I am inclined to agree with Bryan - participation in the sport can't be measured by counting the number of certificates that have been processed in an operational year! That is a measure of commercial activity, not a conversion rate to dinghy sailing/racing. And if anyone cares to take a serious look at the age profile of those participating in the non-Olympic classes, it isn't getting very much younger. If there really was a pool of 12,000 youngsters looking for a home for their dinghy activities the classes and clubs would be swamped. Instead, we have stories in the national media that clubs are dropping their subscriptions and contemplating the removal of entry fees simply to generate foot-fall across the threshold.
The ISA is lucky that there are competent club and class committees operating in the non-Olympic sector and that we have collectively learned to stand on our own two feet. The level of regular, year start/year end engagement with the ISA for organised classes is minimal and while that may have evolved as a chicken and egg syndrome because we may not need to have our hands held, it would be preferable for the dinghy, non-Olympic fraternity to have an ongoing engagement with the ISA. In an era when there should be a proactive effort to help clubs and classes rationalise the calendar to manage volunteer resources, cost and time, there is a vacuum. Pre-season workshops to organise a regatta schedule, to provide support to and co-ordinate the efforts of the smaller classes would be a tangible engagement by the ISA. Reporting mechanisms to assess race officials and venues immediately after regattas would be helpful in promoting standards in the hosting of events and allow a portfolio of information on available clubs and officials to be developed. Thus, when major events need to be populated with additional officials and volunteers, it can be done on the basis of experience and reputation rather than press-ganging volunteers from the host club.
12,000 certificates might equate to 12,000 1 week-long sessions of water based baby-sitting. Can we point to a level entry dinghy class that is thriving as a consequence of 12,000 youngsters graduating from an ISA approved course - I don't think so! The Classes that might attract youngsters - Mirrors, Vagos, Fevas, aren't exactly dominating the scene. Two Mirrors sailed the 2011/12 Frostbites Series in Dun Laoghaire. There hasn't been a regular Mirror on the scene for the 2012/13 Series.There is no significant level entry class racing in any sort of numbers out of Dun Laoghaire, probably our biggest centre of racing activity on the east coast, on Saturdays as part of the DBSC racing. And if they aren't making a debut in level entry classes, they won't impact later on in the adult classes such as GP14, Fireball and even Laser. We have no meaningful 470 Class nor is there any significant activity in the 420s.
The ISA does have an active Race Management Advisory Group but do they have a mandate to engage with the dinghy classes outside the March workshop. We currently have more IROs than a country our size is expected to have. How do we proactively ensure that there are younger, competent Race Officers available to take on this mantle when they retire from this activity. How do we ensure that the enormous knowledge and talent that the likes of Bill O'Hara and Ron Hutchieson and others have of the Racing Rules and their application and interpretation is passed onto the next generation of NJs and IJs. How do we promote a situation where the ISA supports classes when they bring international events to Ireland?
These are all issues that come under the domain of dinghy sailing and racing that I believe are being neglected and identified in the sentiment of Bryan and Norman's submission to the ISA AGM.