Dowling to provide administrative support.

They had their draft plan ready by mid-December 2014, and on January 21st 2015 Neil Murphy and his group publicly unveiled their analysis and proposals for the first time at a well-attended and very representative meeting in the Royal St George YC in Dun Laoghaire.

is3.jpgNeil Murphy is a former ISA President who, in addition to extensive experience as a Race Officer, is a typical club sailor, racing a Puppeteer 22 out of Howth. Photo: W M Nixon

While those involved in setting the ISA on a healthier course are mostly working on a voluntary basis, it has to be said that the PowerPoint presentation and the printed material was of the highest professional class. In fact, it was much better than many professional shows I've been to, and the level of thought which went into a wide range of questions from the floor answered by Neil Murphy, Brian Craig and David Lovegrove generated a growing level of goodwill which concluded with Norman Lee voicing his congratulations and good wishes for this continuing process in which he and Bryan Armstrong had played such a key role.

So now we move on to the next stage – taking the ideas to the rest of the country. Doubtless you'll have noted the double meaning in titling this piece 'Just Who Do The ISA Think They Are?' In a first interpretation, that question is the one for which, let's hope, we are all now involved in working together in providing and implementing a satisfactory answer.

But equally, as the ISA Road Show gets out of Dublin to take this excellent presentation to a public meeting in Cork next week (it's in the Rochestown Park Hotel on Tuesday, Feb 17th, 7.0 pm to 9.0 pm) and then Galway the week after (Galway Bay Sailing Club, Tuesday 24th February 7.0 pm to 9.0pm), they'll be taking themselves into areas where experience of sailing administration long pre-dates the establishment of organised sailing on Dublin Bay.

is4_1.jpgCrosshaven in the summer time. When we look at the natural advantages to be found here, it's little wonder that structured recreational sailing on Cork Harbour long-pre-dated any organised sport on Dublin Bay. Photo: Robert Bateman

So you might well ask just just who do they think they are, these people from Dublin, going down to Cork to try to tell them how sailing should be organised? The nerve of them, doing it in a place where they've had organised sailing since 1720, and where the two biggest clubs – the Royal Cork and Kinsale – are both mighty establishments of international sailing repute which would remain so even were the ISA to disappear overnight in a puff of smoke...

And as for going west along the road to Galway, that will take them through Athlone where the Lough Ree Yacht Club dates back to 1770, while on the west coast the Royal Western of Ireland YC at Kilrush traces its origins back to 1828. Equally, further north along the Atlantic coast Sligo YC dates back to 1821, and in Lough Erne the club began in 1820. Yet the first club on Dublin Bay, the Royal Irish, only began as recently as 1831, and even then it barely hung in and had to be revived in 1846, with the pace being set in the meantime by the Royal St George YC, founded 1838.

Kinsale is another harbour which seems to have been designed with sailing primarily in mind. Photo: Kevin Dwyer/courtesy ICC

Kilrush on the Shannon Estuary had a club in being before there were any sailing institutions on Dublin Bay. Photo: W M Nixon

So in terms of sailing administration history, Dublin and Dun Laoghaire are only Johnny-come-lately places by comparison with just about everywhere else in Ireland. Yet thanks to the inevitable dominance of economic development, population growth and the strengthening centres of political power, we now find that sailing administration and decisions of national import are emanating from a place that, in terms of natural sailing advantages, lags far behind the rest of the country.

Oh for sure, Dun Laoghaire Harbour is a fabulous artificial amenity, and the advent of the new marina at Greystones has already been seized upon as greatly increasing the "cruising" options of Dublin Bay. But let's face it, Dublin Bay is really only good for racing, specific day sailing and training, whereas Cork Harbour and Kinsale provide such a variety of opportunities for interesting race courses, mini-cruises with multiple destinations and what have you, that in effect they're not just in a different part of the country – they're a different country altogether.

Dun Laoghaire is a totally artificial facility, and sailing options on Dublin Bay are limited. But it's inescapable that this is the primary point of leisure access to the sea for Ireland's largest and most affluent population. Photo: Kevin Dwyer/courtesy ICC

All of which adds to the difficulties of creating a meaningful national authority with which every sailing person can identify.
This business of Dublin v The Rest is not unique to sailing, of course, but when you have a specialist sport with multiple sub-branches of activity, the problem is exacerbated.

So please bear this in mind if you take yourself along to the meetings in Cork or Galway during the next ten days. This really is a genuine attempt to base the ISA within the sailing community at an everyday level of usefulness to all, with scope for growth while enhancing existing structures, and input from the sailing community at this stage will help in developing the ideas and initiatives proposed.

While the draft ISA Strategic Plan 2015-2020 very definitely puts the emphasis back on to the need for healthy well-run clubs as the basis for the sport, there was initially a feeling at the meeting on January 21st that the new-look ISA is not supportive of commercial sailing schools. In fact, what the new-look ISA hopes to do is encourage training schemes within clubs, while at the same time supporting commercial sailing schools where the demand is such that no club could realistically cope while maintaining its essential club ethos.

Going into this in more detail in a personal meeting this week with Neil Murphy, who is a Chartered Quantity Surveyor, we talked around the fact that a thriving club scene is central to the spirit of Irish sailing, and he was musing on the success of Sutton Dinghy Club where Hugh Gill heads up what is in effect a commercial sailing school within a club setting.

In fact, what Murphy would hope to see emerge at larger population centres is sailing's equivalent of the public golf course. Anyone who has used a public golf course will be aware that the proprietors are usually mustard keen to encourage the formation of a "club" within their customer base, and there is no reason why this shouldn't eventually take root in Irish sailing, providing access to sailing at a fraction of the cost of joining an established club.

It's not something which can realistically be objected to by established clubs trying to protect their own membership, as the people who would use a "public sailing club" would be those who simply couldn't afford to go sailing at all in the current traditional club setup.

Nevertheless support for the established club setup is central to the new Strategic Plan, and the provision of Regional Development Officers to serve clubs directly is very much to the fore in the new thinking. But in looking over the figures published with the report, it's good to note that the ISA works with no less than 80 recognised training centres, while an encouraging statistic is that there are now 24 secondary schools in Ireland which include sailing as a regular part of their curriculum. Admittedly it's a long way from the French setup where every schoolkid is entitled by law to one week of sailing and one week of skiing per year, but in a country where an aversion to being on the water used to be thought inevitable, it's a step in the right direction.

All these considerations of inexpensive sailing are a whole world away from the stories of recent weeks and days about the ISA's High Performance Division seeking a fund-raising executive who will be tasked with finding €2.75 million per annum through philanthropic and other donations in order to help the funding of top level campaigns which we're not allowed to call Olympic campaigns, as apparently that is copyrighted by the Olympic Council, so we call them High Performance instead.

But apparently Government departments aren't restricted by this limitation on the use of the word Olympic, for it was bandied about like nobody's business in this week's news that the government is spending mightily through the Sports Council, with sailing being number three in all Ireland in terms of current Sports Council funding, with a total tag of €1,289,900.

Of course it's not all for specifically Olympic sailing, but it covers 103 sailors from Optimists to the Olympics. Which is fine and dandy for those who are mad keen to race at the highest level, but most sailors in Ireland are much more interested in performing well within their chosen area and boat class, but with sailing being just part of a reasonably civilised and well-balanced life.

And as became evident at the meeting on January 21st, there's an increasing number of people who feel that sailing needs to realise that there's a sizeable population out there of folk who'd like to go sailing, but don't feel the almost religious vocation to own a boat.

With the rapid expansion of sunshine sailing holidays with boats and equipment readily available for hire at the destination, there's a strong feeling there's a real need for more of this in Ireland, even if we can't guarantee the sunshine. The suggestion brings us back to both the "public sailing club" concept, and the growing realisation by established clubs that they have to reach out to potential members by having boats available for sailing on a trial basis.

The Affordable Sailing Team – Norman Lee (right) with his brother Ken beside their campervan at last year's GP 14 Worlds at East Down YC on Strangford Lough. Photo: W M Nixon

With their own very high can-do standards of boat maintenance, Norman and Ken Lee can keep their GP 14 in the competitive frame. Photo: W M Nixon

That said, the need to own one's own boat and tune and tinker with her to your heart's content is what sailing is all about for many of us, and Norman Lee is a classic case in point for this approach. He claims that his sailing costs him just €600 per year, though that of course is after he has paid for his well-tuned GP14, and he has long since written off the cost of the vintage camper-van which is home to the Lee Equipe when they hit the campaign trail.

Nevertheless the entire setup has to be outstandingly good value, and doing it in such economical style is part of the fun of it all. So when someone with Norman Lee's approach to sailing is prepared to get up at the big ISA public meeting in Dun Laoghaire and congratulate the team who have been working on the reforms which he and Bryan Armstrong set in train, then that is approval of a high order.

And as for just who or what is the ISA, can we maybe agree that ideally we all are the ISA, every last one of us who goes sailing or is even just interested in the sport, and it's up to us to keep it in line and encourage it to identify with and serve the ordinary sailor every bit as much as the high-flyer.


Private pleasure.....the 2014 GP 14 Worlds at East Down YC is about as high as many Irish sailors would expect or want to aim, and many are content with much lower-key regular club sailing. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in W M Nixon
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