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IODAI Communications Officer Brendan Foley reports on a recent Optimist dinghy class survey

What do Junior sailors and their families want from Oppie sailing? That was the key question that IODAI, the organising body for Optimist sailing in Ireland, wished to find out from their members. All members were sent a link to a survey, and 66 families responded.

Many interesting insights arose, which are outlined here;

  • The average number of sailors per family is 2.
  • 69% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with IODAI – only 1% were somewhat dissatisfied.


  • When asked, “what do you like most about sailing an optimist ?” the overwhelming theme was friendship and fun followed by racing.
  • From a parents' perspective, they appreciated the confidence building, family focus and independence that the class offers.
  • When asked about what changes members would like to see, three main themes arose;
  • More support at events.
  • Have more regional training options.
  • Make team racing part of IODAI events.

From a pathway in sailing perspective, IODAI were keen to understand what classes people would sail after leaving Optimists;


  • The Mirror was not included in the list, but in “other”, three people indicated that as their next boat.
  • ILCA 4, RS Feva and team racing were the most popular next boats for most sailors.

The final question was an open-field option to give any feedback that people wished to the committee. While it was clear there is a need to try to manage costs, vary venues and communicate these early, thankfully, the key takeaway here was, “You are doing a great job – keep it up”.

The newly formed IODAI Committee have already acted on some of the feedback and is committed to keeping an open dialogue with members to ensure the class can work for all. Our operating principle is to focus on the 80% rather than the top 20%, to continually encourage participation and create sailors for life.

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The membership of the Irish Optimist Dinghy Association of Ireland (IODAI) met through Zoom for their Annual General Meeting on Tuesday the 13th of December 2022.

With an outgoing President and three senior committee members, there was much change but firstly, Alex Walsh looked back at the past year and the overall achievements of the committee throughout its tenure.

It has been a busy twelve months and the class has grown from strength to strength. Event participation has grown by over 50% and with a spread of events nationally, this has seen general uplift in the class from around the Country. Initiatives such as the Racing Regatta Fleet and Development Squad and the very successful National Training Week have helped underpin this growth. Darragh Brady was roundly acknowledged for his significant contribution to the great success of the National Training Week.

A rundown of the events from 2022 by the Events Co-Ordinator Tom Mapplebeck painted a healthy picture of a class that built participation with each event. Aligned with that was the strong volunteer base the class and host clubs benefit from.
Honorary Treasurer, Dominic Byrne outlined the finances from the published accounts for 2021 and set out the income and expenditure for 2022. While the association is in a healthy financial position, like all clubs and associations, there was some tempering in expectation given the overall increases in costs which are likely to arise in the coming years.

Alex Walsh thanked the current committee for their hard work and dedication to the association and class. In this regard, he specifically acknowledged Tom Mappleback, John Scott and Derek Moynan who were all stepping down. Alex also acknowledged the work done by Aidan Staunton and Roger Conan as directors who stepped down. In their place, Andrew Crosbie and Alex Walsh were elected as directors to support Christina Arigho, who remained as a director. Before concluding, he gave ‘a very strong endorsement of the incoming committee who have great passion and drive for the Association and the IODAI is in very good hands going forward lead by Paddy Ryan’

A new Committee was then elected to ratify the appointments of Darragh Brady, Neil Spain and Steve O’Sullivan and identifying the roles of the various members within the group.

Newly elected President, Paddy Ryan first spoke to the tenure of the outing committee and specifically in relation to the hard work, dedication and commitment of Alex Walsh. Paddy said that ‘In any period, the work done by Alex would have been acknowledged as been significant but with the additional complications of Covid-19 his contribution to the association and class was simply immense’.

Paddy then addressed the membership with regards to the continuity which the new committee would work to and also what it hoped to achieve in the following year. Highlighting that it was important to continue to build on the strengths of previous committees and maintaining good governance, a health spread of high quality events around the country and to continue to support local club sailors, he also identified areas which would see the class continue its growth. After briefly touching upon the areas of sportsmanship, fair sailing, team racing, performance training and pathways and well as the development of sailors for life while continuing to make the class welcoming and appealing to all, the meeting was closed.

With Ballyholme Yacht Club now secured as hosts for the National Championships in August 2023 certainly sounds like it is going to be an interesting and exciting year for the class.

The Committee for 2023 is as follows;

  • President Paddy Ryan (MYC)
  • Vice-President Ross Gorman (NYC)
  • Hon. Secretary Ian Venner (RCYC)
  • Hon. Treasurer Dominic Byrne (LRYC)
  • Teams Stephen O’Sullivan (RCYC)
  • Communications Officer Brendan Foley (RStGYC)
  • Events Officers Flore Dion (NYC)
  • Neil Spain (HYC)
  • Training & Development Darragh Brady (LDYC)
  • Sailor Progression Gill Doig (EABSC)

Paddy Ryan has been involved with IODAI committee since 2020 and is an active member of Malahide Yacht Club, the Royal St. George and Howth Yacht Club. He has two children in the Optimist fleet and races regularly himself. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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You’ll never forget the first time you drive into the Weymouth and Portland RYA Sailing Academy sailing base. It’s massive, writes Brendan Foley of the IODAI.

The venue for the London Olympics in 2012 is simply stunning. Its sheer scale and continuous slipway can see 300 boats launch at the same time to sail in the sheltered waters of the bay.

It’s the home for the Optimist British National Championships in 2023, running from the 5th-11th of August, which will see IODAI send a team of Under 12 sailors. The British National Championships go to Weymouth every second year and in many ways, it’s like a European Championship with teams from all over Europe coming to compete.

The venue has a unique feature in Chesil beach made up of 180 billion pebbles and, interestingly, is shaped like an aeroplane wing which accelerates the wind from the West into Weymouth Bay, creating stronger breezes even in Summer. Due to these conditions, you’ll also see the amazing foiling IQ Windsurfers training there for the Olympics.

Frances Corkery of Kinsale and RCYC is the team coach. The squad will train in Lough Ree on the 13th & 14th of May 2023, with the focus on team connection and developing skills together. This team is selected based on the end-of-year ranking and is made up of sailors who are Optimists age 12 or younger in the year they travel with the team.

It will be an exciting trip and the first overseas for many sailors. Apart from the team, a large contingent of older Irish Oppie kids and their families are expected to travel to the competition and renew friendships with UK sailors who visited the Irish Nationals at the Royal St George this year.

The Irish Optimist team for Weymouth 2023 is;

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Now in its second year running the National Training Week for Optimists provides an end-of-season opportunity for sailors to get together to learn from fantastic coaches. Hosted by Lough Derg Yacht Club, the event was a huge success. Running from the 2nd to the 5th of November, wintery weather was to be expected. Wednesday greeted the sailors with 30-40 knots. Luckily Lough Derg offers some shelter even in these winds and a small group of sailors went out for a blast. Once downwind, the oppies were airborne, planning from wave to wave and massive smiles all around. The younger sailors did theory and games ashore. 

Thursday and Friday were mild with light winds and even sunshine, helping the 136 sailors to get great roll tacking and light wind sailing in. Led by a trio of International coaches Thomas Chaix, Soren Laugeussen and Denis Passke, the fleet gained new skills and were supported by excellent young and upcoming Irish coaches. It was also a chance for the newly formed Development Squad led by Peter McCann to meet up for the first time and also the u12 Team that will travel to the British Nationals in Waymouth next year with the their lead coach Frances Corkery. Finn Walker and Cillian Madigan led the Regatta Fleet coaching and racing fleets, where sailors as young as 7 met new friends and sailed in perfect lake conditions.

National Training Week had a wide ranging questions and answers sessions on all things OptimistNational Training Week had a wide ranging questions and answers sessions on all things Optimist

A disco on the Thursday night and sit-down meal had a great family vibe with a congo snake of parents and sailors at one stage stretching the whole way around the yacht club building. Dargah Brady the event organiser’s hotelier background ensuring that people were well fed.

While the senior and junior fleets were learning more advanced sailing, the youngest sailors in the regatta fleet were in amazement each day as the water levels rose in the lake, eventually submerging the piers. Everyday they had to move their boats further back from the shore. The locals told the coastal sea sailors not to worry – that the clubhouse had not flooded in 200 years! The humour and can do attitude of the LDYC volunteers helped make the week a great success. The event would have generated significant income for the club, the local restaurants and accommodation providers at a quiet time of year. To run an event like this is a big undertaking, but thankfully, Grant Thornton (Mick Shelley) CH Marine (Nick Bendon), Dinghy Performance (Thomas Chaix) and 4orm Apparel Ltd contributed as sponsors.

National Training Week for Optimists‘a smooth sea never made a sailor’- research is showing that the ability to handle adversity is one of the core traits for sporting success

The training week ended with prize giving where coveted coaches beanies where presented to those sailors that stood out for their efforts during the week and also in recognition to sailors that had shown great sportsmanship, a topic which was at the core of the coaching program. The overall coaches award was presented to Kate Spain (HYC) who had embraced the week and excelled on and off the water. The prizegiving was followed by an ‘in-it-to-win-it’ draw, a highlight for many of the kids as the top prize was a new Olympic Optimist sail provided by Tomas Chaix.

Some of the attendees at Optimist National Training Week at Lough ReeSome of the attendees at Optimist National Training Week at Lough Ree

The sailors got to practice what they learned over the week, with Saturday being the regatta day. 4 races were held in light conditions for both the regatta fleet and the main fleet. Junior Main and Senior Main raced together (they are normally separate), giving the Juniors a chance to have a go at the Seniors! Race officers John Leech and Liam Moloney did a super job providing a fitting positive end to a great week of friendship, learning and family fun. Both the National Training Week trophy and President’s Prize was won by Lily Donagh (LDYC), with another local sailor, Aoife McElligott, winning the long-standing Crosbie Cup

The National Training Week 2023 will be hosted by RCYC in Crosshaven during the Halloween mid-term break.

Results of the Crosbie Cup and National Training Week Regatta below;

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Oppie sailors took to Galway Bay at the weekend for the resumed Cumann Seoltóireachta an Spidéil (CSS) annual regatta.

Challenging conditions off An Spidéal the previous weekend had restricted racing to the mixed fleet of 420, Laser, Pico and Topaz dinghies, and freshening winds forced an early finish on safety grounds.

Lighter winds on Sunday (October 23) and a rare absence of rain after a week of broken weather and heavy showers allowed the club’s Oppie fleet to launch for a series of three races set by officer of the day Stephen O’Gorman and commodore Eoin Ó Conghaíle.

The winner in the Oppie fleet was Liam Riggott, and Padraic Halliday, also of CSS, took second place.

Seán Ó Conghaíle took third, and Sarah MacAodha finished in fourth place.

Participation by Picos has also been cancelled on safety grounds the previous week. CSS sailing duo Sarah Donald and Rory McHale were presented with the overall Pico trophy for their participation.

CSS regatta 2022 Oppie fleet winner Liam Riggot with commodore Eoin Ó Conghaíle Photo: Jamie DonaldCSS regatta 2022 Oppie fleet winner Liam Riggot with commodore Eoin Ó Conghaíle Photo: Jamie Donald

CSS regatta 2022- Padraic Halliday took second place in Oppies with commodore Eoin Ó Conghaíle Photo: Jamie DonaldCSS regatta 2022- Padraic Halliday took second place in Oppies with commodore Eoin Ó Conghaíle Photo: Jamie Donald

CSS regatta 2022 third place winner Seán Ó Conghaíle with commodore Eoin Ó Conghaíle Photo: Jamie DonaldCSS regatta 2022 third place winner Seán Ó Conghaíle with commodore Eoin Ó Conghaíle Photo: Jamie Donald

CSS regatta 2022 - Oppie sailor Sarah MacAodha who took fourth place with commodore Eoin Ó Conghaíle Photo: Jamie DonaldCSS regatta 2022 - Oppie sailor Sarah MacAodha who took fourth place with commodore Eoin Ó Conghaíle Photo: Jamie Donald

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The host club's Lucy Moynan was the winner of the Royal Cork Optimist Cobbler League Series 2022

Second was RCYC's Andrew O'Neill, with clubmate Dougie Venner third.

The League took place across the first four Sundays of October and ran until October 23rd, with racing for Optimist regatta (with the biggest fleet of 17), junior and senior fleets.

Tara Hayes was the junior fleet winner, followed by Eóin Pierse.

Optimist Dinghy RCYC Cobbler League 2022 Photo Gallery By Bob Bateman

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Exciting times for the Irish Optimist fleet with momentum quickly building towards the IODAI National Training Week taking place from the 2nd to the 5th of November.

Scheduled over four days, with over 130 participating young sailors from 16 different clubs across the Country. It is certainly one of the largest sailing training events to be held on our shores for many years. Hosted by Lough Derg Yacht Club in Dromineer, Co Tipperary, the focus is on fun, friendship and learning new sailing skills.

The National Training Week marks the end of a long season for Optimist Sailors and their families. In keeping with previous years, its goal is to have as much fun as possible, with new friends made throughout the season and for older sailors to have one final get together before the end of the year.

Olympic Silver Medalist Annalise Murphy briefs sailors at a previous edition of the IODAI Optimist Training WeekOlympic Silver Medalist Annalise Murphy briefs sailors at a previous edition of the IODAI Optimist Training Week

The coaching ticket will be led by Thomas Chaix (FRA), Soren Laungesen (DEN) and Dennis Paaske (DEN). They will be joined by the best National and Regional coaches. Coaching endorsement prior to the event in Lough Derg will take place, which will see our home-grown talent and coaches being afforded the opportunity to grow and develop their own skill sets.

The Development Squad and the Under 12 team will join the Training Week. Over twenty sailors have applied for the IODAI Development Squad, which sees sailors transitioning from the regatta fleet into the main fleet as well as Bronze fleet sailors join together for their first experience of the National group. They will be led by coach Peter McCann from Cork. The Under 12 Team will be led by coach Frances Corkery. These U12 sailors will be taking their first steps together as they work towards the British National Championship in Weymouth next August.

The bookend to the IODAI Optimist National Training Week at Lough Derg Yacht Club will be the Halloween Regatta which incorporates the Crosbie CupThe bookend to the IODAI Optimist National Training Week at Lough Derg Yacht Club will be the Halloween Regatta which incorporates the Crosbie Cup

The Optimist Fleet is one of the largest and most active in the country and is the most popular boat for kids to start sailing. IODAI have been working to see the establishment of up-to-date safeguarding policies and the collaboration with other stakeholders with regard to progressing from the Optimist to other double and single-hander classes. The National Training Week will see a series of workshops for both sailors and parents alike, focusing on sportsmanship, performance pathways, trials and team selection, sailor development and progression, racing rules, clinics and feedback sessions with class captains from around the country.

The focus is on fun, friendship and learning new sailing skills at the Optimist National Training Week at Lough Derg Yacht ClubThe focus is on fun, friendship and learning new sailing skills at the Optimist National Training Week at Lough Derg Yacht Club

Most importantly, National Training Week has a packed social programme with discos, wonderful food offerings and a play zone for the whole of the fleet to enjoy. The continued success of the racing and coached regatta fleets will see that even the very youngest of sailors feel fully part of the event and their Oppie family.

The bookend to the event will be the Halloween Regatta which incorporates the Crosbie Cup.

This event is sponsored by Grant Thornton, CH Marine and Dinghy Performance.

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In the 69-boat Optimist dinghy Senior Fleet, Dun Laoghaire Harbour's Royal St. George Yacht Club had eight sailors in the top 15 of the 2022 IODAI National Rankings, namely Jules Start (1st boy and 1st overall), Caoilinn Geraghty- McDonnell (1st girl and 2nd overall), Conor Cronin (2nd boy and 3rd overall), Abigail Murphy (2nd girl and 5th overall) and Carolina Carra (4th girl and 7th overall), Marcus Shelley (7th boy and 12th overall), Hannah Scott (6th girl and 14th overall) and Zita Tempany (7th girl and 15th overall).

In the 58-boat Junior Fleet, a further seven George sailors finished up in the top 15 of the 2022 IODAI National Rankings, namely Lily Donagh (1st girl and 1st overall), Emily Donagh (2nd girl and 2nd overall), Maeve Donagh (3rd girl and 6th overall), Max O’Hare (5th boy and 8th overall), Juliette Ryan (5th girl and 10th overall), Finn Foley (6th boy and 11th overall) and Ella Rock (6th girl & 12th overall).

"These results are a testament to the hard work these and all of the other 20+ George sailors competing in Main Fleet at IODAI National Events have put in both on and off the water throughout the year", RStGYC Optimist Performance Program Organiser Gavan Murphy," told Afloat.

"Recognition must also go to Sarah Fogarty and Peter Fagan, who runs the Oppie performance coaching programme in the George", Murphy added.

Published in RStGYC

The preparations in Dromineer (LDYC) for the second edition of the Optimist National Training Week are well underway.

Building on the lessons of last year and under the leadership of three experienced international coaches, home-based Thomas Chaix and Danish coaches Soren Laugesen and Dennis Paaske), the team say they are ready to make the Lough Derg-based clinic a success.

The coaches promise to make the Halloween mid-term break one to remember for all Optimist sailors and their parents.

The International Optimist Dinghy Association of Ireland (IODAI) are running the coaching sessions afloat and ashoreThe International Optimist Dinghy Association of Ireland (IODAI) are running the coaching sessions afloat and ashore

Whilst parents will have access to information sessions managed by the International Optimist Dinghy Association of Ireland (IODAI), the sailors will enjoy quality coaching sessions afloat and ashore, fun games, and simply a great time with friends from various clubs around the country.

The clinic will run on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of November, with the 5th dedicated to the Crosbie Cup (a perpetual cup raced by Bronze and Silver fleets) and the Open Halloween regatta.

The Crosbie Cup (a perpetual cup raced by Bronze and Silver fleets) and the Open Halloween regatta will be raced on Lough DergThe Crosbie Cup (a perpetual cup raced by Bronze and Silver fleets) and the Open Halloween regatta will be raced on Lough Derg

With 68 entries to date and many more expected before the 14th of October deadline, the clinic is still on course to be the largest training camp in years for Irish junior sailors.

Entry link deadline, October 14th) and enter here

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Howth Yacht Club delivered 145 Optimist dinghies for IODAI's Ulster Championships, over the Maritime Festival weekend and with the support of Fingal County Council.

The IODAI Optimist regional had its biggest Irish fleet last weekend with 85 main fleet and 60 regatta fleet for the event. With a big mix of conditions, Principal Race Officer Richard Kissane delivered six races, by getting four races in the bag on Saturday in light conditions and 2 windy races Sunday in the shelter of the Claremont Strand.

Optimists racing at Howth Photo: Craig O'NeillOptimists racing at Howth Photo: Craig O'Neill

Dun Laoghaire sailor Jules Start was 1st in the Senior Fleet, with local sailor Harry Dunne missing out due to a black flag in R6.

In the Junior Fleet, Lilly Donagh from Lough Derg took first place; as one of three siblings to take the top three positions on the board, with sisters Emily and Maeve coming in 2nd and 3rd.

Kate Spain was the best local sailor, with a top-five finish in the Junior Fleet.

The Optimist class also run a gold, silver, and bronze league to maintain competition throughout the fleets.

Top Five Senior

1. Jules Start (RSGYC)

2. Caoillin Geraghty McDonnell (RSGYC)

3. Conor Cronin (MYC)

4. Jude Hynes Knight (TBSC)

5. Gemma Brady (LDYC)

Top Five Junior (U12)

1. Lilly Donagh (LDYC)

2. Maeve Donagh (LDYC)

3. Emily Donagh (LDYC)

4. Kate Spain (HYC)

5. Finn Foley (RSGYC)

There was lots to do for families at the Fingal Maritime Festival in Howth Harbour this weekend, which carried on inside the club, too.

The IODAI regatta coaching initiative occupied the younger sailors (ages 7-9yrs) with games, sailing coaching, and kayaking, while the Regatta Racing Fleet (ages 9-10yrs) for the less experienced got in 8 races under IODAI coach Kate Darcy and PRO Dave Sargent. Aurele Dion (NYC) Dylan O’Sullivan (RCYC) and Oliver Ryan (MYC), Jacob Browne (NYC) and Arthur Fegan (MYC) shared the prizes.

Next stop on the IODAI is the National Training week on 2-5 November at Lough Derg; aimed at the whole fleet, the week also includes a focus on developing coaches for the future.

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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.