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Displaying items by tag: olympic sailing

A Danish crew man, CP Lubeck, fell overboard and was struck by the rudder foil of his Nacra 17 while racing in New Zealand yesterday. 

The injury required surgery. Lubeck is recovering well and will be back in action soon, according to Irish man Marcus Spillane, the President, of the International Nacra 17 Class Association.

Spillane adds 'We have been in contact with World Sailing and Nacra Sailing and are investigating the facts. This is a priority for the Class'.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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With three major yet very different marathon sailing events crossing the Atlantic this month, it’s clear that the once decidedly quirky and often eccentric devotees of offshore and ocean racing are becoming mainstream. This is further reinforced by the confirmation – which has been flagged for a long time now – that World Sailing and the Olympics organisation will be evaluating an experimental two-handed and possibly gender-mixed offshore contest in parallel with the sailing events at the Tokyo 2020 Olympiad. W M Nixon wonders if long-serving offshore racing enthusiasts will really be a hundred per cent in support of these developments.

In sailing as in politics, ultimately everything is local. We’d always been interested in the Mini-Transat, but never more than the time when Enda O’Coineen did it rather longer ago than he cares to remember. And when the second stage of this year’s race got going from Las Palmas to Martinique on November 1st, the hearts of the Irish sailing community were with our folk hero Tom Dolan, the farmboy from Meath who has shown he can cut it with the best of them in this uniquely demanding branch of the ocean game.

yacht pamela2Never mind the weather, the tent is up and setting a treat…..Unlike the Mini-Transat boats which crossed the Atantic two weeks in advance of them, the crew of former Round Ireland winner Eamon Crosbie’s Discovery 55 Pamela will be enjoying considerable comfort during the ARC 2018. Photo David O’Brien/Afloat.ie

Then when the huge ARC 2017 got its incredibly varied fleet lumbering away last weekend, again from Gran Canaria, this time towards St Lucia, we tried to take an overview of the fleet, but inevitably became focused on Eamon Crosbie’s Discovery 55 Pamela from Dun Laoghaire with a merry crew on board. We’ve been observing that, like the rest of the fleet, she has found anything but regular northeast tradewinds out in the Atlantic, but she’s getting there nevertheless – race tracker here 

This weekend, there’s some quite heavy metal – some of it distinctly luxurious in tone – getting started in the RORC’s Transatlantic Race from Lanzarote, with the finish in Grenada. The fleet of 23 make up in quality what it lacks in quantity, for though the smallest boat is the JPK 10.10 Jangada, the largest is Daniel Stump’s Southernwind 96 Sorceress, while the longest is Ludde Ingvall’s uber-skinny 98ft Maxi CQS from Australia.

It’s aboard this extraordinary yoke that Ireland’s Sailor of the Year 2013 David Kenefick, now 26, is sailing as skipper. In an acknowledgement to the sheer power and reach of the French sailing scene, the young Cork sailor had been declared “Rookie of the Year” in the Figaro Solo circuit in 2013, and to the surprise of some of the more traditionally-minded adjudicators, this was seen by the sailing public as more important than some major achievements within Ireland, so four years ago Kenefick became their Number 1.


DavidKenefick Photo BCarlin 0704 IMG 0197 BCSomewhere in there on his Figaro Solo is David Kenefick, Ireland’s “Sailor of the year” 2013. Photo: Brian Carlin

"Ludde is a legend and it is a great privilege to sail with him as skipper of CQS,” commented Kenefick. We have a young and multinational crew and we cannot wait to take on the challenge. CQS is a fantastic race boat and I am sure we are all going to learn so much after 3,000 miles.”

“In my early days I had the pleasure of racing with Harold Cudmore and we are still great friends,” said Ludde Ingvall. “I remember meeting with Harold and asking him what drives us on, now that we have been racing so many years. He replied we must 'pass it on' and that is what we are doing for young sailors that show great ability and the attitude to succeed.”

kenefick ludvallCQS crew – 26 year old Dave Kenefick pictured (centre) with Ludde Ingvall at tne gala dinner and his Australian 98ft Maxi CQS in the RORC Transatlantic Race starting from Lanzarote. Also pictured (fourth from left) is Royal Ulster Olympian James Espey

It will be intriguing to learn from one of our own just what it’s like to sail on something like CQS, which you can see as either counter-intuitive, or else so very intuitive that she has come out the other side. And with Kenefick on board, we will be keeping a special eye on her showing as the longest boat.

In between CQS and the “little” Jangada, there’s an eclectic selection including that old war horse, the Volvo 70 Monster Project (Roman Guerra). But generally they’re top end boats of comfortable size while being competitive at the same time. And with a considerable emphasis on European entries (there are boats from nine countries), they’re living proof that the story of the Eurozone’s economic recovery is true, and it’s out there and floating on the Atlantic.

biscay 36 drawing10At the signing of the agreement to stage the RORC Transatlantic race from Lanzarote to Grenada are (left to right) Francine Stewart (Marketing Manager, Grenada Tourism Authority), Eddie Warden-Owen (CEO, RORC), Patricia Maher (Grenada Tourism Authority) and Michael Boyd (Commodore, RORC)

Typical of this is hyper-keen French owner-skipper Eric de Turkheim from La Rochelle, who we also feel is one of us, for if it hadn’t been for Rambler 88’s almost freakish performance in last year’s Volvo Round Ireland Race, his unusual-looking but effective Teasing Machine II would have been the overall winner.

Since then he has come up with the new 54ft Teasing Machine III, and though she wasn’t ready in time for the Fastnet Race in August, she made an impressive debut in the Middle Sea Race in late October, and would have been second overall if another of those pesky JPK 10.80s, this time the Russian-owned Bogatyr, hadn’t come out of the woodwork at the end, and snatched the win by six minutes, while Teasing Machine II was relegated to a close third overall.

So between CQS and Teasing Machine, we have favourites to follow. And although the RORC fleet start all of a week after the ARC, the winds along the sunshine route to the Caribbean are in such a wayward mood that it’s going to be fascinating comparing the relative performance of the two groups.

biscay 36 drawing10The new 54ft Teasing Machine II on her way to third overall in her first major event, the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2017. Photo Rolex

But what on earth, you might well wonder, is all this recitation of Atlantic voyagers and racers to do with giving only two instead of three cheers for the prospect of World Sailing shoe-horning offshore racing into the Olympics?

It’s simple. Offshore racing and its many organisations and events are so varied that trying to channel them into the narrow perspective of the Olympics, with its over-long four year cycle, is going to result in a very artificial construct. And the idea of having a man-and-woman crew of two who are declared to be the World Champions and Olympic Gold Medallists is so remote from the delicious, invigorating and multi-interest variety of the current offshore and ocean scene that we could be talking about two different planets.

For sure, it’s a notion which will appeal to newspaper headline writers. In the real red-top trade, sailing only makes sense when it’s in the Olympics or somebody is drowned. Beyond that, it’s simply too complex, varied and – let’s face it – self-absorbed, to promote itself as some sort of arena sport.

biscay 36 drawing10Eric de Turkheim, popular owner of Teasing Machine III, in Sydney preparing to race Teasing Machine II with success in the Sydney-Hobart Race

It was quite some time ago when two top honchos in American sailing announced that they were determined to reduce the number of world titles recognized by the then International Yacht Racing Union, which went on to become ISAF, and is now World Sailing. Back in the day, these guys reckoned that the 143 different IYRU-recognised classes with International status being each entitled to their own World Championship was a nonsense, and numbers should be reduced.

You can see why they thought so. One hundred and forty three sailing world champions might seem a bit over the top. But the idea went down like a lead balloon. People cherish their own classes, they cherish their own world titles, and they cherish their own local setup. And though they take a polite interest in World Sailing’s new look World Championship for Olympic classes, as it so often seems to be held on the other side of the world they’ll only engage if they happen to know of someone taking part.

So it’s complicated enough with inshore racing. But when you add in the extra factors involved in the much more complex and quirky world of offshore and ocean racing, it sometimes goes beyond understanding.

biscay 36 drawing10The old war horse. The Volvo 70 Monster Project coming to the finish to take line honours in the 2014 Round Ireland Race. She’s still going strong, and is one of the entries in the RORC Transatlantic Race. Photo WSC

Yet the way things are provides something for everyone in the audience. While we pay lip service to approving the moves towards synchronising the IRC and ORC measurement systems, there’s a little bit of us that thinks it’s actually a pretty good idea having the two, as it allows for even more prizes, and they keep up the interest across a broader spectrum of the fleet.

Equally, an almost mind-numbing variety of events and organisations, a whole world away from the rigid one design format proposed for the Olympics offshore racing tryout, is what the global scene in the offshore game is all about. Think, for instance, of the 240 people from both sides of St George’s Channel who gathered at the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association’s annual black tie dinner and prize-giving earlier this month in the National Yacht Club. All power to the great Peter Ryan for organising it, these were genuine sportsmen and women who are dedicated to their interest afloat, yet somehow trying to link them directly to the sterile world of the Olympics just doesn’t make sense.

At the other extreme, our own deservedly admired 2016 Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy instantly made herself much more interesting, much more of a three-dimensional character, when she courageously took on the crewing job aboard Turn the Tide on Plastic in the Volvo Ocean Race. There’s no doubt that having the fitness of an Olympic athlete is a real asset in a Volvo 65, but the concept of the Volvo Ocean Race is a million miles from Olympic theory.

In a different direction, sailing also includes the craziness of the America’s Cup, but in the offshore and ocean sphere, it’s generally agreed that the supreme event is the Vendee Globe. Nothing could be simpler in concept than one sailor on his or her own racing non-stop round the world out of a French port which finds it has stumbled on a world-beating event. Yet nothing is more complex than the actual machinations of the Vendee Globe, but the Olympic ideal it ain’t.

biscay 36 drawing10A very different machine from a Laser Radial – Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy is one of the round the world crew on turn the Tide on Plastic

But despite these enormous difference, the fact of offshore racing becoming linked to the Olympics might make life a little easier for people like Tom Dolan who have literally re-invented themselves in the strange world of solo offshore racing, but find it extremely difficult to explain to non-sailors, especially those who might have a sponsorship budget, just what’s going on. However, mention the Olympics, and it’s a bit of a light-bulb moment.

That said, the proposed Olympic offshore course will be light years away from what Tom Dolan and his comrade-rivals put themselves through during the first 15 and more days of November. We carried an extract of winner Erwan Le Daroulec’s take on it earlier this week, but it’s worth repeating (and don’t sign off, the real meat of this week’s blog is at the end). Le Draoulac wrote:

“I brought a book with me, but I never thought to read it. I helmed, I ate, I slept, I answered the calls of nature, a real animal life. It was a nightmare.

The boat was soaked the whole time. I never dumped any sails, I just went up forward to reinforce my bowsprit. To get to sleep when I was under autopilot, I put on my headphones with some audio books and I listened again to the whole of Harry Potter. It was the only way of preventing stress whilst the boat was powering along at 18 knots, sometimes under autopilot, but I never eased off the pace.

It was only in the last two days where I dropped the large spinnaker in the squalls. I said to myself that it would be too silly to break everything so close to the goal. Prior to that though I really attacked hard. I knew I was risking a dismasting, but my line of thinking was that I was only twenty years old and that I’d have the opportunity to do another Mini-Transat. I didn’t make the most of it, I didn’t enjoy it. I’d like to the cross the Atlantic again, but gently so as to make the most of it.”

biscay 36 drawing10Erwan le Draoulec – he won, and won well, but says he didn’t enjoy it at all
We really must try a dose of the old Harry Potters the next time insomnia comes along…..but seriously, what sort of a sailing world have we created, that a 20-year-old old is trained to such a level of performance that he can turn in an incredibly brave and skilled world-beating performance, yet actually hates every minute of it?

That said, Tom Dolan reckons he only feels truly alive when he’s “in the zone”, racing his little boat flat out. However, since he finished he has quietly revealed that, two days out from the finish, he survived an experience which was beyond fulfilling.

He was running in the dark in about 30 knots of wind and going a dream under the small spinnaker, nicely on track for fourth with a good chance of a bite at third, when out of the still-total blackness a 45 knot squall struck. IRL 910 went faster and faster, then a steep one lifted her from astern, and the tip of her stemhead went under the bow-wave. Within seconds, she’d done a complete pitchpole.

Tom found himself in the water in the dark, and his boat inverted for what seemed forever beside him. But she shook herself upright, he hauled himself aboard, and to his amazement everything, rig and all, still seemed intact. It was the first time he’d ever heard of a Min-Transat boat pitch-poling and not being dismasted, and miraculously it had happened to an under-funded Irishman who was campaigning on little more than wing and a prayer. He still had his wing. He will have sent have up a little prayer of thanks.

Then it was right back full on into the race, and we’ve all seen the vid of him finishing. But it’s worth repeating. You’re looking at a real hero.

He was within 48 minutes of being third and on the podium, but it was miraculous he was there at all. As for the final overall placings based on the total accumulated times for the two legs, the word is that won’t be officially announced until the Paris Boat Show on December 8th, when they’ll also stage the prize-giving.

biscay 36 drawing10Tom Dolan with his new boat in 2016, when he won his first race. It has been revealed that he came fifth in the second leg of the Mini Transat despite being pitch-poled two days before the finish

At the Paris Boat Show they’ll also officially announce the Golden Globe 18, golden oldies of a past era racing round the world in celebration of the Golden Jubilee the original Golden Globe, the non-stop round the world solo race of 1968 which was won by Robin Knox-Johnston in Suhaili. To be eligible, you have to be racing a “closed profile” (ie non fin-and-keg) boat of around 36ft, and Ireland’s Gregor McGuckin is entered with a Biscay 36 which he is currently preparing.

But as the organisers couldn’t get any British port associated with the original race to take it on fifty years later, Les Sables d’Olonne in France, home of the Vendee Globe, stepped up to the plate, and they will be the host port. It’s a perfect illustration of the huge spread of French interest in offshore racing. In fact, you might be making a sensible wager if you bet on France to support the new offshore event in the Olympics, but only if they can present the medals at the subsequent Paris Boat Show…

Meanwhile, as to Ireland being ready and willing for involvement in an Olympic offshore racing class, we certainly have plenty of keen young ocean racers, both men and women, who will be mustard keen if the resources can be found to get their campaigns under way. But as it is, the world of offshore racing is already rich in its diversity without being forced into any Olympic straitjacket. And that’s the way it is in Ireland too. We seem to like it that way too, but if the Olympics come calling, they’ll be welcome to join the party.

biscay 36 drawing10Tough and compact – the hull profile of a vintage Biscay 36. Ireland’s Gregor McGuckin will be racing one in next year’s Golden Jubilee of the Golden Globe Race. But despite the original having started and finished in England, the 2018 version will start and finish in France

Published in W M Nixon

Some decisions and the sentiment expressed at World Sailing’s 2017 Conference recently suggest that the door might be opening for offshore sailing to become an Olympic sailing event.

Submission 108 presented by the World Sailing Board, and passed by the Council, greenlights the establishment of an Offshore World Championship in one-design boats. The submission gives credence to the proposal made to the International Olympic Committee to hold an Offshore “Showcase” event at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Noboru Kobayashi of the Japanese Sailing Federation, speaking to the submission, suggested a 300 mile offshore course starting close to the Olympic Marina in Tokyo Bay and finishing in Enoshima just west of Tokyo.

While there is much detail to be discussed, it is believed that the format will allow for a two-handed, mixed gender crew sailing in supplied one-designs with the Figaro Beneteau 3 being mentioned as a potential class.

If given the go-ahead, the showcase event would likely take place immediately prior to the Games themselves, and, if deemed successful, could become a full medal event in 2024.

Published in Offshore

The racing format for Annalise Murphy's bid for an Olympic Gold medal has been settled at last week's World Sailing Conference in Mexico.

It will almost certainly see Ireland's Olympic Slver Medalist from the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire break from her Volvo Ocean Race campaign next May to win a place for Ireland on the Laser Radial Tokyo startline at the 2018 Sailing World Championships, the principal Olympic Sailing qualification event.

The Men's and Women's 470, Finn, Laser and Laser Radial will all sail an opening series which will be followed by a double point Medal Race.

As well as Murphy, at least three other Irish Radial Sailors will seek Tokyo selection, including top performing Aoife Hopkins of Howth Yacht Club. Also campaigning is Aisling Keller of Lough Derg and Sally Bell of Belfast Lough. In the Mens Laser division, Rio rep Finn Lynch is likely to face a challenge for the single Tokyo berth by Belfast's Liam Glynn, Howth's Ewan McMahon and Royal Cork's Johnny Durcan. 

Flashes facing StarboardAnnalise Murphy training on her beloved Dublin Bay Photo: Terry McDonagh

Men's and Women's RS:X sailors will also sail an opening series and a double point Medal Race, however when the wind conditions suit planing, they will have a reaching start and finish.

World Sailing's Council had a discussion and debate on the 49er and 49erFX Medal Race format. The Events Committee proposed that three single point races on the final day shall be sailed with the use of boundaries at the discretion of the Race Committee. Ireland currently has up to five 49er campaigns vying for a single Tokyo slot.

Council voted against the proposal and the 49er and 49erFX fleets will now sail an opening series and a single double points Medal Race.

The Council also noted that the Nacra 17 format had not been fully tested but it's expected they will retain their current opening series and a single double points Medal Race.

Olympic Qualification System for the Tokyo 2020 Sailing Regatta

The qualification system for Tokyo 2020 was also approved by World Sailing's Council. The Aarhus 2018 Sailing World Championships will be the principal qualification event.

Places will be available at the 2018 Asian Games, 2019 Pan-Am Games and 2019 World Championships. Further places will be available at continental events.

The qualification system will now be reviewed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and all International Federation qualification systems will be approved by the IOC Executive Board in February 2018.

Published in Tokyo 2020

It’s not every day you get to fly on a jetliner named in your honour writes W M Nixon. But then, not everyone has won Ireland a Silver Medal in the Olympics. Even at that, today’s busy flight schedules are so hectic that the chances of happening to fly on your personally-named plane are still slim enough.

But this weekend, everything came right for Annalise Murphy as she boarded ASL Airlines B737 “Annalise Murphy” at Dublin Airport, heading for Verona and the Moth Worlds which start on Tuesday at Malcesine on Lake Garda.

annalise plane2For once, she wasn’t going to be at the helm. Annalise Murphy and “her” plane as Captain Demie Ryan of Blackrock, Co Dublin goes aboard to fly her to Verona. Photo: Con Murphy

With last month’s America’s Cup and its focus on racing with foils now analysed down to the finest details, the Worlds for the foiling Moths couldn’t be staged at a more appropriate time. Several of the rock stars from the big one in Bermuda will be very much in the action on Lake Garda, including winner Peter Burling of New Zealand, and Australia’s Nathan Otteridge of the highly-rated Swedish Artemis challenge.

There are many other Olympic stars taking part in addition to Annalise, and the Irish challenge in the fleet of 240 is further strengthened by the participation of five other Irish Moth sailors, including her coach Rory Fitzpatrick, who is certainly no slouch when it comes to his own performance in foiling Moths – he emerged as champion at the Cork Dinghyfest three weeks ago. The week’s racing starts tomorrow (Monday) with the non-championship “Banging the Corner” dash-for-cash event, then after that it’s down to the serious stuff.

Published in Annalise Murphy

After some stand–out performances in the qualifying rounds of the Trofeo Princesa Sofía in Mallorca this week, Belfast Laser sailor Liam Glynn sailed in the first day of the ultra competitive Gold fleet yesterday. The former Topper World Champion has graduated to the Laser full rig having finished 29th in the Laser Radial Boys World Championships at the Royal St. George YC in Dun Laoghaire last year. He is currently 45th from 60 in gold with more races for the entire 134–boat Laser fleet today.

Equal levels of top consistency proved elusive across the two races for the Laser class, particularly among the top three sailors who all sailed one bogey result today. Spain’s emerging Grand Canaria based Joel Rodriguez is back at the top of the fleet.

The Royal Irish YC sailor Saskia Tidey from Dun Laoghaire who is now sailing with Team GB's Charlotte Dobson lies fifth in the 49erFX. 

A silver fleet finish for all four Irish 49ers in Palma, Mallorca this week is a reminder of the competitiveness of the Olympic sailing circuit and the standard required to secure the single Irish berth for Tokyo in 2020. Results are here

In the Finn class, Donaghdee's Oisin McClleland is 31st from 57.

Published in Tokyo 2020

On Thursday evening, sailing came centre stage in Irish life when our new Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy was officially welcomed back to her home port of Dun Laoghaire. She arrived by sea on a summer’s evening with flags flying in abundance for a public welcome by leading local and national politicians at the landing at the East Pier, followed by a Civic Reception by the County Council in the nearby People’s Park.

Then came the ultimate celebration - the home-coming party to outshine all parties - by Ireland’s sailing community. It was at her sailing home, the National Yacht Club, where she has been a member since she was six years old. There were more than 2,000 well-wishers from all over Ireland in the crowd packed into the clubhouse and onto its balcony and forecourt. Somewhere in the midst of them was Afloat.ie’s W M Nixon, savouring the flavour of an extraordinary gathering.

It’s not the first time that Dublin Bay Sailing Club has re-arranged its regular sailing programme in order to facilitate the return to Ireland of a sailing superstar. But having missed out on the previous one back on Saturday June 20th 1925, when Conor O’Brien returned to what he sensibly called Dunleary with his 42ft Saoirse after his pioneering two year voyage round the world south of the Great Capes, we weren’t going to miss Thursday August 25th 2016 at the National YC to welcome back Annalise Murphy with her Silver Medal.

Particularly not after Dublin Bay SC Commodore Chris Moore had announced some days previously that he was going to move the formerly completely sacrosanct Thursday evening cruiser-racing weekly fixture to Wednesday, in order to clear the decks for the Annalise welcome. That was one very clearcut statement.

But before we get carried away by the great doings of last Thursday night, let us admit that back in 1925 they could also lay on the razzmatazz big-time when they’d a mind to do so. O’Brien’s circumnavigation with the Saoirse was the first notable voyage by a vessel flying the tricolour ensign of the new Irish Free State. It was a mighty venture which pioneered the traversing of the great Southern Ocean in such spectacular style with so much popular interest that when he returned, it was to find that Dublin Bay SC had cancelled their regular Saturday race in his honour.

conor Obrien SaoirseConor O’Brien’s Saoirse departs Dun Laoghaire on 20th June 1923 on her round the world voyage south of the Great Capes. Whe she returned on Saturday June 20th 1925, Dublin Bay SC cancelled Saturday racing so that the fleet could give Saoirse a special welcome home
This was to enable their fleet - many colourfully dressed overall in their best signal flags – to welcome Saoirse into port. But when he finally got ashore, there was a ceremonial procession all the way into Dublin watched by notable crowds, followed by a Gala Dinner at the United Arts Club of which he, as an architect and brother of the artist Dermod O’Brien, had been a founder member.

These days, the fact that Dun Laoghaire is so vigorously the capital of Irish sailing, and so much of an urban centre in its own right, makes the notion of moving on into Dublin for the focus of any home-coming celebration of a seaborn achiever seem absurd. Despite the sometimes fractious interfaces which arise between the various bodies involved with the harbour, the fact is that Dun Laoghaire is gradually developing the facilities of a major leisure port. Thus it has absolutely everything you need within the waterfront/harbour area for a series of events like Thursday’s complex programme, which for total devotees started around 5.30pm and was still going strong at midnight.

annalise_murphy_ribFlags and more flags – the Silver Medallist makes her return to Dun Laoghaire
crowds on pier for AnnaliseThe quayside welcome

The only extra that had been required beforehand was co-operation from the weather, and even that was forthcoming despite this poor summer. We’d a clear gentle evening when in theory you could move comfortably between indoors and out. But the reality was the crowd was on such a scale (I’d reckon there were many more than 2,000) that once you found a comfortable berth, you stayed put, and just enjoyed it all as proceedings unfolded.

Admittedly when you’re celebrating success at this level after a 36 year drought since the previous Irish Olympic sailing medal, any critical faculties will be decidedly muted, but everyone in my area agreed the whole programme went very well indeed. The waterborne parade in the harbour – choreographed by Dun Laoghaire lifeboat cox’n and RIYC Marine Manager Mark McGibney – went with such style you assumed it had been rehearsed, but apparently it hadn’t. Equally there was no chance of any rehearsal for the succession of shoreside events but they all held together, and the final intensive presentation in the National YC forecourt as night drew on was pure magic, rounded out by a fireworks display.

National Yacht Club forecourtAnd this was only part of the crowd on the forecourt…
The word is that somewhere in the background pulling the strings was Mr Fixit, Irish sailing’s invisible man Brian Craig, who is our greatest practitioner of the secret art of doing good work by stealth. Glimpsed in the crowd a couple of times, he didn’t look like someone who had the organisational problems of a major event on his shoulders. But then, he always looks like that.

Another rising star is Annalise’s brother Finn Murphy, who is so up to speed with the latest technology that he’s inventing it as he goes along. Naturally, as the public face of the National Yacht Club, Commodore Larry Power expressed concern that everything would be okay in the very hectic few days of buildup. But Finn simply told him not to worry, it would be all right on the night, and so it was.

Irish sailing did itself proud for an attendance which included 1956 Olympic Gold Medallist Ronnie Delany, Silver Medallist Sonia O’Sullivan, and our own David Wilkins who won the Silver in the Flying Dutchman in 1980. But perhaps the most memorable thing about the evening was the universality of the event. Club sailors from all over felt the urge to join with the National Yacht Club in marking this historic high in its busy life, and the mutual goodwill was tangible in the gathering dusk among the friendly crowd.

Of course, nobody denies that getting within shouting distance of a first Silver Medal is bound to involved stressful episodes, but those were receding into the forgotten past by the time Annalise and her support team got themselves on stage. She’d last made an official appearance at that pre-Olympics press conference in Dublin on Tuesday July 26th, when (see recent blog) it was quite clear that the new-look Annalise Murphy was very different from the frustrated sailor whose campaign had lost its way at the Worlds on May 20th.

But here we now were, only three months after that low point in late May, and only thirty days since that re-born vision on July 26th. Here we were, gazing in some wonder at a real live Silver Medallist, one who had controlled the final Medals Race with such competent and confident style that she moved from merely hanging onto to her Bronze Medal into a clearcut Silver Medal win.

Rory FitzpatrickSome thoughtful words from Rory Fitzpatrick. From left on stage are Kate Kirby (sports psychologist), Annalise’s mother Cathy MacAleavy, Rory Fitzparick, Larry Power (Commodore NYC), Finn Murphy, Annalise with her sister Claudine beyond, and on right (with red top) Sara Winther with Con Murphy and Colm Barrington beyond

It was something which deserved celebration for everyone involved, and it was a very inclusive gathering. For an Irish sailing crowd, it seemed the most natural thing in the world that the returning Murphy family and support team should have come home from Rio bringing with them the New Zealand sailor Sarah Winther. She’d failed by one place at the Worlds to secure the New Zealand qualifying position for the Olympics, such that New Zealand didn’t send a representative in the Women’s Laser Radials at all. So the frustrated Winther then reckoned her talents might be of some use to her friend Annalise Murphy, and as she’s a natural coach and perfect training partner, she brought to Annalise and her coach Rory Fitzpatrick a new dimension for the final countdown, which made a significant difference.

So while Annalise was made an Honorary Life Member of the NYC at Thursday’s gathering, Sara Winther – who’s still a bit surprised to find herself having an unexpected holiday in Ireland in the first place – became an Honorary Foreign Member, which will have heraldry experts scratching their heads, but we all know what it means.

Annalise MurphyThe Silver Medallist speaks from the heart

Every speech was right on target, with charming turns from Annalise and her family, a particularly good one from Rory Fitzpatrick, and a well-judged and encouraging one from Colm Barrington about where the Irish Olympic sailing effort can hope to go from here.

We’ll soon have the time and space to analyse them in detail, and having seen how much the extra effort Annalise Murphy put into getting to know the tricky sailing waters of Rio beforehand, and how much it contributed to her success, we’ve already been looking at the little Japanese island resort of Enoshima south of Tokyo where the 2020 Olympics will be held.

2020 Tokyo Olympic Sailing Venue The little resort island of Enoshima on Sagamai Bay south of Tokyo is the venue for the 2020 Olympics. And yes, that is Mount Fuji in the distance

But as the Annalise Murphy success has in its way contributed a textbook of how to put together and Olympic campaign and then bring it back on course when things go astray, we can be quite sure that all over the world, other people will be studying just how Ireland won this particular silver.

And as for repeating strategies which were successful in Rio, we have to remember that Japan is very different from Brazil. In Rio the Olympic authorities may not have objected to the fact that Annalise and her team preferred to set up their own base away from the barely-finished Olympic village, in an apartment convenient to the sailing area, and with facilities where they could control their food. But in the more disciplined world of Japan, it mightn’t be allowed.

However, that’s another day’s work. Let us conclude on another note entirely. In the many vox pop interviews on the media, people have been enthusing about what a marvellous role model and inspiration Annalise Murphy has become for Ireland’s young sailors. But surely that’s only partially true? Here at Sailing on Saturdays HQ, we reckon Annalise Murphy has become a marvellous role model and inspiration for all Ireland’s sailors.

Annalise's homecoming photo gallery by Joe Fallon

 
Published in W M Nixon

While Irish Sailing is rightfully basking in the reflected glory of last night's homecoming celebrations for Annalise Murphy and its Olympic Sailing Team there will also be one eye to the future, considering how to turn the positive Rio results into tangible benefits for the development of sailing in Ireland, not just in High Performance, but across every aspect of the sport.

There is no doubt that, in the modern sports world, medals mean money. An analysis of Sports funding in many developed countries shows that successful sports benefit from good results at World Championships and major Games.

In Atlanta in 1996, Britain finished 26th in the medal table (Ireland was 16th – entirely due to Michelle Smith) with a total of 15 medals from six sports. The improvement over the five intervening Olympiads to the 67 medals from 22 sports in Rio, is due to a variety of things, but perhaps most of all to the increased investment in sport aided by the introduction of the National Lottery. Sports with a plan, that medalled in Atlanta, benefitted the most, while the ones that lagged behind were given a boost by the increased investment occasioned by being the host nation for the 2012 games.

Sailing in the UK received £25.5m in the Rio Olympic cycle, the fourth highest funded sport after Athletics, Swimming and Cycling. Sailing in Ireland received €2.545m in High Performance funding, third place after Boxing and Athletics (figures exclude paralympic sports). It might also be argued that Ireland did better in terms of the cost per medal – the Irish Sailing silver medal cost €2.545m, while Britain's 3 sailing medals cost £8.5m each.

David O'Brien reports in the Irish Times that as Sport Ireland looks to fund the Tokyo 2020 squad, there is no doubt that Sailing and Rowing will enter the negotiations with the considerable clout that medals bring, but there will be a more forensic analysis of what led to success and whether the sport has a pipeline that will lead to sustainability of results on the international stage.

The ISA will be able to point to the potential shown in Rio as well as an impressive track record by ISA academy members at Youth Sailing Worlds and World and European Championships. There have been many significant results, not least World Youth Sailing bronze in the 420 in January and as recently as July, World Youth Silver in the Laser Radial.  

Also under scrutiny, particularly in light of recent developments, will be whether the sport has robust governance, ensuring fairness and transparency, as well as a willingness to engage with the Irish Institute of Sport, an arm of Sport Ireland that played a leading role in the success in Rio. Irish Sailing passes these test as well, putting it in a very strong position to negotiate vigorously, not only for High Performance, but also for investment into the grassroots of the sport.

Click for more on last night's spectacular Olympic homecoming celebration on Afloat.ie

Published in Olympic

The National Yacht Club sailor, Annalise Murphy from Dun Laoghaire, who overcame heartbreak in London 2012 to take a silver medal in Rio on Tuesday has been thanking suporters via her Facebook page. In a typical warm but modest fashion the Olympic silver medallist says: 'Wow I don't really know what to say! This is a dream come true, not only for me but for everyone who has helped me get to this point over the last 8 years! Thank you everyone for all the amazing support, it means the world to me! Still in shock but so proud to be Irish! X Annalise'.

She is pictured on the podium with her coaches Rory Fitzpatrick and Sara Winthers who she credits with so much of her success. 

Annalise Murphy's journey has been charted in a unique photo review by the Irish Times this morning here

Her road to silver success was profiled in the newspaper yesterday by correspondent David O'Brien here

Published in Olympic

After a frustrating wait for wind on the Sugarloaf course in Rio today, Annalise Murphy and the other nine medal race competitors went afloat only to have racing scrubbed when strong winds swept over the course. The racing was postponed and will resume tomorrow. 

Published in Olympic
Page 7 of 11

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