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#rio – The Irish Sailing Association (ISA) has condemed the 2016 Olympic regatta venue a 'health hazard'.

According to a report by Johnny Watterson in this morning's Irish Times, the ISA's Olympic chief James O'Callaghan has requested that funding be made available for a doctor to come with them in their next visit to the Rio de Janeiro venue to assess possible health concerns associated with the 'untreated sewage' in the water. More on this story here.

It follows earlier reports on Afloat.ie last December from Irish sailing coach Ian Barker who also slammed the venue.

Other nations have also expressed disgust at the filthy state of the Brazilian waters in which they will race at the 2016 Olympics, with the Irish coach and former British star describing it as a "sewer".

O'Callaghan, who travelled to the venue last Summer believes the health risk to be so significant that the doctor may require all team members on the water to be immunised against a variety of possible infections and illnesses.

 

Published in Olympic
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The Irish Sailing Association's (ISA) Annual General Meeting on March 1 will see a shake up in the board of the national governing body with the retiral of its president and two other directors to be replaced by members of the recently formed Strategic Review Group (SRG). It's all part of a drive to stem the decline in sailing that has seen membership at some of the country's biggest clubs drop by some 30% amid concern over current association policies.

David Lovegrove from Howth Yacht Club is standing for the office of President and significantly two senior SRG members that have been looking into the operation of how the association performs are set to join the board. SRG Chairman Brian Craig and a former President of the ISA, Roger Bannon are standing for election. Both men are widely credited with achieving success for the sport in the past, Craig with the staging of some top international events and Bannon with the reformation of the ISA itself, more than a decade ago. Bannon previously cited cost as the elephant in the room for sailing.

Agreement from the board of the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) in November to allow a full independent review of how it operates was a good start to overhaul a sport facing declining numbers.

Ironically, the review came after a period where Irish sailing sought to punch above its weight, playing host to all sorts of European and world championships in the 2012 and 2013 period, all of which relied heavily on a mix of State and commercial support.

The Irish Sports Council spent €1.25 million on sailing in 2012, including €400,000 on a fleet of dinghies and new support vehicles for the ISA.

It was a support that prompted the ISA chief executive Harry Hermon to declare 2012 as a "breakthrough year" for Irish sailing. But it appears such international events are no barometer of the national scene. In fact, they came at a time when many Irish clubs are facing financial headwinds with unsustainable overheads.  More on this by David O'Brien in the Irish Times here.

According to the ISA, larger clubs have lost 30 per cent of their members over the last five years, resulting in a combined drop in ISA club memberships of 24 per cent.

Three existing directors are due to retire including the president Niamh McCutcheon. 

The agm will be held at 1600hrs on 1st March 2014 at the Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire.

Included in the agenda for the agm is a report from the SRG. 

In the election of directors, the official agm notice says Oliver Hart having served seven years on the Board is retiring in accordance with Article 68. Berchmans Gannon is also retiring by rotation in accordance with articles 73 & 74. He is not going forward for re-election.

Published in ISA

#Olympics - Annalise Murphy might be preoccupied with next week's Miami regatta, but the main focus for her and fellow Providence Team IRL members will be the Olympic qualifier in Santander this coming September.

As The Daily Sail reports, "the target is to qualify Ireland in all classes" - and the road to Rio begins in earnest next week at the Olympic classes regatta in Florida, where Murphy will be in action in the Laser Radial alongside the Sonar trio of John Twomey, Ian Costello and Austin O’Carroll, who are in the running for Paralympics spots.

Providence Team IRL - rounded off by Laser sailor James Espey and 49er duo Ryan Seaton and Matthew McGovern - is the name given to the elite of the elite by the Irish Sailing Association's (ISA) Performance department, which is at present developing 102 sailors through its Performance Pathway from junior through to the highest level.

Among them are the up-and-coming Olympic Development Squad, with Andrew Brewster and Saskia Tidey in the new 49erFX class, and the Laser Development Squad, which counts the high-achieving teens Finn Lynch and Fionn Lyden in its ranks.

The Daily Sail has more on the story HERE.

Published in Olympic
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#ISA - Howth Yacht Club's David Lovegrove has been nominated to succeed Niamh McCutcheon as president of the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) next spring, as The Irish Times reports.

Lovegrove is a former commodore of his North Dublin club and presently one of Ireland's top international race officers, coming off what Afloat's WM Nixon describes as an "extraordinary" performance in the role for the J/24s in 2013.

Come 2014 he's set to preside over an era of big changes for the ISA, following the announcement last month than an independent group has been appointed to form a new strategic plan for sailing's national governing body.

The Strategic Review Group is led by the Royal St George's Brian Craig - whose role, according to Lovegrove, persuaded him to accept McCutcheon's nomination for the ISA's top job.

Indeed, Lovegrove says he's up to the challenge, telling the paper that "the ISA needs to go through a fundamental change".

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in ISA
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#ISAPLAN – The Irish Sailing Association (ISA) is set for a shake–up following a year of controversy over its policies. Last night it was revealed an 'independent group' – that includes some of the association's critics – has been appointed to form a new plan for the governing body.

In framing the terms of reference for the 'Strategic Review Group' (SRG), ISA President Niamh McCutcheon conceded 'events have overtaken it and the ISA needs a new plan'. 

A team of six leading sailors will 'establish the policies to be pursued and the actions required to deliver them successfully', according to SRG chairman Brian Craig, a former flag officer of the Royal St George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire.

Some long standing grievances aired last winter led to revolt when sailors Norman Lee and Bryan Armstrong criticised its dinghy and small boat training at the ISA agm. The points raised received widespread support that manifested itself months later in a vocal 'dinghy conference' for Ireland's 20 small boat classes at the National Yacht Club, resulting in over 300 suggestions for change.

It took perseverance and genuine courage to press for this change and there will be many sceptics and spoiling interests to confront if this first step is to translate into a new blueprint for sailing but in forming the new group, Craig has stressed its impartiality: 'As an independent group, we are ideally placed to seek suggestions".

We want to hear from anyone with a view to offer and I assure you that we will listen', he vowed.

Headquartered in Dun Laoghaire, the ISA has a staff of 14. Its accounts for 2012 show a turnover of €2m, much of it made up of government grants.

Significantly, Craig has included former ISA President Roger Bannon, an outspoken critic of current ISA policies in the line–up. A dinghy and sportsboat champion in his own right, Bannon used his term in office two decades ago to secure the position and financial viability of the association as a national sporting authority by making every member of a sailing club in Ireland also a member of the ISA.

It was a bravo move that unified Ireland's sailing clubs into a stronger whole fit to nurture the talent necessary to challenge the world at the top levels of sailing. But in more recent times that fitness has been called into question, and Bannon is among those who hit out at an authority that has arguably lost its relevance to all bar those at the most elite levels in the sport.

In a call for change on Afloat.ie last March, "The ISA has lost its way over the last few years," Bannon said, giving his view of a bureaucracy "detached from the reality of what is going on in the front line".

Craig has also asked another former president Neil Murphy, along with Olympic race officer Jack Roy, sailmaker Des McWilliam and small boat advocate Bryan Armstrong to join this Group, with the option to add others as the process continues.

Once it has carried out an 'initial examination' the group will move on to recommend 'future strategies'.

Spring 2014 is scheduled as completion date for the Group's assessment of the current position.

'This will be a major undertaking but I am confident that, with the support and engagement of all interested parties, we will chart a course for the Sport suited to this new environment.

It is understood the process will include a zero based budget review on key financial areas along with a review of the association's committee structures.

 'The new plan will be critical to the association's ability to provide leadership in satisfying the aspirations of existing members and in attracting new participants to the sport', according to McCutcheon, the outgoing president due to step down in March. 

The SRG has set up a dedicated email address and can be contacted by email through [email protected]

In a statement seen by Afloat.ie SRG Members are listed with the following bios as:

Bryan Armstrong lives at Rosses Point County Sligo. Keen if not overly successful dinghy sailor since the late 1960s with an interest in home boatbuilding in wood – Mirrors, GP14 and (for the 2011 Worlds in Sligo), a Fireball.
Committee member of Sligo Yacht Club several times over the years and Commodore 1978. Chaired organising group for 2006 GP14 Worlds in Sligo which was intrinsically linked with the construction of the new Sligo clubhouse. Always interested in junior sailing in Sligo and nationally. Committee member Irish Mirror Class Association 2004 to 2011 and President 2008 to 2010. Currently actively sailing a GP14. Practicing partner solicitor in a Sligo based firm. Bryan can be contacted at [email protected]

Roger Bannon, a member of the National Yacht Club, was President of the Irish Sailing Association when the Joint membership Scheme was established and the current Olympic /Elite model was devised in the mid 90's. He has always been a keen small boat sailor and has won multiple national titles in the 420, Mermaid, Flying Fifteen and J24 classes. He was the first Irish sailor to pioneer racing in the Olympic Star Class and more recently was one of the innovators in the establishment of the SB20 fleet in Ireland. He continues to have an active interest in the sport and still regularly sails his venerable 53 year old Mermaid "Endeavour" and when creaking bones allow, occasionally a J70 or a National 18. Roger can be contacted at [email protected]

Brian Craig, a former flag officer of the Royal St George, a member of the Irish Cruising Club, Lough Derg and Kinsale yacht clubs. Was a keen dinghy sailor competing on the Firefly, Fireball and Team Racing national and international circuits. Currently racing a SOD, he has a motor cruiser on Lough Derg and a cruising yacht based in Dun Laoghaire.
Since retiring from business, he has played a key role in attracting and organising major championships on Dublin Bay. He worked closely with the waterfront clubs and local bodies in Dun Laoghaire to develop the biennial Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta and more recently led the Irish team that ran the ISAF Youth Worlds 2012.
He was a recipient of the 2010 National Award to Volunteers in Irish Sport from the Irish Sports Council. Brian can be contacted at [email protected]

Des McWilliam (Royal Cork Yacht Club and Royal Irish Yacht Club)
A regular participant in Irish and international sailing. He is in constant contact with customers in dinghy and keelboat sailing - racing and cruising.
Des Sailed for Ireland: Admiral's Cup on five occasions, Sardinia Cup twice, the Southern Cross and 1/2 Ton Cup twice. He is the owner of McWilliam Sailmakers Ltd / UK Sailmakers Ireland and President of 50-loft UK Sailmakers International Group 2010-12. Co-owner UK Sailmakers International Group 2012-present and was a member of the Oireachtas Task Force on Small Business in mid '90's He was a guest lecturer in Entrepreneurship UCC late '90's and is still in business after five years of recession. Des can be contacted at [email protected]

Neil Murphy (Howth Yacht Club and Malahide Yacht Club)
Enterprise dinghies and Laser frostbiting (when wet suits were a novelty) were Neil's intro to the sport. Small boats are still his favourites and he races a Puppeteer 22 in Howth. As a National Race Officer, he gets to see and enjoy racing in a variety of Classes.
As one of the ISA's youngest Presidents (1996 to 1998), he launched its first Strategic Plan, which plotted priorities and set out its targets coming into the current millennium. He chaired the 2012 ISA review of the All Ireland (formerly Helmsmans) Championship and, most recently, was Race Officer when Howth YC hosted the 2013 event. Apart from racing, his main area of interest is in increasing participation levels, both by recruiting newcomers and retaining those already involved.
Neil can be contacted at [email protected]

Jack Roy (National Yacht Club, Royal Irish Yacht Club and Kinsale Yacht Club)
Started sailing Mirrors in 1967 from Greystones Sailing Club. Over the years he has raced in 420s, 470s, Flying Fifteens, J24s, Dragons, J109s and Squibs. He has also cruised for many years and currently keeps a cruising boat in Kinsale from where he sails the southwest coast and further afield. When Jack's not sailing he's very involved in race management and has been an International Race Officer since 1998. He was honoured to be the first Irish Race Officer at an Olympic Regatta in the London 2012 Games. Jack Roy is a cuurent board member of the ISA.
When not on the water, he is Managing Director of Fagerhult Irl Ltd, the Dublin office of a Swedish PLC specialising in energy efficient lighting solutions to the commercial sector
Jack can be contacted at [email protected]

For further reading:

Irish Sailing in Crisis

Shake up of ISA policy

Published in ISA

#Dinghy - The big discussion on the fate of small boat sailing will have to wait another few weeks, with the deferment of the Irish Sailing Association's (ISA) Dinghy & One Design Keelboats Convention till 30 November at the earliest.

But the delay will be worth it if it means getting all the key figures in place for these necessary talks on plotting a new course for small boat sailing in Ireland.

It's undoubtedly a big task, attested by the highly charged classes forum in March this year that produced more than 300 suggestions for changes in the way the ISA handles small boat sailing.

That forum, which itself followed some intense discussion on Afloat.ie, prompted the ISA to publish a number of recommendations - among them its conclusion that the move away from using the voluntary support of small boat sailing clubs towards a stricter organisational regimen in the 1998 strategic plan has been significant in the "perceived disengagement of the membership from the operations of the ISA".

In the wake of those recommendations, Dublin-based sportboat sailor Ric Morris contributed his own list of things the ISA could do to rejuvenate Irish dinghy sailing.

Among them was the formation of an 'Irish Dinghy Racing Association' that would ensure smaller club's interests aren't dwarfed by the bigger, elite sailing classes; making club fleet sailing - and club class captains - the heart of every club; and even offering group purchasing schemes to lower the cost of both entry to the sport and sustaining club sailing.

Cost is indeed a major issue, as events administrated by national bodies cost money - more than what many are willing to pay, as the fall in participation levels demonstrates, according to former ISA president Roger Bannon, who also points out creeping costs even outside of the big competitions, from new recruits being persuaded to purchase expensive new boats when second-hand vessels would do, and the expense in acquiring instructor qualifications at club level.

On top of that is what Bannon perceives as a blinkered focus on single-handed classes with elite-level potential like the Laser and Optimist "almost to the exclusion of multi-crewed alternatives" which has had the result "of not equipping youngsters with the basic skills of sailing in a team environment" - a contrast to Britain, where the RYA throws big support behind economical classes like the Topper and Mirror.

Bannon followed up those thoughts more recently with figures from the last two years of class championships for dinghies and keelboats, which for him show that the small boat sailing scene in Ireland "is clearly on its knees".

Yet even for strong critics of the handling of Irish dinghy sailing, there's some good news to savour.

Looking at the figures for 2013 provided to him by Roger Bannon, Ric Morris points out that the RS400 and multihulls "now reach the standard suggested for a National Class" while RS200 numbers are on the rise, and GP14s have had a "bumper year with 50 boats at their nationals" and a Worlds event on Strangford Lough in August 2014.

The new Moth Class, which sees its Irish Open in Howth this weekend, also spells good fortune for small boat sailing in a country where adult dinghies make up 32% of all boats and nearly half of all sailors competing in small boat title events.

And youth sailing is taking up the slack, with 68 boats - the majority of them Irish - fielding at the Mirror Worlds on Lough Derg.

All of this must of course be seen in light of the decline in day boats, says Morris, from the SB20, which "no longer has a club presence outside of Dublin Bay", to the Flying Fifteen, with only one club fleet in Ireland, while the Etchells "look to have died altogether".

However, it can't be ignored that the first two of these classes at least still have healthy traveler series, and the Flying Fifteen was represented by an impressive 30 boats at the class Nationals this year.

What nearly everyone agrees on is as Norman Lee comments: that the long-term decline in numbers is undeniable and must be reversed. And the key to that may well be putting sailing back in the hands of sailors, not bureaucracy.

There's sense to the notion that top-down management of sailing classes ensures consistency in training and abilities to help develop elite-ready competitors, but perhaps some types of sailing were never meant to be handled that way.

As Ric Morris comments again, we shouldn't "expect to create world class sailors from the domestic small boat environment. That's the High Performance team's problem.

"The idea of producing elite sailors from the domestic sailing scene was killed off in the mid '90s," he adds. "Elite sailors now come from sailing against other prospective elite sailors. That's a good thing. It means there should be no pretense over what needs to be done."

What's your take on the situation? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Published in ISA
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#dinghy – The Irish Sailing Association (ISA) has deferred its important conference on small boat sailing at the 11th hour. Scheduled for this Saturday the 'Dinghy & One Design keel-boat Convention' was due to examine problems in the sport will not now tkae place til November 30.

Citing the unavoidable absence of some key representatives the Advisory Group, the ISA says it has taken a decision to defer the meeting until the 30th of November.

As recently as this week a former ISA president wiritng on Afloat.ie set out the big task ahead to put small boat sailing back on an even keel. Roger Bannon gathered two years of championship information to put before the meeting but drew the conclusion that the 'scope of the task was awesome'.

This month's meeting follows a higly charged 'classes forum' held last March which produced over 300 suggestions for change in the way the ISA handles small boat sailing.

That meeting also prompted Ric Morris' suggestions for five things the ISA could do to rejuvenate dinghy sailing in Ireland. His salient points will surely provide much fodder for discussion on the day.

Published in ISA

#ISA - The Irish Sailing Association has issued an open invitation to dinghy sailors to discuss the future of dinghy and one design racing in Ireland at a special meeting less than two weeks away.

The Dinghy & One Design Keelboats Convention will take place on Saturday 2 November at 10.15am in the JB Room at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire.

Chaired by Margaret O'Donnell, the convention follows on from the classes forum this past March, which led the ISA Board to establish a Dinghy/One Design Racing Advisory Group.

That meeting also prompted Ric Morris' suggestions for five things the ISA could do to rejuvenate dinghy sailing in Ireland. His salient points will surely provide much fodder for discussion on the day.

Published in ISA
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#Apps - A new smartphone app developed by the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) that aims to make it easy for boaters to allow contacts on shore to monitor their voyages has been launched today (Thursday 22 August).

Marine Minister Simon Coveney was on hand in Cork for the official unveiling of ISA SafeTrx, which was developed in association with the Irish Coast Guard and DeCare Systems Ireland.

The SafeTrx app is available free for iOS and Android powered smartphones and tablets, and lets boat owners log their voyages directly into their device - allowing them to be tracked by their chosen contacts, including the Irish Coast Guard.

It's also expected that the app will also help the coastguard to identify the location of a stricken vessel, and assess details such as craft description, contact details ashore, previous activity, where the boat was last visible to the network and where headed, persons on board and other information - all targeted at reducing the time that seafarers spend in the water waiting for a lifeboat or helicopter.

“SafeTrx helps take the search out of search and rescue," said Irish Coast Guard director Chris Reynolds. "It encourages all sea users to plan and execute their trips better, safer and gives assurance to friends and partners ashore.”

His comments were echoed by ISA chief executive Harry Hermon, who said: "I believe that ISA SafeTrx, which has been designed by coastguard professionals and built right here in Cork, will help to reduce the number of fatalities on the water even further. I have no doubt that this will save many lives."

Also speaking at the launch today, Minister Coveney said: “The concept of safety at sea and on our network of rivers and lakes must become as commonplace as that of safety on our roads. We need to create a culture of safety first for those travelling on our waters for either commercial or recreational reasons. 

"With loss of life continuing across the maritime spectrum, those who make their living from the sea and those who utilise the sea primarily for leisure purposes must ensure that safety becomes a top priority.” 

ISA SafeTrx logs position reports every kilometre (or every 5 minutes if stationary). Should the user fail to return on time, their emergency contacts will be automatically alerted via SMS and advised to initiate the appropriate action. 

Voyage position reports are displayed on the SafeTrx Monitoring Console so when an emergency contact calls the Irish Coast Guard concerning an overdue trip, coastguard staff will have access to the user’s location and SafeTrx trip data through a secure SafeTrx server. And as the ISA SafeTrx app periodically sends location data back to the servers, the coastguard's response team can get help directly and quickly. 

However, an expert in GPS technology has warned boat users against relying solely on such apps when heading out on the water.

Writing for Afloat.ie's Have Your Say blog, Gary Delaney of Global Position Intelligence (GPI) says the GSM and GPRS location technology on which the SafeTrx app is based is "less than reliable" in Irish coastal and nearshore waters, and "can deteriorate with the weather".

"It is well recognised that in the event of a maritime emergency, lifesaving agencies need to know the current position of the casualty as quickly as possible," he writes. "An assessment of available technologies reveals that only normally approved safety communications devices, such as marine VHF, AIS, EPIRBs, PLBs, ELT, etc can come near guaranteeing that requirement."

The app developers have acknowledged such concerns, saying that ISA SafeTrx is "not intended to be used as a replacement for statutorily recognised safety devices" but is "a resource that in some instances may help to raise an alarm earlier and assist emergency services to locate casualties more accurately".

As always, Afloat.ie advises boaters and sailors to stick to a standard safety checklist, which includes informing a contact on shore of your plans and expected return time, and confirming that you have adequate means for calling for help - from a suitable VHF radio to flares for signalling distress.

Published in News Update
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#TallShips - Four RNLI lifeboats were involved in the rescue of 30 crew from the tall ship Astrid, which sank off the Cork coast earlier today (Wednesday 24 July).

The 42m Dutch training vessel reportedly hit rocks inside the Sovereign Islands at Ballymacus Point, near Kinsale.

All on board were brought to safety when the Kinsale lifeboat transferred the casualties from the sinking ship onto the Courtmacsherry RNLI lifeboat and a local vessel. They were then taken to Kinsale.

Both Kinsale and Courtmacsherry RNLI lifeboats were called out at 12 noon today to go to the immediate aid of the sail training vessel that had got into difficulties on the western entrance to Kinsale Harbour in Cork.

Ballycotton and Crosshaven RNLI were also launched, though the Kinsale RNLI lifeboat was first on scene. There was a 2m swell and winds were force five to six.

The training vessel had lost power and was apparently driven on to rocks by a strong southerly wind at the western entrance to Kinsale Harbour. The grounded vessel was taking on water and a crewmember from Kinsale RNLI was put onboard.

Eighteen of the casualties were taken off the Astrid by Kinsale RNLI lifeboat and transferred to Courtmacsherry lifeboa, before being brought to safety. The remaining 12 were put onto a liferaft deployed by the Astrid’s crew, which was towed to safety by the Kinsale lifeboat and picked up by a local vessel.

The people on board the liferaft were then taken to Kinsale harbour and assessed by medical teams.

Irish Coast Guard helicopters from Waterford and Shannon were also on scene along with ambulances and medical crews from Cork.

Speaking about the call-out, Courtmacsherry RNLI coxswain Sean O’Farrell said: “Everyone was very fortunate. I want to praise the quick thinking of the skipper and the crew from the Astrid. They kept calm and did everything we asked them to do. We were able to get them to safety quickly and a major tragedy was averted. To be able to recover 30 people safely was a great day for everyone involved.”

Meanwhile, the Irish Sailing Association has issued the following media statement on behalf of the tall ship Astrid:

Tall Ship Astrid was on a voyage from Southampton to Cherbourg calling in to Kinsale. On board were 23 trainees from France, Ireland, the Netherlands, UK and Spain. The crew were from Belgium and the captain, Pieter de Kam was from the Netherlands.

As the Astrid was leaving Oysterhaven, as part of The Gathering Cruise parade of sail to Kinsale, the vessel experienced engine failure. They notified a nearby RIB which was being helmed by Irish Sailing Association (ISA) CEO Harry Hermon.

The RIB attempted to take a line from Astrid. However, due to the onshore winds and swell this was not possible. Captain de Kam issued a May Day.

The ISA RIB and the yachts in The Gathering Cruise flotilla stood by until the RNLI arrived. There was a safe rescue of all 30 crew who were brought to Kinsale on board the yacht Spirit of Oysterhaven and the lifeboat. All crew were brought to Kinsale Yacht Club where they were provided with showers, food and dry clothing. They were all medically checked and are in good health.

Sail Training Ireland and Kinsale Yacht Club are working together to make arrangements for accommodation and for returning the crew to their homes.

Commenting on the rescue, Captain Pieter de Kam of the Tall Ship Astrid stated: “I would like to thank the lifeboat and the coastguard for the safe rescue of all my crew. We very much appreciate their outstanding work.”

Harry Hermon, CEO of the Irish Sailing Association, commented: “It is thanks to the rescue services that all crew were rescued quickly and safely without injury. I would also like to thank all the sailors from the Gathering Cruise who stood by Astrid providing support to the crew.

"Kinsale Yacht Club has also been fantastic providing food and clothing and helping Sail Training Ireland find accommodation for all the crew”.

Published in Tall Ships
Page 9 of 17

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