Dun Laoghaire clubs hold merger talks

 

SAILING: NEW club ties could emerge from Easter talks between two of the countries most distinguished yacht racing organisations following a meeting of commodores in Dún Laoghaire this week, writes David O'Brien

Nostalgia appears to present one of few obstacles to closer co-operation between the Royal Alfred Yacht Club (RAYC) and Dublin Bay Sailing Club (DBSC) as a merger of both organisations has been touted around the Dún Laoghaire waterfront as the next step forward for racing on the bay.

The link-up would modify the racing programmes of over 3,000 sailors and solve fixture clashes in the countries most popular race area.

Flag officers from the RAYC founded in 1857 and DBSC (1884) met in February to examine the possibility of combining efforts given the fact that both share a similar membership, the same race area, the same courses and - as of last season - the same sponsor.

Many bay sailors have been baffled over the need for both clubs but traditionalists say that bay sailors are lucky to have such a choice and each famous club has it's place and function within Dún Laoghaire's rich yachting heritage.

February's flag officers meeting was followed up this week, The Irish Times has learned, with a separate meeting between DBSC commodore Fintan Cairns and Royal Alfred commodore Tino Hyland who met on Wednesday evening to discuss common ground for a possible union.

"DBSC is very positive about these talks. Both parties agree on the need for a closer relationship," Cairns told The Irish Times after the preliminary meeting.

Although neither operation has a club house, the respective on the water activities of both overlap and it is this fleet-splitting gripe that causes Hyland the most concern: "We don't want sailors to head out of Dún Laoghaire harbour and have to choose whether to go left and race with DBSC or right and sail with the RAYC. It makes no sense."

Both clubs have happily co-existed in friendly rivalry for many years but the development of a 750-berth town marina two years ago has boosted sailing and led to a change in sailing trends.

This has prompted the south Dublin officials to chew over the prospects of coalition - even if it is at the expense of tradition.

Former RAYC commodore and respected bay helmsman Tim Goodbody sees the move as a logical step forward in a growing sport but warned both clubs that discussions should be held with "a generosity of spirit.

"There are immense benefits to merging that far outweigh any negative factors," he added.

But current RAYC vice-commodore Paul Murphy reads it differently: "I see the two clubs as complimentary rather than competitive and I see no reason for a merger - both clubs should be supported by sailors."

Satisfying the needs of both organisations, however, may prove difficult as both have strong links to the past; one as a prestigious yacht club in its 143rd season and with a royal charter to boot; the other as a racing club with one of the biggest fleets in Europe.

The important point that negotiators must bear in mind, however, is the provision of top-class racing for members rather than club politics or Dún Laoghaire's waterborne heritage.

The RAYC, whose charter dates back to 1864, occupies a unique place in world yachting as the first corinthian yacht club in the world. It prides itself on innovative competition formats, its links across the bay to Howth Yacht Club and an array of valuable trophies. Its founder members drafted the first rules of sailing that still apply.

The much larger Dublin Bay Sailing Club, the dominant racing club in the country, starts over 1,100 races each year. The current committee has been responsible for far-reaching change that has increased the profile of the family-based club that boasts over 1,500 members.

Arguments for and against merger

Pro-merger groups believe it would lead to a rationalisation of racing on the bay and :

• Reduce fleet splitting

• Lead to the formation of a single race management club

• Streamline Dublin Bay fixture calendar

• Pool waterfront resources such as committee vessels and personnel

• Avoid a duplication of effort

• Cut administration and insurance costs

Sailors against the merger say a rich heritage in Irish and world sailing will be at risk if a merger occurs and this could lead to a:

• Loss of choice for sailors

• Diminution of Dun Laoghaire's yacht racing heritage

• Loss of identity of either RAYC or DBSC

• Loss of rivalry between race management teams