Sailing: Still reasons for concern as problems persist

Attendances have held up well in recession but concern in the numbers involved


Last weekend 35 Flying Fifteens (FF) closed the season with a buoyant East Coast Championships, Dublin Bay SB20s introduced 40 people to the sportsboat class in a novel demo-day, both events taking place at the National Yacht Club (NYC).

After a busy season Irish dinghy and one-design fleet attendances have held up well in recession but that doesn’t mean there is nothing of concern in the numbers currently involved.

According to the Irish Sailing Association (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.

It’s a telling statistic made worse by the fact that even after a €1.25 million government investment in Irish sailing in 2012, the sport has not grown.

Sailing schools have also fared poorly resulting in a similar drop in ISA approved course participants. This month, after 40 years of operation, the country’s largest sailing training centre Les Glenans closed the doors on both its centres in west Cork and Mayo.

Insiders say there’s probably a window here of about five years while the domestic classes still have reasonable numbers to try and salvage numbers, but a lot of the current crop of sailors are getting older.

After that, the whole scene could nose dive, not helped by lack of cash amongst 30-50-year-olds, which will stymie the future growth of junior sailing classes such as the popular Optimist.