Two invitees have declined their invitations to this weekend's Irish Sailing Association (ISA) All Ireland sailing competition at Royal Cork Yacht Club over an entry fee that the ISA says it is forced to charge in the absence of an event sponsor.
GP14 World Champion Shane MacCarthy says the 'entry fee is too expensive and not in line with dinghy entry fees'.
Fellow GP14 helmsman Hugh Gill goes further and says the €220 charge is 'an indication of how the ISA is out of touch with how the majority of sailors manage their participation in the sport'.
Neither sailor is attending the Crosshaven event that is to be sailed in National 18 dinghies.
Sutton Dinghy Club's Gill wrote to Afloat to say he had declined the invitation due to the insistence by the ISA that all entrants, despite being invited to participate, must pay an entry fee of €220. Gill says' Other participants have entered but have sent correspondence expressing their disappointment regarding the entry fee'. He adds: 'The imposition of an entry fee is a recent change, maybe for the past 5 years, to what was always an invitational event attended by various Class National Champions and other sailors who had achieved success on the international stage. To impose any fee on this event let alone a charge of €220 for an event comprising a number of short races over two days for 16 invited sailors is another indication of how the ISA has lost touch with the reality of how the majority of sailors manage their participation in the sport'.
In response, ISA Chief Executive Harry Hermon has described the withdrawal of both GP14 helmsmen as 'most unfortunate'.
In a statement the ISA says: 'the background to the current situation is that up until 2008, the event was sponsored which enabled the host club to run it without an entry fee. Since that date there has been an entry fee paid to the host club, with the average being in the range of €120 - €150. Last year’s event had an entry fee of €130.
Each year, as part of a review following the event, we ask sailors how it can be improved. These questions produce mostly expected answers, namely dinghy sailors prefer the event to be in dinghies, while keelboat sailors prefer keelboats! In recent years the event has been run in J80 Keelboats, and this year we are delighted to be able to return to dinghies using the National 18’s thanks to the generosity of the National 18 Class in loaning their boats.
Last year, the feedback highlighted the fact, that while the on-the-water format was good, the social side was totally lacking, with a very low turnout for the Championship dinner. In fact, many of the sailors indicated in advance that they would be attending, but on the night very few appeared. This left the host club with a lot of uneaten food and a significant loss on the night. This year in response to the feedback received from the competitors, the ISA decided to try to make it a more sociable event and to promote the dinner as something worth attending, hence the cost of the dinner is included in the entry fee. The fee of €220, is made up of three dinners at €30 each and entry fee of €130, the same as last year. As all event organisers will concur, the costs associated with staging an event with only 16 entrants do not differ significantly from staging a larger event with more competitors enabling lower entry fees. It is also worth noting that the ISA sets the entry fee, but does not get any of the funds generated through the staging of the event.
All the other nominees accepted the nomination and the entry fee of €220. The two competitors who were subsequently invited to take up the slots made available by Shane and Hugh were delighted to accept. It is regrettable that two sailors, who should be sailing in the event have declined their invitation, however in the absence of a sponsor, we do not believe it is unreasonable to ask the competitors to pay for the costs associated with staging the event, and buying dinner for the person lending them their boat.
At this late stage it is not possible to change the format or pricing structure for the event, however the ISA will initiate a detailed review of the event following this year’s championship, and in the improving financial environment specific efforts will be made to attract a sponsor for future championships.
In closing I'd like to express our gratitude to Royal Cork Yacht Club for hosting the event and to thank the members of the National 18 class for facilitating this event by lending their boats, their generosity is acknowledged.
We wish all the contestants every success and hope that all the participants have a truly enjoyable event and a sociable evening' – Harry Hermon, ISA.