Irish Sailing Association hope new tack will bring calmer waters

Proposals see governing body taking fresh approach to better serve clubs and sailors

Two years after a putsch against the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) a new five-year strategic plan has put the association on a new tack. It comes at a time when Ireland’s 100 yacht clubs are seeking a much needed lift.

If nothing else the blueprint serves as written confirmation the ISA no longer sees itself purely in a “national governing body” role but in the same boat as the clubs and classes it was set up to serve.

The plan is based on the views that were put to a “Strategic Review Group” in 2013 that assessed how the association needed to adjust to better serve the sport.

Underlying principle

Its author


Neil Murphy

, a former ISA president, says the underlying principle is moving from a “governance approach” to one of the principal stakeholders in the sport “working together with a goal of encouraging and developing participation”.

It’s still just a plan on paper – not yet on water – and for this master plan to work it must first get the buy-in of a 17,000-plus strong sailing community, spread across a network of clubs on lakes, rivers and around the coast.

It’s a major step forward on previous strategic plans but Murphy warns “it can only work if there is a joint commitment between the clubs and the association”.

That should be easier to achieve now some former ISA ambitions have been thrown overboard but clubs will nevertheless be justified in asking if the new plan is just a consolidation of much of the work that the ISA say they currently do.

Next week, the ISA lays out its stall at a series of regional meetings, the first of which is in Dun Laoghaire at the Royal St George Yacht Club on Wednesday. Other meetings are scheduled for Cork and Galway. The aim is to adopt the plan at the agm in March.

Murphy says: “There will be a renewed emphasis on utilising the input of volunteers to harness the skills and knowledge of active sailors so that the ISA can evolve.”

The association lost a quarter of its members in the recession and key yacht clubs are still in choppy financial waters.

A massive fall off of junior sailors also presented an inconvenient truth that problems lay not with the children but with the paucity of guidance for newcomers.

The over elaborate structure of ISA training courses and the difficulties of qualifying, retaining and upskilling instructors was a widespread complaint when the ISA’s Review Group conducted their research. Strategies to resolve those problems are proposed in the plan.

Avoidance of clashes

It is also proposed that the ISA should re-commence the co-ordination of a racing event calendar to facilitate the avoidance of clashes between events and re-establish the balance between local, regional and national events.

Only this week Royal Cork announced a new 2015 “dinghy fest” regatta, a major small-boat fixture on the south coast for August 20th. A date that clashes with the east coast’s Laser National Championships off Dun Laoghaire.

In offshore news, a one-time massive 60-mile lead is no consolation to Alex Thomson and Pepe Ribes, joint-skippers of the IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss that was leading the non-stop Barcelona World Race until a dismasting on Wednesday evening. Two weeks into the race, the yacht was reaching in moderate conditions when it suffered rig failure.

Now clearly out of the race, the British-Spanish pairing are headed for nearest landfall that is likely to be Salvador de Bahia in Brazil, a significant distance from the boat’s current position.

David O'Brien

David O'Brien

David O'Brien, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a former world Fireball sailing champion and represented Ireland in the Star keelboat at the 2000 Olympics