Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Olympic 49er Training "Block" - Powered by North Sails 3Di

17th March 2022
49er crew Sean Waddilove crouching forward in super-light conditions
49er crew Sean Waddilove crouching forward in super-light conditions Credit: Andrew Conan

Greetings everyone from us here at North Sails Ireland.

I was fortunate enough to get in a little "warm weather training" when I spent three days working with Irish Sailing’s performance squad at their winter training base in Lanzarote a few weeks ago. It was so inspirational to spend time in this most rarefied of elite sporting worlds again.

As part of their Olympic equipment charter, Olympic classes are obliged to review their key suppliers every two quadrennials. North Sails 3Di technology is unique in the market place and we were delighted to be chosen by the Olympic 49er / 49er FX skiff classes to be their sole upwind sail supplier. More on this 49er move here.

That's not the main point of this piece though......

I was blown away by the level of athleticism, sailing skills, professionalism and commitment of both our Irish 49er teams. The two teams (Tokyo 2020 Olympians Rob Dickson / Sean Waddilove and their training partners Seafra Guilfoyle / Johnny Durcan) are putting in monstrous days down there.

The programme is overseen in a very hands-on way by super-coach and 49er double Olympian, Matthew McGovern.

They have teamed up with current world champions Bart Lambriex and Floris Van De Werken from the Netherlands in a cohesive training group that is beneficial to both sides. The daily grind is tough, REALLY tough - as it should be. The training "blocks" are three weeks long, with a one week stint back home here in Ireland. Whilst in Ireland, the teams continue to train and attend to other aspects of their campaigns - it's certainly not a week off.

The daily routine in camp can vary of course, but a typical day may look something like this:-

  • eat - 30 mins
  • gym and recovery - 90 mins
  • technical review session - video screen and/or boat park technical work - 90 mins
  • eat - 30 mins
  • sail - 5 hours
  • eat and debrief - 45 mins
  • boat work - 60 mins
  • bike ride / short-run / cardio - 30 mins
  • eat again
  • sleep and repeat!

Whilst I was in camp, our focus was on assessing the new North Sails 3Di sail shapes, developing a new database of rig settings and tuning techniques with the objective of optimising the 3Di sails with the new carbon rigs, supplied by New Zealand manufacturer CST. Here is a video clip of Rob and Sean in one of our early sessions:

Dickson-Waddilove IRL powered by North Sails 3Di

Credit: Maurice O'Connell / North Sails Ireland

The 49er sail plan could be seen as complex. The carbon CST rig has double spreaders with three shrouds each side, all independently adjustable in mm increments. The mainsails have six full-length adjustable battens, including the "gaff" batten on the square-head main. The jibs also have threefull-length battens. The mainsail cunningham is enormously powerful, as is the jib halyard. Both have a massive effect on the mast bend and sail shape, as have the other controls (jib sheet, jib sheet clew board attachment, jib tack height, jib car inboard / outboard position and the mainsail outhaul). The 49er is almost always over-powered so it's all about developing the right "power mix" in order to optimise upwind "VMG".

We spent three long days on the water in a big Atlantic seaway, with winds steadily blowing 22 - 23 knots TWS. See my video below - just before a wave knocked the camera away - and this was before it got REALLY windy!

Dickson-Waddilove Big Wave

Credit: Matthew McGovern / Irish Sailing performance Coach

Huge respect goes to team-mates Seafra Guilfoyle and Johnny Durcan who selflessly ground it out for hours using the older mylar-based laminate sails (North Sails 3Di sails have no mylar laminate hence immense durability), whilst our main focus was on the new kit.

IRL 49er Teams - Dickson-Waddilove (L) and Guilfoyle-Durcan (R)IRL 49er Teams - Dickson-Waddilove (L) and Guilfoyle-Durcan (R)Photo: Andrew Conan

Here is a video of Seafra and Johnny blasting upwind:-

Training partners Guilfoyle-Durcan - upwind in 20+ TWS

Credit: Matthew McGovern / Irish Sailing Performance Coach

From Nigel, Shane and myself here at North Sails Ireland, our best wishes go to both teams as they head towards their first major event of the year - the Princess Sofia Trophy event in Palma - which I last raced in the Olympic Star boat in 2007!

Published in North Sails Ireland

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Cois Chuain
O'Regan's Field
Myrtleville, Cork P43 V997
 353 0212061769


Bend on / Bend off, Canvas, Certified Service, Sail Hardware Upgrades, Sail Inspection / Evaluation, Sail Measurement, Sail Repair, Sail Storage, Sail Washing



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Nigel Young

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Shane Hughes

One Design Expert, Sales Person
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Maurice O’Connell

One Design Expert, Sales Person
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Maurice O'Connell

About The Author

Maurice O'Connell

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Maurice 'Prof' O'Connell is a partner in North Sails Ireland. He is also a professional sailor, sailing & life/business coach and sailing media analyst/commentator.

In 2018 he again won his class in the Round Ireland Race and in 2019 finished 2nd in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race - 10 years after he won it!

Also in 2019, he was providing expert commentary and analysis in studio for the SSL Star Europeans in Garda, Italy and SSL finals in Nassau.

Full bio here.

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North Sails Ireland is operated by Loft Manager and One Design Expert Nigel Young at his Cork Harbour base at Myrtleville. The company specialities include Bend on / Bend off, Canvas, Certified Service, Sail Hardware Upgrades, Sail Inspection / Evaluation, Sail Measurement, Sail Repair, Sail Storage and Sail Washing. Working with Nigel are Maurice O'Connell, Shane Hughes and Richard Marshall.