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Sailing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has won Gold in the Best Coverage by the Host Broadcaster category of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Golden Rings Awards.

Producer Henry Mok and director Leon Sefton received the award for providing an outstanding race experience for millions of viewers around the world via Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), which produces the live television, radio and digital coverage for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Using on-board cameras to capture the highs and lows of each class, along with the athleticism and determination of the athletes, viewers got the ultimate immersive experience.

This is now the third time sailing has won gold in this Golden Rings Awards category, following Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

David Graham, World Sailing CEO, said, "Filming sailing is unique. The idiosyncrasies, the adrenaline and the fiercely competitive nature of our sport can be difficult to capture and convey to the audience. All credit goes to OBS - they did a tremendous job and while their new innovations clearly added extra complexity and workload for them, it made a huge difference, particularly the onboard cameras they could control remotely from their dedicated network and equipping our athletes with microphones.

"These aspects really brought our sport alive for million of viewers. We are indebted to OBS and particularly their sailing team for these extra efforts - it has had a hugely positive impact on our sport, and will do for years to come. A well-deserved gold, thank you OBS!"

Sailing at the Tokyo 2020 Games also marked the debut of SAP Sailing Analytics to provide added depth to live broadcasts. The wind-based leaderboard and GPS tracking gave the opportunity for fans around the world to follow the races in real-time with greater accuracy and a broader range of statistics and insights to draw from. The SAP platform was featured by more than 30 rights holding broadcasters around the world and gave commentators access to the live data to enrich the viewing experience.

Speaking at the ceremony, IOC President Thomas Bach, said, "The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 were the most engaged Olympic Games ever and another landmark moment in sports broadcasting history. Through the IOC’s partnerships with leading media companies around the world, we are able to share the magic of the Olympic Games to inspire billions of people.

"Our close partnership with our broadcasters is a great reflection that we can only go faster, we can only aim higher, we can only become stronger, if we work together – in solidarity.

"There were more submissions for the Golden Rings Awards than ever before, and the breadth, diversity and creativity of the production is testament to the passion and commitment of the individuals who work with us to broadcast the Olympic Games."

The Golden Rings Awards is a prestigious international competition organised by the IOC to promote and award excellence in the broadcasting of the Olympic Games.

The winners were selected by an international jury headed by IOC Member Anant Singh, who is a leading professional in the film and media industries, Chair of the IOC Communications Commission and a member of the IOC's Olympic Channel Commission and the Digital & Technology Commission.

The awards ceremony took place in the IOC’s headquarters, Olympic House, in Lausanne, where the IOC is currently hosting a series of IOC commission meetings.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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The athletes and staff who represented Team Ireland at Tokyo 2020 this summer were formally congratulated at the Official Team Ireland Homecoming in Dublin Castle this morning.

A record number of Irish athletes competed at the Summer Olympics in Japan with 116 athletes (including three dinghy sailors; Annalise Murphy in the Radial and Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove in the 49er) competing across nineteen sports.

Olympic Federation of Ireland President Sarah Keane, and CEO of Sport Ireland, John Treacy were joined by the Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Minister Catherine Martin, Minister of State Jack Chambers and His Excellency Ambassador of Japan to Ireland, Mitsuru Kitano at the special event to honour the athletes.

Athletes were presented with gifts to recognise their achievements as Olympians at the ceremony, which included music by musician Roisin O. Top class memorable performances and emotional moments captured the nation for two weeks, in a Games that netted two Olympic titles and two bronze medals for Ireland, with a record number of eight athletes stepping on the podium.

Congratulating the athletes and team at the official event Taoiseach Micheál Martin said,

“I am delighted to honour and pay tribute to the Team Ireland athletes and staff for an Olympic Games that will live long in the memory.

“We are incredibly proud of our medallists, and also each and every athlete. Your personal efforts and commitment was truly inspirational.

“To even reach the Games was an extraordinary journey, and your achievements lifted the nation this summer.”

Published in Tokyo 2020
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Inside the Games has reported that World Sailing’s deficit for 2020 was lower than expected — and that it expects a similar dividend from the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo to what it received five years ago from Rio 2016.

Sailing’s world governing body says the “successful delivery” of Tokyo 2020 this summer after a year’s delay enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic had “alleviated the critical financial risks associated with the cancellation of the Games”.

The body’s accounts also included confirmation of an arrangements to borrow $3.1 million (€2.7 million) from the IOC, repayable without interest over five years from this December.

Inside the Games has much more on the story HERE.

Published in World Sailing

It was party time in Dun Laoghaire Harbour last Thursday night (September 23rd) to welcome home the Irish Olympic sailing team from last month's Tokyo Olympic Games.

Invited guests included Government Ministers, Olympians, local Dun Laoghaire Rathdown officials plus yacht club commodores and sponsors who were all back on the waterfront to hear Annalise Murphy's thoughts post-Tokyo as the team returned to its High-Performance HQ at the Irish Lights Depot.

Murphy's teammates, the 49er duo Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove were in attendance too along with the Tokyo backroom team.

Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht Jack Chambers along with Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Ossian Smyth, the local Green Party TD, were invited to the outdoor function.

From Northern Ireland, 1984 and 1988, Olympian Bill O'Hara OBE was also at the get-together, as were members of the Olympic Federation of Ireland including CEO Peter Sherrard.

The Dun Laoghaire High Performance HQ was the venue for Thursday night's homecoming celebrations of the Olympic TeamThe Dun Laoghaire High Performance HQ was the venue for last Thursday night's homecoming celebrations of the Olympic Team

The Rio silver medalist signed off the evening by thanking Rory Fitzpatrick 'for being her coach' and updated the event on how she is adjusting to life as an MBA student at UCD.

Irish prospects for Paris 2024

Next on the agenda for the Irish Olympic sailing team is, of course, Paris 2024. With just three years to the first gun at Marseille, Thursday evening provided the chance to pitch Irish prospects.

The race for places has already begun with Polish duo Mikolaj Staniul / Kuba Sztorch crowned 49er European champions in Thessaloniki last week. Although no Irish crew participated at the Greek event, there are already triennial developments at home with Cork Harbour's Seafra Guilfoyle and Johnny Durcan announcing this month they will be making a bid for the single Irish men's skiff slot.

Finn Lynch, who was unsuccessful in his quest for a Tokyo Laser place, has already declared he will run again and it is expected Howth's Ewan McMahon will also be a contender. And in the Radial, McMahon's sister, Eve and Aoife Hopkins, both of Howth, will each seek the nomination.

Tokyo 2020 Review

A number of post-Tokyo reviews are being conducted. One is being undertaken by Irish Sailing, which, for the first time since Athens 2004, will be in the hands of "an external sports management expert", according to sailing president David O'Brien.

That's a process that will no doubt shine a light on the circumstances surrounding the controversially cut-short 2020 Radial selection procedure

The review is expected to be completed by year-end.

Published in Tokyo 2020

The British Sailing Team’s Tokyo 2020 stars will officially open the 2021 Southampton International Boat Show on Friday, September 10.

Gold medallists Eilidh McIntyre, Stuart Bithell and Dylan Fletcher will be among a host of Team GB sailors attending Mayflower Park for the opening day of the event, which returns after being cancelled in 2020.

The victorious trio will be joined by Team GB teammates Charlotte Dobson, Chris Grube and Alison Young to cut the ribbon on the prestigious event on the main stage at 9.30 am.

After a round of media interviews, the athletes will head to the Olympic Display in the Dinghy Zone to meet show visitors, talk about their experiences of Tokyo 2020 and show off their medals.

Bithell, who added a gold medal from Tokyo 2020 to the silver he won at London 2012, said: “We can’t wait to get to the Southampton International Boat Show and chat to visitors about our time in Tokyo.

“It’s a great honour to be asked to open the show, and we’re looking forward to seeing everyone there.”

On Saturday, September 11, McIntyre will return to the show alongside Young and Bithell for a Q&A with RYA Director of Racing Ian Walker at 13:30 on the Foredeck Stage.

The RYA’s list of activities can be found here

Published in Marine Trade
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Irish Olympic performances have again failed to meet expectations, writes Roger Bannon, so perhaps the High-Performance support structure needs to be changed.

In the wake of the Tokyo Olympics, it seems very timely for some dispassionate reflection on Ireland's sailing performance. This time, we had three representatives in 2 disciplines, including our 2016 Silver Medallist in Rio, Annalise Murphy and the very talented pairing of Dickson and Waddilove, in the 49er.

Despite winning two races in her preferred windy conditions, Annalise failed to perform to her usual high standards and finished well outside the qualification criteria for the final medal race. The 49er team had an outstanding regatta which included two race wins in this incredibly competitive fleet, finally finishing just outside the medal race qualification after being forced to discard two excellent race results because of a technical weight infringement on a trapeze harness, an extraordinary oversight.

This overall disappointing performance was also marred by controversy about the fairness of the altered selection criteria for the Laser Radial slot and the withdrawal of the long-term coaching support for the 49er team after they won the U23 World Championships in 2020. Our justified Rio performer, Finn Lynch, failed to qualify for the Men's Laser and the 49er FX talent Saskia Tidey, former Irish representative in the 49er FX class in Rio, transferred her allegiance to the British sailing team.

By any objective analysis, these outcomes are incredibly disappointing.

The current High-Performance Unit is basically comprised of the same senior personnel since 2006. This backroom team has presided over Irish participation at 4 Olympics since 2008. Apart from Annalise Murphy's silver medal in Rio, an exceptional result for a variety of reasons, Irish results at all these Olympics have failed to fulfil our much-heralded promise. Annalise's four race wins without a medal in London 2012 and the failure of the very fancied Star Boat team at the same event illustrate our disappointments very clearly.

There is a growing clamour for a review of Irish Sailing's High-Performance division. Annalise's silver medal in 2016 was a reflection of her dedication, her unique physique and undoubted exceptional talent in windy conditions. Her performance in Rio was also enhanced by her decision to independently retain the services of a specialist New Zealand coach, which was financially supported by a sponsor procured with the assistance of fellow members of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. A widely held perception in Ireland is that Annalise's achievements have masked serious shortcomings elsewhere in our Olympic Sailing stable.

It is estimated that at least €15m has been spent since 2006 on High-Performance Sailing in Ireland, excluding what the participants themselves have contributed.

The Government regularly spends more supporting Irish sailing than any Olympic sport other than Athletics, a windfall which is unlikely to continue after our poor results in Tokyo and consistent disappointments in the past.

Ireland is not unique in being disappointed with its performance in Tokyo. The USA failed to win any medals, despite being a major sailing country. They have recognised that big changes have to be made, and they have appointed Paul Cayard, a world-class Olympic and International sailor, to become their high-performance supremo. Cayard had this to say on his appointment: "Many of us in America are dissatisfied by our Olympic sailing trend and want to correct our course. While being in the middle of the pack is not a bad thing, it is just not how Americans think of themselves. Moving up the Olympic pecking order is not going to be easy. No one is going to get out of our way. We need to build a machine that puts teams and athletes in a position where their usual routine will produce a podium result on a regular basis. This is about cultivation, education, preparation and execution on game day. This is about proper process and procedure."

In a recent interview, Keith Musto, Silver medallist at the 1964 games in Tokyo in the Flying Dutchman class, offered his analysis as to why the UK is so dominant in the Olympics.

He asserted that without a good national base of active dinghy racing with an integrated training and coaching structure, it is difficult to consistently produce high quality talent. The RYA recently appointed the renowned Olympic and international sailor Ian Walker as their high-performance supremo to direct what they hope will be the ongoing British dominance in Olympic sailing, demonstrating their willingness to review and change even an outstandingly successful high-performance structure which has delivered so many medals over the last 12 years.

Where does that leave Irish Sailing?

I presume the mission statement for the HP is to deliver medals at the Olympics (without using any of the financial resources of Irish Sailing) by basically relying on direct Government funding and private fund-raising efforts.

We need to re-examine how these precious financial resources are deployed. The Financial Statements of Irish Sailing illustrate that most of the discretionary funding is spent on infrastructural costs such as salaries, capital equipment and overheads, with a relatively small percentage being used to directly support athletes, unless independently allocated under the carding system by the Sports Council.

To be fair, Irish Sailing has regularly nurtured a coterie of very talented youth sailors who have performed outstandingly at the international level, but it is also clear we have a problem with subsequently developing this talent at the senior level and providing the support these athletes need when attending major events. We have basically not changed our approach for the last four or five Olympic cycles, and the core methodology is obviously not working and needs to be totally reappraised, probably with new blood and revised structures.

Informed commentary from former and aspiring Olympians and younger talent suggest the following issues need to be addressed;

  • We need to professionalise our coaching support techniques to improve performance at each Olympics. This may require investment in senior appointments from outside the narrow base of coaches in Ireland. Listening to Billy Walsh, the former Irish Boxing Coach now managing the Olympic Boxing team for the USA, outline how to do this in a comprehensive interview recently on Newstalk revealed a level of attention to detail which was astonishing.
  • We should regularly peer-review ourselves against other more successful nations of similar size, such as New Zealand.
  • High-performance sailors should not be isolated from mainstream domestic sailing activities.
  • Our HP sailors must win the hearts and minds of all sailors in Ireland, which will encourage an esprit de corps which will attract proper fundraising and goodwill from the general sailing public.
  • Enhanced PR, controlled accessibility to athletes, improved relations with young athletes' families together with independent accountability for major decisions would represent badly-needed improvements to the current set-up. Importantly, the existing aura of secrecy must change.
  • There is an urgent need for the HP area to develop protocols to assist in improving communication and consultation with families that support young athletes attempting to gain traction at the international level. A review of all legal documentation required to be signed by all participants in HP activities is also urgently needed as many believe some of the undertakings are unreasonable and unfairly onerous.
  • It is undoubtedly time for major changes to the composition of the High-Performance Olympic Committee. Too many members have been around for far too long during a period when little success was achieved.

Repeating the same decisions will not change the outcome. We have less than 3 years to go to Paris so changes need to be taken promptly. Using the argument that making changes will be disruptive does not make sense, Disruption is what we need and, in the meantime, we must nurture the raw talent we have - in the 49er Team, the Laser Radial and the Men's Laser - and find ways to disseminate the technical know-how and expertise acquired by our HP sailors as we attempt to raise standards on a more widespread basis.

Sport Ireland has to be looking at Irish Sailing with a seriously jaundiced perspective. They will likely also have identified the need for a different approach and will expect the hierarchy in Irish Sailing to be sufficiently aware of the urgent need for serious changes. Constant failure to deliver on promises whilst recklessly talking up the future, eventually has its day.

It's time for some imaginative and material changes. This is probably best achieved by an independent review of the High-Performance area, the conclusions of which are ultimately published to encourage debate within the Irish Sailing community on how best to proceed in the future with our Olympic aspirations.

Roger Bannon is a former President and Treasurer of the Irish Sailing Association

Published in Your Say

Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) have won gold in the 470 Women's class in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with Agnieszka Skrzypulec and Jolanta Ogar (POL) taking silver and Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz (FRA) bronze.

At the start the fleet set off on starboard tack except for Skrzypulec and Ogar and the French team on port tack as both boats made an early break to the right.

Great Britain tacked over towards the other two boats and were ahead. Mills and McIntyre at times put a close cover on Lecointre and Retornaz to stop the French breaking through to the front of the fleet. Linda Fahrni and Maja Siegenthaler (SUI) and Luise Wanser Anastasiya Winkel (GER) were going fast and took the early lead.

Around the first mark Switzerland were ahead, with Great Britain in second and France back in sixth, one place ahead of Poland.

At the bottom of the course, Great Britain followed Switzerland to the right, the same for Poland while France simultaneously peeled away to the left with it still close for silver and bronze.

Halfway up the final leg, Poland moved up to fourth and were two places in front of France, equal on points. As it stood, the Polish team had displaced the French for silver.

Around the final turning mark, the Swiss held the lead while Great Britain were in second.

Fahrni and Siegenthaler won the Medal Race, taking fourth overall. Meanwhile, Great Britain had been overtaken on the final run by Germany, Israel and Poland. This put Poland back on equal points with France, giving them silver and France bronze.

However, immediately after the race, the jury was informed that the French team were protesting Great Britain.

The protest was heard ashore and the case was dismissed. It had been a brief delay to the medal celebrations, but at last Great Britain could celebrate the gold.

Along with silver from London 2012 and gold from Rio 2016, gold at Tokyo 2020 makes Hannah Mills the most successful ever female Olympic sailor. Eilidh McIntyre’s gold matches the achievement of her father Mike McIntyre who won Star keelboat gold for Great Britain in 1988. Lecointre repeats her bronze from Rio 2016.

Protest after 470 Women Medal Race delays final results

What was meant to be a straightforward gold medal celebration for Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) has had to be delayed until a protest has been heard and resolved onshore. France’s Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz are protesting Great Britain for alleged team racing after a close tussle between the leading three contenders for the medals: Great Britain, France and Poland.

Linda Fahrni and Maja Siegenthaler (SUI) won the Medal Race, taking fourth overall. Meanwhile, Great Britain who had been second behind the Swiss, were overtaken on the final run by Germany, Israel and Poland. This put Poland back on equal points with France, giving silver and bronze to France.

However, immediately after the race the jury was informed that France was protesting Great Britain.  The protest was heard ashore but dismissed by the jury.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell (GBR) have won Tokyo Olympic gold in the 49er Men with Pete Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) taking silver and Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel (GER) bronze.

New Zealand wanted the right-hand side of the course and started on port tack off the committee boat end, closely followed by the Spanish. Great Britain started off the left-hand of the line going left with the rest of the fleet, although the Netherlands and Croatia had to return to restart after crossing too soon.

Near the top of the first leg, a close cross between Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell (GBR) versus Pete Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL), and it was advantage Great Britain.

The British rounded mark one in the lead, ahead of Germany and then New Zealand. Now the points were even between GBR and NZL. At the bottom mark Germany went around the right-hand mark, GBR around the left, closely followed by NZL.

Up the next windward leg, GBR and NZL locked horns again, Fletcher tacking on top of Burling and forcing the Kiwis away to the right again. Meanwhile, Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel (GER) had got into the lead, getting close to the podium depending on how Diego Botin and Iago Marra (ESP) were doing further back in the pack.

Around the final windward mark, Germany rounded narrowly ahead of Great Britain, New Zealand in third. As things stood, NZL would win by 2 points. Germany gybed away halfway down the course, Great Britain continued, holding out for better breeze on their side of the course.

In a photo finish, Great Britain crossed the finish in first place, centimetres ahead of the fast-closing Germans. New Zealand crossed the line third. Gold medal to Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell (GBR).

Burling and Tuke become the first sailors ever to have won Olympic medals and the America’s Cup in the same year.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) has won gold in the Women’s One Person Dinghy – Laser Radial with Josefin Olsson (SWE) taking silver and Marit Bouwmeester (NED) bronze.

As regular Afloat readers know, this is the class in which Ireland's Annalise Murphy had hoped to repeat or better her Rio performance of 2016 but was unable to get to grips with the Tokyo conditions.

Rindom herself had an agonizing wait for the medal race having blown her chance to padlock the gold due to a misunderstanding in the final fleet races on Friday. 

At the start the individual recall flag went up. Two boats were over and Marit Bouwmeester (NED) was one of them. The Dutch sailor returned to start correctly, immediately putting her to the back of the 10-boat fleet and playing catch-up for the medals.

However, Silvia Zennaro (ITA) was also over at start time and didn’t return. She was later pulled out of the race further up the first leg.

At the top of the first upwind leg, Tuula Tenkanen (FIN) briefly moved into a podium position but on the first downwind leg, Emma Plasschaert (BEL) surfed from fourth into the lead, moving her into silver position.

However, Bouwmeester’s recovery was even more impressive, moving in on the pack on the downwind and opting for the right-hand gate when most of the fleet had gone left. From being left for dead at the start, the comeback queen was back into silver medal position.

Next it was the turn of Josefin Olsson (SWE) to have her say, having climbed from seventh in the early stages to third at the end of the first lap and up to the lead by the final windward mark. Now the Swede was in medal contention, threatening the Netherlands for silver.

Olsson crossed the finish line a fraction in front of Plasschaert. Behind her Bouwmeester had dropped a critical place and slipped back to bronze, leaving Sweden to take silver by the slimmest of margins, just three points behind Rindom who somehow clung on to gold.

Rindom and Bouwmeester are now multiple medallists. Rindom adds gold to bronze she won at Rio 2016. Today’s bronze is Bouwmeester’s third Olympic medal, having won silver at London 2012 and gold at Rio 2016.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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Fans and supporters of Annalise Murphy have paid tribute to the Irish sailing star after she suggested that her Olympic career was now at a close after failing to make her Tokyo 2020 final.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Murphy finished the week on Friday (30 July) in 18th overall, placing her outside the top 10 who qualified for this morning’s (Sunday 1 August) Laser Radial medal race in which Denmark’s Anne-Marine Rindom took gold after a misunderstanding of race rules cost her a big points lead.

Speaking after her own last race at Enoshima, Murphy — who won Olympic silver in the Laser Radial in Rio five years ago — said she was “really proud of how I managed to come back this week”.

That was in reference to her preferred stronger wind conditions which prevailed in her one-two finish in Thursday’s racing.

She told RTÉ Sport: “I was hoping we were going to get more conditions like [Thursday], I knew that I would excel in those kind of conditions and I'm really glad we managed to get one day of it to show I can still be the best when the day comes around.”

As for what the future holds, Murphy said she is “looking forward to a normal life” and that she “can't see myself going for another Olympics” — adding that she wants to help out fellow Irish Laser Radial sailors Aoife Hopkins and Eve McMahon with their campaigns.

“I hope I can give them some of my knowledge and maybe they can surpass all of my achievements. That would the dream, that I have left some legacy behind,” she added.

Following Murphy’s comments, fans on social media expressed their admiration for her Olympic achievements and as a sportswoman in general.

Twitter user suz kavanagh said: “Such ability, dedication and strong attitude, a true Olympian.. it’s been an honour to follow your journey. Be proud!”

Stuart Masterson said Murphy has “raised the profile of sailing in Ireland. The fact that you are talking up the next generation of sailors speaks volumes about how great of a person you are, not just a great sports person.”

Meanwhile on Facebook, Karin Duffy said Murphy is “an amazing ambassador for Irish sailing and inspiring role model for all the young aspiring athletes”, and Katy Moore Ratcliffe thanked her “for representing the Irish with class”.

Published in Annalise Murphy
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