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Specialist coaching for The Irish Fireball Class Association is not covered in the Irish Sailing Association's new coaching scheme for non-Olympic classes accoording to the latest Fireball class newsletter. One of the biggest dinghy classes in the country has investigated the new scheme but reports the ISA coaching monies are available only if 'ISA approved coaches are used'.  

The news letter goes on to say:  'They [The ISA] have proposed to make some monies available for coaching in non-Olympic Classes, but on further investigation the coaching would have to be provided by ISA approved and registered coaches. Thus, for example, the coaching that we as a Class provide to our own members would not qualify for financial support under this scheme. Likewise, the Adam Bowers training session would have to be funded from our own resources. 

The new coaching arrangements were put in place after a motion placed before the AGM of the ISA by Bryan Armstrong (Sligo Yacht Club) and Norman Lee (Greystones SC) sought far reaching reforms of the Association. A meeting held after the agm produced 300 proposals for change inlcuding increased coaching for senior dinghy fleets.

 

Published in Fireball
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#isa – In the wake of today's ISA recommendations for small boat sailing, Ric Morris suggests his own and they include a rekindled dinghy racing association as one of five solutions to the decline in Irish small boat sailing:

1/ Form an Irish Dinghy Racing Association (IDRA)

Outside of direct government funding, including funding for the high performance program and associated HP youth pathway, the ISA is predominantly funded by what amounts to a flat rate tax on club membership. The good thing is that this secures enough funding and gravitas for the ISA to represent the sport at a legal and legislative level and it gives every member of a club automatic access to the benefits of ISA membership. The bad thing, from a dinghy perspective, is that it also means that ISA thinking is dominated by the 7–8 clubs whose size means their contribution is by far the greatest. These clubs also tend to be the clubs predominantly involved with keelboat and yacht racing.

With very few genuine national classes at present and problems accessing venues for classes with small, or even relatively healthy, fleets there is a lot to be gained from pooling resources. As seen with the recent addition of the Moth to some of the Fireball traveller events with suitable co-ordination events can be shared. The RS class is another example of how classes can combine to advantage, as historically have the Jack Holt boats.

A lot of what's needed could be done without the formation of an IDRA but a forum is clearly needed at least for the time being. I highlighted some of the good things going on above but it shouldn't be left to 'knowing someone who knows someone'. Don't get me wrong but the dinghy classes have a lot to prove in terms of working together. Some classes, ironically the ones left standing, don't have a great track record of working well with others. To take a place at the ISA table the dinghy classes, and the clubs whose primary activity is dinghy racing, need to combine and show that they are capable of putting forward a well-supported and co-ordinated agenda.

2/ Provide clearer guidance on the health of the clubs and classes

If you are looking to get involved in dinghy racing in Ireland there's next to no information on the health of dinghy racing in Ireland and no information on which classes offer the best prospect in terms of healthy local and national sailing. Any class that's organised enough to muster up the €150 annual fee can join the list of ISA affiliated classes. The needs of classes in different stages of development are different too and having a clear understanding of where each class is can only help focus attention on where development is needed and support should be given.

The way classes come and go in terms of volunteer strength and equipment improves as time goes on means that, as well as being next to impossible from a practical perspective, it's not appropriate to look to dictate equipment at a national level. Sailors and clubs will choose what they believe is best and room for new classes needs to be allowed or there is a risk of exclusion. To balance all of the above the ISA should distinguish between the following categories of class with in its affiliation. There is nothing to force a class to reach a given standard but the ISA should offer support to classes based on them having reached a certain level of organisation.

National Class

A national class should have:

·         A class builder or dealer in Ireland.

·         A National Championship in the last 3 years with 20 Irish boats or more than 15 Irish boats in each of the last 3 years with publicly available results via the web.

·         Their National Championship run by a nationally or internationally qualified Race Officer and Jury Chair.

·         Club fleets in more than one province. Average of 5 or more finishers in racing with results published on the web.

·         A traveller series with events in more than 2 provinces a year.

That's quite a tough ask but it's also a reasonable list in terms of what a dinghy class needs to do in order to establish itself.

Historic Class

A historic class should have:

·         An historic national or local significance.

·         Strong local support in at least 1 location

Local Class

A local class should have:

·         Strong local support in at least 1 location. Average of 5 or more finishers in racing with results published on the web.

To be honest if a class can't satisfy this then should they be recognised by the ISA as a class?

Current classes

Using these criteria currently the adult classes would break down as follows:

National classes:
Dinghy: Laser, GP14 and Fireball
Keelboat: ICRA Class 1, 2, 3, SB20 and Squib, plus potentially the Dragon

Historic classes:
Dinghy: IDRA14, SOD, Water Wag, Mermaid and National 18.
Keelboat: Howth 17, Glen and 1720.

Local classes:
Dinghy: Multihull, RS400, RS200, Drascomb Drabber, 505 and Wayfarer.
Keelboat: J109, 31.7, Flying Fifteen, E-Boat, Etchells, Puppeteer, Ruffian, Shipman and Sigma 33.

The same thing should be done for the clubs. Coming from outside the sport would you know where the strongest dinghy clubs are? Skerries, Malahide, Monkstown, Killaloe and so on.

3/ Build a national database of sailors passing through the ISA training scheme

There are only so many experienced sailors in the country and inevitably they leave the sport for personal reasons all the time, only some too return later. A large number of those are event focused and move from class to class based on which is currently running a major event. Arguably the senior graduates from the HP pathway feed directly into this group too, those that aren't emigrating. To grow a class the primary focus needs to be on grass roots sailors buying a boat for the long term and in this respect a young sailor continuing in the sport as an owner of a dinghy is better than one continuing as a crew of a cruiser racer.

With a deservedly well-funded high performance program an HP youth pathway is a fact of life. It takes in a large number of kids and spits out nearly all of them along the way. For a while they live the dream but what happens after that?

We tend to think only about the issues we see in our sport, but in fact the same issues seem to occur in youth sport as a whole. Internationally by age 16 two thirds of kids have given up competitive sports like football and rugby for non-competitive sports like surfing and kite surfing. Team sports buck the trend better than individual sports. That would support the case for double handed classes for kids not continuing on to Olympic glory but not that for including racing and log books earlier in the pathway.

If you leave kids in the pathway until the end the figures don't look great. 80% drop out at the point the purchase of a boat is required and a further 12-13% are gone by the time they reach leaving cert age. I would argue that an effort is needed to get kids who can't afford a boat of their own into crewing in adult classes and into adult classes in general as soon as they are physically able. Why? Adult classes provides a continual involvement in sailing the stretches beyond the 2-4 years a child will typically spend in a single youth class. The clubs boats typically used for training provide a means to an end and allow training centres to cater for the large numbers of people interested in giving sailing a go but they are next to useless in terms of delivering a fulfilling on the water experience thereafter.

While not enough is being done to capture the interest of those falling out the HP youth pathway, either to transition kids into more suitable classes or into adult classes there is also an issue of parental expectation. In terms of the long run a sailor may be better off in an adult class as soon as they are physically able but in the short term the adult classes need to address the level of additional activity and support that sailors get corralled into a junior class. All those parents add up to considerable additional volunteer effort. To be successful in taking young sailors from the HP pathway clubs and adult classes need to welcome the parents and give them a positive role.

In reality these are issues for the clubs and classes to address themselves but the ISA can help greatly by providing some glue. A national database of people coming through the training programmes would provide the clubs and classes with an invaluable list of people to contact when they are running open or try/buy days.

4/ Spread club class captain best practice

The old adage that club fleets make classes and class captains make club fleets still holds true.

Why are club fleets so important? Most dinghy racing isn't done at traveller event or national championships it's done out of sight on weekday evenings and weekend afternoons. Club fleets provide the essential support for people looking to enter the sport, even more so for new boat owners. Club fleets provide:

·         Time efficient and easy access to the water when being on the water, rather than quality of racing, is the priority.

·         Advice on boat ownership

·         Help and advice with maintenance

·         A standard of racing that is accessible for new sailors

·         A sense of local community

At the heart of every thriving club fleet is an energetic class captain. It's a hard job, volunteers are thin on the ground and too often a new class captain has to learn on the job. In the time it takes to get up to speed fleets can die.

There are a number of eminently successful fleet builders in the country, some with experience managing international class associations. Their knowledge needs spreading so that every class captain in the country knows what's required to build build build and where one person doesn't have the time or resources to do what's needed then the work can be shared rather than go undone. As a central body the ISA is well placed to pull together and share best practice, offer training as it does with race management or rules or even set up a mentoring scheme.

5/ Offer a sail and boat group purchasing scheme for national classes

Classes can survive for a long time on second hand boats and UK imports by single owners but if a class is to grow in the way need to rejuvenate dinghy sailing in Ireland then new boats are required, not only to increase the fleet size but to trickle down boats so that good second hand boats are available for people looking to enter the sport. The issue is that, for example, a new GP14 with sails and trailer currently costs in excess of 10k, a Fireball double that and to building a new boat for one of the historic classes above 20k is the starting point. That 20k will buy you a fleet of 8 refurbished Fireflys with change shows the potential power of group purchasing. The SB20 fleet is another example of what can happen when a solid fleet purchasing scheme is in place.

At present the dinghy scene is, perhaps, too fragmented to co-ordinate such an effort. The ISA has shown with the SailFleet scheme that it has the ability to do a deal and in the current economic climate the national governing body is potentially the only route for securing capital support for such a scheme. A similar scheme could easily be arrange for the purchase of sails. Such an effort should be focused on the national classes, as defined above, which have the basic essential infrastructure already in place to sustain dinghy racing at a national level.
Develop the class captains of local classes to enable them to build up their class to national standard and then support the national classes to get boats into people's hands.

Published in ISA

#isa –The ISA President Niamh McCutcheon says the association's decision in 1998 to move away from utilising voluntary support has been a significant factor in the 'perceived disengagement of the membership from the operations of the ISA'. The conclusion is contained in ISA Board recommendations from March's Dinghy Sailing Forum published today (download the full recommendations as a pdf below).

The 1998 strategic plan was, however, unanimously approved by the membership and in its foreword the then president Neil Murphy expressly referred to the association's requirement for volunteer involvement 'whose contribution was crucial to the success of the ISA'. (PDF of the 1998 strategic plan foreword is downloadable below).

Today's recommendations follow the motion proposed by Norman Lee and Bryan Armstrong at the ISA AGM held on 2nd March. Following intense discussion on Afloat.ie a meeting was called to discuss the future of Small Boat Sailing and Youth training in Ireland. This meeting was held in the National Yacht Club on 23rd March.

The President says in her recommendations there are a number of action items that may help in the short term but there is no simple solution.  'The implementation of changes to the strategies and structure of an organisation such as the ISA will evolve in time, and only with the help and support of clubs, classes and training centres'.

The March forum was chaired by former ISA President Paddy Maguire, and heard strong views from another former president Roger Bannon.  Over 120 (including 14 ISA Board and staff members) were present, representative mainly from the Dublin area from a wide range of Small Boat Sailing interests - clubs, training centres & classes.

Comment on this topic is welcome below

Published in ISA
Tagged under

#sailing – What started out as calls for change in Irish sailing on Afloat.ie a month ago has this week been echoed around the internet with more than a little worldwide momentum.

A boost in unique visitor traffic to Afloat.ie could not be more heartening with quality inbound links to an online debate on stemming the decline of dinghy sailing.

Over the course of a month from February 26th 12 separate stories on the topic generated over 11, 000 readers.

The message is very clear. Grassroots sailing needs to be revitalised and if this is energised correctly the general improvement in standards will produce world class sailors.

In early March, thanks to the efforts of a group of passionate dinghy sailors concerned over the lack of recognition for senior dinghy fleets by the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) has grown internationally to highlight some serious deficiencies in the management of the most exciting sport in the world, yacht racing.

A full 'shake–up' for Irish sailing is now on the agenda for 2013 after dinghy champions took aim at current policies they claimed are 'damaging the sport'.

The meaningful online discussion on Afloat.ie was heartfelt. The constructive comments from sailors at home and abroad will be important for the future direction of the sport.

Now it is hugely supportive to see former world sailing president Paul Henderson adding to the chorus that calls for a renewed emphasis on dinghy sailing and encouraging a broader base of participation in the sport.

Henderson correctly focuses on kids being ignored who may never be Olympic helmsmen but still want to get out on the water crewing.

It is also interesting that some notable leading yachting publications have so far studiously ignored the debate despite being well aware of it, this is probably more a sign of vested interests!

But all that is changing now the likes of Henderson has shared his thoughts on the elements that grew the sport of sailing over the past four decades, and what he believes is holding sailing back today it is clear change at home and abroad is well overdue.

Aside from the expense of new boats and the emphasis on single-handers and college sailing that prioritises the most elite athletes, the Canadian sailing hand also believes yacht clubs in North America "have forgotten what they are about... [thinking that] regattas should be a profit centre, rather than the hosting the sailors cheaply as the raison d'etre of a yacht club."

These comments come after former ISA president Roger Bannon's candid assessment of the state of sailing in Ireland today.

According to Bannon, the "importance of supporting elite and Olympic sailing" must become "a subsidiary focus to the main objective of getting people sailing competently and safely in whatever boat they wish".

The ISA today is finalising the recommendations of its board meeting held last night. Its Chief Executive has promised to effect change and wants a closer working relationship between the clubs and classes.

Published in News Update
Tagged under

#Sailing - Scuttlebutt Sailing News has highlighted some North American voices adding to the chorus that calls for a renewed emphasis on dinghy sailing and encouraging a broader base of participation in the sport.

Former ISAF president Paul Henderson shared his thoughts on the elements that grew the sport of sailing over the past four decades, and what he believes is holding sailing back today.

Aside from the expense of new boats and the emphasis on single-handers and college sailing that prioritises the most elite athletes, the Canadian sailing hand also believes yacht clubs in North America "have forgotten what they are about... [thinking that] regattas should be a profit centre, rather than the hosting the sailors cheaply as the raison d’etre of a yacht club."

Meanwhile, US Sailing president Tom Hubbell has added his own suggestions for introducing young newcomers to the sport through the one-design classes - via mentoring, networking socially and, very importantly, limiting failure so that young sailors will be encouraged to return again and again for more.

Their comments come after former ISA president Roger Bannon's candid assessment of the state of sailing in Ireland today.

According to Bannon, the "importance of supporting elite and Olympic sailing" must become "a subsidiary focus to the main objective of getting people sailing competently and safely in whatever boat they wish".

Published in Youth Sailing

Opening address by the ISA President, Niamh McCutcheon

the president welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked Norman Lee and Byran Armstrong for raising the issues that led to the meeting being held. The President highlighted how the ISA is working currently to its third strategic plan as agreed by the membership, and that the ISA's role is to support clubs and ensure that the proper infrastructure is in place, much of which is implemented by the ISA Regional Development Officers.
The President went on to say that time and money are two factors that hinder participation in sport, and that there was a need for a better link between clubs and classes.
The President mentioned the effect that the Olympic successes in boxing have had on the sport, resulting in interest at club level is currently beyond capacity, and hoped similar results in sailing would raise the profile of the sport. The President reiterated that none of the membership income was put towards the Olympic programme, and that they are funded by separately by the Sports Council.
Although sailing is the predominant activity of ISA members, the President highlighted how it is facilitated by other disciplines of the organisation, and that the sailing couldn't happen without the use of powerboats, and that ISA also has the responsibility to teach people how to use them responsibly and defend against legislation.
The President finished by thanking Paddy Maguire, former ISA President, for agreeing to chair the meeting.
Paddy Maguire, Former ISA President, member of the RSGYC and DBSC stated to the floor that he was chairing the meeting as a neutral, and asked the floor if there were any objections to him chairing the meeting. There were none.
Paddy Maguire went through an outline of the format that the meeting would take, and then asked for an overview from Roger Bannon, former ISA President, Normal Lee and Bryan Armstrong.

Roger Bannon started by saying the numbers present highlighted that dinghy sailing is in trouble. The key problems relate to declining numbers participating, retention of juniors is low, standard of racing skills has declined and that the progression to adult classes is virtually non-existent. Elite sailing has been implemented at the expense of improving standards generally, and supporting international participation in non-pathway approved classes. Instructor's training is inconsistent with many instructors qualifying without the basic sailing and racing skills to train junior sailors to even a modest level of acceptable competence. He feels that the ISA is putting time and resources into aspects not relevant to the majority of members, and said that it was clear that several things can be initiated in the short term to improve the situation.
He Highlighted that the ISA was the first sport in Ireland to introduce a coordinated National Junior Programme in the 1960's, and was the first to have a dedicated high performance department. Roger Bannon went on to say that this history of innovation should give us the confidence to go forwards and to re-invent important aspects of sailing in Ireland.
He continued by saying the initiative taken by Cruiser Sailors in Ireland, with the establishment of ICRA several years ago, demonstrates what can be done quickly and effectively. ICRA (the Irish Cruiser Racing Association) has revitalised cruiser racing in Ireland with brilliant ideas such as the establishment of "White Sail" racing. However as an observation of the success of "white sail" racing, Roger also said it was worth noting that this innovation was largely in response to the inadequate availability of trained crew to sail these boats in any other manner. He quoted the ICRA initiatives priority "to get as many people as possible sailing regularly, in whatever boat, at whatever skill level, in a safe competitive environment and then success in achieving increased participation would become self –fulfilling".
Roger Bannon went on to say that we need changes in the way leadership of Irish Sailing is structured, and highlighted the following 3 areas that need to be addressed at different levels:
Urgent Specific Changes are required immediately to our Junior and Youth training programs
• Re introduce the training Log Book to encourage diverse experience of different types of sailing.
• Redesign the junior training program to ensure adequate seamanship and racing skills in single and double handed boats.
• Introduce rigorous assessment of the racing and sailing skills of training instructors before qualifying them and reduce the costs of qualification.
• Perform on the job quality assessment of Instructors.
• Change the proscriptive policy on selection of junior classes and de-emphasise the disproportionate focus on single handed classes.
Club sailors and Classes must get direct support
• Adopt a progressive and active strategy to improve the standard of sailing at club and class level.
• Staff appointed to monitor and train Instructors should be qualified coaches with skills which can be made available for adult and class specific coaching and sail training at Club and class level.
• Financially support participation at international championships for at least some non- pathway approved Classes.
• Clubs must deliver resources and facilities which are affordable.
Need the ISA to change
• The ISA must refocus its priorities to primarily serve the interests of its sailing members who comprise the vast majority of its membership base.
• Change the ethos of the organisation from being a bureaucratic administrator to being one of a hands-on service provider with its main focus on sailing activities.
• Disengage from non-core activities which absorb a disproportionate amount of resource and redeploy financial and personnel resources to provide funding for a new grass roots focussed sailing strategy.
• Develop an effective strategy to engage and communicate with club sailors.
• None of these changes should be done at the expense of the excellent ring fenced operational and financial support for elite and Olympic sailing.
Roger Bannon finished by saying that good sailors attract competition, regardless of the type of boat- and although he didn't believe we'd resolve the issue in today's meeting, that it was a good place to start.
Norman Lee started by highlighting that Roger and the Afloat.ie contributors had already touched on many of the points, the ISA was formerly IDRA- Irish Dinghy Racing Association. He criticised the ISA junior syllabus, saying 11 courses were too many, and he felt that racing should come in earlier in the syllabus. He said there was too much emphasis on single handed boats, and detailed how three sail boats teach more skill sets, as well as being more sociable, fun and team work orientated. Norman went on to say the ISA was started by the classes, and that junior courses were set up to build the classes. Classes and clubs need commitment to get juniors into adult/senior classes. Senior classes need to allocate time for junior sailing, starred races as an example, to ensure juniors know about senior classes before they finish as juniors
Norman felt that instructors should be competent in the classes they are instructing in, and that the cost of instructor training and revalidating needs to be reduced. He personally feels that juniors need to get involved in racing earlier, and in three-sail boats.
Bryan Armstrong took the floor saying that what was missing from the debate so far was a response from the ISA. He was depressed by the ISA President's address saying that it seemed to him that not much had been learned. He highlighted that he doesn't want the ISA to continue making the same mistakes.
Bryan worried that the ISA didn't know participation figures until they were required for the meeting, saying that these figures should be invaluable data to the ISA, and that clearly they aren't being assembled and used.
His recommendation was to keep it simple, work together and increase dinghy racing participation, which then requires little additional skill to get competent in cruiser racing. The purpose of motion was to encourage ISA to refocus.
Agenda Items 1 & 2 1. What are the problems with small boat sailing and how can youth training be made more relevant to clubs and classes? 2. How can the ISA refocus to put clubs and classes at the top of its agenda?
The Floor was then opened to speakers.

Ben Fusco- Head coach RSGYC; KYC and UCD member

Payback cost for instructors on initial training is 5 weeks of work - RYA training is of lower standard than ISA training - Adventure qualifications shouldn't be required to instruct - ISA need to get rid of certs-children shouldn't fail on their holidays - Re-introduction of logbook needed - Finds it ridiculous that clubs emphasis high performance- academy's, "green lifejackets" - Used examples of the RSGYC hoping to hold team racing for youth, organise a team racing euros to broaden horizons of junior sailors, taking two youth teams to the 1720 internationals - Said that we are wasting a lot of opportunities with boats sitting on the docks

Gerry Byrne- Skerries Sailing Club; Wayfarer sailor

Not going to talk about dinghy sailing- has identified a lack of skill in those keelboat sailing - Ran a course in Skerries for newcomers to introduce basics of racing, 30% were members of 5 years or more
Gordon Davies- Irish Team Racing Association Examined figures for the different courses being run - Highest take-up of levels that can be run in club boats - big fall off of numbers at next step when child is required to buy own boat - Jump from student to racer seems a big jump, and not that easy to make - Used example from the continent where children are brought to a sports school with club owned boats- can then get racing without all the travel - Team racing is an efficient use of boats with 6 boats getting 30 sailors on the water at an event - Believes that Senior Instructors should have basic boat-man skills, and be able to maintain and repair boats to a minimum level - He highlighted that the step up from 2 weeks sailing in a pico, to club racing is a huge transition- Team racing figures are improving, student nationals with the equivalent of 50 boats (108 sailors)

Fiachra Etchingham- Grestones SC; RS400, RS800

Drew attention to ISA pop-up stand images, said that not enough relating to sailing - Felt that the title of the SBSS was an end to itself- not training people to move on - Used the GSC Women on the Water event to highlight how competitive events can be run in an enjoyable form

David Ballesty- Wicklow Sailing Club

Not a sailor- volunteer in the club as a result of child doing the SBSS - Noted that a majority of people on committees don't sail - Said the upskilling of the volunteers is too expensive i.e. Safety Boat Drive cert will cost approx. €600 - Obvious problem that pico's used in training, but no pico racing - Felt that if events were held, people would attend them - Highlighted age profile of the room (>25) and said challenges for ISA are enormous- looking for solutions to solve youth problems, yet no youths present. Wondered why no instructors were participating in the debate - Was appalled with the problem that Garda Vetting is going to create

David Vinnell- Galway Bay Sailing Club -Laser sailor for 40 years

Clubs must nurture all new members, brought into sailing in whatever way that person needs - Many of active members/sailors have never been on a formal sailing course - Need a good team to run junior sailing, not just one person - Need committed people for the classes - ISA PR, and communications should reflect the members, not just the ISA aspirations - ISA and RDOs must come out to regions more, doing a great job, but unhappy we were in DL again for this meeting - Great emphasis last year on Sail Spree, not enough emphasis this year- no details on ISA homepage

Pat Donnelly- National Yacht Club - Parent of 3 kids sailing optimists

Can't understand criticsm of single handed boats. Highlighted that at the end of the day it's what the kids enjoy - Finds standard of coaching in Ireland very bad - Celtic Tiger has resulted in spoiled children with not enough dedication - Suggested brining in RYA instructors, or contacting RYA regarding how they do things - Upgrade ISA coaching standards using the RYA experience

Andy Johnston- Sutton Dinghy Club

Reiterated support for Ben and Gordon - Agreed logbooks need to be re-introduced - Mentioned that although he felt the pathway scheme is required, it was a problem when a pathway boat wasn't sailed in a club scheme. Felt it's causing good sailors to leave club classes - Children shouldn't be forced into specific classes - Used rugby as an example- rugby was changed to allow any club/school to forward on to nationals- maybe we should follow this example so that a good sailor in a mirror doesn't have to leave a club in order to get 420 sailing - Suggested that ISA members volunteer to assist the ISA in dealing with other bodies, to allow the ISA staff to focus on sailing/on-the-water activities

Kerry-Ann Boylan- Mirror sailor

18 years old, just out of junior sailing-transitioning to senior sailing - Competent sailor, has competed in many classes, ISA qualified instructor - Sees lots of elitist sailing - Going to college next year and doesn't know what next step will be - Sails a mirror, has an oppy crew on the IRL team who says he really enjoys mirror sailing - Finds a restriction that the Mitsibushi Nationals only include pathway classes- should be more options

Stephen Harrison- DMYC; IDRA 14 - Former IDRA Commodore

Didn't come in to sailing via the usual route, only started at 25 - Highlighted that 'dinghy sailing' often associated with juniors- but should also include adult dinghy sailing - We should be aware that not everyone wants to sail big boats - Huge range of boats, not just pathway - Schemes should be encouraged nationally to encourage dinghy sailing for both adults and juniors

Laura Dillon- ISA Board Member; ISA Sailfleet Board; HYC

Long term sailor- has come up through the ranks- , ISA Olympic, instructor programmes etc. - Reiterated that no youths in the room was a big problem- we need to be engaging with the youths - Spoke to the HYC juniors during the week- they said there is a lack of consistency in standards across the country. - Her understanding is that logbooks are still around, and is up to clubs to enforce them-HYC still using logbooks- if it's not monitored, it won't happen - Obvious problem is to get people on the water in between the weeks' courses- it would serve to reinforce and encourage participants to get up to a better skill level for the following season - ISA not fully to blame, up to all in the room to be part of the solution - From meeting we need 5 key action points that we can all agree on

Gareth Craig-LDYC -

Did junior course and qualified as ISA instructor in late 90s Was massive status symbol - passing level 5 meant a huge lift in confidence - was a tough course - Recognise ISA have made big steps to improve levels of instructor qualification - Noted that previous hierarchy of instructors was clearly defined - now it is unclear - Logbook had authority - still in possession - Sailed mirrors, was a big fleet, which resulted in great craic - mirrors not high performance or thought of as 'cool', but fleet was great fun and that was a big attraction to sailors - Crew aspect also brought new blood into the circuit

James Hackett- Mullingar Sailing Club - JO for 11 years - not by choice

Came late to sailing- GP14 sailor, and is an average club sailor - Children learned in mirrors - Has seen 25 instructors come through MSC in the last 10years- standard of instructors has varied - Feels cost is too high- only 3 weeks of courses in MSC, so instructors can't recoup training costs
Pre-instructor assessment is very tough - Believes in getting own sailors through clubs to become instructors to develop the club, however the cost is so high, and the return so low, that many of them are leaving - Huge effort required, and at the point that they become good instructors they often leave - In 10years has only received 1 visit from the ISA- has only spoken to office regarding certs - Needs more communication from the ISA

Neil Colin - Fireball Class

Fireball perspective is that ISA doesn't exist - Could use help organising events, dinghy racing week as an example - ISA needs to be more involved in coordinating events and it would be a better use of their resources - Sees very little support of ISA one design and dinghy racing on the ISA board - Asked the question, where are the adult instructors? Better able to interact with adults learning to sail

Seamus May- Mirror Sec

Mirror class endorse what most others said - Mirror perspective- mirror boat has launched thousands of successful sailing careers- was all about fun - 99% of people in Sligo community learned to sail in mirrors – Learning to sail is about making friends, meeting people, learning to communicate and have fun - Mirror class feels enormous disconnect with the ISA - ISA for Mirror class may as well not exist - ISA Pathway is killing the mirror fleet which is compounding issues, pathway as currently structured is flawed and a crude instrument - Clubs want to get into mirrors, but won't because the pathway isn't there - RYA mirror sailors are way ahead - Class organised its own coaching last year - World championships are in Lough Derg; no input/support from ISA. 120 boats on the water, 40 confirmed from other nations the rest made up of Irish boats - The Irish Mirror Class Association would like the ISA to back the mirror dinghy

Paddy Maguire encouraged attendees to take a 30min break, to informally discuss the issues together and to complete the feedback forms- so that the ISA could present the results post coffee break.

Agenda Item 3. How can these issues be addressed in the short term and long term?

After the coffee Break, the ISA President identified the ISA Board and staff members who were present in the room in case any of the attendees wanted to approach them post-meeting.

The Chairman once again invited comments from the floor:

Sean Craig -

Thanked ISA for arranging meeting and Norman and Bryan- great turnout - Feels like a misrepresentation of what's going on in the country at the moment- numbers haven't fallen dramatically over last 10 years in racing, see ISA spreadsheet supplied. Lots of great racing taking place across the country. Some classes have died out (enterprise) but new boats stepping in to take their place (RS, SB20)20 years ago, some classes were written off - Fireball, J24 etc. Now up to 20 - 30 at nationals - There is hurt as racers feel like the neglected middle ground as ISA got into wider boating and ring fenced high performance. The main problem is age profile, classes are ageing. If new blood was coming we wouldn't be here at this meeting. -Success is down to the people power and classes, not the ISA - Infrastructure is there, classes are organised, we just need to tap into that - Need to ignore red herrings of classes not talking with the ISA enough and single vs double handed debate - Need to be careful with the solutions- agreed with Laura Dillon, 5 objectives, don't get distracted by politics – Suggestion ; New ISA campaign – "Go racing", two parts ; stay racing and start racing. Stay = junior. Training them heavily results in a 5 - 10% stay in. Kills the in-between classes like mirrors, fevas etc. - Start racing is about converting people to try racing - Adults are racing 1720s in DBSC, working well


Sarah Byrne- Greystones Sailing Club; RS200/400/Feva

11 club picos used for club training and racing- worked really well in "the boom" the children got to improving skills level and then bought their own boats - Club reaping the benefits now. However may I clarify my thought process: In current climate parents can't afford to buy the boats so their children are dropping out - Provide club pathway, doesn't have to be ISA pathway - Oppies are a no in Greystones due to tide - Club pathway isn't compulsory, use club picos/own boats, i.e. Club picos/own boats-> Feva -> RS 200/400 (still supporting lasers etc) all racing together works really well - Led to believe that DBSC don't welcome sailors under 18 - Volunteering has fallen off a precipice- would appreciate advice/support from ISA.
Mirror in family, huge maintenance load- Kids want sexier boat, parents want low maintenance and longer competitive t- important to keep in mind when creating club pathway

Gerry Byrne- Skerries Sailing Club

Congratulated ISA for its Club Development Scheme- checklist of things to do to improve as a club "Key Club Scheme" is something the RIYC and SSC undertook - SSC initiated a process where new members had someone to go to- a "New Members Class Captain" - Daunting to join a club, social minefield - Huge problem with perception about rules of sailing - New members class captain (vs membership development) - Directly related to sailing, person who could take them sailing, get them sailing on other boats - New members found it exciting to sail out of the harbour - BBQ on the beaches etc. - Class that prospered was the class that the class captain sailed - Made a point that the ISA PR need to go back to the drawing board and redesign it and reintroduce the Key Club Scheme

Des McWilliam- McWilliam Sails

Vested interest. If people don't go sailing, he doesn't eat! - Strong element of partnership between ISA and clubs required - We don't make best use of facilities we have, people we have – we tend to ignore human element of the kids - Instructors may be Olympic class, but doesn't mean they're good managers - Instructors should understand that kids have to enjoy it - Attendees are the 10% of people who still sail- biased views - we don't know why the 90% don't want to go sailing any more
Two goals for ISA - improve elite sailing, easy to measure and test, gets lots of attention. Human soft problem is how to increase basic participation. ISA and clubs are not good at this. Suggestion is kids need to enjoy their sailing, do sailing because it's fun. Find out how to rectify the 90% issue

Padraig Boyle- Sutton Dinghy Club; GP14

Needs for a concentration on tuition for adults- should be a structure between clubs and classes to continually facilitate adult sailing - Strong adult section results to junior sailors to continue sailing
Clubs need to take on classes of boats they can handle and grown participation

Michael Tyrrell- RIYC JO; RS Feva

Surprised by people's comments regarding the skill level of instructors- hasn't personally found a problem with this - Points on junior syllabus: Dramatic drop off at 15/16 in the club, kids feel they've finished syllabus in the club, feel progression is to become an instructor at age 16 pre-assessment, many end up dropping out for the year - Clubs need to work on keeping them involved for the year- SBSS needs to be tweaked to include more two-handed sailing earlier in the syllabus - Feels the earlier children get into double handed boats, the more fun they'll have and the higher the chances of them staying in the sport- courses should be tweaked to reflect this – also increase the age limit on the Feva Pathway even by a year.

Monica Shaefer- Greystones SC; Wayfarer

Participation is key - Likes wayfarer as it allows racing, socialising, cruising and holidays all in the same boat. Boat also more forgiving with regard to mistakes and lower skill levels - Need to have fun and enjoy sailing- a forgiving boat will encourage fun - Wayfarer is a good boat for introducing people to the sport - Cruising events running along side international events results in great social aspect and return trips - When they become competent they can move on to other classes - Goes to RYA dinghy show annually, and as a result misses ISA National Conference - Dinghy show was down in numbers this year, but wayfarer sales were way up - With people no longer being able to afford cruisers, there is an opportunity for a dinghy revival

Breda Dillon- HYC

Delighted so many people at the meeting looking to communicate with the ISA - Up to clubs and classes how we all communicate - Thinks we should get back to more volunteers and better communication

Charles Sargent- Sutton Dinghy Club; IDRA 14

Class survives via a good club inter-communication system - National Championships have to be away from Dublin - Believes it's up to every club and class to contact ISA to look for help. Kids that came up through the junior scheme are the ones that are continuing - Re-introduction of logbook will encourage them to meet people from other clubs and increase the fun - Clontarf Yacht and Boat Club run an adult sailing course that encourages fun, where club members take those interested out in their own boats-some end up getting married!

Cormac Bradley- Fireball

Involved in class admin since 1985, two jurisdictions - In South Africa, sailing seen as elitist and racist. SA jurisdiction has a more tangible effort by national authority to work with the provincial authorities and clubs - Interface sadly lacking in Irish market - Difficulty with ISA at present is a lack of active engagement. Don't need to be told how to run a class, but nice to have a forum to encourage other classes to join on a common weekend where classes can sail together so clubs will/can host the event. Believe the national authority should be helping with this - Limited engagement by the ISA is neglect - Don't need hand held, but a forum helps - Clubs looking for events, classes looking for places to go - It took an AGM to get this forum together- this should be a regular item

Patrick Blaney- RSGYC; LDYC; Garrykennedy Sailing Club

We should be trying to turn people from those who try sailing, into lifetime sailors - Sailing is a broad church, which is part of the attraction but also part of the problem. Racing and dinghies are the glue that holds it together - If it isn't fun, why are we doing it? Fun = Growth - Can't go back to the nostalgic way, standards still have to be high - Real success of ISA has been an increase in competence level - His son got a high paid job in the States because our standards are so high - successes; Oppys, Lasers, SB20 - Success classes can be part of the problem - Personally a big fan of the double handed boats - Fun is the problem for the clubs and classes - The ISA's role is leadership
All aspects need to improve- the ISA needs to join up the thinking and use the volunteers and their experience

John Crebbin- Past President ISA, ISAF Council Member, Group "A" UK & Ireland

Problems being discussed are not unique - Next ISAF meeting is about the problems the respective countries are facing with promoting sailing - Sports we represent are complex, the problems and solutions are therefore complex- i.e. equipment demands are very high - Agrees that we may have lost the idea of our sport being fun - Double handed sailing increases fun and can help - Believes we have a communication issue with the ISA - Disagreed that the ISA pop-up sign was a misrepresentation of the ISA - It represents the range of essential services provided by the ISA to the whole recreational boating community. - Big fun factor is sailing - Think it's important that everyone appreciates the ISA doesn't just look after racing- it's just a focus of this meeting – John's wife looked after logbooks, checking put manners on them and encouraged truthfulness and fun -

Mirrors not successful as a result of never having been successful in penetrating sufficient international sailing nations, but believes they are a boat of fun

Brian McDowell- Malahide YC; 420 class

Brian made three key points; try to keep it fun, Try to include everybody in your activities, Try to improve coaching/training standards

Alistair Rumball- INSS

Responsibility is ISA's in part, but is also part parents and clubs - We're in the entertainment industry for 52 weeks of the year - We need to make it happen in our local area - Double-handed boats promote inter-gender cooperation too- more fun – We need a programme for 52 weeks in the year if we are to compete with other sports, not just 3!

Bríd Hickey-Skerries SC; Mirror Class

10 years ago started ferrying kids around - Financially can't afford to buy a new boat now for the kids- spent all on the mirrors - Highlighted there's a glut of mirrors in peoples' back yards - Talk to other clubs about classes you don't have - Good comment by Cormac - combining classes and junior/senior in a single series is a good way to get juniors to continue - Agreed that logbooks need to be re-introduced, encouraged it for the 2013 season - ISA needs to sit down and discuss the Pathway situation with the different associations and then for it to be well communicated to the clubs -ISA needs to work with clubs sourcing boats that are lying around - "Senior weekends" as a transition for juniors to senior

Results from feedback forms:

Harry Hermon said he had intended presenting the feedback submitted on the forms at the meeting, but due to the large numbers in attendance it wouldn't be possible, so he gave a brief snapshot of the feedback given.

The following is the full analysis of the solutions submitted on the feedback forms by those present, indicating the number of times a particular point was repeated more than once.

Training

21 Bring back logbook
8 Restructure SBSS
8 Reduce instructor training costs
7 Get rid of certificates
6 Racing requirement for instructors
5 Incorporate racing earlier in SBSS
5 Consistency of Instructor standards
4 Higher standard of instructors
4 Focus on adult training not just junior
Print standardised logbooks
Encourage instructors to keep sailing
Incorporate fun in training schemes
Find a way of extending junior training past age 15 / 16
Include requirement for two handed sailing in SBSS
Competent assessment qualification for club sailors
Remove requirement for instructor revalidation for active instructors
Separate club and sailing school syllabi to allow clubs focus on racing
Introduce spinnakers as normal part of sail training
Bring back Joe Soap weekly reports
Introduce keelboat skills in training scheme
Create transition from sailing school to club racer
Teach sailor how to fix up boats
Stop introducing new classes to ISA training with no carry over to further sailing. Topaz / Argo example

Club/Class Sailing

7 Make sailing fun
8 Reduce emphasis on single handed, promote double handed
5 Promote adult entry to sailing
4 Assist in event coordination
3 Support IODAI on rethinking green lifejacket
3 Support club/class sailors competing in international events
2 Get disused Mirrors back on the water
2 Promote Mixed Class Events
Help clubs find a way to reward racing participation, not just winning
Improve the standard of sailing at club and class level
Clubs must deliver resources and facilities which are affordable
Encourage racing in one design, team and match racing
Start racing at early age
Encourage junior sailors to crew / helm with seniors
Promote sailing for non boat owners
Encourage clubs to appoint class captain
Promote family sailing
Clubs to employ sailing professionals to coach
Encourage participation not racing
Promote boats more suited to learners
Promote dinghy sailing
Non pathway classes hold open days before nationals
Develop initiatives to encourage racing in older, cheaper boats
Club boats for non sailing families or those who can't afford
Change the proscriptive policy on selection of junior classes
Refocus on Mirror, Enterprise, Fireball
Increase RS Feva age limit by one year
Support for non Pathway classes

Communications

13 Improve communications & Knowledge sharing with clubs and classes
2 Include section on the website for second hand boat sale / exchange
2 ISA Rep visits to clubs

ISA not connected with dinghy sailing
Talk to youth sailors to get their perspective
Work with classes to raise profile
Communicate effectively with clubs and classes not direct members
Develop strategy to engage and communicate with club sailors
Assistance with social media
Have club development officer in each club to assist new members to integrate

ISA Policies

4 Encourage more volunteers to work with the ISA. Volunteer committees
3 Refocus priorities to primarily serve the interests of sailing members
3 ISA provide professional coaches/staff to visit clubs
2 ISA Board member coordinate dinghy activities
2 Encourage local clusters of clubs to sail the same classes/club pathway
2 Reduce staff numbers
Change ethos from bureaucratic administrator to hands-on service provider
Introduce second tier of Pathway classes
Introduce sailing in schools
Conduct full strategic review of ISA
Conduct full review of ISA administration
More transparency on ISA spending

Performance Pathway

3 Pathway / elite sailors should be required to coach / give back
3 Add Mirror to Pathway
Restructure the Pathway
Update Pathway to select sailors from all classes
Stop influencing clubs to support only Pathway classes
Too much focus on international events for youths
Less focus on elitist sailors
Youth Nationals should include Mirror
Promote double handed in Pathway

Paddy Maguire Concluded his part in the meeting and handed over to Harry Hermon to finish the meeting

Harry Hermon- ISA CEO
Thanked Paddy Maguire for chairing the meeting- Paddy did an excellent job and he felt the meeting had been very constructive - He was really pleased with attendance, and thanked everyone for making the effort to attend - It is rare the ISA Board and staff get opportunity to hear views directly from such a large number. He went on to pick up on a few points;
The engagement between ISA and experienced, willing volunteers has been one of the casualties of eliminating the ISA committee structure. He acknowledged engagement with members has diminished. More difficult to identify volunteers because people aren't involved in the ISA committees -Very uncomfortable with the "us and them" feeling that he's getting at the moment - Need to find a way to change this we are all working towards the same goals.
In response to the bureaucratic nature of the ISA, the ISA would love to be more hands-on - Part of ISA role is to absorb the bureaucracy so that clubs can go about business with more freedom. H&S issues, governance, legislation, child protection issues all consume office time. It isn't going to go away.
ISA's role itself - Not ISA's job to dictate to clubs/classes what activities they should organise, what type of membership to attract, what classes to run – ISA's role to advise and support, and protect the membership from outside influences. There perhaps is a need to provide more leadership on that - be careful what you wish for (reference to Patrick Blaney's statements).
Sense there is a belief that ISA and it's staff have their own agenda – this is far from the truth - following a strategy that was developed with the membership over years through consultation and working groups.
ISA is a federation of clubs the funding model and strategy is focussed on club support. He acknowledged there was a need to work more closely with classes.
Our only measure of numbers to date is national championships by class – we know there's more activity than that. Difficult to gather data on local non-championship activity - there has been a trend away from people traveling to events (cruisers and dinghies).

Where to from here?

Harry Hermon explained he would collate everything within the minutes and distribute by email back out to all present for verification by Tuesday. He would then publish the final draft of the minutes.
A report with recommendations will be submitted to the ISA Board at their next meeting, and this will also be published along with decisions made.
Harry thanked everyone for attending and contributing so constructively.
The meeting closed at 2pm.

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#dinghy – A packed National Yacht Club (NYC) in Dun Laoghaire heard important contributions from clubs and classes right around the country this morning at a forum to revitalise small boat sailing and youth training. It is the first step on a new blueprint to stem falling numbers in Irish sailing.

Although the contributions varied from the reintroduction of junior log books to coaching support for senior dinghy classes, delegates were united in the view that the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) has to change tack if it wants to properly support the clubs and classes it aims to represent.

The meeting opened with a welcome from association president Niamh McCutheon who urged everyone to work together for the sport. It was followed by an overview of the problems in small boat sailing and how youth training can be made more relevant to clubs and classes by Roger Bannon, a former president of the association. Bannon has been openly critical of the association's performance in recent weeks. He told the meeting there are serious problems with Irish small boat sailing and that important changes are needed, some of them quite fundamental, to ensure the future vibrancy of our sport.

In many ways the packed club house was testament to his concerns that Irish small boat sailing is in trouble. The full extent of the problem was starkly put into focus with the publication earlier this week of information which showed an alarming decline in attendance figures at dinghy championships and falling participation in junior training schemes.

Former president Paddy Maguire, who chaired the meeting, asked attendees to make four minute contributions and they did not need much encouragement with passionate contributions from champions, instructors, youth sailors, University team racers, senior dinghy sailors, sailmakers, sailing school owners, club commodores and junior organisers.

Norman Lee,  the GP14 sailor who originally proposed the motion for change at the ISA agm a month ago said that the ISA had started its life as the Irish Dinghy Racing Association (IDRA) in 1947 but it was now so far off course it more resembled the Concordia, a reference to the ill–fated cruise liner that ended up on the rocks last year.

There were plenty of good quality suggestions for the combining of open events and even the restaging of dinghy week to reinvigorate the small boat scene.

As has been documented on Afloat.ie over the past few weeks the meeting heard a range of contributions from up to a dozen or more delegates with applause after each contribution and included observations such as:

• Numbers participating in dinghy and small one design boats are steadily declining in both youth and adult classes. There are some exceptions, mainly in older traditional classes but unfortunately, this decline represents a fundamental underlying overall trend.
• The retention rate of junior sailors in the sport, after emerging from our training schemes, is alarmingly low, at less than 10%.
• The standard of sailing and racing skills amongst juniors is in general, unacceptably inadequate and they lack even the basic skills to participate in crewed boats with multiple sails.
• The expected natural progression of youth sailors into adult classes as they mature is virtually non-existent.
• The general standard of racing and boat handling skills in most adult classes is also considerably below acceptable levels and certainly much lower than in prior decades.
• The justified emphasis placed on elite sailing has been implemented at the expense of improving standards generally and supporting international participation in non-pathway approved classes to improve skill levels.
• The quality of our training instructors is very mixed and many of them do not have the basic sailing and racing skills to train junior sailors to even a modest level of acceptable competence. It is also incredibly expensive to obtain qualifications to become an Instructor and this dis-incentivises many who might be excellent candidates.
• The ISA is not properly engaged with its members and is devoting a disproportionate share of its resources to service interests and activities which are not relevant to the vast majority of its 20,000 members. This state of affairs has emerged despite quadrupling the staff compliment compared to the late 90's and generating in excess of €2m in annual revenue. Of course it has to be acknowledged that over 50% of this is ring fenced Government funding for our excellent elite and Olympic support programs and for financial support towards the hosting of specific major international events.
• There is a universal concern that the ISA is not providing leadership on important issues which are of the most relevance to its members including its affiliated clubs, many of which are experiencing serious challenges.

For the final item attendees were asked to submit suggestions on paper in bullet point form as to how these issues can be addressed in the short and long term. It is understood over 300 suggestions were received.

The meeting ended at 1.50pm with a commitment from the ISA to distribute minutes to all attendees and to publish its report and action plan.

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#isa – Two former Irish Sailing Association (ISA) Presidents are engaged in sorting out small boat sailing and youth training problems this weekend when the ISA meets at the National Yacht Club (NYC) on Saturday to address concerns first raised at the association's agm a month ago.

Former president Paddy Maguire will chair the meeting and Roger Bannon, (the president credited with the joint membership scheme that made every member of a sailing club also a member of the ISA) will present a keynote address. It is understood the meeting will then open to the floor on the problems with small boat sailing and how can youth training be made more relevant to clubs and classes.

The meeting that has drawn considerable debate on Afloat.ie follows an ISA agm motion by Norman Lee and Brian Armstrong.

The meeting is scheduled for 10.30am in the NYC, Dun Laoghaire and is expected to be concluded by 2.00 pm.

The following agenda for the day has been agreed between the ISA and Norman Lee.

The Future of Small Boat Sailing & Youth Training –  Agenda

1. What are the problems with small boat sailing and how can youth training be made more relevant to clubs and classes.

2. How can the ISA refocus to put clubs and classes at the top of its agenda?

3. How can these issues be addressed in the short term and long term?

4. AOB

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#isa – Roger Bannon has a lot to say about the state of Irish sailing. The former president of the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) - and a dinghy and sportsboat champion in his own right - 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 hitting out at an authority that has arguably lost its relevance to all bar those at the most elite levels in the sport.

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

Resulting from the reforms he spearheaded in the early 1990s, the ISA became "a creature of the clubs", but he believes that the clubs have now "lost control as the professional team in the ISA grew and began to exercise increasing influence on key decisions".

Things came to a head before the recent ISA AGM, where a motion was tabled to 'shake up' ISA policy to stem the decline of dinghy sailing in Ireland. Bannon is among many in the sport - regatta organisers, commodores, champions and racers alike - who credit the decline of dinghies and one-design sailing with the national body's disproportionate emphasis on the Olympic classes. But they're not the only ones in the crosshairs.

"The clubs have also a lot to answer for in this respect," he says. "They were all mesmerised by the easy money of the Celtic Tiger era and lost sight of the value-for-money issues as well as the primary responsibility to look after their members' sailing interests."

Bannon posits the "major disruption" cause by the hosting of "too many 'status' events", and what he sees as the unjustifiably high costs of access to club facilities, as significant factors in the decline of classes such as the SB20 in Dun Laoghaire alone.

And there is "another elephant in the room", he says, referring to the financial struggles among even the biggest of Ireland's sailing clubs, many of which have been cutting fees - some even doing away with them altogether - in an attempt to attract new, younger members.

"Most clubs have worryingly ageing membership profiles which leads to less sailing activity, particularly racing," says Bannon. "This is a disturbing spiral accentuated by the fact that we are also losing nearly all the juniors who we train at great expense because our sailing curriculum is not focussed on generating a lifetime love for or a competence in the sport."

He puts this outcome squarely at the door of the ISA and its policies "both in terms of training emphasis and boat selection. This has huge structural consequences for the future viability of clubs and for the sport in Ireland."

Sailing in crisis

Bannon doesn't mince his words when he says "Irish sailing is truly in crisis". And his reasons for feeling that way are manifold.

The former ISA president references  "needless bureaucracy and expense of qualifying" as an instructor with no thorough assessment of sailing or racing capability.

He even explains the decline in the progression of juniors into senior sailing as a result of "undue anxieties about the political correctness of young people spending extended leisure time with adults .... We also largely train our kids in single-handers and they have no idea of how to sail team boats or double handed dinghies."

Such issues are of course not unique to Ireland, but Bannon says the "macro policies emanating from the ISA have certainly not helped. The clubs do not realise a revolution is under way and most are burying their heads in a nostalgia for what they believe has worked perfectly for the last 30 years."

It's reasons like this that prompted the aforementioned motion to save dinghy sailing, but one factor of a growing resentment among those who want to see Irish sailing adapt with the times - as opposed to the ISA which, Bannon says, sees "nothing wrong with the status quo" of the current top-down strategy.

"After all, despite reducing capitation revenue from the clubs, Government funding is freely available for sailing after the Olympics, the hosting of many major prestigious events and the activism of some in the ISAF."

He also criticises the "detachment" he perceives among the ISA's executives, noting that in advance of the upcoming meeting on the dinghy sailing motion on 23 March, all classes in Ireland received a letter "looking for information about attendance figures at national championships over the last five years. Surely it would be expected this kind of important data would be readily to hand in the ISA? It certainly used to be in years gone by."

Bannon says that when "this unhappiness was articulated at the recent ISA AGM, the ISA's initial reaction was to kick it down the road for a year" but that position quickly changed "when they realised the depth of feeling ... about the urgency with which this all needed to be addressed".

The message, he says, was clear: the ISA needs to refocus its priorities. And it starts with the meeting on 23 March at the National Yacht Club, at which Bannon will represent the DBSC Mermaid, and which "must be effective in changing things and redirecting our national governing sports authority to do what we require.

"After all, it is our organisation, of which we are all individual members, and to which we contribute significant financial resources personally through our clubs."

Meanwhile, there is the problem of encouraging casual sailors perhaps alienated by the ISA's professional focus to get back on the water. Bannon cities "conservative" estimates that there are "over 500 Mirror dinghies stored in garages and gardens around the country ... Will somebody explain to me why not even 20 per cent of them are being used? Talk about a lost opportunity for low-cost youth sailing."

Ultimately, he says, "we have collectively lost our way and need to seriously reassess. Too much of our effort is directed at producing international sailors while 99.9 per cent of sailors never aspire to these dizzy heights. Does this not smack of misdirected emphasis and inefficient allocation of resources?"

Leading up to the dinghy motion, Bannon has a number of questions that he wants the national sailing body to answer. "Why does the ISA devote so much energy to non-sailing-related activities?" he asks. "Why was Ireland the leading protagonist in the ISAF for the ridiculous – and fortunately aborted – decision to adopt kitesurfing as an Olympic discipline? How was this relevant to Irish sailing?"

He continues: "Why was the supplementary grant received on foot of the perceived success of the ISAF World Youth Championships spent on vehicles for ISA staff, high performance sailing support and the purchase of dinghies we never sail in Ireland?" Surely, he says, this was owed to the young sailors of this country and to the clubs who made it happen.

And there's more. "Why do we need a compliment of 14 staff to run the ISA at a payroll cost of over €650,000?" he queries.

Raising the standard

Yet while Bannon believes that the ISA is at the root of Ireland's sailing problems, he also has faith that the organisation is in a position to turn things around. First things first, he says, is to bring about a change in priorities "which is focused on addressing the needs of non-elite regular club sailors.

"This is not to diminish the importance of supporting elite and Olympic sailing. However, this has to become a subsidiary focus to the main objective of getting people sailing competently and safely in whatever boat they wish."

Bannon's view is that by raising the general standard of sailing in Ireland, this country will be more effective at producing – and retaining - a wider pool of talent to feed into elite programmes as well as populate local or non-Olympic classes.

"Good sailors attract competition and invigorate participation regardless of the type of boat," he says. "GP 14s, Fireballs, Mermaids, National 18s and SB20s are good examples of this. Look at how many ex-Mirror sailors went on to become Olympians in contrast to ex-420 sailors."

Other moves he suggests include a redesigning of junior training programmes to encourage racing, with log books reintroduced to measure and record improvement in skills, moving away from the more egalitarian methods adopted by sailing schools "which are directed at a different audience anyway".

Selection of quality sailing instructors also needs review, he argues, with a focus on seamanship skills needed for racing in all dinghies. Related to this would be appointment of full-time sailing club liaison officers with high level sailing skills and coaching qualifications "to provide coaching resources to clubs and supervise the quality of instructors on the job.

"If necessary reduce administrative staff and regional officers in preference for the appointment of club coaches and liaison officers," he continues, adding too that some of the money currently applied to ancillary activities such as PR can be put into support for specialist coaching for adult and non-approved pathway classes. "A sailor in a National 18, a Squib or a Flying Fifteen is entitled to the same access to coaching and development support as anyone else," he says.

On the same note, he believes that clubs should be able to decide what classes they wish to support for junior sailing in a non-proscriptive manner. "What's wrong with the Mirror?" he says by way of example. "There are hundreds of them available at virtually zero cost."

But above all, Bannon places his big question mark over the effectiveness of concentrated support for elite sailors.

"Being absolutely frank, despite all the expectations and effort, we have failed to produce any Olympic medallists or indeed any worthwhile performances over the last 20 years," he says. Even Annalise Murphy - whom he credits as "an enormously talented sailor" and who came so close to a bronze in the Laser Radial - comes under scrutiny. "It has to be acknowledged [her fourth place finish] was in conditions which particularly suited her."

What Ireland needs, argues Bannon, is stronger all-rounders. "A common theme among many successful Olympic sailors in other countries is their willingness to compete in domestic and international non-Olympic classes in order to get high quality competition in other boats where skill levels are high," he says. "Generally in Ireland our standards are not high in non-Olympic classes. We are not sufficiently skilled or competitive because of a lack of support and coaching.

"Until we improve our domestic standards generally, we will never produce world-class sailors capable of winning Olympic medals, regardless of extensive specialist nurturing."

For Bannon, whatever class people sail doesn't matter "as long as we get loads of people sailing with acceptable skill levels".

In advance of the the debate on the future for dinghy and one design sailing in Ireland at the National Yacht Club on Saturday, March 23rd we're keen to get your comments on this article in the box below.

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#dinghydecline –Arrangements for a promised workshop to address dinghy sailing decline in Ireland is in choppy waters following a complaint the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) is 'restricting attendance' at the meeting.

The workshop follows a motion raised at the associaton's agm last week and highlighted on Afloat.ie by dinghy sailors Norman Lee and Bryan Armstrong. At the agm the ISA promised to hold a further meeting within one month. The date of this workshop was announced yesterday but Lee says its proposed format is not what was agreed.

The alleged disproportionate focus of the ISA on its Olympic sailing programmes at the expense of other aspects of the sport  is to be aired again on Saturday the 23rd of March at 10.30am in the National Yacht Club (NYC).

The meeting, says the ISA, is only open to ISA members. Attendees must pre – register and indicate the organisation they represent.

'To claim to represent a class or club, one would have to be nominated and this would reduce the eligible numbers greatly and run counter to the open invitation to all members and could lead to disputes' says Lee.

'As the proposer I will be there as an ISA member and as a committed sailing enthusiast concerned about the continuing lack of new young members joining sailing clubs and participating in club races subsequent to completing the ISA Junior Syllabus . This is something that affects dinghies and keelboats/cruisers' says Lee.

'I will not be 'Representing' the 3 clubs I am a member of [DMYC, GSS, LDYC] or the class I currently sail most often in [GP14]', Lee adds.

In a comment on this article (scroll down to see all comments below) ISA Chief Executive Harry Hermon says he 'would like to encourage as many members as possible to attend - there are no restrictions (other than we feel it is a matter for the membership to discuss) and we have received no ‘complaints’ . We asked for people to declare their organisation so we can get a feel for the representation at the meeting both regionally and in terms of their interests'.

Lee has sought a copy of the resolution referring to this meeting from the minutes of the AGM and to know how the Chairman is to be chosen. 'Obviously that cannot be an ISA employee as the meeting will be discussing matters prejudicial to them', Lee says.

Other areas of the sport such as the cruiser racing fraternity and ICRA have asked to be kept informed of the forum as the matters raised affect club memberships too, says Lee.

 This morning Lee and Armstrong issued an appeal to all sailors to get involved in the debate:

"We see that the Forum decided on at its AGM has been arranged for Saturday the 23rd March at the National Yacht Club.

"We appeal to all clubs and classes to hold meetings to consider the issues raised in our motion and in the course of the on-line discussions which have taken place both before and after the meeting and to select delegates to attend. This Forum represents an opportunity to deal with the problems in Irish sailing and to influence its future direction which cannot be missed'.

For more dinghy sailing articles:

Aggregate link to coverage of Dinghy decline debate here

David Branigan's Sailing Column in the Irish Times on this subject here

Casting a fly over sailing club memberships

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

Irish Sailing Needs this Favourable Wind

Is Irish sailing too focused on the Olympics?

Published in ISA
Tagged under
Page 10 of 17

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