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#irishsailing – Ireland's national sailing authority has been going through turbulent times in recent years. With unprecedented expansion of ISA staff numbers as the country revelled in the boom years of the Celtic Tiger, the arrival of the inevitable and abrupt financial downturn found an Association bloated, unfit to cope, and out of touch with ordinary sailors.

High profile events, top level training and international participation had become so dominant in the ISA's range of activities that many of the ordinary sailors of Ireland already felt the Association was no longer relevant to their own low key personal pursuit of friendly sport afloat.

When the crash came, it led to a marked decrease in active sailing numbers as disposable incomes fell away. People focused on keeping their jobs and businesses afloat rather than their boats sailing, while many promising young sailors were forced to emigrate.

This new reality was reflected by the growing disillusion of club officers, who saw their membership subscriptions decreasing even while the ISA – which is largely reliant on subvention from the clubs for its own income – seemed always to be looking for more money. And at the height of the boom years, when all the major clubs had put through significant expenditure in developing their facilities to international standards, the ISA had shown its lack of contact with the reality of club life by proposing its own stand-alone National Sailing Centre in Galway, a facility which would in effect have been run in rivalry to the main clubs. To the mutterings in the grass roots were added the rumblings from above as major clubs threatened to withhold their annual payment to the ISA unless real reform was initiated. W M Nixon takes up the story.

In a classic grass roots revolution, club sailors Norman Lee from Greystones in County Wicklow and Bryan Armstrong from Sligo were at first rebuffed when they tried to voice their concerns about the ISA's increasing irrelevance to the needs of the vast majority of sailing enthusiasts, people at local level who were doing their very best to keep the sport alive through torrid times.

The Irish sailing community now owes these two men and their supporters a debt of gratitude, for they believed in what they were saying and they refused to be turned aside. Eventually, in November 2013 moves were in place to establish a Review Group for the urgent analysis of all ISA activities, and its personnel drew comprehensively on Ireland's remarkable pool of people with hands-on experience of running successful sailing events and organisations.

It was chaired by Brian Craig of Dun Laoghaire who has headed up the organising team on more major and notably successful international sailing events in Dublin Bay than probably anyone else, and its able personnel included two former ISA Presidents - Roger Bannon of Dun Laoghaire and Neil Murphy of Malahide and Howth - who had both been noted for their skill in running a tight ship when they were in charge. With them was highly regarded International Race Officer Jack Roy of Dun Laoghaire, and renowned sailmaker/activist Des McWilliam of Crosshaven, who each year is inevitably seen in busy involvement afloat in more Irish sailing centres - large and small - than anyone else in the boat world.

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Bryan Amstrong of Sligo on the helm for a Mirror race

Also on board was one of the men from the barricades, Bryan Armstrong of Sligo. His background in a relatively remotely-located club which nevertheless has a long and distinguished sailing history made him uniquely qualified to voice the concerns of the grass roots. And we have to remember that all these people were giving voluntarily and generously of their time to this project in a period when Irish life was largely a matter of just getting through each day, while staying economically afloat was something of an achievement.

Primarily, the Review Group's function was to analyse the Association work on behalf of ordinary club sailors, as it was agreed that the Olympic and High Performance Divisions of the ISA's activities – which receive direct Sports Council grants – were in effect functioning as a different entity.

The Strategic Review Group was still work in progress when the ISA acquired a new President in David Lovegrove in March 2014, but by August the SRG published proposals which led to the setting up of a more formal body, the Planning Group. If this seems like a case of kicking the can down the road, it was anything but - these were people in a hurry, they'd got through the first stage of analysing areas where action was required, now they had to be more structured in coming up with clearcut ideas and concrete proposals.

This new Planning Group, which went into action in early Autumn 2014, was chaired by Neil Murphy, and its members included ISA President David Lovegrove, ISA Board Member Brian Craig, Ruth Ennis, Peter Redden, Sean Craig, and ISA CEO Harry Hermon, with noted Dun Laoghaire events administrator Ciara Dowling to provide administrative support.

They had their draft plan ready by mid-December 2014, and on January 21st 2015 Neil Murphy and his group publicly unveiled their analysis and proposals for the first time at a well-attended and very representative meeting in the Royal St George YC in Dun Laoghaire.

is3.jpgNeil Murphy is a former ISA President who, in addition to extensive experience as a Race Officer, is a typical club sailor, racing a Puppeteer 22 out of Howth. Photo: W M Nixon

While those involved in setting the ISA on a healthier course are mostly working on a voluntary basis, it has to be said that the PowerPoint presentation and the printed material was of the highest professional class. In fact, it was much better than many professional shows I've been to, and the level of thought which went into a wide range of questions from the floor answered by Neil Murphy, Brian Craig and David Lovegrove generated a growing level of goodwill which concluded with Norman Lee voicing his congratulations and good wishes for this continuing process in which he and Bryan Armstrong had played such a key role.

So now we move on to the next stage – taking the ideas to the rest of the country. Doubtless you'll have noted the double meaning in titling this piece 'Just Who Do The ISA Think They Are?' In a first interpretation, that question is the one for which, let's hope, we are all now involved in working together in providing and implementing a satisfactory answer.

But equally, as the ISA Road Show gets out of Dublin to take this excellent presentation to a public meeting in Cork next week (it's in the Rochestown Park Hotel on Tuesday, Feb 17th, 7.0 pm to 9.0 pm) and then Galway the week after (Galway Bay Sailing Club, Tuesday 24th February 7.0 pm to 9.0pm), they'll be taking themselves into areas where experience of sailing administration long pre-dates the establishment of organised sailing on Dublin Bay.

is4_1.jpgCrosshaven in the summer time. When we look at the natural advantages to be found here, it's little wonder that structured recreational sailing on Cork Harbour long-pre-dated any organised sport on Dublin Bay. Photo: Robert Bateman

So you might well ask just just who do they think they are, these people from Dublin, going down to Cork to try to tell them how sailing should be organised? The nerve of them, doing it in a place where they've had organised sailing since 1720, and where the two biggest clubs – the Royal Cork and Kinsale – are both mighty establishments of international sailing repute which would remain so even were the ISA to disappear overnight in a puff of smoke...

And as for going west along the road to Galway, that will take them through Athlone where the Lough Ree Yacht Club dates back to 1770, while on the west coast the Royal Western of Ireland YC at Kilrush traces its origins back to 1828. Equally, further north along the Atlantic coast Sligo YC dates back to 1821, and in Lough Erne the club began in 1820. Yet the first club on Dublin Bay, the Royal Irish, only began as recently as 1831, and even then it barely hung in and had to be revived in 1846, with the pace being set in the meantime by the Royal St George YC, founded 1838.

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Kinsale is another harbour which seems to have been designed with sailing primarily in mind. Photo: Kevin Dwyer/courtesy ICC

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Kilrush on the Shannon Estuary had a club in being before there were any sailing institutions on Dublin Bay. Photo: W M Nixon

So in terms of sailing administration history, Dublin and Dun Laoghaire are only Johnny-come-lately places by comparison with just about everywhere else in Ireland. Yet thanks to the inevitable dominance of economic development, population growth and the strengthening centres of political power, we now find that sailing administration and decisions of national import are emanating from a place that, in terms of natural sailing advantages, lags far behind the rest of the country.

Oh for sure, Dun Laoghaire Harbour is a fabulous artificial amenity, and the advent of the new marina at Greystones has already been seized upon as greatly increasing the "cruising" options of Dublin Bay. But let's face it, Dublin Bay is really only good for racing, specific day sailing and training, whereas Cork Harbour and Kinsale provide such a variety of opportunities for interesting race courses, mini-cruises with multiple destinations and what have you, that in effect they're not just in a different part of the country – they're a different country altogether.

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Dun Laoghaire is a totally artificial facility, and sailing options on Dublin Bay are limited. But it's inescapable that this is the primary point of leisure access to the sea for Ireland's largest and most affluent population. Photo: Kevin Dwyer/courtesy ICC

All of which adds to the difficulties of creating a meaningful national authority with which every sailing person can identify.
This business of Dublin v The Rest is not unique to sailing, of course, but when you have a specialist sport with multiple sub-branches of activity, the problem is exacerbated.

So please bear this in mind if you take yourself along to the meetings in Cork or Galway during the next ten days. This really is a genuine attempt to base the ISA within the sailing community at an everyday level of usefulness to all, with scope for growth while enhancing existing structures, and input from the sailing community at this stage will help in developing the ideas and initiatives proposed.

While the draft ISA Strategic Plan 2015-2020 very definitely puts the emphasis back on to the need for healthy well-run clubs as the basis for the sport, there was initially a feeling at the meeting on January 21st that the new-look ISA is not supportive of commercial sailing schools. In fact, what the new-look ISA hopes to do is encourage training schemes within clubs, while at the same time supporting commercial sailing schools where the demand is such that no club could realistically cope while maintaining its essential club ethos.

Going into this in more detail in a personal meeting this week with Neil Murphy, who is a Chartered Quantity Surveyor, we talked around the fact that a thriving club scene is central to the spirit of Irish sailing, and he was musing on the success of Sutton Dinghy Club where Hugh Gill heads up what is in effect a commercial sailing school within a club setting.

In fact, what Murphy would hope to see emerge at larger population centres is sailing's equivalent of the public golf course. Anyone who has used a public golf course will be aware that the proprietors are usually mustard keen to encourage the formation of a "club" within their customer base, and there is no reason why this shouldn't eventually take root in Irish sailing, providing access to sailing at a fraction of the cost of joining an established club.

It's not something which can realistically be objected to by established clubs trying to protect their own membership, as the people who would use a "public sailing club" would be those who simply couldn't afford to go sailing at all in the current traditional club setup.

Nevertheless support for the established club setup is central to the new Strategic Plan, and the provision of Regional Development Officers to serve clubs directly is very much to the fore in the new thinking. But in looking over the figures published with the report, it's good to note that the ISA works with no less than 80 recognised training centres, while an encouraging statistic is that there are now 24 secondary schools in Ireland which include sailing as a regular part of their curriculum. Admittedly it's a long way from the French setup where every schoolkid is entitled by law to one week of sailing and one week of skiing per year, but in a country where an aversion to being on the water used to be thought inevitable, it's a step in the right direction.

All these considerations of inexpensive sailing are a whole world away from the stories of recent weeks and days about the ISA's High Performance Division seeking a fund-raising executive who will be tasked with finding €2.75 million per annum through philanthropic and other donations in order to help the funding of top level campaigns which we're not allowed to call Olympic campaigns, as apparently that is copyrighted by the Olympic Council, so we call them High Performance instead.

But apparently Government departments aren't restricted by this limitation on the use of the word Olympic, for it was bandied about like nobody's business in this week's news that the government is spending mightily through the Sports Council, with sailing being number three in all Ireland in terms of current Sports Council funding, with a total tag of €1,289,900.

Of course it's not all for specifically Olympic sailing, but it covers 103 sailors from Optimists to the Olympics. Which is fine and dandy for those who are mad keen to race at the highest level, but most sailors in Ireland are much more interested in performing well within their chosen area and boat class, but with sailing being just part of a reasonably civilised and well-balanced life.

And as became evident at the meeting on January 21st, there's an increasing number of people who feel that sailing needs to realise that there's a sizeable population out there of folk who'd like to go sailing, but don't feel the almost religious vocation to own a boat.

With the rapid expansion of sunshine sailing holidays with boats and equipment readily available for hire at the destination, there's a strong feeling there's a real need for more of this in Ireland, even if we can't guarantee the sunshine. The suggestion brings us back to both the "public sailing club" concept, and the growing realisation by established clubs that they have to reach out to potential members by having boats available for sailing on a trial basis.

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The Affordable Sailing Team – Norman Lee (right) with his brother Ken beside their campervan at last year's GP 14 Worlds at East Down YC on Strangford Lough. Photo: W M Nixon

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With their own very high can-do standards of boat maintenance, Norman and Ken Lee can keep their GP 14 in the competitive frame. Photo: W M Nixon

That said, the need to own one's own boat and tune and tinker with her to your heart's content is what sailing is all about for many of us, and Norman Lee is a classic case in point for this approach. He claims that his sailing costs him just €600 per year, though that of course is after he has paid for his well-tuned GP14, and he has long since written off the cost of the vintage camper-van which is home to the Lee Equipe when they hit the campaign trail.

Nevertheless the entire setup has to be outstandingly good value, and doing it in such economical style is part of the fun of it all. So when someone with Norman Lee's approach to sailing is prepared to get up at the big ISA public meeting in Dun Laoghaire and congratulate the team who have been working on the reforms which he and Bryan Armstrong set in train, then that is approval of a high order.

And as for just who or what is the ISA, can we maybe agree that ideally we all are the ISA, every last one of us who goes sailing or is even just interested in the sport, and it's up to us to keep it in line and encourage it to identify with and serve the ordinary sailor every bit as much as the high-flyer.

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Private pleasure.....the 2014 GP 14 Worlds at East Down YC is about as high as many Irish sailors would expect or want to aim, and many are content with much lower-key regular club sailing. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in W M Nixon

#sailing – Irish Sailing is going to benefit from just under €1m in government funding in 2015, similar to 2014, but where sailing has made big gains is in the High Performance area. €250,000 for equipment for Rio, and €70,000 for Rio preparation were among the bonuses announced by the Minister today.

Sailing was in the top 10 of Irish sports in general funding, third in the High Performance funding, second in the Rio preparation funding and first in the HP equipment funding.

Total funds to sailing in 2015 from government sources is scheduled to be €1,289,900

By way of contrast, UK amounts are reported to be €33m over the four year Olympiad, while US has about €14m in the same time and Canada will benefit from about €700,000 in 2015.

However, it should be noted that Ireland is only supporting five of the 10 Olympic sailing disciplines, while UK and USA have full teams. And with a smaller pool, it could be argued that the Irish sailors are close to being among the best funded in the world right now. But such a suggestion would be 'completely misleading' as the Irish Sailing's High Performance manager James O'Callaghan points out; 'the programme funds cover 103 sailors involved from Optimist all the way up to the Olympics, not just the Olympic team itself'. 'At each stage of the pathway we have squads and coaches in place to help the sailors progress'.

O'Callaghan continues: 'We are very grateful for the ISC support but we still require additional sources of revenue to ensure our sailors have the best chance of success'. 

Amount per discipline per year

UK €825,000 (10 disciplines)
US €350,000 (10 disciplines)
Ireland €257,800 (5 disciplines)
Canada €140,000 (5 disciplines)

There was huge success for Irish Sailing when Minister of State for Sport, Michael Ring T.D., today announced an investment package of €19.6m from the Irish Sports Council into the National Governing Bodies of Sport in Ireland.

The good news for sailing follows a similar announcement by the ISA this week that it intends to raise a further €2.75m itself to further fund the Irish Olympic sailing team.  

Overall, The government is spending almost €1million more on sport than the equivalent figure for 2014. This will allow the Council invest in crucial projects for Rio 2016, exciting participation initiatives with a variety of sports and support the participation of Team Ireland at the Special Olympic Summer Games in LA in July.

The investment includes an allocation of €10.85 million to 59 National Governing Bodies (NGBs) to support their core work of administration and participation programmes. This includes increases to support specific initiatives in the IABA, the Confederation of Irish Golf and Hockey Ireland. The Council will allocate €600,000 to support the Women in Sport programme of 23 NGBs with additional support for the highly successful programmes of Swim Ireland and Badminton Ireland.
€8.16m will be invested in 22 Performance Plans which will support Ireland participation at the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games. The high performance NGBs also benefit from the direct service provision at the Institute of Sport, the development of high performance facilities at the National Sports Campus, the 2015 International Carding Scheme and the special sports equipment grants; a comprehensive and integrated package of support for Ireland's top performers.
Speaking at today's announcement Minister Ring commented: "I am delighted to be here today to announce a very significant package of sports investment by the Irish Sports Council. Today's investment is a substantial commitment from the Irish Government to the National Governing Bodies of Sport in Ireland. The importance of sport cannot be understated. Sport has the unique ability to activate local communities through participation and volunteerism whilst uniting a nation to support our athletes on the world stage".

Today's investment is designed to support NGBs develop sustainable and effective structures that facilitate increased numbers of both participants and volunteers. The success of the sustained investment has seen considerable growth in membership across the NGB sector which includes 53,000 in Athletics Ireland, 23,000 in Cycling Ireland and 57,000 in Badminton Ireland.
Speaking at the announcement, Kieran Mulvey, Chairman of the Irish Sports Council said:
"The Council place National Governing Bodies at the centre of our work and are the strategic heart of Irish sport. This is a major input of resources into their operations and ongoing development and we have confidence that there will be a significant return on that investment. I want to acknowledge and recognise the on-going support given to us by Minister Ring and his Department which allows us to continue our mission of increasing participation and enhancing high performance."
2015 is the 10th Anniversary of the Irish Sports Council's Women in Sport programme. The programme, which aims to raise the overall physical activity levels among women, has been a key driver in closing the gender gap as women's participation has grown from 39% (2011) to 42.7% (2013). Today's investment will continue to support Women in Sport programmes including 'The Swim for a Mile' initiative from Swim Ireland which aims to deliver 10,000 participants and Rowing Ireland's, 'Get Going, Get Rowing' programme which aims to get an additional 5,000 women participating in 2015.
Ireland will be proudly represented at many sporting events on the international stage. 2015 will be the crucial qualifying year for many sports for Rio 2016 and there will be vital championships events in athletics, swimming, boxing, hockey, cricket and cycling amongst others. The first European Games will take place in Baku in June and it will be could prove to be a pivotal event for the Olympic sports in Ireland. The Council is delighted to support Team Ireland at the Special Olympics World Game in Los Angeles.
John Treacy, CEO Irish Sports Council said:
"As the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games come into view, it is imperative we maintain investment so that we continue to build on the excellent performances of recent years in high performance sport. The resources made available in late 2014 by Minister Ring are invaluable for the sports and have been invested in vital equipment, camps and the all-important competition schedules".
Today's investment in High Performance will continue to build on the sustained success of high performance sport in Ireland. The Institute of Sport delivers sports services directly to the Olympic and Paralympic sports and, with athletes accessing services on site, is advanced in the creation of a new support system for high performance sport. The capacity at the Institute will be enhanced with the completion of the bespoke facility which is currently being constructed by the NSCDA on site and which in due for autumn 2015.

High Performance Sport: 2013 (€) - 2014 (€) - *2015 (€) - Rio
2013-2015
Olympic Council of Ireland: 396,776 - 378,987 - 450,382 - 1,226,145
Paralympics Ireland: 310,000 - 310,000 - 513,154 - 1,133,154
Athletics Ireland: 800,000 - 800,000 - 880,000 - 2,480,000
Badminton Ireland: 95,000 - 95,000 - 130,000 - 320,000
Irish Amatuer Boxing Association: 829,000 - 839,300 - 925,000 - 2,593,300
Canoeing Ireland: 50,000 - 65,000 - 65,000 - 180,000
Irish Clay Pigeon Shooting Association: 4,350 - 32,500 - 55,000 - 91,850
Cricket Ireland: 109,504 - 100,000 - 120,000 - 329,504
Cycling Ireland: 265,000 - 303,000 - 350,000 - 918,000
Golf (GUI and ILGU): 375,000 - 375,000 - 390,000 - 1,140,000
Gymnastics Ireland: 47,500 - 60,000 - 107,500
Irish Hockey Association: 400,000 - 420,000 - 450,000 - 1,270,000
Horse Sport Ireland: 525,000 - 510,000 - 550,000 - 1,585,000
Irish Judo Association: 30,000 - 40,000 - 50,000 - 120,000
Paralympic Sports: 613,000 - 610,000 - 665,000 - 1,888,000
Pentathlon Ireland: 190,000 - 170,000 - 180,000 - 540,000
Rowing Ireland: 380,000 - 380,000 - 410,000 - 1,170,000
Irish Rugby Football Union: 275,000 - 275,000 - 275,000 - 825,000
Irish Sailing Association: 643,000 - 632,000 - 635,000 - 1,910,000
Swim Ireland: 524,000 - 530,500 - 560,000 - 1,614,500
Tennis Ireland: 160,000 - 160,000 - 175,000 - 495,000
Triathlon Ireland: 260,000 - 260,000 - 275,000 - 795,000
Total: 7,234,630 - 7,333,787 - 8,163,536 - 22,731,953

The details of the €1.6 million investment in the 2015 International Carding Scheme will be announced at a later date. The transition of the Scheme to athletics, sailing swimming has proven to be successful and four more sports (rowing, triathlon, cycling and badminton) are currently in the transition phase.

General Investment
1. The Irish Sports Council received an Oireachtas Grant of €42.5m in 2015. As announced in Budget 2015, this is the same budget as in 2014.
2. In December 2014, a special allocation of current funds to support qualification, preparation and participation at the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games was provided to 18 sporting bodies. This money was provided in 2014 for expenditure on 2015 plans; it is recorded in these documents under the 2015 headings.
3. In November 2014, a special allocation of capital funds for sports equipment was provided to 15 NGBs. While the scheme was not targeted at high performance many NGBs used the funds to support their Performance Plans for 2015. For example, Sailing and Rowing were able to purchase boats and other equipment to support the preparation and participation at the Rio Games.

Core Investment
4. Special Olympics Ireland has received additional investment to support participation and preparation for the World Summer Games 2015. This follows the special allocation of funds in 2014 for the European Games. In total, an additional €250,000 has been allocated to support Special Olympic participation and preparation ay major games over a two year period.
5. Additional investment has been provided to the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, in both core and high performance, to strengthen the capacity of organisation with new appointments.
6. The Confederation of Golf in Ireland has received additional investment to support the increased responsibilities of the organisation and continue the development of Golf in Ireland.
7. In late 2014 Cycling Ireland received an investment of €50,000 to support the capacity of the organisation to support mass participation events. This is recorded in their core budget of 2014.
8. Also in 2014 Table Tennis Ireland received €15,000 to support a schools initiative and this is recorded under the 2014 core budget.
9. Hockey Ireland and the Irish Sailing Association have received additional seed investment to support the development fund on raising capacity on a pilot basis.
Women in Sport Investment
10. The Women in Sport programme for 2015 will total €600,000.
11. Substantial increases have been provided to Badminton Ireland and Swim Ireland to support an expansion of their successful programmes from 2014 including 'Swim a Mile', "Women on Court", "Women @ Heart" and "Girls on Court".
High Performance Investment
12. The Olympic Council of Ireland is entering into one of the most important and busiest years in its history. It has received additional investment to support its wide range of activities including the preparation and participation for the Rio 2016 Games, Youth Olympics and 1st European Olympics in Baku.
13. Paralympics Ireland has received significant additional investment to support the holding of training camps in 2015. The investment will allow Paralympics Ireland replicate the preparation system used in advance of London 2012 which proved to be so successful.
14. Increases in High Performance grants have been allocated to Athletics Ireland, Cycling Ireland and Horse Sport Ireland to continue the successful performance programmes in the lead up to Rio.
15. The Sports Equipment grants allowed Sailing and Rowing purchase boats and essential equipment for the Rio 2016 campaign.
16. Gymnastics Ireland and the Irish Clay Pigeon Shooting Association received High Performance Investment in 2014 and 2015. This was on the basis of an improved level of planning by the NGB and of performances by the athletes.

Published in Olympic

#sailing – The Irish Sailing Association (ISA) has issued a statement outlining how monies raised in its new Olympic initiative called 'The Irish Sailing Foundation' will be spent.  

News of the new initiative that aims to raise €2.75m per year – nearly three times the turnover of the association – appeared in a recruitment advertisement for a new 'ISF' CEO in last Friday's Irish Times and appeared again in weekend newspapers.

The advertisment said it expects the ISF to build 'philanthropic fund raised income to €2.75 million annually in support of the high performance mission and programmes'.

The text of the advertisement also appeared briefly on the ISA website this week but has since been replaced with the updated statement (see below).

According to an ISA insider, there is 'concern' at board level that the initiative appeared to be 'at odds' with its recently launched strategic plan that intends to 'redress the perceived imbalance' between the support structures for those competing in the non-Olympic area and those involved with the High Performance area –essentially the Olympic area.

Today's statement points out any funds raised will also 'provide a contribution towards the development of a National Coaching programme which will be accessible to sailors of all interests and levels of ability'.

The ISA statement refers to the initiative as a 'pilot scheme'  with the financial support of the Irish Sports Council.

The original advert is here and The full ISA statement is below:

The ISA is pleased to announce an innovative funding initiative to support Irish Sailing. With the financial support of the Irish Sports Council, a pilot scheme, to be called "The Irish Sailing Foundation" has been established to raise finance from sources other than those which traditionally provide sponsorship to sailing on a national and regional level. The funds are intended to be applied to the continued support of Elite Youth and Olympic development together with providing a contribution towards the development of a National Coaching programme which will be accessible to sailors of all interests and levels of ability.

The funding for the initiative will come from the resources of the Olympic Steering Group which manages the High Performance activities of the ISA.

The recruitment process to identify an experienced professional fund raiser to manage the project has commenced.

David Lovegrove, President of the ISA, in welcoming the initiative, said it was important that sailing explored new ways of funding to position itself with adequate finance to make longer term investment commitments to the development of the sport.

Published in ISA

#irishsailingfoundation – A new Irish Sailing Association (ISA) organisation called the 'Irish Sailing Foundation (ISF)' expects to build 'philanthropic fund raised income to €2.75 million annually in support of the high performance mission and programmes'. The new organisation is seeking to recruit a Chief Executive that is 'an exceptional leader with a track record of building income' to change the funding of high performance sailing in Ireland.

The Irish Sailing Association recently published its new strategic plan and it is currently meeting sailing clubs from around the country to outline details of the plan. 

After a period of controversy over association policies, the new plan outlines a vision for sailing until 2020 and confirms sailing as the third best supported sport by Irish Sports Council.

A main change proposed for the ISA in the plan is an 'emphasis on upgrading the support structures for sailors not involved in the ISA High Performance'.

The plan refers to the development of 'professional fund-raising' for its high performance team but it does not refer specifically to the set up of a new organisation nor does it refer to the 'Irish Sailing Foundation'. 

As Afloat reported previously, the recruitment advertisement for the ISF's new CEO was advertised in last Friday's Irish Times and across Sunday national newspapers too. It is also posted on the association's website.

The high performance objective is to secure top 8 results for Irish sailors in the Olympic Classes at Worlds, Europeans and Olympics. To do this it focuses on identifying, supporting and coaching sailors who can succeed in Olympic competition. The advert says 'securing of significant philanthropic support and augmenting the funding provided by the Irish Sports Council will improve performance at Olympic level, increase the level of competition for those on squads and widen access and participation'.

More details and a copy of the advert for download is available here. 

 

Published in ISA

#ISA - Wicklow's Norman Lee has "very positive" feelings for the new course plotted for Irish sailing in the ISA's new strategic plan.

But the dinghy sailor echoes Afloat blogger Magheramore's comments earlier today that lasting change in the sailing scene requires real commitment from our clubs and classes.

Speaking to Afloat.ie, Lee says that "unless boat owners and other people involved in sailing actively encourage and facilitate newcomers to participate, he reorganisation will not achieve much."

Yet while Magheramore believes sailing clubs can take charge of this by changing to a 'pay for play' model whereby members would sail a club-owned fleet, potentially opening access to sailing as a sport and pastime wider than ever, Lee sees it as "one of our problems" that "too many stand back and expect the ISA or the clubs to fix things."

He suggests that sailors themselves in general could be more welcoming to newcomers, taking them out on the water "to experience the things they need to experience to get hooked."

He adds: "Most claim they are too busy or their boat isn’t suitable or they would lose points, all these selfish Tiger excuses need to be dropped if members are serious about reversing the flow and growing the sport."

Lee is also outspoken about the need for changes in club junior training, such as reducing the number of modules to save on time and costs "when all most people want is the basics so that they can safely helm or crew".

He feels strongly "that one or two seasons learning the basics should be followed immediately by channelling into normal club racing/activities. The certificate chase should only be for a few who are keen to instruct and have shown reasonable sailing ability and genuine interest in the sport."

In terms of development, Lee believes it is "good to shift the focus onto regional development officers (RDOs) getting to know the grassroots, but the job is too big for two or even three.

"Four might be okay, but only if their range of duties and job spec is kept very tight and practical. At present it seems impossible."

Overall, however, Lee maintains that the "huge work" put in over the last two years in charting a new direction for Irish sailing has been an "uplifting experience and, if it continues in the way proposed, will turn Irish sailing around and be the prototype for similar change needed in other jurisdictions."

Published in ISA

#isastrategicplan – Afloat's occasional blogger 'Magerhamore' listened to the recent presentation of the ISA Strategic Plan and question and answer session in Dun Laoghaire last Wednesday and the following thoughts have come to mind:

The ISA seems to have radically transformed it's attitude. The Strategic Plan sets out clear strategies for developing sailing. However, at the centre of these strategies is a clear mission for the ISA to assist and support Sailing Clubs, Sailing Classes and Training Centres. The ISA may have changed; do our clubs and classes want to change? If they do, then things will happen. If they do not then nothing will change.

The present club model is largely based on offering a service to a relatively small number of boat owners, their families and their crew (many of who may not be members of the club). Many potential sailors (and their parents) have neither the intention or the finance to purchase a boat. Furthermore, present training schemes do not necessarily teach the skills needed to maintain and improve a boat.

If sailing is to tap in to the large potential market for sailing then clubs will have to change model, and develop 'pay for play' type activities. It is important to emphasise that this 'pay for play' should not be limited to beginners. There are many pathways into competition at the very highest level for those who do not own their own boats, including team racing and match racing. Worldwide, many events are based on charter fleets and many class championships are dominated by club owned boats.

The skills to operate such schemes exist in Ireland... but not necessarily in the clubs. Many training centres own and operate large fleets of boats. That expertise needs to be transferred to the clubs.

The long term development of year round activities - training, coaching, running 'pay for play' requires a radical transformation of the training and employment of instructors and especially senior instructors. If clubs are to develop new activities then they need full time, permanently employed staff with the management skills to run a sailing base. There are many Irish sailors with the required experience and skills.Very few of them work in Ireland.

Sailing needs to be ambitious. We are an island nation with a similar population to New Zealand. We have an incredible playground, our lakes and coastal waters, on our doorsteps. Sailing should be one of Ireland's biggest participant sports. Our ambition,should be that in a few years there are more active participants in sailing (a sport for life) than in Gaelic Football, Soccer or Rugby. This will not happen without a complete transformation of the way we manage and develop our sport.

A potential future Irish Ben Ainslie may be living in Tallaght, Tullamore or Termonfeckin. He or she will probably never set foot on a boat, or never enter a sailing club. Without parents willing to spend considerable sums he or she will never attain their potential. Surely our role is to allow all of those who want to mess about in boats the opportunity to do so.

READ MORE FROM MAGHERAMOREHow clubs can cash in on sailing's spectator appeal; The 'Great Dinghy Sailing Debate' Means Questions for ISA & Yacht ClubsIs 'Adventure Sailing' a New Tack for Dinghy Sailors?

Published in Your Say

#sailing.ie – Dublin Yacht Club Commodores have been the first to greenlight a new Irish Sailing Association (ISA) agenda mapped out at the Royal St. George Yacht Club yesterday.

Over 60 gathered to hear former president Neil Murphy give details of the new five year strategic plan that was favourably received by a range of sailors who had plenty of questions for President David Lovegrove. Topics covered included; training, instructors, VHF certification, how dinghy classes fit in to the new arrangements and the association's new Regional Development Officer.

Afloat.ie reviewed the Strategic Plan HERE where it is also available to download as a PDF file.

The Plan is for the period 2015 - 2020 and is based on the views that were put to the Strategic Review Group. The SRG was asked by the Board in 2013 to assess where the Association stood and how it needed to adjust to better serve the sport of Sailing. The Board accepted its Report and tasked a group to prepare a new Strategic Plan for the ISA based on its contents.

Significantly, Norman Lee, the Wicklow based small boat sailor who sought – and has now got – fundamental change at the ISA, has welcomed the plan: 'My feelings are very positive, this has been a very positive and uplifting experience and if it continues in the way proposed, will turn Irish sailing around and be the prototype for similar change needed in other jurisdictions', he told Afloat.ie More from Norman on the topic HERE.

The underlying principle of the Plan is moving from a 'governance approach' to one of the principal stakeholders in the Sport working together with goal of encouraging and developing participation. The Association, Clubs, Training Centres, Classes and associated groups working in union to achieve those objectives underlies all of the strategies. There will be a renewed emphasis on utilising the input of volunteers to harness the skills and knowledge of active sailors so that the ISA can evolve and develop and respond to issues that arise.

'The initial vibe seems to be that the ISA has listened, strategised and truly re-connected with the Irish sailing community. Sure, there were valid issues raised that need looking at, especially in relation to cruising and training. But if that connection and dialogue is truly there again, well then what obstacles can't be overcome? In my particular area of interest – racing – the really exciting thing I see is the willingness to address structural issues that can make our sport too exclusive and competitive, especially for young sailors", Sean Craig, a one design dinghy and keelboat sailor, who was part of the the review group, told Afloat.ie

The primary role of the Clubs in growing the sport locally, attracting newcomers and maintaining the interest of both existing and new members is acknowledged. Better linkages between Clubs and Training Centres for their mutual benefit are proposed. This is in the knowledge that most newcomers interested in taking up Sailing feel more comfortable in approaching a Training Centre than a Club but the long term involvement of sailors in the sport is best ensured by them joining Clubs, participating in Club activities and enjoying the benefits - both practical and social - that membership provides.

'There was great positivity at the review meeting - it is clear that the ISA has listened to its members and the SRG team deserves much credit for creating strategies that can make a real difference going forward – to this end, we are more than willing to work with the Association to enhance our sport', Graham Smith Commodore of Malahide Yacht Club told Afloat.ie

'The Royal Irish Yacht Club welcomes the Strategic Plan prepared by the ISA, and will encourage the Club's involvement in its implementation. We are hopeful that this initiative heralds a new level of communication and interaction among all members of the sailing community, to the long-term benefit and enjoyment of this sport and recreation' said RIYC commodore James Horan.

The appointment of Regional Development Officers to assist Clubs and Training Centres has been one of the ISA success stories in recent years and it is proposed to increase their availability to Clubs and Training Centres. The Board has already decided to add a further RDO to the two existing appointments to ensure the local availability of expertise and advice and facilitate greater co-operation and coordination between local Clubs and with Training Centres.

The over elaborate structure of ISA training courses and the difficulties of qualifying, retaining and upskilling instructors was a widespread complaint when the Review Group conducted their research. Strategies to resolve those problems are proposed.

 An often expressed view about the Club Training schemes for Junior sailors is the amount of effort committed to running courses by Clubs and the relatively poor transfer rate from the courses to Club involvement and activity afloat. It is planned to refocus the training courses away from a 'certificate chase' to an emphasis on developing the skills learned. An online sailing passport scheme to supplement the paper based certificate system is proposed. It will be trialled in the coming season and will allow the recording of both course attendance and other time afloat, whether racing or leisure sailing. 

A strategy of encouraging the training of young sailors in two person boats, as opposed to single handed craft, is proposed, with a view to improving both their technical and social skills. A renewed emphasis on sailing being a sport for life and avoidance of the risk of sailor burnout by compressing skills acquisition into young sailors' early teens, are envisaged.

The redressing of the perceived imbalance between the support structures for those competing in the non-Olympic area and those involved with the High Performance area - essentially the Olympic arena - is proposed. This will not affect the support for the High Performance sector, which is funded through the good offices of the Irish Sports Council, but will instead propose that the support available to other areas of competition will be enhanced. Better access for Clubs and Classes to coaching at local level is one of the principal strategies envisaged and it is hoped that Clubs and Classes will be able to access both coaches with a High Performance background and those with experience of specific Classes.

It is proposed that the ISA should re-commence the co-ordination of a racing event calendar to facilitate the avoidance of clashes between events and re-establish the balance between local, regional and national events.

Former president Niamh McCutcheon who attended the meeting received a favourable mention from David Lovegrove who he said 'had the foresight to initiate this engagement'.

Similar meetings are planned as follows: 

Tue 17 Feb 15 7pm-9pm Cork, Rochestown Park Hotel

Tue 24 Feb 15 7pm-9pm Galway, Galway Bay Sailing Club

Published in ISA

#isa – Two years after a heave against the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) a new five year strategic plan has been published writes David O'Brien in this morning's Irish Times sailing column HERE.

The Plan is for the period 2015 - 2020 and is based on the views that were put to a 'Strategic Review Group'. The SRG was asked by the Board in 2013 to assess where the Association stood and how it needed to adjust to better serve the sport of Sailing. The Board accepted its Report and tasked a group to prepare a new Strategic Plan for the ISA based on its contents.

This blueprint (downoad the draft plan below as a 2mb pdf file) looks like a positive step forward not least because it makes an attempt to implement measurable targets for the good of grass–roots sailors. That rule was something lacking on a now scrapped 2020 vision document sub–titled 'grow the sport, grow the membership, grow the organisation'. This discredited plan turned out to be boom time folly and like so many other projects around the country at that time, poorly thought out and only half–built.

On foot of it, in 2013 a band of dissenting sailors held the ISA to account for its lack of performance. Back then, association efforts were more focussed on getting the ISA genie back in the bottle than the sport back on track. In a push for change at the National Yacht Club (NYC) in April 2013, the embattled body heard over 300 suggestions for change.

Not least was the fact sailing had lost a quarter of its members in recession and key yacht clubs are still in choppy financial waters. A massive fall off of junior sailors also presented an inconvenient truth that problems lay not with the children but with the paucity of guidance for newcomers.

Sailors like Norman Lee and Bryan Armstrong were joined by former president Roger Bannon (now its Treasurer) in calling for fundamental reform.

'The ISA has lost its way over the last few years," Bannon wrote in March 2013, giving his view of a bureaucracy 'detached from the reality of what is going on in the front line'.

Around the same time, County Wicklow dinghy sailor Lee said he wanted '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'.

Two years on, an independent group of sailors has charted a new course but does this revised game plan satisfy these demands? Will it be a boost for clubs and classes, particularly smaller ones, or is the only comfort for them the fact that the process took place?

The underlying principle of the Plan is moving from a 'governance approach' to one of the principal stakeholders in the Sport working together with goal of encouraging and developing participation. The Association, Clubs, Training Centres, Classes and associated groups working in union to achieve those objectives underlies all of the strategies. There will be a renewed emphasis on utilising the input of volunteers to harness the skills and knowledge of active sailors so that the ISA can evolve and develop and respond to issues that arise.

The approach is in a logically presented format but there is very little that suggests the ISA will support ageing, less popular class associations, preferring rather to put faith in the bricks and mortar of clubs and training centres to strengthen access and participation avenues for current and potential sailors.

While many of the strategies are laudable, there will be difficulties in operating them, particularly where they are dependent on the vigour, enthusiasm and skills of volunteers at club level.

Indeed, there may be some instances where ISA aspirations are in direct conflict with local trends and activities. For example, what will the Optimist and Laser classes say to the strategy of 'encouraging participation of younger sailors in two person boats' or the dinghy classes about the strategy of encouraging crewing in keelboats.

The scenario will create debate about the professional structure required to deliver on its aspirations particularly in the training area. Suitably qualified personnel are necessary to negotiate the tricky waters disturbed by the demands of the multiple agencies with a stake in the sport and its delivery – HSA, Department of Transport, Department of Education.

At the same time it would appear that the working plan appears to validate the ISA's High Performance department as many of the strategies suggested are actually currently operational.

There are a number of curious omissions:
·No mention of Paralympic sailing in the High Performance section
·No mention of Youth Worlds, a fertile ground for ISA recently
·No mention of financing the association, strangely in light of the discussion around its joint membership scheme.

Where does the balance lies when gauging the benefit of an organisation producing a strategic plan – is it the outcome or the process that is the more valuable exercise? Or worse still, is it the creation of a stick to be beaten with further down the road if targets are not achieved.

The ISA has been fortunate in being able to rely on some excellent volunteer directors for the overhaul process. The combination of effectiveness and commitment of the new board has brought the association a long way in a short time but how sustainable is this voluntary effort over time?

One doer maybe better than forty talkers but effective volunteers are hard to find. Finding an ISA President a year ago was not without difficulty in itself. In the absence of such voluntary effort, and with the benefit of experience, can the professional staff see this new plan through or is more help needed?

As a draft, this document will no doubt undergo some change in the process that now follows. And while there have been some changes at the ISA's Park Road HQ, the evolution of the ISA from the Ursula Maguire administered one-person organisation of 20 years ago continues with a relatively minor correction of the set and drift that had crept in in recent years. Are more changes still to come? Will there be a replacement for the recently departed training director? Perhaps too someone is also needed to support the club racing side – maybe in conjunction with the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA)?

The appointment of Regional Development Officers to assist Clubs and Training Centres has been seen as one of the ISA success stories in recent years and it is proposed to increase their availability to Clubs and Training Centres. The Board has already decided to add a further RDO to the two existing appointments to ensure the local availability of expertise and advice and facilitate greater co-operation and coordination between local Clubs and with Training Centres.

The primary role of the Clubs in growing the sport locally, attracting newcomers and maintaining the interest of both existing and new members is acknowledged. Better linkages between Clubs and Training Centres for their mutual benefit are proposed. This is in the knowledge that most newcomers interested in taking up Sailing feel more comfortable in approaching a Training Centre than a Club but the long term involvement of sailors in the sport is best ensured by them joining Clubs, participating in Club activities and enjoying the benefits - both practical and social - that membership provides.

The over elaborate structure of ISA training courses and the difficulties of qualifying, retaining and upskilling instructors was a widespread complaint when the Review Group conducted their research. Strategies to resolve those problems are proposed.

An often expressed view about the Club Training schemes for Junior sailors is the amount of effort committed to running courses by Clubs and the relatively poor transfer rate from the courses to Club involvement and activity afloat. It is planned to refocus the training courses away from a 'certificate chase' to an emphasis on developing the skills learned. An online sailing passport scheme to supplement the paper based certificate system is proposed. It will be trialled in the coming season and will allow the recording of both course attendance and other time afloat, whether racing or leisure sailing.

A strategy of encouraging the training of young sailors in two person boats, as opposed to single handed craft, is proposed, with a view to improving both their technical and social skills. A renewed emphasis on sailing being a sport for life and avoidance of the risk of sailor burnout by compressing skills acquisition into young sailors' early teens, are envisaged.

The redressing of the perceived imbalance between the support structures for those competing in the non-Olympic area and those involved with the High Performance area - essentially the Olympic arena - is proposed. This will not affect the support for the High Performance sector, which is funded through the good offices of the Irish Sports Council, but will instead propose that the support available to other areas of competition will be enhanced. Better access for Clubs and Classes to coaching at local level is one of the principal strategies envisaged and it is hoped that Clubs and Classes will be able to access both coaches with a High Performance background and those with experience of specific Classes.

It is proposed that the ISA should re-commence the co-ordination of a racing event calendar to facilitate the avoidance of clashes between events and re-establish the balance between local, regional and national events.

Now the process of re-evaluation has begun, the ISA is urging all sailors to play a role to win back participation in sailing. A green light from clubs and classes is key to this plan's success.

The following regional meetings are taking place:

Wed 21 Jan 15 7pm-9pm Dublin, Royal St George Yacht Club
Tue 17 Feb 15 7pm-9pm Cork, Rochestown Park Hotel
Tue 24 Feb 15 7pm-9pm Galway, Galway Bay Sailing Club
 

Published in ISA

#jobs – The Irish Sailing Association (ISA) is recruiting an additional Regional Development Officer (RDO) for the Eastern Region and will redefine the territories of the two existing RDO's. 

The new post  follows the announcement recently by ISA president David Lovegrove, that the core body is to create a more cost effective structure providing accessible expertise at a local level to help Clubs and Affiliated Organisations, increase and retain members. As part of this development key resources are being redirected at a local level through the investment in Regional Development Officers. Details are below.

Position: ISA Development Officer

The ISA is the National Governing Body recognised by the Irish Sports Council for all forms of competitive and recreational activities involving sail and engine powered craft. Due to staff changes and the continued roll out of the ISA's Regional Development Programme, the ISA is looking to appoint a Regional Development Officer to join the ISA's professional team.

The prime role of the Regional Development Officer is to provide support to member clubs and affiliated organisations for the purpose of increasing activity and participation. The successful candidate, who will be based in the Eastern Region, will work in conjunction with the existing officers based in the Southern and Western Regions.

Ideally the candidate will be an active sailor with a broad knowledge of the ISA, including the structures and relationships with Clubs, Class Associations and Training Centres, ISA training schemes as well as racing & competition structures within the sport.

They will:

• Report directly to the ISA Chief Executive and support him with the delivery of the ISA's annual operational plan agreed by the Board.

• Join the existing Regional Development Team to work with ISA affiliated Clubs and accredited Training Centres to grow and develop their activities, customer base and membership.
• Promote and develop specific programmes and initiatives in line with ISA strategies, to increase the numbers of people participating in the sport.

• Develop links between ISA Clubs, Training Centres and Local Bodies in the region.

• Improve communications and liaison between ISA, Clubs and Training Centres

• Support the development and implementation of the ISA Training Programmes

• Support the ISA strategy to establish a regional development network.

The successful candidate will:

• Have a knowledge of Club and Training Centre structures and activities.

• Have good racing knowledge and experience

• Have initiative, be flexible, creative and have the ability to work within a small team environment

• Have high levels of energy, enthusiasm and commitment. He/she will be well organised and be capable of communicating effectively.

• Will have a professional and proactive style with excellent interpersonal skills.

• Be computer literate with IT skills and experience of Microsoft office applications

Salary will be negotiable depending on experience and qualifications.

Letter of application and CV should be sent to Harry Hermon, Chief Executive by email to; [email protected] Closing date for receipt of applications is Wednesday 14th January 2015

Published in Jobs

#sailing.ieIrish Sailing Association (ISA) President David Lovegrove gives an update on a fundamental restructure of the organisation

Following the AGM in March 2014, the Board of the ISA received the report of the Strategic Review Group chaired by Brian Craig. In response to its extensive recommendations, the Board initiated a fundamental restructure to re-establish the organisation's relevance to its membership and focus its energies and capabilities on core activities.

Organisational and governance changes have been adopted together with a rationalisation of the professional team, a significant reduction in overheads and the disposal of surplus assets.

These changes allow resources to be re–allocated more directly into providing support at regional and club level and also reflect a change in emphasis from that of largely performing a regulatory role to one of being a source of active guidance at grass roots. This will be achieved within a cost structure which is realistically matched to the existing income profile.

In consultation with the Board and the recently formed Policy Groups, which are a valued source of expert advice on key areas of policy and activities, the Strategic Planning Group under the Chairmanship of Neil Murphy, is developing a new 5 year Strategic Plan 2015-2020. Following consultation with clubs and affiliated organisations in the New Year, this will be presented for consideration and approval at the next AGM in March 2015.

In the meantime, major changes to communications and PR are being implemented with a new website to be launched early in 2015, a collaboration agreement being signed with Afloat Magazine and a newly formatted high profile event, details for which will be announced shortly, that will pay tribute to our sailing achievers at both international and national level.

The training area will see innovative initiatives in 2015 with the launch of an online logbook for the Small Boat Sailing Scheme, the publication of a Junior Organisers' Handbook and the appointment of National Trainers for Sailing, Windsurfing and Power Boating. A Pathway for clubs looking to develop more double –handed sailing at local level for juniors will be finalised in 2015.

The ISA will also focus on developing a structured approach designed to make Coaching resources more readily accessible to sailors of all abilities and interests, including keelboat sailors, and ensure a trickle down benefit from the outstandingly successful High Performance programme.

With a revised and extended structure of Regional/Sailing Development officers, the ISA foresees working much more closely with Clubs, Class Associations and the Irish Cruiser Racing Association to coordinate plans for increased participation levels and sharing of resources. As part of this, it is planned to develop a comprehensive database on racing activities both at Club and at National level. Addressing this lack of information is regarded as key to the development of strategies to enhance and grow racing activity levels.

Cruising represents a large constituency of regular sailors and in consultation with The Irish Cruising Club and other established cruising groups, it is proposed to become more supportive in serving these interests by assisting in organising cruising symposiums, promoting Cruise –in–Company initiatives and providing reliable information on berthing facilities and visitor moorings around the country.

Increasing participation in sailing has long been a strategic objective of the ISA and if club membership and participation levels at many sailing events are an accurate indication of activity, it is clear that a major challenge to be confronted exists in making the sport more accessible and attractive to new participants. We also need to ensure that those who are regularly involved in the sport, but not necessarily as members of clubs, can find cost–effective ways of becoming more formally integrated into our club infrastructure.

During this re–direction of emphasis, it remains a major priority for the ISA to continue delivering its current range of services and competently discharge its responsibilities as the National Governing Body for Sailing.

2015 will be a pivotal year in executing this new direction for the ISA and success will be heavily reliant on the contribution and interaction of all sailors, whatever their interests or needs.

Finally, a big thank you is warranted to the professional team in the ISA and to all the volunteers who have energetically and generously contributed to what has been a very challenging eight months for the ISA.

David Lovegrove,
President

Published in ISA
Page 7 of 17

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