Saving sailing in Ireland

Published on January 16th, 2015

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, reports The Irish Times. 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.

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

Key issues to address:
– 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.

– 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.

Irish sailing publication afloat.ie reports, “This blueprint looks like a positive step forward not least because it makes an attempt to implement measurable targets for the good of grass–roots sailors. That rule was something lacking on a now scrapped 2020 vision document sub–titled ‘grow the sport, grow the membership, grow the organisation’. This discredited plan turned out to be boom time folly and like so many other projects around the country at that time, poorly thought out and only half–built.”

Click here for blueprint.

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