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#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?

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#dinghy – Dinghy sailing affairs dominated Saturday's ISA agm (March 2nd 2013) with a motion seeking a change in policy to stem the decline in participation from Wicklow's Norman Lee and Sligo's Bryan Armstrong. The pair outlined problems ranging from the standard of instructors to lack of logbook requirements. As previously reported on the motion has led to a meeting within the month of all clubs and classes to take the next step toward rekindling dinghy sailing.

There are 40 plus comments in our earlier story on the subject here and below is Bryan Armstrong's Presentation to Saturday's meeting in full.

"When I was thinking about what I would say at this meeting I was expecting that I would be facing a hostile audience and that people might think, at the end of a year when there was much to celebrate in Irish Sailing, that putting down this motion was a disloyal thing to do, even an act of begrudgery.

Since then we have had this wonderful on line discussion both on the ISA site and on the Afloat site and I must admit to my surprise at the level of support we have received. We seem to have struck a chord of dissatisfaction among the dinghy sailing community. Many of the things I would have wanted to say have been said, and perhaps better than I can. I hope that when this is over someone will take these contributions and try to distill out the great ideas that are there.

You will all know Norman and his wife Una (who was JO in LDYC for many years) but since I do not often appear in the higher echelons of sailing politics I am conscious that many may not actually know who I am and why I feel what I do, and how we got here.

I had the privilege of having been taught to sail as a teenager by, at Sligo Yacht Club, which is near where I grew up and still live, in Rosses Point. About 1970 my father bought us a Mirror kit and my brother and I bashed it together over two weeks in an upstairs bedroom. The boat was a mess and we were never very good as mirror sailors anyway but we had an awful lot of fun.

Now I sail and race an old GP14 (which is what you do in Sligo – the club has a one design policy). I'm still not great at it but I still have fun.

In the early 2000s my kids started Mirror sailing and I became a member of the Mirror Class Committee in 2004 after the Europeans in LDYC, a superb event run under the Chairmanship of Patrick Blaney. Anyone who was there will remember the thunderstorm. There were 84 Irish boats entered in a fleet of 120.

The following year we went to the Mirror Worlds in Ostersund in Sweden. A big Irish team of went and brought back lots of Silverware, including the World title.

Any junior sailing fleet looses members after a big event. The older sailors stay on for it and then move on when its over. Suddenly the Mirrors began to loose members very rapidly and although we didn't really notice it for a while, the replacements did not seem to be appearing. Looking back on it, I think the reasons were:--

➢ ISA dropped logbook requirement, a subject to which I will be returning.

➢ ISA actively promoted another class to the exclusion of the Mirror and made it very clear that Mirrors were not favored.

➢ The Mirror was perceived to be old fashioned and outdated.

Suddenly, Mirrors were not "cool". There is no fate worse than that in the teenage market we needed.

This was of course reflected in the IMCAI Committee and I became chairman in 2007, as a kind of last man left standing (almost). At times I was fearful that the association would collapse altogether, but the prospect that I might be the last Chairman was very incentivizing. We managed to stem the flow until the new Winder design became available – we bought two as demonstration boats (very nice: have a look sometime) - and tried some new ideas such as an annual "Bronze Fleet" event, confined to bronze fleet sailors.

Now, by the very poor standards which this motion is an attempt to address, we are doing at least as well as the others, arguably better.

I saw the opportunity to get the 2010 Mirror Europeans back to Sligo & went after it and succeeded. There were 54 Irish boats entered. Ross Kearney (now working for Pinnell & Bax sailmakers), took the title.

We had spent a lot of time during the Europeans making the UK contingent feel welcome. We do that in Sligo with visitors. Actually they had a ball.

Shortly after that event I got a phone call from the Secretary of the UK Class Association to the effect that the 2013 Mirror Worlds were up for grabs and that he would support an application from Sligo. I said yes definitely and put in a proposal. This led to the event being awarded to Ireland, with the Irish Association to decide on the venue. They put it out to tender and I had my eye wiped by LDYC, but that's ok. They will make a fine job of it and I get to relax in Drumineer while someone else does the work.

This is why the Mirror Worlds are there next summer. As I speak, 13 teams are down on Lough Ree being coached for the event by Ger Owens with, I regret to have to say, no support at all from ISA.

I am telling you all this so that you will understand that Norman and I are serious people who have been around dinghy sailing issues and specifically junior sailing for a long time and I suggest that we know what we are talking about.

We have both been deeply frustrated at what we perceive as a long slow decline in the sport which has as its root cause bad policy decisions taken at ISA level. As you can see from the forums, we are not alone in this.

The trigger for the motion we have put forward was the Consultation meeting held by ISA in Sligo last autumn. Although I am less involved with the Mirrors now, I received an invitation to this which said that among other things it was to:

Discuss how the ISA can improve its support & services to organisations.

Since, in my opinion, the Mirror organisation gets no support at all from ISA, it wasn't going to be too difficult to suggest how it might be improved. I went along and we heard a presentation from the ISA officers. To be fair, much of it was very good.

However, I never see any point in going to a meeting and not saying whatever it is I have to say. I and indeed Niall Henry then SYC commodore raised much of what is now in our motion, but did not feel that we were getting much traction.

The report issued shortly afterwards and frankly, I found the report dismissive of the concerns raised and was not pleased. I prepared a document with the intent of provoking debate in some way that I had not worked out and sent it to Norman and Una and asked them what they thought about it and whether I was just making a fool out of myself. Their response was that they wanted to be part of this and Norman later talked me into seconding our motion here today.


Before begin talking about the Motion itself I think we need face some realities and to put aside some of the PR & spin that has been put out over the past 10 days or so and have an open and factually based, honest debate. It's always dangerous when an organisation starts believing its own PR.

The truth is that, if measured in terms of numbers active, Irish Dinghy sailing and arguably Irish sailing generally is in big trouble. Fleet numbers are very small and many classes seem close to falling below the critical mass necessary for survival. If Harry Hermon and the Members of the ISA board really believe that the 12,000 trainees from last or any recent year are really "staying with the sport" and playing swallows and amazons somewhere around Irish sailing clubs then this organisation is so seriously out of touch with reality that one would have to despair of any prospect of dealing with our problems.

To discuss the motion I need to break it down into its separate elements. The first is:-

"That the meeting recognises that that the current policies being followed by the ISA are causing or contributing to the decline in numbers participating in dinghy racing by:-

Has there been a decline in Dinghy Racing?

Mirror events in the 1990s could well attract 120 boats or even more. (See Garth Craigs contribution on the ISA forum. At GP 14 events maybe 80. The IYA (as it then was) Dinghy week in Baltimore in the 1980s caused the water supply to the entire town to fail. Ironically, as I remember it, the reason Dinghy Week was stopped was that it was getting bigger than any Club could handle.

Over this time there has been a huge improvement in the technology of boats and gear. Road access through the country was never better. We have even had an economic "boom". All of this should have caused an increase in dinghy sailing. Instead there has been as steady decline. No class today can come close to the numbers of 20 years ago and even all of the classes of today combined cannot match them.

We say that current ISA policies are a critical issue and are at least, contributing to the decline.

➢ "Failing to structure the Association's sail training schemes so as to encourage as far as possible the continued participation of young participants in the sport, so as to make sailing a "sport for life"."

Obviously the success or failure of any policy has to be viewed against whatever objective the policy is designed to achieve. Certainly if the Sail training scheme is designed to maximise the participation rates and have the children enjoy themselves in a safe environment then clearly the ISA sail training courses are doing very well. According to the figures put up by Harry Hermon some 12,000 kids participated in ISA sail training in 2012.

If however the purpose of the scheme is to attract people to the sport on a long term basis the consensus and the evidence seem to be that it is failing badly. The question arises, if it is training, what is it training for?

Prior to the Sligo meeting I tried to do some investigation into the number of children and teenagers actually participating in competitive sailing. As there are several factors involved and different levels of participation, that's not totally simple. What I did was go to the websites of the various classes involved and looked at the numbers entered in their National Championships and I came up with the following figures. I realise that they give an incomplete picture but in the absence of anything else they are sufficient to make my point. I find it interesting that the ISA itself does not seem to have figures.

Lasers mixed fleet but 78 young
Oppies not totally clear from site but 160
(I understand that 30 of the 190 entered were from the UK
RS Feva 21 boats 42
Topper 48
Topper Topaz mixed fleet 34
Mirrors 30 boats 60
420 16 boats 32

Total 454

The reality may be even bleaker. Many fleets are going to clubs known to have good numbers locally. E.G 23 of the 28 boats in the Topaz fleet came from the host club.
It is generally believed that 80 to 90 % of Oppie sailors do not sail again after they leave the class.

Correct for those factors, and I would guess that after Oppies the core number of teenagers prepared to travel to an event would be less than 300.

What is happening today in children's sailing is that apart from the handful who do take up racing, they are attending the courses for the few weeks of the summer and are not seen again until the following summer. Then when they finish they are not seen at all.

In a way, they are not meant to be seen again because Irish sailing at the moment could not cope with numbers like that. Where would we get the boats and the RIBs to mind them?

If kids don't race then they don't sail. There is only one thing you can do with a racing dinghy: race it. If there was doubt about this, the safety issue nails it. You can't let kids go off sailing on their own without supervision, and that is only provided in a racing contest.

The strangest aspect of the ISA response to me is the notion which comes across that kids don't want to race – that its a hardship on them to "force" (Harry Hermon's word) them to do so.

I don't believe that it is a hardship and I am not suggesting that anyone be forced to do anything. It's a matter of meeting a standard. You don't force a teenager to study for the Leaving Cert, but if they don't, they won't pass.

In fact I consider that that ability to take a boat out onto the water, sail it around and bring it back in, powered only by the wind, is alone an awesome skill for any kid to have.

However, I also believe one design dinghy racing is a sublime sport combining physical and intellectual, and organisational skills and much more as well. I consider that it was a very great privilege for me to have been given the gift of learning how to do it, however badly. It has for me been a sport for life and I can think also of some of the elder statesmen of the sport, like, Louis Smyth still sailing his Fireball and Sligo's own Gus Henry still very hard to beat in his homemade and very beautiful GP14.

Racing is also the only way to get sailors to actually go sailing. We are a competitive species. It's just the way we are. You could after all play golf alone or with a partner and not keep a score. Who actually does that? We need the little edge that competition brings.

The problem is that sailboat racing is very complicated. A kid can be given a football or a hurley stick or a tennis racket and be sent off with instructions not to be late home for tea. This is not possible with sailing because measures have to be taken to ensure that they actually come home at all.

It also requires a boat and loads of gear to protect from the elements. These things are expensive (although there are ways and means). Proper race management requires ribs, committee boats and serious infrastructure.

I see it as a series of thresholds. The first is the basic safety one that ensures that those who go out, actually come back. The sailing courses do achieve this and games like swallows and amazons are a useful tool for getting small children over the safety threshold.

The second threshold is perhaps the ability to compete in a race and finish the course. As of now the kids are not required to do even that.

The third is when the competitor begins to understand what is going on in the race and the realisation comes that there is more to this than meets the eye. A whole panorama of issues like windshifts, tides, boat tune and tactics opens up. It takes time and commitment for the sailor to get this far. No-one said dinghy racing was easy, but it is very, very good.

I don't see that giving the little push that a logbook gives is "forcing" the young sailor. I see it as bringing the opportunity to learn the sport.

I have watched enough young people sailing to know that those who race get much better than those who do not (if they sail at all) and those who do events outside their clubs get much better than those who stay at home. Huge exchanges of knowledge take place at events, both from kids to kids and from parents to parents.

At the Sligo meeting when we were having this argument Tony Wright said that he would not "put that" (meaning an obligation to travel to outside events) on families. I acknowledge fully that it can be onerous for parents and I have myself spent many Sunday afternoons packing boats in the rain. Sailing does require a lot of parental support but the other side of the coin is that for me anyway great times have been had around Mirror events and there is great bonding with ones children.

This is what the ISA Report on the consultative meetings says on the issue:

Why does the ISA not encourage young sailors within the small boat sailing scheme to race in Regional and National Championships?

When the current small boat sailing scheme was introduced we included modules within the syllabus to accommodate those youngsters who are not competitive and who were dropping out of the scheme. Within the current syllabus there is a pathway for all interests (racing and non racing).

Now they are all dropping out and if there is a pathway, very few are taking it. The decision of the ISA in the early 2000s to take the focus of the curriculum off racing to where I know not, has been an absolute disaster and the numbers are proving that. A huge generation gap has opened up in the sport and it is directly related to that decision.

➢ The system produces 'Instructors' who put no value on participation in club activities, continue to see themselves as 'Juniors' and have not been exposed to 'Senior' fleet sailing. Experience shows that those that have participated in 'senior' racing in their teens are much more likely to continue sailing or come back at a later stage.

The instructor problem is of course a logical follow on from the previous one.

For the kids, qualification as a sailing instructor provides status and the ability to earn good wages in a very pleasant environment. It's a great way to spend the summers for a third level student. It gives responsibility in a controlled environment and it's very maturing. In principle it should be very advantageous in keeping them connected with the clubs and in the sport generally. Much of the training is very good, although very expensive (and I do not see the need for so much revalidation).

The problem is that with the way things have gone over the past few years, there is a large cohort of instructors who simply cannot sail properly. During the last week I learned of two young people who are planning to qualify as instructors. Both are very nice kids and will bring a lot to it. They have come up through the ISA scheme and have all their levels. One turns up for club racing no more than once a season and has never done an away event. The other got a boat for the first time at the end of last year, shows promise but is in no way ready to be an instructor. Neither can sail properly, and could not go out on a windy day themselves, never mind while looking after children on the water.

I have to assume that they will qualify because I have seen several worse sailors qualify. Some clubs (we do in Sligo) try to make instructors actually sail and race, but these are often children of prominent members. They arrive with their qualifications and expect to be employed. What is a club to do?

➢ Failing to provide necessary support and encouragement to clubs and classes associations in all parts of the Country for the provision and continuation of well managed and competitive dinghy racing at club and national level.

I suppose that this can be broken down into support for clubs and support for class associations. I have spent the past two years as a member of the committee of the Sligo Yacht Club. I cannot say that the ISA has been hugely relevant to what we do. This may vary from club to club. I cannot really say.

I do however have a general sense that the smaller clubs could use more support.

Many of the contributions on the forum came from Class Associations or people prominent in them. They seem unanimous that they get little or no support. For the Mirrors I can say that they get none.

At the Sligo meeting Harry Hermon said that he accepted that their relations with Class Associations could be better. He will remember the exchange. I said I had to agree with him. He said that it was good that we agreed on something. I started my usual rant about the many Mirrors sitting unused around the Country. I said a campaign to get them back into use backed by the ISA would be a good start. Here is an extract from the report that followed these meetings:-

There are an estimated 500 serviceable Mirror Dinghies in the country not being sailed, why doesn't the ISA develop an initiative to bring them back into commission?
The ISA's strategy is to develop the sport through the club structures, and the funding model reflects this. As such the ISA operational focus is to support the development of the clubs. We acknowledge the ISA does not perhaps maximise the potential the classes have to offer in respect of developing the sport, however the ISA's policy is to encourage partnerships between clubs and classes. The class associations have the responsibility for developing activity within their own class.

No great sign of a new initiative there.

Clubs run club racing and host national events. Class associations promote the boats that sail in those club races and national events. The ISA is a national organisation which is or should be the umbrella group under which it all happens. Each party need the other. Why cannot they work together in a coherent way for the benefit of the sport?

It is very clear that this is not happening

➢ Emphasising the training of selected juveniles by the creation of elite squads of possible future Olympians, without proper regard to the interests of those failing (for whatever reasons) to meet that standard or who are not able or cannot afford to give the time or family/financial commitment and who are thereby discouraged and lost to the sport.

Norman and I are not against the Olympic campaign. I might argue that there is a need for some proportionality : it only happens every four years and only one of the classes of boat is actually sailed in this country.

Neither is it about the money. In the Mirrors we weren't actually stuck for money (until I got at it and bought the two Winders).

I get how the Pathway scheme is supposed to work. You take a group and work with it with more and more resources and pair them down progressively and the theory is that the ones that emerge at the top are very good indeed. Judged alone by the results, it seems to be doing well. However, national championship turnouts of 16 420s and 22 Fevas – both pathway classes - give no great confidence that all is well for the future.

The problem is that only a small minority will ever get there. As matters stand, the others drop off and are lost. Why do so many Oppie sailors never sail again? These are children who know how to sail. Is the pressure too much?

Personally I would prefer to see a small child at the front end of a Mirror with a bigger sibling or friend rather than alone in a Oppie, but I would say that, wouldn't I?

What I can say without fear of contradiction is that this scheme has done serious damage to the Mirrors who have been excluded. The logic of their exclusion is lost on me. Why would you take a class with regular 100+ fleets and cast it aside like that? A very different attitude is taken in the UK. At last years Europeans in Poole a small Irish Group was faced by a UK team with 3 wholetime coaches with ribs etc. I expect them all over to LDYC in the summer and the Australians and the South Africans, and the Irish are left to their own resources.

If we must have a pathway scheme it needs to be (at least at the early stages) much more inclusive. Kids develop at different rates anyway. Also, there must be an attractive option for those who don't stay with it.

➢ And that ISA refocus on the original Objective set out in article 2 of its Memorandum of Association, which is ' to promote the amateur sport of sailing in Ireland' and amend its policies and practices to address the matters referred to."

This is a direct quote from the Memorandum of Association of the ISA. Harry Hermon has pointed out in one of his submissions that the articles were amended in 2006 to define sailing as including the sport of sailing wind surfing and leisure boating in all its branches whether under sail or power.

Is it a coincidence that what we see as the rot started around 2006? Norman & I make no apology for our interest in the sport of sailing meaning boats powered by the wind and this is what we want the ISA to refocus on. How exactly this should be done is a big subject and very useful suggestions are set out in the contributions to the two forums. It clearly requires much thinking and planning and I would hope that much may yet emerge from the discussion which I hope will follow at this meeting and as we go forward.

I do recognise that there is another side to this coin and that there are issues on the racing scene that need to be addressed so as to eliminate as far as possible the disincentives. There is much work to be done on this.

As a first step, to demonstrate to the ISA that there is a problem, that it has lost its direction and that something must be done about it, I ask your support for our motion here today".

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#dinghydecline – A meeting of clubs and classes is to be held within the month to decide on the next step for Irish dinghy sailing after yesterday's proposals were heard to stem decline in the sport at the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) agm in Dun Laoghaire.

With a presentation from dinghy sailors Norman Lee and Bryan Armstrong, the 80-strong meeting heard the case for a change of tack in dinghy policy, a motion that had already drawn considerable debate on last week.

Following a presentation there were contributions from the floor but the process was hurried and there was also disagreement as to what the motion actually meant for the ISA and how the meeting should proceed.

There were calls from the floor for a vote before a proposal that a day long workshop for clubs and classes should be convened within one month to take the matter further. This was adopted by common consensus on a show of hands with no dissenters.

There were no comments or questions on the President's report or financial statements which showed association revenues hitting €2million for the first time.

Olympic race officer Jack Roy was elected to the ISA board replacing Alan Crosbie.

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#dinghy – Spinning out of the first Royal St. George YC Dinghy Summit last Saturday in Dun Laoghaire a further initiative for Dublin Bay Sailing Club (DBSC) dinghy sailors was unveiled.

The DBSC Portsmouth Yardstick (PY) Dinghy committee is working hard to promote dinghy sailing on the Bay and has kicked off a number of initiatives which they hope will bear fruit over the rest of the year.

The committee, lead by David Dwyer, has a number of goals; to make dinghy sailing more accessible welcoming and social, to get more coaching and more fun into the regular sailing and to improve communications to the sailors and to the media. Some of their initial efforts are online and they're easy to find. Click for DLDinghies.

Perhaps the key effort is to get more people into the fleet, including juniors, new sailors, and the many "lapsed" sailors out there - both male and female. would like to hear from you on this story! Your comments are welcome in the box below

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The inspiration for the Dinghy Summit came from Owen Laverty's experience with the Tech world's Web Summit where busy attendees were given quick and informative information dense sessions on a number of different topics related to web businesses. Here Laverty reviews the first ever dinghy summit held at the Royal St. George YC

Applying the same principles to sailing didn't require too much of a stretch, just some great speakers. The summit recognises that many senior dinghy sailors are busy and receive little or no training thus keep making the same mistakes. Without the learning they potentially lose interest. It aims to deliver rich, relevant content in a short space of time.

Held in the George last Saturday morning, first up was Graham Elmes with an excellent talk on starting and the first beat. Graham has a very strong history representing Ireland in many classes at international level and coaches at this level also. Graham spoke about general readiness for a race, planning your start and the three categories of wind patterns which may be in effect on the course. He discussed how to recognise them and the best tactics for each. The crowd of 35 senior dinghy sailors were all heard to say that it all seemed very simple!

Next up was Noel butler. Noel started sailing sailing at 25 (and ended up winning a World Championship in the laser II dinghy and eight national titles) with the initial thought that no one trains so early progress with a good training plan will ensure a good level of success. Noel spoke about how a 1% difference could mean a 100 meter lead in the average race.

Discussions focussed how this 1% could be gained in many areas encompassing fitness, hydration, boat speed, gear etc. Something that not many people consider is aligning your aims for the year with those of your crew, partner, work and family!  A very convincing 45 minutes with some great take home tips!

Finally James Espey provided the Laser sailors with some great tips on getting the most out of a Laser. James shared lots of go fast tips involving crew dynamics, wave techniques, fitness and finished off with a very telling exercise showing how to trim a Laser sail for all conditions. I don't think there were many in the audience who knew to start de-powering at 8 knots! The good news for those that missed it is that this is the first talk in the George Sailing Summit series and we expect to run more though the season - consider this the CPD of the Dunlaoghaire dinghy world!

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#dinghyshow – Eight of the UK's finest dinghy sailors will be heading to the RYA Dinghy Show 2013 this weekend to share their top tips, answer your questions, sign autographs and much more.

On Saturday the show will be joined by London 2012 / Team Volvo sailors Kate Macgregor and Annie Lush and fellow Skandia Team GBR sailors Nick Thompson and Dylan Fletcher.

Nick, Kate, Dylan and Annie will officially open the show on Saturday when they cut the ribbon and sound the starters' horn, before taking part in main stage talks, leading coaching sessions, handing out prizes, signing autographs as well as trying their hand at some of the shows interactive activities including; the model boat pool, the Magic Marine Trapezing Wall, Holt Blow Boat Challenge, Marlow Ropes Splicing and the RYA Volvo Sail for Gold Game throughout the day.

For more information about what's on, competitions, ticket information and online booking visit or call the ticket hotline on 0844 858 9069.

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#isa – A full 'shake–up' for sailing is on the agenda at Saturday's Irish Sailing Association (ISA) agm when a former dinghy champion takes aim at current policies he claims are 'damaging the sport'.

GP14 and Mirror dinghy sailor Norman Lee, an active Wicklow boater with a reputation for introducing people to the sport in both dinghy and cruising boats, says he wants 'the ISA focus off elite sailing and the emphasis instead to be on enjoying sailing for fun as per the association's own articles of association'.


'I want a full shake-up. Lets take the focus off the Olympics and have a root and branch reappraisal of sail training'.

A failure to provide support and encouragement to clubs and class associations in all parts of the country has led to a decline in dinghy sailing numbers according to the proposal published by the ISA on its website. The agm notice is also downloadable as a word doc below.

The agm is scheduled for Saturday, March 2nd at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire.

Lee is a member of Greystones Sailing Club, Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club and Lough Derg Yacht Club.

Lee says he wants a proper reappraisal of the sport.  'The ISA needs to amend its policies and return to its original objectives of the  amateur sport in Ireland'.

In particular Lee says the ISA currently has an over 'emphasis of the training of selected juveniles by the creation of elite squads of possible future Olympians'. This, says Lee, is without proper regard to the interests of those failing (for whatever reasons) to meet that standard or who are not able or cannot afford to give the time or family/financial commitment and this discourages people who are lost to the sport. 

Lee says the ISA needs to refocus on the original objective set out in article 2 of its Memorandum of Association, which is 'to promote the amateur sport of sailing in Ireland' and amend its policies and practices to address the matters referred to."

The full proposal in accordance with the ISA's Article 33 is as follows:

"That the meeting recognises that the current policies being followed by the ISA are causing or contributing to the decline in numbers participating in dinghy racing by:-

Failing to structure the Association's sail training schemes so as to encourage as far as possible the continued participation of young participants in the sport, so as to make sailing a "sport for life". The system produces 'Instructors' who put no value on participation in club activities, continue to see themselves as 'Juniors' and have not been exposed to 'Senior' fleet sailing. Experience shows that those that have participated in 'senior' racing in their teens are much more likely to continue sailing or come back at a later stage.

Discontinuing the log book requirement for juniors to prove participation in club and Class events has contributed to a general lowering of standards and the demise of some junior classes.

Failing to provide necessary support and encouragement to clubs and classes associations in all parts of the Country for the provision and continuation of well managed and competitive dinghy racing at club and national level.

Emphasising the training of selected juveniles by the creation of elite squads of possible future Olympians, without proper regard to the interests of those failing (for whatever reasons) to meet that standard or who are not able or cannot afford to give the time or family/financial commitment and who are thereby discouraged and lost to the sport.

And that ISA refocus on the original objective set out in article 2 of its Memorandum of Association, which is 'to promote the amateur sport of sailing in Ireland' and amend its policies and practices to address the matters referred to." would like to hear from as many sailors as possible on the proposal raised by Norman. Please leave your comments on this story in the box below.

Published in ISA

#dinghy –In a welcome boost for Irish dinghy sailing,  senior sailors are invited to what is Ireland's first ever 'dinghy summit' to hear 'thought provoking' comment from some of the country's leading exponents of the sport, including 2012 Irish Olympic Laser sailor James Espey and former Laser II world champion Noel Butler.

Butler will talk about his psychology of winning, being prepared and some specific Fireball topics.

Butler will also cover his story about how he came into the sport late and took a measured approach towards training to eventually win a world championship.

James Espey is expected to share tips for going fast in a Laser.

Also speaking is Graham Elmes who has represented Ireland in many classes including the Mirror, SB20, Etchells, Firefly (team racing).

Following on from his very popular talk on starting techniques and the first beat Graham plans a revised version of this talk.

The event takes place on 23rd Feb from 10:30am in the Royal St. George George Yacht Club's Junior Room. A fee of €10 at the door.

Published in RStGYC

#MCIB - The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) has reiterated the importance of forward planning and safety before going on the water after the drowning of a man off Donegal Point in Co Clare on 5 November last year.

The official report into the death of Latvian national Armandas Silins (52) found that he had gone out into the water in a remote area off Kilkee in a small inflatable dinghy with no safety or communications equipment.

It was established that Silins, who had been living in the Kilrush area for around a decade, had owned the dinghy for some time but there was no evidence that he had ever used it to fish.

It was also found that he had not informed any third parties of his plans for that day.

Local man William Ryan spotted Silins in the dinghy in rough seas close to an enclosed bay known as the 'Horseshoe'.

Ryan took photographs of Silins - included in the report - moments before the dinghy capsized. He immediately raised the alarm and kept in contact with the Kilkee Coast Guard Unit while Silins was in the water trying to hold on to his dinghy.

By the time a coastguard rescue team arrived in the area, Silins had become separated from the dinghy, and his body was located nearby shortly afterwards.

The MCIB report found that it was "fortuitous" that William Ryan had been in the area to observe Silins in the water and contact emergency services.

It concluded: "The circumstances attending the incident were tragic in the extreme but avoidable."

The full report on the Donegal Point incident is available to download via the link below.

Published in MCIB

#DINGHY SAILING – It is a common complaint that dinghy sailing is in decline. Veteran keel-boat sailors wax nostalgic about those long-gone days when huge fleets turned out for the major dinghy class championships writes our correspondent Magheramore.

Yet there were 292 entries for the recent Mitsubishi Youth National Championships, the winter Laser racing in Howth is flourishing as are the DMYC Frostbites.

However, a closer look at the dinghy park at the Youth Nationals did indicate where a problem may lie. All the boats were recent, the sails were new, many competitors were professionally coached or accompanied by their parents in a comfortable RIB. One would expect this, the young sailors (and their parents) want to do well. The impression given is that dinghy sailing is an expensive pastime requiring dedication, athletic prowess and intensive training. This perception may erect a psychological barrier to entry to the sport. Apprentice sailors, young in years or young of heart, may decide that other forms of messing about in boats are more accessible: crewing on big boats, angling, kayaking or rowing.

Racing is only one aspect of dinghy sailing. If racing is compared to track athletics, how about a nautical stroll in the park or some nautical hill walking! Dinghy cruising has been defined as sailing a dinghy for any other reason than racing. That may be too sweeping a generalisation. Perhaps a better way of putting it would be that dinghy cruising is all about going somewhere in a small boat.

There is an extreme branch of the sport: the late Frank Dye's Wayfarer crossings to Norway and to Iceland; Webb Chiles circumnavigation in a Drascombe Lugger or the two Royal Marine officer's expedition through the North West Passage 17.5ft Norseboat. Oceanic openboat sailing has it's founding fathers: Shackleton and Crean, Captain Bligh and our own St. Brendan.

But just as not all hill walkers attempt to scale Everest, or even Carrantuohill, there are many who enjoy a more gentle sail. I have often admired a venerable Mirror, usually sailing without a jib, cruising round Dun Laoghaire harbour. If you look carefully there are Wayfarers, Drascombes and others tucked away at the top of many a sheltered beach or creek, waiting a family picnic, an evening sail or a trip out to catch a mackerel or two for breakfast. In parts of Donegal, and possibly elsewhere, the humble Mirror seems to have replaced the more traditional curragh. Used as a tender, a fishing boat, a swimming platform or for short sail the Mirror can be bought cheaply, launched and recovered single-handed and can be sailed (with one or two sails), rowed, paddled, sculled or even (shudder) motored.


A UK dinghy visitor Jady Lane moored in Athlone. Photo: Aidan de la Mare

Successful dinghy cruising does not depend on a new boat. Indeed one might be happier when beaching on a stony beach if the gel coat already has a scratch or two. Boats for such sailing are a personal and often somewhat idiosyncratic choice. Who would have thought that a Finn could be converted into practical cruising yawl? Or that a Mirror dinghy could cruise from the Severn to the Black Sea, with the skipper sleeping "comfortably" aboard. Stability is the one essential design feature, indeed some dinghy cruisers maintain that the Wayfarer is far too tippy a boat.

Many dinghy cruising sailors never progress beyond pottering or day sailing. A lifetime is too short to explore the nooks and crannies of the Irish coast line, not too mention the many loughs. When camping or self-catering beside the water, having a dinghy ready to launch greatly enriches the holiday. Yet, inevitably, there comes a day when the the skipper wants to sail out to that distant island, or around the point, too far to return the same day. At this point the huge advantage of exploring in a dinghy rather than on foot becomes obvious. Even in the smallest dinghy room can be found for a tent, foam mattress, sleeping bag, stove, provisions and, luxury, a bottle of wine and a corkscrew! The boat does the carrying rather than your back. There are many places round the coast where a tent can be pitched discreetly. The sea-kayaking fraternity have been doing this for years.

Most cruising sailors then realise that it is in fact more convenient to sleep on board. This is no less comfortable than sleeping in the kind of bivouac tents used by back-packers and cyclists. There is also one great advantage, by choosing an appropriate anchorage one can escape the midges!

Dinghy cruising is not a structured activity. Most cruising sailors are fiercely independent, and most stay well away from yacht clubs. Yet the Dinghy Cruising Association in the UK has 468 paying members (some of them in Ireland), with a further 29 joining in the last 3 months. Races are not part of their programme. Rallies can be low key – meet for lunch, or an overnight stay at specified spot (often conveniently situated within strolling distance of a welcoming pub). There is a developing trend to organise Raids – cruises in company, sometimes with an element of competition. An annual Raid is organised through the Great Glen in Scotland. Others are held in the Baltic. Above all, the traditional boat revival in France has been accompanied by explosion in events for "voile-aviron" (sail and oar). Especially if you have a wooden boat, you will be welcome at the big traditional boat festivals such as those held in Brest and Douarnenez. Perhaps one day there will be a Raid Ireland?

In short, pottering or cruising in small open boats is an exciting adventure open to all. The seamanship skills learnt taking a boat from Bray up to Dalkey Island, or from Dromineer to Mountshannon can be of much use to a budding sailor as learning to roll tack a Laser. In fact, dinghy cruising, probably renamed "adventure sailing", opens a whole new world for sailing schools and club training. Transition year groups or the local Scout troop would certainly be interested. As more extreme outdoor pursuits, from fell-running to bog-snorkelling, gain new participants, there is surely room for dinghy cruising – Magheramore

 Wtih thanks to the Dinghy Cruising Association for photography in this article

Published in Your Say
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