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Irish Sailing Association Elects New President as AGM Hears of “Real Crisis in Irish Elite Sailing”

27th March 2022

Irish Paralympic veteran John Twomey succeeded David O’Brien as Irish Sailing Association president at its AGM in Dublin on March 26.

The Kinsale-based sailor represented Ireland at 11 Paralympic games, in both sailing and athletics (competing in the discus event, in which he won a gold medal in Seoul in 1988).

The AGM also heard former ISA president Roger Bannon press the board for further details on its plans to address issues highlighted in the recent external review of the Tokyo Games performance.

“Over the last 17 years, probably something in the order of €15m has been spent on High-Performance activities, almost €1.5m last year alone, and we have one silver medal in 2016 to show for it, won in exceptional circumstance by a uniquely talented competitor who was provided with a lot of support from resources outside of the ISA,” Bannon told the meeting.

“After 17 long years, it is not an acceptable nor a sensible reaction to a real crisis in our elite sailing structures for the ISA to describe the high-performance area as an ongoing work in progress and noting that lessons have been learnt and then change nothing fundamental.”

Mr Bannon went on to caution that “Olympic and High-Performance activities absorb over 50% of the resources of the Association and perform a highly visible role on behalf of us all. If the government loses faith with our sport’s potential to win medals, the generous funding we have all been fairly easily obtaining in recent years at club and national level will quickly diminish and indeed I understand this has already started.”

Noting that he had consulted widely, both from current and former High Performance athletes and experienced international coaches, Mr Bannon described the High Performance as “not fit for purpose”, and asked the board to describe “what meaningful action the ISA is going to take to materially change things.”

The outgoing ISA president, Mr O’Brien previously told Afloat that “The Irish Sailing Board and OSG will continue to work closely to ensure the issues highlighted in the [Tokyo] report will be addressed, and the best possible results achieved in Paris.”

The new ISA President, Mr Twomey, helmed in the Mixed Three-Person Sonar, a 23-foot two-sail keelboat in the 2000 Sydney Games, 2004 Athens Games, 2012 London Games and 2016 Rio Games and the Mixed Two-Person SKUD18 in the 2008 Beijing Games. He was elected President of the International Association for Disabled Sailing in 2012.

Two serving directors of the ISA, Fiona Bolger and Nikki Curran, stepped down at the AGM, having served for five years, while three new directors - Dave Cullen, Katie Dwyer and Mal Nowlan – were elected to the vacant positions.

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Irish Sailing

The Irish Sailing Association, also known as Irish Sailing, is the national governing body for sailing, powerboating and windsurfing in Ireland.

Founded in 1945 as the Irish Dinghy Racing Association, it became the Irish Yachting Association in 1964 and the Irish Sailing Association in 1992.

Irish Sailing is a Member National Authority (MNA) of World Sailing and a member of the Olympic Federation of Ireland.

The Association is governed by a volunteer board, elected by the member clubs. Policy Groups provide the link with members and stakeholders while advising the Board on specialist areas. There is a professional administration and performance staff, based at the headquarters in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.

Core functions include the regulation of sailing education, administering racing and selection of Irish sailors for international competition. It is the body recognised by the Olympic Federation of Ireland for nominating Irish qualified sailors to be considered for selection to represent Ireland at the Olympic Games. Irish sailors have medalled twice at the Olympics – David Wilkins and Jamie Wikinson at the 1980 games, and Annalise Murphy at the 2016 games.

The Association, through its network of clubs and centres, offers curriculum-based training in the various sailing, windsurfing and powerboating disciplines. Irish Sailing qualifications are recognised by Irish and European Authorities. Most prominent of these are the Yachtmaster and the International Certificate of Competency.

It runs the annual All-Ireland Championships (formerly the Helmsman’s Championship) for senior and junior sailors.

The Association has been led by leading lights in the sailing and business communities. These include Douglas Heard, Clayton Love Junior, John Burke and Robert Dix.

Close to 100 sailors have represented Ireland at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Membership of Irish Sailing is either by direct application or through membership of an affiliated organisation. The annual membership fee ranges from €75 for families, down to €20 for Seniors and Juniors.