Afloat opinion: The recent results in World Cup sailing regattas will give rise to considerable optimism in Irish sailing circles that David Wilkins and Jamie Wilkinson's successful performance in the boycott affected 1980 Olympics may be repeated. There have been pretenders to the throne in intervening years – O'Hara, both Lyttles, Mansfield and Burrows are among the names that have quickened the pulses only to be found wanting in the pressure cooker that is the Olympic regatta.
In the previous era there was talk of saving performances for key events – peaking so to say. Nowadays the leading sailors bring their "A" game to every regatta and the consistent nature of the performances being recorded by Annalise Murphy and Peter O'Leary, notwithstanding the changes of crew in the Star class, suggests that this summit has been reached.
Peter O'Leary (left) wins Gold in 2010. Photo: OnEdition
Annalise Murphy (right) wins bronze in 2011. Photo: OnEdition
Murphy's progression in the last few years has been extremely impressive. An eighth place at the Laser Radial Worlds in 2009 preceded a successful period on the Australian circuit with a subsequent progression into the world's top ten. In her last two world cup regattas she has finished fifteen times in the top ten and has won ten races. Her win rate at the Skandia Sail for Gold regatta on the Olympic course was matched only by Ben Ainslie. Inconsistency prevented her from taking first place in both events.
The Star class is studded with achievers, and the top of the fleet is currently littered with Olympic Medallists and World Champions in a number of classes. That the Irish team can compete at this level is beyond doubt, winning at Skandia Sail for Gold last year and finishing 2nd by one point at the Bacardi Cup.
That all three athletes are outstanding sailors may have something to do with their sailing steeped DNA. Additionally, the Star pairing have Olympic experience, although not together. While it may be paradoxical to suggest that in certain circumstances such background and experience might not be 100% positive, the sailing team management will need to set out their stall in an early and positive plan which has buy in from all the connections, clearly defining roles and responsibilities.
The plan must also identify the work necessary to eliminate the inconsistencies that have prevented regular and frequent podium performances. Whether it is course management, tactical decision-making or boat speed (not a problem in certain conditions), it is not a time to be faint hearted in regard to ensuring that the best possible specialist coaches are employed to work on these areas. The ISA management team will need to understand their own strengths and weaknesses, using all the resources available, particularly those provided through the Institute of Sport, so that two medals can be a realistic achievement in Weymouth. Peter, David and Annalise deserve no less.
Comment on this article by writing to us HERE.