Over 60 gathered to hear former president Neil Murphy give details of the new five year strategic plan that was favourably received by a range of sailors who had plenty of questions for President David Lovegrove. Topics covered included; training, instructors, VHF certification, how dinghy classes fit in to the new arrangements and the association's new Regional Development Officer.
Afloat.ie reviewed the Strategic Plan HERE where it is also available to download as a PDF file.
The Plan is for the period 2015 - 2020 and is based on the views that were put to the Strategic Review Group. The SRG was asked by the Board in 2013 to assess where the Association stood and how it needed to adjust to better serve the sport of Sailing. The Board accepted its Report and tasked a group to prepare a new Strategic Plan for the ISA based on its contents.
Significantly, Norman Lee, the Wicklow based small boat sailor who sought – and has now got – fundamental change at the ISA, has welcomed the plan: 'My feelings are very positive, this has been a very positive and uplifting experience and if it continues in the way proposed, will turn Irish sailing around and be the prototype for similar change needed in other jurisdictions', he told Afloat.ie More from Norman on the topic HERE.
The underlying principle of the Plan is moving from a 'governance approach' to one of the principal stakeholders in the Sport working together with goal of encouraging and developing participation. The Association, Clubs, Training Centres, Classes and associated groups working in union to achieve those objectives underlies all of the strategies. There will be a renewed emphasis on utilising the input of volunteers to harness the skills and knowledge of active sailors so that the ISA can evolve and develop and respond to issues that arise.
'The initial vibe seems to be that the ISA has listened, strategised and truly re-connected with the Irish sailing community. Sure, there were valid issues raised that need looking at, especially in relation to cruising and training. But if that connection and dialogue is truly there again, well then what obstacles can't be overcome? In my particular area of interest – racing – the really exciting thing I see is the willingness to address structural issues that can make our sport too exclusive and competitive, especially for young sailors", Sean Craig, a one design dinghy and keelboat sailor, who was part of the the review group, told Afloat.ie
The primary role of the Clubs in growing the sport locally, attracting newcomers and maintaining the interest of both existing and new members is acknowledged. Better linkages between Clubs and Training Centres for their mutual benefit are proposed. This is in the knowledge that most newcomers interested in taking up Sailing feel more comfortable in approaching a Training Centre than a Club but the long term involvement of sailors in the sport is best ensured by them joining Clubs, participating in Club activities and enjoying the benefits - both practical and social - that membership provides.
'There was great positivity at the review meeting - it is clear that the ISA has listened to its members and the SRG team deserves much credit for creating strategies that can make a real difference going forward – to this end, we are more than willing to work with the Association to enhance our sport', Graham Smith Commodore of Malahide Yacht Club told Afloat.ie
'The Royal Irish Yacht Club welcomes the Strategic Plan prepared by the ISA, and will encourage the Club's involvement in its implementation. We are hopeful that this initiative heralds a new level of communication and interaction among all members of the sailing community, to the long-term benefit and enjoyment of this sport and recreation' said RIYC commodore James Horan.
The appointment of Regional Development Officers to assist Clubs and Training Centres has been one of the ISA success stories in recent years and it is proposed to increase their availability to Clubs and Training Centres. The Board has already decided to add a further RDO to the two existing appointments to ensure the local availability of expertise and advice and facilitate greater co-operation and coordination between local Clubs and with Training Centres.
The over elaborate structure of ISA training courses and the difficulties of qualifying, retaining and upskilling instructors was a widespread complaint when the Review Group conducted their research. Strategies to resolve those problems are proposed.
An often expressed view about the Club Training schemes for Junior sailors is the amount of effort committed to running courses by Clubs and the relatively poor transfer rate from the courses to Club involvement and activity afloat. It is planned to refocus the training courses away from a 'certificate chase' to an emphasis on developing the skills learned. An online sailing passport scheme to supplement the paper based certificate system is proposed. It will be trialled in the coming season and will allow the recording of both course attendance and other time afloat, whether racing or leisure sailing.
A strategy of encouraging the training of young sailors in two person boats, as opposed to single handed craft, is proposed, with a view to improving both their technical and social skills. A renewed emphasis on sailing being a sport for life and avoidance of the risk of sailor burnout by compressing skills acquisition into young sailors' early teens, are envisaged.
The redressing of the perceived imbalance between the support structures for those competing in the non-Olympic area and those involved with the High Performance area - essentially the Olympic arena - is proposed. This will not affect the support for the High Performance sector, which is funded through the good offices of the Irish Sports Council, but will instead propose that the support available to other areas of competition will be enhanced. Better access for Clubs and Classes to coaching at local level is one of the principal strategies envisaged and it is hoped that Clubs and Classes will be able to access both coaches with a High Performance background and those with experience of specific Classes.
It is proposed that the ISA should re-commence the co-ordination of a racing event calendar to facilitate the avoidance of clashes between events and re-establish the balance between local, regional and national events.
Former president Niamh McCutcheon who attended the meeting received a favourable mention from David Lovegrove who he said 'had the foresight to initiate this engagement'.
Similar meetings are planned as follows:
Tue 17 Feb 15 7pm-9pm Cork, Rochestown Park Hotel
Tue 24 Feb 15 7pm-9pm Galway, Galway Bay Sailing Club