Termination of the HSS ferry service in Dún Laoghaire Harbour, Co Dublin, has created a ‘fantastic opportunity’ for the town and harbour to provide a new facility of ‘national significance for water-based sports’.

Solitaire Le Figaro 2011

Almost fifty boats competed in the 1,700 nm single-handed race Solitaire du Figaro 2011 which stopped into Dún Laoghaire. Photo Gillian Mills

The proposal is the brainchild of the Dún Laoghaire Combined Clubs (Royal St George YC; National YC; Royal Irish YC and Dún Laoghaire Motor YC) who tabled the idea during the recent An Bord Pleanála oral hearing on plans for a super terminal for cruise liners in the harbour.

The National Watersports Centre (NWC) would be a focal point for training and could host ‘major international and national sailing and other water- sports events’ such as kayaking, rowing, paddle boarding, windsurfing and scuba diving.  Dublin Bay has moderate sea and tidal conditions combined with interesting and varied wind patterns, ideal for these activities, it contends.

The site vacated by the ferry service at St Michael’s Wharf at end of Marine Road, would further develop the historical, physical and visual connection between the town and the harbour.  The large atrium space could be used as a coordination centre for national and international sailing championships, along with conferences, exhibitions, food fairs, and boat shows. Such events can attract up to 500 boats and up to 1,000 sailors, support crews and families who would stay in the town for up to a week.

Modelled against existing centres in Weymouth and Pwllheli in UK, and Medemblik in Holland, the group contends 30 events could be attracted annually, generating ‘substantial additional revenue’ to the local economy.  

In 2012, Dún Laoghaire hosted the ISAF Youth World Championships, described by its president, Göran Petersson, as a “spectacular world class sailing venue both on and off the water.”  A National Watersports Centre could also bid for the ISAF World Championships held every four years, valued at €25m to the host country, and the Youth Olympic Games 2022 for Dublin.

The east coast harbour town is a regular venue for the biennial four-day Volvo Regatta, attracting circa 21,000 visitors and contributing over €500,000 to the local retail economy.