Revitalizing the Traditional Linkages

Published on October 23rd, 2013

As we talk about ‘growing the sport’, we sense sailing has plenty of people who enjoy it, but that the ‘connectivity’ within the various areas of sailing are flawed. Too many people are missing some pavers on their path. We cherry-picked a few passages on this topic from commentary published in the Irish publication Afloat

There has to be a strong case for classes to collaborate on hosting events, particularly regional and national championships. This would help to reduce costs, improve race management standards and enhance the enjoyment of onshore activities with the improved dynamic of increased numbers.

It would also provide a showcase for individual classes to highlight their attractions. Most young people entering the sport have little awareness of the enjoyment, both social and sailing, to be derived from the established older style fleets.

Why are new recruits to the sport brainwashed into acquiring expensive new boats when so many acceptable second hand boats are lying idle in garages and sheds around the country and readily available in the UK. The Mirror class believes there are literally hundreds of old Mirrors not being used in Ireland. Many of these may be less than ideally competitive, but who cares, if a couple of hundred additional young people are able to get regular fun sailing in them.

I think we need to re-examine how we attract and more essentially retain young people in the sport. Does it really matter what type of boats our kids are sailing as long as we have loads of them enjoying the sport in a safe manner? Can we revitalise the traditional linkages of prior years between youth sailors and the established classes and attract them to make the transition?

The ISA (Irish Sailing Association) has pursued a policy of developing excellence in our youth sailors by encouraging them to sail in high performance or very competitive boats, plucking the best from these classes and then supporting them as elite sailors who we ultimately hope will achieve Olympic potential.

From the ISA’s perspective, this is a worthy policy to pursue, as success at international and Olympic level raises the profile of the sport which provides the justification to source substantial funding from various Government Agencies, notably the Sports Council, to sustain the organisation.

However, this approach disillusions the vast majority of young sailors who are not of elite standard and there is no adequate policy or framework in place to encourage these young sailors to continue their relationship with the sport.

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