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It appears to be all change at the Irish Sailing Association this year, with some long-term staff members departing Park Road Headquarters in Dun Laoghaire on Dublin Bay.

Four staff have resigned from Irish Sailing in 2023 so far. The most recent are the Head of Communications, Treasa Cox, and South Coast Development Officer, Gail McAllister. 

There were other Project Management, Support Services and Accounts departures in that period, too, new CEO Tim Bourke told Afloat.

As regular Afloat readers will recall, ISA President John Twomey hosted a drinks party at the Royal St. George Yacht Club with Sport Ireland's top brass and selected guests in attendance to wave off former CEO Harry Hermon last December. 

The longest-serving CEO in Irish sport told the Christmas-time retirement gathering he was leaving the national governing body on a 'stable footing'.

From a staff point of view, however, it appears to have been anything but as Irish Sailing deals with what it describes this week as a 'change of leader and period of change'.

The sailing body hit troubled water in the personnel dept when Hermon was followed out the door early in the new year by two admin staff, one of which wrote to colleagues: "I had not anticipated being in a position where I would be writing this email to you at this stage of my career with Irish Sailing".

In May, we learned of the departure of long-serving regional development officer McAllister after 11 years, who exited weeks after briefing the ICRA National Conference on a buoyant year ahead. Likewise, the Head of Communications announced her departure in June after a six-year stint.

Bourke, who took on the role in January 2023, is not quite sailing solo but is looking to steady the ship with some new crew.

Personnel at Irish Sailing numbered 17 (between part and full-time) in October 2022. Bourke says the number of staff is currently 15 (between part and full-time), which should rise with planned appointments. 

He says about the current recruitment situation: "Three of the roles have been successfully filled. Additional roles in Data and Digital Communications have been secured. Recruitment is ongoing for a Head of Communications and a Chief Operating Officer.  We are pleased with the number of applicants for the roles". 

Happily, "no further departures are anticipated", he adds.

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The Irish Sailing Association’s recently-published 2022 annual financial statements present a picture of robust financial good health, with almost €1.4m in the bank, though nearly €900k of this reflects grants received, which have yet to be disbursed.

However, the summarised financial statements provide no explanation for the extraordinary reversal of the overall operating result, with a surplus of €171k in 2021 turning into a loss of €67k in 2022, a swing of €238k.

The Association’s accounts also show almost €650k in “Members Funds”, to which a further €436k in deferred Grants can be mentally provisionally allocated because it is largely a bookkeeping exercise which is unlikely ever to have to be repaid.

To this, of course, the valuable premises on Park Road in Dun Laoghaire can also be added, which is carried in the accounts at a book value of €116k and is probably conservatively worth something in excess of €2m. The building is currently used as offices for Association staff (which are now closed to the sailing public unless by prior appointment), but with a change in use to domestic accommodation under planning regulations, the value could be considerably more.

The members can take considerable comfort from the healthy state of the Association with liquid and tangible fixed assets worth something close to €3m.

In a major change of policy from what has been adopted for over 30 years, the Board seems to have decided that the members do not need to have sight of the customary unaudited detailed income and expenditure accounts and associated analysis which used to provide a wealth of information and data on the activities of the Association. Instead, the decision seems to be that the members should be satisfied with the minimum statutory disclosures required by law. This contrasts with the five pages devoted to analysing Government Grants received, excluding Covid Grants.

There are no details of salaries, income from the membership, income generated from trading activities, or regulatory compliance and certification roles.

 As part of the original Joint Membership Scheme (JMS), this analysis was also promised, on an ongoing basis, to reassure the members that general funds from Core activities were ring-fenced from the High-Performance area. Hopefully, this data will be provided in anticipation of the forthcoming AGM on the 25th of March in a format closer to what the constituent club members of the Association would see in their own annual accounts.

Download the 2022 ISA Accounts below as a PDF file

March 20th 1900 hrs Read update: Irish Sailing Association Publishes 'Updated' Financial Statements

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Dun Laoghaire Harbour sailor Tim Bourke has been appointed as the new CEO of Irish Sailing

The appointment follows the departure of the previous CEO Harry Hermon before Christmas. 

The National Governing Body said, "Tim is well regarded in both business and sailing circles, bringing a discerning blend of commercial and sporting experience to lead the organisation".

"Tim has a life-long passion for sailing, which started with dinghies and continued with instructing, racing keelboats, cruising and volunteering", it says.

Bourke previously ran a sailing school in the USA and co-founded the SB20 class in Ireland. 

Among the requirements for the new CEO is establishing Irish Sailing’s strategic direction, including strategies to grow participation and encourage inclusion and diversity.

The successful candidate takes the helm during a time of “real crisis in [Irish] elite sailing”, as heard at Irish Sailing’s AGM early last year.

Irish Sailing claims a membership of 24,000 across 100 clubs, 45 affiliated classes, 35 affiliated and 40 commercial training/activity centres running accredited training programmes.

Bourke will head a team of over 20, including full, part-time and contract workers at the headquarters at Park Road, Dun Laoghaire, in County Dublin.

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As the application deadline passed yesterday (Friday, October 28th) for the role of CEO at Irish Sailing, there will be scrutiny of candidates at Park Road headquarters, Dun Laoghaire, to see if there is an individual capable of maintaining relations with the country's yacht clubs and classes while at the same time navigating the Sport Ireland maze that provides so much government finance to the national governing body.

Afloat understands there has been considerable interest in the position due to the pending retirement of current chief executive Harry Hermon, as previously reported on

However, surprise has been expressed in some quarters that several likely candidates have reportedly decided to let the opportunity pass.

The successful candidate will take the helm during a time of “real crisis in [Irish] elite sailing”, as heard at Irish Sailing’s AGM earlier this year.

Although those involved in the recruitment process remain tight-lipped, the word on the waterfront is that the ranks of the sailing community itself have produced at least half a dozen names for the hat, including those from the international racing fraternities – both inshore and offshore – as well as current administrators. As Afloat sources reveal, expressions of interest have also come from suitably qualified sailing school instructors and coaches for the rumoured to be €90k role.

Irish Sailing’s recruitment partner Ascension Executive Recruitment told Afloat the salary for the role “is negotiable depending on experience.” Hence, that figure is most likely a starting point where the benchmark, according to industry sources, might be as high as €130k.

The vacancy, it is understood, has appealed to some other national governing body administrators too, where there are ambitious 'Number Twos' keen to move up the career ladder.

In the job description and role profile, the national governing body for sailing, power boating and windsurfing in Ireland says the CEO is responsible for leading the organisation to ensure the sustainability of the sport, its reputation and achievement of outstanding success”.

Among the requirements for the new CEO is establishing Irish Sailing’s strategic direction, including strategies to grow participation and encourage inclusion and diversity.

They will have significant experience within a business or similar environment, managing multiple stakeholders and funding sources, with a genuine desire to grow the sport of sailing at all levels.

They will also have “a track record of driving innovation and change”.

Applications closed on Friday, 28 October, and more on the role can be found via Irish Sailing’s LinkedIn page HERE.

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Irish Sailing has launched the recruitment process for a new CEO due to the pending retirement of current chief executive Harry Hermon, as previously reported on

In the job description and role profile, the national governing body for sailing, power boating and windsurfing in Ireland says the CEO is responsible for leading the organisation to ensure the sustainability of the sport, its reputation and achievement of outstanding success”.

Among the requirements for the new CEO are establishing Irish Sailing’s strategic direction, including strategies to grow participation and encourage inclusion and diversity.

The successful candidate will take the helm during a time of “real crisis in [Irish] elite sailing”, as heard at Irish Sailing’s AGM earlier this year.

They will have significant experience within a business or similar environment, managing multiple stakeholders and funding sources, with a genuine desire to grow the sport of sailing at all levels.

They will also have “a track record of driving innovation and change”.

Irish Sailing’s recruitment partner Ascension Executive Recruitment said the salary for the role “is negotiable depending on experience”.

Applications close on Friday, 28 October and more on the role can be found via Irish Sailing’s LinkedIn page HERE.

This story was updated on Thursday 6 October to include a detail on the salary range.

Published in ISA

Irish Sailing says it will begin a recruitment process for a new CEO soon, following Harry Hermon’s retirement announcement today (Thursday 1 September).

Hermon, who has held the role since 2006, is to retire this December to “spend more time with [his] family”.

During his tenure with Irish Sailing, which began in 1999 in the role of club development officer, Hermon was in the hot seat for four Olympic Games including Annalise Murphy’s historic silver medal in the Laser Radial at Rio 2016.

Commenting on his retirement, Hermon said: “It has been an honour and privilege to work with Irish Sailing over the past 23 years … With COVID-19 behind us and the organisation on a stable footing, I believe it is the right time to retire from Irish Sailing and spend more time with my family at home and overseas. I wish everyone involved in the organisation the very best in the future.”

John Twomey, president of Irish Sailing said: “I would like to thank Harry for all his work with Irish Sailing. He will be missed, and we wish him well in the future.”


Published in ISA

Ireland’s biggest youth sailing regatta will see numbers back up to pre-COVID highs with over 200 young sailors taking part in the 2022 Irish Sailing Youth National Championships this week.

This year the event is hosted by Ballyholme Yacht Club in Bangor, Northern Ireland from Thursday 21 to Sunday 24 April.

Ballyholme is the biggest club in Northern Ireland and has a reputation of producing world-class sailors representing Ireland at international and Olympic level, including Liam Glynn and 49er Olympians Matt McGovern and Ryan Seaton.

Strategically, it also allows for a wide variety of race courses, with the whole of Belfast Lough to play with. Boys and girls under 18 will compete against each other on the water, with a rough 60:40 male/female split.

Irish Sailing Youth Nationals 2022 banner

Irish Sailing says the Youth Nationals are unique in not only being the biggest youth sailing event held in Ireland, but also the only time that different youth classes come together to compete, gain valuable experience on the water, and learn more about advancing to the high-performance ranks directly from the coaches.

Young sailors from across Ireland will compete across six different classes of boat, identified as the best to facilitate progression through the Irish Sailing Performance Pathway: 420, Topper, ILCA 4 (Laser 4.7), ILCA 6 (Laser Radial), 29ers and Optimists — the latter of which are fully integrated for the first time.

And Irish sailing’s younger prospects will have to brace themselves for a cold four days as water temperatures in Ballyholme at this time of the year are still chilly, with average temperatures of 4-12 degrees Celsius and reliably windy conditions.

Published in Youth Sailing

Irish Sailing has announced changes to its Olympic coaching team in the wake of last month’s Tokyo 2020 performance review.

Sean Evans, who has worked with Irish Sailing since 2018 as Academy coach, now becomes the Olympic development coach, a role that oversees the development of athletes aspiring to undertake Olympic campaigns.

Meanwhile, Valencia-based Milan Vujasinovic has been appointed Laser Radial Academy coach, a position he previously held from 2011-2014.

Published in ISA

Former ISA president Roger Bannon reacts to the publication of the external review of the Tokyo Olympics performance, while current Irish Sailing president David O’Brien defends the report’s delivery and optimism for Paris

Confidence in Irish Sailing “at all-time low”

Roger Bannon served as President of the association from 1994 to 1996Roger Bannon served as President of the association from 1994 to 1996

It is pleasing to see the change of heart to publish the carefully-edited report on the Tokyo Games though disappointing that much of the substantial background to it has been redacted or ignored. It is clear that widespread criticisms from a variety of sources have been independently vindicated.

It is interesting that the mainstream media are viewing the report as a catalogue of failures. In these circumstances, it seems very strange that the Performance Director “endorses” the report which, in reality, represents a very negative assessment on the performance of our Olympic Steering Group. It would be interesting to hear a reaction from the Chairman, Patrick Coveney.

The management failures are self-evident and are not only damaging the elite athletes involved but unfortunately also perpetuating a consequential negative impact on grassroots sailing by adopting harmful strategic policies.

The inexplicable and inconsistent changes of the Radial selection process for Tokyo; the failure of modest technical support for the only discipline, 49er, in which we had to supply equipment; the unexpected failure of our Laser representative to qualify for the Games despite showing his class shortly afterwards by finishing 2nd in the World Championships; and the abject disaster of accommodation planning in Tokyo, contribute to a long list of critical failures.

Following the unjustified raising of expectations, it is also clear that Sailing’s relationship with Sport Ireland has to be understandably under some stress with the disappointments of Tokyo.

In any other national sporting body, the consequences of these failures and anxieties would be clear-cut and decisive.

It is time for the management of this relationship with Sport Ireland to return to the direct control of the Board of Irish Sailing. It is intolerable that main Board members have had little or no involvement in managing this critical relationship.

In the meantime, the Board must take urgent and significant action. A good start would be to review the composition of the membership of the Olympic Steering Group (OSG) and appoint individuals with specific responsibility for operational, financial and HR matters to report directly to the Board.

To continue justifying the significant level of ongoing Government funding (as the 3rd best-funded Olympic sport in Ireland), it is time for a comprehensive review of the management structure in the Irish Sailing Association and an honest assessment of its effectiveness in fulfilling the strategic objectives of Irish Sailing.

Confidence in the Irish Sailing Association is at an all-time low and restoring credibility with sailors and Government funders alike has to be a major priority for the Board.

- Roger Bannon

Report gives clear guidance for Paris success

Irish Sailing president David O’BrienIrish Sailing President David O’Brien

I wish to make the following comments in respect of the Uppercut report as the Roger Bannon piece would suggest he may have been misinformed.

The report as published has not been redacted. To suggest so is incorrect. As you will appreciate in many instances, the full report quotes the actual feedback given by the, at times identifiable, stakeholders (athletes, Sport Ireland officials, our High-Performance team, and Irish Sailing Board members and CEO), who participated openly on the understanding of full confidentiality.

As is normal with such reviews, Uppercut prepared both documents (full and summary), and they are confident that all their findings, and conclusions are in the summary report. The Board of Irish Sailing are satisfied that all the salient points raised in the full report have been published in the summary. It is our duty as Irish Sailing Board Members to ensure transparency and good governance and to suggest otherwise is incorrect and indeed disappointing.

The Irish Sailing Board are pleased with the reaction within Irish Sailing to the report, especially from the OSG Chair and High-Performance Director. While the report acknowledges issues to be addressed, it also provides learnings for future campaigns and as such Irish Sailing see the report as a work-in-progress in our desire to develop the most successful organisation possible and win future Olympic medals. Everyone within Irish Sailing strives to improve, and as such the report provides clear guidance on what needs to be worked upon.

The HPP has been in existence since the Athens Olympics and is a well-established, stable, and structured programme, which has seen its resources and structures evolve and expand over that time. As is usual at the end of an Olympic cycle, and in the light of this report, the Irish Sailing Board will review the Terms of Reference of the OSG. One of the report’s recommendations was to review internal communications, which has already been activated by our CEO.

Whilst the report does comment on Irish Sailing’s relationship with Sport Ireland, we don’t believe this relationship is in any way under the stress Roger Bannon suggests, but rather it is a relationship jointly disappointed by the Tokyo outcome. But we can advise that a very positive follow up meeting has been held with Sport Ireland to present the Summary report to them and they, in turn, have expressed their satisfaction with the integrity of the report and its recommendations. Both parties are confident the report will help to strengthen our relationship into the future, specifically with the Paris and the Los Angeles Olympic games in mind.

The Irish Sailing Board and OSG will continue to work closely to ensure the issues highlighted in the report will be addressed, and the best possible results achieved in Paris.

- David O'Brien

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Tokyo was a disappointing Olympic Games that did not deliver on the high expectations post-Rio is a conclusion of an independent external review published yesterday by the Irish Sailing Association (ISA).

"Fewer boats qualified than the expected targets, and the performance of the boats which did qualify was disappointing", the report states.

The review, commissioned by the ISA, was prepared by sports coaching guru Gary Keegan of consultants Uppercut and was initially scheduled to be published by November 2021 but was released yesterday (February 8th) on the association website.

The review follows criticism from a number of key observers including Olympians and former coaches as well as plain-speaking former ISA President Roger Bannon, who called for some 'dispassionate reflection on Ireland's sailing performance' post-Tokyo.

In the five years from Rio, Irish Sailing received €3.87m in High-Performance state funding as follows: 2017: €735k, 2018: €735k, 2019: €800k, 2020: €800k and 2021: €800k. The association also benefited from a state funding allocation of €1.553m under the National Sports policy as follows: 2018: €323k, 2019: €385k, 2020: €410k and 2021: €435k

"Sailing is one of the top three funded sports in Ireland, and the expectation was to have four boats qualifying, two in medal contention and one Olympic medal, but that wasn't achieved", the Keegan report says.

49er highlight

However, "the performance of the 49er crew was a highlight given that they were first time Olympians and suffered a disqualification for two races", Keegan notes.  

Introducing the report, Irish Sailing President David O'Brien said, "I am very pleased to share the independent external review of the Tokyo Olympics with you, Irish Sailing members and the wider sailing community".

It appears, however, the association stopped short of publishing the full review and instead released a 17-page 'summary of headline findings'. (downloadable below)

The emerging themes arising out of Gary Keegan's analysis of the Irish Sailing Tokyo Review data The emerging themes arising out of Gary Keegan's analysis of the Irish Sailing Tokyo Review data

The summary document notes: "A comprehensive report was issued to the Review Steering Panel which outlined the detailed findings, supporting evidence and recommendations based on the data and information shared during the review and also shares some perspectives and comparatives based on our experience of HP environments".

Sport Ireland

The report states that Sport Ireland's confidence in the IS High-Performance Programme (HPP) has been demonstrated in the level of investment the HPP has managed to secure through the Rio and Tokyo cycles, but "there would seem to be a slight shift in confidence from Sport Ireland's perspective following the performances in Tokyo and, what Sport Ireland believes, to be a reduced level of proactive communication and engagement from the HPP into Sport Ireland on high-performance matters".

Irish Sailing community

"The Irish sailing community (the Club base) would benefit from having an increased awareness and understanding of the HPP", the review concludes. The HPP athletes have all developed through the club system onto the HPP. The report says that "their journey and their endeavours to be world-class should be shared more with club members to enhance the sense of pride and connection the club community has with their HPP".

Fukuroi base

"There was positive feedback about Fukuroi in Tokyo, but at their Olympic accommodation base, athletes reported challenges with "a sense of isolation due to the location, travel times to sailing venue from the hotel, lack of facilities, time on their own (leading to over-thinking) restricted movements, sharing rooms, poor quality of food etc.", the Uppercut report says.

Some of these problems were caused by losing the intended main accommodation base, which was a critical factor concerning the quality of the team's final taper and preparations. "Overall, there was a lack of support on-site compared to competitors, e.g. access to psychology and physio support, boat repairs etc. and management reported the challenge in securing that support for the duration of the Games", the report says.

Harness measurement infraction

The report deals with the measurement infraction experienced by the 49er crew that led to disqualification from two races and concludes it was "avoidable". Both the coaches and athletes highlighted that the cause was due to a harness that had deteriorated, i.e. a wearing down of the harness's hydrophobic layer, leading it to absorb more water and, therefore, increasing its weight.

"The harness was checked too far out from the regatta. There was no protocol in place to identify red flags in the system and appropriate action to be taken and also no checks and balances protocol", it says. 

Selection Policy & Process

In relation to Selection Policy & Process for future Olympic Games, the report says consideration could be given to building in a "force majeure" provision to the Selection Policy to deal with unforeseen and unanticipated situations.

The report also says more communication with athletes who do not qualify needs to be enhanced with the time taken to do this with sensitivity and respect and to explain the context and rationale. As regular Afloat readers will know, a cut-short Radial trial led to significant concerns over and hoc change in process in 2020.

James O'Callaghan, Irish Sailing Performance Director, said in response to the report. "The challenges are clear, but there is great optimism from all stakeholders about the potential of the programme given the athlete profile and experience of the coaching and leadership team".

Download the summary of findings below

All of Afloat's Tokyo coverage is in this dedicated link here. Rio 2016 coverage is here and Paris 2024 is here

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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.