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A former Irish Olympic sailing 49er coach is confident either of the two Irish skiff teams can win the four-way battle for the last Tokyo place this weekend at the International Lanzarote Regatta.

As Afloat reported last week, there are four nations in contention for one remaining place in the 49er class: Ireland, Estonia, Italy and Belgium. 51 teams are registered for the six-day event. 

Ireland will be represented by two teams; the experienced double Olympian Ryan Seaton (Carrickfergus Sailing Club) and Séafra Guilfoyle (Royal Cork Yacht Club); and first-time campaigners Robert Dickson (Howth Yacht Club) and Sean Waddilove (Skerries Sailing Club).

Tytus Konarzewski who coached Dickson (23) and Waddilove (22), to Under-23 World Championship victory in 2018 offered an insight that it will ultimately be the crew that makes the 'less small mistakes' will succeed next week.

The Polish coach says: "For sure they have a chance. The question is: how are they prepared?"

Seaton (33), the 49er rep from London and Rio, and Guilfoyle (23) are being chased very hard by the former 420 dinghy sailors Dickson and Waddilove who first stepped foot in a 49er in 2015.

An examination of results from world-girdling Irish campaigns provides a form guide but even that is punctuated by COVID.

In only their third-ever appearance at a senior event, in December 2019 the Dickson and Waddilove qualified for the 49er World Championships Gold fleet after a high stakes day in Auckland Harbour, an event in which 'favourites', Seaton and Guilfoyle did not make the cut.  

Neither of the Irish crews then made gold fleet two months later at the 2020 Worlds in Geelong, Australia.  Then, after seven months without racing, Irish crews checked in with the European fleet at Kiel Week last September in a build-up to the European Championships. It produced some important markers for both Irish men's skiff teams, not least the fact that it was the Dickson and Waddilove that came out on top. The Howth pairing finished 14th some 13 places ahead of double Olympian Seaton and Guilfoyle who had a silver fleet finish in 27th place in the 52-boat fleet. 

Dickson and Waddilove's campaign had a meteoric rise with U23 World Championship victory in 2018Dickson and Waddilove's campaign had a meteoric rise with U23 World Championship victory in 2018 Photo: Sailing Energy 

Konarzewski, who coached the Irish 49erFX team in Rio, says that Seaton (who made the 2016 medal race final in Rio) would have been expected to have qualified Ireland by now. There is no doubting the talent of the 31-year-old who brought home the Silver Medal from the ISAF World Championship in Hyeres on France's Mediterranean coast in 2014 and two years later won the Gold Medal in the 49er skiff event in a keen fleet at the Princess Sofia Regatta in Palma in the build-up to Rio in 2016.

More recently, showing the depth of their ambition, Seaton and Guilfoyle placed sixth in the World Cup medal race at Enoshima, the site for the summer’s Olympics, in August 2019. 

Certainly, it's hard to fathom how after starting out ahead of the curve for Tokyo five years ago, Ireland is now in the 49er last chance saloon. However, 'we are where we are', as the saying goes, and the final chance to secure the last berth begins this Sunday.

In his time at the Irish Sailing Association, Tytus Konarzewski oversaw the 49er Development team with the aim of bringing them to an experienced competitive level in senior Olympic sailing, and preparing for the challenge of Tokyo 2020 and beyond to 2024. Tytus has over thirty years coaching experience and is familiar with the Irish setup having coached our 49erFX team in the Rio Olympics.In his time at the Irish Sailing Association, Tytus Konarzewski oversaw the 49er Development team with the aim of bringing them to an experienced competitive level in senior Olympic sailing, and preparing for the challenge of Tokyo 2020 and beyond to 2024. Tytus has over thirty years of coaching experience and is familiar with the Irish setup having coached our 49erFX team in the Rio Olympics Photo: Afloat

Konarzewski, who no longer works for the Irish Sailing Association, believes that Ireland can be on the 49er starting line for Tokyo in four months time and, significantly, also in Paris 2024, where he predicts we could be "medal contenders" in the men's skiff.

The two 49er teams are supported next week in the Canaries by Seaton's former London and Rio crew Matt McGovern and Laser coach Sean Evans.

Originally planned for the Princess Sofia Regatta in Mallorca (Spain), the last-minute change in venue for the Qualifier was announced in February due to COVID-19. The event is hosted by the Canary Islands Sailing Federation over three different race areas. Blustery conditions with strong winds and rolling seas are expected.

The competition begins this Sunday (21 March) and concludes next Friday, 26 March.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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Two Irish 49er teams have their date with Olympic destiny in just a week's time when the final Tokyo qualifier takes place next week on the Spanish Island of Lanzarote.

One way or another, Sunday week (March 21st) will mark the culmination of five-year campaigns for two Irish 49er teams, bringing the curtain down on an eventful cycle for the Olympic skiff in Ireland.

The hope is that Ireland can be top of the unqualified European nations and win the one remaining slot. The key contenders are Ireland, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Estonia and Russia.

The ad hoc 'Lanzarote International Regatta' event was announced a month ago after the Princess Sofia Regatta was postponed. It gave the teams a month to arrive and prepare for the event, removing some of the uncertainty in Olympic circles caused by COVID-19.

Ryan Seaton is teamed with Seafra Guilfoyle and are a Belfast Lough and Cork Harbour combinationAll Ireland duo - Belfast Lough double Olympian Ryan Seaton is teamed with Cork Harbour's Seafra Guilfoyle

Youth v Experience

It will be a case of youth versus experience for Ireland in the Canaries. As Afloat reported previously, double Olympian Ryan Seaton teamed with Seafra Guilfoyle battle against 2018 Under 23 49er World Champions Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove, in their first Olympic campaign. Both are chasing the single elusive Olympic place and whoever grabs it will be deemed to be nominated to the Olympic Federation of Ireland for Tokyo in July.

49erFX

Ireland will have no role in the 49er FX women's class in Lanzarote as Annalise Murphy and Katie Tingle quit their skiff campaign in 2019 and Murphy went on to secure the nomination in the Radial class, so far the only Irish boat for the Tokyo regatta.

There is no entry list published for Lanzarote so far but it may see Dun Laoghaire Harbour's Saskia Tidey in action for Team GB. The Royal Irish sailor who is tipped for a medal in Tokyo opted to sail for Team GB after Rio citing 'lack of opportunities' for her at home.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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Ireland's 49er skiffs that will face a final battle for Tokyo Olympic qualification will race two days earlier than scheduled at the Lanzarote International Regatta. Ireland will know if either team has been successful in securing a men's skiff team for the 2021 Olympics by March 26th.

The change in date for the hastily assembled Canaries Island event comes about due to ferry schedules back to mainland Europe.

Hyeres Regatta in France (the venue for the final European Laser qualification where Ireland is also seeking a final Tokyo place) has now updated its schedule with racing starting on April 5th which means 49er crews can compete in both regattas should they so wish.

The Lanzarote race days are now March 21-26, 2021 giving teams a month to arrive and prepare for the regatta, removing some of the uncertainty in Olympic circles caused by COVID-19.

Ireland has to be the top of the unqualified European nations to win the remaining slot. The key contenders are Ireland, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Estonia and Russia.

As Afloat reported previously, double Olympian Ryan Seaton teamed with Seafra Guilfoyle and Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove are both chasing the elusive Olympic place.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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Two Irish 49ers will race for the last Tokyo 2020 berths at a hastily put together European Olympic Qualifier event in Lanzarote, Spain this March.

The Princess Sofia Regatta was meant to be the important qualifier, but it was forced to postpone until after the Olympics.

The Lanzarote race days are March 23-28, 2021 giving teams five weeks to arrive and prepare for the regatta, removing some of the uncertainty in Olympic circles caused by COVID-19.

Ireland has to be the top of the unqualified European nations to win the remaining slot. The key contenders are Ireland, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Estonia and Russia.

As Afloat reported previously, double Olympian Ryan Seaton teamed with Seafra Guilfoyle and Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove are both chasing the elusive Olympic place.

Lanzarote recently held a winter series in which Irish Laser sailors had some success in strong winds and rolling seas and many teams are already on site.

Teams needing to arrive will need a recent PCR test and a visa. 

Since the announcement of the event, organisers are now also dealing with the fact that a ferry from the Canary island back to mainland Spain doesn't leave until six days after the regatta, so the organisers are now attempting to see how feasible it is to secure an extra ferry or move the dates of the Qualfier.

If the new qualifier goes ahead, Irish Sailing will be required to update its published nomination procedure arising out of the postponements of both Genoa 2020 and Palma 2021 regattas to reflect the new 'Final Nation Qualifier'.

As per the IS website today the current published procedure is: 

If the nation qualifies at the final nation qualifier in Genoa (13 April 2020) (“Final Nation Qualifier”) the OSG will recommend the Candidate that qualified the nation.

4.6 If the nation receives a place in the Games through a reallocation of places by World Sailing the place will go to the Candidate who had the lowest score combining the Final Nation Qualifier result and their 2019 World Championship result, calculated in accordance with the scoring principles set out in paragraph 6.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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The Olympic Games Sailing Qualification system's "what if" scenarios may be called in to play if pandemic related cancellations continue to ravage the high-performance sailing scene.

There are particular implications for the two classes in which Ireland still has reasonable hopes of achieving qualification - the Men's one-person dinghy and the Men's skiff.

Afloat has mulled through the complex paperwork to provide a guide to the qualification system.

Men's one-person dinghy (Laser)

The remaining event for European qualification is the Hyeres regatta in France in April. For Ireland to qualify, an Irish sailor would have to finish in the top two of those European countries that have yet to qualify.

The main contenders for these slots, based on previous form, are Switzerland, Spain, Holland, Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Denmark and Poland.

However, should the qualification regatta not go ahead, and there is some doubt as organisers review the attendance quotas in the light of increased French government restrictions, then it is possible that World Sailing will revert to the reallocation list.

Ireland is currently 4th on that list which is based on results at the 2019 Worlds. As there are only two slots available for Europe, Ireland's chances of qualifying this way are slim.

However, there are also two slots available for Asian countries who have not yet held a continental qualifier. Should this event not take place and if World Sailing opts for using the reallocation list, those places are allocated, regardless of continent, according to the stated pecking order, which could benefit Ireland.

Men's Skiff (49er)

Much the same situation exists here. Although the remaining European qualifier (Palma) is cancelled, the European Championship is scheduled for Greece in May and could be substituted as a qualifier.

In this case, Ireland has to be the top of the unqualified European nations to win the remaining slot. The key contenders are Ireland, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Estonia and Russia.

In the event that a qualifier can't be sailed, the reallocation list puts Ireland second in line after the USA.

Should World Sailing decide to use this method, then Ireland may have to rely on the Asian and African qualifiers being cancelled also as Ireland's status on the list puts them ahead of the other unqualified nations.

Should any nation that is qualified or has yet to qualify, choose not to take up their slot, then the re-allocation list is used. This is a long shot but is still in play.

Clarification on this process is expected from World Sailing later this week.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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World Sailing is reviewing both Hyeres Regatta in France in April and the 49er European Championships Greece in May as alternative Olympic Qualification Regattas following the postponement of March's Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofía yesterday.

As Afloat reported earlier, the Palma event will now be held in October due to COVID but it means it can no longer serve as a qualification event for July's Tokyo Games, itself under question due to the pandemic.

It's a developing scenario that casts doubt as to how the final European Olympic berth will be awarded.

As Afloat previously reported, four nations are in contention for just one skiff place, including Ireland. 

And in a further twist to the story, one of the alternative regattas being considered has just suspended entries in the face of increasing lockdown measures. 

Over the weekend, Hyeres Regatta is understood to be 'reviewing its quotas' for its April regatta due to French Government restrictions.

The Europeans (May 4-9) are the final major championship of the 2020 Quadrennial and will be held in Thessaloniki, just two months out from the Games.

As a result, some anxious European 49er teams will be keeping a good lookout from any updates from World Sailing this week in order that they can gain entry to events they may not necessarily have had on their campaign schedules.

Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle North-south combination - Double Olympian Ryan Seaton (right) and Seafra Guilfoyle from Belfast Lough and Cork Harbour

According to 49er class insiders, World Sailing has promised to update sailors on the matter later this week. 

Likewise, the aim is also to publish the new Asian and African Qualifier by the end of the week.

Historical results to favour Ireland?

Two Irish pairings for the Tokyo berth are up against Sweden, Italy and Belgium.

Double Olympian Ryan Seaton teamed with Seafra Guilfoyle and Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove both chasing the elusive Olympic place.

If an alternative regatta can't be found and the matter can't be settled on the water, World Sailing said previously it would rely on historical results to decide the Olympic ticket as Afloat reported here.

Robert Dickson and Sean WaddiloveDebut Olympic campaign - U23 49er World Champions Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove from Howth and Skerries

Speculation on this point has now increased as the third wave of the pandemic in Europe is not going away any time soon.

Historial results may be good news for Ireland in this class. Form at the 2019 Worlds suggests that Irish sailors would be favourites for the Olympic place having finished ahead of the other three candidates but it is likely to be a complex scenario that awaits confirmation from World Sailing. Afloat has mulled through the paperwork to provide a guide to the qualification system here.

If it does comes to pass – and we are still some way off such a scenario – it will then be a matter of deciding which Irish 49er team is nominated. As regular Afloat readers will know, that's a process that has already caused consternation in Irish Olympic sailing circles this quadrennial.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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The Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofía, a reference event among international sailing regattas, has postponed its 51st edition to October. 

The March regatta due to take place in 50 days time was the final qualification event for the last European berth in the 49er class for Tokyo 2020, in which Ireland is vying for a place.

The Olympic classes and offshore regatta will be held from 2nd to 9th October in the bay of Palma but this will be of no value to the 49ers who will, as Afloat reported earlier, now look for a 'Plan B' from World Sailing.

The hope is that racing will decide the final Olympic berths in the 49er class in which Ireland is one of four countries hoping to progress to Tokyo but uncertainty surrounds what lies ahead. 

The Organising Committee has made this decision following the recommendations from the Balearic Islands Government and after the joint assessment of the evolution of the global pandemic caused by Covid-19.

Ferran Muniesa, the Trofeo Princesa Sofía Race Manager, outlines, “The priority is the safety of the approximately 1000 sailors from around 50 nations that participate each year in this regatta, which must take place in the best possible conditions both ashore and at sea”.

The Princesa Sofía, organised by Club Nàutic S’Arenal, Club Marítimo San Antonio de la Playa, Real Club Náutico de Palma and the Balearic and Spanish Sailing Federations, will continue to have the support of its collaborators Iberostar, Marine Pool, Trasmediterránea and Europcar, as well as of the main Balearic public institutions.

The new Notice of Race is already available on the regatta’s official website (www.trofeoprincesasofia.org). The organisation has made the announcement to the around 300 sailors that had already made their application to participate in the edition to be held from 26th March to 3rd April.

The Mallorca Sailing Center Regatta, the training regatta prior to the Trofeo Princesa Sofía, will be held from 24th to 26th September 2021.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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As Ireland's two 49er campaigns prepare for their last chance to win an Olympic berth in Tokyo, details of the final major championship of the 2020 Quadrennial have been announced in Greece.

After four years of campaigning, minds have been focussed in the Irish camp with the news that the 49er’s Tokyo Olympic qualifier has been confirmed as the Princesa Sofia regatta in Palma, Spain – 26 March – 3 April 2021.

As Afloat previously reported, there are four nations in contention for just one skiff place, including Ireland.

Two Irish boats are up against Sweden, Italy and Belgium. Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle and Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove both chasing the elusive Olympic place.

The teams are currently training at the Irish winter base in Villamoura, Portugal with the Princesa Sofia crunch regatta just 70 days away.

If either of the Irish boats is successful in Palma, there is no doubt they will be heading to Thessaloniki, Greece from May 4-9, 2021 for the 49er, European Championships. Just two months ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, it is expected to be the final chance for Olympians to get into racing form and for the next generation of aspiring Olympians to catch the favourites before they head onto the World Stage.

The regatta will be hosted by the Nautical Club of Thessaloniki is the oldest Nautical club in all of Greece, a country rich a rich history at sea. The club has sent members to the Olympics as long ago as 1948 and more recently has been a centre of 470 and Tornado sailing in Greece. In hosting the 49er, 49erFX, and Nacra 17 European Championship, NCTH will continue this Olympic spirit in the modern double-handed classes.

It is expected that most Olympic contenders will attend, while the Organising Authority understands the need to be careful in bringing people together and of the many travel restrictions in place globally. Onshore activities will be limited and done electronically for the most part, while on water racing activities will simulate the regular racing environment as much as possible.

Path to Paris 2024 Regatta

2021 initiates the Path to Paris, and many new and younger teams are expected to join the racing aiming toward the 2024 Olympics. Four years out from the Olympics is typically when many sailing campaigns get started, and 2021 should be no different.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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Minds have been focussed with the news that the 49er’s Tokyo Olympic qualifier has been confirmed as the Princesa Sofia regatta in Palma, Spain – 26 March – 3 April 2021.

There are four nations in contention for just one skiff place, including Ireland.

Since late summer performance sailing has been back in regatta mode with the two 49er teams competing across Europe in Poland and Italy. 

As Afloat previously reported, two Irish boats are up against Sweden, Italy and Belgium. Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle and Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove both chasing the elusive Olympic place.

After training in Denmark, the 49ers headed to Germany with some good racing at Kiel Week.

Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove finished in 14th place, and Ryan Seaton and Séafra Guilfoyle finished in 27th.

The European Championships then took place in Lake Attersee in Austria with Dickson and Waddilove finishing in 18th - a personal best performance and a strong indication of their rising talent.

The 49ers are currently training in Villamoura, Portugal ahead of March's date with destiny.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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The Olympic Federation of Ireland has announced that 49er skiff crew Seafra Guilfoyle has become one of its ‘Dare to Believe' ambassadors.

The Royal Cork Yacht Club sailor was included in the unveiling of 25 ‘Dare to Believe’ athlete ambassadors from across a variety of sports.

Guilfoyle teamed with Double Olympian Ryan Seaton of Belfast Lough is currently seeking the final country berth for Ireland in the 49er skiff class in order to get to Tokyo next year.  

The OFI also announced FBD Insurance as the sponsor of this year’s ‘Dare to Believe’ Olympic Schools Programme. Ireland’s homegrown insurer is the Official Sponsor of Team Ireland on the road to Tokyo, and this extension of the sponsorship will allow ‘Dare to Believe’ to continue to grow and inspire schoolchildren nationwide. Today’s announcement  

In its first year, ‘Dare to Believe’, which was set up with funding from Olympic Solidarity support, surpassed all of its targets, bringing the Olympics into the classroom for over 5,000 children nationwide. The school activation programme, championed and supported by the Olympic Federation of Ireland Athletes’ Commission, was developed by 2008 Olympian Roisin McGettigan and, as the programme moves into the next phase, the focus is on further expansion, with a boost of 16 new ambassadors to the programme, bringing the total to 25 athletes.

‘Dare to Believe’, will teach primary school students about Olympic Values and Olympism through a curriculum that includes over 40 of the approved education methodologies. The ‘five-ring’ programme allows teachers to interactively explore broad themes that reflect the Olympic Values of Respect and Equality, Healthy Body and Mind, and Joy of Effort. The final ring focuses on Striving for Excellence, which sees the athlete ambassador deliver their personal sporting story to the class, with the changing environment meaning that these visits will now be virtual. 

A host of the ‘Dare to Believe’ athletes, including boxer Kellie Harrington, hockey stars, Anna O’Flanagan, Roisin Upton and Emma Buckley as well as Oliver Dingley (Diving), Sive Brassil (Modern Pentathlon) and Brendan Boyce (Race Walking) will also appear on RTÉ’s After School Hub programme next week from Monday, November 23rd, with Olympic Federation of Ireland Athletes’ Commission member and Olympic medallist in boxing, Kenneth Egan, also set to feature on the programme.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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