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Where is Dun Laoghaire Sailing's Strategic Plan?

24th January 2017
Dun Laoghaire Harbour is the biggest sailing centre in the country but there is no dedicated strategic plan for marine leisure interests Dun Laoghaire Harbour is the biggest sailing centre in the country but there is no dedicated strategic plan for marine leisure interests Photo:

Last November's article about why Dun Laoghaire yacht clubs needed to put on a united front got a swift – and largely positive – reaction writes David O'Brien. It dealt with some of the fundamental impediments for sailing in the capital’s waters and why the old sailing model no longer works. Stena paid for the harbour and cheap credit put boats in it but with those days over the challenge is to come up with a new way to keep sailing afloat. That article with proposals for change is here.

One criticism was that the piece merely skirted around the real issues; namely the necessity to consolidate some of the clubs and increase public access to the water through publicly-funded initiatives. Others asked for 'practical solutions, with a pathway and timeline'.

Somewhat perplexingly, however, as much as the article put the issue into the public domain, it does not seem to have even made the agenda on the various waterfront clubs’ General Committees.

In one sense, that's no surprise because these voluntary committees are so much under pressure it is sometimes hard for them to get a glimpse at the big picture. One former Commodore tells how he was so buried in human resources, banking, catering and clubhouse issues that 'sailing' per se rarely surfaced as an agenda item at all in his three years at the helm.

So who is in charge of plotting a course for sailing in Dun Laoghaire? Unfortunately, when everyone is in charge, then no one is in charge.

Since 2008, Irish sailing has lost a quarter of its members and the result on sailing in the capital's waters is dramatic. While individual clubs may well have adapted to these changed circumstances, others are still happy to rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Spike Milligan always maintained: “We haven't got a plan, so nothing can go wrong!” but that's not going to get us out of this jam. In short, without an overall plan for the future, sailing in Dun Laoghaire will be left behind.

Why have we lost a quarter of our fleet? Where did those sailors go? How do we get them back? And most importantly, how do we leave sailing in good shape for the next generation?

Deciding what tack Dun Laoghaire sailing should be on should involve all stakeholders. If club committees are too busy, then it is up to the rest of us to work out a plan. This must be a document that transcends traditional boundaries.

The stakeholders here are not just the waterfront clubs – all the stakeholders have a part to play:

  • The waterfront clubs: National Yacht Club (NYC), Royal Irish Yacht Club (RIYC), Royal St George Yacht Club (RSGYC) and Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club (DMYC).
  • The Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School (INSS) and other schools
  • Dublin Bay Sailing Club (DBSC), the racing organisation for the waterfront clubs
  • Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council (DLRCoCo) and Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company (DLHC)
  • Dun Laoghaire Marina
  • Other Dun Laoghaire based groups such as Sailing in Dublin (SID)

The challenge will be for all these stakeholders to put individual agendas aside and to work openly together seeking ways to:

  • Bring the cost of sailing down
  • Create an additional racing ‘offering’ that is less time-consuming, less expensive and more attractive for young adults
  • Reduce duplication of resources to create a stronger, more cost-effective junior sailing model that is open to newcomers
  • Focus the clubs on sailing as much as club facilities

Dun Laoghaire Sailing's master plan

As a first step, a sailing blueprint would provide direction and focus for all sailors at Dun Laoghaire. A plan would point to specific results that are to be achieved and establish a course of action for achieving them. A DL sailing strategic plan will also help the various club/classes within DL sailing to align themselves with common goals. A think–tank of stakeholders could take a first 'look see' at what DL sailing might be like in twenty years time. First they need to:

  • determine where we are
  • identify what’s important
  • define what we must achieve
  • determine who is accountable

Is there an appetite for this? Based on some of the feedback from November's article, maybe not. Some traditionalists like to think the blame lies purely on the economic downturn: “It's the economy, stupid”.

The view is that sailing will be back when the economy improves. The clubs in Dun Laoghaire have survived the Great Famine, Civil War, two World Wars and many recessions so the correct course of action is to sit and wait.

Unfortunately, today's world offers so many competing leisure opportunities that sailing no longer has the monopoly on water it once enjoyed.

laser dun LaoghaireA Laser sailor enjoying the freedom of the capital's waters off Dun Laoghaire. A Strategic Plan for Dun Laoghaire Sailing could provide direction and focus for marine leisure activity in the harbour

Lives and society have changed to such an extent it has become corrosive to traditional club models. Nowadays, people are not signing up for club memberships. Instead, 'The Playstation Generation' is opting for 'low maintenance' sport. An annual yacht club subsciption has the same outlay as five years of kayaking, kiteboarding or paddleboarding, for example. Reader Ed Boyle commented:  There are changing times in how people's relationships work. No longer can a partner go sailing on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Weekends are family time, swimming lessons, football training etc. You get one sail, two if you are lucky per week. Getting crew is a nightmare. The Investment compared to time on the water does not add up.

Reader Frank Miller told us: the DMYC has completely changed its operating model and ramped up the voluntary input of members and managed to greatly reduce membership fees for all (to about a third of the "typical club membership fee" quoted in the piece. This drop in fees, and the dedicated volunteerism of members, has breathed new life into the club and membership and activity is on the rise again. Two other institutions worth noting are the INSS "club" scheme which seems very successful and SID who go from strength to strength with an enthusiastic membership of sailors who don't want the hassle and expense of owning a boat.

The neighbourhood has overtaken us but surely it is possible to change from old to new without letting go of the past?

Insiders says there’s a window here for about five years while the domestic sailing classes still have a good turnout. After that, it’s feared the whole scene could disappear — not helped by a lack of cash among thirty–to–fifty–somethings. 

It’s a problem throughout Northern Europe. The Dutch, for example, foresee a further 25% reduction in their national fleet by 2050.

What's eye opening in all of this is the fact many Irish sailing clubs clearly hadn't an idea about what was going on outside their doors.

Ironically, these clubs come together every two years to successfully stage Ireland's biggest sailing regatta – and the biggest in the Irish Sea area too. Unfortunately, such a powerful symbol belies a waterfront that is also divided. But if they can organise the country's biggest sailing event, then surely contributing to a meaningful plan is not beyond them?

A plan would make the most of available resources. And in terms of resources, Dun Laoghaire has an embarrassment of riches. But it would need to be a real plan not just some corporate box ticking exercise.

Apparently, the leading cause of business failure is not having a strategic plan that’s being well implemented. If a business has little idea where it’s headed, it will wander aimlessly with priorities changing constantly and employees confused about the purpose of their jobs. Lets not forget that combined sailing in the harbour has an estimated turnover of €5m per annum. That's a reasonable business by any yardstick.

November's article outlined some proposals to rationalise overheads from junior sailing to senior racing. Read those proposals here. There are many more reasons for cohesion too.

Not least that when the waterfront clubs interact with the harbour company or the local council, it would make business sense for these clubs to offer a united front. |nstead, county officials are so often confronted with 'Don't listen to them, listen to me' arguments. The idea of the county manager being told several different versions of the same story means sailing loses credibility. It moves us backwards, not forwards.

Given the town’s own local area plan might yet have a major impact on how sailing continues at the port, surely it is incumbent on the sailors to map out a vision for sailing?  

There would be many benefits to such a plan not least the fact that it would give the sailing community the opportunity to demonstrate why the towns major asset – described by some as a 'white elephant' – is in fact a blessing rather than a blight.

It is the love of the greatest sport in the world that unites us so we should not let shoreside rivalry divide us. This is a time to build bridges not walls. Most of us just want to go sailing and enjoy the freedom of the capital's waters. With all the things that divide us, forgetting what unites us is lethal.

If it's our duty to the next generation to leave the place better than we found it, the first step to achieving that future is a strategic plan for Dun Laoghaire sailing from 2020 to 2050.

Should Dun Laoghaire Sailing Have A Strategic Plan?
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Dun Laoghaire Harbour Information

Dun Laoghaire Harbour is the second port for Dublin and is located on the south shore of Dublin Bay. Marine uses for this 200-year-old man-made harbour have changed over its lifetime. Originally built as a port of refuge for sailing ships entering the narrow channel at Dublin Port, the harbour has had a continuous ferry link with Wales and this was the principal activity of the harbour until the service stopped in 2015. In all this time, however, one thing has remained constant and that is the popularity for sailing and boating from the port, making it Ireland's marine leisure capital with a harbour fleet of over 1,200-1.600 pleasure craft.

Where is Dun Laoghaire Harbour located?

Dun Laoghaire is a Dublin suburb situated on the south side of Dublin Bay, approximately, 15km from Dublin city centre. 

What length are Dun Laoghaire's Piers?

The east and west piers of the harbour are each of 1 kilometre (0.62 miles) long 

What are is enclosed by Dun Laoghaire's Piers?

The enclosed area is 250 acres or one square kilometre

What width is Dun Laoghaire Harbour Entrance?

The harbour entrance is 232 metres (761 ft) across from East to West Pier

What are the GPS Co-ordinates for Dun Laoghaire Harbour?

53.3024° N, 6.1264° W

What public facilities are on offer at Dun Laoghaire Harbour?

  • Public Boatyard
  • Public slipway
  • Public Marina

What organisations are based at Dun Laoghaire Harbour?

23 clubs, 14 activity providers and eight state-related organisations operate from Dun Laoghaire Harbour that facilitates a full range of sports - Sailing, Rowing, Diving, Windsurfing, Angling, Canoeing, Swimming, Triathlon, Powerboating, Kayaking and Paddleboarding. Participants include members of the public, club members, tourists, disabled, disadvantaged, event competitors, schools, youth groups and college students.

  • Commissioners of Irish Lights
  • Dun Laoghaire Marina
  • MGM Boats & Boatyard
  • Coastguard
  • Naval Service Reserve
  • Royal National Lifeboat Institution 
  • Marine Activity Centre
  • Rowing clubs
  • Yachting and Sailing Clubs 
  • Sailing Schools 
  • Irish Olympic Sailing Team
  • Chandlery & Boat Supply Stores

What size is Dun Laoghaire Harbour?

The east and west granite-built piers of Dun Laoghaire harbour are each of one kilometre (0.62 mi) long and enclose an area of 250 acres (1.0 km2) with the harbour entrance being 232 metres (761 ft) in width. 

Who owns Dun Laoghaire Harbour?

In 2018, the ownership of the great granite was transferred in its entirety to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council who now operate and manage the harbour. Prior to that, the harbour was operated by The Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company, a state company, dissolved in 2018 under the Ports Act. 

What is the history of Dun Laoghaire Harbour?

  • 1817 - Construction of the East Pier to a design by John Rennie began in 1817 with Earl Whitworth Lord Lieutenant of Ireland laying the first stone.
  • 1820 - Rennie had concerns a single pier would be subject to silting, and by 1820 gained support for the construction of the West pier to begin shortly afterwards. When King George IV left Ireland from the harbour in 1820, Dunleary was renamed Kingstown, a name that was to remain in use for nearly 100 years. The harbour was named the Royal Harbour of George the Fourth which seems not to have remained for so long.
  • 1824 - saw over 3,000 boats shelter in the partially completed harbour, but it also saw the beginning of operations off the North Wall which alleviated many of the issues ships were having accessing Dublin Port.
  • 1826 - Kingstown harbour gained the important mail packet service which at the time was under the stewardship of the Admiralty with a wharf completed on the East Pier in the following year. The service was transferred from Howth whose harbour had suffered from silting and the need for frequent dredging.
  • 1831 - Royal Irish Yacht Club founded
  • 1837 - saw the creation of Victoria Wharf, since renamed St. Michael's Wharf with the D&KR extended and a new terminus created convenient to the wharf.[8] The extended line had cut a chord across the old harbour with the landward pool so created later filled in.
  • 1838 - Royal St George Yacht Club founded
  • 1842 - By this time the largest man-made harbour in Western Europe had been completed with the construction of the East Pier lighthouse.
  • 1855 - The harbour was further enhanced by the completion of Traders Wharf in 1855 and Carlisle Pier in 1856. The mid-1850s also saw the completion of the West Pier lighthouse. The railway was connected to Bray in 1856
  • 1871 - National Yacht Club founded
  • 1884 - Dublin Bay Sailing Club founded
  • 1918 - The Mailboat, “The RMS Leinster” sailed out of Dún Laoghaire with 685 people on board. 22 were post office workers sorting the mail; 70 were crew and the vast majority of the passengers were soldiers returning to the battlefields of World War I. The ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat near the Kish lighthouse killing many of those onboard.
  • 1920 - Kingstown reverted to the name Dún Laoghaire in 1920 and in 1924 the harbour was officially renamed "Dun Laoghaire Harbour"
  • 1944 - a diaphone fog signal was installed at the East Pier
  • 1965 - Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club founded
  • 1968 - The East Pier lighthouse station switched from vapourised paraffin to electricity, and became unmanned. The new candle-power was 226,000
  • 1977 - A flying boat landed in Dun Laoghaire Harbour, one of the most unusual visitors
  • 1978 - Irish National Sailing School founded
  • 1934 - saw the Dublin and Kingstown Railway begin operations from their terminus at Westland Row to a terminus at the West Pier which began at the old harbour
  • 2001 - Dun Laoghaire Marina opens with 500 berths
  • 2015 - Ferry services cease bringing to an end a 200-year continuous link with Wales.
  • 2017- Bicentenary celebrations and time capsule laid.
  • 2018 - Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company dissolved, the harbour is transferred into the hands of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council 

Is there a Dun Laoghaire Harbour Live webcam?

A live stream Dublin Bay webcam showing Dun Laoghaire Harbour entrance and East Pier is here

Dun Laoghaire Yacht Clubs

From East pier to West Pier the waterfront clubs are: 

  • National Yacht Club. Read latest NYC news here
  • Royal St. Geroge Yacht Club. Read latest RSTGYC news here
  • Royal Irish Yacht Club. Read latest RIYC news here
  • Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club. Read latest DMYC news here

The umbrella organisation that organises weekly racing in summer and winter on Dublin Bay for all the yacht clubs is Dublin Bay Sailing Club. It has no clubhouse of its own but operates through the clubs with two x Committee vessels and a starters hut on the West Pier. Read the latest DBSC news here

The sailing community is a key stakeholder in Dún Laoghaire. The clubs attract many visitors from home and abroad and attract major international sailing events to the harbour.

What are the main sailing events at Dun Laoghaire?

Dun Laoghaire Regatta

Dun Laoghaire's biennial town regatta was started in 2005 as a joint cooperation by the town's major yacht clubs. It was an immediate success and is now in its eighth edition and has become Ireland's biggest sailing event. The combined club's regatta is held in the first week of July.

  • Attracts 500 boats and more from overseas and around the country
  • Four-day championship involving 2,500 sailors with supporting family and friends
  • Economic study carried out by the Irish Marine Federation estimated the economic value of the 2009 Regatta at €2.5 million

The dates for the 2021 edition of Ireland's biggest sailing event on Dublin Bay is: 8-11 July 2021. More details here

Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Offshore Race

The biennial Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race is a 320-miles race down the East coast of Ireland, across the south coast and into Dingle harbour in County Kerry. The latest news on the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race can be found by clicking on the link here. The race is organised by the National Yacht Club.

The 2021 Race will start from the National Yacht Club on Wednesday 9th, June 2021. 

Round Ireland Yacht Race 

This is a Wicklow Sailing Club race but in 2013 the Garden County Club made an arrangement that sees see entries berthed at the RIYC in Dun Laoghaire Harbour for scrutineering prior to the biennial 704–mile race start off Wicklow harbour. Larger boats have been unable to berth in the confines of Wicklow harbour, a factor WSC believes has restricted the growth of the Round Ireland fleet. 'It means we can now encourage larger boats that have shown an interest in competing but we have been unable to cater for in Wicklow' harbour, WSC Commodore Peter Shearer told hereThe race also holds a pre-ace launch party at the Royal Irish Yacht Club. 

What recent International Sailing Fixtures have been Held in Dun Laoghaire?

Laser Masters World Championship 2018

• 301 boats from 25 nations

Laser Radial World Championship 2016

• 436 competitors from 48 nations

ISAF Youth Worlds 2012

• The Youth Olympics of Sailing run on behalf of World Sailing in 2012
• Two-week event attracting 61 nations, 255 boats, 450 volunteers.
• Generated 9,000 bed nights and valued at €9 million to the local economy.

What is the role of Dun Laoghaire's Harbour Police?

The Harbour Police are authorised by the company to police the harbour and to enforce and implement bye-laws within the harbour, and all regulations made by the company in relation to the harbour. 

How many ship berths does Dun Laoghaire Harbour have?

There are four ship/ferry berths in Dun Laoghaire: 

  • No 1 berth (East Pier)
  • No 2 berth (east side of Carlisle Pier)
  • No 3 berth (west side of Carlisle Pier)
  • No 4 berth  (St, Michaels Wharf)

Berthing facilities for smaller craft exist in the town's 800-berth marina and on swinging moorings

Dun Laoghaire Harbour Bye-Laws

Download the bye-laws on this link here

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