August’s Sailor of the Month for her silver medal victory at Rio 2016 was presented with her prize by Irish Sailing Association (ISA) president David Lovegrove at the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards gala in Dublin’s RDS Concert Hall this evening (Friday 27 January).
Murphy was saluted by more than 300 of her fellow sailors, one of Irish sailing’s largest ever turnouts, for her Olympic triumph in the Laser Radial class – Ireland’s best achievement in sailing at the Games since David Wilkins and James Wilkinson won the Flying Dutchman silver at Moscow 1980.
That the National Yacht Club stalwart rallied from her heartbreak at London 2012, where she just barely missed out on a bronze medal, with an incredible display on the waters of Guanabara Bay made her success all the sweeter.
As Afloat.ie’s WM Nixon wrote in November, Murphy’s Olympic performance came after a 10-week transformation on the heels of a poor showing at the 2016 Worlds in Mexico:
“With her dedicated support team, she ensured that she’d become a hugely improved sailor, a fitter athlete and psychologically in a very good place, as she took on the Olympic challenge on August 8th with a cool confidence which in due course received its proper reward.”
It was an achievement that rightly captured the public’s imagination, too, providing Irish sailing with the greatest mainstream profile it’s enjoyed in years.
It’s already seen her recognised as The Irish Times/Sports Council of Ireland Sportswoman of the Year, Irish Tatler’s Woman of the Year, the Evening Echo’s Sports Star of the Year, and as one of Rehab’s two Sportspersons of the Year, not to mention her honorary membership of the Irish Sailing Foundation.
So it was surely to be expected that ‘Our Annalise’ would capture the public vote on Afloat.ie, as well as the votes of the judging panel to earn the prestigious award for a second time upon its 20th anniversary – two decades after first honouring that year’s own Olympic dinghy hero Mark Little, and four years on from her first win in recognition for her stellar efforts in London.
Accepting her prize, Annalise Murphy said: “As a kid I learned that maybe I wasn't the most talented, but I worked the hardest and that’s how I handled my sailing at the Olympics, and that’s what I’d advise all sailors to do now.”
Adding that the standing ovation from the ISA “means a lot to me”, she noted that it was “great to see all the Irish sailing achievements here, and that’s what I love in our great sport. It’s not all about the racing.”
Racing is still very much on Annalise’s agenda, however, with the first stage of her Tokyo 2020 campaign set for the Laser Radial Worlds this August.
Annalise’s accolade must also be seen in light of her fellow deserving nominees, all winners of Afloat.ie’s Sailor of the Month awards, and all of whom made remarkable and significant contributions to Irish sailing throughout the year.
Among them are a GP14 world champion in Shane MacCarthy, a Round Ireland record by Damian Foxall, a pioneering Vendée Globe effort by Enda O’Coineen, and youth sailor and future Olympic medal prospect Finn Lynch.
Irish sailing’s next generation was recognised in its own right on the night with the presentation of the Youth Sailor of the Year prize to Afloat’s racing Sailor of the Month for July, Ewan McMahon, alongside the Training Centre of the Year gong that this year went to Foynes Yacht Club, and two ISA President’s Awards – to Scottish Series racer Colin Moore, and Annalise Murphy's coach Rory Fitzpatrick, the latter of whom said of his eventful year: “It’s not just the Olympic result, it’s the inspiration of Annalise’s discipline routine in Dun Laoghaire that drives on our Laser sailors.”
In his address earlier this evening, ISA president David Lovegrove said he was “bowled over by the achievements of our sailors both at home and abroad.
“For such a small country, we achieve great things and our sailors are truly inspirational ambassadors for our sports and our country. 2016 was a year to make us all proud.”
But Lovegrove also took time to “celebrate the everyday heroes in sailing who don’t always get recognised by awards and cups – the volunteers who dedicate so much time, energy and passion to our sport, and who share their knowledge and expertise with other sailors.
“From the race officials to the instructors, to the coaches and the mark layers, the safety crews and those who carry out a multitude of tasks onshore: we simply could not enjoy sailing the way we do without you. Thank you.”
Hosted by master of ceremonies Fiona Bolger, chief executive of Spinal Injuries Ireland, along with Lovegrove and Afloat.ie’s own WM Nixon, the evening welcomed guests including members of the ISA Olympic and youth sailing squads, training centre principal, national senior and youth champions, class captains and club commodores, and a number of past Olympians and Sailors of the Year.
Among the crowd were the Royal Cork's Sally O’Leary and her husband Anthony, 2010's Sailor of the Year, who are looking forward to the club’s dinghy fest, along with a band of club mates including Gavin Deane, Admiral John Roche and Rear Admiral Kieran O'Connell and Tom Durcan, who has just welcomed home his son Johnny from Australia, and Ted Crosbie who recently retired from racing.
Brian O’Sullivan and Francis Clifford represented Tralee Bay Sailing Club in the audience this evening, while Paddy Boyd, who was returned from a stint as CEO of Sail Canada, was also present, as were Chris and Sandra Moore of the Dublin Bay Sailing Club, Peter Ryan of ISORA, ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney from Foynes Yacht Club, and Martin McCarthy of Annalise’s home club, the National YC in Dun Laoghaire.
Others in attendance included Cormac Devlin, Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, and Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy.