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#49er – For the first time in many years, Ballyholme Yacht Club (BYC) orgsnisers on Belfast lough are hoping for double figures for the Mackey Opticians sponsored Irish 49er nationals, especially if a few of the Dublin fleet travel for the October 5th event.

It will be a very busy weekend at Ballyholme bay with Race 4 of the Autumn Series on Sunday morning and Race 1 of the BYC Icebreaker series on Sunday morning.

London 2012 Olympians Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern (currently competing at the 49er worlds in Marseille, France) have been working hard to organise boats for all the competitors.

There will be practice racing on Friday 4th for those who haven't stepped on a 49er in a number of years or ever before.

The briefing will be at 10:30 on Saturday morning with races starting as soon as possible afterwards. We hope for 6 quick races on Saturday with 3-4 on Sunday starting earlier. Sailing instructions will be available at the briefing and will be dependent on the weather conditions.

There is a perpetual trophy available for the winning 49er and Mackey Opticians are donating two pairs of polarized sunglasses (value up to £150 each) for the winning pair.

Published in Olympic

#rsgyc – The word on the grapevine is that the Royal St George Yacht Club, currently the Mitsubishi Motors "Sailing Club of the Year", is planning a special festive event to celebrate its 175th birthday. The whisper is that it will be a gathering to honour those members who have won major events and titles right up to and including Olympic medals.

We've been allowed a glimpse of the list, and it's very impressive. Which is what you'd expect from a club which has shown an extraordinary ability to adapt successfully to changing circumstances, while displaying a special talent for recruiting promising sailors from all round the country when they come to Dublin, either to go to college or to work.

Yet even as they keep a weather eye open for potential members who will give as much to the club as it will give to them, the club's administrators never lose sight of their past. And what a past it has been. Like many great clubs, it started modestly enough around 1838 as the Pembroke Rowing Club in south Dublin. But the oarsmen of the Dodder soon reckoned that the cleaner waters of the new harbour out on Dublin Bay, where Dunleary had recently been re-named Kingstown, would provide more pleasant conditions than the fetid Liffey.

As for their sport, several key members were thinking of moving into slightly larger craft, driven by sail. Suddenly, the new club took off. Boat sizes and numbers increased exponentially, the membership became rather grand and extremely wealthy, and by the 1850s the little rowing club had morphed into the Royal St George Yacht Club, with handsome and frequently extended premises on the waterfront, and a membership list which seemed to include just about every great landowner in Ireland who had the slightest interest in the rapidly growing sport of yachting.

In looking back from the present day, we tend to think that the modern emphasis on active participation is just that – a modern thing. Indeed, it's said that it was a member of the George, when it was at the height of its affluence, who occasioned the apocryphal story which captures the sprit of certain yacht owners at a time when most wealth was concentrated in very few hands. Cue to stately home somewhere in Ireland:

The Butler waits upon his lordship, and clears his throat in a meaningful manner.

His Lordship: "Yes, James".

Butler: "My Lord, I have just been in conversation with our land agent".

HL: "Indeed".

Butler: "And he tells me that we are living in financially stringent times".

HL: "Is that so?"

Butler: "Such seems to be the case, my Lord. In fact, the agent tells me that we may have to implement some cutbacks in the usual expenditure".

HL: "Nothing too severe, I trust".

Butler: "Well, my lord, I'm afraid the agent thinks that we may have to sell the yacht"

HL: "Sell the yacht?"

Butler: "Regrettably so, my Lord".

HL " Good heavens. D'you know what, James? I didn't know we had a yacht. Well, I do declare. Isn't life just full of surprises? I'll need to think about this".

But while there were George members who shaded towards this approach to yachting, there were others who really did sail the seas. One of the original Pembroke men, William Potts, had moved up from rowing to serious seagoing with the substantial new cutter Caprice, and in 1850 he cruised to Iceland.

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The cutter Caprice in which William Potts, a founder member of the Royal St George YC in 1838, cruised to Iceland in 1850.

As for the racing side of things, we have to remember that this was still in its infancy in terms of organisation even if Lough Erne YC had been formed in Fermanagh as long ago as 1820 specifically to run yacht races, and thus records of early sailing events are often incomplete and inconclusive. After all, the George had already been in existence for a dozen years when the schooner America won that famous race round the Isle of Wight in 1851, but the fact that it was a scratch event which took no account whatever of different yacht sizes in collating results shows indicates the relatively primitive site of the sport of yacht racing at the time.

But the rapid increase in wealth in the latter half of the 19th century meant that the development of yachting, and its regulation, accelerated markedly. In Ireland, it was in Belfast that economic growth became most rapid, and the new wealth accumulators from the north were keen to get involved. The Ulster Yacht Club did not get founded until 1866, and it became the Royal Ulster YC in 1869. But meanwhile one of the richest and most energetic of the new Belfast linen magnates, John Mulholland who later became Lord Dunleath in 1892, had been spreading his sailing wings as a member of the Royal St George.

By the 1860s, schooner racing was the apex of the sport, and in 1865 Mulholland commissioned the 153-ton schooner Egeria from the top designer-builder of the time, Wanhill of Poole. At just under 100ft LOA, the beautiful new vessel soon became known as "the wonderful Egeria", and for more than a decade she was the winner par excellence with more than sixty major trophies to her credit, while her owner was so fond of the boat that he kept her for many years after she had been out-classed as a racer.

In Egeria's competitive years, Mulholland was no absentee yacht owner. On the contrary, he seems to have been the Denis Doyle, the Piet Vroon, of his day, enthusiastically racing his lovely ship with a crew of 12 wherever there was good competition to be had. He embodied the best of the sporting instincts among the active yacht owners in the George, which had been a leading club in supporting the idea of "flying starts".

This marked a change from the early days of yacht racing, where the starting gun was fired with all competitors lying to their anchors. A flying start under full sail across an imaginary line was much more fun, and in Dun Laoghaire harbour it could be extremely sporty when the big yachts got crowded. As for the finishes, they were recorded by the naval officer/marine artist Richard Brydges Beechey, so we have a fair idea of what they could be like, but the image is augmented by an account of "the famous Egeria" making an in-harbour finish under full sail to win: "....what a fright the Egeria gave the multitude of yachts lying at their moorings when, on returning to Kingstown harbour she, on rounding the buoy, had so much way on that she absolutely ran through the crowd of yachts. The escape of many craft was little short of marvellous...."

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A cutter finishing in the harbour at the Royal St George Regatta, 1871, as recorded by Richard Brydges Beechey. The larger schooner at anchor on left may be Egeria

By the time Beechey was recording the scene, cutters had taken over from schooners as the premier racing class, but here too the Royal St George was to set the pace with John Jameson and his legendary Irex. The Jameson family had been moderately prosperous whiskey distillers in Dublin since 1780, but in 1864 phylloxera wiped out the vines in the brandy districts of France. With brandy supplies dwindling, Irish whiskey and soda soon became such a fashionable drink internationally that the entire Jameson family entered the ranks of the mega-rich.

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John Jameson's 1884-built cutter Irex was the most successful racing yacht of her era. She is seen here after winning the annual regatta of the Royal Harwich YC on England's east coast

John Jameson himself, while an extremely able businessman and talented sailor, was personally rather shy. However, his younger brother Willie was anything but, and the Jameson brothers with the 1884-built Irex were enthusiastic campaigners on all coasts with John the backroom boy, while Willie was front of house. And the fact that every time Irex won a regatta, the name John Jameson appeared in the newspapers was no harm at all for their whiskey sales. Then at Cowes Week after a spectacular race in heavy weather in which the Irex won by half a boatslength, as the brothers were anchoring afterwards, the rowing gig from the royal yacht arrived alongside and a written message was passed on board: "The Prince of Wales compliments and congratulations. His Royal Highness would be very pleased if Mr Jameson could join him for drinks before dinner".

John Jameson became hyper-shy, and said to Willie he couldn't be dealing with a situation like that at all. But Willie said not to worry, he was Mr Jameson too. So off he went to the party and got on so well he stayed to dinner. And when the Prince of Wales was planning the building of the superb Watson cutter Britannia a few years later, he asked Willie to be owner's representative during the building and commissioning, and subsequent racing.

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The day Britannia came to call. The new royal cutter Britannia in Dun Laoghaire harbour in 1893 on her delivery voyage from the Clyde to the Solent, "and Mr Willie Jameson was seen on board". Note that a boomless gaff trisail is set instead of the full main.

Needless to say, nobody really believed it back in Dublin, so when the brand new Britannia was being sailed south to the Solent from the Clyde in 1893, Willie Jameson made damned sure she called to Dublin Bay, and the local papers duly reported that "Mr Willie Jameson was indeed seen on board". But while he was a great man for a party, Willie could be cussed enough. When the Britannia was being scuttled in 1936 in accordance with the recently-deceased George V's will, the Royal Family sent Willie Jameson her steering wheel as a memento of his time on board in a key role. But he promptly sent it back with a curt note saying that when he sailed the Britannia, she was tiller steered....

The Jameson standing in sailing was such that when Lord Dunraven decided it was time he took up sailing in the mid-1880s, it was as a member of the Royal St George and aboard Irex that he got his first taste of the sport, an experience which followed with his two increasingly acrimonious America's Cup challenges in the 1890s which, mercifully for the George, were made through the Royal Yacht Squadron to which the County Limerick peer had transferred his allegiances.

Back in Dublin Bay meanwhile, it was a very active and successful Royal St George sailing member, wine merchant George Black Thompson, who was one of the sailing men involved in codifying yacht racing through the Royal Alfred YC's pioneering work. But G B Thompson was primarily a George man, and just as it is with the club nowadays, he was keen to encourage promising newcomers. Thus in 1892 when his 5 Rater Shulah was becoming out-classed competitively but had the ability to become a fast cruiser, he was more than happy to sell her to two young brothers who had been teaching themselves to sail with a Water Wag dinghy up on Lough Dan in the Wicklow mountains, and now wanted to cruise.

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G B Thompson, a leading member of the Royal St George YC for many years, introduced Erskine Childers to the possibilities of cruising in 1892. He succeeded Lord Dunleath as Vice Commodore in 1895.

Shulah's new owners were Erskine and Henry Childers. They soon took Shulah away from Dublin Bay with a cruise to the west of Scotland, where they laid the boat up and cruised the Hebrides again the following summer. After that, Erskine Childers began his career in London. He decided Shulah was too deep for his new cruising area in the Thames Estuary, and acquired the Vixen which, after a cruise to the Friesian islands and the Baltic, became the fictional Dulcibella, "heroine" of his best-seller novel Riddle of the Sands.

Published in 1903, the Riddle of the Sands hinted at the possibility of war between Germany and Britain, which duly came in 1914. But at the same time many of the Royal St George members were facing their own problems with the breaking up of Ireland's largest estates under the Land Acts. That and the Easter Rising of 1916 and the establishment of the Irish Fee State in 1922 meant that in the space of just three decades, the club had gone from affluence to a relatively sparse existence.

Yet somehow it adapted, and in time the club was back in the forefront of sailing in an Ireland which may have seemed changed. But was it really? As a member of the new Free State Government put it, "we are the most conservative revolutionaries ever seen". So, far from the relics of ould decency like the old royal yacht clubs being wiped out, in time they began to thrive again, and by the mid-1930s the George was extending its forecourt to accommodate sailing dinghies such as the Water Wags, while members also were involved in forming the new 17ft Mermaid class

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Billy Mooney, who had sailed from Howth between 1919 and 1943, then moved to live in Sandycove and became very active in the Royal St George, of which he had already been a member for many years. A founder member of the Irish Cruising Club, he is seen here at the age of 74 when he was still to be seen sailing as a member of the George squad in Firefly Team racing, another area of sailing in which the club played a pioneering role.

As World War II ended in 1945 and international sailing resumed, the club was right in there, with a leading member, Billy Mooney, winning his class in the 1947 Fastnet with his 43ft ketch Aideen. The Mooney family – Billy and his son Jimmy - were a formidable force in sailing, and were also in the forefront of the establishment of the Irish Dinghy Racing Association. It was a fellow dinghy enthusiast, Douglas Heard, who was to become the first "commoner" to be Commodore of the Royal St George, succeeding the Earl of Iveagh, one of the Guinness family, in 1960.

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Douglas Heard (left) and designer Uffa Fox discussing the new Huff of Arklow on the club veranda in 1950

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Well ahead of her time. Douglas Heard's Flying Thirty Huff of Arklow, designed by Uffa Fox and built by Jack Tyrrell, incorporated design features which were not generally adopted in offshore racing boats for another thirty-five years. Photo: W M Nixon

There was of course nothing common about Douglas Heard, who somehow found time to record the Irish sailing and boating scene on film while at the same time being an active participant, as his interests encompassed just about every branch of sea sailing, while his passions included the preservation and restoration of Ireland's inland waterways. Offshore racing and distance cruising were among his activities, and in 1950 he had his friend the innovative designer Uffa Fox create the plans for a Flying Thirty racer/cruiser. In effect a double size Flying Fifteen, this very advanced boat was built by Jack Tyrrell in Arklow, and though she was so far ahead of her time as to inevitably have weaknesses on some point of sailing, off the wind she was unbeatable while her seagoing credentials were amply demonstrated by cruises to Iceland and the Azores.

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Three stages of development in the Royal St George YC premises. The clubhouse (right) in the 1880s. when there was much more in the way of green spaces on the Dun Laoghaire waterfront.......

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.....and in 1934 shortly before the forecourt was extended to provide improved dinghy space and better access to deep water....

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......and the Royal St George Yacht Club today, providing full facilities for all branches of sailing. Photo: David O'Brien

In compiling the first provisional list of the George's significant sailing award winners which currently goes back only to 1946, the organisers of the upcoming 175th Anniversary celebrations have produced 12 pages of data, many of them very tightly packed with names. The word is that this list will soon be available to members so that anyone who thinks that he or she (or an ancestor) has been overlooked can have their claims to inclusion considered. Outsiders seeing it may note names which are better known for their associations with other clubs, but the fact that they are George members, or were at the time of their achievement, is inescapable.

As it stands, it's a formidable data-base. You get the flavour of it by the listing of Olympic sailors. Since 1948, when Alf Delany and Hugh Allen raced in the Olympics two-handed class, members of the Royal St George YC have been involved more often than not, the only post World War II Olympics in which they haven't sailed for Ireland being 1956, 1968, 1984, and 2000, with the supreme achievement being the Silver Medal won by David Wilkins in 1980. 

The Irish Helmsman's Championship has also been a happy hunting ground, with Douglas Heard winning an early staging in 1947 while the most recent was Tom Fitzpatrick in 1998 in a lineup of 16 winners. But such achievements are only the peaks of a broad swathe of success which has encompassed an extraordinary range of members and boats going right back to 1838. So it is timely that the club should be celebrating its own achievers in this the year of its 175th birthday, as the Club of the Year trophy was mainly in recognition of the Royal St George Yacht Club's achievement in staging the hnyper-successful Youth Worlds in 2012, and providing support and encouragement for the University College Dublin team as they underwent their rigorous buildup towards runaway success in the Student Yachting Worlds just eleven short months ago.

It will be quite a gathering, this cheering of the champions. All things considered, we can surely agree that the seagoing section of the Pembroke Rowing Club has done rather well.

Published in W M Nixon

#LaserEuros2013 – Annalise Murphy goes into the final races of the Laser European and World Championships tomorrow on her native Dublin Bay with a comprehensive 17 point lead ahead of Holland's Olympic silver medallist Marit Bowmeester.

With the prospect of a breezy finale on the waters off Dun Laoghaire Murphy is looking to resume the same kind of form which has led to seven wins from her nine starts here and convert her big lead to her first major Laser Radial title. A disappointing 27th in today's light breezes is her discardable result.

In contrast the contest for the titles and trophies in the Olympic men's fleet is very delicately poised after two tricky races in light and unpredictable northerly winds today which made consistency very elusive. Indeed of the top ten sailors in the Men's fleet all sailed one good result and one poor, discarded race.

As Britain's Nick Thompson promoted himself to the top of the standings with a second place in the second of their pair of races today to earn a two points margin ahead of Croatia's Tonci Stipanovic and three up on Holland's Rutger Schaardenburg, Brazil's Robert Scheidt returned to shore frustrated to have scored his second poor result in consecutive days. After winning the first race he fell into a wind hole in the second contest and struggled to a 24th.

Scheidt, who will bid for his ninth Laser world title in Oman in November, has returned to the class after seven years in the Star keelboat. He believes that racing in amongst most of the best in the class at the moment he is close to being back to his best, but needs to polish up on his consistency.

"I think that independent of tomorrow's results I have the chance to win regattas the way that I am sailing." Scheidt confirmed today, "I think that I have already proven this week that I sail well in strong winds, I can sail well in light winds. I am still not as consistent as I used to be but it shows the field is pretty open and I can still do well."

After taking time out from the Laser Thompson, who missed out on the British Sailing Team's selection to the last Olympics despite twice finishing runner up at consecutive World Championships behind Australia's Tom Slingsby, would love to mark his return with the first major title of his long and distinguished career. Since winning the 2004 ISAF Youth World title in 2004, Thompson has won world cup and international regattas but has yet to win a major class title.

"I am pleased with the way I have sailed at the event so far" Thompson said, "I have made few mistakes. The Worlds is the main focus but this event is hugely important, but for me it is nice to feel I am sailing back on top of my game again. The competition is great with Rutger, Scheidt and Tonci all up there and so I am looking to an interesting final day."

Thompson's pair of results – a 30th and a second – were characteristic of the day's highly unpredictable conditions. In the offshore northerly breeze, choosing the best side of the first beat was key but there were big holes in the breeze which summarily halted many of the top seeds in their tracks.

Croatia's Tonci Stipanovic, twice European champion in the past, has a slightly better discard in his locker, but Thompson has been better in the stronger breeze, scoring best of the fleet in Wednesday's wilder winds.

Although the men finished two races for the Olympic rigged fleets, the corresponding Women's Radial class only managed one because the fickle breeze died away too much. Murphy was disappointed not to have the chance to atone immediately for her disappointing 27th place, while Bouwmeester was also dismayed that only one race in her preferred lighter conditions was sailed.

The Dutch sailor said "It is a shame to only get one race. It looked like a bit of an early decision. That is a shame. It was a tricky race which reminded me a bit of Weymouth in the N'ly wind, so it was nice to race in that again. I was just in the top group at the windward mark and then got up to second on the second upwind. But we will be back hiking again tomorrow."

Annalise Murphy says she will change nothing for the decisive final day, concentrating on making better starts than today's which was the start of a frustrating downwards spiral which was concluded when she ran out of breeze close to the finish line. "It was difficult" Murphy said, " I had a bad start and struggled to get into the race in the first half, but made a good comeback on the second upwind, the last downwind and the reach to get into the top 15. But I was close to the finish line and then the wind died. I was not moving and could do nothing at all about it. I lost 15 places at the finish line and so that was disappointing. It was a shame not to get a second race in. The breeze came in but it is always hard to tell."

"I am disappointed with today. I would much preferred to have a 15th rather than a 27th or whatever it is. I will just have to get out there and have good races on the last day. I just need to get better starts than today's and try and not make any mistakes."

While Bouwmeester rose to second overall she is now just three points up on Britain's Ali Young.

In the Men's Laser Radial World Championship Australia's defending champion Tristan Brown won again to build his lead to 18 points. Ireland's Finn Lynch, the home club's ISAF Youth World Championships silver medallist leads the European Championship by two points ahead of Poland's three times world champion Marcin Rudawski. Lynch, who has climbed the rankings all week, is set for a place on the podium if her can maintain his current form in the final rounds.

Lynch, who sails from the National YC said "The conditions were very shifty and challenging conditions today. I had a good start and was in 10th at the first mark and then climbed to first but then dropped to third at the line. Tomorrow I am hoping for two solid races and to hold on to a podium position tomorrow."

Top three by class

Laser Radial Women's European Championship
1. Annalise Murphy, IRL, 9 points
2. Marit Bouwmeester, NED, 26
3. Alison Young, GBR, 29

Laser Radial Men's World Championship
1. Tristan Brown, AUS, 12
2. Finn Lynch, IRL, 30
3. Marcin Rudawski, POL, 32

Laser Standard Men's European Championship
1. Nick Thompson, GBR, 29
2. Tonci Stipanovic, CRO, 31
3. Rutger Schaardenburg, NED, 32

http://www.lasereuropeans2013.com/ for full results.

Published in Laser

#rio – In the first twist in Irish Olympic sailing's build up to Rio 2016, there's been a major reshuffle in Irish women's skiff sailing. The change comes just months after two separate high profile campaigns were announced. Rival women's 49erfx campaigns have apparently merged this month, leaving two former opponents establishing a new double-handed bid.

Helmswoman Andrea Brewster from one team and crew Saskia Tidey from another pairing have teamed up as a new crew combination seeking the qualification standard for Rio 2016.

Although Claudine Murphy and Brewster announced their four year campaign in May – talking up how delighted they were to be sailing together –  the pair have split after just three months.

According to an August 31st posting on the team facebook page, Murphy, elder sister of Laser Euro champion Annalise, is returning to medical studies at UCD.

The last event the pair competed in was the 49er/FX British Nationals. While they say they had made progress in the new class, they also conceded some aspects of their sailing were 'not so brilliant!'.

 'We are sad to announce that our campaign has come to an end', they said.

According to the statement, Brewster is continuing to campaign for Ireland in the debutante class, teaming up with Saskia Tidey, the crewing partner of Belfast lough helmswoman Tiffany Brien, Ireland's other 49erFx campaign. 

While there is no word of any replacement crew for Brien's campaign, the former Miss Northern Ireland was back sailing an RS Elite at the British Nationals on Belfast Lough in August.

Published in Olympic

#lasereuro2013 – Local favourite Annalise Murphy keeps her impressive form on her home waters as she leads the Women's Laser Radial European Championship by five clear points tonightWith four qualifying races sailed at the Laser European & World Championships on Dublin Bay, the 23-year-old Dubliner counts three race wins, discarding a second place from the first race today.

Its not the only division in this massive 324–boat regatta where Ireland is leading. Baltimore Sailing Club's Fionn Leyden leads the Men's Laser Radial World & European Championship category. The under–21 star in the Laser class had a second and a fourth yesterday in a consistent showing to put him firmly on top of his class. In a further boost for Ireland in this 90-boat fleet, 2012 ISAF Youth Silver medallist Finn Lynch is lying fifth overall.

Murphy has both of the 2012 Olympic medallists behind her. Neither Holland's silver medallist Marit Bouwmeester nor Belgium's bronze winner Evi Van Acker have been able to maintain anything close to Murphy's consistency, both scoring one relatively weighty score apiece today. Bouwmeester, the 2011 World Champion, claims to be just getting used to the testing offshore westerly winds which produce big shifts in wind direction and pressure. "At the moment it seems best to follow Annalise" Bouwmeester joked as she returned ashore to Dun Laoghaire's National Yacht Club.

In the other Olympic class, the Men's Laser Standard Rig, Australian Ashley Brunning tops the overall table counting two firsts and a second to lead Holland's Rutger Van Scahaardenburg, Sweden's Jesper Stalheim and the ominous presence of Brazil's five times Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt who matched Brunning's first and second place qualifying race finishes today.

Brunning leads a strong Australian presence with four of their squad in the top 25 in these early qualifying races when points are tight and evenly spread. His preparation in Europe is paying an early dividend, while Schaardenburg – who leads the European Championship – could not quite maintain his Day 1 speed edge in the choppier conditions of the offshore course where the Men were racing today. "One and two is solid, I sailed really consistently and did not make too many mistakes and that is a sailboat race" affirmed Brunning, " I have been living in Europe for the last six or seven months, training with some other teams and of course my own Australian team. I have been in Sweden a lot, and so these are quite similar to the conditions around Gothenburg and so that helps".

"I think our team works so well because we all live close together in Sydney. We all train together. We work hard together and share everything together. We are very open and in terms of fitness and sailing we work hard together. Obviously having a mentor like Tom Slingsby and Michael Blackburn are good people to learn from. The squad here are doing really well. We were all charging together today and I think we are all in the top 15 so we are going well" Brunning continued.

Scheidt appears to be raising his game progressively "I was happy that the breeze was not as strong as expected. It was not extremely windy and the race course which we sailed on was much better than the one we sailed on yesterday. The breeze was a bit more steady and a bit more predictable than the other course. A second and a first was good enough for me for the day. The first race I was second at the top mark. The second race I rounded second and passed the Estonian guy and there are three of us who had a big lead on the group. I have some solid results so I am pretty happy. I am really looking to get a good range of wind conditions so it tests everybody's skills. That would be the best for everyone".

Annalise Murphy remains cool and confident in the Women's Laser Radials but cautions that it is still very early in the regatta, and lighter winds are expected Tuesday. "It is nice to have all low scores at this point when some of the others had some higher scores today. But then again that can all change in a few races."

"First and second was pretty good overall for the day. It was very difficult on the different course, the wind pressure was up and down much more, sometimes there was five knots in some places and then 20 knots in others, and very changeable in direction too."

"The wind was moving through 60 degrees or something like that. But I really enjoyed it. The first race I sailed pretty perfectly on the upwind, but I was sitting in no wind on the downwind with the fleet coming down at me but there was nothing I could do. That was a bit frustrating because I already had a big lead. The second race I got a good start, was first at the first mark and just held on."

For the 2012 Olympic medal winners in the fleet some of whom took time out after the Games coming back into the white heat of competition is about playing catch up again quickly. Cypriot Pavlos Kontides, who won his island nation's first ever Olympic medal when he took silver, may be a national hero now but he has been back to Southampton to complete his BSc degree in Ship Studies. He got back to the Laser in June while Belgium's bronze medal winning Evi Van Acker is just six weeks back in the boat after a 13 month layoff. She won the first race in her fleet today and paired it with a fourth after capsizing on the final beat.

Van Acker commented "I had two mega-comebacks. Twice I was very bad at the first mark, but the first race I won and the second race I was bad off the start but got up to second and then capsized on the final upwind and dropped to fourth. So for someone who has not really sailed in 13 months then a 1 and a 4 is not so bad. I started again six weeks ago. I have finished my studies now and so only have my thesis to go (on sports drinks). I am back into it, full time from here. There have been so many changes since the Games, I bought an apartment, renovated it, moved in with my boyfriend, so a lot of changes. I tried to stay fit. It is good it was shifty because you are not having to hike for too long".

While the charismatic Kontides is now fully focused on his programme for the future, scoring a 13th and fourth today "It could be better, it could be worse. It was a medium, conservative day for me really. It is strange conditions because if you get it wrong off the start then you immediately lose a lot of metres, and then it's hard to get back into the race".

"I did not do so much sailing in the early part of the year because I had to finish my studies, so now I have a BSc in Ship Science. I came back in June so obviously a lot of the other guys have done way more racing than me, but I think it is coming back nicely in the next few days."

"It has been really nice since winning the medal, nothing has changed in my life, people recognise me, it is a nice incentive to know you are a national hero and that is a great incentive going on, but what really has changed now is that I have finished my studies and I can focus on my sailing because that is what gives me the most pleasure in my life."

cliick here for full results.

 

Published in Olympic

#olympicsailing – Irish Olympic duo Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern finished 26th overall yesterday at the 49er European championships in Denmark.

Thusgaard Olsen are Denmark's latest sailing sensations after they became the SAP 49er FX European champions on Sunday on the bay where they learned to sail as seven year olds, 13–years ago. Results here.

Both women's Irish 29er pairings Tiffany Brien and Saskia Tidey and Claudine Murphy and Andrea Brewster found the going tough in Aarhaus, finishing at the back of the silver fleet. Results here

It was a momentous day for the 49ers and Olympic sailing generally too with a fantastic example of the 'theatre style' racing close to the shore. Aarhus's weather gods delivered on cue with a sea breeze allowing the short course, 500 metres long by 200 metres wide, to be laid perpendicular to the long promenade where the crowd basked in glorious sunshine. For the spectators and for television it made what can seem a remote sport exciting and understandable. Sport Event Denmark, Sailing Aarhus and Sport Aarhus Events have yet to confirm whether are bidding for the 2018 ISAF world championships, but if they do, this will provide a powerful case study.

There was a dramatic backdrop too as the Aarhus has been simultaneously hosting the start of The Tall Ships Race. The compact city has happily handled the hundreds of thousands of people flooding into the harbour over the weekend.

The men's races went down to the wire. But after their capsize, New Zealand's Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, the Olympic silver medalists, showed champion calm and skill. They won the next race and with the points level with Britain's Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign going into the last race, they got a good start and were able to get ahead of the British and manage them for the whole race. The French pair of Julien d'Ortoli and Noe Delpech took bronze. It was the second New Zealand medal of the day after Alexandra Maloney and Molly Meech won a hard-fought bronze in the women's FX.

Results:

SAP men's 49er European Championships

1. Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, 89 points
2. Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign, 93
3. Julien d'Ortoli and Noe Delpech, 112

SAP women's 49er FX European Championships

1. Ida Marie Baad Nielsen and Marie Thusgaard Olsen, 87
2. Martine Soffiatti Grael and Kattena Larsen Kunze, 104
3. Alexandra Maloney and Molly Meech, 108

Published in Olympic

#sailforgold – Six Irish sailing teams race tomorrow in the medal races at the Sail for Gold regatta in Weymouth and the forecast will be very much to the Irish team's liking; plenty of wind!

Winds were so strong today that overnight leaders in the 49er skiff class, Ireland's Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern now head into the medal races with a winning margin.

In the Laser Radial class Annalise Murphy goes into the medal race in third place behind the Chinese girls but the Gold medal is already a foregone conclusion. 

The Laser Radial fleet completed two of the three scheduled races, and with a race win - Lilia Xu of China's seventh of the eleven races so far – followed by a third for her efforts today, the 2012 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the year and Olympic medal winning Xu amassed a 22-point lead at the top of the table to take the Sail for Gold crown ahead of tomorrow’s double points-scoring medal race.

Also qualifying in the radial are Irish youth sailors Fionn Lyden and Finn Lynch.

And in an auspicious start to their Rio 2016 campaign Tiffany Brien and Saskia Tidey make the 49erfx medal race in their first regatta.

 

Published in Olympic

#isaf – The medals were decided across the ten Olympic events as ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères brought the 2012-13 World Cup series to a close but there was no place for either of Ireland's London Olympic sailors who did not make the medal race finals.

Annalise Murphy's poor start to the event ultimately cost her the chance of competing in the final medal races. Another casualty was Chinese Olympic gold medallist Xu Lija whose slow start was also her downfall. Neither girl will be too worried as both the World Championships and Europeans are still to come later in the summer.

However,  Irish Sailing Association management admit 'a lot of work needs to be put in between now and then for Murphy to turn her fortunes around'.

In the end Murphy was in impressive form in the Silver fleet, as would be expected, and finished the regatta in 29th overall.

Meanwhile in the 113 boat Laser fleet, Northern Ireland's James Espey got off to an incredible start. Winning the first race, Espey was tied for second place after three races on Day 1. The solid start gave him the platform needed to qualify for the Gold fleet. He showed glimpses of his potential in gold but lacked the consistency to maintain a high overall placing. Nevertheless, he will take confidence from this performance and it sets him up well for a busy summer schedule. Overall he finished a respectable 34th.

An up and down breeze that never truly filled in at any point ensured for close knit racing on the final day in the south of France.

Although Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL) brought an 18 point 49erFX lead into the final day there was no room for complacency as three double point Medal Races could have brought dramatic changes.

Keeping out of trouble they posted a steady 5-4-5 to take their second ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta win of the 2012-13 season. "We're happy that we've won our first World Cup event in Europe," said Maloney, who with Meech won the inaugural 49erFX event at ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne. "It was quite stressful out there with it being so light and shifty and the lead changed all the time."

There is room for optimism with the girls, however they know the road to Rio will take time, "It's just beginning," said Meech. "Most of the girls are quite new to the boat so there's a long way to go and it's going to keep getting harder."

Charlotte Dobson and Mary Rook (GBR) take silver and Dutch team Annemiek Bekkering and Claire Blom had a great day to take the final podium spot.

Great Britain's Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign got the job done the 49er with a 2-1-3 score line. Having come into the day with a joint lead Fletcher and Sign couldn't have asked for much more in tricky conditions. David Evans and Ed Powys made it a British top two and Carlos and Anton Paz (ESP) rounded off the top three.

Marit Bouwmeester (NED) christened her return back in the Laser Radial after London 2012 with a well-deserved gold medal. Leading the first Medal Race from start to finish Bouwmeester established a seven point advantage over Tuula Tenkanen (FIN) and Alison Young (GBR) who were tied for silver.

"I just had to focus on myself and sail a good race," said the Dutch sailor. "When it is light and tricky it's a bit easier because you can only focus on yourself and I won the first race and made it a bit easy. The other two girls started racing each other in the second race so it was easy for me," she said with a smile.

"I didn't really have it as a goal to win a medal. I had a big break and came out here to see how it goes and it went a lot better than I expected," Bouwmeester added.

At the start of the final Laser Radial Medal Race Tenkanen found herself ahead of Young and made sure she kept her at bay, "I didn't get a very good start on upwind but I climbed a bit on the first downwind and chose the better gate mark," said Tenkanen. "I was before Alison and because Marit was so far in front I decided to ensure Alison stayed behind so the rest of the race I tried to cover her."

Finishing in ninth and tenth place Tenkanen and Young could not be caught so Young, who won gold at ISAF Sailing World Cup Palma took bronze.

Tom Burton (AUS) put his ISAF Sailing World Cup Palma woes behind him in Hyères to claim a hard earned gold medal. Burton lost a commanding lead in Palma but chipped away at Tonci Stipanovic's (CRO) advantage to come from behind and take Laser gold. Stipanovic (CRO) fell to third whilst Robert Scheidt (BRA) tastes silver on his Laser return.

"I was always coming from behind here whereas in Palma I was always in the front," said Burton. "It doesn't make up for it but it's good to learn from my experience and improve on it this."

Burton has been ranked World #1 in the Laser since December 2012 but doesn't see himself as the guy to beat, "Everyone is so good if you don't sail well it doesn't matter what your ranking is you're going to get chopped. It's good to be World #1 and at the front as well."

Daniel Mihelic (CRO) had a superb day on the water taking both race wins but being too far behind to take a medal he ended up fourth overall.

Charline Picon (FRA) lost a substantial Women's RS:X lead after she was OCS in the first Medal Race. This put Bryony Shaw (GBR) and Blanca Manchon (ESP) in the driving seat going into the second Medal Race making it winner takes all.

Ahead of racing on the final day Shaw said, "I'm really happy to be windsurfing. I had a good World Championship finished second and I want to keep the momentum going from that. That's why I'm happy to be here and doing all the World Cups."

Shaw has been prevalent on the World Cup circuit with a fourth in Miami and a second in Palma to move to World #3 and showed she is one of the best at the moment by taking the final race win in Hyères to seal gold.

Manchon finished third to take silver whilst a seventh for Picon meant she won bronze.

Przemyslaw Miarczynski (POL) came back into the Men's RS:X with a bang and notched up double bullets to claim gold. Compatriot Piotr Myszka came through in silver medal position and Julien Bontemps (FRA) concluded the podium.

"It was pretty hard and I've not trained a lot in the light conditions," said Miarczynski, London 2012 bronze medallist, "I didn't expect to be so good in the light winds but preparing a lot in the winter time was helpful here."

Poland boasts a strong RS:X contingent personified by them taking the top two spots in Hyères and Miarczynski is reaping the rewards, "This is very good because we train together and it's really helpful. We also have Pawel Tarnowski and he's also very good and we're three competing against each other so it's very nice."

Andrew Mills (GBR) overcame Giles Scott (GBR) in the Finn to take gold. Going into the last race the pair had secured the top two spots so it was winner takes all. "We both needed to get a result in to secure silver at least in the first race and then the last race was just a match race between the two of us. It was whoever did the best would win," Mills said.

Coming in third Mills was ahead of Scott who finished at the back of the pack and Mills was pleased to overcome his countryman, "Giles is hard to beat at any point so to beat him and put myself up there is great."

New Zealand's Josh Junior had a great week and sailed himself to the bronze knocking Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) out of the medals.

Brazil's Fernanda Oliveira and Ana Barbachan (BRA) turned their overnight Women's 470 lead into another ISAF Sailing World Cup gold medal making it three in a row after Miami and Palma wins.  "It was so difficult today," said Oliveira. "We didn't do good races and our starts were so bad. We are happy with the result and it's good to win again. We're going to have some days of rest, relaxing at home and then we'll start training again."

Camille Lecointre and Mathilde Geron (FRA) took the silver medal and Great Britain's Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre took their second consecutive World Cup podium spot in third.

Double bullets on the last day for Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) secured them their fourth gold medal together since teaming up. For Belcher his unbeaten Men's 470 run, that stems from November 2011, continues, "To come into these events having won them last year and with a new partnership there's high expectations," said Belcher. "To come away with another win with today's condition and finish off by winning both Medal Races was fantastic."

Ryan added, "There's been a full range of conditions and a lot of the top sailors have really come through. Everybody has had a few bad races along the way and I think every fleet saw really close racing so it's been a really great event."

Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion (FRA) maintained their spot in second place and London 2012 Olympic bronze medallists Lucas Calabrese and Juan de la Fuente (ARG) complete the top three.

Anything was possible on the final day in the Nacra 17 as just five points divided the top five.

The fleet were delayed due to fickle breeze and testing conditions that were prevalent on the course. Once racing got underway it was Sweden's Tim Shuwalow and Hanna Klinga (SWE) who prevailed. They ended up tied on 59-points with Billy Besson and Marie Riou (FRA) but based on the combined score of the Medal Races the Swedes took gold to win on count back.

Matias Buhler and Nathalie Brugger complete the podium.

Regattas in Melbourne, Miami, Palma and Hyères have made up the 2012-13 ISAF Sailing World Cup circuit with some great racing seen along the way.

With a busy summer of World Championships for the ten Olympic events attentions will turn back to World Cup duties starting at Qingdao, China in October 2013.

Published in Olympic

#olympicsailing – Ireland's sole interest in Palma de Mallorca, James Espey has finished 38th overall, the third event in the ISAF Sailing World Cup circuit. The Belfast sailor scored a 26th in the final race in the gold fleet on Saturday, his best result of the tricky series.

A fantastic week of sailing has come to a close in Palma. The 44th Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mapfre delivered great racing conditions and a real test coming into the new Olympic quadrennial.

It was interesting to test here a new scoring system and format, and despite mixed opinions, the regatta has deserving winners in all classes and most of the regatta leaders conserved their yellow jersey after their medal races.

Denmark's Ida Marie Baad Nielsen and Marie Thusgaard had an incredible finish and took three wins out of four Medal Races in the 49erFX.

"We tried to be very relaxed and focussed going into the Medal Races," said the excitable duo. "Our main decision was to decide whether to go right or left after the start to find a position where we could be alone and able to make our moves freely. It was great fun with this stadium format to have so many tacks and gybes! It was tiring too because we needed to concentrate and anticipate our next move."

The Danes have dominated for most of the week and have shown they are the top sailors in the developing 49erFX fleet. Their skiff experience over the years together is proving to be the right recipe for success.

After a fantastic week to add the cherry on top of the cake, the pair will be awarded the Absolute Winner trophy which recognises the sailors with the best average score over the regatta. This trophy was won last year by 2.4mR sailor Thierry Schmitter (NED).

Alexandra Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL), never too far behind the Danes, took the last race win to place second. Jena Mai Hansen and Katja Salskov-Iversen (DEN) complete the podium.

Germany's Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel secured their first major regatta victory in the 49er having picked up their game throughout the week. "We had an average qualification stage and got into the finals in eighth position," they said. "Our first final day was great with three wins. Today we had another win and top three results only in the four Medal Races. We have great speed and enjoy the breeze, so this was a week for us."

The pair will be following the World Cup circuit in a bid to move up the rankings, "Our objective this year is to be in the World top five. We will be doing a maximum of 200 points regattas like Hyères and the Worlds but also some of the Eurosaf circuit."

Andy Maloney (NZL) nailed the Laser Medal Races and took two race wins to overturn a huge deficit over Australia's Tom Burton (AUS) who despite a steady first race had a disaster in the second, "I was set up pretty well for the last one so I could only get beaten by one guy," said Burton. "I ended up getting an OCS and he beat me. So a few tough lessons and probably something I won't do again but these things happen."

Maloney was able to capitalise on Burton's mistake and was delighted with the way it went, "It was a really good day. With the new system there were a lot of points up for grabs and it went pretty well to get two wins and I couldn't ask for much more. It feels pretty good to come from equal third to win the event. It was a bit unfortunate for Tom Burton in the last race but that happens to all of us."

New Zealand's Sam Meech rounded off the Laser podium.

In the Laser Radial Alison Young (GBR) secured a deserved gold medal having dominated the fleet all week long.

"I am really pleased to have won. I have learnt lots of lessons from this regatta and I am looking forward to the rest of the season. Going into the final medal race, only the Danish could beat me so I had to make sure of the result."

A second in the first Medal Race gave her a handsome advantage and she kept Sarah Gunni (DEN) at bay on the last race with the Dane settling for silver. Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) won the Medal Race to pick up bronze.

Flavia Tartaglini (ITA) stepped it up in the Women's RS:X on the final day and was first past the post in both Medal Races. The World #1 was all smiles on shore after racing, "I'm super happy," she said. "I just had a perfect day. I was coming into the day in fourth so a pretty good position. I was not that close to the first but with two Medal Races everything is possible so I tried to do two good races to finish the competition and it paid off."

Her two race wins knocked overnight leader Bryony Shaw (GBR) down into second and Germany's Moana Delle into third.

ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami Men's RS:X champion Ivan Pastor (ESP) made it two World Cup gold's in a row after two fourths in the Medal Races. The Spaniard led coming into the final day and held on to top spot. Toni Wilhelm (GER) and Kiran Badloe (NED) took the race wins and subsequently moved up to the podium places.

Giles Scott (GBR) took gold in the Finn. Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) threatened the Brits dominance when he closed the gap to one point after the first Medal Race. However, Scott made sure from the start he would leave the Dutch in his trail. "PJ and I match-raced at the start of the second race," explained Scott. "I finally succeeded in forcing him in an uncomfortable position and took a safe advance over him." On the new format Scott added, "It did work out all right for me but I don't really like it as I prefer consistency over the week and the varied conditions to be recognised in the results."

Postma (NED) ended up second with Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) in third. London Bronze medallist Jonathan Lobert (FRA) missed out on the podium in fourth.

Fernanda Oliveira and Ana Barbachan (BRA) came fifth in the days first Medal Race in the Women's 470 and finished with a bang in the last, taking the race win and the gold medal. "We are very happy," exclaimed Barbachan. "We didn't expect to win like this. We thought it would be a hardest race but these conditions seemed to be nice for us."

Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh Mcintyre (GBR) finish second with the American pair of Anne Haeger and Briana Provancha (USA) third.

With shifty conditions only one Men's 470 Medal Race could be completed on the final day and a fourth from Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) ensured they maintained their unbeaten life in the Men's 470. Belcher is the only sailor this week to keep his title won last year with Malcolm Page. Greece's Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis place second and Luke Patience and Joe Glanfield (GBR) third.

Despite a mid-race mishap on the final day Mandy Mulder and Thijs Visser (NED) took gold over their team mates Renee Groenenveld and Karel Begemann in the Nacra 17. "We had some issues during the races and in the first one we capsized," explained Mulder. "One boat nose-dived just in front of us and we had starboard and I was like 'uh oh we're going to hit the boat' so I went inside very quickly and then I went swimming behind the boat and it capsized. We were top three but got upright really quick and ended up sixth."

Moana Vaireaux and Manon Audinet complete the Nacra 17 podium.

"We are happy about our speed. We made some tactical errors today on the last race, but in definite, I am happy to be able to prove myself on the Olympic circuit" said Moana Vairaux.

Sailors focus now turns to ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres in the South of France. Ireland's Annalise Murphy returns to the circuit and racing gets going on 22 April through to 27.

Published in Olympic

#olympicsailing – It's been tricky sailing in Palma for Ireland's sole entry in the second round of ISAF's World Cup series this week.

At least Belfast Lough single-hander James Espey has made it into the gold fleet of the men's single-handed Laser class this morning.

The 44th Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mapfre, ISAF Sailing World Cup Palma regatta, saw the conclusion of the qualification series after three days of fantastic racing in varied conditions in the bay of Palma.
With many new faces on the scene, the class favourites have made sure they show their full potential in the first ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta on the European circuit in front of new rivals.
The Nacra 17 fleet raced in the afternoon with a medium breeze and small waves, it was a perfect day with great conditions and after six races countries with a strong multihull culture such as the Netherlands and France are on top.
For 49erFX sailors Ida Marie Baad Nielsen and Marie Thusgaard Olsen (DEN) and Alexandra Maloney with Molly Meech (NZL) training in New Zealand over the winter proved successful as they lead the fleet. Only a point separates both teams who have shared their progression in the 49erFX and they hold a clear advantage over the fleet with 20 points separating them and the Italians Giulia Conti and Francesca Clapcich in third place.
The Finn sailors were the first off the water, concluding their qualification series after six races. After fighting for top place with Jonathan Lobert (FRA), Giles Scott (GBR) has shown regularity on all conditions to take the lead in the 72 boat fleet. The 2011 European and World Champion is one point ahead of Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) and two points ahead from team mate Andrew Mills (GBR).
Philip Buhl (GER) has kept the lead in the Laser, distancing World #1 Tom Burton (AUS), now placed in fourth. Andy Maloney (NZL) has jump to second overall after taking two bullets in the last qualification races.
The Finals will start today for all classes with the exception of the 2.4mR who see tonight a new leader with Sailing World Cup Miami winner Megan Pascoe (GBR) who has not finished anywhere worse than second in a fleet of 23 boats.

Published in Olympic
Page 11 of 12

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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