#glenans – A 'financially struggling' Les Glenans association is considering closing the doors on its operation in Ireland, according to president Michael O'Meara who signalled the potential move to members in a letter last Friday. No decision has been made yet, but it looks likely at least one of two Irish bases will close at the end of the year.
The popular sail training club has been one of the largest such organisations in the country over the past 44 years, training up to an estimated 40,000 in that period, O'Meara told Afloat.ie.
The association currently has 1,500 members in Ireland and was reintegrated with its French counterparts in November 2010, a move Les Glenans said at the time would underpin its future.
Its 2013 season brochure was launched with some fanfare in April by Leo Varadkar TD, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in Dun Laoghaire, but a lack of demand for courses since has caused it to review its Irish operation. It is looking at closing bases in Collanmore, County Mayo and Baltimore in West Cork.
'There are a number of reasons for this, including (but not exclusively) the repayment of GISC [Glenans Irish Sailing Club] debt and the current economic situation in Ireland as well as in France', O'Meara said in his letter last Friday.
Though the total numbers of trainees increased in the immediate year after reintegration this initial increase was in French trainees not in Irish ones, and this has not been sustained.
Despite large investment, the 'Secteur' has continued to make a loss, O'Meara said:
Some of the reasons cited for the decline include:
· Economic crisis in Ireland and across the EU
· Very poor summer weather since 2009 - people preferring to travel abroad. This has added to the continued decline in adult dinghy and catamaran sailing.
· Prohibition on paid advertising and marketing since the integration
· Website and translation issues
The total Glénans association has also experienced poor financial performance in recent years. 2010 was the last year in which the association made a positive result.
Unfortunately,a large fraction of this cost and loss is pertaining to the Irish Secteur. The poor performance and financial results are not sustainable and if not significantly improved (i.e. increase in trainees and course sales) will jeopardise the future of the overall organisation.
As a result, there are a number of solutions presently being discussed by management and the board of directors. Whilst no decisions have yet been made, it is likely that one of the Irish bases (Collanmore) will close permanently at the end of the 2013 season.
There is also the possibility that without a swift major upturn in Irish activity Baltimore will also close at the end of the current season - thus ending the Glénans activity and presence in Ireland.
There are a number of external factors to be taken into account before any further discussion by the Les Glénans board (Conseil) can take place and before any decision can be made.
Meanwhile, the Secteur Committee has formed a working group to explore all solutions to the situation and to formulate a proposal to the board in order to ensure the continuation of operations in Ireland.
O'Meara has urged members to give their 'continued support' for the association. 'Booking in for courses and raising the profile by word of mouth and other means will increase our activity level, provide tangible support to our proposal and may have an influence in the decision making process'.
In 2009, the Irish club raised in excess of €80,000 from members and supporters. The fundraising, undertaken to help secure the clubs future, and allowed Glenans to upgrade its fleet and continue to offer high quality RYA and ISA approved sail training at its bases in Baltimore in west Cork and Collanmore in Clew Bay.
But in November 2010, members of Ireland's biggest sail training organisation, Glenans Irish Sailing Club voted unanimously to reintegrate with the French-based sailing association Les Glenans as a means of stemming losses.
The decision was designed to allow the Glenans sailing school activity to continue in Ireland at both bases in Collanmore and Baltimore, and it secured the financial future of the Irish organisation which has experienced an increasingly difficult trading environment
It was thought at the time the reintegration would reunite the two associations which share the common aim of bringing people together through a love of sailing and the sea. The idea was to give the Irish members access to Les Glenans' Europe wide sailing activities and allow Les Glenans to offer a unique Irish sailing experience to its 14,000 members.
Under the 2010 agreement Les Glenans took over the assets and liabilities of Glenans Irish Sailing Club. The Club's two Irish sail training bases at Baltimore, County Cork and at Collanmore Island, in Clew Bay, County Mayo continued to operate .
The Irish bases become part of Les Glenans network of sailing bases across France and Italy. Ireland formed one of Les Glenans five administrative sectors, with Irish members having full voting rights in the enlarged association.