Dan O’Grady – Olympian, Mirror Champion

On Monday night we held our start of season Parents & Sailors meeting. It was hugely encouraging to see a full house, with a mixture of parents and juniors as well as a number of adult sailors make the effort to attend. This meeting is typically held to introduce new members and young sailors to the Club and make them aware of things like courses and Club racing. Commodore Jim Lambkin introduced the evening and with Sailing Secretary Andy Johnston outlined that the Club has been working on a revised Club strategy including facilities development initiatives as well as a coaching initiative to help energise participation in Club racing.

The Club has a history of producing top class dinghy competitors from youth right through to Adult level. On the night many of our new or more recent members became aware for the first time the extent of that history with a list of Olympians and National Champions included in the presentation. However the Club recognises that both the sport and how people engage with the sport has changed significantly in recent years and we cannot rest on our laurels.

Over the winter the Sailing Committee reviewed and considered a proposal for a coaching program put forward by Hugh Gill one of the Clubs most successful GP14 sailors. As many will know there has been a growing demand for coaching coming from our grassroots for some-time now. Allied to dwindling numbers actually participating in Club racing, the Sailing Committee gave full support to the proposal from Hugh.

GP14 Nationals Runner-Up Gill & Twohig

Hugh Gill – Coach and Former GP14 National Champion

In considering the proposal, the Committee reviewed many options. Many other sports use the model of coach, train and compete. In sailing this has tended to happen on a regular basis only at national squad level. In some cases at club level, coaches have been brought in, paid a fee & delivered one-off coaching sessions. The difficulties with this is that the coaches do not have any knowledge of what happened on previous coaching sessions, and do not have sufficient time to build an understanding of each sailor’s capabilities and potential to build progressive development thereafter.

As you are aware Sutton Dinghy Club currently has among its members National and Regional Championship winners and many other successful racers who have a wealth of racing experience and knowledge behind them. During the off-season Hugh has encouraged and convinced many of Sutton Dinghy Club’s top sailors to support his proposed coaching programme and they have volunteered to become ISA qualified Club Coaches and help to deliver a club sailors coaching programme for the coming season.

Right now more than 10 of our top sailors with extensive Regional, National and indeed International Championship success behind them in a range of dinghy Classes are progressing through the ISA approved coach certification process. Since January they have been working their way through first aid, garda vetting, vhf, powerboat and safety boat certification culminating soon with completion of the ISA Coaching Course. By the end of May we expect to have at least 10 coaches from within our own ranks available to Club members of all levels and all Classes.

Sutton Dinghy Club is the first sailing club to take this route and do what many other sports clubs do and be self-sufficient in having our own pool of club coaches available to train and coach their own teams or individuals in skills development and race preparation.

It is heartening that our top sailors have all agreed to share that knowledge and experience with our newer adults and our younger sailors, to help them develop their skill base, train regularly and so enjoy their dinghy racing experience to a much greater degree.

The initial reaction from the floor to this initiative on Monday was hugely positive. It is hoped that with the roll-out of this programme our club sailors will embrace this opportunity, avail of the training, compete at club racing and eventually travel and compete at other club regattas and championships. An agreed coaching schedule has been included for all sailors in our Members Handbook which has recently been posted to all members. The schedule is also available on the websites Club Calendar.

The first coaching session is a shore based evening on April 26th led by Hugh Gill himself. Everybody is welcome to attend even if you have not yet brought your boat down or indeed not yet got a boat.