Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Sustainability at Sea and the Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School

19th February 2023
Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School afloat in Dun Laoghaire Harbour in County Dublin
Part of the Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School dinghy fleetafloat in Dun Laoghaire Harbour in County Dublin

Over the last number of years, the Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School have made steps to lessen its impact on the environment, one of the school’s top priorities. The Irish Government committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and the team are onboard with these targets. 

The motivation to put the school on a sustainable footing was two-fold, explains school principal Kenneth Rumball “Most importantly, we want to do this; the whole team is motivated and care. Secondly, with government initiatives to promote climate action, we feel it’s the right time to transform the operation to ready the school for the future”.

Operations Manager Glyn Williams explains the school's sustainability plan. “We have two objectives, first to meet or exceed the climate action targets set by the government and secondly, to operate in an entirely sustainable way – encompassing waste elimination, the strongest environmental stewardship, utilising the most efficient technology and to allow us to focus on what we all really enjoy – teaching people and getting them afloat”.

Their journey has exposed benefits beyond those associated with climate action – there are significant savings on energy costs, and more efficient work practises which can make a tangible difference to the team’s day-to-day working lives. The school set out their progress and ambitions here:

Ongoing Measures Targeting Environmental Impact

Goal – Helping the students and team be environmentally aware

It is so vital that children are taught from an early age about sustainability. The school is a Science Foundation Ireland Accredited Discovery Primary Science and Maths Centre, with Muriel Rumball delivering a Marine Ecology Seashore workshop. These workshops are integrated into many of the school’s sailing courses. In addition, DPSM School Tours serve as an excellent way to educate primary children as to the impact we have on the environment.

Muriel Rumball (left) delivers a Marine Ecology session of the Seashore workshopMuriel Rumball (left) delivers a Marine Ecology session of the Seashore workshop

Goal – Reducing Outboard Engine Emissions

The school is undertaking an ongoing programme of equipment renewal, focusing on replacing the older outboard engines with more efficient modern engines. Thanks to the school's partnership with Irish Selva Marine agent upgrades to the fleet are constant. Additionally, the team perform in-house maintenance regularly, which aids in keeping the equipment performing at its best.

The maintenance team have prioritised good environmental stewardship, by introducing syphon tubing for re-fuelling and ensuring that waste oils are disposed of through proper channels. This has extended to the wider school team with training and monitoring to ensure it’s done right.

Goal – Facilitate Active Travel and Public Transport Use

The school’s workforce are mostly 16-24 years old, and for age and economic reasons, tend not to have access to cars. Given the need for watersports participants to shower and change, the school has not had the same challenge in providing team members with such facilities that other businesses may find when adopting a strategy to see more people cycle or walk to work.

They agree that Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council has helped on a very practical level, responding favourably to requests for additional cycle parking adjacent to their West Pier Clubhouse and Coal Harbour Boathouse. In addition, many staff and students make use of the new cycling facilities in the area.

For school principal Kenny Rumball, it’s important to lead by example – in his case, his preferred transport tool is his One-Wheel!

School principal Kenneth RumballOne Wheel - School principal Kenneth Rumball

Goal – Giving sails and wetsuits an afterlife – Looking for Circular Economy Avenues

This year the school handed over a large amount of old and used sails to Ann Kirwan from AK Sail Bags, who deconstructs the sails, taking all the usable materials off them for up-cycling into bags. Everything from bolt ropes to leech lines to even the cringles gets used to produce a stunning handbag, gear bag, washbag or marina bag! Furthermore, as a school that houses thousands of children and adults through its doors each year and also provides a wetsuit rental option to all clients too, they are bound to have some worn-down wetsuits from time to time.

They also work in close collaboration with The Upcycle Movement to give these wetsuits an afterlife by rescuing and transforming materials that otherwise would have gone to landfill. The results are unique and sustainable products. Hundreds of the school’s worn-down wetsuits have been transformed into pencil cases, wallets, bags and much more!

Ann Kirwan from AK Sail Bags deconstructs the sails, taking all the usable materials off them for up-cycling into bagsAnn Kirwan from AK Sail Bags deconstructs the sails, taking all the usable materials off them for up-cycling into bags


Goal – Renew Dinghy Fleet in Sustainable Way

By working with / RS Sailing Ireland, the school are renewing their dinghy fleet with boats designed with environmental stewardship at the forefront. RS Sailing have a major focus on sustainability in all they do, and this benefits the school’s operation according to Glyn Williams, “We choose RS Sailing dinghies as they were the best-designed boats for the job, but the sustainable practises from RS Sailing really are of benefit. RS focussed on using recycled materials as much as possible, so a new polyethylene hull is at least 70% recycled plastic. More importantly, it’s 100% recyclable – which is something RS will actually help you do. Even spare and foil construction is done to make recycling at the end of their life easy”.
Goal – Engines Go Electric

The school’s recently acquired fleet of J80 keelboats allows for a new adventure and cruising-orientated programmes; however, rather than fit petrol outboards, the team are currently procuring a fully electric alternative.
Testing is underway on electric engines for the safety boats, and plans are underway to roll this out when suitable options are available.


Goal - Waste Elimination – Paperless Office and Enhanced Technology

The school have thousands of students and clients walking in and out of their doors every year, each of whom used to be required to fill in a paper consent form. In 2022, all of this has moved online. Not only was this better for the environment, it also was easier for customers and staff members, and is one of the areas where the sustainability focus makes it easier for the team to do their job. Lead by Vonnie Airey; the team are undertaking a full digital transformation of the entire administration processes.

This forms part of the school’s strategy to eliminate waste across all aspects of the operation. Marine pollution is also on the radar. The team are committed to firstly not contributing to any such pollution, but also taking an active role in collecting any such materials when they have an opportunity to do so. They are in the process of planning a number of beach clean-ups throughout the year which will involve their students and staff.
Goal – Measuring and Targeting Impact

According to Glyn Williams, “back of the envelope calculations suggest that our safety boat fleet are the most important area to tackle for carbon emissions. Since 2020, despite getting busier, we don’t use any more fuel, thanks to the programme of improving engine efficiency and instigating better driving practises afloat”. However, the school are committed to understanding their impact “we can’t target what we’re not measuring”.

The team are undertaking a wide range of measurements of their overall impact and they’re committing to sharing this information. “Many things we’ve done so far have actually saved us money, or will do so in the long run – and many others make it easier to do our work”.

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The Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School is based on Dun Laoghaire's West Pier on Dublin Bay and in the heart of Ireland's marine leisure capital.

Whether you are looking at beginners start sailing course, a junior course or something more advanced in yacht racing, the INSS prides itself in being able to provide it as Ireland's largest sailing school.

Since its establishment in 1978, INSS says it has provided sailing and powerboat training to approximately 170,000 trainees. The school has a team of full-time instructors and they operate all year round. Lead by the father and son team of Alistair and Kenneth Rumball, the school has a great passion for the sport of sailing and boating and it enjoys nothing more than introducing it to beginners for the first time. 

Programmes include:

  • Shorebased Courses, including VHF, First Aid, Navigation
  • Powerboat Courses
  • Junior Sailing
  • Schools and College Sailing
  • Adult Dinghy and Yacht Training
  • Corporate Sailing & Events

History of the INSS

Set up by Alistair Rumball in 1978, the sailing school had very humble beginnings, with the original clubhouse situated on the first floor of what is now a charity shop on Dun Laoghaire's main street. Through the late 1970s and 1980s, the business began to establish a foothold, and Alistair's late brother Arthur set up the chandler Viking Marine during this period, which he ran until selling on to its present owners in 1999.

In 1991, the Irish National Sailing School relocated to its current premises at the foot of the West Pier. Throughout the 1990s the business continued to build on its reputation and became the training institution of choice for budding sailors. The 2000s saw the business break barriers - firstly by introducing more people to the water than any other organisation, and secondly pioneering low-cost course fees, thereby rubbishing the assertion that sailing is an expensive sport.