This is my last blog as Irish Sailing President; where did that three years go? There have been both challenges and successes but what I have enjoyed most has been getting to visit sailing centres around the country and meeting the people who are the mainstays of our sport – the volunteers, organisers and sailors who make sailing accessible, safe and, above all, fun for anyone who wants to take part.
At the start of my presidency, my hope was for Irish Sailing to be more relevant to members and I hope I have gone some way towards this, as outlined below.
Converting “Try Sailors” to Members
Since 2017, through our Try Sailing programme, nearly 12,000 people have done just that. Also in that period membership of Irish Sailing has grown by 10% to 20,375, and while many factors drive membership, we believe this programme has played a significant part.
The introduction of the EU’s GDPR in May 2018 meant that our databases had to be built again from scratch, but it now means that our data is “clean” and people are active and willing subscribers to our services, membership and information. Numbers now stand at just over 10,000, so there is still work to be done. Despite the new GDPR giving us the position of “joint controller” of membership data, a number of clubs have not returned data to us which is disappointing. It’s important to stress that the more data we have allows us to create a clearer picture of our membership which, in turn, gives sailing a stronger voice for the future when attracting sailors, new members, funding and sponsorship.
Club Coaching Programme
The newly developed Club Coach course aimed at providing certified coaches for entry-level programmes at club and inter-club level is now underway with two courses. Next year sees a further roll-out of the programme with at least one course per region.
‘Keeping’ Third Level Students sailing
In July, Rory Martin joined the team implementing a new Team Racing initiative aimed at clubs and training centres. The programme aims to increase participation in club sailing amongst under-represented groups, including those at third-level, and to retain sailors at this level and beyond. Fifteen clubs have expressed interest with four clinics delivered to date.
More involvement of Women in Sailing
The first Irish Sailing Pathfinder Women at the Helm regatta was such a big success this year. Over 200 people took part and all the helms were women. Sport Ireland has endorsed this success by funding our new “Take the Helm” campaign next year as part of their Women in Sport Strategy.
Watersports Inclusion Games
This event, superbly hosted by the committed membership of Kinsale Yacht Club, saw 250 people from the physical, sensory, intellectual and learning ability spectrums take to the water each day in a variety of sports. A volunteer base of over 400 was a reflection of the incredible effort by so many to make this event a spectacular success. Anyone present knows what a privilege it is to be part of this event.
All Ireland Championships
The 2019 Irish Sailing All Ireland Championship, hosted by the National Yacht Club in October, was won by Michael O'Connor of the Royal St George YC, representing the SB20 class. The Junior Championship hosted by Dave Harte and his team in Schull was won by Chris Bateman of Monkstown Bay Sailing Club representing the RS200 class.
Looking ahead to 2020
Nearly 1000 people have engaged in the Strategic Review 2020-2025 process and I look forward to hearing their findings in the Spring. This review will be preceded by our National Conference and AGM on Saturday, March 21 in Dun Laoghaire with details to follow.
To those still sailing in the various winter series around the coast safe sailing; to those who have their boats winterised like myself enjoy the seasonal refitting plans.
As always you can find out more on our various channels (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), via our website, or our weekly newsletter www.sailing.ie
Date for your diary: National Conference & AGM on Saturday, March 21st in Dun Laoghaire