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Irish Olympic Laser Sailors Will Count Cost of Rio Trial

24th July 2015
Any trial for the Laser mens Olympic berth in Rio will feature three transatlantic trips in six months. Potential Irish trialists are from left: Darragh O'Sullivan, Fionn Lyden, Finn Lynch and James Espey

#olympicsailing – Irish Olympic sailing is one of the best state funded sports so perhaps those thinking of representing Ireland in Rio next year should think of nothing of a globe–trotting Olympic trial but as Water Rat points out three trans-atlantic journeys in the space of six months as set out last month by the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) sounds a little rich, especially when sailors have to foot the bill themselves.
At the press conference following this month's Laser World championships in Canada, third place finisher, Australian Tom Burton was asked about his country's selection process for the 2016 Rio Olympic sailing regatta, particularly as to whether it was subjective or objective. He was either evasive or unsure, but the question wasn't answered directly, and the audience are none the wiser.
Perhaps his hesitation was due to fact that he was sitting beside his Australian teammate, Matthew Wearn, who finished two places behind him and will clearly be a contender for the sole place available in Rio? Australia are not alone in having multiple top level sailors in the Laser class.
The gold fleet contained six Australians, six British, four Italians, four New Zealanders, three Canadians, two Poles, two Croats, two Dutch, two Brazilians, two Americans, and two Argentinians. Ireland had one sailor in gold and another in silver. Selection policies are a hot topic amongst sailors and there are diverse views as to what constitutes a fair policy.
Given that the medal winning profile of Olympic sailors suggest podiums are mostly achieved by sailors in their mid to late twenties attending their second Games, the dilemma for sailing authorities is whether you select on current or potential performance.
Ireland has determined that current performance is the way to select for Rio. The ISA's recently announced selection procedure for the Laser Class supports the objective option. This favours James Espey (31), who qualified Ireland for Rio, but while he is a regular gold fleet performer, he has failed to break into the top 20 at a major regatta.
The pretenders to the crown include Fionn Lyden (20), Daragh O'Sullivan (20) and Finn Lynch (19). Lynch and Lyden have impressed on the international stage and perhaps fit the medal winning profile more closely than the older Espey. No matter, because ISA have determined that the Olympic representative shall be chosen from a three trial series, requiring three trans-Atlantic journeys in the space of six months, with the final event in May 2016.
While the choice of the Miami World Cup and the Laser World Championships in Mexico are reasonable events to ensure fair competition, the inclusion of the 2015 Copa Brasil de Vela, to be sailed in Rio in December, is less logical. While it could be argued that familiarity with the venue is important, it is a relatively small regatta with 12 of the 28 boat 2014 fleet being Brazilian.
But it is the travel that is going to have the most impact and cash strapped young Laser sailors will not relish the prospect of two long distance trips in quick succession (Miami is a month later). The impact is less on Espey, who receives carding support of €12,000 this year from the Irish Sports Council. The much more economical European option, such as Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia in Palma, Mallorca for example makes it easy for the ISA to pick an alternative trials venue and save everybody thousands of Euro.

Published in Water Rat Team

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