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Displaying items by tag: Aoife Hopkins

Irish Olympic class sailors were tested again yesterday in fickle Miami breezes on the second day of the World Sailing Cup on Biscayne Bay. The important regatta marks the build up to the Rio Olympics in less that 200 days.

After six races In the mens 49er skiff Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern from Belfast Lough lie 30th in a fleet of 61, up 20 places from Monday's poor start when the Belfast Lough duo were black flagged for a starting line penalty in race two.

Only two races have been sailed so far in the Laser Radial class which forms the second round of the irish trial for the single Rio berth between Annalise Murphy of the National Yacht Club and Aoife Hopkins of Howth Yacht Club. It was another long day with only one race completed. Hopkins has moved into 36th and Murphy is in 53rd in the 81–boat fleet. An earlier start is planned today and three races scheduled.


Launching ! I'm with a very international group. My coach is from Uruguay and the other sailors are from Brasil, Peru and Uruguay.Hoping to be fluent in Spanish by the end of the week

Posted by Aoife Hopkins Sailing on Tuesday, 26 January 2016

A 'niggling' foot Injury has forced the withdrawal of 49erfx campaigners Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey who  are not competing.

In the Paralympic Sonar, John Twomey, Ian Costelloe and Austin O'Carroll are sixth from nine.

Click here for the results table.

Sailors opening their curtains in Miami yesterday morning would have been welcomed by a pleasant breeze that was enough to put a grin on their faces.

Upon arriving at the venues of Sailing World Cup Miami their grins were to turn into a smile as a 14 knot south eastern breeze whipped its way around Biscayne Bay.

Predicted to hold throughout the day, the breeze was unable to sustain its tempo, dropping early afternoon and in the words of Australia's Jason Waterhouse it was a day to 'have your head on a screw.'

In the end, only the 49er, Laser and Paralympic fleets completed their full schedule of racing for the day with the remainder either completing three, two, one or in the RS:X Women and Finn fleets case, no races.

Laser and Laser Radial

Dutch sailor Rutger van Schaardenburg continued his solid start to the regatta with a first and sixth today. It was a slight step down from his 2-1 yesterday, but it was still the best score of the day, nipping Filip Jurišić (CRO) by virtue of a tiebreaker. Van Schaardenburg retains command of the overall lead, six points ahead of Jurišić. Behind the Croatian sailor, however, lies a tightly packed mob of top Laser talent; just 23 points separates second from 22nd. Included in that group is five-time Olympic medalist Robert Scheidt (BRA) in 13th and American medal hopeful Charlie Buckingham (USA) in 14th. Buckingham is in the first stage of the selection series for the U.S. Olympic Team. While US Sailing Team Sperry teammate Chris Barnard (USA) is not off to a good start, Erik Bowers (USA) is just 2 points behind Buckingham in the overall standings. The Lasers will hope for two races tomorrow and then, regardless of how many races have been completed, the fleet will be split into Gold and Silver Groups for the final two days of full-fleet racing.

49er and 49erFX

'Keeping it consistent' is a term every racing sailor aspires to and that term could not be more appropriate in the Olympic sailing arena.

Sailors don't necessarily have to win a race to claim a medal. Regular results at the front of the pack can go a long way to ensure you're there at the end when it counts.

Argentina's Victoria Travascio and Maria Sol Branz are well known for their light breeze consistency and they personified that once again by picking up a 2-1-2.

"We did very good and it was really cool,” explained Travisco. "We managed three good starts and that was it really. The first we went on the left, had a good start and stayed on the left.”

The Argentineans demonstrated their light wind nous in the middle of 2015, winning Pan American Games gold on Lake Ontario in Toronto, Canada. Miami's conditions on Tuesday suited them and they have leapt up the leader board, tied for third with Brazil's Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA).

Ragna and Maia Agerup (NOR) hold their overnight lead with Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL) in second.

Defending Miami 49er champions Nico Delle-Karth and Nikolaus Resch (AUT) took over at the top of the pile after four races. They opened up with a 13th, which they discarded before swiftly following up with a fourth, second and a first. They occupy first overall on 12 points.

James Peters and Fynn Sterritt (GBR) are second on 19 and overnight leaders Jorge Lima and Jose Costa (POR) drop to third on 24 points.

Paralympic Classes

Three 2.4mR races have thrown out different victors in each. Bruce Millar (CAN) took the first bullet on the opening day and in Tuesday's two, Peter Eagar (CAN) and Helena Lucas (GBR) crossed the line first in races two and three.

As a result, the trio are separated by one point at the top of the leader board. Miller leads on three points followed by Eagar and Lucas on four.

Paul Tingley, Logan Campbell and Scott Lutes (CAN) grabbed the lead in the Sonar following a second and a discarded seventh. Race wins went to Aleksander Wang-Hansen, Jacob Haug and Per Eugen Kristiansen as well as Alphonsus Doerr, Brad Kendell and Hugh Freund who are eighth and fifth respectively.

Racing resumes on Wednesday 27 January at 10:00 local time. The Laser, Laser Radial and 49er will complete their qualification series and many of the fleets will be looking to catch up on races lost over two challenging days.

Published in Olympic

Irish sailors were tried and tested in a light Miami breeze yesterday with mid fleet results at best for Ireland's Olympic crews. In the mens 49er skiff Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern from Belfast Lough were 51 from 61. A 'niggling' foot Injury has forced the withdrawal of 49erfx campaigners Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey who stayed shoreside in Biscayne Bay. In the women's Radial  Annalise Murphy (36th) continues to stay clear ahead of Aoife Hopkins (47th) in the second round of the womens trial but both Irish single-handers will be happy to see the back of day one in their 60–boat fleet.

Yesterday, was the big start for Olympic and Paralympic sailing in 2016 with 711 sailors afloat.

Laser and Laser Radial

It was a 'head out the boat' kind of day with sailors looking to play the shifts and read the current to advance in large packs of racers. The morning opened with 4-6 knots from the north that slowly swung to the east, coming in at 7 knots and peaking at 10.

Only the Laser fleet completed the scheduled number of races in what was a challenging day for sailors and officials alike. Four days of fleet racing remain ensuring adequate time to catch up on races lost ahead of Saturday's live Medal Races that will be available to view on YouTube worldwide and on ESPN3 in the USA.

Racing resumes this morning at 10:00 local time. Having lost races on Monday, the Race Committee will use the day to catch up on the schedule.

Dutch sailor Rutger van Schaardenburg knows the importance of not risking too much during the first few races of the regatta. But he's not afraid of opportunity. So when the opening's presented themselves during the first two races in the Yellow group of the Laser division, he pounced. The reward: a pair of first-place finishes.

"It's obviously an ideal start,” said the lanky Dutchman. "For me it was important not to have very bad races because tricky wind conditions today—light wind [that] could come from any direction—so I didn't want to start with a bad result and that worked out.”

The first race was a wire-to-wire win, by nearly two minutes over the second place boat. The second required some work, and van Schaardenburg isn't afraid to say, a little help from above after struggling off the line. The comeback could be broken into two distinct components. Halfway up the first beat, a favourable shift helped him to get back in touch with the lead group. Then he was able to move from 10th to first on the run.

"Downwind [it was] both being in the pressure and having the opportunity to go quick not having anyone on the back blocking the wind from me,” said van Schaardenburg. "Freedom, pressure and obviously the boatspeed was good.”

Milivoj Dukic of Montenegro also had a strong day with a third and a second, as did van Schaardenburg's countryman, Nicholas Heiner, who stands third with nine points.

With their start pushed back due to the mid-day lull in the breeze, the first of two fleets of Laser Radials didn't get started until after 15:00 local time, and the second didn't cross the line until after 16:00. In both groups a familiar face lead the way around the track. Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN), the reigning world champion, won the earlier race, beating Emma Plasschaert (BEL) by 18 seconds. In the second group, it was London 2012 Olympic Gold medalist Lijia Xu (CHN) crossing the line first, followed by Silvia Zennaro (ITA).

49er and 49erFX

Following two races in the Blue and Yellow 49er fleets, Nico Delle-Karth and Nikolaus Resch (AUT) and Portugal's Jorge Lima and Jose Costa are tied on four points after a bullet and a third apiece.

However, the top of the pack could be different. Having won the opening race in the Yellow fleet Jonas Warrer and Anders Thomsen (DEN) crossed the finish line of the second thinking they had the perfect start with back to back victories.

Unfortunately, it was not to be as the pair were black flagged as Warrer explained, "We were a little surprised by the current. I think we got caught about a minute, half a minute before. We won the race even though we had a bad start and we sailed well, we're happy about that but it's a shame that we were over the line, that's life. It's important that we sailed well.”

Counting the 32nd the Danes sit in 25th but Warrer and Thomsen won't be disheartened. They know the venue well, taking bronze together in 2015 with Warrer winning gold in 2014 with Peter Lang.

"We like Miami and the shifty stuff as we're used to shifty conditions from back home,” said Warrer.

"It's good to come over here this time of year. We've come from cold, grey and raining in Denmark and Miami is a good place to sail.

"The level is high, it's always like this with a year until the Olympics. Everybody is improving, including ourselves and the level goes up. A lot of boats can win races. You can be punished for even small mistakes.”

Sailing World Cup Miami acts as a Danish qualifier for Rio 2016 but Warrer and Thomsen are left uncontested so will book their spot to the Olympic Games this week.

After a number of years of Danish skiff success, resulting in Warrer winning gold at Beijing 2008 and Allan Norregaard and Peter Lang picking up bronze at London 2012 the lack of strong Danish skiff crews in Miami can be seen as a bit of surprise.

"I guess I scared everybody away,” smiled Warrer. "It's a shame but most of the sailors were my age and stopped, wanting to try something else. We have good young crews coming up but they need one, two or three years more.

"It is a challenge for us as we need to find someone outside of Denmark to train and to push us. We've found that. We are training with the Germans and it's a really good cooperation and good teamwork. It's good for us as they're based in Kiel but it would be easier if we had some Danish crews at our level. Give it two years though and it will come.”

For now, the Danes are focusing on racing in Miami and have four further races on Tuesday that they will use to propel themselves up the leaderboard. The day's other race win went the way of France's Kévin Fischer and Yann Jauvin.

In the 34-boat 49erFX pack, Norwegian twins Ragna and Maia Agerup took the single race win late in the day. They were followed by Danish sisters Maiken Foght and Anne-Julie Schütt.

Four races follow for both fleets on Tuesday. The 49er Blue fleet will start at 10:00, Yellow at 10:20 and the 49erFX at 14:00.

Class leaders:
2.4 Meter (1 race sailed): Bruce Millar, CAN
470 Men (1): Asenathi Jim / Roger Hudson, RSA
470 Women (1): Fernanndo Oliveria / Ana Luiza Barbachan, BRA
49er Men (2): Jorge Lima / Jose Costa, POR
49er FX Women (2): Ragna Agerup / Maia Agerup, NOR
Finn (1): Jonas Hogh-Christensen, DEN
Laser Men (2): Rutger van Schaardenburg, NED
Laser Radial Women (1): Lijia Xu, CHN
Nacra 17 (2): Mandy Mulder / Coen de Koning, NED
RS:X Men (1): Chunzhuang Liu, CHN
RS:X Women (1): Lillan De Geus, NED
SKUD 18: no results posted
Sonar (1): Bruno Jourdren / Eric Flageul / Nicolas Vimont-Vicary, FRA

Full results here.

Published in Olympic

A mixed Irish sailing team of youth and experience compete in Miami this morning at the start of Olympic year that includes, as previously reported on, the second round of the women's Irish Laser Radial trial between Annalise Murphy and Aoife Hopkins. 

Already qualified for Rio, Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern are racing in the 49er as is the three-man Paralympic Sonar sailing team of John Twomey, Ian Costello and Austin O’Carroll. Still seeking an Olympic nomination are hopefuls Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey in the 49erFX class.

In less than 200 days, many of the nearly 800 sailors gathered in Coconut Grove this week will walk in the Opening Ceremonies of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games. For the sailors with a confirmed spot in the Olympic Regatta, this event is about sharpening their tactical game, refining their equipment and improving their conditioning. Others have a more immediate focus as they are in the midst of a selection series for their respective countries or working to qualify their country for the Olympic regatta.

Team Seaton-McGovern will be looking to take last season’s ups and downs into what is a tough regatta, and with stiff competition from the world’s best skiff crews, the pressure is on. In the 49erFX boat, Team Brewster-Tidey will be looking to build on last year’s  performances in preparation for a final qualification bid.

“There’s a lot at stake this year at Sailing World Cup Miami,” said Josh Adams, Managing Director of U.S. Olympic Sailing. “For the first time in the event’s 27-year history, it’s being used as part of the U.S. selection process and part of country qualification process for the 2016 Olympic Games.”

For American sailors in eight of the Olympic classes and the 2.4mR, this event is the first of two events that will determine the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team for this summer’s Games.

Sailing World Cup Miami is the second of six regattas in the 2016 series. From 25-30 January 2016, Coconut Grove, Miami, USA is hosting more than 780 sailors who are competing across the ten Olympic and two Paralympic classes on the beautiful waters of Biscayne Bay.

Sailing World Cup Miami is the second of six regattas in the 2016 series. From January 25-30, 2016, Coconut Grove, Fla., is hosting more than 780 sailors from around the world who are competing across the ten Olympic and two Paralympic classes on the beautiful waters of Biscayne Bay.

Competition in US Sailing’s premiere racing event gets underway this Monday in all 10 Olympic classes and two of three Paralympic classes. Saturday’s Medal Races will be carried live on ESPN3.

The Olympic classes competing this week will be: Laser Radial (women), Laser (men), Finn (men), Men’s RS:X, Women’s RS:X, 49er (men), Men’s 470, Women’s 470, Nacra 17 (mixed) and 49erFX (women). Paralympic classes included are the 2.4mR (open, Para World Sailing) and Sonar (open, Para World Sailing).


Published in Olympic

With under 200 days to go to the Olympic Games, Irish radial sailors Annalise Murphy and Aoife Hopkins are preparing for the second round of their Olympic trials at Miami Olympic Classes regatta next week. Murphy leads after the first round of the trials on Rio waters in December and now the Irish rivals will enter the second test at the ISAF World Cup on Biscayne Bay. Hopefully, there will be no unexpected implications in Florida as there appeared to be in Rio. 

Murphy has been busy over the Christmas period competing again in Rio, finishing ninth overall at the Brazilian championships, giving her more valuable race time on Olympic waters.

Apart from Irish interest in the trial for the single Irish place, the Laser Radial fleet will be the one to watch in Miami with a special trio facing off at the top of the 80-boat fleet. London 2012 gold medallist Lijia Xu (CHN) will be joined by silver medallist Marit Bouwmeester (NED) and bronze medallist Evi Van Acker (BEL).

Alongside Murphy, Xu, Bouwmeester and Van Acker had a famous four way battle for gold at London 2012 with the Chinese racer coming out on top. Xu stepped away from the Laser Radial in 2013 but after a two-year hiatus she returned to Olympic sailing at the 2015 Laser Radial World Championship.

The rivalry with Bouwmeester and Van Acker resumed instantly as she finished sixth to their second and third. With more miles and training in the bag, Xu, who stole the hearts of the sailing world in 2012 will be aiming to make an impression in Miami.

Denmark's Anne Marie Rindom continues to excite in the Laser Radial and returns to Miami to defend the title she won 12 months ago. Rindom also comes into the American World Cup regatta off the back of a world championship victory last year and will be aiming for the medals once again.

Much like the Radial, the Laser fleet will feature many of the leading lights of sailing and is set to be a hot contest. There will be no Irish mens trial in Florida as the second trial after Rio has moved back to a European venue.

World #1 Tom Burton (AUS) and #2 Matt Wearn (AUS) will spearhead a fleet that includes key players on the road to Rio. Five-time Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt (BRA), 2014 world champion Nicholas Heiner (NED), Rutger van Schaardenburg (NED), Andy Maloney (NZL), Jesper Stalheim (SWE) and Charlie Buckingham (USA) will be amongst the front runners looking to capture top honours.

Racing is set to commence at 10:00 local time on Monday 25 January across the ten Olympic and two Paralympic fleets. Medal Races on Saturday 30 January.

Also racing in Miami next week is Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey in the 49erfx, 49er duo Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern and the Paralympic trio John Twomey, Ian Costelloe and Austin O Carroll who have just launched a logo campaign.

Published in Olympic

The second Olympic Women's Laser Radial trial in Miami is looming but it looks like there were some unexpected implications from December's first trial between Annalise Murphy and Aoife Hopkins in Rio because men were racing with women in the Radial class at the Copa Bresil de Vela regatta writes Water Rat.

In the race for the single Irish berth at this year's Olympics, the Irish Sailing Association currently rank Murphy as leading the Olympic trial ahead of Hopkins. There is no doubt that Hopkins was well beaten, no matter what way you read it. They all sailed off the same start, with the same competitors. But whether she was beaten by 10 boats (women only) or by 13 boats (men and women) could become significant in the event of closer racing in the next trials at Miami on January 25th and Mexico. 

Should the results not be based on female participation only? 

If the answer is negative, perhaps Hopkins should make an appeal immediately so that the issue can be sorted before this month's second Miami based trial in ten days time. In the absence of any appeal procedures on the ISA website, Water Rat looked over the race documents from Copa de Brazil and makes the following observations:

In NOR 3.3 there are 2 separate competitions the Copa Bresil de Vela and the Copa Bresil de Vela Jovem (Youth)

The Irish Girls were competing in the Copa Brasil Laser Radial (W) class.

In the youth event there were both men and womens categories in the Laser Radial.

NOR 5.1.2 states:

For Olympic classes the regatta will consist of an opening series followed by a Medal Race as per item 5.2. Youth classes Laser Radial and RS:X will be grouped with their Olympic class on a single starting sequence, course and overall results and for Medal Race criteria will be considered as one single class.

NOR 16.1 states that prizes will be awarded to the top 3 boats in each class.

NOR 16.2 reads :

16.2 In Youth classes Laser Radial (Male and Female) and RS:X (Male and Female) the top 3 boats will be defined by the better three boats in the overall results grouped with the Olympic classes

According to the results Aoife was considered to be sailing in the Youth event.

The ISA trial regulations (as quoted) state:

Points shall be awarded to the Candidate in each Trial Regatta exactly corresponding to that Candidate’s final overall placing in that Trial Regatta as shown on the official final results sheet published by the regatta organisers. For example, an overall first place shall score one point; a second place shall score two points and so on


1. It could be argued that Annalise and Aoife were not sailing in the same class nor even in the same event! In this case Annalise finished 14th in the Copa Bresil de Vela 2015 Laser Radial Class (W) and Aoife finished 3rd in the Laser Radial (W) in the Copa Bresil de Vela Jovem 2015. In which case the results of this event cannot provide significant information to select a sailor for the Olympics.

2. It could also be argued that both sailors were competing in the Olympic Women's Single-handed Class (for which the trial is designed to select the Irish competitor) which excludes male competitors but not those under 19 . In which case Annalise finished 14th and Aoife 24th.

3 Finally, a strict reading of the ISA regulations places Annalise 15th and Aoife 28th as per the results provided by the event.

4. The intention of the event organisers to sail and score all the Laser Radial classes as one class was clearly signalled in the NOR. It is the responsibility of the competitors to read the NOR and raise any objection before or during the event. However, in this case it would seem that the trial organisers may equally have failed to fully appreciate the implications of the NOR for the trials?

Published in Water Rat

National Yacht Club sailors from Dun Laoghaire lead both the mens and womens Irish Olympic Laser Trials in the early stages in Rio. Anomalies in the scoring of Ill Copa Brazil de Vela have been resolved and overall results after four races now in the women's Laser Radial class show Annalise Murphy in 13th place in the 44–boat fleet with Aoife Hopkins 28th. Best results so far are a third for Murphy in race three, Hopkins has scored 22nd in races two and three. Belgium's Evi Van Acker continues her overall lead. 

Yesterday, in a confusing situation, Murphy was scored as a 'Did Not Compete' and ranked last but an overhaul of the official scoresheet has rectified this and also increased the number of competitors to 44. 

Ill Copa Brazil de Vela is the first of three Olympic Laser trials for two Irish Laser Olympic places. In total this gives the trials series 32 races over six months, with four now sailed.

In the mens division, Finn Lynch is 32nd and best of three Irish in the 48–boat fleet. Fionn Lyden is 40th and James Espey, Ireland's London 2012 representative, is 44th.

Official results are downloadable below.

Published in Olympic

Though there was no Irish dimension to the Sailing World Cup in Abu Dhabi both Irish trialists Annalise Murphy and Aoife Hopkins will have been watching the results sheet closely in the Laser Radial class. Josefin Olsson of Sweden beat Dutch favourite Marit Bouwmeester and Anne-Marie Rindom of Denmark was third.

The battle for gold in the Laser Radial was one of the most intriguing of the World Cup final, and ultimately it went to Sweden's Josefin Olsson who had trailed Holland's Marit Bouwmeester by a single point overnight. "This is my first World Cup win so it feels great," said Olsson, "It's always good to win the final. It means a lot to be up there and fight it out with the top girls and get a podium position in the end."

While Olsson finished fourth on the day, Bouwmeester slipped to eighth in the Medal Race. Denmark's Anne-Marie Rindom, first to finish, subsequently collected a penalty but was still able to beat Belgium's defending champion Evi Van Acker to the bronze medal.

The Irish Olympic laser trials for both men and women begin next month. Annalise Murphy will compete this month at the Laser Radial Worlds in Oman.

 In skiff news, Dun Laoghaire duo Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey will make their final bid for Rio qualification later this month in the 49erfx. There was no 49erfx racing in Abu Dhabi.

Australia's Mat Belcher and Will Ryan led the gold rush as the 2015 ISAF Sailing World Cup Final reached its conclusion in Abu Dhabi

The result underlines the Aussies' position as firm favourites to strike gold at next year's Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro and adds to Belcher's haul of six Men's 470 world titles, three won in tandem with Ryan.

Final top three:

470 Men
1. Mathew Belcher / William Ryan, AUS, 10 points
2. Anton Dahlberg / Fredrik Bergstrom, SWE, 21
3. Stuart Mcnay / David Hughes, USA, 28

470 Women
1. Hannah Mills / Saskia Clark, GBR, 15
2. Lara Vladlau / Jolanta Ogar, AUT, 21
3. Al Kondo Yoshida / Miho Yoshioka, JPN, 22

49er Men
1. Nico Delle-Karth / Nikolaus Resch, AUT, 22
2. Stefano Cherin / Andrea Tesel, ITA, 28
3. Gabrial Skoczek / Yann Rocherleux, FRA, 35

Finn Men
1. Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic, CRO, 15
2. Alican Kaynar, TUR, 17
3. Pablo Guitian Sarria, ESP, 21

IKA - Formula Kite
1. Oliver Bridge, GBR, 10
2. Florian Trittel, ESP, 7
3. Alejandro Climent Hernandez, ESP, 5

Laser Men
1. Tom Burton, AUS, 21
2. Pavlos Kontides, CYP, 33
3. Matthew Wearn, AUS, 36

Laser Radial Women
1. Josefin Olsson, SWE, 27
2. Marit Bouwmeester, NED, 34
3. Anne-Marie Rindom, DEN, 38

RS:X Men
1. Ivan Pastor Lafuente, ESP, 30
2. Ricardo Santos, BRA, 39
3. Tom Squires, GBR, 44

RS:X Women
1. Bryony Shaw, GBR, 12
2. Flavia Tartaglini, ITA, 21
3. Patricia Freitas, BRA, 29

Full results:

Published in Olympic

Next month marks Howth Yacht Club's 120th anniversary and the north Dublin club are marking the important occasion with an inaugural 'Boyd Ball' on Saturday the 14th November.

The dinner will be a black tie affair and commences with a Commodore's drinks reception at 19:30, 'celebrity' pianist during dinner, after-dinner entertainment by local 'Apres Match' impressionist comedian Gary Cooke and the 'Savage Eye's' John Colleary. The night will conclude following live music and dancing.

This entertainment-filled night will also contribute to the fundraising campaign of Howth's own Aoife Hopkins, as she strives to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janerio. 

Published in Howth YC

With a disappointing showing by the Irish squad in the pre-Olympic Regatta in Rio in August, hopes are not high for our performance in the 2016 Sailing Olympics at this light wind city venue, which has already been the subject of heated debate about the specific racing locations, and the water quality. W M Nixon takes up the story, and looks at the possible new turn in the Irish lineup.

World sailing (which as it happens, is what ISAF is going to become in a couple of weeks time) needs the Olympic Games rather more than the Olympic Games need sailing. Such is the extraordinary international appeal of the five ring circus, as it rolls remorselessly along through its four year cycle, that other more spectator-friendly but currently non-Olympic sports are ready and waiting to take over sailing’s small space in this global sporting showcase, and they’ll do so if sailing is perceived as not delivering the Olympic goods in television audience response, in spectators trying to see the racing, and in its global spread of participants.

The smaller specialist sports still outside the huge Olympic tent know only too well that it’s their one opportunity for a place in the international limelight, and on a scale which they can never hope to attain if they try to continue as a minority interest simply getting on with doing its own thing.

Of course, for many sailing and boating folk, as for enthusiasts in other specialist sports, simply getting on with doing their own small thing is what it’s all about. The Olympics is something in which they might take a polite interest, but only when the Olympiad itself is taking place.

But for those involved with running national sporting authorities, the publicity and prestige which Olympic involvement brings, plus the capacity it confers on national sporting administrators to deal with government and national agencies on basis of equality, rather than as some lowly supplicants seeking meagre support, gives the Olympics huge importance.

aoife3The old ideal of Olympic Sailing was that it should be in open water clear of shoreside imbalances. This is Ireland’s Annalise Murphy at Day 3 of the 2012 Olympics off Weymouth, when the races were still being held in open water in good breezes, and the Irish sailor was in contention for the Gold medal.

At a world level, it means that when an Olympic venue city has been selected, international sailing is obliged to swallow its pride (and probably some decidedly polluted sailing water as well), and accept that wherever in its bailiwick the host city has decided that the sailing events should be staged for maximum spectator and civic impact, then that is definitely where the Olympic Sailing is going to be, regardless of how much huffing and puffing some sailing perfectionists might make beforehand.

For the fact is, most major and participant-popular sailing venues are not anywhere near the heart of some great but water-polluted city. But ever since their inception - or rather their re-invention - the Olympic Games in modern times have been allocated to a city. And though in times past the sailing may have been held at some remote location to provide decent sport – as it was at Weymouth when the Games were in London in 2012, and even then it was distorted with the Medal Races staged much too close to the shore – the Rio de Janeiro situation with the sailing more or less in the heart of town is definitely the way the city fathers are determined to go.

The final races at Weymouth in 2012 were held close inshore. This is the way hosting cites would like to see the Sailing Olympics develop, but it facilitates spectators rather than participants.

Yet despite these obviously painful compromises which have had to be made, such is the kudos which the Olympics bring to any sport that in any country, and most particularly in a small country, that the Olympics loom over everything else like some remote yet all-powerful and voracious monster which has to be fed and generally appeased

And of all sports in all countries, it is probably sailing in Ireland which is most affected by this situation. In the international community afloat, Ireland is recognised as punching way above its weight as a sailing nation. But we’re a small country in every other way, and within Ireland itself, sailing has to compete with a range of many and varied sports in a sports-mad place which, while it may be an island, is basically so utterly rural or completely urban in its attitudes that the only time sailing comes up on the public radar is when it’s on in the Olympics – and doing well – or when some great tragedy occurs, such as the Fastnet Race disaster of 1979.

As a result of this Olympo-reality, as we might call it, we have ended up with a national sailing authority which at first glance, seems more unbalanced the more we look at it. But should we describe the ISA’s situation as being unbalanced? Perhaps “realistic” is a better description. This is how it has to be. Whatever, when we analyse the money, we find a huge chunk of the ISA’s income is directed from the Government through the Sports Council more or less directly into the ISA’s High Performance squad, which has become a thriving mini-industry within a bureaucracy.

Follow the money, they say, and in this blog on August 8th on the topic of our team of hopefuls departing for the pre-Olympic regatta in Rio, while trying as gently as possible to warn that we expect far too much of our Olympic contenders, we also published figures which had been extracted for us by a forensic accountant from the ISA’s own published balance sheets. These showed just how much of the national sailing spend went directly into what is ultimately hoped to be Olympic standard sailing, and it was frankly scary.

What makes it even more scary is that it isn’t nearly enough, and with budgets being pared back left right and centre, while the staff on the High Performance squad may seem to enjoy remarkably high salaries and many attractive perks, by world standards they’re only just getting by. And as Irish amateur boxing has painfully shown this past week, if you don’t look after your Olympic coaches properly, some other nation will be only too pleased to do so instead.

But even with the supply of Sports Council money, the resources are largely limited to keeping the permanent staff in being and up to the job. The actual potential sailing athletes need much parental and other support, including direct sponsorship, if they’re going to be able to make best use of the expertise which is available from the training professionals. For the reality is that while you may be delighted that your son or daughter has risen through the sailing ranks to qualify for an ISA High Performance course, as the course progresses you can expect regular invoices, while going to events is something else which will also make a significant dent in the assets of the Bank of Mum & Dad.

But pure sailing talent is such a beautiful thing that we should give it all the support we can, and out to the northeast of Dublin there’s an impressive “Howth Can Do It” movement getting under way on the Peninsula to ensure that one of our own, 17-year-old Aoife Hopkins, gets all the support we can find in order to fulfill a remarkable talent which has developed prodigiously in recent months.

aoife5Aoife Hopkins of Howth with her father Troy at the time she was starting to make a national impression on Irish Optimist Racing. Photo: Niamh Hopkins

aoife6Aoife’s enjoyed success in Optimist racing became an integral part of Hopkins family life

From being a child sailing star in the Spring of this year, Aoife in the Autumn finds herself with near-adult status despite having only recently turned seventeen. And it’s an adult status which has brought with it a rising world ranking in the Laser Women’s Radial class which entitles her to compete for the Irish place – already secured for us by 2012’s fourth-placed Olympian Annalise Murphy – in the Laser Women’s Radial class in the Rio Olympics next August.

aoife7Upping the ante – Aoife Hopkins gets to grips with Laser radial racing – and already has boats astern of her

aoife8Making the grade at the international level – a very determined looking Aoife Hopkins slices her way towards the front in the Lasers Women’s Radial class.

aoife9Her rapidly rising international status made Aoife (left) enough of a sailing celebrity to be recruited for the photo-op to promote the Try Sailing initiative with Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney (right) and John Twomey, World President of Disabled Sailing.

It’s an uncomfortably challenging scenario for Irish sailing. Annalise Murphy has served this country so very well, and so nobly, and will long continue to do so. But her exceptional heavy weather sailing abilities – which at one stage had her in the Gold Medal position in Weymouth in 2012 – have not provided a happy interaction with the light and flukey conditions which prevail in Rio in August.

Until a few weeks ago, the scenario was that the already identified talents of Aoife Hopkins were only under guidance towards the Tokyo Olympics of 2020. But after the setback of August, a different outlook began to take shape. Now that Hopkins was eligible to compete, if she could somehow continue her onward and upward rise through the remaining Olympic selector events towards Rio August 2016 - a three part international series which will conclude next March – and if she has actually got ahead of Murphy, why shouldn’t she go to Rio?

She’d still be only seventeen, but she’s so sensibly grounded with full family and community support that competing in the Olympics as a total newbie needn’t be an upsetting experience, whatever the result. And who knows, but it could even be surprisingly good. And anyway, so long as the longterm view is kept properly focused towards Tokyo where she will be an even more mature 21, then why not take in Rio on the way?

You can cast the runes any way you like, but meeting Aoife and her very supportive mother Niamh this week through the good offices of Howth Yacht Club Commodore Brian Turvey – a longtime supporter of the Hopkins cavalcade – gave me a remarkable insight into what could well be sailing history in the making.

Cometh the hour, cometh the woman…..Like all Ireland’s yacht and sailing clubs, after battling through a rather torrid economic time in recent years with 2012 being the absolute nadir, Howth is fairly leaping back to life. Our boats have gone back to winning here, there and everywhere, and if our popular Commodore says that there’s this girl who is emerging out of Howth sailing who really shows the extra special sort of talent which deserves full support in a very tangible way, then the membership – and indeed the entire Howth peninsula – is more than ready to give it all a favourable hearing.

Aoife’s track into sailing is interesting. Her father Troy is one of those hardy perennials who get afloat with the long-established Howth Laser winter series, but Aoife herself isn’t a cradle sailor. On the contrary, she was around nine when she started with an introductory course at Howth YC, but soon was hooked, and by age eleven she was gunning with her already proven determination for a place in the National Optimist Squad, which soon came her way, and life became one of Optimist fun and high-level competitive sport, morphing on into a year or so with Toppers, and then the Laser Radial where she soon felt at home.

The results have been impressive, but then we’ve had many young people who show great sailing promise, but somehow in their mid teens the interest wanes, and it’s unfair to everyone to try to keep them at it.

Aoife Hopkins continues to enjoy the more traditional aspects of Howth sailing – she is seen here helming the Howth 17 Isobelle to victory in this 118-year-old class’s annual Junior Race. In the Howth 17s, a “junior helm” is under the age of 30……..

But Aoife Hopkins and boats become something very special. She just lives for sailing, so much so that during 2015 she put in some weeks as an Instructor in the Junior Sailing Programme at HYC between campaigns which had already seen her making the cut in the Laser Radial Rankings, at the same time she found the space to race one of the J/80s which are now club-based in Howth, and when Brian Turvey asked her if she’d like to helm his classic Howth 17 in the Juniors Race, she leapt at the chance and won, even if somewhat bemused to find that in the 118-year-old Seventeens, a “Junior” is a helm under the age of thirty…..

Yet thanks to Howth being such a settled community with large networks of friends, she was by no means unhealthily boat-obsessed, and she still had the energy to do very well indeed in school (it’s Santa Sabina, alma mater to the girls of Howth) while her family were now getting steadily more involved with sailing.

In fact they must be unique in that in the Howth Laser Winter series, Aoife has been competing both with her father Troy and younger brother Daniel, and although mother Niamh is not a Laser sailor herself, she found herself doing so much of the class’s administration that she was elected the non-sailing Class Captain.

aoife11Keeping up with the knitting – Aoife Hopkins last December racing in the Howth Laser Frostbite Series, which dates back to 1974. Aoife, her brother Daniel, and father Troy are all regulars in this series, and mum Niamh is non-sailing Class Captain

Beyond all that, there has been the growing international commitment, with some member of the family always available to travel in support of Aoife when she headed off for some distant major event. She and Niamh are more like a pair of sisters rather than mother and daughter as they recall various adventures in pursuit of international sailing competition, a special highlight being a drive by the pair of them right across Europe to Poland with the Laser on top of the family car, and success at the end of it.

At the moment, this extraordinary story of personal sailing development is at an exciting and entertaining early stage, and it’s still fun – it can cheerfully be admitted there was a healthy amount of laughter at this week’s meeting in the board-room atop Howth Yacht Club. But there’s no doubting the underlying seriousness of the challenge, and ideas for moving it forward were flying around in best kaleidoscope style.

At its most basic, the Aoife Hopkins campaign through the remaining three Olympic selector events will cost a minimum of €20,000, and it all has to be raised by Aoife and her family and supporters. But she has already made a very good start with her Crowd Funding project which was launched on Facebook with support from and others, and within a week she’d raised €2000, which is ten per cent clear and counting.

Yet obviously there’s still much heavy lifting to be done, but in a club where the annual Christmas Charity Lunch managed to raise €20,000 for the late great sailor Joe English when his diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimers was revealed, €20,000 is very manageable, and Brian Turvey and his team would hope to have a comfortable margin beyond that.

aoife12Howth Can Do It - Planning the way ahead for Aoife and Niamh Hopkins with Howth YC Commodore Brian Turvey at a meeting this week in the club to consider the options for fund-raising in order to provide the €20,000 necessary for the three series final selection process for the Olympics 2016. Aoife has already raised more than €2000 through her own crowd-funding project, launched less than ten days ago. Photo: W M Nixon

But as well, there can be supportive help in kind. Howth is a peculiar place in that people who live there but work in Dublin tend to discard their professional status when they head home eastward through Sutton Cross. They may be highly qualified specialists in the day job in nearby Ireland, but beyond Sutton Cross out in Howth, they prefer to be just another peninsula person, as anonymous as possible.

However, if the need arises, there’s this extraordinary range of special skills within easy reach of the club, and when Aoife mentioned that one of the things she missed after the cutbacks at the ISA was the availability of a Sports Psychologist as a matter of normal training procedure, within a few seconds Brian Turvey had thought of someone living locally who could put the team in contact with the ideal person for the job on a voluntary basis.

And this emergence of a special sailing talent has couldn’t have come at a better time, for as Howth emerges bruised and battered - but feeling better by the minute - after the Great Recession, it has suddenly been remembered that November 18th 2015 precisely marks the 120th Anniversary of the foundation of the club, and events built around that – including a back-tie fund-raiser on Saturday, November 14th for Aoife Hopkins – will go a long way to keeping this very special show on the road.

Keeping fit. Aoife Hopkins current routine includes gym at least four times a week, cycling on at least three days, and sailing whenever possible – and she still is a full time student at school. Photo: Niamh Hopkins

Published in W M Nixon

Howth Yacht Club teenager Aoife Hopkins has declared her hand for the forthcoming Olympic trials for the Irish Olympic Sailing Team and launched a sports crowdfunding campaign to help fund her bid for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

The 16-year-old sprung to prominence last year when being nominated for the Irish Youth Sailor of the Year award and went on to be the youngest competitor to be invited to the Sailing World Cup in the UK this June.

Sailing in the Laser Radial category, she ranks 81st of 550 in the World table after finishing 20th in the World Championships in Kingston Ontario, Canada, and also boasts a top ten finish in this year’s Youth European Championships.

These accomplishments have prompted the Irish Sailing Association to put her forward as a Rio 2016 candidate, but in order to qualify she must be the top performing candidate at three major events, beginning with Copa Brasil de Vela in Rio this December.

It is estimated the total cost of qualifying for the Olympics will exceed €20,000 for the Howth sailor and she is asking Irish sailing and Olympics fans to contribute €5,000 of that through crowdfunding on

She said: “I have achieved my goals for this year, which were top ten at the Europeans and top 20 at the Worlds and my ultimate goal is to win a medal for Ireland at the 2020 Olympics, but Ireland has qualified for a place at the 2016 Olympics in Rio in Laser Radial and I have been forward as a candidate for that place.

“The approximate cost of the Olympic campaign is €20,000 and I hope to raise €5,000 through Pledge Sports. Your help, no matter how small, will make my Race to Rio possible.”

To support Irish sailing starlet Aoife Hopkins and find out more click here.

Published in Olympic
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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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