New ICRA commodore committed to increased participation
Simon McGibney wants more clubs to ensure public know sport is accessible to all
James Espey from Ballyholme leads the three Providence Team IRL contenders for the sole Irish place in the Men’s single-handed event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Regatta. The final Irish trials event at the Laser World Championship has started in Mexico. Photograph: David Branigan/Oceansport.
As the new sailing season gets underway, an agreement between the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) and the Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) was announced yesterday that ends a protracted behind-the-scenes dispute over funding for the sport.
The agreement coincides with the new ICRA commodore’s term as Foynes sailor Simon McGibney takes over with a mandate to broaden the appeal of sailing in what is arguably the largest constituency of the sport.
The ISA agreement broadly commits both organisations to a series of promotional initiatives including a Try Sailing programme at Volvo Cork Week in July. Critically, all fees collected under the IRC and ECHO handicap systems that the ISA administers will be applied to promotion of cruiser racing.
Ultimately, the challenge is the same across the sport – to reverse the fall in participation.
“What I would hope is that we’ll get more people out sailing on keelboats than at present and to assist clubs,” McGibney said this week. “After all, it’s the clubs that are getting people into our sport and all we can do is help them.
“We need to keep building through the grassroots [of the sport] and I think sailing needs to change gear right across the board – clubs, classes and ICRA. We live on an island and its a sport for life – why aren’t there more people doing it?
Blame the recession
But perhaps sailing has already passed its peak participation?
“Absolutely not, absolutely not. People are more interested these days in activity sport and [sailing] is an active sport with competitive as well as leisurely elements to it.”
McGibney reckons the biggest obstacle to development is access along with promotion and communication that that access is very available. He cites initiatives on opposite sides of the country in Dublin and Foynes that introduce newcomers to sailing.
In his home club, the adult beginners’ course is advertised in local newspapers and by word of mouth.
One session ashore with six lessons afloat costs €50 which can be offset against the club subscription for the year. All the skippers have bought into it as they can see where their future crews are coming from.
He paid tribute to Alan McEniff who passed away two weeks ago for driving adult training in the club for years.
Meanwhile, on the East coast, he points to the uSail programme at the Royal St George Yacht Club that introduces complete beginners to the sport using club boats such as 1720’s and cruising boats.
The Corinthian Cup now offers participation at a national event but still take part with family and friends. Similarly, the ECHO Progressive handicapping system now has equal standing with IRC for the National Championships in Howth YC in four weeks’ time.
The early-bird discount entry fee has been extended and over 60 boats are confirmed for the championships.