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A New Direction for the Irish Sailing Association in 2016

18th December 2015
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Howth 2016 Olympic trialist Aoife Hopkins, Siobhan Farndon, Paralympian John Twomey, Simon Coveney TD, Minister for the Marine and Brian Keenan at the launch of 'Try Sailing’ on the River Liffey this summer. Photo: David Branigan/ISA David Branigan/ISA

ISA President, David Lovegrove on the year past, and his plans for 2016

2015 began with huge momentum for change in the ISA. The re-evaluation of the organisation's strategic vision, which was led by Neil Murphy, culminated in an extensive national consultative process which was finalised with the approval of the ISA Strategic Plan 2015-2020 at the AGM in March. The ISA now has a blueprint to guide the organisation through the acknowledged serious challenges confronting sailing and boating in Ireland.

2015 saw a number of stalwart and energetic Board members resign at the end of their term; Mike O’Connor, Muriel Rumball and Phillip Cowman. It is important to record our appreciation of the immensely effective effort all these directors made over several years. We have been fortunate to attract new blood of the same high calibre such as Robert Dix, Paddy McGlade and Sarah Byrne. Each brings a wealth of unique specialist experience.

The year started with our inaugural annual awards scheme, jointly held with Afloat, when unsurprisingly, Anthony O'Leary won the Sailor of the Year Award, and Royal Cork Yacht Club deservedly took the 2014 Mitsubishi sponsored accolade for Club of the Year. Youth Sailor of the Year was earned by the National Yacht Club’s Finn Lynch who had a stunningly successful season and finally, Mayo Sailing Club took the Training Centre of the Year award.

Early summer saw the launch of Try Sailing, an initiative devised by Board Directors Muriel Rumball and Pierce Purcell. The plan was to attract at least 3,000 newbies to get out on the water in Clubs and Training Centres all around the country. It was an outstanding success and there are high expectations of the plans to significantly extend the reach of Try Sailing in 2016.

2015, aided by great breezes, witnessed many successful National and International events in Ireland, including the ICRA Nationals, superbly hosted in Kinsale; the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, with over 400 boats on the water and 1,000s ashore enjoying the atmosphere and the craic. Dinghyfest, was, as always, expertly managed by the Royal Cork Yacht Club in mid-August. On the international front, there were some outstanding achievements, such as Shane McCarthy and Andy Thompson winning the highly competitive British GP14 championships in July and in the Fastnet in August, which proved once again, that Ireland can punch above its weight internationally with a number of great results in very difficult conditions.
At the risk of inadvertently omitting other worthy racing achievements, it would be remiss not to mention Justin Slattery’s win on Abu Dhabi in the Volvo round the world race and Dave Cullen’s great result in winning the Half Ton Classic Cup with Checkmate XV.

We cannot look forward to 2016 without mentioning our Olympic Athletes who are all presently travelling the world to participate in the toughest competitions to prepare for Rio 2016. We wish them well and confidently expect them to fly the Irish Flag in Rio with pride and hopefully some success.

2015 was a year when a lot of back–room energy was expended on preparing fresh initiatives which are planned to reinvigorate sailing activity, particularly amongst young adults. Presently, a consultative process will shortly be underway to brief all clubs and training centres on these changes. In 2016, Brian Craig hopes to announce the establishment of a National Coaching Programme which will be accessible to every sailor of whatever skill level or interest.

Changes to the small boat sailing scheme have been made to encourage a lifelong love of the sport with less emphasis on the acquisition of “certificates”.

The ISA continues to lobby Government on a range of issues, such as the urgent need for a replacement to the Small Craft Register, rationalisation of the system for granting foreshore licenses, etc. The list is endless!

I trust you are already making your sailing plans for next year and I wish you all safe and enjoyable times on the water in 2016.

David Lovegrove

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