No final decision on yacht hub at Cork naval base, says Coveney

Fianna Fáil raises concerns only one firm involved in plan for Haulbowline island

Simon Coveney at the helm of his yacht ‘Wavetrain’ during Tuesday’s racing at Cork Week. Photograph: David Branigan/Oceansport

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney has said that there has been "no final decision" on offering a British sports consultancy an opportunity to run an ocean racing-yacht hub within the Naval Service's base on Haulbowline island in Cork harbour.

Fianna Fáíl finance spokesman Michael McGrath has expressed concern that only one company seems to be involved in the yacht hub plan, and has called for transparency on the project’s handling.

Mr Coveney confirmed that the yacht hub was “one element” of a grand plan for Haulbowline island, site of a former Irish Steel site which is undergoing a multimillion euro cleanup.

Mr Coveney told The Irish Times that he was "asked by others" to discuss the yacht hub with Stewart Hosford, managing director of Five Degrees West, an international marine sports consultancy, who he says he knows on a personal basis.


He emphasised that he had not seen Mr Hosford for 20 years before recent contact over the project.

Five Degrees West, based in Gosport, in the UK, is involved with the Hugo Boss sailing campaign among others.

Mr Coveney said that Five Degrees West had “expressed interest in coming to Cork and we need to look as how, when and if they can be facilitated”.

State funds

The yacht hub, proposed for a “graving dock” or dry dock within the naval base, is being spearheaded by the Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster (IMERC), which made a pitch for €3.5 million in State funds to develop.

Mr Coveney confirmed that IMERC, IDA and Cork County Council representatives met Five Degrees West to discuss the yacht hub, but said there was "no finality" on allocating the company an area in the naval base.

IMERC director Val Cummins said that Cork harbour had the potential to develop such a hub similar to Britain's Portsmouth and Auckland, New Zealand, in hosting extreme ocean racing teams.

Mr McGrath, who is Fianna Fáíl TD in Mr Coveney’s Cork South-Central constituency, said that “the fact that only one yacht racing team, Five Degrees West, seems to be involved in the development of the yacht racing hub aspect of the overall project is certainly a cause of concern.

“The steering group needs to be very careful to ensure that no impression is given that one particular team has the inside track,”he said, and “the whole process must be open, transparent and competitive in nature.”

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times