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Irish Sailing Presidents Cross Tacks Over Tokyo 2020 Performance Review

17th February 2022
The review, commissioned by the ISA, was prepared by sports coaching guru Gary Keegan of consultants Uppercut
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing review, commissioned by the ISA, was prepared by sports coaching guru Gary Keegan of consultants Uppercut

Former ISA president Roger Bannon reacts to the publication of the external review of the Tokyo Olympics performance, while current Irish Sailing president David O’Brien defends the report’s delivery and optimism for Paris

Confidence in Irish Sailing “at all-time low”

Roger Bannon served as President of the association from 1994 to 1996Roger Bannon served as President of the association from 1994 to 1996

It is pleasing to see the change of heart to publish the carefully-edited report on the Tokyo Games though disappointing that much of the substantial background to it has been redacted or ignored. It is clear that widespread criticisms from a variety of sources have been independently vindicated.

It is interesting that the mainstream media are viewing the report as a catalogue of failures. In these circumstances, it seems very strange that the Performance Director “endorses” the report which, in reality, represents a very negative assessment on the performance of our Olympic Steering Group. It would be interesting to hear a reaction from the Chairman, Patrick Coveney.

The management failures are self-evident and are not only damaging the elite athletes involved but unfortunately also perpetuating a consequential negative impact on grassroots sailing by adopting harmful strategic policies.

The inexplicable and inconsistent changes of the Radial selection process for Tokyo; the failure of modest technical support for the only discipline, 49er, in which we had to supply equipment; the unexpected failure of our Laser representative to qualify for the Games despite showing his class shortly afterwards by finishing 2nd in the World Championships; and the abject disaster of accommodation planning in Tokyo, contribute to a long list of critical failures.

Following the unjustified raising of expectations, it is also clear that Sailing’s relationship with Sport Ireland has to be understandably under some stress with the disappointments of Tokyo.

In any other national sporting body, the consequences of these failures and anxieties would be clear-cut and decisive.

It is time for the management of this relationship with Sport Ireland to return to the direct control of the Board of Irish Sailing. It is intolerable that main Board members have had little or no involvement in managing this critical relationship.

In the meantime, the Board must take urgent and significant action. A good start would be to review the composition of the membership of the Olympic Steering Group (OSG) and appoint individuals with specific responsibility for operational, financial and HR matters to report directly to the Board.

To continue justifying the significant level of ongoing Government funding (as the 3rd best-funded Olympic sport in Ireland), it is time for a comprehensive review of the management structure in the Irish Sailing Association and an honest assessment of its effectiveness in fulfilling the strategic objectives of Irish Sailing.

Confidence in the Irish Sailing Association is at an all-time low and restoring credibility with sailors and Government funders alike has to be a major priority for the Board.

- Roger Bannon

Report gives clear guidance for Paris success

Irish Sailing president David O’BrienIrish Sailing President David O’Brien

I wish to make the following comments in respect of the Uppercut report as the Roger Bannon piece would suggest he may have been misinformed.

The report as published has not been redacted. To suggest so is incorrect. As you will appreciate in many instances, the full report quotes the actual feedback given by the, at times identifiable, stakeholders (athletes, Sport Ireland officials, our High-Performance team, and Irish Sailing Board members and CEO), who participated openly on the understanding of full confidentiality.

As is normal with such reviews, Uppercut prepared both documents (full and summary), and they are confident that all their findings, and conclusions are in the summary report. The Board of Irish Sailing are satisfied that all the salient points raised in the full report have been published in the summary. It is our duty as Irish Sailing Board Members to ensure transparency and good governance and to suggest otherwise is incorrect and indeed disappointing.

The Irish Sailing Board are pleased with the reaction within Irish Sailing to the report, especially from the OSG Chair and High-Performance Director. While the report acknowledges issues to be addressed, it also provides learnings for future campaigns and as such Irish Sailing see the report as a work-in-progress in our desire to develop the most successful organisation possible and win future Olympic medals. Everyone within Irish Sailing strives to improve, and as such the report provides clear guidance on what needs to be worked upon.

The HPP has been in existence since the Athens Olympics and is a well-established, stable, and structured programme, which has seen its resources and structures evolve and expand over that time. As is usual at the end of an Olympic cycle, and in the light of this report, the Irish Sailing Board will review the Terms of Reference of the OSG. One of the report’s recommendations was to review internal communications, which has already been activated by our CEO.

Whilst the report does comment on Irish Sailing’s relationship with Sport Ireland, we don’t believe this relationship is in any way under the stress Roger Bannon suggests, but rather it is a relationship jointly disappointed by the Tokyo outcome. But we can advise that a very positive follow up meeting has been held with Sport Ireland to present the Summary report to them and they, in turn, have expressed their satisfaction with the integrity of the report and its recommendations. Both parties are confident the report will help to strengthen our relationship into the future, specifically with the Paris and the Los Angeles Olympic games in mind.

The Irish Sailing Board and OSG will continue to work closely to ensure the issues highlighted in the report will be addressed, and the best possible results achieved in Paris.

- David O'Brien

Published in ISA, Tokyo 2020
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Irish Sailing

The Irish Sailing Association, also known as Irish Sailing, is the national governing body for sailing, powerboating and windsurfing in Ireland.

Founded in 1945 as the Irish Dinghy Racing Association, it became the Irish Yachting Association in 1964 and the Irish Sailing Association in 1992.

Irish Sailing is a Member National Authority (MNA) of World Sailing and a member of the Olympic Federation of Ireland.

The Association is governed by a volunteer board, elected by the member clubs. Policy Groups provide the link with members and stakeholders while advising the Board on specialist areas. There is a professional administration and performance staff, based at the headquarters in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.

Core functions include the regulation of sailing education, administering racing and selection of Irish sailors for international competition. It is the body recognised by the Olympic Federation of Ireland for nominating Irish qualified sailors to be considered for selection to represent Ireland at the Olympic Games. Irish sailors have medalled twice at the Olympics – David Wilkins and Jamie Wikinson at the 1980 games, and Annalise Murphy at the 2016 games.

The Association, through its network of clubs and centres, offers curriculum-based training in the various sailing, windsurfing and powerboating disciplines. Irish Sailing qualifications are recognised by Irish and European Authorities. Most prominent of these are the Yachtmaster and the International Certificate of Competency.

It runs the annual All-Ireland Championships (formerly the Helmsman’s Championship) for senior and junior sailors.

The Association has been led by leading lights in the sailing and business communities. These include Douglas Heard, Clayton Love Junior, John Burke and Robert Dix.

Close to 100 sailors have represented Ireland at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Membership of Irish Sailing is either by direct application or through membership of an affiliated organisation. The annual membership fee ranges from €75 for families, down to €20 for Seniors and Juniors.

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