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Last Saturday’s Irish Sailing Association National Cruising Conference, sponsored by Union Chandlery with full organisational support from the Cruising Association of Ireland and the enthusiastic hospitality of Howth Yacht Club, was able to put through a very complete day-long programme which covered an extraordinary variety of topics. Each area of interest was examined in detail by a leading expert – in some cases the CEO of the national agency involved – and by the end the attendees, who came from all over the country, were verging on information overload. Yet everyone finished the day well satisfied, and certainly agreed on one thing – it will be quite something to match the quality of 2016’s Cruising Conference when the next one comes round in 2018. W M Nixon was there, and though he tells us “his head was melted” with the sheer volume of the range of issues discussed and explained, he’ll do his best to let us know what happened.

It went on for seven hours and more, and ranged from the extremities of dealing with calving glaciers in Greenland at one end, to the niceties of lone male watch-keepers dealing safely and efficiently with the calls of nature in mid ocean at the other. And since you ask, there were two distinct camps for dealing with Problem B – those who favour a simple bottle, narrow enough to be stowed in a convenient winch handle holder, and those who think a yoghurt tub with its cover kept usable is your only man, as some folk need a bit of space to perform.

As for the sheer length of the programme, as a group of friends and shipmates attending together we agreed it should have been an hour shorter. But then we couldn’t think of one single item on the agenda that we would have happily discarded. So for 2018 (or next year, if the current plan to make it biennial is reckoned to be wimpishly unambitious), Paddy McGlade the ISA Board Member for Cruising, and Clifford Brown, Commodore of the Cruising Association of Ireland, will have to agree to the same densely-filled programme, and it’s beholden on the participants and the audience to be up for the challenge.

For the fact is, when you get an attendance of this calibre, you need to provide the full coverage in the programe. And if you’re providing the full service in the form of a very comprehensive conference, then you deserve the attendance of all the keenest cruising folk – or would-be cruising folk – in the entire country. And with a comprehensive turnout of 104 enthusiasts where all nvolved on either side of the programe are incuded - when they’d tried initially to keep the numbers manageably at 80 - the dynamic interaction between performers and audience was magic, and ISA President David Lovegrove was properly impressed.

ISA Cruising Convener Gail MacAllister put together a cracking programme, nicely balancing the serious issues which might have had a certain bureaucratic overtone with more overtly entertaining stuff which hit the button either by scaring us stiff, or else making us savour the pure quiet delight of a proper cruise going well with a contented crew on board.

 Najad 440
Eddie Nicholson’s Najad 440 Mollihawk’s Shadow in the frame in Greenland. The outline he gave of the pre-planning and execution with shipmates Mike Hodder and Dermot O’Morchoe of this exemplary cruise from Newfoundland eventually home to Ireland was to set the tone for the ISA Cruising Conference.

The tone was set from the start with the all-singing all-dancing account of Eddie Nicholson of Kinsale’s cruise to West Greenland and then on to Ireland from Labrador with the Najad 440 Mollihawk’s Shadow. This was much more than the narrative of an ambitious cruise. Combined with his two leading shipmates Mike Hodder and Dermot O’Morchoe, Eddie makes up a threesome of complementary talents, and their thoughtful account of what goes into planning, preparing and making such a cruise the outstanding success it clearly became was shown in the concluding informative account of what they achieved, once they’d made the effort to put everything in place.

This was obviously at the more advanced end of cruising, so as a balance we next heard from ISA Board Member Pierce Purcell of Galway, who has been on a personal crusade to fire up the interest of all recreational boat owners around Galway Bay. He runs a chandlery at Clarinbridge, and the sheer variety of people from all parts who were coming through his door in quest of maritime items large and small made him realise that his shop was a maritime focal point for the entire Galway Bay area.

Pierce Purcell
Pierce Purcell of the ISA Board outlining his innovative technique for building up a communications network of recreational boating enthusiasts around Galway Bay

So every time he sold something, he simply asked the customer if he could have their email address to keep them informed of anything that might be in the offing for boaters large and small around Galway Bay. As a result, in the last decent summer, which we had a couple of years ago if you remember, he managed to assemble a fleet of fifty-plus boats for a Bank Holiday weekend muster at Kilronan in the Aran Islands. And as a direct result of that, the WIORA Championship 2017 is going to be staged at the same venue, which will be a remarkable “first”.

The extraordinary opportunities which cruising offers for observing maritime wildlife were then outlined by Simon Berrow of the Irish Whale & Dolphin Group, and his continuing enthusiasm is at such a level that just about everyone present will be on some sort of whale watch in the season ahead.

Dr Berrow is based in Kilrush, and there’s something about the West of Ireland which sets the sailing heart afire, for we then had Daria Blackwell of Clew Bay telling us how women can get much greater enjoyment from sailing if they take steps to learn how to do it themselves, indeed the best thing is to do it well because you want to, not because some mere male needs help.

Daria Blackwell
Daria Blackwell delivering the message about women adopting a more proactive role in sailing through having the most positive attitude to learning and practice. Photo: Alex Blackwell

Molly Childers Asgard
Molly Childers on the wheel aboard Asgard in 1912. She was a much more competent helm than her husband Erskine, and it was she who made such a masterful job of steering the engine-less Asgard into Howth with a strong following wind during the gun-running episode in 1914.

This made it doubly appropriate that the conference was taking place in Howth Yacht Club, for of course in July 1914 Howth witnessed one of the finest examples of skilled helming by a woman when Molly Childers steered the engineless Asgard safely into harbour and alongside in the allotted tight berth for the Irish Volunteers Gun Running, despite a Force 5 to 6 northwest wind from dead astern.

Daria used to be the boss of a 400–employee advertising agency in New York, so when she got the sailing bug she went at it with total dedication. It made for a fascinating presentation as she outlined the different ways that men and women approach something like learning to helm a boat in confined situations.

Apparently we men rely on intuitive learning – we hope to pick it up simply by doing it. And if it involves fixing a piece of equipment, we’d rather have a blind go at it instead of RTFM. But women, according to Daria, want to learn properly - they want to practice, they’re keen to take instruction if it’s properly done, and they want to continue to get it right without feeling nervous about doing it again. Practice and self-reliance – that’s what women bring to enjoyment of sailing. And yes, they do read the manual.

Norman Kean of Courtmacsherry, Honorary Editor of the Irish Cruising Club Sailing Directions, is a typical Royal Institute of Navigation person in that, while he’s ace with all the latest equipment, he has a great love and respect for all the paraphernalia of his art, and he adores charts. But he doesn’t suffer from any illusions about the fact that some of our best-loved charts are based on data so old that a re-survey would show that some narrow channels are not quite where they’d be indicated on an electronic chart, where the original info has had to come from a paper chart.

So in an intriguing presentation he showed us some electronic anomalies of which the most vivid was the slight but crucial mis-placing of the Joyce Sound inside Slyne Head in County Galway, and then he went on to show us how much attention to detail was needed for himself and Geraldine to take their Warrior 40 Coire Uisge into Blind Harbour on Waterford’s Copper Coast.

Norman Kean
Coffee break. Navigation guru Norman Kean (facing left) talks charts with fellow enthusiasts. Photo: W M Nixon

The organisers maintained a ferocious pace, for before we were allowed to take time for lunch, there was a break-out session with instant groups of eight or so each being formed to discuss various topics on which, at conferences end, one lucky nominee from each group had to produce a considered report. My recollection is that the problem with lobster pot marker lines loomed large, and in our group we’d the good fortune to have Paddy Judge who told us how he’d cleared a pot line which had got between his skeg and rudder – thereby disabling his steering. He’d managed to get to the lobster line by use of a short length of chain with a line at either end, the chain let over the bow with the line to each side, and then worked aft well under water until it could be used to raise the pot line, which was running vertically downwards from the rudder.

RTE News Presenter Brian Dobson
Taking a day off from the general election, RTE News Presenter Brian Dobson was one of 104 cruising and offshore sailors who took part in the ISA Conference. Photo: Alex Blackwell

The whole business of virtually unmarked pot lines all round the Irish coast is becoming such a problem that we’ll probably have a blog completely devoted to it one day. But the good news from Saturday is that the energetic Gary Davis of the HYC Cruising Group has been so determined in his lobbying of politicians and government departments regarding the menace of poorly-marked pot lines that it’s now on the official agenda, which is quite a step forward from the previous apparent indifference.

The conclusions from the break-out groups were to come at the end of the Conference, and provided food for thought with Gary Davis’s news about the new political awareness getting much approval, while there was something of a round of applause for Paddy Judge’s ingenious solution – I omitted to mention he was single-handed at the time of the incident.

The afternoon went promptly into further presentations, with CAI Commodore Clifford Brown putting out the welcome mat for newcomers in a big way. If you wanted to find a catchphrase for the entire conference, “infectious enthusiasm” would be right on target, and Commodore Brown’s exposition, cheerfully outlining the multiple choice in sailing and cruising experience which the CAI members are happy to offer to anyone even slightly interested, was encouraging to behold.

 Clifford Brown
“You’re all welcome, very welcome….” Cruising Association of Ireland Commodore Clifford Brown outlines what his organisation has to offer to experienced sailors and absolute beginners alike. Photo: Alex Blackwell

Pat Murphy round the world sailor
A star performer. Pat Murphy’s guidance on welcoming and managing new crew drew on his unrivalled experience gained in a nine year round the world cruise. Photo: W M Nixon

However, “inspiring” is the only way to describe the next speaker. Pat Murphy has his top place for ever inscribed in Irish sailing history thanks to his fabulous nine year voyage round the world with his late wife and soulmate Olivia on their fine 40ft cutter Aldebaran. They learned much from it, and as they had guest crews aboard at regular intervals, they learned a great deal more about how to manage and welcome new crew. Pat was hugely generous in imparting nuggets of sound advice and insights culled from an exceptional cruise, and it all combined into a solid body of purest wisdom.

But then came the really serious bit. Chris Reynolds, Director of the Irish Coastguard, took us on an informative tour of his expanding organization, and guided us on the paths to sea safety and the correct course of action in an emergency. These topics had of course come up during the group discussions, where the more senior cruising folk inclined to the view that the joy of cruising is to be found in self-reliance, and if a problem arises you should take pride and satisfaction in solving it yourself, however much the potential or actual risk.

Chris Reynolds Irish Coastguard
The friendly face of the rescue services – Chris Reynolds is Director of the Irish Coastguard. Photo: Alex Blackwell

But that was appropriate a long time ago, before a proper matrix of rescue and support serves was in place. You just had to be almost totally self-reliant in the old days. Yet nowadays, according to Chris Reynolds, it’s irresponsible to persist in that attitude. His message was simple. If you think you might be getting into trouble, then it’s time to alert the rescue service. For if you know you’re getting into trouble, then it may already be too late to call the rescue services.

This caused some heart-searching among traditionalists, but we hadn’t time to dwell on it, as the next speaker was the force of nature otherwise known as Vera Quinlan of INFOMAR in the Marine Institute in Galway. INFOMAR is the INtegrated Mapping FOr the sustainable development of Ireland’s MARine resource, and Vera Quinlan – a noted ocean cruising sailor in her own right – has been at the heart of it for eight years.

Vera Quinlan INFOMAR
A Force of Nature – Vera Quinlan of INFOMAR. Photo: W M Nixon

If anyone’s interest in the future of the sea had been flagging at this stage, Vera’s enthusiasm soon fired it up again. It’s a whole new world out there, on and under the ocean, when you see it through INFOMAR eyes. And Vera’s vision for Ireland’s maritime future was just the tonic for people who sometimes tend too much to see it as no more than a playground.

The fact that she both works with it, and shows its manifold possibilities for all sorts of sustainable uses, and then goes on to sail across it for pleasure every summer - that was thought-provoking in the extreme. And so too was the concluding item, which had John Leahy, former Commodore of the CAI and a retired airline captain, and Willemien Phelan of Met Eireann in an informal competition to see who had best predicted the weather which would obtain on the day of the conference, using different forecast models in different time spans.

Both had got it pretty much spot on in their predictions a week in advance, but then we were in a spell of routine winter weather with the Great Purple Snake of Atlantis, otherwise known as the Jetstream in high speed mode, weaving across the country with one unpleasantness fairly regularly after another.

Willemien Phelan Met Eireann
“The Great Purple Snake of Atlantis” – Willemien Phelan of Met Eireann with a particularly lurid recent swirling of the Jetstream right across Ireland. Photo: W M Nixon

Since last weekend, as you’ll have noticed the Jetstream took off for two or three days to the sunny south, which consequently wasn’t sunny any more, but Ireland certainly was. However, the Great Snake of Atlantis is due back over us today, but at least you’ll know now why the weather goes to pot when it does.

All this was only part of the wide-ranging presentation given by John and Willemien which showed just how far weather prediction has come on in recent years. The magic Ten Day Forecast may still be out of reach beyond a certain level of accuracy, but they’re closing in on the one week forecast very well indeed these days.

All of which poses a quandary for anyone organising sailing events or planning cruises. For if all the forecasts give the same message, that in a week’s time the weather is going to be plain awful with too much wind for most racing, then you’re faced with the decision of calling it off with plenty of time to spare to enable people to plan other things, or else you just stick to the programme and hope the forecast has been excessively pessimistic.

And on top of that, if several days in advance you do cancel an event whose date was set way back in the winter, when on earth are you going to slot it in later in our current programme, which is jam-packed from one weekend to the next?

But that was only one of many thoughts flying around the Conference last Saturday, and most of them were much more cheerful. The reality is cruising folk just like to get together and talk about boats and cruising until the cows come home, and if a Cruising Conference is organized with a stellar line-up of speakers, it gives it all a sense of extra purpose.

Paddy  McGlade
Paddy McGlade, ISA Board Member for Cruising, reviews a successful conference. Photo: W M Nixon

Long after a deservedly happy Paddy McGlade brought this part of the gathering to a conclusion after the draw for the offshore sailing suit donated by Union Chandlery had resulted in a popular win for Terry McCoy of Skerries, people were still contentedly shooting the breeze in the friendly atmosphere of the clubhouse. And the really keen ones were lining themselves up for that night’s annual dinner of the CAI. Cruising people are like that – they’re in for the long haul.

Terry McCoy Gail MacAllister
It’s all for Terry! Terry McCoy with Gail MacAllister after the Skerries sailor had won the draw for the sailing suit. Photo: Alex Blackwell

Published in W M Nixon

The inaugural ISA Cruising Conference at Howth Yacht Club attracted 90 sailors for a very informative day last Saturday. 

ISA President David Lovegrove opened proceedings and Keynote speaker Eddie Nicholson and his crew entertained with an excellent show on their adventures to Greenland, with stunning photography, video footage and some eye opening tales of ice movement and local culinary delights. Simon Berrow, of Irish Whale and Dolphin Group and Galway / Mayo Institute of Technology, shared his knowledge of the biodiversity of whales and mammals along our Irish Coastline and gave advise on how leisure boat should approach them and help to ensure their safety.

Sponsorship from Union Chandlery and support from Cruising Association of Ireland helped to made the day a great success, along with the contributions and support from Nicky’s Place on Howth Pier, ICC Publications, Wild Atlantic Way, Met Eireann, INFOMAR, DTTAS, RNLI, Helly Hansen, IWDG, Cool Route & Howth Yacht Club all combined to give every delegate a bag full of fun goodies and useful information.

Experienced offshore sailor and author, Daria Blackwell, made a number of male skippers stop and think, with a talk on Women at the Helm. Many women take on the role of crew on board and never actually helm or rather I should say, skipper. The question that had many male skippers thinking was “If you fell overboard, would your crew be able action a safe ‘man over board?”. Not to mention how much easier it is helm a yacht in to a marina than to be the one jumping off with a line in one hand and a fender in the other. Norman Kean, Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation and ICC Publications Editor, gave an excellent explanation of the difference between Vector and Raster Electronic Charts, that left the audience assured that maintaining their knowledge of paper pencil navigation alongside their electronic navigation is always a good idea.

Clifford Brown of the Cruising Association of Ireland brought the room up to date with CAI’s “Crew Together” programme, where the East, West and South coast sailors match crew with boats and give sailors a chance to cruise in each others’ waters. Round the world sailor, Pat Murphy, entertained everyone with his tips on caring for, training and communicating with crew for cruising. In the ethos of the ISA programme of Try Sailing, cruising sailors were encouraged to welcome new crew on board and give them a chance to ‘Try Crewing’.

Vera Quinlan of the INFOMAR project at the Marine Institute, and experienced skipper, had everyone amazed by the detailed information available on the sea bed and the idea of being able to know just where your anchor is landing and what you are sailing over. She had everyone eager to learn more. The final talk on weather could have lasted all day as we all know how important forecasting is for sailing, especially in Irish waters. Willemien Phelan of Met Eireann and Volvo Ocean Race participant, gave a fantastic explanation of weather forecasting with John Leahy, Yachtmaster instructor and pilot.

Published in Cruising

Irish Sailing Association Treasurer Roger Bannon has resigned from the association. The Dun Laoghaire based sailor stood down from the voluntary role citing 'personal work commitments'.

Bannon, who served as President of the association from 1994 to 1996, is credited with the 1993 'Joint Membership Scheme' (JMS). The JMS underpinned the financial viability of the association by making every member of a sailing club also a member of the ISA.

An outspoken critic of former ISA policies, Bannon spearheaded a group of sailors in 2013 calling for change at the association, claiming it had 'lost touch with grassroots sailing'. He rejoined the board in 2014 as its Treasurer under current President David Lovegrove, promising major reform of the national governing body.

A statement on the resignation reads: 'Roger Bannon has resigned as a director and Treasurer of the ISA due to his anticipated ongoing lack of availability as a consequence of his personal work commitments'.

'I am sorry to lose Roger as Treasurer, he put in an inordinate amount of work, firstly as part of the Strategic Review Group and then as Treasurer. I thank him for all that he has done for the ISA', Lovegrove told Afloat.ie

Published in ISA

#ISA - Irish Sailing Association members will be asked to approve the adoption of a revised ISA Constitution at the organisation's AGM at the Green Isle Hotel on Saturday 9 April.

The ISA says it has been working over the past year to bring its Constitution, Formerly the Memorandum & Articles of Association, up to date in accordance with the Companies Act 2014 as well as to reflect the new direction of the association and the needs of its membership.

The proposed ISA Constitution is available to read or download at the ISA website (the current Memorandum & Articles of Association are also available for comparison). A summary of changes will be published by the ISA next month ahead of the AGM.

Published in ISA

#ISA - It's shaping up to be a year of big changes for trainees, tutors and coaches with the Irish Sailing Association as the organisation evolves to meet the demands of 21st–century sailing.

After taking on board feedback from the training review that formed part of last year's five-year strategic plan, 2016 will see a number of new initiatives introduced – and trainee sailors will be among the first to see the benefits.

These improvements include the simplification of the Small Boat Sailing Scheme, and changes to instructor endorsements to better differentiate between training for specific skills and holistic coaching, as well as putting greater focus on gaining skills and logging time on the water rather than trainees simply collecting certificates.

One of the biggest shifts internally in the association is the introduction of new technological solutions to reduce administration time and associated costs to training centres throughout Ireland.

And for the ISA's current crop of trainee sailors, the public face of that will be the new 'Sailing Passport' scheme.

Essentially an online, cloud-based logbook – accessible from computers, tablets and smartphones anywhere there's an internet connection – the Sailing Passport will replace existing paper-based methods of recording on-the-water activities and achievements.

Whether racing, cruising or just having fun, trainees will be able to record their sailing activities in a format that allows them and their instructors to easily track their progress in acquiring and developing the skills needed for any particular course or module.

Trainees in the Small Boat Sailing Scheme will be the first to benefit from this initiative before it's rolled out to power boating, windsurfing, cruising and other activities across the board.

Patrick Blaney has been leading the research and development of the Sailing Passport for the ISA and is co-ordinating its introduction in association with the association's Regional Development Officers.

As he explains, the passport is a response to the perception expressed in feedback to the ISA's Strategic Review Group that the association's training schemes were too focused on certification landmarks over individual sailors' development of skills.

"It's also part of the ISA development strategy to grow the levels of sailing activity outside of the traditional structured courses, particularly for young sailors," he says.

"The passport, as an online logbook, is designed to facilitate this by focussing on skills and experiences, not on certificates, and to do so in the 'modern' way – dispensing with paper logbooks that are easy to lose or damage, while also enabling training programmes be distributed to users more efficiently online."

Inspiration for the Sailing Passport comes from a similar system in use by Sail Canada for the last five years. That project was developed by former sailing instructors with digital and sports management knowhow, and has since been adopted by skiing chiefs and other sporting organisations in Canada.

The ISA's version is licensed from a sister programme called ChecKlick, and is already fully operational for the Small Boat Sailing Scheme, loaded with all the relevant Joe Soap Cards for skills development that student sailors will see checked off by their club or instructor as they progress, whenever or wherever they access their secure passport online.

But the system also allows individual sailors to add their own records for activities, goals and achievements as they track their training steps with greater accuracy, making for a more holistic approach to sail training over the previous 'gotta catch 'em all' collection of certificates.

The end result also serves as a kind of 'sailing CV', says Blaney, particularly useful for those working towards accreditation as a coach or instructor.

Trialing of the system has lead to some early positive feedback including this from Aengus Kennedy, principal of Rathmullan Sailing and Watersports School in Co Donegal:

"We started to use the ChecKlick system in 2015. The system is straightforward to use and the online tutorials work well as training manuals. Staff were up to speed quickly. Instructors have the opportunity to update each students progress throughout courses from their smartphones or devices which they embraced. Being able to print either certificates or a list of tasks achieved for each student at our leisure is a distinct advantage. Having a database of all students work and not paper logbooks is a big improvement."

The Sailing Passport will mean reduced costs for sailors and administrators alike, with access to the system costing €3 per participant.

With current paper log books costing €5 a pop, and certificates at €2 each, the savings will be significant over time, Blaney underlines.

Yet the costs are secondary to the vision of a more nimble, focused ISA that this project represents, something also reflected in the streamlining of the Small Boat Sailing Scheme itself.

That sees the revision of its upper-tier modules into a single level for each of three streams – Advanced Boat Handing; Start Racing; and Kites & Wires & Adventure – and the introduction of a new single Advanced Instructor Endorsement which will enable more and more clubs and training centres to acquire the resources necessary to offer the full suite of training modules.

What this all ultimately means for trainees is more choice and more flexibility in terms of where they can go to learn the skills they need, and what paths they can take to hone their preferences on the water, without being discouraged by the need for certification in skills that may block their advancement.

The coming year will reveal whether the ISA's first raft of changes will indeed encourage a brighter future for Ireland's young sailors.

A sailing passport briefing document prepared by the ISA is downloadable below.

Published in ISA

The Irish Sailing Association has been awarded €323,000 just €100 less than 2015 in the annual payout from Sport Ireland, formerly known as the Irish Sports Council. Rowing Ireland was awarded 210,000. 

Sport Ireland, the newly created agency for the development of sport in Ireland, announced a comprehensive package for sporting organisations in 2016. The announcement was made by Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring T.D. in Westport today.
To support Irish participation at the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games in August and September, a total grant package in excess of €10 million was announced. In addition, with the supports of the services of the new Institute of Sport High Performance Training Centre, at Sport Ireland's National Sports Campus, the total investment in High Performance Sport for 2016 will be well in excess of €11 million.
In addition, there was a package of €10.6 million invested in National Governing Bodies of Sport with a further €5 million investment through the National Network of Local Sports Partnerships.
Speaking at the announcement, Minister Michael Ring said:
"I am pleased to announce this significant investment in Irish sport for 2016, through Sport Ireland's package of grants for the National Governing Bodies of Sport and the Local Sports Partnerships. The grants announced today will not only support the core activities of sports bodies, including their administration, they will also support very important sport programmes such as the Women in Sport and High Performance programmes, and the full range of services provided by Local Sport Partnerships around the country. I am delighted to have been able to increase Sport Ireland's budget by €3 million this year, which has enabled Sport Ireland to support High Performance sport in what is a very important year, with the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games taking place. In addition, it is envisaged that significant funds will be available through Dormant Accounts Funding for sports programmes in disadvantaged communities to support the recently announced National Physical Activity Plan. The increase in funding for this year is a recognition of the Government's commitment and my own personal commitment to Sport".
Chair of Sport Ireland, Kieran Mulvey, speaking at the announcement added:
"We are delighted to announce a wide range of grants for Governing Bodies which cover the critical period of 2016 towards Rio but also a wide range of important programmes which are covered by the National Governing Bodies of Sport and the Local Sports Partnerships. Sport has flourished over the past number of years despite financial difficulties and have continued to expand their services. Some of the highlights of the today's announcement include:

- Over €1.8 million invested through the International Carding Scheme (Details of which will be announced soon)
- Additional investment has been allocated to the Olympic Council of Ireland to support the training camps and their Rio activities
- Significant investment has been allocated to Paralympics Ireland to support their pre-games camp in Uberlandia and all their games activities
- Additional support was to Hockey Ireland and Pentathlon Ireland who delivered outstanding results in 2015 and are well placed to deliver excellence in Rio
- Support will be provided to the IRFU towards the Olympic Repechage Rugby 7s taking place in UCD in June
- €200,000 will be invested through the Team Ireland Golf Trust to provide direct financial support to a number of golfers as well as additional financial support to hosting the Challenge Tour event in Ireland which is a vital component of the development of Irish Golf and Irish Golfers
- Over €600,000 will be invested in NGBs towards Women in Sport Programmes to ensure opportunities for women across the sporting spectrum (with further investment to be announced across the FAI and IRFU) and a further €114,700 through Local Sports Partnerships
John Treacy, Chief Executive of Sport Ireland explained:
"It's a really exciting time for Sport in Ireland. The establishment of the new agency has given Irish Sport a new home at Sport Ireland's National Sports Campus and with the additional resources made available to us this year we will drive on and continue to develop the Irish Sports sector. While 2016 will be a vital year in relation to Rio, we are also focused on our other obligations including our participation initiatives, supporting events at home and our anti doping programme. 2016 will be an exciting year and I would like to thank the Minister for his support through the last number of years".

Published in ISA

The Irish Sailing Association Annual Awards ceremony undoubtedly conveyed three clearcut messages. The first is that, in global sailing terms, we’re a wet and breezy little island which nevertheless punches way above our weight. The second is that we live comfortably with a long and very distinguished history of recreational sailing which puts most other nations in the shade. And the third is that Ireland is definitely not the greatest place in the world to be a professional sailor. W M Nixon takes a look back at Thursday’s annual prizefest.

Those unfamiliar with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland might think it odd that, in just two short years, its splendid College Hall, at the very epicentre of Dublin on Stephens Green, has come to be seen as the most natural focal point for the annual honouring of our top sailors and clubs.

Irish sailing awards2
The College Hall in the RCSI provides an ideal setting for the annual gathering for Irish sailing’s national awards.

Irish sailing awards3
Sailors talking about sailing. The Awards Ceremony provides a cherished opportunity for sailors from every discipline to shoot the breeze together.

Declan magee ciara dowling4RCSI President Declan Magee – a sailing man – with Events Organiser Ciara Dowling, who kept the show on the road

Bobby Kerr5
Dragons Den star Bobby Kerr – a sailing man himself – was the lively Master of Ceremonies

But in terms of being a setting which lends itself very positively to such a gathering, College Hall is right on target. It’s a splendid room which is confident with itself without being over the top. It comfortably accommodates the crowd of between 180 and 200 who have come from all over Ireland to celebrate what’s best in our sailing. And as if that weren’t enough, the RCSI has remarkable links with sailing going back more than a hundred years.

John treacy liam shanahan lovegrove6
John Treacy, CEO of the Sports Council, with Liam Shanahan and ISA President David Lovegrove

So after last year’s first use of the venue, which stemmed from a typically far-sighted suggestion by ISA Board Member Brian Craig, people were keen to go back. And it wasn’t because no-one could think of anywhere better. On the contrary, it was because we’d found that the College of Surgeons is one of those wonderful buildings which make you feel better just from being in it. So in the early days of Spring when we wonder if summer is really going to come at all, a bit of a party in the College of Surgeons is just what the doctor ordered. And as for those doctors and surgeons from the RCSI going sailing, we’ll return to that at the end of this piece. But what of the event itself?

Well, with the Afloat.ie Sailor of the Year award going to a determinedly Corinthian skipper who cheerfully admitted that there’s any amount of professional sailors out there who could probably beat the pants off him, but nevertheless his core interest is offshore racing with family and friends, and if they win within those self-imposed limitations, then so much the better…..There it was, the real voice of Irish sailing, and no mistake.

is7The youngest award winner was Topper champion Geoff Power of Waterford Harbour SC at Dunmore East

Pierce purcell michael boyd8
Pierce Purcell of Galway Bay SC with the RIYC’s Michael Boyd, Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club

But what about the clubs through which we go sailing? How can they carry such a wealth of history, and yet be of any contemporary relevance? Here again, the evidence speaks for itself. The new Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year has a wonderful history going back to 1831, yet in terms of sailing achievement and voluntary input into the local, regional and national organisation of sailing, it is making a fantastic contribution. And as for its relevance to sailing in the future, independently of the Club of the Year adjudication taking place, this same club was comfortably on its way to being the top ISA Training Establishment in its region, and on the shortlist for the national title too.

James espey Saskia tidey Aoife hopkins9
Olympian and rising stars – James Espey, Aoife Hopkins and Saskia Tidey

If that’s not an illustration of the way that Irish sailing honours its past while living in the present and looking to the future, then I don’t know what it is. But what’s this third point about Ireland being a cold place for professional sailing? Here again, the assembly in the RCSI was very representative of our Irish sailing population. For sure, there are some very distinguished Irish professional sailors, and there are certainly Irish owners who are prepared to pay the top talents to sail with them. But there’s something about the Irish sailing scene which is inimical to such a setup at home. By all means do it where the weather’s usually benign, and there’s lots of money floating around. But in the Irish climate you sometimes have to be so keen to go sailing despite hostile weather that you just have to rely on nutty amateur crew - the professionals know there’s much better and more reliable pickings elsewhere.

Thus we’ve come to the ironic situation that our top home-based professional sailors are actually our Olympic hopefuls. It’s extraordinary when you think that the modern Olympics were “re-founded” in 1896 in order to celebrate amateur sport, yet now in Ireland just about the only home-based sailors who can be said to be professional are the Olympic aspirants. And if they haven’t accepted that they need a professional approach, then they’re not really at the races at all.

Thus although the friendly Olympian presence of Annalise Murphy, James Espey and Saskia Tidey was much to be welcomed in the very representative throng, generally anyone who was there with any sort of a professional interest in sailing had it as part of a larger business in which actually going sailing is only a small part of the total setup.

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Paralympic sailors Ian Costello and John Twomey

Admittedly we did have one Olympian who received an award, John Twomey who took the title in December for his qualification for the Paralympics in September 2016. And he came with added laurels, as on the very day of the ceremony, it had been announced that he and his crew of Ian Costello and Austin O’Carroll had moved up to fifth in the World Rankings. But if you suggested to John Twomey – headed for his 11th Olympiad – that he’s a professional sailor, he’d be convulsed in mirth. Real life is related to an accountancy practice in Kinsale.

So the only other monthly awardee who could remotely be said to be a professional sailor was August winner Ronan O Siochru. who skippered the winning Irish Offshore Sailing boat Desert Star to victory in the 33-strong Sailing Schools Division in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2015. But he’s very definitely running a business - and a very demanding one at that – in which going sailing is only part of it.

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Ronan O Siochru with the President

Thus what Thursday’s ceremony was all about was voluntarism and amateur sport, and in case anybody missed the point, it was supposed to be a bit of fun. In this spirit, the greatest trophy in Irish sailing, the might salver for the Helmsman’s Championship, was given an outing. The All Ireland Helmsman’s Championship being an amateurs-only affair, as it is held over an October weekend, inevitably by the time its award ceremony for the salver is shaping up it’s well into Sunday evening. It’s getting dark, and everyone’s tired and wants to go home. So inevitably the handing-over of the historic trophy is a downbeat and somewhat rushed affair.

But as the ISA Annual Awards ceremony is all about handing over prizes with as much ceremony as possible, it was arranged for the salver – which had been hurriedly handed over to successful defender Anthony O’Leary in Dun Laoghaire back in October – to be smuggled out of the O’Leary household down in Crosshaven, secretly taken to Dublin, hidden away in the College of Surgeons, and then formally presented as a surprise extra to the great man after he’d received his Sailor of the Month award for April. He blushed.

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Got him! Sailor of the Year 2014 Anthony O’Leary unavoidably missed last year’s awards ceremony, and then in 2015, although though he was Sailor of the Month for April, there were very few people around in October when he successfully defended the Helmsmans Championship Salver. So it was taken secretly to this week’s ceremony, where more than 180 people cheered him to the rafters.

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ISA Youth Champions 2015 are Colin O’Sullivan and Doug Elmes, Bronze Medallists in the 420 Worlds.

Before all this, we’d been setting the scene with the ISA Youth Sailors of the Year, who were 420 Worlds Bronze Medallists Douglas Elmes and Colin O’Sullivan, and the ISA Training Centre of the Year, which was Mullingar Sailing Club from Westmeath which headed the Western Region, and overall came in ahead of Foynes YC from the Southern Region and the Royal Irish YC from the Eastern Region.

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Katie Johnston of Mullingar Sailing Club with David Lovegrove when MSC was announced as ISA Training Centre 2015.

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The new Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year is the Royal Irish YC – Commodore James Horan with Billy Riordan of Mitsubishi Motors and David Lovegrove.

But for the RIYC Commodore James Horan, the good news was only beginning, as his club was then announced as the new Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year for a host of excellent reasons. We’ll list them in more detail here on Afloat.ie in due course when the traditional handing-over ceremony for the old ship’s wheel trophy is held in the RIYC clubhouse later in the Spring. But meanwhile on Thursday we saw ample reason for it, as two of the Sailor of the Month awards went to very active RIYC members, George Sisk and Tim Goodbody.

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July Sailor of the Month George Sisk with the ISA President

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Dun Laoghaire Regatta Week 2015 Chairman, Fastnet Race 1987 overall winner, and multiple champion Tim Goodbody was Sailor of the Month in November

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Youngest cruising award winner was Fergus Ogden, who in June and July sailed round Ireland with his brother in an open Drascombe Lugger.

Then came the Sailor of the Year announcement. Anyone who was following the voting in the Afloat.ie poll will know it was running very close. But as the poll results are only a quarter of the adjudication process, it was just a couple of days ahead of the awards ceremony when the judges finally made their decision. They came down in favour of Liam Shanahan both for his wonderful and very sporting victory in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race with his family’s J/109 Ruth, and his subsequent success in retaining the Irish Sea Annual Championship title.

His modest acceptance speech was, in effect, a manifesto on behalf of all Irish amateur sailors, and particularly family sailors. The Shanahans are one remarkable sailing tribe right through three generations. And as for that win in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race – well, it was beautiful sailing. Some sailing races are won by brutal slugging. Some are won by sheer cunning. Some inshore races are even won by dirty sailing, and it’s within the rules even if it does the image of our sport no good at all. But some race wins are simply beautiful sailing. And Ruth’s success in Dingle was definitely in that category.

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After receiving his award, Liam Shanahan briefly but eloquently outlines his philosophy of sailing

So the ceremony on Thursday concluded with this celebration of the best in Irish sailing, and it chimed well with the mood of the moment and the location, as the current President of the RCSI is Declan Magee who sails from Dun Laoghaire, and he was most welcome at the party and naturally thanked for the use of the hall……

Then as we exited the College Hall, the first doorway we passed was the Sir Thomas Myles Room. He was RCSI President 1900-1902, a wonderful surgeon and a man of prodigious energy who boxed to championship level, and adored sailing. A Home Ruler of Limerick origins. he made his auxiliary ketch Chotah available to take the guns off Conor O’Brien’s Kelpie during the Asgard gun-running of 1914, and landed them in Kilcoole in County Wicklow. And though he was immediately made a Colonel and head of British army surgical services in Ireland on the outbreak of the Great War of 1914-18, he also saw to it that hidden rooms in the major Dublin hospitals under his control were available to treat wounded rebels, indeed anyone who was wounded, during the Rising of 1916.

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Builders of the future – the team from Mullingar Sailing Club, ISA Training centre 2015

More recently, a leading sailing figure with links to sailing is Michael O’Rahilly who, when he became a student at RCSI at the end of the 2950s, found that the RCSI Sailing Club consisted of just one neglected Firefly dinghy. By the time he graduated in 1963, he was Club Captain, RCSISC had three Fireflies in top racing condition, and they were the Irish university champions.

Subsequently he went in to play a leading role in Dublin Bay SC, and was the Commodore for the DBSC Centenary in 1984. He follows in a notable RCSI tradition of sailing and working voluntarily for our sport, as an earlier top sailor in the college had been Jimmy Mooney who played a key role in the development of Irish dinghy sailing, and then went on to be our top Dragon sailor for many years, winning the Edinburgh Cup and representing Ireland in the Olympics.

Before Jimmy Mooney another noted character in the RCSI sailing scene was Rory O’Hanlon, who became a noted figure in offshore racing – he won a cup in the 1971 Fastnet Race – and was further renowned for his long distance cruising exploits.

He was noted as a kindly mentor to young cruising hopefuls, gently giving encouragement which could make all the difference to a nervous skipper. One such beginner, who later went on to great achievements, nervously went to Rory O’Hanlon to ask how best he should approach his first major voyage, north towards the Arctic in a little 26-footer.

“Sure, you just keep on sailing, and you’ll get there” said Rory. “Just keep on sailing, that’s all there is to it”. Just keep on sailing. It’s sensible advice. It resonated round College Hall in the RCSI on Thursday afternoon. We should all heed it.

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“Just keep on sailing, and you’ll get there”. The late Rory O’Hanlon at the helm of his S & S 43 Clarion with which he won the Philip Whitehead Cup in the 1971 Fastnet Race, and also cruised on long voyages. While a student at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, he was active in the sailing club.

See also: Sailing Awards slideshow

Published in W M Nixon

#SailorOfTheYear – Liam Shanahan has been named Afloat.ie Irish Sailor of the Year for 2015.

The Irish Sea yachtsman and June's Sailor of the Month was presented his award by Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy at the Irish Sailing Awards gala in Dublin's Royal College of Surgeons this afternoon (Thursday 4 February).

Shanahan was recognised for his comprehensive victory in the 280-mile Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race at the helm of Ruth, his family's J/109, marking the highlight of a busy June in Irish sailing.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Shanahan – and his dependable crew, especially so since they're family – would go on to retain the James Eadie Trophy in the ISORA Offshore Championship, fending off the strong challenge of Andrew Hall's J/125 Jackknife and Peter Dunlop and Vicky Cox's J/109 Mojito in the season's final race from Pwllheli to Dun Laoghaire in September.

And what's more, Shanahan was the clear choice of both the judging panel and Afloat.ie readers alike from the field of 17 individual and joint nominees, garnering 1,359 votes out of nearly 6,500 cast.

In accepting his prize, Shanahan said it was "an award for Corinthian and family sailing", which he regards as the heart and future of the Irish sailing scene.

Hosted by entrepreneur Bobby Kerr along with Afloat.ie's WM Nixon and Irish Sailing Association (ISA) president David Lovegrove, the Irish Sailing Awards also recognised the ISA Youth Sailor of the Year and Training Centre of the Year, as well as the Mitsubishi Motors Club of the Year.

Guests at the event included members of the ISA's Olympic and youth sailing squads, national senior and youth champions, class captains and club commodores, and a number of past Sailor of the Year awardees, such as 2012's winner George Kenefick.

This afternoon marks two decades since Afloat Magazine inaugurated the Sailor of the Month awards, with their peak achievement of the Sailor of the Year accolade – the latest of which will be presented at the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) Awards Ceremony in Dublin's Royal College of Surgeons at 2pm.

Created in 1996 – with the first prize going to dinghy sailor Mark Lyttle, a race winner at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics – the Sailor of the Year award represents all that is praiseworthy, innovative and groundbreaking in the Irish sailing scene.

The national award is especially designed to salute the achievements of Ireland's sailing elite, whether amateur or professional. After two decades, the awards has developed into a premier awards ceremony for water sports.

In the last 20 years the scheme has honoured over 320 sports sailors of every kind, of many ages, and from all parts of Ireland – occasionally adding special monthly awards for cruising, or international achievement, to name a few.

In 2016, as in previous years, the overall national award will be presented to one of the monthly winners from 2015 who, in the judges' opinion, achieved the most notable results in – or made the most significant contribution to – Irish sailing during the year.

And while the judges retain their right to make the ultimate decision, once again the boating public and maritime community can have their say to help guide the panel in making their choice for who should be crowned Ireland's Sailor of the Year for 2015 via an online poll that closed on Monday 1 February.

The Irish Sailing Association hosted ceremony starts at 1pm and also includes awards for: club, youth sailor and sailing school of the year.

The Sailor of the Year nominees:

January - Conor Clarke

Conor Clarke made a dream debut at the Key West Regatta with his Melges 24 Embarr, employing some dab Olympic-calibre hands – including Maurice 'Prof' O'Donnell – to claim overall victory with a race in hand.

February - Neil Hegarty

Cork's Neil Hegarty was awarded the Irish Cruising Club’s historic Faulkner Cup for his epic transatlantic cruise from Portugal to the Caribbean and the Eastern US – one he meticulously logged along the way.

March - Fionn Lyden

Fionn Lyden played a stellar role in bringing University College Cork’s First Team to overall victory in the Intervarsity Team Nationals at Schull – and was recognised as First Year Sailor of the Year for his efforts.

April - Anthony O'Leary

Our Sailor of the Year for 2014, Anthony O’Leary book-ended April with a runaway overall victory in the RORC Easter Challenge in the Solent and a convincing win in the Brooks Macdonald Warsash Spring Championship.

May - Rob McConnell

One of Waterford Harbour's most popular and enthusiastic skippers, Rob McConnell emerged as overall winner of the Silvers Scottish Series – setting some unfinished business after his second-place finish in 2014.

May (International) - Sidney Gavignet

It was forth time a charm for Sidney Gavignet when he helmed the Musandam-Oman MOD 70 trimaran like a rocked around Ireland to smash Steve Fossett's 1993 record by almost four hours.

June - Liam Shanahan

The comprehensive overall victory in the 280-mile Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race by Liam Shanahan in his family’s J/109 Ruth was the highlight of a busy June in Irish sailing.

June International - Justin Slattery

In the Volvo Ocean Race, experience and exceptional sailing talent is at a premium – and Ireland’s Justin Slattery, a key crew member on the race winning Abu Dhabi boat, has both in abundance.

July Racing - George Sisk

'Gallant old codgers' they may be, but George Sisk and crew on WOW, his Farr 42, can still cut the mustard, as shown by their winning three demanding offshore races at the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta to claim the Top Boat title.

July Cruising - Nathaniel & Fergus Ogden

Adverse conditions weren't enough to prevent the Ogden brothers competing their exceptional eight-week circumnavigation of Ireland in their 18ft Drascombe Lugger, Lughnasa, to raise funds for the RNLI.

August Offshore - Ronan O'Siochru

Not only skippering Desert Star to the Roger Justice Trophy in the Rolex Fastnet Race, but also finishing as the second best Irish boat in the whole fleet, Ronan O Siochru of the Irish Offshore Sailing school made dreams come true in August.

August Inshore - Shane McCarthy & Andy Thompson

Shane McCarthy and Andy Thompson flew the flag for both the GP14 dinghy in Ireland and their home club of Greystones SC at the British Nationals, following a skill-sharpening Irish season with a big title win before the final race.

August International - Dave Cullen

Howth's Dave Cullen did Irish sailing proud when he took his Checkmate XV to the Half Ton Classics Cup in Nieuwpoort, Belgium last August, winning both the admiration of his international peers – and the championship with a race to spare.

September - David Gorman & Chris Doorly

Dave Gorman and Chris Doorly's sporting performance in the Mitsubishi Motors Flying Fifteen Nationals – after taking the title in the penultimate race – was all it took to garner them September's award.

October - Dermot & Paddy Cronin

Sailing their keenly campaigned First 40.7 Encore, Malahide father-and-son crew Dermot and Paddy Cronin celebrated a clearcut win by almost two hours in the IRC Double-Handed Division of the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

November - Tim Goodbody

Tim Goodbody's enormous contributions to Irish and international sailing span many decades as an active participant (particularly as of late in the Sigma 33), race organiser and administrator of leading sailing bodies.

December - John Twomey

Sonar sailor – and former Kindle Yacht Club commodore – John Twomey qualified for an incredible 11th Paralympic Games after his and his crew's extraordinary performance at the Melbourne trials in December.

Read each sailor of the month's full citation here and WM Nixon's Who will win sailor of the year 2015 blog here

Published in Sailor of the Month

The recently-published ISA Survey of Club Racing commissioned and supervised by Board Member Jack Roy has started the process of putting together a realistic picture of how we sail and go afloat for recreation, and it was analysed on publication here in Afloat.ie.

It’s logical to have made the beginning with club racing, as racing provides its own narrative and a straightforward set of entry numbers and results. But it will become more complex as the national authority tries to provide realistic figures for day sailing’s less competitive aspects. And of course, once we enter the world of cruising as defined by sailing and boating projects which include passage making, both coastal and offshore, together with overnight on-board stops, then it can become much more difficult to get meaningful data.

Yet with the ISA’s Cruising Conference for February 20th already booked out within a few days of being announced on Afloat.ie, clearly that is an area in search of services and support, a section of sailing which is difficult to quantify yet obviously of strong interest to a significant number of boat enthusiasts. W M Nixon takes a look at how the complexity of our sport’s many specialities makes it difficult to provide a clearcut picture for possible recruits to sailing.

Where would we be without the International Optimist Dinghy? The little solo-sailing boxes and their attendant support teams of mum and dad and the dog and the old 4X4 or station wagon or people carrier or whatever may seem to take up an awful lot of space and time, and all just so that one little person can go sailing.

But at least that one little person does go sailing. The ISA figures are brutally straightforward. In terms of genuine turnouts afloat at clubs throughout Ireland, in boat numbers the active Optimists are exceeded only by the Lasers, and this is arguably because Lasers aren’t age-limited, whereas the Optimists most definitely are.

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Optimist airborne. This is Ireland's second most popular class

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Ireland’s most popular dinghy class, the Laser is seen here at the Zhik Irish Nationals at Ballyholme

So we give a qualified cheer for the success of these two little boats. But it’s qualified because they’re single-handers which fail to provide any crew-relating sailing skills. Leading sailing figures as diverse as Des McWilliam of Crosshaven and Norman Lee of Greystones have been eloquent in promoting the notion that we should be doing more – much more – to encourage two-handed boats, and if we can persuade people into three-handed boats, well, so much the better.

Certainly that’s one of the reasons why our header photo says so much. A lone sailor in an Optimist or Laser promotes too much of a solitary, even an isolated image. And a two-handed boat like the GP 14, whose strong fleet figures in the ISA survey show the class’s vigour, is arguably just an act for a dynamic duo – it’s Strictly Come Dancing goes sailing…..

But getting three together to race a characterful boat like the National 18 with style – now that’s something special, that really is a superb combination of people skills interacting with sailing talent. And it’s a joy to behold. Yet anyone can see that for a complete beginner to sailing, this extraordinary silhouette of Tommy Dwyer’s National 18 against the November sky above the Hill of Howth will have an otherworldly air about it – “That’s not for me” is as likely a response as “Let’s have a go at that”.

Even those of us who have been in sailing for longer than we care to remember find the image decidedly thought-provoking, for we have some idea of what has been involved in creating the circumstances for this seemingly effortless balancing act, this lighter-than-air effect in the unlikely setting of a November afternoon.

Over the past year or so we have been recounting in Afloat,ie how the Cork Harbour National 18 Class, with very tangible backing from the Royal Cork Yacht Club, have been in the forefront of the development of the new ground-breaking Phil Morrison take on the long-established National 18, which is a developmental class which from time to time takes a leap in hull design, and moves forward in order to keep the spirit alive.

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The National 18s are part of the fabric of Cork Harbour sailing. Before the new Morrison boats arrived in July, the old fleet were seen here in May 2015 after their annual race to Ballinacurra in northeast Cork Harbour in company with the Dwyer brothers’ cruising ketch. Photo: W M Nixon

Acceptance of this is something which seems to be bred into Cork’s National 18 enthusiasts, many of whom have the advantage of being firmly of the opinion that a proper dinghy needs three people to sail it. But the social matrix which has built up around Cork Harbour over many decades with this concept at its heart is not something which will necessarily travel easily to other areas, and although the six boats of the National 18 flotilla which visited Howth for the Open Day got a great reception and gave many people from other classes a marvellous time afloat, it’s probable that the very different mood around sailing in Dublin means that something so technically and socially challenging as a three man dinghy is a step too far.

Sailing in the greater Dublin area seems to exist within a framework of independent balloons. While there are those who will happily move from one boat type to another and cheerfully spread their talents and enjoyment about, by contrast there’s the Dublin Bay Sailing Club Thursday Evening Phenomenon.

Thursday is when the DBSC cruiser classes go out to race. And there’s an entire cohort of people, mostly folk who work in offices in the city, who on a Thursday evening go straight to Dun Laoghaire, get aboard a pontoon-based cruiser owned by someone else, go out and race in some very specific crewing job, then come back in and have supper in club or pub with their shipmates, and then that’s it until next Thursday. Just one evening each summer mid-week is their entire sailing programme. Weekends are for something else. And as for the hassle and mixed joys of boat ownership and maintenance, that’s not their department at all.

It’s a very metropolitan, very citified yet specialized way of doing things, and Dublin is one of the very few cities whose location facilitates it. It will be fascinating to measure it, for Dublin’s way of sailing is steeped in history and tradition. But for now it’s refreshing to look at a place which has had a sailing tradition in times past, but somehow lost it, yet it’s coming back again, and one of the good news stories towards the end of 2015 is that the new Youghal Sailing Club has been accepted into the ISA fold.

Youghal at present is a difficult place for sailing, as the tidal power of the mighty Munster Blackwater sweeps straight through the estuary and along the old town’s waterfront, and the creation of any meaningful modern facilities will have the immediate difficulty of silting by incredibly adhesive black mud.

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With the sun out, and the tide in, Youghal looks to be an ideal location for the easy installation of a marina….....Photo: W M Nixon

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….but with the sun in and the tide out, the mud problem is revealed. Photo: W M Nixon

Thus, as dedicated Afloat.ie readers will have recently observed, no sooner had one group announced that a marina in Youghal was on the way than another longer-established group quietly suppressed the story, as they’re well aware of the engineering and dredging difficulties involved, and premature announcements will only slow any project in the long run.

In the fullness of time, a marina at Youghal will be a godsend for any cruiser plugging along the south coast. It’s not always the easiest coast in the world to make a passage along, sometimes it can seem an awfully long way to Cork from Dunmore East or Kilmore Quay even if you do make stopovers at Dungarvan or Helvick, and there are times when the hardiest seafarer is glad enough to get his boat secured to a good big pontoon.

But that’s for the future. Meantime, the locally-based keelboats are using either the restless anchorage off the town, or the more serene pool across the estuary at Ferry Point on the east shore, while the new club’s flotilla of GP 14s are stored in spare warehouse space during non-sailing time, and when they do go sailing it turns out their clubhouse is a moveable feast - it’s a caravan which can be towed to a choice of sailing locations.

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A moveable feast. Members of the newly-affiliated Youghal Sailing Club with their caravan HQ, Adrian Lee in doorway. Photo: W M Nixon

On the national stage, it is young Youghal GP 14 sailor Adrian Lee who has been among those flying the club’s flag, and there’s hope in the air. When we were there in May on a fine day that promised a summer which never arrived, we couldn’t help but think that when they do get their facilities and maybe even a clubhouse, they’ll look back to the days of the caravan and ad hoc racing arrangements with sweet nostalgia. For sometimes, it’s much better to be travelling than it is to arrive.

But for the rest of us, the message from Youghal is simple. The sea is for sailing. Use it or lose it. By all means get proper people surveys done which indicate the way numbers are shaping up and things are going. But really, if you want to persuade people to go sailing, the best way is by example, getting afloat as much as possible yourself. And maybe then you’ll find the time to welcome aboard newcomers too.

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Reviving Youghal sailing – on race days, the club’s caravan is simply towed down to the pier and the races are started from there. Photo: W M Nixon

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Youghal’s massive public slip provides launching for the YSC sailing dinghies, but during 2015 the boats had to be stored at the other end of town when not in use. Photo: W M Nixon

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The pace-setter. Adrian Lee of Youghal SC with his Duffin-built GP14. Photo: W M Nixon

Click to download: ISA Survey of Club Racing 

Published in W M Nixon
Page 3 of 10

Dublin Bay

Dublin Bay on the east coast of Ireland stretches over seven kilometres, from Howth Head on its northern tip to Dalkey Island in the south. It's a place most Dubliners simply take for granted, and one of the capital's least visited places. But there's more going on out there than you'd imagine.

The biggest boating centre is at Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the Bay's south shore that is home to over 1,500 pleasure craft, four waterfront yacht clubs and Ireland's largest marina.

The bay is rather shallow with many sandbanks and rocky outcrops, and was notorious in the past for shipwrecks, especially when the wind was from the east. Until modern times, many ships and their passengers were lost along the treacherous coastline from Howth to Dun Laoghaire, less than a kilometre from shore.

The Bay is a C-shaped inlet of the Irish Sea and is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and 7 km in length to its apex at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south. North Bull Island is situated in the northwest part of the bay, where one of two major inshore sandbanks lie, and features a 5 km long sandy beach, Dollymount Strand, fronting an internationally recognised wildfowl reserve. Many of the rivers of Dublin reach the Irish Sea at Dublin Bay: the River Liffey, with the River Dodder flow received less than 1 km inland, River Tolka, and various smaller rivers and streams.

Dublin Bay FAQs

There are approximately ten beaches and bathing spots around Dublin Bay: Dollymount Strand; Forty Foot Bathing Place; Half Moon bathing spot; Merrion Strand; Bull Wall; Sandycove Beach; Sandymount Strand; Seapoint; Shelley Banks; Sutton, Burrow Beach

There are slipways on the north side of Dublin Bay at Clontarf, Sutton and on the southside at Dun Laoghaire Harbour, and in Dalkey at Coliemore and Bulloch Harbours.

Dublin Bay is administered by a number of Government Departments, three local authorities and several statutory agencies. Dublin Port Company is in charge of navigation on the Bay.

Dublin Bay is approximately 70 sq kilometres or 7,000 hectares. The Bay is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and seven km in length east-west to its peak at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the southside of the Bay has an East and West Pier, each one kilometre long; this is one of the largest human-made harbours in the world. There also piers or walls at the entrance to the River Liffey at Dublin city known as the Great North and South Walls. Other harbours on the Bay include Bulloch Harbour and Coliemore Harbours both at Dalkey.

There are two marinas on Dublin Bay. Ireland's largest marina with over 800 berths is on the southern shore at Dun Laoghaire Harbour. The other is at Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club on the River Liffey close to Dublin City.

Car and passenger Ferries operate from Dublin Port to the UK, Isle of Man and France. A passenger ferry operates from Dun Laoghaire Harbour to Howth as well as providing tourist voyages around the bay.

Dublin Bay has two Islands. Bull Island at Clontarf and Dalkey Island on the southern shore of the Bay.

The River Liffey flows through Dublin city and into the Bay. Its tributaries include the River Dodder, the River Poddle and the River Camac.

Dollymount, Burrow and Seapoint beaches

Approximately 1,500 boats from small dinghies to motorboats to ocean-going yachts. The vast majority, over 1,000, are moored at Dun Laoghaire Harbour which is Ireland's boating capital.

In 1981, UNESCO recognised the importance of Dublin Bay by designating North Bull Island as a Biosphere because of its rare and internationally important habitats and species of wildlife. To support sustainable development, UNESCO’s concept of a Biosphere has evolved to include not just areas of ecological value but also the areas around them and the communities that live and work within these areas. There have since been additional international and national designations, covering much of Dublin Bay, to ensure the protection of its water quality and biodiversity. To fulfil these broader management aims for the ecosystem, the Biosphere was expanded in 2015. The Biosphere now covers Dublin Bay, reflecting its significant environmental, economic, cultural and tourism importance, and extends to over 300km² to include the bay, the shore and nearby residential areas.

On the Southside at Dun Laoghaire, there is the National Yacht Club, Royal St. George Yacht Club, Royal Irish Yacht Club and Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club as well as Dublin Bay Sailing Club. In the city centre, there is Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club. On the Northside of Dublin, there is Clontarf Yacht and Boat Club and Sutton Dinghy Club. While not on Dublin Bay, Howth Yacht Club is the major north Dublin Sailing centre.

© Afloat 2020