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Crosshaven sailor chooses SB3 event to launch 2012 Olympic campaign

3rd October 2008
Crosshaven sailor chooses SB3 event to launch 2012 Olympic campaign
Peter O’Leary starts as a favourite for the All–Ireland sailing
championships and that's not just because he is a past winner. Above all
else, he says, it is his Beijing preparations that give him an edge off
Howth this morning.

 

A week ago he finished eighth overall against 137 SB3s in a performance that
kept Irish heads held high in a fleet otherwise dominated by British
sailors. It was all the more remarkable because it was a class the
Crosshaven sailor had never raced before.

 

Clearly this 25-year old has talent to match his Olympic training. He

estimates he spent 700 hours on the water this season. An average club
sailor manages only 80. It sets him up nicely for the big wind forecast this
afternoon but of course it is no guarantee. In this event, in unfamiliar
boats, there is always uncertainty.

It says enough about O’Leary that he was confident to jump in at the last
minute to contest the SB3 title but even more so that he chose it as a
launch event for his 2012 Olympic campaign. O’Leary intends to sail for
London with a new crew - Tim Goodbody of Dun Laoghaire.

O’Leary and Goodbody are two of 24 invited helmsmen for this morning’s Euro Car Parks sponsored fixture. Both are in the line-up because of their
Olympic regatta participation where O’Leary sailed the Star keelboat and
Goodbody the Finn dinghy. But having just finished the SB3 event together
and announced a new four-year partnership, the pair split tacks this
weekend.

It’s an end of season quirk of Irish sailing but love it or hate it, the All
Ireland sailing championships – having being renamed four times – is a
worthy celebration of sailing affairs.

O’Leary’s Royal Cork club-mate Stefan Hyde, last years winner, will be there
to defend his title too in a line up of champions and invited sailors. (see
panel)

The competition has evolved over time and there is no doubt it struggled in
the past to live up to its own billing as ‘Ireland’s premier event’. As much
as the competition produces a champion of champions on water, it's value is
also as a reflection of the state of the national sailing classes.

For example, when Tom Fitzpatrick lifted the trophy in 1998 there was 16
invitations issued. It was staged in 1720s at Royal Cork. The fleet was
drawn from 15 invited classes plus the defending champion.

Times have moved on and prosperity means the national authority no longer
goes cap in hand to different fleets looking for individual owners to lend
equipment.

The purchase of its own fleet of eight J80 keelboats in 2007 has allowed an
extra eight invitations to be issued and the competition extended to three
days.

It is an expansion, however, that still cannot accommodate all the country's
one design classes. Cruiser racing, not represented at all in 1998, now has
four berths. Olympic squad participants plus wildcards account for a further
seven invitations.

There is obvious merit in such inclusion but not at the expense of classes
previously represented.

The fact that one design representation is down from 94% in 1998 to 50% in
2008 in a fleet that has increased from 16 to 24 is a worrying contraction
for one design sailors, but it is perhaps more representative of the entire
sailing scene. Present ten years ago but absent this morning are Flying
Fifteens, Squibs, J24s, 1720s, Mermaids, Enterprises, National 18s, IDRA
14s, Albacores and disabled sailing representation.

Clearly, the way people are going sailing is changing. Nothing stays the
same, not least rules governing the event that that now says if a class
championship is not run by an ISA national race officer then there will be
no invitation. Six classes fell foul of this rule this year. Some classes
have died away, such as the Albacore, others disaffiliated and others have
not bothered to nominate. And no-one needs a ruler to gauge the impact of
the SB3 class, a phenomenon that has been a shot in the arm to the overall
scene but damaging to some classes.

Today's event also features a junior event, running in tandem, with 21 of
the country's top juniors competing. This weekend therefore is an ideal
forum for discussion on one design sailing, if only to decide the shape of
the 'All-Ireland championship' in another ten years.

All Ireland sailing championships senior line up: Martin Byrne (Dragon); Pat O'Neill (E-Boat); David Burrows (Etchells Class); Noel Butler (Fireball Class); Timmy Corcoran (GP14 Class); David Dwyer (ICRA 1); Nigel Biggs (ICRA 2); Neil Spain (ICRA 3); Flor O'Driscoll (ICRA 4); Brian Goggin (Irish 5o5 Class); James Espey (Laser Class); Gareth Flannigan (Laser SB3 Class); Stephan Hyde (2007 Champion); Nicholas O'Leary (Match Race); Adrian Allen (Multihull Class); Timothy Goodbody (Olympic); Peter O'Leary (Olympic); Garrett May (Puppeteer Class); Simon Brien (RS Elite); Derek Mitchell (Ruffian 23); David Dickson (Shannon One Design); Debbie Hanna (Wild Card); Anthony O'Leary (Wild Card); Mary O'Loughlin (Wild Card).
Published in Editors Blog
Afloat.ie Team

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