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#irishsailing – The winds of change are never constant and sailors are trained to expect the unexpected. It's an unpredictable sport that makes any sailor cautious about forecasting future performances.

It didn't stop the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) predicting its team would win a medal in Weymouth.

Such was the expectation that nearly anything the 2012 Olympic sailing team did other than stand on the podium would have been a disappointment.

Except that, just like the winds in Weymouth, something unexpected happened when Irish debutante Annalise Murphy led her fleet for most of the event, winning the opening four races with gusto.

It was a most welcome lift that, in the weeks following the regatta, has had many positive spin-offs for Irish sailing.

That Murphy began her campaign for Rio before even coming ashore after the disappointment of the medal race said something about the depth of her ambition. In so doing, she turned around the cruelest result of fourth into an opportunity for the future, albeit four years away.

This week she was awarded the Irish Times Sportswoman of the month for July, the latest in a line of accolades for the Rathfarnham girl.

As Murphy navigated her way through ten days of the hottest competition in her life, leading the regatta for most of it, her appeal reached beyond the traditional sailing community.

"When I saw the tricolour leading the fleet, it was like Packie Bonner's save," tweeted one of her many twitter followers. "It's Katie Taylor on water," tweeted another.

"I hope more people can understand sailing now," the 22-year-old said at a homecoming event at the National Yacht Club on Monday.

The challenge for sailing now is to capitalise on Annalise's appeal. It could not come at a better time because the domestic sport is facing 'Olympic' challenges of its own.

Because, although Ireland has posted its best Olympic result in 32 years, coming just weeks after a silver medal performance at the Youth Worlds, the domestic sport is in choppy waters.

Sailing cannot grow simply by looking towards the next Olympics as this serves only to increase the pressure on the sport's small group of high-performance athletes.

Instead, it's a question of providing more choice to grow the numbers going afloat.

Sailing is unique because it offers a strong non-competitive aspect. It's a hobby or pastime which can be enjoyed by young and old, and also by families.

If sailing can increase its numbers in these categories, then it will increase its talent pool. This, in turn, means that emerging talent which wishes to pursue the Olympic path can do so.

Today the dominant culture in sailing in Ireland is a racing one but by continuing on this tack we could be missing out on up to 80% of potential participants, says Alistair Rumball, a racing sailor, but also the proprietor of the country's biggest sailing school where recreational boating has the biggest appeal.

On Wednesday the Taoiseach Enda Kenny welcomed home the Olympic team and he made the point that future sports funding would be have a schools focus so it is important sailing gets a place on the curriculum.

Yacht clubs are struggling under the burden of a shrinking racing membership. Regatta fleets are dwindling. Just 111 boats turned up for Cork Week when there were over 500 just ten years years ago.

Some of the biggest clubs - Howth, the Royal St. George and Royal Cork to name just three - are facing tough times.

In a recession there is inevitable fallout from any sport but it's acute for sailing.

The ISA takes subscriptions from 73 sailing and powerboat clubs in the country, ranging in size from the smallest clubs with only a dozen members to the largest, the Royal St. George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire with 1,858 members.

The total number of club members affiliated to the ISA is estimated at over 21,000. In 2010, income from club member subscriptions generated €320,843 for the ISA but in 2011 this had dropped to €286,087. A further drop might be expected this year.

There are other storm clouds on the horizon too with Minister for Sport Leo Varadkar signalling a tightening of the purse strings. This week Galway announced it was not applying for a return visit of the Volvo Ocean Race.

"Currently the sport tries to turn everyone into formula one drivers when most of us are only Sunday motorists," says sailmaker Des McWilliam, a respected sailing industry voice. "The bulk of us only want to drive to the beach not round the world," says McWilliam who believes there is a massive need to embrace a new kind of recreational sailing initiative.

Murphy has captured the public imagination but there is only so much that can be expected from a young star aiming for Rio. The challenge is to broaden the appeal of the sport and so underpin its future.

A high level forum comprising of clubs, classes and sailing schools and other interested parties could develop a national sailing strategy.

Thanks to Annalise Murphy, there's a favourable wind blowing again for Irish sailing. If sailing can adopt her fighting spirit, then the sport could find itself back on the right tack.

Published in Olympics 2012
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#olympicsailing – Last week, just as Ger Owens announced his intention to campaign a 470 for a possible third Olympic regatta the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) made a written proposal to get rid of that dinghy from the Olympic line up.

The Olympic classes are in a state of flux since the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) signalled its intent to ditch the Star keelboat for the 2016 regatta.

There is a fear too that the sport itself might be cut from the Olympic Games as pressure mounts to cut costs and athletes. It's a situation causing some countries to examine their own Olympic involvements.

There is no doubting the Olympic circuit remains the pinnacle of the sport but there's little doubt either of the appeal of new alternatives being dished up.

ISAF's own sailing world championships is gaining momentum as 'The' event to win.

From the small pool of pro-crews available in this country it's noteworthy that Ireland's Damian Foxall and Justin Slattery, found success entirely outside of the Olympic environment.

Last year, at international cruiser level, the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) brought home the Commodores Cup.

Sailing has historically had good links into the International Olympic Council (IOC), and will be making its 26th appearance in the Olympic Programme in 2012. Sailing scores well against some of the criteria to be kept as an Olympic sport, but is currently weak in other important areas such as spectator and broadcast revenue, and costs.

It has a strong European following but participation is low in Africa and Asia.

Still, 54 countries have been exercised enough to make submissions to ISAF on the 2016 Olympic sailing competition.

The loss of the Star keelboat would be a near fatal blow to Ireland's main hopes with the Peter O'Leary and David Burrows partnership seen as medal hopes next year and in 2016 too.

In its written submission the Irish authority said the mens keelboat should stay but it has also opted to keep five classes where there is no Irish sailing development.  However, this is partly because the rules do not allow for partial submissions, but require a full slate of 10 classes.

Ireland has never had a sailboard, never had a Tornado catamaran and never had a women's keelboat. We have not mustered a women's 470 team since Atlanta so it is unclear where an Irish women's skiff that the ISA has proposed is going to come from.

The ISA have proposed the following slate: Men's Board or Kite Board- Evaluation; Women's Board or Kite Board- Evaluation ; Men's 1 Person Dinghy – Laser ; Women's 1 Person Dinghy – Laser Radial  Men's 2nd 1 Person Dinghy – Finn ; Men's Skiff- 49er ; Women's Skiff- Evaluation  Men's Multihull- Tornado ; Men's Keelboat- Evaluation ; Women's Keelboat- Elliot 6m.

The reality is that domestic sailing is so far removed from these classes that some now question the pursuit of the Olympic dream at all but that's a decision that would have a major impact on government funding which heavily supports Olympic involvement.

It's too narrow to measure medals through grants alone and any withdrawal would have other consequences too.

Olympic involvement begets better standards nationally, as there is trickle back of knowledge through coaching.

The Sports Council high performance grant given to the ISA is ring fenced for Olympic sailing and its high performance programme ands runs to 400k per annum.

It's good state money that is bearing fruit at junior and youth level. Finn Lynch was second in the Topper World championships last year. Philip Doran won an under 17 Laser Radial World Championship. In the same class Olympic campaigner Annalise Murphy has also won a world under 21–title and recent performances at senior level, including a fourth in Miami in January are very encouraging.

Ireland has participated at every Games since London 1948 except Mexico in 1968. Malahide's David Wilkins and Jamie Wilkinson won Olympic silver in 1980 but since then a top eight Olympic finish in any class has eluded us.

Ireland is not alone in suggesting changes that defy historical results to the Olympic regatta, in Britain the Royal Yachting Association is proposing to ditch the Star too, a class where they have won Gold twice, and silver once in the last six games and which provides a progression path for their very successful Laser and Finn programmes.

Olympic success is counted only in medals but the sailing here has been thriving without it.

Internationally there are now other opportunities, some with more appeal. The Volvo Ocean Race (with Irish government involvement running to Euro 4 Million), the America's Cup and the World Match Racing tour now provide professional outlets for a handful of Irish sailors who might previously have only been found on the Olympic circuit.

What's important for a small sailing nation with limited resources is a plan that can bring home results, even if this means moving outside the Olympic circle.

Published in Olympics 2012
Tagged under

#dinghydecline – The current debate regarding dinghy racing is fascinating (See original article and reader comments here). At present the discussion is centred around the role of the national authority. However, I believe that as the debate develops we will be asking as many questions of the clubs as of the ISA.

What is a sailing club for? The question is not often asked, because for most people the answer is obvious... until they realise that other members are giving very different answers. For some a club is a place where they can socialise with like-minded people, while also providing some facilities to assist them in maintaining and using their boat (the bar and the boatman being the heart of the club). At the other extreme, many Continental and American clubs believe that they exist to provide sailing, which includes boats, for the local and visiting populations. As such they run large fleets of dinghies and keel boats.

The current debate questions whether the ISA does enough to keep the numerous apprentice sailors within the sport of sailing, and in particular orientating them towards racing in dinghies. Unfortunately, whilst many statistics have been bandied about (and I note that Bryan Armstrong's estimate of a core of some 300 young racing sailors corresponds with my estimate given in a previous article, based on the number of students team racing) I have yet to see the essential figure: how many sailors move from beginner to being able to sail a boat round a triangular course in, say, a Force 3. These are the teenagers and adults that could be attracted to club racing in dinghies or small keel-boats.

In an ISA approved training centre these beginners will have reached this level using the boats, and often wetsuits, life-jackets and other gear provided (this may not be true in some club-run training programmes). Beginners will be in a group led by a qualified instructor who structures activities in light of his student's progress. They are only committed to a course lasting a few days and proceed to the next level only if they wish to do so.

What are clubs asking of these same beginners who arrive waving their still new ISA certificates? If the answer is:

take out annual membership;

buy a boat, and all the gear;

pay the club for boat storage;

be expected to sail most weekends in the club;

commit to"volunteering" to run racing and other club activities;

just like all the more experienced members, then it is little wonder that very few beginners take up this offer. These should be objectives not expectations.

Managing this transition from sailing school pupil to active club sailor is increasingly complicated, and should be a major preoccupation for all clubs. "Sailing families" will have already adjusted their life-style and family budget. The group disparagingly known as "Oppie parents" (a group not limited to that particular class) will make great sacrifices, in both time and money, to take their children sailing. But a teenager who may be the only family member interested in sailing will face multiple obstacles. For the new-comer a sailing club can be an off-putting place.

Not the least of these obstacles is the change in the way we allow our children to interact with other adults. Imagine, for instance, the child protection issues raised by any development of dinghy sailing based on young people crewing for adults. This was the traditional method for gaining experience and learning the game, many of us learned this way. Times have changed – I am not sure that many parents today would be happy about their child spending long hours with an un-vetted adult on a small boat, let alone spending a weekend away for an open meeting or championship.

Assisting apprentice sailors in this passage from learner to participant is a process that may take as much time and effort as teaching sailing. Up to now we have assumed that if someone learns to sail they will become a full participant in an existing model of sailing club. Regrettably, there is considerable evidence that this is not happening. New sailors, young and old, need to be brought at their own pace in to our clubs. Doing this successfully will ensure the future of clubs, but will inevitably induce changes in the way clubs function.

Take a model common in France, and elsewhere in Europe: after completing a cursus in the club sailing school, sailors join the club "sport school". Here, with a combination of training and appropriate competition, sailors learn not only the techniques and the tactics, but also the discipline required to succeed. They are assisted as they discover the commitment required to race regularly, they develop the habit of competing, of travelling to events, and so much more. As they are competing with other sailors of the same age and experience there is no arms race. Indeed, as the teenagers will soon move on to another boat, as they grow and improve, logically the boats belong to the clubs.

Only when sailors have reached a suitable level do they join the regatta circuit. One feature of racing in Europe, that may seem strange to Irish club members, is that club racing is not a central activity. Dinghy and keel-boat sailors either train with a club coach or sail at open meetings. The idea of racing once a week in your local club is not part of the culture. Is it possible that one problem in Ireland is that there is too much racing? If every weekend confirmed sailors are competing for club trophies when do they train, and, more importantly, when do they spend time assisting new sailors.

Running a transition programme may be a complicated exercise for clubs. Financing the acquisition and the maintenance of a fleet of suitable boats is a challenge. The ISA could contribute by setting up a training programme in basic boat maintenance, that should be compulsory for instructors and coaches. But clubs have taken up this challenge. For instance, two very different organisations have long maintained fleets of dinghies for team racing – the FMOEC in Schull and the Royal St George YC. This year the Sailfleet J80s will be managed by a single club. The Dun Laoghaire waterside clubs are gradually acquiring a fleet of keel-boats. These initiatives should lead other clubs to reflect and develop their own projects. The emergence of such projects will inevitably lead to new demands on our national authority, who, as always, should play a major role in facilitating new developments - Magheramore

For more dinghy sailing articles from Magheramore see:

Casting a fly over sailing club memberships

Is 'Adventure Sailing' a New Tack for Dinghy Sailors?

More articles on the same subject:

Irish Sailing Needs this Favourable Wind

Is Irish sailing too focused on the Olympics?

Published in Your Say
Tagged under

#dinghy – Dinghy sailing affairs dominated Saturday's ISA agm (March 2nd 2013) with a motion seeking a change in policy to stem the decline in participation from Wicklow's Norman Lee and Sligo's Bryan Armstrong. The pair outlined problems ranging from the standard of instructors to lack of logbook requirements. As previously reported on Afloat.ie the motion has led to a meeting within the month of all clubs and classes to take the next step toward rekindling dinghy sailing.

There are 40 plus comments in our earlier story on the subject here and below is Bryan Armstrong's Presentation to Saturday's meeting in full.

"When I was thinking about what I would say at this meeting I was expecting that I would be facing a hostile audience and that people might think, at the end of a year when there was much to celebrate in Irish Sailing, that putting down this motion was a disloyal thing to do, even an act of begrudgery.

Since then we have had this wonderful on line discussion both on the ISA site and on the Afloat site and I must admit to my surprise at the level of support we have received. We seem to have struck a chord of dissatisfaction among the dinghy sailing community. Many of the things I would have wanted to say have been said, and perhaps better than I can. I hope that when this is over someone will take these contributions and try to distill out the great ideas that are there.

You will all know Norman and his wife Una (who was JO in LDYC for many years) but since I do not often appear in the higher echelons of sailing politics I am conscious that many may not actually know who I am and why I feel what I do, and how we got here.

I had the privilege of having been taught to sail as a teenager by, at Sligo Yacht Club, which is near where I grew up and still live, in Rosses Point. About 1970 my father bought us a Mirror kit and my brother and I bashed it together over two weeks in an upstairs bedroom. The boat was a mess and we were never very good as mirror sailors anyway but we had an awful lot of fun.

Now I sail and race an old GP14 (which is what you do in Sligo – the club has a one design policy). I'm still not great at it but I still have fun.

In the early 2000s my kids started Mirror sailing and I became a member of the Mirror Class Committee in 2004 after the Europeans in LDYC, a superb event run under the Chairmanship of Patrick Blaney. Anyone who was there will remember the thunderstorm. There were 84 Irish boats entered in a fleet of 120.

The following year we went to the Mirror Worlds in Ostersund in Sweden. A big Irish team of went and brought back lots of Silverware, including the World title.

Any junior sailing fleet looses members after a big event. The older sailors stay on for it and then move on when its over. Suddenly the Mirrors began to loose members very rapidly and although we didn't really notice it for a while, the replacements did not seem to be appearing. Looking back on it, I think the reasons were:--

➢ ISA dropped logbook requirement, a subject to which I will be returning.

➢ ISA actively promoted another class to the exclusion of the Mirror and made it very clear that Mirrors were not favored.

➢ The Mirror was perceived to be old fashioned and outdated.

Suddenly, Mirrors were not "cool". There is no fate worse than that in the teenage market we needed.

This was of course reflected in the IMCAI Committee and I became chairman in 2007, as a kind of last man left standing (almost). At times I was fearful that the association would collapse altogether, but the prospect that I might be the last Chairman was very incentivizing. We managed to stem the flow until the new Winder design became available – we bought two as demonstration boats (very nice: have a look sometime) - and tried some new ideas such as an annual "Bronze Fleet" event, confined to bronze fleet sailors.

Now, by the very poor standards which this motion is an attempt to address, we are doing at least as well as the others, arguably better.

I saw the opportunity to get the 2010 Mirror Europeans back to Sligo & went after it and succeeded. There were 54 Irish boats entered. Ross Kearney (now working for Pinnell & Bax sailmakers), took the title.

We had spent a lot of time during the Europeans making the UK contingent feel welcome. We do that in Sligo with visitors. Actually they had a ball.

Shortly after that event I got a phone call from the Secretary of the UK Class Association to the effect that the 2013 Mirror Worlds were up for grabs and that he would support an application from Sligo. I said yes definitely and put in a proposal. This led to the event being awarded to Ireland, with the Irish Association to decide on the venue. They put it out to tender and I had my eye wiped by LDYC, but that's ok. They will make a fine job of it and I get to relax in Drumineer while someone else does the work.

This is why the Mirror Worlds are there next summer. As I speak, 13 teams are down on Lough Ree being coached for the event by Ger Owens with, I regret to have to say, no support at all from ISA.

I am telling you all this so that you will understand that Norman and I are serious people who have been around dinghy sailing issues and specifically junior sailing for a long time and I suggest that we know what we are talking about.

We have both been deeply frustrated at what we perceive as a long slow decline in the sport which has as its root cause bad policy decisions taken at ISA level. As you can see from the forums, we are not alone in this.

The trigger for the motion we have put forward was the Consultation meeting held by ISA in Sligo last autumn. Although I am less involved with the Mirrors now, I received an invitation to this which said that among other things it was to:

Discuss how the ISA can improve its support & services to organisations.

Since, in my opinion, the Mirror organisation gets no support at all from ISA, it wasn't going to be too difficult to suggest how it might be improved. I went along and we heard a presentation from the ISA officers. To be fair, much of it was very good.

However, I never see any point in going to a meeting and not saying whatever it is I have to say. I and indeed Niall Henry then SYC commodore raised much of what is now in our motion, but did not feel that we were getting much traction.

The report issued shortly afterwards and frankly, I found the report dismissive of the concerns raised and was not pleased. I prepared a document with the intent of provoking debate in some way that I had not worked out and sent it to Norman and Una and asked them what they thought about it and whether I was just making a fool out of myself. Their response was that they wanted to be part of this and Norman later talked me into seconding our motion here today.

THE MOTION

Before begin talking about the Motion itself I think we need face some realities and to put aside some of the PR & spin that has been put out over the past 10 days or so and have an open and factually based, honest debate. It's always dangerous when an organisation starts believing its own PR.

The truth is that, if measured in terms of numbers active, Irish Dinghy sailing and arguably Irish sailing generally is in big trouble. Fleet numbers are very small and many classes seem close to falling below the critical mass necessary for survival. If Harry Hermon and the Members of the ISA board really believe that the 12,000 trainees from last or any recent year are really "staying with the sport" and playing swallows and amazons somewhere around Irish sailing clubs then this organisation is so seriously out of touch with reality that one would have to despair of any prospect of dealing with our problems.

To discuss the motion I need to break it down into its separate elements. The first is:-

"That the meeting recognises that that the current policies being followed by the ISA are causing or contributing to the decline in numbers participating in dinghy racing by:-

Has there been a decline in Dinghy Racing?

Mirror events in the 1990s could well attract 120 boats or even more. (See Garth Craigs contribution on the ISA forum. At GP 14 events maybe 80. The IYA (as it then was) Dinghy week in Baltimore in the 1980s caused the water supply to the entire town to fail. Ironically, as I remember it, the reason Dinghy Week was stopped was that it was getting bigger than any Club could handle.

Over this time there has been a huge improvement in the technology of boats and gear. Road access through the country was never better. We have even had an economic "boom". All of this should have caused an increase in dinghy sailing. Instead there has been as steady decline. No class today can come close to the numbers of 20 years ago and even all of the classes of today combined cannot match them.

We say that current ISA policies are a critical issue and are at least, contributing to the decline.

➢ "Failing to structure the Association's sail training schemes so as to encourage as far as possible the continued participation of young participants in the sport, so as to make sailing a "sport for life"."

Obviously the success or failure of any policy has to be viewed against whatever objective the policy is designed to achieve. Certainly if the Sail training scheme is designed to maximise the participation rates and have the children enjoy themselves in a safe environment then clearly the ISA sail training courses are doing very well. According to the figures put up by Harry Hermon some 12,000 kids participated in ISA sail training in 2012.

If however the purpose of the scheme is to attract people to the sport on a long term basis the consensus and the evidence seem to be that it is failing badly. The question arises, if it is training, what is it training for?

Prior to the Sligo meeting I tried to do some investigation into the number of children and teenagers actually participating in competitive sailing. As there are several factors involved and different levels of participation, that's not totally simple. What I did was go to the websites of the various classes involved and looked at the numbers entered in their National Championships and I came up with the following figures. I realise that they give an incomplete picture but in the absence of anything else they are sufficient to make my point. I find it interesting that the ISA itself does not seem to have figures.

Lasers mixed fleet but 78 young
Oppies not totally clear from site but 160
(I understand that 30 of the 190 entered were from the UK
RS Feva 21 boats 42
Topper 48
Topper Topaz mixed fleet 34
Mirrors 30 boats 60
420 16 boats 32

Total 454

The reality may be even bleaker. Many fleets are going to clubs known to have good numbers locally. E.G 23 of the 28 boats in the Topaz fleet came from the host club.
It is generally believed that 80 to 90 % of Oppie sailors do not sail again after they leave the class.

Correct for those factors, and I would guess that after Oppies the core number of teenagers prepared to travel to an event would be less than 300.

What is happening today in children's sailing is that apart from the handful who do take up racing, they are attending the courses for the few weeks of the summer and are not seen again until the following summer. Then when they finish they are not seen at all.

In a way, they are not meant to be seen again because Irish sailing at the moment could not cope with numbers like that. Where would we get the boats and the RIBs to mind them?

If kids don't race then they don't sail. There is only one thing you can do with a racing dinghy: race it. If there was doubt about this, the safety issue nails it. You can't let kids go off sailing on their own without supervision, and that is only provided in a racing contest.

The strangest aspect of the ISA response to me is the notion which comes across that kids don't want to race – that its a hardship on them to "force" (Harry Hermon's word) them to do so.

I don't believe that it is a hardship and I am not suggesting that anyone be forced to do anything. It's a matter of meeting a standard. You don't force a teenager to study for the Leaving Cert, but if they don't, they won't pass.

In fact I consider that that ability to take a boat out onto the water, sail it around and bring it back in, powered only by the wind, is alone an awesome skill for any kid to have.

However, I also believe one design dinghy racing is a sublime sport combining physical and intellectual, and organisational skills and much more as well. I consider that it was a very great privilege for me to have been given the gift of learning how to do it, however badly. It has for me been a sport for life and I can think also of some of the elder statesmen of the sport, like, Louis Smyth still sailing his Fireball and Sligo's own Gus Henry still very hard to beat in his homemade and very beautiful GP14.

Racing is also the only way to get sailors to actually go sailing. We are a competitive species. It's just the way we are. You could after all play golf alone or with a partner and not keep a score. Who actually does that? We need the little edge that competition brings.

The problem is that sailboat racing is very complicated. A kid can be given a football or a hurley stick or a tennis racket and be sent off with instructions not to be late home for tea. This is not possible with sailing because measures have to be taken to ensure that they actually come home at all.

It also requires a boat and loads of gear to protect from the elements. These things are expensive (although there are ways and means). Proper race management requires ribs, committee boats and serious infrastructure.

I see it as a series of thresholds. The first is the basic safety one that ensures that those who go out, actually come back. The sailing courses do achieve this and games like swallows and amazons are a useful tool for getting small children over the safety threshold.

The second threshold is perhaps the ability to compete in a race and finish the course. As of now the kids are not required to do even that.

The third is when the competitor begins to understand what is going on in the race and the realisation comes that there is more to this than meets the eye. A whole panorama of issues like windshifts, tides, boat tune and tactics opens up. It takes time and commitment for the sailor to get this far. No-one said dinghy racing was easy, but it is very, very good.

I don't see that giving the little push that a logbook gives is "forcing" the young sailor. I see it as bringing the opportunity to learn the sport.

I have watched enough young people sailing to know that those who race get much better than those who do not (if they sail at all) and those who do events outside their clubs get much better than those who stay at home. Huge exchanges of knowledge take place at events, both from kids to kids and from parents to parents.

At the Sligo meeting when we were having this argument Tony Wright said that he would not "put that" (meaning an obligation to travel to outside events) on families. I acknowledge fully that it can be onerous for parents and I have myself spent many Sunday afternoons packing boats in the rain. Sailing does require a lot of parental support but the other side of the coin is that for me anyway great times have been had around Mirror events and there is great bonding with ones children.

This is what the ISA Report on the consultative meetings says on the issue:

Why does the ISA not encourage young sailors within the small boat sailing scheme to race in Regional and National Championships?

When the current small boat sailing scheme was introduced we included modules within the syllabus to accommodate those youngsters who are not competitive and who were dropping out of the scheme. Within the current syllabus there is a pathway for all interests (racing and non racing).

Now they are all dropping out and if there is a pathway, very few are taking it. The decision of the ISA in the early 2000s to take the focus of the curriculum off racing to where I know not, has been an absolute disaster and the numbers are proving that. A huge generation gap has opened up in the sport and it is directly related to that decision.

➢ The system produces 'Instructors' who put no value on participation in club activities, continue to see themselves as 'Juniors' and have not been exposed to 'Senior' fleet sailing. Experience shows that those that have participated in 'senior' racing in their teens are much more likely to continue sailing or come back at a later stage.

The instructor problem is of course a logical follow on from the previous one.

For the kids, qualification as a sailing instructor provides status and the ability to earn good wages in a very pleasant environment. It's a great way to spend the summers for a third level student. It gives responsibility in a controlled environment and it's very maturing. In principle it should be very advantageous in keeping them connected with the clubs and in the sport generally. Much of the training is very good, although very expensive (and I do not see the need for so much revalidation).

The problem is that with the way things have gone over the past few years, there is a large cohort of instructors who simply cannot sail properly. During the last week I learned of two young people who are planning to qualify as instructors. Both are very nice kids and will bring a lot to it. They have come up through the ISA scheme and have all their levels. One turns up for club racing no more than once a season and has never done an away event. The other got a boat for the first time at the end of last year, shows promise but is in no way ready to be an instructor. Neither can sail properly, and could not go out on a windy day themselves, never mind while looking after children on the water.

I have to assume that they will qualify because I have seen several worse sailors qualify. Some clubs (we do in Sligo) try to make instructors actually sail and race, but these are often children of prominent members. They arrive with their qualifications and expect to be employed. What is a club to do?

➢ Failing to provide necessary support and encouragement to clubs and classes associations in all parts of the Country for the provision and continuation of well managed and competitive dinghy racing at club and national level.

I suppose that this can be broken down into support for clubs and support for class associations. I have spent the past two years as a member of the committee of the Sligo Yacht Club. I cannot say that the ISA has been hugely relevant to what we do. This may vary from club to club. I cannot really say.

I do however have a general sense that the smaller clubs could use more support.

Many of the contributions on the forum came from Class Associations or people prominent in them. They seem unanimous that they get little or no support. For the Mirrors I can say that they get none.

At the Sligo meeting Harry Hermon said that he accepted that their relations with Class Associations could be better. He will remember the exchange. I said I had to agree with him. He said that it was good that we agreed on something. I started my usual rant about the many Mirrors sitting unused around the Country. I said a campaign to get them back into use backed by the ISA would be a good start. Here is an extract from the report that followed these meetings:-

There are an estimated 500 serviceable Mirror Dinghies in the country not being sailed, why doesn't the ISA develop an initiative to bring them back into commission?
The ISA's strategy is to develop the sport through the club structures, and the funding model reflects this. As such the ISA operational focus is to support the development of the clubs. We acknowledge the ISA does not perhaps maximise the potential the classes have to offer in respect of developing the sport, however the ISA's policy is to encourage partnerships between clubs and classes. The class associations have the responsibility for developing activity within their own class.

No great sign of a new initiative there.

Clubs run club racing and host national events. Class associations promote the boats that sail in those club races and national events. The ISA is a national organisation which is or should be the umbrella group under which it all happens. Each party need the other. Why cannot they work together in a coherent way for the benefit of the sport?

It is very clear that this is not happening

➢ Emphasising the training of selected juveniles by the creation of elite squads of possible future Olympians, without proper regard to the interests of those failing (for whatever reasons) to meet that standard or who are not able or cannot afford to give the time or family/financial commitment and who are thereby discouraged and lost to the sport.

Norman and I are not against the Olympic campaign. I might argue that there is a need for some proportionality : it only happens every four years and only one of the classes of boat is actually sailed in this country.

Neither is it about the money. In the Mirrors we weren't actually stuck for money (until I got at it and bought the two Winders).

I get how the Pathway scheme is supposed to work. You take a group and work with it with more and more resources and pair them down progressively and the theory is that the ones that emerge at the top are very good indeed. Judged alone by the results, it seems to be doing well. However, national championship turnouts of 16 420s and 22 Fevas – both pathway classes - give no great confidence that all is well for the future.

The problem is that only a small minority will ever get there. As matters stand, the others drop off and are lost. Why do so many Oppie sailors never sail again? These are children who know how to sail. Is the pressure too much?

Personally I would prefer to see a small child at the front end of a Mirror with a bigger sibling or friend rather than alone in a Oppie, but I would say that, wouldn't I?

What I can say without fear of contradiction is that this scheme has done serious damage to the Mirrors who have been excluded. The logic of their exclusion is lost on me. Why would you take a class with regular 100+ fleets and cast it aside like that? A very different attitude is taken in the UK. At last years Europeans in Poole a small Irish Group was faced by a UK team with 3 wholetime coaches with ribs etc. I expect them all over to LDYC in the summer and the Australians and the South Africans, and the Irish are left to their own resources.

If we must have a pathway scheme it needs to be (at least at the early stages) much more inclusive. Kids develop at different rates anyway. Also, there must be an attractive option for those who don't stay with it.

➢ And that ISA refocus on the original Objective set out in article 2 of its Memorandum of Association, which is ' to promote the amateur sport of sailing in Ireland' and amend its policies and practices to address the matters referred to."

This is a direct quote from the Memorandum of Association of the ISA. Harry Hermon has pointed out in one of his submissions that the articles were amended in 2006 to define sailing as including the sport of sailing wind surfing and leisure boating in all its branches whether under sail or power.

Is it a coincidence that what we see as the rot started around 2006? Norman & I make no apology for our interest in the sport of sailing meaning boats powered by the wind and this is what we want the ISA to refocus on. How exactly this should be done is a big subject and very useful suggestions are set out in the contributions to the two forums. It clearly requires much thinking and planning and I would hope that much may yet emerge from the discussion which I hope will follow at this meeting and as we go forward.

I do recognise that there is another side to this coin and that there are issues on the racing scene that need to be addressed so as to eliminate as far as possible the disincentives. There is much work to be done on this.

As a first step, to demonstrate to the ISA that there is a problem, that it has lost its direction and that something must be done about it, I ask your support for our motion here today".

Published in ISA
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#dinghydecline – A meeting of clubs and classes is to be held within the month to decide on the next step for Irish dinghy sailing after yesterday's proposals were heard to stem decline in the sport at the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) agm in Dun Laoghaire.

With a presentation from dinghy sailors Norman Lee and Bryan Armstrong, the 80-strong meeting heard the case for a change of tack in dinghy policy, a motion that had already drawn considerable debate on Afloat.ie last week.

Following a presentation there were contributions from the floor but the process was hurried and there was also disagreement as to what the motion actually meant for the ISA and how the meeting should proceed.

There were calls from the floor for a vote before a proposal that a day long workshop for clubs and classes should be convened within one month to take the matter further. This was adopted by common consensus on a show of hands with no dissenters.

There were no comments or questions on the President's report or financial statements which showed association revenues hitting €2million for the first time.

Olympic race officer Jack Roy was elected to the ISA board replacing Alan Crosbie.

Published in ISA
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#dinghyDinghy sailors are blowing the bugle for change at tomorrow's Irish Sailing Association (ISA) agm with some of the country's top regatta organisers, club commodores, champions and racers joining in an online debate in advance of a motion that has been tabled for discussion at 4.30pm at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.

TO VIEW THE AGM MOTION, READ THE DINGHY DECLINE ARTICLE AND 38 COMMENTS (AND ADD YOUR OWN) CLICK HERE.

This morning the organiser of last year's successful ISAF Youth world Championships in Dun Laoghaire, Brian Craig urges the ISA to build trust with its clubs and classes.

 'it should direct it energies at the clubs rather than trying to justify/communicate its existence to the members of the clubs – otherwise it becomes, as Gerry Byrne suggests [see comments], a glorified club rather than a national authority' says Craig.

The dinghy decline subject is also the focus of today's Irish Times Sailing Column by David O'Brien and yesterday's Evening Echo Column by Tom MacSweeney.

ISA Chief Executive Harry Hermon told Afloat.ie 'This is a really useful debate and is welcomed'.

Brian Craig's comments join former association president Roger Bannon and many others in questioning the current dinghy policy which GP14 sailor Norman Lee, who proposed the motion, says is killing off senior dinghy sailing.

'I want a full shake-up. Lets take the focus off the Olympics and have a root and branch reappraisal of sail training' says Lee.

Craig tells the ISA they need to 'Look after the basics' and asks why 'if key key stakeholders are feeling neglected is the organisation expanding into other areas of activity some of which are encroaching on or eroding the activities of their own clubs/classes?'

Craig continues – 'This doesn't build trust and working relationships. It should direct it energies at the CLUBS rather than trying to justify/communicate its existence to the members of the clubs'.

Lee blames an 'over-emphasis of the training of selected juveniles by the creation of elite squads of possible future Olympians'

The champion dinghy sailor says current policy is 'without proper regard to the interests of those failing (for whatever reasons) to meet that standard or who are not able or cannot afford to give the time or family/financial commitment and this discourages people who are lost to the sport'.

Also supporting the motion, the GP14 fleet will ask if the elite squad system has chased the club sailor away? The Fireball class says the current structure is too “youth orientated and fails to develop the ISA’s own slogan of sailing as a ‘sport for life’”.

Anther sailor with a unique insight into this is seasoned dinghy and one design helmsman is the Dublin Bay sailor Sean Craig, a former ISA racing director with recent involvement in junior sailing too.

'It's no coincidence that senior dinghy sailing has nose-dived around the same time that junior numbers if anything were going up (not the case now alas) and the ante was upped at junior/youth level. Where I think ISA policy has definitely got it wrong is the disconnect between learning to sail and the rest of the sport'.

Yesterday, ISA Chief Executive Harry Hermon told Afloat.ie:

'The ISA is implementing a core strategy developed in consultation with our members, launched in 2008 - the implementation of which is funded largely by the Clubs, Sports Council and commercial activity. This strategy is about growing the 'sport' in all it's aspects, and protecting the interests of the Irish boating community'

The core policy of the ISA since we launched our first strategic plan in 1998 has been to drive the growth and development of the sport through the club structures. As the activities of the clubs have become more diverse over the years, so have the interests of ISA members, and ISA strategies have developed with it.

In relation to the development of competitive dinghy racing, I think the issue has arisen due to a number of factors and I agree with many of the comments in the forum, the solution perhaps in this area is a three way partnership between the clubs, classes and the ISA working together in the interests of the sport.

TO VIEW THE AGM MOTION, READ THE DINGHY DECLINE ARTICLE AND COMMENTS (AND ADD YOUR OWN) CLICK HERE.

Published in ISA
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#isa – A full 'shake–up' for sailing is on the agenda at Saturday's Irish Sailing Association (ISA) agm when a former dinghy champion takes aim at current policies he claims are 'damaging the sport'.

GP14 and Mirror dinghy sailor Norman Lee, an active Wicklow boater with a reputation for introducing people to the sport in both dinghy and cruising boats, says he wants 'the ISA focus off elite sailing and the emphasis instead to be on enjoying sailing for fun as per the association's own articles of association'.

SCROLL DOWN FOR COMMENTS (AND ADD YOUR OWN) ON THIS ARTICLE

'I want a full shake-up. Lets take the focus off the Olympics and have a root and branch reappraisal of sail training'.

A failure to provide support and encouragement to clubs and class associations in all parts of the country has led to a decline in dinghy sailing numbers according to the proposal published by the ISA on its website. The agm notice is also downloadable as a word doc below.

The agm is scheduled for Saturday, March 2nd at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire.

Lee is a member of Greystones Sailing Club, Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club and Lough Derg Yacht Club.

Lee says he wants a proper reappraisal of the sport.  'The ISA needs to amend its policies and return to its original objectives of the  amateur sport in Ireland'.

In particular Lee says the ISA currently has an over 'emphasis of the training of selected juveniles by the creation of elite squads of possible future Olympians'. This, says Lee, is without proper regard to the interests of those failing (for whatever reasons) to meet that standard or who are not able or cannot afford to give the time or family/financial commitment and this discourages people who are lost to the sport. 

Lee says the ISA needs to refocus on the original objective set out in article 2 of its Memorandum of Association, which is 'to promote the amateur sport of sailing in Ireland' and amend its policies and practices to address the matters referred to."

The full proposal in accordance with the ISA's Article 33 is as follows:

"That the meeting recognises that the current policies being followed by the ISA are causing or contributing to the decline in numbers participating in dinghy racing by:-

Failing to structure the Association's sail training schemes so as to encourage as far as possible the continued participation of young participants in the sport, so as to make sailing a "sport for life". The system produces 'Instructors' who put no value on participation in club activities, continue to see themselves as 'Juniors' and have not been exposed to 'Senior' fleet sailing. Experience shows that those that have participated in 'senior' racing in their teens are much more likely to continue sailing or come back at a later stage.

Discontinuing the log book requirement for juniors to prove participation in club and Class events has contributed to a general lowering of standards and the demise of some junior classes.

Failing to provide necessary support and encouragement to clubs and classes associations in all parts of the Country for the provision and continuation of well managed and competitive dinghy racing at club and national level.

Emphasising the training of selected juveniles by the creation of elite squads of possible future Olympians, without proper regard to the interests of those failing (for whatever reasons) to meet that standard or who are not able or cannot afford to give the time or family/financial commitment and who are thereby discouraged and lost to the sport.

And that ISA refocus on the original objective set out in article 2 of its Memorandum of Association, which is 'to promote the amateur sport of sailing in Ireland' and amend its policies and practices to address the matters referred to."

Afloat.ie would like to hear from as many sailors as possible on the proposal raised by Norman. Please leave your comments on this story in the box below.

Published in ISA

#ISA -  Supporters of Irish sailing are asked to come together for a night of celebration and pay tribute to some of the outstanding contributors to sailing across six categories including the Mitsubishi Motors Club of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, Instructor of the Year and Training Centre of the Year.

Irish sailing's stars of tomorrow - such as ISAF Youth Worlds silver medallist Finn Lynch - are also in the running for the title of Youth Sailor of the Year.

Last year was an incredibly successful year for Irish sailing: 11 sailors represented Ireland at both the London Olympic and Paralympic Games, dozens of medals were claimed at events around the world and we played host to such high profile events as the ISAF Youth Worlds, the Volvo Ocean Race finale, the Tall Ships Race and the MOD 70s, to name but a few.

The ISA Awards Ball is the occasion to celebrate 12 months of successes and also launch the 2013 season in style. Tickets for the ball are €65 per person and must be booked by Friday 22 February 2013. Full details can be found at the ISA website HERE.

Published in ISA

#ISA - The ISA Dubarry National Conference is back for its seventh year with even more exciting and interesting seminars and workshop than ever before.

Taking place on 2 March 2013 at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire, the conference is open to all with an interest in sailing, windsurfing and powerboating and is free to all ISA members.

A total of 20 interactive seminars and workshops will run throughout the day covering five different themes: Marketing and Events; Funding and Initiatives; Training; Race Management; and High Performance.

Whether you're involved in your club at committee level, you work in or run a training centre, you are involved in race management or are just a sailor looking to expand your skills and knowledge, there will be a range of diverse topics to suit all interests.

New for 2013 is a High Performance stream specifically for sailors with an interest in racing and performance. ISA team physic Mark McCabe will deliver a no-nonsense workshop on Strength & Conditioning followed by ISA team psychologist Kate Kirby who will discuss how mental factors can influence performance.

And Olympic 49er sailor Matt McGovern will talk about the highs and lows of London 2012 and how it has prepared him for his Rio 2016 campaign.

The conference is free to all members of the Irish Sailing Association but you must register in advance. Download the conference timetable and register online HERE.

Published in ISA

#YouthSailing - The ISA has announced that the 2013 Youth Nationals and Junior Pathway Championship will be held in Lough Derg Yacht Club from 2-5 April.

This will be the event's first visit to Lough Derg and looks set to be an exciting championship, and includes the Irish team trials for the ISAF Youth Worlds as well as various ISA squads.

Places will surely be hotly contested at the event, with many of the top performers from last year's championships in Dun Laoghaire such as Youth Worlds silver medallist Finn Lynch and All Ireland senior silver medallist Fionn Lyden in the running among a top-class field.

The event is also the ISA's prime showcase for its Performance Pathway scheme, with the 420, Laser Radial, Laser 4.7, Topper, Optimist and Feva all represented.

According to the IDA, 2012's championship "saw a remarkable fleet of over 250 boats in Dun Laoghaire, and Lough Derg is hoping to attract a similar number to Ireland's premier youth regatta."

Published in Youth Sailing
Page 11 of 17
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