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Should Irish Cruiser Racing (ICRA) Championships Stand Alone?

13th June 2013

#icra – The future of the ICRA National Championships is on the agenda this week, and the absence of some key clubs at the championships getting under way today in Tralee Bay will no doubt be highlighted.

A Sailors 'Open Forum' will be held tonight in Fenit after day two of racing in the ICRA and WIORA championships. The forum has been initiated by new ICRA Commodore Nobby Reilly, and it's an important opportunity for a constructive discussion on Irish cruiser racing.

'The country's top skippers, crews and owners are here in Tralee, so it's a good chance to talk about the future direction of the sport', says ICRA's Barry Rose.

With the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race just finished with 22 entries, Kinsale's Sovereign's Cup (77 entries) and July's Dun Laoghaire regatta (350 entries), the months of June and July serve as a stock–take of the national fleet.

Participants might be down compared to previous years, but this is to be expected in the current climate.

Our near neighbours on the Clyde hosted the Scottish Series in Tarbert in May, but managed only a little over 30 IRC competitors. There can justifiably be some relief that Irish regattas are faring better than across the water. But it does raise the question about how many regattas Ireland can realistically sustain over a four week period at the height of our sailing season.

Certainly with the VLDR coming up next month, Dublin Bay entries in Fenit – notably those of the RStGYC and the NYC – are thin enough. And Kinsale Yacht Club, the host of the Sovereign's Cup that follows the ICRA Nationals later this month, have yet to enter with any boats for Fenit.

Surely it is incumbent on all constituent clubs to encourage boats to go to the national championships?

Hosts Tralee Bay SC have 11 boats entered, Royal Cork has seven. Mayo Sailing Club has six, Galway Bay five. Foynes YC on the Shannon estuary and the Royal Irish in Dun Laoghaire and Howth YC each have four boats attending, while Sligo YC has two.

Organisers say 61 boats will be racing in Kerry waters tomorrow. It is worth remembering this number outstrips a far bigger UK national fleet that usually attends its own British IRC Nationals. So Tralee Bay is punching well above its weight.

But is the current level of events sustainable?

Why, for instance, are there no crews travelling from Kinsale to Fenit? It may be a delivery trip by sea of 145 miles, but the distance by road is only a mere 60 miles. One would have hoped for a more enthusiastic response from a club which vies with the Royal Cork for the premier position on the south coast.

Equally, we're told that Belfast Lough is keen to host the ICRA nationals. If that is the case, why have so few northern boats attended ICRA championships to date?

Everyone remembers Royal Cork YC staged a fine Cork Week regatta in 2012. But with only a little over a hundred boats attending, the club also struggled to get the numbers to make it pay. Yet some thought that if the ICRA Championships had been run within Cork Week, this might have helped boost numbers.

At the same time, it is important the ICRA championship keeps its own identity. After all, it is a national championships, and that's the formula that proves popular with competitors, so it is important it is not just subsumed by another regatta.

In his first term Reilly has made great strides in promoting cruiser racing affairs – the bedrock of many club's sailing activities – so he and ICRA deserves support.

But if there are too many regattas chasing too few boats, does Irish sailing need to rationalise the 2014 calendar and beyond?

One line of thought is that instead of being a stand-alone event, the ICRA championships be rotated around the existing Irish regatta circuit of, say, five venues, subject to certain certain ICRA criteria being met.

By holding this forum tonight, Commodore Reilly shows ICRA is not afraid to grasp the nettle on these important topics. ICRA should lead any such future co-ordination between clubs. When times are tough, an attitude of mutual support among clubs is surely a worthy aspiration.

Published in Water Rat
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