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The Olympic Torch Visits the Howth Seventeens

26th May 2012
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The Olympic Torch Visits the Howth Seventeens

#SAILING – With the Olympic torch burning its way through Ireland in ten days' time and the countdown to London 2012 well under way, the Irish squad for the sailing events in Weymouth has little enough time to adjust to its greatly increased size, with two new crews coming on board through last ditch qualifications.

The lonely selection voyage of Laser sailor James Espey of Ballyholme has finally reached a successful conclusion, and so too has the 470 campaign of Ger Owens of Dun Laoghaire and Scott Flanigan of Malahide. Malahide has always punched above its weight in the Olympic sailing stakes, and Flanigan carries the MYC flag along with Star class sailor David Burrows, while Ballyholme is also well in, as James Espey joins clubmates Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern, who are already on board as Ireland's 49er crew.

For the latest additions, the turnaround from battling for selection to training for representation means that, as ISA Team Manager James O'Callaghan has put it, "there's work to be done between now and Weymouth". But in fact O'Callaghan's remark was primarily prompted by the somewhat erratic showing by the already-qualified Annalise Murphy in the recent Women's Laser Radial Worlds in Germany.

The weather was the most erratic feature of all, yet when the breeze was good Murphy was on top form, taking two wins and two seconds in the 133-boat fleet. But she also had a major upset with a collision, and the final day saw her logging a 33rd and 55th to drop nine places to 25th in fleet, not the sort of placing she's been used to in recent years.

But with a smaller fleet and (so they tell us) steadier breezes anticipated at Weymouth, she's on track for a good showing, as too are the Star class duo of Peter O'Leary and David Burrows, who ended as fourth overall in the recent worlds, very much in the frame.

There'll be a special link to sailing when the Olympic torch arrives at Olympic Council of Ireland HQ in Howth on June 6th, as Howth House, the OCI base, is the former home of the Boyd family of sailing folk, where Herbert Boyd designed the still-extant Howth Seventeen class.

The youthful Boyd utilised the spacious floor of the drawing room (where else?) to finalise the lines of his boat designs, and it was there in 1897 that he created the Howth Seventeen One Designs, which still look today exactly as he envisaged them 115 years ago.

Only a year earlier, the revival of the Olympics in their modern form had been achieved by Pierre de Coubertin. It's doubtful if Boyd ever had Olympic ambitions for his rugged little boats. But they are truly Olympian in their dogged persistence allied to timeless style with 115 years of solid sport, so there's no better place for the Olympic torch in Ireland.

But that's in ten days' time. Right now Howth is jumping with the 127-strong fleet battling it out in the three-day BMW Cruiser-Racer Nationals, and skippers of the calibre of current Sailor of the Year George Kenefick of Crosshaven at the helm of his Quarter Tonner "Tiger of Currabinny" (now there's a name to conjure with) are revelling in glorious early-summer weather.

Out in the Atlantic, however, the chances of mid-ocean calms are slowing arrival time hopes for the Volvo fleet (back on full strength) racing from Miami to Lisbon, with Franck Cammas and Damian Foxall and team on Groupama losing their early lead to Iker Martinez on Telefonica. The Atlantic weather is all over the place, and nerves will be well frayed before they get to Portugal.

W M Nixon's sailing column is in the Irish Independent on Saturdays

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago

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