IMCAI [International Mirror Class Association of Ireland]
IMCAI wholly endorses the initiative taken by Norman Lee and Bryan Armstrong.
This year the Mirror celebrates its 50th birthday. The Mirror class has been a cornerstone for the launch of thousands of sailing careers in Ireland and around the world. In our youth, many of us, including sailors from virtually all Classes look back fondly at Mirror Nationals in which up to 130 Mirrors gathered. Enduring friendships were made that have spread throughout all fleets including the cruising fraternity and to this day form a compelling bond among the sailing family.
Mirrors also provided the grounding for so many successful sailors, from Round the World winners to Olympians:-
Olympic Silver Medallist Stuart Bithell learned to sail in a Mirror; he said “the Mirror is great to learn in. I developed tactical skills which I took forward into the 420 and then onto the 470”. Round the World Yachtswomen, Dame Ellen Mac Arthur, who broke the record for the fastest solo circumnavigation in 2005 and Dee Caffari, the first woman to sail non-stop around the world both ways are big fans of the Mirror. Dee had this to say; “it does not matter how high performance your yacht or dinghy is today, I can almost guarantee that at some stage in a sailor’s career they have sat in a Mirror to learn the basic skills”. Double Olympic silver medallist and round the world yachtsman Ian Walker said he “owed his career to the Mirror”.
However, far more importantly Mirror Sailing has grounded tens of thousands of sailors that now just race for leisure in a host of different classes or merely potter about or cruise near or far.
The Mirror is a superb boat, relatively stable but highly responsive. Importantly, the Mirror requires a crew of two which hones young sailor’s skills in communication and dependency. Skippers, crew and parents form an everlasting bond which has been such a huge contributor to the greater sailing family and which underpins the sport and indeed the ISA. The Mirror is also a very affordable boat with hundreds, if not thousands lying in sheds around the country.
Present Status of Mirror Class:
Against the above background, the decimation of the Mirror fleet in recent years is regrettable and represents a long term body blow to the development of the sport in general. The 2012 National Championships mustered just over 30 boats and Provincial titles often have less than 20 competitors. While one must be careful in apportioning “blame” for this decline, successive IMCAI Committees have worked extremely hard in promoting and developing the Class. Hundreds of hours of voluntary effort has gone into the management and development of the Class but it seems that no matter how much effort is put in, the Class continues to decline.
It is clear that something is radically wrong. This is borne out by other dinghy fleets that are taking part in this debate.
Role of ISA:
There has been disquiet and much debate among the Mirror family for a number of years now in regard to the role of the ISA in supporting the Mirror Class. In general, there is a feeling of total disconnect between the Class and the ISA. Some believe that ISA is almost hostile to the Class.
During the Mirror Europeans at Poole last year, the disparity in the level of coaching available to UK Mirror sailors and Irish Sailors was almost embarrassing. IMCAI took immediate steps to rectify this and put together an inaugural National Winter Coaching program. IMCAI sought funding / assistance from ISA but received no response.
Instead, a host of volunteers came together to make the program a success, not least Lough Ree Yacht Club who provided fully heated club facilities, rescue boats, man power and indoor storage facilities. Parents raised the funds to pay the Coaches.
There is something wrong when initiatives such as this have to be undertaken with zero input from ISA. For example, it would have been brilliant for Mirror sailors to have Annalise Murphy come and speak to them on a Saturday or Sunday as part of the Coaching program.
Finally, with the Gathering and the Mirror World Championships at Lough Derg both this year, it would appear to provide a golden opportunity for ISA to promote Irish Sailing worldwide (we say this notwithstanding a small monitory contribution from ISA to LDYC).
Clearly, the creation of elitist Classes by the ISA is not helping those Classes excluded from the program. This of course is unfair and indeed discriminatory. IMCAI believe that this has impacted severely on the Mirror Class, on sailors, on boat manufacturers and resale values of boats. As the sole representative body for sailing in Ireland, the ISA has onerous responsibilities. By giving exclusivity to certain Classes at the expense of rival Classes, ISA is effectively distorting the market. Two precedents involving similar though not identical situations have arisen with the SJAI [Showing Jumping Association of Ireland] and the Irish Kennel Club. In both cases, the National Representative Associations had to significantly amend certain exclusivity practices and provide undertakings accordingly.
IMCAI believes that ISA has lost its way and needs to undertake a root and branch reappraisal of its focus, in particular having regard to the aspirations contained in ISA’s 2020 Vision statement;-
· Make Access to Boating Easier, Increase Participation in Boating Activities, Improve Standard of Sailing and Manage Legislation.
· The profile of “sailing and boating as an activity for all” will be embedded in the activities of the ISA while increasing standards in every aspect in the sport will be the underlying principle of the organisation.
Various contributors have made very pertinent points and clearly a committee needs to be set up to assist in steering ISA in a manner that reflects, in the first instance, the aspirations of members. Structural changes may well be required in order to represent ISA’s would be position to the Sports Council but the overriding requirement is to create a framework that can take on board the issues raised by such a large cross section of ISA members with a view to implementing changes. It would seem logical that the two proposers of the motion, Norman Lee and Bryan Armstrong would play a pivotal role in bringing this agenda forward.