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#Rio2016 - 'Tropical heat' has been blamed by Rio government officials for the thousands of dead fish that washed up this week on the shores of Guanabara Bay, venue for this summer's Olympic sailing events.

But as Scuttlebutt Sailing News reports, locals are not so sure – believing contamination of the bay's notoriously polluted waters to be the real cause.

Just last month it emerged that sailors who ingest just three teaspoons of water from the planned Olympic sailing courses have a 99% chance of contracting a viral infection.

City authorities, meanwhile, also investigating whether the fish – mostly sardines – may have been illegally discarded by commercial fishermen.

It comes nine months after a similar fish kill clogged the Olympic rowing venue at the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon – a common occurrence in a body of water that periodically suffers from shortage of oxygen.

Published in Olympic
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#ISAF - Can sailing's world governing body be trusted to put athletes' safety first?

That's the concern coming from many corners of the sailing community after it emerged that the ISAF, recently rebranded as World Sailing, was aware of Malaysia's exclusion of Israeli sailors from the recent Youth Worlds from the outset, via a damning report from Sail World.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, World Sailing blamed "delays in communication" by both Israeli and Malaysian officials over the situation that saw Israel's youth team – which included two world champion windsurfers, one of them a defending Youth Worlds RS:X Boys champ – withdraw from the competition on 24 December.

Israel says it acted after failing to receive the necessary visas from Malaysian authorities, with whom it has no diplomatic ties, with just days to go before the competition began.

The accusation comes in the wake of "conditions" under which they were allegedly granted entry to Malaysia, with reports that the team's detachment of bodyguards had been refused clearance on security grounds.

Israeli sports teams compete internationally under armed protection since the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics in 1972 in which 11 athletes were taken hostage and killed.

The situation took on a different dimension when Malaysia's Minister of Youth and Sport was reported as saying that the exclusion of Israeli sailors was in fact a political move.

As Richard Gladwell writes for Sail World, delays in issuing visas appear to be a regular tactic against Israeli athletes on the world stage, just weeks after a Laser Radial sailor missed valuable practice days when his visa for November's ISAF Worlds in Oman arrived late.

What's more, minutes from ISAF meetings in the lead-up to the 2015 Youth Worlds show that concerns over Israel's participation in Malaysia were raised as soon as Langkawi was selected as the venue back in 2011.

World Sailing, which lost its CEO Peter Sowery last month after just half a year in the top job, is now being lambasted for claiming surprise over an issue that was tabled at a point of concern many years ago – and for sitting on the fence in the subsequent dispute between Israeli and Malaysian officials.

Those complaints from the sailing community are reflected in dismay at the erstwhile ISAF's handling of the serious pollution issues in Guanabara Bay, the sailing venue for this summer's Olympic Games in Rio.

Despite assurances from the sailing body that steps were being taken "to ensure the health and safety of all athletes", there was still a 7% illness rate among competitors at August's test event.

And recent findings by the Associated Press claim that sailors in Rio who ingest just three teaspoons of water from Guanabara Bay's Olympic courses, even some distance offshore, have a 99% chance of contracting a virus.

These issues are leading a growing number to question whether World Sailing is really putting sailors ahead of diplomatic entanglements.

Do you share those concerns? Let us know in the comments below.

Published in World Sailing

#Rio2016 - A smart new system for automatic cleaning of marinas has reached its crowdfunding goal with days to spare – and could soon be employed at the Olympic Games.

According to Sail World, the Rio 2016 organisers are among those who have expressed interest in and voiced support for the SeaBin, an automated rubbish bin designed to collect floating debris and oil from busy marina berths.

The project, launched by Australians Pete Ceglinski and Andrew Turton, has surpassed its $230,000 by more than $17,000 with four days to go as of today (Monday 4 January).

It means the project can now move on to the next stage, working with a French manufacturer to develop a new generation of SeaBins made from mostly recycles plastics.

And it's possible we might see the first SeaBins in action at the Rio sailing villages this summer – although there's not that can be done about viral contaminants in Guanabara Bay, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in Olympic
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#Rio2016 - Sailors in Rio who ingest just three teaspoons of water from the Olympic courses on Guanabara Bay have a 99% chance of being infected by a virus.

That's according to the latest damning findings from the Associated Press, following from its own investigation earlier this year that found levels of viruses detected at the Olympic sailing venue to be as much as 1.7 million times this allowed on California beaches.

Samples taken more recently now indicate that a high concentration of viruses is detectable even more than a kilometre offshore away from the pollution sources that have plagued Rio's waters for decades.

Despite assurances by the ISAF – which previously floated the idea of moving the sailing venue out of Rio to cleaner waters – that steps were being taken "to ensure the health and safety of all athletes", there was still an illness rate of 7% among sailors competing at an Olympic test event in August.

That figure included 49er bronze medallist Erik Heil, who was treated for severe inflammations in his legs and a hip.

The cause of his illness turned out to be the superbug MRSA, and Heil has since proposed wearing plastic overalls while sailing out from the shore to limit his exposure to that an other bacterial infections.

But experts in waterborne viruses have told the AP that such efforts are futile when Rio's Olympic waterways "are as rife with pathogens far offshore as they are nearer land".

The AP has much more on the story HERE, coming in the same week as the ISAF's chief executive Peter Sowrey resigned after only six months in the job – the latest in a spate of high-profile departures from sailing's world governing body.

Published in Olympic

Both Irish mens and women's skiff teams made the Gold Fleet cut in the 49er and 49erfx World Championships in Buenos Aires yesterday – but only just in a day of drama at this notoriously difficult venue.

The qualifying series could not have been more challenging for the teams vying for Gold fleet inclusion, Olympic berths, and Olympic selection. Results are here.

Belfast's Team Seaton-McGovern, who are already qualified for Rio, took a fifth & 10th place to be 23rd from 66 on day three and Dun Laoghaire's Brewster and Tidey who are looking for qualification this week came fifth and are in 19th place from 44 after a last race retiral. Crucially, the girls are currently ranked fourth nation of those seeking the three Rio qualification places available this week. Singapore currently holds the third spot, six points ahead of the Irish duo. And in an important boost for Irish hopes neither Finland or Japan, both seeking a Rio slot, made the gold fleet cut yesterday thereby dashing their qualification chances.

Starting the day, the mens 49er teams vying for Olympic berths were huddled at the top of the 49er leaderboard, with 4 out of the top 6 teams looking to qualify their nation. By the end of racing today, 7 nations are looking for the 3 (and possibly up to 5 Olympic berths) with Argentina and Poland both having 2 teams in the hunt.

The real fleet depth in the 49er is on display here in Buenos Aires as only Championship favorites, Burling and Tuke (NZL), are sailing to expectation and at the top of the leaderboard.

Many of the rest of the presumed top 10 had to fight hard, right down to the final race just to make gold fleet with Fletcher/Sign (GBR), Outteridge/Jensen (AUS), Seaton/McGovern (IRL), and Warrer/Thomsen (DEN) all in danger of falling out of the Gold fleet split in the final race of the day. Of the bunch, the Brits and Outteridge proved clutch, with Fletcher/Sign winning the final race while Outteridge/Jensen pulled off two second places to close out the qualifying series.

 

Published in Olympic

A provisional racing schedule for the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition set to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 5-21 August 2016 has been released. Download the race schedule below. Three Irish boats have qualifed for Rio and a fourth may qualify next month. An Irish Race Officer will also officiate at the regatta.

The Pão de Açucar, Ponte and Escola Naval courses inside Guanabara Bay and the Copacabana and Niteroi areas outside the bay are to be utilised. The reserve course areas are Aeroporto, an additional course situated in-between Ponte and Escola Naval in Guanabara Bay, and Pai, outside Guanabara Bay.

Racing is set to start on Monday 8 August at 13:00 local time with the Men's and Women's RS:X sailing on the Pão de Açucar race track. The Laser and Laser Radial fleets will also commence their competition on Escola Naval course on the same day.

The Finn sailors will start racing on Tuesday 9 August on the Pão de Açucar area with the Men's and Women's 470 as well as the Nacra 17 following on Wednesday 10 August. The 49er and 49erFX are the last fleets to start and get going on Friday 12 August.

The first Medal Races will take place on Sunday 14 August with two per day scheduled until Thursday 18 August where the 49er and 49erFX will bring the regatta to a close.

With the schedule shared with the sailors, the announcement has been met with anticipation, and the feedback given with an emphasis on the diversity and beauty of the courses at the forefront of their minds.

Men's 470 London 2012 gold medallist, Australia's Mat Belcher said, "It's much anticipated as the teams want to know what they can expect at the Games and there has been a lot of speculation where different classes are going to race. I guess we are all really excited now it has come out.

"The unique thing about Rio, and the great thing about Rio, is the diversity of the conditions and also the diversity of the different race areas, and that makes for the best all-round sailor.”

On the mixture of racing areas, five-time Olympic medallist, and Brazil's very own Robert Scheidt agreed, "We are going to have many courses which we are going to sail in. I think this is good because it really tests the ability of the sailors in different conditions. It is a place where the sailor has to be very flexible and adapt himself.”

Heading into her third Olympics, Belgium's Evi Van Acker is also excited about what is on the horizon, "It's a nice mix of everything, sailing inside and outside, and I think it's the most fair for everyone to do a bit of everything. I love the venue. Every course is different so it's good that we sail on them all.”

With the sailors agreeing that Rio 2016 offers a fantastic mix to test the sailors, they also agree that the Rio Games will put sailing into the spotlight by featuring the Medal Races close to the iconic beaches.

"As a Brazilian, it would be amazing to sail in the Medal Race because we know it will be a big crowd out there," said an expectact Scheidt. "The Brazilian flags will be flying and there will be support from thousands of people watching the race.”

Belcher said, "What's great about Rio is the anticipation of racing closer to shore. It's very difficult for the sailors, but for our sport we need to generate more interest from the public and what better way to do it than seeing so many spectators lining Flamengo Beach to watch us race.”

Echoing the thoughts, Van Acker added, "I expect everyone to be on the beach. It's great as the spectators don't get much chance to see us racing and it will be beautiful in Rio for them to watch.”

The release of the schedule not only gave the three sailors a better picture of what they can expect next year, but it also stirred up some emotions from Scheidt as he reflected on his Olympic Laser career possibly coming to an end in his homeland.

Looking at the schedule, Scheidt concluded, "For myself, I'm only doing this Olympic cycle because the Olympics is in my home country. That's a big thing and I want to feel that emotion. It's going to be something that will stick with me for a long time.

"Will it be my last one? You can never say never you know, but probably yes. I'm already, let's say, an advanced age for the laser, but my body is still holding up well and I think I can be very competitive in Rio, but after that I probably won't continue in the lasers, but let's see the opportunities after the Games.”

Published in Olympic
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#Rio2016 - The National Yacht Club's Finn Lynch is urgently appealing for donations to fund his trip to the upcoming Olympic trials in Rio.

With the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) citing cost reasons for its decision not to bring boats to the next trail event at next summer's Olympic sailing venue, Lynch has yet again been moved to seek the support of family, friends and Ireland's sailing community.

It comes just months after a previous appeal that enabled him to secure invaluable training with Olympic gold medallists in Croatia.

The Laser sailor will need to charter his own boat for the trials which, along with flights, food and accommodation, will put his bill at around €10,000.

The NYC has more on Lynch's latest appeal HERE.

Published in Olympic

#Rio2016 - Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern still face a huge funding shortfall in their Rio 2016 campaign, as BelfastLive reports.

Despite launching a raffle over the summer to help raise the money they need to shoulder the costs of training at home and abroad, as well as taking part in international competitions in the months leading up to next summer's Olympics, the Belfast Lough 49er duo are still short some £50,000 (€68,000).

"We get funding from Irish Sports Council and from Sport NI but as you know there were a lot of funding cuts in Sport NI this year," said Seaton, who added that the cuts "hit us quite hard because we are at the elite level and we rely on the funding because in sailing, the equipment costs are massive and with going to Rio and the travelling involved with training, the costs are crazy."

The duo, who are holding another fundraiser, a gala at Carrickfergus Sailing Club, this coming Saturday (24 October), even say they are "rapping on doors" for any sponsorship they can muster.

The news comes as Howth Yacht Club's Aoife Hopkins launches her own crowdfunding campaign to support her Rio 2016 bid in the Laser Radial, just months after fellow youth sailor Finn Lynch was moved to put cap in hand for his own Olympic aspirations.

Published in Olympic

#Rio2016 - The blame for Rio's pollution woes should fall squarely on local political leaders and not on sporting bodies, according to the head of Britain's sailing team.

As Scuttlebut Sailing News reports, Stephen Park says the press should turn its attention to those responsible for the notorious pollution problems in Guanabara Bay – the sailing and windsurfing venue for the 2016 Olympic Games – rather than place the burden on sailing's country leaders to withdraw from the venue.

Park's comments come in the wake of news that another sailor was hospitalised after the recent Aquece test event with a bacterial infection believed contracted in Rio's waters.

According to Sail-World, 49er bronze medallist Erik Heil was treated for severe inflammations in his legs and one hip which he says began on his journey home from Rio.

And the sailor has explicity blamed his illness on the waters of Marina da Glória, where wastewater from the city's hospitals flows openly into the bay, and has had his case taken ip by the German Olympic Sports Confederation, as the Guardian reports.

Heil's post-Rio illness follows that of Kiwi 470 sailor Jo Aleh, who missed three races at Aquece over a bug alleged to be connected with water contamination, and South Korean windsurfer Wonwoo Cho, whose hospitalisation came just days after the ISAF's latest threat to move Olympic sailing events to a new course in the Atlantic.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, a recent investigation into water quality at the current Olympic sailing venue found that athletes are "almost certain to come into contact with disease-causing viruses".

Published in Olympic

#Rio2016 - Despite seeing "significant progress", International Olympic Committee officials have again expressed concerns over the readiness of Rio's sailing waters for next summer's Olympic Games amid controversy over pollution levels in Guanabara Bay.

As Euronews reports, city officials have been consolidating their clean-up efforts in competition areas despite those parts of Guanabara Bay being already declared safe by Rio 2016 organisers.

IOC president Thomas Bach said yesterday (Monday 8 June) in Lausanne that the committee's executive is "watching this situation very closely and we are expecting more information and more reports by the time of our next meeting, next month in Kuala Lumpur."

The latest news comes a month after Brazilian officials hurried to quash fears over water quality for competing sailors with a PR stunt that failed to impress local journalists – not to mention the ISAF's own concerns for the safety of its athletes.

In the meantime, as city officials continue to play catch-up, local community groups have taken up the slack with their own grassroots clean-up effort.

"Civil society is stepping forward where the government has failed," writes Shanna Hansbury in the Guardian. "From all corners of Rio de Janeiro, people are working towards the lasting legacy they were promised.

"Fishermen are reporting environmental crimes, engineers are developing new technologies, biologists are replanting mangrove swamps, and sailors are operating eco-boats to remove floating rubbish."

The Guardian has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Olympic
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