ISA plans to move and expand vision


SAILINGAFTER 50 years in Dún Laoghaire, the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) is seeking a new home that will combine a national watersports centre with administrative headquarters. The move also envisages sharing facilities with other water-based sporting bodies.

The ISA occupies offices in Park Road, but has outgrown these with a staff of 13. In response to an advertisement in Afloatlast July, nine submissions have been received from organisations and local authorities around the coast.

Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company, as well as the Royal Cork Yacht Club, are among the suitors, but so are venues as diverse as Louth, Leitrim and Valentia Island.

Two submissions from Galway seek to build on the success of the Volvo Ocean Race.

“We’re looking at opportunities as we need to relocate. It could be somewhere else in Dún Laoghaire or somewhere else in the country,” said ISA chief executive Harry Hermon. “We want to build a national watersports centre that would be inclusive of multiple disciplines – canoeists, rowers, anglers, divers, as well as sailors, power-boaters, jet-skiers.”

The ISA is seeking to increase participation through training and education, but is facing Government moves to reduce marine accidents by limiting numbers that go afloat via regulatory measures.

“There’s a balance there somewhere,” says Hermon, who says the most positive way is proper management of waterways and foreshore areas in addition to training and education.

“We’re not making it easy for Government,” Hermon said. “We all have roughly the same agenda but we’re coming at it from different angles.”

As an industry or a sport, the boating sector represents 150,000 participants and the ISA would be representative of around 25,000.

“But as we’re not going to the department (of transport) with a single voice, one day we go representing issues affecting the ISA while the next day, perhaps, inland waterways might be in, and though there is a lot of cross-over between both, the department is being given confusing messages.”

According to Hermon, a national water-sports centre would offer a chance to at least communicate better, if not actually operate out of the same venue.

The ISA’s full-time staff have been briefed on the process and a decision by the board is due in November, with final approval by the association’s agm next March.

So does it mean the ISA is moving away from the vision of the original founders of the ISA? Originally known as the Irish Dinghy Racing Association before changing to the Irish Yachting Association, the core membership was primarily drawn from Cork and Dublin clubs and hinged on racing dinghies and yachts.

Absolutely not, according to Hermon, but times have moved on and the threat of regulation is coming in waves and the association must position itself to respond on behalf of the boating community.