Waning numbers cause concern at Dokrag convention
But there is a healthy cynicism surrounding the validity of the statistics
Waning numbers were a cause for concern at the recent Dinghy and One Design Keelboat Racing Advisory Group (Dokrag) Convention at the National Yacht Club in Dún Laoghaire.
Sailing as we know it is “officially over”. That was the dramatic message coming from the two-day World Yacht Racing Forum and Yacht Racing Design and Technology Symposium held in Gothenburg.
Admittedly the statement was aimed at a professional yacht racing audience rather than the vast bulk of enthusiasts who continue to enjoy their sport as normal, but increased concern about waning numbers at home was expressed at the same time in Dún Laoghaire at the recent Dinghy and One Design Keelboat Racing Advisory Group (Dokrag) convention at the National Yacht Club.
Irish dinghy interests heard sobering news about participation as the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) itself prepares for a shake-up in the new year after a drop of 20 per cent in membership.
Although Dokrag presented data that challenged the consensus that numbers were in decline there is a healthy cynicism surrounding the validity of the statistics.
The only figures that appear to be available are those for national championship attendance and it is widely recognised that the number participating in such events is only a proportion of those regularly sailing.
Lack of accurate figures has exasperated the situation.
Ireland’s racing fleet is estimated at 2,000 active boats (including the ICRA cruiser nationals fleet) and 6,000 active racing sailors but figures from other quarters puts participation at only 1,300 people from the 20 recognised small boat fleets made up of single handed, two-handed and three- handed boats.
Senior dinghy classes are up six per cent 2008-2013, Dokrag heard, although on a 10-year view there is a five per cent dip, due largely to falls in larger designs such as Wayfarer, Multihull and Fireball. “Traditional classes” (Mermaid, SOD, IDRA 14, Nat 18) are largely unchanged.
There is continued strength in GP 14 and Laser and gradual increases in RS classes.
The dramatic dropout rate among beginners was seen as particularly worrying. Junior classes show a 28 per cent decline in the last five years, led by more “fun-oriented classes” like Feva, Topaz and now even Topper.
On a positive note Dokrag identified huge potential for attracting new sailors into the sport, particularly the twentyand thirty-something’s who may be moving from traditional team sports, into the burgeoning ‘adventure sport’ arena but the means to attain these newcomers is still far from clear.
IDA Strategic Review
The hope now is that when the recently formed six-man ISA Strategic Review group forms a new plan for Irish sailing in 2014 it must be aimed squarely at boosting participation as all plans to date have been short on detail and long on aspiration.
Meanwhile back on the water, the consistent performance of the Beneteau First 50, Mermaid IV (skippered by Seamus Fitzpatrick) produced an overall win of the 70boat Rathfarnham Ford sponsored DBSC Turkey Shoot that concluded on Dublin Bay last weekend. It was only the second time in the 12year history of the series that the full seven race series was completed.
Also in Dún Laoghaire, Annalise Murphy’s London 2012 coach Rory Fitzpatrick beat her for the top spot in the the second round of the inaugural Irish Moth series. Eight boats competed in the gusty series including former Fireball champion Steven Oram, another dinghy sailor who has who has taken up the foiling craze.
At the DMYC Frostbite series, Kenny Rumball and David Moran are leading the first series in the Fireball class by 3 points.
Annalise Murphy is in the running today at The Irish Times/Irish Sports Council Sportswoman of the Year awards. The 23-year-old Dubliner took consecutive gold Eurocup medals in May earning her a monthly award before winning a European radial title on home waters in September.