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Whither the Weather with Silver in the Bag

21st July 2012
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Whither the Weather with Silver in the Bag

#isafyw12 – Sailing folk are getting worried about this summer's weather in northwest Europe. There's a real chance that it might be going to improve, particularly in northern France and southern England. And that might mean gentle conditions spreading in over the Olympic sailing venue at Weymouth on the Dorset coast.

Normally, of course, we would wish Weymouth all the very best in the matter of summer weather. In the heart of the place is a nice little river port where many an Irish sailor has been glad to spend a night or two for a spot of R & R. It has a bustling and attractive quayside which looks all the better for some sunshine. Just enough breeze to waft away the aroma of fish and chips, and Bob's your uncle.

But these are not normal times. A week hence, they'll be gearing up for the opening ceremony of the Sailing Olympiad at the Weymouth and Portland centre. Back in June, they staged the huge Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta there, as near as makes no difference to being an Olympic dress rehearsal. But the weather wasn't impressed – it was absolutely foul, with strong winds, plus enough rain for a year. Yet the Irish contingent loved it, with the Star crew of Peter O'Leary of Crosshaven and David Burrows of Malahide winning Gold, while Laser Women's Radial sailor Annalise Murphy of Dun Laoghaire took the Bronze.

We like to think we can be as good as the next crew in racing in light airs and sunshine, but there was no mistaking the way in which the Irish contingent revelled in the Dorset downpour. 'Tis only a shower, they merrily quipped, and went out and notched yet another win. Meanwhile other contenders – particularly those from sunnier climes – complained endlessly. And even the British crews (for it was their weather, after all) solemnly announced that they were carefully pacing themselves, as they didn't want to peak too early.

Be that as it may, the Irish squad are in the weird situation that their supporters – which is all of us – are getting worried that if things get better, then they'll actually be getting worse. Better on the weather front may mean worse on the results front. But you never know. The weird weather having moved centre stage in recent weeks, we're now aware that one line of thought is that the level of sunspot activity has a lot to do with disturbed global weather patterns.

For most of us in Ireland, if we could only see the sun now and again, we'd be perfectly happy for it to display signs of advanced acne. But apparently last week the sun became hyperactive again, and there were sunspots galore on July 12th. The date being what it was, on the Emerald Isle we could be excused for overlooking this. But the top sunspot honchos tell us that normal predictions are now out the window, and late July and early August could be every bit as awful as June.

It'll all be slightly clearer in a week's time. The first classes will be racing from July 29th onwards, and the final medal races and victory ceremonies – for the Finns and the Stars – will be on August 5th, with the Laser Radials a day later.

Meanwhile, watch those sunspots. But just for now, it's taking a while for it to sink in that Finn Lynch collected his silver yesterday at the ISAF Youth Worlds, aged just 16. Because the age span of 16-19 is so narrow, the rest of sailing tends to see the Youth Worlds as being something rather ephemeral, gone in a trice. But when you're just 16, the years stretching ahead to 19 seem to be for ever, and heaven only knows what young Lynch will be achieving at the end of the time he is still qualified to sail in the Youth championship.

It was fascinating to note as the championship progressed that the true origins of our young stars became clarified. The Dun Laoghaire machine tends to hoover up talent from all around the country as it begins to manifest itself. Thus when the Irish lineup was announced, it seemed to be wall-to-wall Dun Laoghaire and Crosshaven. But those of us who savour the sheer variety of places where people sail in Ireland were happy to note that Sophie Murphy's Strangford Lough connections – Quoile YC to be precise – were getting at least equal billing with her adopted base at the Royal St George. And though Finn Lynch may be promoted as part of the National YC lineup of talent, we trust there was celebration last night in Blessington for their new star from the lake.

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

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WM Nixon

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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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