ISA annual meeting set to address issue of decline in dinghy sailing


SAILING:A motion looking for a change of tack at the Irish Sailing Association might not chime precisely with tomorrow night’s celebration of 2012’s Olympic sailing achievements but it is fuelled by the wider argument that the sport is suffering due to a lack of support and encouragement of clubs and classes.

Dinghies ­– or the lack of them – is on the ISA’s agm agenda after east coast sailor Norman Lee warned senior fleets are struggling to recruit young blood. This is despite the fact between 10,000 and 20,000 juniors are trained on summer courses. The ISA chief executive, Harry Hermon, says the association wants to hear as many views as possible on the topic to make “an informed and balanced decision if change of direction is required”.

Lee blames an “over-emphasis of the training of selected juveniles by the creation of elite squads of possible future Olympians” and it will be debated tomorrow at the Royal Marine Hotel, Dún Laoghaire, at 4.30pm.

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

The policy may well be focused on Olympic development but it has borne fruit. State funding is available for it too but its solely for that purpose.

London 2012 showed the potential effect that a medal win by the likes of Annalise Murphy could have in encouraging more youngsters. Ireland won 22 medals at international level including three medals at under-18 level but it has left many scratching heads as to how such young talent will trickle back into senior dinghy fleets.

Seán Craig, a former ISA racing director with recent involvement in junior sailing, says: “Where I think ISA policy has definitely got it wrong is the disconnect between learning to sail and the rest of the sport.”

Also supporting the motion, the GP14 fleet (where numbers have contracted from 40 to 25 boats) will ask if the elite squad system has chased the club sailor away? The Fireball class says the current structure is too “youth orientated and fails to develop the ISA’s own slogan of sailing as a ‘sport for life’”.

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

It’s not the first time the decline of dinghy sailing has been raised and worryingly there is not an instantly solution to ailments afflicting the sport, primarily declining numbers. As clubs continue to battle the economic storms Lee has identified that a large section of sailing constituents may have slipped between the cracks of policy making and implementation. The association must not lose sight of the importance of keeping clubs and sailors onside.

The agm is followed by an ISA Ball and presentation of prizes including the Mitsubishi club of the year award.

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