We live in a world swamped in acronyms, so much so that even a simple one like ISA has to be explained as “Irish Sailing Association” to all except those involved with or interested in our sport writes W M Nixon.
But we also live in a very crowded world where, if at all possible, the theme of “Less Is More” is increasingly desirable. So the announcement yesterday evening (Monday June 26th) by the Irish Sailing Association, that it is in the process of re-branding itself more simply as Irish Sailing, is in line with a distinct and generally desirable trend.
Like many who have been intimately involved with the ISA in its many manifestations, with it born out of the Irish Dinghy Racing Association and then mutating through the Irish Yachting Association to become the Irish Sailing Association, a first reaction was one of disapproval, but it changed.
There was something attractively personal about an Association, and as its constitution defines “sailing” as an “activity involving engine or sail-powered craft”, it was a recognizable coming-together of people with shared interests in a grouping with its own distinct identity under a very broad umbrella.
ISA provided a sense of belonging, and individual members could cherish their long personal links to it. Yet for outsiders – non-sailors who might be attracted into getting involved with some aspect of our diverse sport – the use of the acronym “ISA” and the defining word “Association” could be off-putting.
For longtime dedicated sailors, these might seem to be decidedly precious, nit-picking and very minor considerations. But you only get one chance to make a first impression, and the modern ideal is that the sense of something being a “movement” as much as an association is a significant factor in making a favourable first impression.
Then too, we’re trying to get away from acronyms, and reduce the number of syllables in a recognisable title to an absolute minimum. ISA as an acronym has only three syllables. But Irish Sailing Association arguably has seven syllables. This makes it quite a mouthful, thereby encouraging reversion to the acronym, which of itself tells us very little of what this organisation is all about
However, “Irish Sailing” has only four syllables. One more than “ISA” perhaps, but still few enough for people to gives it the full title when referring to it, rather than using the much-too-short and possible confusion-causing acronym IS.
So on balance, my response is that the re-branding as Irish Sailing deserves a guarded welcome. But I’m acutely aware that even though the announcement was made only last night, and on a very wet Monday night at that, heated passions are aroused, and there’s an equally tenable argument which sees it differently. That great contributor to Irish sailing afloat and ashore, Monica Schaefer of Greystones Sailing Club and the Wayfarer Class, speaks eloquently for those who feel a special personal link to our national authority:
“I find it incredible to think that the ISA is seriously going to change its name to the same initials/abbreviation as the worlds largest terror organisation. Surely someone must realise that using the initials I and S together will attract all sorts of problems with internet traffic, gaining attention from people not intent on enjoying sailing and from security systems designed to pick up internet / social media traffic that track that sort of thing.
How will racing sailors who are not part of a club now be identified on a race results sheet if they are no longer members of the ISA? Ah yes we can just put down IS instead of ISA, that’ll sort it - LOL
Notwithstanding the problems the initials might attract, surely removing the association makes the organisation so much more impersonal and commercial sounding, if it is no longer an association, does that mean that those who subscribe to it are simply customers and no longer members? Has anyone thought about the fact that If we are not members anymore we will soon lose our sense of belonging? I wonder if we are no longer members of an association will the new organisation be scrapping the membership fee in line with it’s new identity (lol again) presumable the ISA members can now expect a refund of their paid up fee for the remainder of this year.
On hearing this announcement today I immediately feel disconnected with the new identity. I have been a proud member of the ISA since the time of the IYA and now I feel that we the members have just been jettisoned over the side to make way for “progress”, and that we are no longer a part of this supposedly more marketable commercial organisation that has taken over.
Surely a name change requires discussion and debate with the membership and a vote at an AGM or EGM at least? It’s a huge identity change that effects us all so surely we should have a say in it.
This move shouts of commercial interest and does not I believe reflect the interest of the members, but maybe the organisation doesn’t need or want members anymore, and the commercial side of the business wants to follow the lead of ISAF who started this trend with their move from the easily recognised and meaningful ISAF branding to the dull and bland branding of World Sailing.
This really is a shock and not something that ISA members should take lightly.