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Sailing puts itself under the spotlight

27th December 1996
A £500,000 plan geared towards the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and the formation of the next Olympic sailing team will be top of the agenda at the Irish Sailing Association's Olympic forum next week. Hosted by Richard Burrows, chairman of the ISA's Olympic committee, the meeting is intended to reach all sailors and not just an elite grouping of past Olympians. His recent comments that some of the 1996 Atlanta team were "under achievers" will add extra spice to discussion groups which begin at 1400 hours in Howth Yacht Club on January 5th. Joining the administrators for the Sydney 2000 team is Atlanta race winner Mark Lyttle. He should be of considerable use to Burrows who says that Ireland's sailors will be asked to make more sacrifices' if they want a more inclusive and professional campaign. Bill O'Hara has replaced Derek Jago as team manager.
Already, a number of sailors have declared their intention to compete for Sydney selection and by mid-1997, it is hoped a national squad of up to 40 sailors will be formed. Elsewhere, modern advances in boat construction could be the undoing of one of Ireland's most successful one design dayboat fleets whose future rests in a minimum weight ruling now the subject of a Mermaid Sailing Association emergency general meeting in February. The 17 foot clinker class is one of the oldest one designs racing in Ireland but the building of up to 10 new boats, using modern coating and adhesive techniques, has sparked a controversy about alleged competitive advantages over the remainder of the fleet that are now up to 59 years old. Designed in 1932, this sturdy, half decked dayboat has been a backbone of Irish dinghy sailing for more than 60 years. At the 1996 national championship, a brand new boat modelled on the hull of champion Roger Bannon's Endeavour, and built using new gluing techniques, proved unstoppable. Zulieka was her name and she was a debutante with dash. Her three man crew, Derek Joyce, David Herterich and Des Tyrrell from Wexford BC, made a clean sweep of the trophies at the Skerries prize giving, however, a bi product of their convincing win has been the intensification of the debate on class weight. Second overall in Skerries, Bannon commented: "It was great to see, for the first time in 30 years, that a brand new boat has won the championships, however it is going to be important for the success of the class that the advantage obtained from modern glues is balanced in a manner that maintains a level playing field for the older boats". It was a point echoed by MSA President Joe Boylan. Speaking at the November annual general meeting, he argued that the adoption of a weight rule was now essential "if the future of the class is to be secured". The meeting endorsed the view and a consensus emerged that a weight rule should be implemented in 1997. In London, the 1720 keel boat, which has just won the Sportsboats division of the Hamble Winter Series, will be the main Irish interest at the London International Boat Show which runs from January 3th-12th at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre. More than 190,000 visitors are expected at the show which will provide a truly international shop window for the Co Kerry built 1720, which is now boasting 16 boats in Dublin for the 1997 season. The 1997 Digiphone South Aris expedition crew leaves these shores on Sunday in an attempt to recreate a particularly heroic journey made by Irish explorers, Ernest Shackleton and Tom Crean in 1915. The 1997 team are a mix of seasoned climbers and sailors led by Paddy Barry and Frank Nugent. The 23 foot vessel, aptly named Tom Crean, has already been shipped to the southern ocean. To follow their progress, contact the South Aris Iceberg Club at PO Box 100, Tralee, Co Kerry.
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