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Whither Irish Sailing? – Richard Burrows

20th March 2013
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Whither Irish Sailing? – Richard Burrows

#sailing – Former Irish Olympic Sailing Chief Richard Burrows has been following the debate on the future for Irish sailing and suggests the focus should be on recruiting the next generation of sailors. Writing today (as a grandfather), the 1986 Round Ireland race winner and former champion dinghy sailor is concerned that the proper fabric for training youngsters is in place.

I have followed the debate following on from the ISA meeting through the excellent facility of your Afloat updates.
The input from Roger Bannon contains much which I instinctively agree with but I do recognise that as far as young sailors are concerned I am very much out of date. However as a grandfather I look forward to introducing a new generation to sailing and I am concerned that the proper fabric for training, encouraging, and motivating youngsters is in place.
Clubs bear responsibility for this. And club members must play an active role. Junior sailing is not a babysitting service that can be outsourced to the ISA. An example of this being done well is to be found at Malahide Yacht Club. There, it comes down to active leaders on committee, great officers, and reasonable pricing. Choices about which boat are immaterial so long as the boats are safe, easily sailed, and cheap.
Roger makes some polemic comments about High Performance sailing and the funds devoted to this aspect of the sport. He won't mind me reminding him that he was in the Presidents chair when the foundation of today's policy was put in place with his full support. He is right that Olympic medals have proven to be elusive but this is just a matter of time.

At Weymouth two competitors were potential medal winners but it wasn't to be. Would this debate be taking place if medals had been won?

Yes, in my view, the two aspects of the sport are only connected by the fact that high performance sailing attracts publicity, and thus awareness of sailing. Club sailing will not produce column inches. And, spreading the funds devoted to support high performance sailing into club activities would not move the needle as the club base is so large.
So, my suggestion is to focus the debate on recruiting the next generation of sailors. And that means club members getting involved at club level. If ISA instructors are not up to it don't employ them. Charge nominal subscriptions to members under the age of 25. Embrace all forms of sailing including boards and kites. The responsibility lies with clubs. We cannot allow nanny state thinking to pervade and render clubs moribund in the expectation that the ISA will save them.

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