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#fireball – The 42nd Frostbite Series promoted, managed and hosted by Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club, came to a disappointing close yesterday when high winds made racing impossible writes Afloat's Fireball Correspondent Cormac Bradley. While we have not had the heavy snow that has cut off parts of N.Ireland and the UK, we have had very strong winds blowing here since the previous Thursday. Nobody in their right mind would have contemplated going out on Thursday past such was the state of the sea and while the wind seemed to have abated slightly on Friday and Saturday, it came back with a vengeance yesterday.

So rather than racing yesterday, the prize-giving for the Series was brought forward to 14:30!

DMYC's Sailing Secretary, Neil Colin, opened up the proceedings by introducing the DMYC Commodore Liam Owens. Liam commended the Frostbite community for their hardiness in sailing throughout the winter months and indicated that the DMYC would continue to support as much sailing as could be accommodated in the context of the proposed harbour development plan. He said it was very encouraging to see so much use being made of the harbour by the Frostbite Series.

Frostbite Organiser, Olivier Proveur expressed his appreciation to all those volunteers who had contributed of their time to make the series possible. He made particular mention of Race Officer Kevin Cullen who had not missed a single race of the 42nd Series. He also thanked the rescue crews who double up as the mark layers and gave special mention to the catering staff of the DMYC who were available every Sunday, including the St. Patrick's Day, this year, to look after the Frostbiters après racing.

Going into the last race of the Series, Noel Butler and Stephen Oram were two points behind Kenny Rumball and David Moran despite the fact that the former combination held an 8pt advantage in the second Series. Thus, leaving the Club the previous Sunday we all had an expectation of a match race between the two boats to determine the winner of the Series overall. Both combinations are well capable of sailing the opposition "down the pan" to try and gain the necessary advantage in this situation but the weather didn't "play ball". Thus the positions as advised in this report last week remained.

42nd Frostbite Series by DMYC – Series 2 (Post Christmas) – Overall.

1 Noel Butler & Stephen Oram 15061 DMYC 9pts
2 Kenny Rumball & David Moran 15058 INSC 17pts
3 Connor & James Clancy 150** RStGYC 19pts
4 Neil Colin & Margaret Casey 14775 DMYC 29pts
5 Louise McKenna & Hermine O'Keeffe 14691 RStGYC 36pts
6 Gavin Doyle & Dave Sweeney 14950 NYC 54pts
7 Luke Malcolm & Shane Divinney 14790 Howth 60pts
8 Mick Creighton & Joe O'Reilly 14937 ISA 64pts
9 Frank Miller & Grattan Donnelly 14713 DMYC 73pts
10 Andy Boyle & Brian Flahive 14934 RIYC 74pts

42nd Frostbite Series by DMYC – Overall (Series 1 & 2: Pre & Post Christmas).

1 Kenny Rumball & David Moran 15058 INSC 17pts
2 Noel Butler & Stephen Oram 15061 DMYC 19pts
3 Connor & James Clancy 150** RStGYC 32pts
4 Neil Colin & Margaret Casey 14775 DMYC 56pts
5 Louise McKenna & Hermine O' Keeffe 14691 RStGYC 75pts
6 Alistair Court & Gordon Syme 14706 DMYC 91pts
7 Gavin Doyle & Dave Sweeney 14950 NYC 91pts
8 Louis Smyth & Cormac Bradley 15007 Coal Harbour 111pts
9 Mick Creighton & Joe O'Reilly 14937 ISA 118pts
10 Luke Malcolm & Shane Divinney 14790 Howth Yacht Club 122pts

For the Fireball Class, there is now a short break before we get into summer (!!!!) mode. Our first event post-Easter is an Adam Bowers training weekend hosted by the DMYC over the weekend of 20/21st April. Thereafter, we have events in May, June, July (2) and a season closing event in September. The Worlds are also scheduled for Slovenia in September.

At the conclusion of the prize-giving a number of dinghy initiatives were announced by Hugh Sheehy (OK Dinghy) to try and entice lapsed sailors back onto the waters of Dublin Bay and the burgee of the Dublin Bay Sailing Club who organise racing during the summer months. Under the umbrella organisation of Dun Laoghaire Dinghies and making use of the Internet, Facebook and Twitter Hugh and a number of DBSC dinghy stalwarts are looking at a variety of racing, coaching and social events to draw more people back into the sport in our locale.

The prize-giving was also advised that one of the stalwarts of the Frostbite and Dun Laoghaire sailing scene, Bob Hobby, suffered a slight stroke on Monday of last week. Bob's partner, Louise McKenna, was able to advise those who attended the prize-giving that Bob has suffered some complications but the medical advice is that they were not as severe as they might have been. The Fireball community, in particular, would like to wish Bob a speedy recovery and offer Bob and Louise all our support and best wishes.

This is the last of the Frostbite reports for the 2012/13 Series. I will endeavour to bring you reports from the regatta season when it gets underway in May.

Published in Fireball
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#dinghy – A packed National Yacht Club (NYC) in Dun Laoghaire heard important contributions from clubs and classes right around the country this morning at a forum to revitalise small boat sailing and youth training. It is the first step on a new blueprint to stem falling numbers in Irish sailing.

Although the contributions varied from the reintroduction of junior log books to coaching support for senior dinghy classes, delegates were united in the view that the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) has to change tack if it wants to properly support the clubs and classes it aims to represent.

The meeting opened with a welcome from association president Niamh McCutheon who urged everyone to work together for the sport. It was followed by an overview of the problems in small boat sailing and how youth training can be made more relevant to clubs and classes by Roger Bannon, a former president of the association. Bannon has been openly critical of the association's performance in recent weeks. He told the meeting there are serious problems with Irish small boat sailing and that important changes are needed, some of them quite fundamental, to ensure the future vibrancy of our sport.

In many ways the packed club house was testament to his concerns that Irish small boat sailing is in trouble. The full extent of the problem was starkly put into focus with the publication earlier this week of information which showed an alarming decline in attendance figures at dinghy championships and falling participation in junior training schemes.

Former president Paddy Maguire, who chaired the meeting, asked attendees to make four minute contributions and they did not need much encouragement with passionate contributions from champions, instructors, youth sailors, University team racers, senior dinghy sailors, sailmakers, sailing school owners, club commodores and junior organisers.

Norman Lee,  the GP14 sailor who originally proposed the motion for change at the ISA agm a month ago said that the ISA had started its life as the Irish Dinghy Racing Association (IDRA) in 1947 but it was now so far off course it more resembled the Concordia, a reference to the ill–fated cruise liner that ended up on the rocks last year.

There were plenty of good quality suggestions for the combining of open events and even the restaging of dinghy week to reinvigorate the small boat scene.

As has been documented on Afloat.ie over the past few weeks the meeting heard a range of contributions from up to a dozen or more delegates with applause after each contribution and included observations such as:

• Numbers participating in dinghy and small one design boats are steadily declining in both youth and adult classes. There are some exceptions, mainly in older traditional classes but unfortunately, this decline represents a fundamental underlying overall trend.
• The retention rate of junior sailors in the sport, after emerging from our training schemes, is alarmingly low, at less than 10%.
• The standard of sailing and racing skills amongst juniors is in general, unacceptably inadequate and they lack even the basic skills to participate in crewed boats with multiple sails.
• The expected natural progression of youth sailors into adult classes as they mature is virtually non-existent.
• The general standard of racing and boat handling skills in most adult classes is also considerably below acceptable levels and certainly much lower than in prior decades.
• The justified emphasis placed on elite sailing has been implemented at the expense of improving standards generally and supporting international participation in non-pathway approved classes to improve skill levels.
• The quality of our training instructors is very mixed and many of them do not have the basic sailing and racing skills to train junior sailors to even a modest level of acceptable competence. It is also incredibly expensive to obtain qualifications to become an Instructor and this dis-incentivises many who might be excellent candidates.
• The ISA is not properly engaged with its members and is devoting a disproportionate share of its resources to service interests and activities which are not relevant to the vast majority of its 20,000 members. This state of affairs has emerged despite quadrupling the staff compliment compared to the late 90's and generating in excess of €2m in annual revenue. Of course it has to be acknowledged that over 50% of this is ring fenced Government funding for our excellent elite and Olympic support programs and for financial support towards the hosting of specific major international events.
• There is a universal concern that the ISA is not providing leadership on important issues which are of the most relevance to its members including its affiliated clubs, many of which are experiencing serious challenges.

For the final item attendees were asked to submit suggestions on paper in bullet point form as to how these issues can be addressed in the short and long term. It is understood over 300 suggestions were received.

The meeting ended at 1.50pm with a commitment from the ISA to distribute minutes to all attendees and to publish its report and action plan.

Published in ISA
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#isa – Two former Irish Sailing Association (ISA) Presidents are engaged in sorting out small boat sailing and youth training problems this weekend when the ISA meets at the National Yacht Club (NYC) on Saturday to address concerns first raised at the association's agm a month ago.

Former president Paddy Maguire will chair the meeting and Roger Bannon, (the president credited with the joint membership scheme that made every member of a sailing club also a member of the ISA) will present a keynote address. It is understood the meeting will then open to the floor on the problems with small boat sailing and how can youth training be made more relevant to clubs and classes.

The meeting that has drawn considerable debate on Afloat.ie follows an ISA agm motion by Norman Lee and Brian Armstrong.

The meeting is scheduled for 10.30am in the NYC, Dun Laoghaire and is expected to be concluded by 2.00 pm.

The following agenda for the day has been agreed between the ISA and Norman Lee.

The Future of Small Boat Sailing & Youth Training –  Agenda

1. What are the problems with small boat sailing and how can youth training be made more relevant to clubs and classes.

2. How can the ISA refocus to put clubs and classes at the top of its agenda?

3. How can these issues be addressed in the short term and long term?

4. AOB

Published in ISA
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#sailing – Former Irish Olympic Sailing Chief Richard Burrows has been following the debate on the future for Irish sailing and suggests the focus should be on recruiting the next generation of sailors. Writing today (as a grandfather), the 1986 Round Ireland race winner and former champion dinghy sailor is concerned that the proper fabric for training youngsters is in place.

I have followed the debate following on from the ISA meeting through the excellent facility of your Afloat updates.
The input from Roger Bannon contains much which I instinctively agree with but I do recognise that as far as young sailors are concerned I am very much out of date. However as a grandfather I look forward to introducing a new generation to sailing and I am concerned that the proper fabric for training, encouraging, and motivating youngsters is in place.
Clubs bear responsibility for this. And club members must play an active role. Junior sailing is not a babysitting service that can be outsourced to the ISA. An example of this being done well is to be found at Malahide Yacht Club. There, it comes down to active leaders on committee, great officers, and reasonable pricing. Choices about which boat are immaterial so long as the boats are safe, easily sailed, and cheap.
Roger makes some polemic comments about High Performance sailing and the funds devoted to this aspect of the sport. He won't mind me reminding him that he was in the Presidents chair when the foundation of today's policy was put in place with his full support. He is right that Olympic medals have proven to be elusive but this is just a matter of time.

At Weymouth two competitors were potential medal winners but it wasn't to be. Would this debate be taking place if medals had been won?

Yes, in my view, the two aspects of the sport are only connected by the fact that high performance sailing attracts publicity, and thus awareness of sailing. Club sailing will not produce column inches. And, spreading the funds devoted to support high performance sailing into club activities would not move the needle as the club base is so large.
So, my suggestion is to focus the debate on recruiting the next generation of sailors. And that means club members getting involved at club level. If ISA instructors are not up to it don't employ them. Charge nominal subscriptions to members under the age of 25. Embrace all forms of sailing including boards and kites. The responsibility lies with clubs. We cannot allow nanny state thinking to pervade and render clubs moribund in the expectation that the ISA will save them.

Published in ISA

#youth sailing – David Harte of Schull Community College Sailing Club offers his views on how one secondary school in West Cork is contributing to youth sailing and the Irish dinghy scene.

I have taken on board, with interest, many of the recent letters, forums, and discussions on the present state of dinghy racing in Ireland. Whilst generating much food for thought, I would like to avail of the opportunity to mention the very positive input, that a small secondary school situated in the far south-west, contributes to the overall status of dinghy sailing, and, racing, in Ireland.

Schull Community College has 450 enrolled students, 98% of which, would come from a non-sailing background,. The College Sailing Club has 78 members. Introduction to sailing takes place in September when all 1st year students are afforded an opportunity to experience sailing. This would take the form of a fun day out with the goal that all students come back with a smile. Those interested in learning the skills, to whatever level or standard, are invited to become members of the Schull Community College Sailing Club.

The cost for membership is €100 for the year, or €150, for two, or more, family members. This fee covers Saturday sailing throughout the year (weather permitting), with instructors and coaches, and the use of a variety of dinghies to suit all skills.

Beginners are thought the skills of sailing without reference to the SBSS (ISA Small Boat Sailing Scheme). We intentionally do not use this scheme as we have found in the past, that students prioritise attainment of levels over skills.

The goals of each student are different, with some content to sail back and forth with their friends having fun, but using the proper skills to do so, while others are eager to advance to developing Team Racing skills. Progress to this stage can be achieved once the student has demonstrated a good understanding of the 5E's, and can sail around a course with little or no rudder. Saturday sailing, during the year, attracts an average of 30 sailors on a cold day to 50+ on a sunny day Team racing discipline is used at the school as it is an achievable goal with little or no personal resources required, with boats and coach supplied by the FMOEC.

"We intentionally do not use the ISA Small Boat Sailing Scheme as we have found in the past, that students prioritise attainment of levels over skills".

Students learn the advanced skills of sailing, an introduction to racing rules, and team work. A typical Saturday would involve, briefing, boat handling exercises, team racing, and de-briefing, as well as boat maintenance, and seamanship skills, etc. With team racing, students upskill rapidly, as competition for team places is continuous throughout the year. Most of the students would never have sailed outside of Schull Harbour, but, within a few years, clearly demonstrate a skill level, equal to, or above their peers from other clubs. When students reach transition year they have an extra days sailing on Wednesdays. At this stage students are divided into two groups, with one group learning to sail and the other learning the skills required to become a Dinghy Instructor. For instructorship, students attend VHF, First Aid, and Powerboat courses, and their pre-entry. At this stage, none of the students would have any SBSS levels, but, they would have the skills necessary to pass their pre-entry Most of these courses are subsidised by the FMOEC which allows the student to become an Instructor, without the burden of recourse to personal resources. Mainstream costs to fulfill all courses required to become an Instructor approximate in the region of €1,500, which, in my view, is completely ridiculous.

Most of the students who become instructors, are offered summer jobs at the centre, teaching the SBSS to the general public. Our courses run for nine weeks, and it is during this that our instructors see the downfall of the SBSS, with a sizeable percentage of students attending the courses showing more interest in the cert., rather than the skill. This in turn forces sailing clubs and centres to issue certs., as parents believe they have paid for the cert., and not the skills. Our team racing teams participate in many events throughout the year, ranging from the Munster Schools Team Racing Championships to the International Wilson Trophy.

A look at the results from last years 1st team, which consisted of six team members, of which, five came from a non-sailing background, demonstrates the achievement of the FMOEC syllabus. Irish National Champions, British U21 Champions British Schools Champions, Youth Helmsman Champion, Silver Senior Helmsman Championships, 4.7 National Champion and Silver Radial Championships. It would be easy to ascribe this success to 'an exceptional team', but, Schull teams have been Irish National Champions every year, except two, have won the British Schools Championships four times, and been in the top four over the last six years.

One may pose the question....'where do they go after they finish at Schull Community College, and, do they continue sailing?..... Follow up on team-racing participants, whether they go on to 3rd. level, or, otherwise, demonstrates a continuing healthy involvement in sailing activities. In 2011 the ITRA (Irish Team Racing Championships) were held in Schull and over 50% of the helms entered in the event were ex-Schull Community College.

In conclusion, it is my belief that the present state of dinghy racing in Schull (Ireland) is strong, and, demonstrably, getting stronger.

More on this subject of dinghy sailing here

Published in ISA

#dinghy – General de Gaulle used to say that of course it was a very difficult job to govern France – what else would you expect in a country with 387 different cheeses? So when people talk of how difficult it seems to be to administer sailing at any level, the only answer is: what else would you expect of a sport with 143 World Championships?

Every class which has achieved international status is entitled to stage its own official World Championship, and boy do they cling to the privilege, even when the old boats are only hanging on by the skin of their teeth in two or three centres. As for the mind-boggling variety of those centres.....well, we just won't go there today.

Faced with this hyper-crazy kaleidoscope of dozens of very different boat types sailing in their many and often odd ways in what is a quintessential vehicle sport, casual public interest tends to focus only on the most expensive forms of sailing, or the sailing with the biggest public rows and scandals, or the sailing with the greatest danger, preferably with deaths now and again.

So that's the America's Cup, the Olympics, and the more extreme forms of offshore racing, all way ahead of the field The rest is of interest only to those taking part, their families, their friends if they still have any after becoming addicted to boats, and the occasional daft salthead like this blogger.

dromineerregatta

Hyper-crazy kaleidoscope – a variety of boats (with the Shannon One Designs dominant) return to port after racing at Dromineer on Lough Derg

Slipping even further under the radar of public interest are those who don't race but cruise, and those whose enthusiasm is for classic or traditional boats. We saltheads are interested in them and their boats too, but we don't expect the powers that be and the public at large to think of them (if they think of them at all) as anything other than a case of oddity just barely this side of certification.

Thus for the unfortunate folk who end up running the sailing show nationally and internationally, so diverse are the demands of the sailing population that they tend to keep their heads down, and follow the money. They'll know that those in government and disbursing public sports funding will tend to share the interests and attitudes of the general public.

fireballssligo
When a World Championship comes to call at one of Ireland's friendly neighbourhood club – Fireballs at Sligo YC at Rosses Point for their Worlds last year Photo: Bryan Armstrong

So as far as Irish sailing national administration is concerned, there's an enormous hunger for international sailing medals, Olympic ones preferred. If we scratched hard enough, we'd probably find that their dearest wish is that there should be a restrospective Olympic Pewter Medal for being fourth – we'd be in line for a few of those, starting with Eric Strain in the Dragon Class way back in 1948.

Sailing in all its glorious variety is one very confused picture, accompanied by a hugely complex narrative. Thus the Olympics are a Godsend for administrators, as they act as a ferociously efficient editing process. The fact that the Laser is the only Olympic class which has anything approaching global popularity is neither here nor there. Once you get into bed with the simplified Olympic machine, that's it – normality is out the window, but at least the picture is more clearcut.

Even if the format of an Olympiad only every four years means that totally-dedicated Olympic atheletes are freaks, it's a freak show which provides sailing with a useful handle for making sense of itself, and communicating with the rest of the world. But when you throw modern celebrity culture into an already toxic mix, with young sailors being led to idolize only the top stars, there's inevitably trouble. Total concentration on what's going on at the top of the pyramid means that the structure is being neglected further down, and there's distress at grass roots.

It's this concern which was aired by Norman Lee of Wicklow and Lough Derg and Bryan Armstrong of Sligo at last weekend's ISA conference, and it will be aired again in what promises to be a robust gathering in the National YC on March 23rd. Bluntly, ordinary club dinghy sailors, the backbone of much of our sport, feel that their interests are being sidelined in pursuit of the top international awards, and they see ordinary club life suffering as the focus is narrowed on the glamour events and categories.

Is what they hope for attainable? Is it really possible to get young people passionately involved in, and committed to, sailing at the local level when all of today's media are bombarding them with images of superstars in glossy boats at glamorous locations?
mirrorssligo.jpg

Junior dinghy sailing at its best – Mirror racing at Sligo Photo: Bryan Armstrong

One particular concern is that the sport at club level seems to suffer its greatest loss among those between 16 and 24. But is sailing unique in this? Even in everyday family life, there's a natural estrangement at this age. As Mark Twain sagely remarked: "When I was 15, my father was clearly a complete idiot. But by the time I'd become 25, it was quite extraordinary how much good sense and wisdom the old fellow had since managed to acquire".

Maybe we should accept that we have to lose them for a while, but that if and when they return to sailing, it will be as adults making their own choice, and they'll be much more useful to their club and community as a result. And with any luck they'll have learned that life for 99.99% of us is not all about four year freak shows. Life is about humdrum everyday existence, and finding a certain enjoyment in it. For sure, there'll always be those aspiring for just one single day as an eagle, rather than a hundred years as a sheep. Yet for most of us, we must worship with the God of Small Things. But whether we can expect an allocation of respect, funding and resources for this is the topic for March 23rd.

OCEAN ACHIEVEMENT

The Ocean Cruising Club, international body for those who sail the Seven Seas, has awarded major trophies to Tim Severin (he lives in Courtmacsherry in West Cork these days) and Fergus and Kay Quinlan of Kinvara in County Galway.

The Quinlan achievement, a three year voyage around the world with their own-built steel cutter Pylades, was highlighted here three weeks ago when it took the Faulkner Cup, top trophy of the Irish Cruising Club, for the third year in a row. But recognition by the Ocean Cruising Club is a salute from an organisation which has played the leading role in long distance voyaging since 1954, and it reflects great credit on Pylades and her crew.

pylades1

Living the Pacific cruising dream – Pylades at Nuka Hiva in the French Marquesas Photo: Fergus Quinlan

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Voyaging couple: Kay and Fergus Quinlan sailing aboard Pylades off Moorea (don't tell anyone, but they were racing at the time)

Tim Severin's renowned re-enactments of ancient voyages in small and primitive craft first gained recognition with his re-creation of the Brendan voyage in a leather boat across the North Atlantic from West Kerry to North America by the northern route. He dramatically demonstrated that the long voyages of the Irish monks, assumed by many to be no more than the stuff of myth and legend, could indeed have been achieved with the boats and technology available at the time of St Brendan.

stbrendan

Tim Severin's St Brendan departing West Kerry at the start of the Transatlantic voyage in 1976. The "giant leather currach" was built in Crosshaven Boatyard

The founder of the Ocean Cruising Club, Humphrey Barton, had a long association with Ireland. In 1935 he raced in the Irish Cruising Club's offshore event from Howth to Peel in the Isle of Man. The winner of the stormy race was John B Kearney skippering the 38ft Mavis, which he had designed and built himself in 1923-25. However, because of the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922 with its relative isolation in global maritime terms, Kearney's skills were virtually unknown outside Dublin. But after seeing how well Mavis raced across the Irish Sea, Barton ensured that the designer and builder from Ringsend became much more widely known, and then after Mavis was the overall winner of the Clyde Cruising Club's popular annual race to Tobermory in 1938, John Kearney's renown was assured.

Published in W M Nixon
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#dinghydecline –Arrangements for a promised workshop to address dinghy sailing decline in Ireland is in choppy waters following a complaint the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) is 'restricting attendance' at the meeting.

The workshop follows a motion raised at the associaton's agm last week and highlighted on Afloat.ie by dinghy sailors Norman Lee and Bryan Armstrong. At the agm the ISA promised to hold a further meeting within one month. The date of this workshop was announced yesterday but Lee says its proposed format is not what was agreed.

The alleged disproportionate focus of the ISA on its Olympic sailing programmes at the expense of other aspects of the sport  is to be aired again on Saturday the 23rd of March at 10.30am in the National Yacht Club (NYC).

The meeting, says the ISA, is only open to ISA members. Attendees must pre – register and indicate the organisation they represent.

'To claim to represent a class or club, one would have to be nominated and this would reduce the eligible numbers greatly and run counter to the open invitation to all members and could lead to disputes' says Lee.

'As the proposer I will be there as an ISA member and as a committed sailing enthusiast concerned about the continuing lack of new young members joining sailing clubs and participating in club races subsequent to completing the ISA Junior Syllabus . This is something that affects dinghies and keelboats/cruisers' says Lee.

'I will not be 'Representing' the 3 clubs I am a member of [DMYC, GSS, LDYC] or the class I currently sail most often in [GP14]', Lee adds.

In a comment on this article (scroll down to see all comments below) ISA Chief Executive Harry Hermon says he 'would like to encourage as many members as possible to attend - there are no restrictions (other than we feel it is a matter for the membership to discuss) and we have received no ‘complaints’ . We asked for people to declare their organisation so we can get a feel for the representation at the meeting both regionally and in terms of their interests'.

Lee has sought a copy of the resolution referring to this meeting from the minutes of the AGM and to know how the Chairman is to be chosen. 'Obviously that cannot be an ISA employee as the meeting will be discussing matters prejudicial to them', Lee says.

Other areas of the sport such as the cruiser racing fraternity and ICRA have asked to be kept informed of the forum as the matters raised affect club memberships too, says Lee.

 This morning Lee and Armstrong issued an appeal to all sailors to get involved in the debate:

"We see that the Forum decided on at its AGM has been arranged for Saturday the 23rd March at the National Yacht Club.

"We appeal to all clubs and classes to hold meetings to consider the issues raised in our motion and in the course of the on-line discussions which have taken place both before and after the meeting and to select delegates to attend. This Forum represents an opportunity to deal with the problems in Irish sailing and to influence its future direction which cannot be missed'.

For more dinghy sailing articles:

Aggregate link to coverage of Dinghy decline debate here

David Branigan's Sailing Column in the Irish Times on this subject here

Casting a fly over sailing club memberships

Is 'Adventure Sailing' a New Tack for Dinghy Sailors?

Irish Sailing Needs this Favourable Wind

Is Irish sailing too focused on the Olympics?

Published in ISA
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#irishsailing – The winds of change are never constant and sailors are trained to expect the unexpected. It's an unpredictable sport that makes any sailor cautious about forecasting future performances.

It didn't stop the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) predicting its team would win a medal in Weymouth.

Such was the expectation that nearly anything the 2012 Olympic sailing team did other than stand on the podium would have been a disappointment.

Except that, just like the winds in Weymouth, something unexpected happened when Irish debutante Annalise Murphy led her fleet for most of the event, winning the opening four races with gusto.

It was a most welcome lift that, in the weeks following the regatta, has had many positive spin-offs for Irish sailing.

That Murphy began her campaign for Rio before even coming ashore after the disappointment of the medal race said something about the depth of her ambition. In so doing, she turned around the cruelest result of fourth into an opportunity for the future, albeit four years away.

This week she was awarded the Irish Times Sportswoman of the month for July, the latest in a line of accolades for the Rathfarnham girl.

As Murphy navigated her way through ten days of the hottest competition in her life, leading the regatta for most of it, her appeal reached beyond the traditional sailing community.

"When I saw the tricolour leading the fleet, it was like Packie Bonner's save," tweeted one of her many twitter followers. "It's Katie Taylor on water," tweeted another.

"I hope more people can understand sailing now," the 22-year-old said at a homecoming event at the National Yacht Club on Monday.

The challenge for sailing now is to capitalise on Annalise's appeal. It could not come at a better time because the domestic sport is facing 'Olympic' challenges of its own.

Because, although Ireland has posted its best Olympic result in 32 years, coming just weeks after a silver medal performance at the Youth Worlds, the domestic sport is in choppy waters.

Sailing cannot grow simply by looking towards the next Olympics as this serves only to increase the pressure on the sport's small group of high-performance athletes.

Instead, it's a question of providing more choice to grow the numbers going afloat.

Sailing is unique because it offers a strong non-competitive aspect. It's a hobby or pastime which can be enjoyed by young and old, and also by families.

If sailing can increase its numbers in these categories, then it will increase its talent pool. This, in turn, means that emerging talent which wishes to pursue the Olympic path can do so.

Today the dominant culture in sailing in Ireland is a racing one but by continuing on this tack we could be missing out on up to 80% of potential participants, says Alistair Rumball, a racing sailor, but also the proprietor of the country's biggest sailing school where recreational boating has the biggest appeal.

On Wednesday the Taoiseach Enda Kenny welcomed home the Olympic team and he made the point that future sports funding would be have a schools focus so it is important sailing gets a place on the curriculum.

Yacht clubs are struggling under the burden of a shrinking racing membership. Regatta fleets are dwindling. Just 111 boats turned up for Cork Week when there were over 500 just ten years years ago.

Some of the biggest clubs - Howth, the Royal St. George and Royal Cork to name just three - are facing tough times.

In a recession there is inevitable fallout from any sport but it's acute for sailing.

The ISA takes subscriptions from 73 sailing and powerboat clubs in the country, ranging in size from the smallest clubs with only a dozen members to the largest, the Royal St. George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire with 1,858 members.

The total number of club members affiliated to the ISA is estimated at over 21,000. In 2010, income from club member subscriptions generated €320,843 for the ISA but in 2011 this had dropped to €286,087. A further drop might be expected this year.

There are other storm clouds on the horizon too with Minister for Sport Leo Varadkar signalling a tightening of the purse strings. This week Galway announced it was not applying for a return visit of the Volvo Ocean Race.

"Currently the sport tries to turn everyone into formula one drivers when most of us are only Sunday motorists," says sailmaker Des McWilliam, a respected sailing industry voice. "The bulk of us only want to drive to the beach not round the world," says McWilliam who believes there is a massive need to embrace a new kind of recreational sailing initiative.

Murphy has captured the public imagination but there is only so much that can be expected from a young star aiming for Rio. The challenge is to broaden the appeal of the sport and so underpin its future.

A high level forum comprising of clubs, classes and sailing schools and other interested parties could develop a national sailing strategy.

Thanks to Annalise Murphy, there's a favourable wind blowing again for Irish sailing. If sailing can adopt her fighting spirit, then the sport could find itself back on the right tack.

Published in Olympics 2012
Tagged under

#olympicsailing – Last week, just as Ger Owens announced his intention to campaign a 470 for a possible third Olympic regatta the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) made a written proposal to get rid of that dinghy from the Olympic line up.

The Olympic classes are in a state of flux since the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) signalled its intent to ditch the Star keelboat for the 2016 regatta.

There is a fear too that the sport itself might be cut from the Olympic Games as pressure mounts to cut costs and athletes. It's a situation causing some countries to examine their own Olympic involvements.

There is no doubting the Olympic circuit remains the pinnacle of the sport but there's little doubt either of the appeal of new alternatives being dished up.

ISAF's own sailing world championships is gaining momentum as 'The' event to win.

From the small pool of pro-crews available in this country it's noteworthy that Ireland's Damian Foxall and Justin Slattery, found success entirely outside of the Olympic environment.

Last year, at international cruiser level, the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) brought home the Commodores Cup.

Sailing has historically had good links into the International Olympic Council (IOC), and will be making its 26th appearance in the Olympic Programme in 2012. Sailing scores well against some of the criteria to be kept as an Olympic sport, but is currently weak in other important areas such as spectator and broadcast revenue, and costs.

It has a strong European following but participation is low in Africa and Asia.

Still, 54 countries have been exercised enough to make submissions to ISAF on the 2016 Olympic sailing competition.

The loss of the Star keelboat would be a near fatal blow to Ireland's main hopes with the Peter O'Leary and David Burrows partnership seen as medal hopes next year and in 2016 too.

In its written submission the Irish authority said the mens keelboat should stay but it has also opted to keep five classes where there is no Irish sailing development.  However, this is partly because the rules do not allow for partial submissions, but require a full slate of 10 classes.

Ireland has never had a sailboard, never had a Tornado catamaran and never had a women's keelboat. We have not mustered a women's 470 team since Atlanta so it is unclear where an Irish women's skiff that the ISA has proposed is going to come from.

The ISA have proposed the following slate: Men's Board or Kite Board- Evaluation; Women's Board or Kite Board- Evaluation ; Men's 1 Person Dinghy – Laser ; Women's 1 Person Dinghy – Laser Radial  Men's 2nd 1 Person Dinghy – Finn ; Men's Skiff- 49er ; Women's Skiff- Evaluation  Men's Multihull- Tornado ; Men's Keelboat- Evaluation ; Women's Keelboat- Elliot 6m.

The reality is that domestic sailing is so far removed from these classes that some now question the pursuit of the Olympic dream at all but that's a decision that would have a major impact on government funding which heavily supports Olympic involvement.

It's too narrow to measure medals through grants alone and any withdrawal would have other consequences too.

Olympic involvement begets better standards nationally, as there is trickle back of knowledge through coaching.

The Sports Council high performance grant given to the ISA is ring fenced for Olympic sailing and its high performance programme ands runs to 400k per annum.

It's good state money that is bearing fruit at junior and youth level. Finn Lynch was second in the Topper World championships last year. Philip Doran won an under 17 Laser Radial World Championship. In the same class Olympic campaigner Annalise Murphy has also won a world under 21–title and recent performances at senior level, including a fourth in Miami in January are very encouraging.

Ireland has participated at every Games since London 1948 except Mexico in 1968. Malahide's David Wilkins and Jamie Wilkinson won Olympic silver in 1980 but since then a top eight Olympic finish in any class has eluded us.

Ireland is not alone in suggesting changes that defy historical results to the Olympic regatta, in Britain the Royal Yachting Association is proposing to ditch the Star too, a class where they have won Gold twice, and silver once in the last six games and which provides a progression path for their very successful Laser and Finn programmes.

Olympic success is counted only in medals but the sailing here has been thriving without it.

Internationally there are now other opportunities, some with more appeal. The Volvo Ocean Race (with Irish government involvement running to Euro 4 Million), the America's Cup and the World Match Racing tour now provide professional outlets for a handful of Irish sailors who might previously have only been found on the Olympic circuit.

What's important for a small sailing nation with limited resources is a plan that can bring home results, even if this means moving outside the Olympic circle.

Published in Olympics 2012
Tagged under

#dinghydecline – The current debate regarding dinghy racing is fascinating (See original article and reader comments here). At present the discussion is centred around the role of the national authority. However, I believe that as the debate develops we will be asking as many questions of the clubs as of the ISA.

What is a sailing club for? The question is not often asked, because for most people the answer is obvious... until they realise that other members are giving very different answers. For some a club is a place where they can socialise with like-minded people, while also providing some facilities to assist them in maintaining and using their boat (the bar and the boatman being the heart of the club). At the other extreme, many Continental and American clubs believe that they exist to provide sailing, which includes boats, for the local and visiting populations. As such they run large fleets of dinghies and keel boats.

The current debate questions whether the ISA does enough to keep the numerous apprentice sailors within the sport of sailing, and in particular orientating them towards racing in dinghies. Unfortunately, whilst many statistics have been bandied about (and I note that Bryan Armstrong's estimate of a core of some 300 young racing sailors corresponds with my estimate given in a previous article, based on the number of students team racing) I have yet to see the essential figure: how many sailors move from beginner to being able to sail a boat round a triangular course in, say, a Force 3. These are the teenagers and adults that could be attracted to club racing in dinghies or small keel-boats.

In an ISA approved training centre these beginners will have reached this level using the boats, and often wetsuits, life-jackets and other gear provided (this may not be true in some club-run training programmes). Beginners will be in a group led by a qualified instructor who structures activities in light of his student's progress. They are only committed to a course lasting a few days and proceed to the next level only if they wish to do so.

What are clubs asking of these same beginners who arrive waving their still new ISA certificates? If the answer is:

take out annual membership;

buy a boat, and all the gear;

pay the club for boat storage;

be expected to sail most weekends in the club;

commit to"volunteering" to run racing and other club activities;

just like all the more experienced members, then it is little wonder that very few beginners take up this offer. These should be objectives not expectations.

Managing this transition from sailing school pupil to active club sailor is increasingly complicated, and should be a major preoccupation for all clubs. "Sailing families" will have already adjusted their life-style and family budget. The group disparagingly known as "Oppie parents" (a group not limited to that particular class) will make great sacrifices, in both time and money, to take their children sailing. But a teenager who may be the only family member interested in sailing will face multiple obstacles. For the new-comer a sailing club can be an off-putting place.

Not the least of these obstacles is the change in the way we allow our children to interact with other adults. Imagine, for instance, the child protection issues raised by any development of dinghy sailing based on young people crewing for adults. This was the traditional method for gaining experience and learning the game, many of us learned this way. Times have changed – I am not sure that many parents today would be happy about their child spending long hours with an un-vetted adult on a small boat, let alone spending a weekend away for an open meeting or championship.

Assisting apprentice sailors in this passage from learner to participant is a process that may take as much time and effort as teaching sailing. Up to now we have assumed that if someone learns to sail they will become a full participant in an existing model of sailing club. Regrettably, there is considerable evidence that this is not happening. New sailors, young and old, need to be brought at their own pace in to our clubs. Doing this successfully will ensure the future of clubs, but will inevitably induce changes in the way clubs function.

Take a model common in France, and elsewhere in Europe: after completing a cursus in the club sailing school, sailors join the club "sport school". Here, with a combination of training and appropriate competition, sailors learn not only the techniques and the tactics, but also the discipline required to succeed. They are assisted as they discover the commitment required to race regularly, they develop the habit of competing, of travelling to events, and so much more. As they are competing with other sailors of the same age and experience there is no arms race. Indeed, as the teenagers will soon move on to another boat, as they grow and improve, logically the boats belong to the clubs.

Only when sailors have reached a suitable level do they join the regatta circuit. One feature of racing in Europe, that may seem strange to Irish club members, is that club racing is not a central activity. Dinghy and keel-boat sailors either train with a club coach or sail at open meetings. The idea of racing once a week in your local club is not part of the culture. Is it possible that one problem in Ireland is that there is too much racing? If every weekend confirmed sailors are competing for club trophies when do they train, and, more importantly, when do they spend time assisting new sailors.

Running a transition programme may be a complicated exercise for clubs. Financing the acquisition and the maintenance of a fleet of suitable boats is a challenge. The ISA could contribute by setting up a training programme in basic boat maintenance, that should be compulsory for instructors and coaches. But clubs have taken up this challenge. For instance, two very different organisations have long maintained fleets of dinghies for team racing – the FMOEC in Schull and the Royal St George YC. This year the Sailfleet J80s will be managed by a single club. The Dun Laoghaire waterside clubs are gradually acquiring a fleet of keel-boats. These initiatives should lead other clubs to reflect and develop their own projects. The emergence of such projects will inevitably lead to new demands on our national authority, who, as always, should play a major role in facilitating new developments - Magheramore

For more dinghy sailing articles from Magheramore see:

Casting a fly over sailing club memberships

Is 'Adventure Sailing' a New Tack for Dinghy Sailors?

More articles on the same subject:

Irish Sailing Needs this Favourable Wind

Is Irish sailing too focused on the Olympics?

Published in Your Say
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