Finn Lynch (20) of County Carlow is the Afloat.ie Olympic “Sailor of the Month” for May, following his arduous and often lonely journey to succeed in taking over Ireland’s already-secured place in the International Laser Class in the 2016 Olympics Games, scheduled for August in Rio de Janeiro.
A year ago, few would have rated Lynch’s chances very highly. An extremely promising junior sailor, he had hit the “Cadet-level Ceiling” where virtually no funding is available for international competition and coaching for anyone caught between the highly-organised, parentally-supported junior level, and the early stages of the full-blown Olympic programme.
But having been “adopted” by the National Yacht Club, fund-raising was undertaken on Lynch’s behalf by an informal organisation set up by Carmel Winkelmann NYC and friends, and between April 2015 and June 2016, €40,000 has been raised to send Lynch to key events and coaching sessions.
Nevertheless the likelihood of Finn Lynch actually taking the Irish Olympic place originally secured by James Espey was only a distant possibility. The point of the campaign was to encourage the growth of Lynch’s talent as much as possible. Postponement in some sort of soul-destroying limbo was not an option. And Finn Lynch, with his soaring performance and extraordinary ability to focus on the task in hand, not only soared, but he took over Ireland’s Olympic place at the Laser Worlds in Mexico on Wednesday May 18th 2016.
It was an exceptional breakthrough, and it evoked a response of exemplary generosity and good sportsmanship from Belfast Lough sailor James Espey in a posting on Facebook:
“Pretty gutted that a tough week here at the World Championships means I won't be representing Ireland at the Olympic Games this time around. Nervous to give up the spot I earned in Santander, and the lead I had going into this week meant I was vulnerable on the race course in the early days and couldn't come back from it.
A fall at the last hurdle... but well done to Finn Lynch Sailing for taking up the spot and our flag at the Games.
It's been a real honour to race against Laser sailors from all over the world these past eight years, and what a blast it has been! I couldn't have made a better group of friends, both in this class and in the rest of the classes of our traveling circus, and for that I will be forever grateful (and hopefully will have people to visit around the world for life). Special thanks to my training partners and coaches over the years, you all know who you are and I hope you have as many great memories of our times as I do.
A limitless thanks to all of my supporters, my friends and family back home. I couldn't have done this without you, and the only consolation for not making the Games is that I'll get to be home with you all sooner to show my thanks in person.
I'm looking forward to all the great sailing I'm going to get to do in the future - may try out a couple more classes than just this hiking beast!
See you all on the race course, Bapsy”