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Dublin Bay elect first woman Commodore

8th February 1997
DBSC BROKE with over 100 years tradition when they elected Margaret Woods as club commodore. By allowing sponsored boats race under the DBSC burgee the club are also breaking new ground on the race course and plan shore-side innovations for the 1997 season. Woods, of the Royal Irish YC, becomes the first woman commodore but sees little of "gender relevance" in her new job as manager of the biggest yacht racing club in Ireland and the UK. With over 1,050 members (149 women) in 285 boats in 17 different classes the new seasons brings new challenges. Beginning her three years in office, it is a term, she accepts, that will see significant changes including a harbour marina facility with DBSC members the biggest single users.
"There is no doubt the marina will bring change to traditional sailing and its arrival will bring changes in the classes we currently sail. I expect there will be a trend towards the bigger cruiser-racer boats and we must be alert to cater for that. But we must also protect the smaller boats which have been the mainstay of our club" she said. A committed and enthusiastic sailor, Woods sails with her husband Denis and family in the one design J24 class. Before that they raced in the Dragon and Fireball classes. She has served on the DBSC committee for 10 years and was previously vice-commodore. This season she has installed computer links from the west pier finishing hut to the waterfront clubs to allow the immediate display of yacht positions for this season's One Hour Photo sponsored racing. Each of the four clubhouses will provide members with a monitor, modified keyboard and printer to output results and allow easy access to both individual and cumulative score sheets. The ebbing of dinghy number in recent years has been one of the most worrying factors for the club, causing outgoing commodore, Donal McSorely, to remark that dinghy sailing had "an uncertain future". A downward spiral since the mid-80s had left a lot of the DBSC infrastructure redundant. In 1970, the club boasted a fine fleet of 118 dinghies as follows: 505s 11, Finns 12, Enterprises 15, GP 14s 10, Fireflies 26, IDRAs 14s 31 and 12 footers 13. By 1995 the club could muster a fleet of only 40 boats in a fraction of the classes. Woods does not profess to know all the answers but does cite dinghy costs and a diminution of leisure time as possible causes for the decline. Another possible factor is the increase in cruiser racing which has oaked up - a lot of potential dinghy sailors. Internationally it is well documented that keelboats and dinghy sailing do not happily co-exist and this is certainly a contributing factor on Dublin bay too. Thankfully, however the collapse of the dinghy fleets has been, in part, stemmed and this season Woods is in a position to contradict McSorely's forecast and report an increase of dinghy sailing numbers in 1996 with a total of 50 dinghies entered with Fireballs and Laser 2s bringing new blood to the club. The increase has largely been to the recruitment work of Louis Smyth, a Fireball sailor recently elected commodore of the Fireball class worldwide. For 1997 a Super Portsmouth Yardstick division has been introduced and while individual classes will continue a handicap result will also be calculated for the entire DBSC fleet. The club also plan to organise practice starts on some evenings and have devised new windward-leeward. courses in keeping with international trends in course configurations. For the first time the club will be embracing the new sportsboats class and all it entails, including sponsorship. If the new 1720s can muster six boats for the 1997 season the club have agreed to give them their own start. Woods is excited by the prospect of the new class but is adamant that sponsorship has its place and there is little demand for it outside the sportsboat division. The Club's own Cruiser challenge, won for the last two years by Bob and Bairbre Stewart's Little Bear, has had a change in date following a request from Northern Ireland crews who are keen supporters of the two day regatta. Originally scheduled for August 23/24 the date for the 60-boat regatta has been changed to a week later on August 30/31 and will be sailed from the National YC.
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