Meet Jon and the Team in Kinsale

Meet Jon and the Team in Kinsale


Director Jon Hynes and his team at Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre were the winners of this year’s Irish Sailing Inclusion Award. The award is given to highlight some of the outstanding work going on around the country to develop and support participation opportunities for people with all types of abilities so that they can experience sailing. We caught up with Jon and his team by phone to find out more about their involvement in the Watersports Inclusion Games, the KOEC’s Inclusion programme and the Wheelyboat “Saoirse”.

First we asked the team about volunteering at the Watersports Inclusion Games. Their response was overwhelming positive.

"That day was amazing. Getting to see the joy on everyone’s face was incredible. No matter what ability people had there was something for them to do. It was clear when they said it was the "Inclusion Games" that they meant everyone because there was literally something for everyone to do no matter what ability age race are social background.  Adam OBrien, volunteer at the KOEC Inclusion Games Team.

"The day made me feel so happy that we were including people who may not be so confident in themselves and definitely not on the water. We helped them to discover new experiences that will hopefully stick with them for life. The happy expressions on everyone's faces when they hit the water was the reason I wanted to be a part of the wonderful event."Conor Green, volunteer in the KOEC Inclusion Games Team.

“It was amazing to see people getting so much enjoyment out of trying something new. They were really getting mucked in and challenging themselves and having a laugh. The energy was contagious. Every kid volunteer, family member or passer by was buzzing all weekend. 😊” Tessa Kingston, volunteer in the KOEC and Surf to Heal Inclusion Games Team.

Jon, tell us a bit about your background

Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre (KOEC) is part of the Cork ETB (Education and Training Board) and has a long association of sailing and training in Ireland. Jon was kayaking at 12 and went on to run and own several outdoor education centres. Throughout his career, inclusion and disability programmes played an important part. He then gained a degree in the theoretical aspects of inclusion training. By joining KOEC in 2017 as Director, he had a “blank canvas” to bring theory and practical experience together.

Why do you think KOEC won the 2019 Irish Sailing Inclusion Award ?

Jon puts it down to three factors: the passion of the KOEC team, his own experience and the support of Cork ETB who have committed to empowering their staff pursue an inclusion agenda with the requisite funding for ‘Saoirse’ and much more.

Who’s Saoirse ?

Saoirse is a Wheelyboat - a powerboat capable of 30kts with space for up to 10 people that is fully accessible for wheelchair users to drive. The idea came from a meeting with the Watersports Inclusion Games organising committee and Irish Sailing’s Ciaran Murphy and Johanne Murphy who had discussed a Wheelyboat in the UK. Jon walked away thinking about how he’d get the €50,000 to fund one for his centre. Working with Cork ETB, together they secured a Sports Capital grant and Saoirse was launched at the Watersports Inclusion Games in July 2019. The best part, Jon says, is seeing families on the boat together, having fun. Too often one person is left out because of their wheelchair, but with Saoirse this is no longer the case.

What next ?

Since July the team have been working closely with the Irish Wheelchair Association in Cork, offering weekly lessons both on and off the water with the long-term goal of their wheelchair users taking the boat out regularly. The next phase is working with Irish Sailing to ensure that all Powerboat qualifications can be endorsed for people with special needs.

Go to to find out more about KOEC’s inclusion activities.

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