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The rise of Finn Lynch into the top ranks of Irish adult dinghy sailing has been meteoric. It was as recently as May 18th in Mexico that he secured the right to become our Olympic Men’s Laser representative in Rio, where the first races of the Sailing Olympiad 2016 get under way on Monday August 8th. Yet he had only just turned 20 on April 23rd 2016. W M Nixon sets the scene.

With significant Bicentenaries and Tricentenaries cascading around us these days, Golden Jubilees may not make the same impact as they did back in the 20th Century. Nevertheless an achievement of fifty years of continuous specialised sailing enthusiasm and success is still something to be celebrated at all levels.

In the National Yacht Club next year - if they can find the time in the midst of their usual busy annual programme, which will include an up-graded Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race - they might like to take an evening out to mark fifty years of their internationally-renowned Junior Sailing. It has become a pace-setter central to Irish sailing, so much so that with the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro just two weeks away, of the four boats in the Irish team, two will be sailed by alumni of the NYC’s Junior Programme – Annalise Murphy in the Women’s Laser Radials, and Finn Lynch in the Men’s Lasers.

Yet we get some notion of the way that the NYC people get on with the business of the day, living and sailing as they do in the moment, that the matter of the Junior Sailing’s Golden Jubilee came up as something of a minor aside. In the midst of a discussion about the spirit of the NYC Juniors, the enthusiastic Carmel Winkelmann simply mentioned in passing that it all really goes back to 1967, when Johnny Hooper came home from a dinghy championship in Scandinavia fired up with enthusiasm about the way the clubs there put so much in the way of resources and energy towards encouraging the juniors.

finn lynch2“We did it!” Carmel Winkelmann and Finn Lynch get together at the National YC on June 23rd for a quiet bit of celebration of his newly-won Olympic place – and find that already, with any appearance of the new super-star, a bit of local product-placing from the club kitchen is on the menu. Photo: W M Nixon

In his quiet but determined way, Johnny Hooper - with his own Olympic credentials and more championship wins than you could list on one page - was able to persuade his fellow NYC members to take positive action for juniors, and continue to keep taking that positive action. For it can be easy enough to start things. It’s keeping the programme going and growing, with rising standards all the time, that differentiates the exceptional setup from the merely run-of-the-mill. The Hooper inspiration has endured and thrived. But it was only when the year of its inception happened to be mentioned that the radar flashed up: Golden Jubilee in 2017.

Regardless of what happens at the Olympics, there certainly will be something to celebrate next year. But for the next few weeks, any notions of such celebrations will be on the most remote back burner, as the entire club - and indeed all of Irish sailing - will be on Olympic high alert.

We’ll share a state of nervous anticipation as the quadrennial five ring circus unfolds afloat amidst the unrivalled beauty and unique sea water quality of Rio de Janeiro. And somewhere in the midst of it all, attention will be particularly focused on the youngest sailor ever to represent Ireland in the Olympic, a 20-year-old from an utterly rural part of County Carlow whose very young demonstrations of special talent soon saw him being inducted into the bigger world of National Yacht Club’s Junior Section, and also provided him – thanks to that special NYC spirit - with essential financial support in the crucial year of moving from junior to adult level.

Finn Lynch at 20 years and three months will not only be the youngest sailor ever to represent Ireland in the Olympics, he’ll actually be a couple of months younger than the notably young Paul Elvstrom of Denmark when he began his stellar career back in 1948, an achievement which set a benchmark for youthful Olympic sailing participation.

Finn Lynch NYCFinn Lynch is welcomed home at the NYC after qualifying for Rio. At 20 years and three months, Finn will be Ireland’s youngest-ever Olympic sailor. Photo: W M Nixon

But as Lynch only snatched Ireland’s Olympic Men’s Laser place as recently as May 18th on the last race in the last chance in Mexico, the sailing community are still getting to grips with the fact that a rising talent, who had been showing great promise to be the ideal representative in Tokyo in 2020, has already come centre stage to begin his Olympic career in Rio 2016.

The story of how this has come about for Finn is circuitous and distinctly offbeat, yet ultimately very Irish. But if you suggested the outline of it to a movie producer as a possible film treatment, you’d probably be told it’s so over the top that audiences would refuse to accept it. All that can be said is that if it isn’t true, then somebody should make it up, as it’s too good a story to waste.

His father Aidan Lynch is of a midlands family, and though his boyhood was in Dublin, much time was still spent down the country, but boats had absolutely nothing to do with it. His mother Grainne Adams is from rural Carlow, that small county which is so beautiful that it has been rightly remarked the Creator was in fine form when he put it together.

However, neither Carlow nor Dublin offered the young couple the prospects they sought, so they emigrated to Australia. There, Aidan found much better career opportunities, and it was during his time as a rising star in the manufacturing world that he was taken on a corporate sailing outing. He was instantly hooked, and made it his spare-time business to learn about sailing and get involved with it as soon and as much as possible.

In Australia their three sons Ben, Rory and Finn were born, but after twelve years – when Finn was just two – the Australian sojourn came to and end, and Grainne was able to return to her beloved Carlow, to Benekerry which is just about as rural as it is possible get in a very rural county. But Aidan hankered after his sailing, and got involved in the nearest club, Blessington on its lovely reservoir lake just up the road in County Wicklow. In time, Blessington became his home while Grainne continued in Benekerry, and for their three boys, time with Dad saw sailing playing an increasing role. While Ben and Rory were already rising stars in the Blessington Topper sailing scene, it was when Finn had his first sail in charge of a Topper at the age of eight on Blessington Lake that history was made.

lynch topperThe first sail - his father Aidan introduces the 8-year-old Fnn Lynch to Topper steering in Blessington Lake

He’d already shown a complete fascination with everything to do with boats and sailing. Big brother Ben was showing additional talent as a coach, and when he ran classes in the Blessington SC clubhouse, he was at first disconcerted to see his kid brother Finn perched under the front table, bright-eyed and determinedly absorbing every snippet of boat and sailing information that came his way.

Blessington was one of the foremost clubs in the country in promoting the use of the Topper in junior sailing. But although this weekend will see the largest Irish entry ever in the 250-strong Topper Worlds which are getting under way in Ballyholme – last count had the home group pushing toward the 85 mark - only twelve years ago, the economical Topper still had a certain amount of persuading to do in order to get acceptance in Ireland.

Yet those were good times when they were building the class, and Aidan Lynch happily recalls the spirit of camaraderie and shared purpose which energised the steadily growing “Topper family” in Ireland, creating friendships which were rekindled when former Topper colleagues from all over Ireland shared in Finn Lynch’s successes.

For although he may not have started properly sailing until he was eight, in his case it seems to have been the right time, and by the age of 12 in 2008 he had been selected for the ISA Topper Squad in which he developed so rapidly that in 2009 he took the Silver Medal at the Topper Worlds in Austria.

He was still sailing with Blessington, but with the prospect of Laser sailing with the National YC coming up on the agenda, he moved his focus to Dublin Bay and by 2011 was selected for the ISA Academy. The ISAF Youth Worlds in Dublin Bay in 2012 were perfectly timed for his developing talents, where he won the Silver Medal, and added the Under 17 European Laser Radial title to his trophy list, while in 2013 he was Under 21 Laser Radial World Champion, winning the Bronze in the Open Division.

finn lynch6The Laser might have been designed with Finn Lynch in mind

finn lynch7 Into his stride. Finn Lynch in command, Dublin Bay 2012

The Under 19 Laser World Champion title followed in 2014, while in 2015 he was fourth in the Under 21 Laser Worlds. But now at age 18 he was no longer a junior, yet was very much in that limbo stage in which Irish sailing seems to place talent which is no longer junior, but is still definitely not adult. It’s an undesirable state of affairs, yet with ISA resources under enormous pressure, it was not a problem which was going to be solved by the National Authority in 2015.

The 18-year-old Finn Lynch found himself right at the heart of this dead end, needing backing which was beyond family resources, but in any case frustrated at not being able to make his own way in a true spirit of growing independence. He had impressed everyone with his talent, his coolness under pressure and his sheer dedication to the sport, but a quantum leap in resources was needed to see him across the gap from family support under the ISA junior umbrella, and on into the challenging world of adult sailing based on an adequate budget.

In the Spring of 2015 Carmel Winkelmann, a strength of the National Yacht Club and particularly its junior section for longer than anyone can remember, was already working quietly behind the scenes to find support for what she reckoned was a great talent at risk of going to waste. After consulting with Finn about the events he’d particularly like to do in the year ahead and the international coaches whose talents he’d like to use, it was reckoned that with the most careful expenditure it could be done for €40,000, and that was the target Carmel had set herself by June 2015.

finn lynch8Young man with a van. Finn Lynch in Dun Laoghaire in June 2015, hoping……..Photo: W M Nixon

She’s a formidable woman when she thinks a real noise has to be made about some boat issue, but she’s much more formidable when she takes the approach of working quietly behind the scenes to achieve her objective. Her Finn Lynch fund-raising was done under the very sensible approach that good works are best done by stealth, and the money-raising was mainly through a small but impressive list of private subscribers.

I met Finn in June 2015 when there was still a considerable element of the unknown and the unknowable about it all, and then I met him again at the end of June this year when his Olympic place was secured against all the odds, and the story of what had happened in between was in keeping with the extraordinary story of how he and his brothers came to be keen sailors in the first place.

For the past year, his life has been a mobile existence. While Carmel Winkelmann and her team had to come up with all the resources to keep the Lynch show on the road, James O’Callaghan the ISA Performance Director was able to come up with the introductions to the top coaches in Croatia whose special talents fit well with the Irish sailing model. Nevertheless, even with all the support and good wishes being drummed up under the NYC umbrella, it was still a lonely enough existence for the 19-year-old Carlow lad to take himself off to southeast Europe and be the youngest in an intense training squad which lived and breathed Laser racing, but they lived and breathed it in languages other than English.

His first introduction to the notably successful Croatian training programmes was with Milan Vujasinovic, who as Finn recalls, “turned us into sailors and into men”. Then through dogged persistence, and maybe a bit of blarney, he managed to get himself taken into the elite group under the tutelage of the “medals coach”, Jozo Jakelic, who is a legend in the training world.

finn lynch9Coach to the stars….Croatia’s Jozo Jakelic has seen all five of his elite international squad gain an Olympic place at Rio

It’s a status he thoroughly deserves, for all of his special squad of five Laser sailors have secured their country’s Olympic places for the Rio games. Jakelic is bringing stardust to countries which would formerly have been thought of as being on the fringes of world sailing, paces like Cyprus and Poland and Ireland too, for let’s face it, despite having one of the longest sailing histories of any country in the world, in international competition terms Ireland is on the fringe.

Thus you could argue that Finn Lynch was on the fringe of the fringe group, for at 19 he was much the youngest of the Jakelic squad – the next up was 25. Yet he kept at it, keeping up a ferocious regime in which, when not in competition, you still expect to be doing a lot of sailing on at least fifteen days in very month, while gym work towards ultimate fitness is just a normal part of life all the time.

finn lynch facebookThe pressure is on. Finn Lynch during the long battle to secure the Olympic place

Yet in this rarefied and almost monastic atmosphere, progress was being made, but there were setbacks. Last November, while out on an intensive session on a training bike, Finn Lynch had an accident which left him with a badly damaged shoulder. At one stage it was thought surgery would be necessary, but thanks to high-powered physio with Sports Med in Dublin, he was just about able to compete, albeit with an impaired performance, at the Copa de Brasil in Rio.

One of his concerns would be that this accident would discourage his group of private supporters. But on the contrary, if anything it spurred them onto to greater efforts and a determination that he would see the programme through to leave him, at the very least, in a good condition and in a good place to begin the serious countdown to Tokyo 2020, buoyed up by the knowledge that an entire year hadn’t been allowed to go to waste.

Certainly for most observers it seemed very much an outside chance that Lynch would manage to take the Irish place through the final qualifier, the Laser Worlds in Mexico in May 2016. But the Finn Lynch who arrived at the Worlds was a different Finn Lynch from the damaged athlete who had been unable to give of his best in Brazil. And he was a whole world away from the still-to-prove himself young adult who had been in Dun Laoghaire in June 2015.

It didn’t start well in Mexico, as he’d picked up a virus which sapped his strength. But he seemed to shake it off through sheer will-power, and put in a performance of almost superhuman focus to do the job. Finn Lynch secured that Irish Laser place in the Rio Olympics in a last ditch stand on May 18th 2016, and it’s no exaggeration to say that at a stroke his lifepath had been changed.

We’ve a problem in Ireland in that getting an Olympic selection is seen as such a goal in its own right that for some athletes, it seems to be the main goal – what happens in the actual Olympics becomes almost irrelevant. But that’s not a mindset which is going to take hold in a member of Jozo Jakelic’s squad, so for a while after the Mexican breakthrough, Finn Lynch chilled out in Norway with his girlfriend and her family (she’s a Laser sailor too) and then spent private time in Ireland – continuing training all the time – until an informal gathering was organized through Carmel Winkelmann. This was in late June at the National YC where the new Olympic star was to meet again with, and also put through a well-received interview with Clair McNeill of the “Carlow County Matters” magazine programme on Irish TV Sky 191, for in Carlow - even more than in Dun Laoghaire - a new Olympic star is big news.

finn lynch11They didn’t know they’d Olympic sailors in Carlow until the Carlow County Matters programme was screened on TV on July 13th. Finn Lynch with presenter Clair McNeill in Dun Laoghaire, and some further product placement from the National Yacht Club kitchens. Photo: W M Nixon
As almost exactly a year had elapsed since I’d met him with his then only resource, a van which might well have served from time to time as overnight accommodation, it was fascinating to try to make comparisons between the more confident young man of today and that much younger hopeful of 2015.

For sure he was more of an impressive and confident presence, but essentially he was still the same Finn Lynch, but with the best bits made even better, and an underlying steely determination now getting towards something even tougher.

But don’t think for a moment that the traiming programme organized through the funding raised by Carmel Winkelmann resulted in him becoming a pampered athlete. There were times when he had to make do with the most basic and often very shared accommodation, while the budget was always tight. But the fact that he was a member of the squad which was the elite of the elites – albeit very much the youngest member of that squad in Croatia – has been transformational.

In a sense it has made him supra-national. The esprit de corps in the Jakelic squad is something which raises pure sailing athleticism above national ambitions and aspirations. Indeed, at a time when the European ideal is taking such a battering, the very existence of such a group made of rising sailing stars from the fringes of Europe is somehow very heartening. Thus the experiences of Finn Lynch during the past twelve months have an added and encouraging resonance for all of us.

Nevertheless, back home the securing of that Olympic place is yet another specific success for the NYC’s Junior Sailing, and Commodore Larry Power and his team treated us to a cheerful bar lunch before everyone went on their way, your reporter off to Wicklow to re-immerse himself in covering the Round Ireland Race, and Finn Lynch soon on his way back to Croatia and further intense yet carefully monitored training sessions to transform him from an aspirant to a contender.

That little gathering in the National YC marked the end of a phase. It quietly concluded Carmel Winkelmann’s fund-raising for Finn Lynch. She was able to provide resources in a hurry when they were urgently needed, and she was able to pass on messages of hundred per cent support from her team when things seemed to be going pear-shaped during the winter.

But now that Finn has shown independently what he can do, it’s time to turn to more orthodox lines of support, and his father has been working behind the scenes to see about putting it all on a more businesslike basis.

Inevitably, just how that all takes shape will depend to some extent on how things go in Rio, but we can only hope that a more mature attitude can be found among the rest of us. Success in Rio would certainly be a bonus, but really we should be thinking about Tokyo 2020, and simply being in contention in Rio is unrivalled experience for Japan in four years time.

Since the end of June Finn Lynch had been back in Croatia, but this week he returned to Ireland to give logistics support to the Croatian squad in the Laser Radial Worlds in Dun Laoghaire. Coaching and encouragement seem to be in the Lynch family blood – after our meeting in June, he’d set that evening aside for a special session of personal coaching for his brother Ben’s training group, and Finn will not be the only Lynch in Rio – Ben is coach to Ireland’s John Twomey and his Paralympic crew. We wish them all the very best of luck. Irish Olympic sailing turns up some remarkable stories, and this is surely one of the most remarkable of all.

Published in W M Nixon
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As in most yacht races, the general terms for the Olympic Regatta are set out in a Notice of Race (NoR) while the details are covered by the Sailing Instructions (SIs). Both of these have been published and are available on the World Sailing Website Like many NoRs and Sis, other documents are referenced - in the case of the Olympic Regatta there are Equipment, Competitions Area and Support Team regulations, while athletes are also bound by a Media Guide. Overarching all these are the comprehensive agreements that athletes enter into with the International Olympic Committee through their National Olympic Committees.

These documents will come under intense scrutiny, not just by sailors and their support teams as part of their normal preparation, but also by the team of officials that will be engaged in ensuring a fair competition both ashore and afloat.

For most of the sailors at this level, there should be no major surprises in the sailing instructions as they will have used these or a version of these in qualifying events, World Cups and Major Championships.
Let us catch up with an imaginary sailor as they prepare to go afloat. Their base is Marina Da Gloria in Guanabara Bay, in what is Rio's middle harbour. While waiting for flag D - the signal that they can go afloat - many sailors will first apply barrier creams to protect against sun and bacteria. Then they will visit the Omega cabin to deposit their accreditation and to collect their tracking module which they will affix to the boat so that we can follow their race progress. Once flag D is up they will proceed to their designated course area, taking care not to stray out of the competition area while also remaining clear of other course areas and official boats. Infractions of any of these area controls may incur a penalty.

Once at their designated course area, things become fairly standard for them, although not every observer will be familiar with the sound signals guns every minute in the countdown that are now used at this level. This table explains the sequence our sailor will encounter:

Minutes Before Starting Signal Visual Signal Displayed Visual Signal Removed Sound Signal Means
6   Class flag, P or starting penalty flag (U, or Black flag) if required O flag if applicable     Class to start Starting penalty RRS P5 (RRS 42)
5   White flag with number 5   One Warning signal
Blue flag with number 4 White flag One Preparatory Signal
3 Pink flag with number 3 Blue Flag One Three minutes
2 Red flag with number 2 Pink Flag One Two minutes
1 Yellow flag with number 1 Red Flag One One minute
0 Green flag Yellow flag One Start signal
+1   Green flag and Class flag, U or Black and O. No Sound  

The format consists of an opening series of up to 12 races (12 in Skiffs and Windsurfers, 10 in everything else) with a maximum of three races per day and a final medal race between the top ten in each fleet after the opening series.

Thus our sailor can expect up to three consecutive races, although if the schedule is maintained it is more likely to be two a day.

While the courses are generally windward/leeward or trapezoid, there are some variations afforded to the race officer, such as final slaloms (possibly windsurfers only), inner or outer trapezoids and different finishing directions for windward/leeward courses.

Rio's location, with a large bay and open ocean close by, offers a considerable variety of course areas and seven have been designated across the three distinct areas of Inner Harbour, Middle Harbour and Ocean. Several of these offer shore viewing and all, except maybe one of the ocean courses, will be considerably influenced by the presence of the land.

Our sailor will need to be wise to the designated course for the day, and once there, will need to be keep their head out of the boat to recognise the influences exerted by wind and current on their course.
At the end of racing the sailor returns to Marina da Gloria where an extensive cleansing of boat, equipment, clothing and bodies will follow. The anti-doping team will be randomly selecting sailors for testing and once over this hurdle sailors can pick up their accreditation while returning the tracker before catching the shuttle to the Olympic Village.

Published in Olympic
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After a weekend of poor Irish performances at the British round of the Sailing World Cup, the Irish Sailing Association has acknowledged results from Weymouth were 'far from ideal'. 

The Sailing World Cup on the Dorset coast, billed as the 'final opportunity for sailors to lay down a marker before the Rio 2016 Olympic Games', was attended by 380 Olympic sailors from 44 nations.

Men’s skiff sailors Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern from Belfast reached the medal race final which they led for its entirety before sailing the wrong course to the finish line. 

London 2012 veteran Annalise Murphy, Ireland’s most successful sailing athlete in the last 30 years, had one of her most disappointing results of the season when she placed 34th in the 39–strong Laser Radial fleet.  Murphy has been concentrating on preparations for her second appearance at the games but the Rio venue offers much lighter winds to four years ago when she narrowly missed a podium result.

Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey in the women’s skiff placed last in the 49erFX event.

“We have two months to focus on the things we can improve before starting the Olympic regatta in Rio', Team Manager James O'Callaghan said yesterday.

Men’s single-hander Finn Lynch, the youngest ever Irish helm to be selected for Team Ireland did not take part in the regatta due to training-camp commitments in Croatia.

The 49er pair have one further regatta at Kiel Week in Germany later this month before final preparations begin for their second Olympic appearance at Rio 2016 in August.

The first race in the Rio 2016 regatta begins on Monday 8th August when Murphy and Lynch begin their respective events.

A facebook campaign update from the 49er crew:

Published in Olympic

The conclusion of the Laser Radial trials and Annalise Murphy's Rio selection yesterday means three of the four Irish qualified sailing disciplines for Rio have now been decided. The Men’s single-handed event in the Laser Standard rig will have the final trials event at the World Championships next month, also in Mexico.

London 2012 veteran James Espey from Ballyholme YC holds a narrow lead over Murphy's club–mate Finn Lynch from the National YC. Baltimore’s Fionn Lyden is also a contender.

The points difference heading into the final trial is as follows:

laser points

Along with Annalise, 49er sailors Ryan Seaton with Matt McGovern and 49erFX sailors Andrea Brewster with Saskia Tidey await ratification by the board of the ISA to be nominated to the OCI for inclusion in the national team for Brazil.

Published in Olympic
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Northern Ireland sailor Oisin McClleland makes a splash on the cover of the latest Finn newsletter. The Donaghdee dinghy helmsman is aiming for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and has been part of a crowd–funded campaign to introduce more nations to the heavyweight Olympic dinghy. In its opening photo by Robert Deaves this morning, McClleland crashes through a wave in Palma at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia Regatta.

Meanwhile, the Finn Class line up for the 2016 Olympic Games is nearly complete. There will be on Irish representation for 2016. Ireland's last Olympic representation in the class was David Burrows in 2004 in Athens and Timothy Goodbody in Qingdao 2008.

The country qualifiers are over and now it is about national selection and taking up of places.

GBR, CRO, FRA, NZL, USA, NOR, SWE, DEN, SLO, AUS, HUN and FIN qualified in Santander in 2014. NED, GRE, EST and URU qualified in Takapuna 2015. ITA qualified from the Takapuna result as there was no new Oceania nation present in Melbourne. CHN qualified from the Asian qualifier in Qingdao. ARG and CAN qualified for the continential places for North and South America at the Sailing World Cup Miami in January. Finally at the last continental qualifier in Palma, TUR won the European place and SEY won the African place. A lot of battles along the way but 23 nations with a ticket to Rio.

Published in Olympic

The World Sailing executive has now received the interim report on the situation concerning the participation and conditions placed on Israeli sailors for the Youth Sailing World Championships in Malaysia.

World Sailing has demanded an immediate full explanation from both the Malaysian and Israeli Sailing Organisations (Member National Authorities) on this issue.

World Sailing stands by its commitment to both the Olympic ideals and ensuring that competitions taking place under the auspices of World Sailing permit all sailors to represent their country and to compete fully and equally. World Sailing has always taken this issue very seriously and undertakes to clarify and strengthen this requirement of all future World Sailing event organisers, if required, once the full report is concluded.

With regards to the current situation with Israel and Malaysia, World Sailing whilst adamant that the situation is not acceptable under the above principles, acknowledges that delays in communication by both Israeli and Malaysian officials in the lead up to the regatta have contributed to the situation spiralling into the current controversy. This is something that could have been prevented and will be actively managed in the future. World Sailing only learnt of Israel's withdrawal on 24 December, with immediate action taken to obtain factual information on the ground in Malaysia and to respond appropriately to this challenging situation.

These diplomatic issues are faced by all sports of this nature. World Sailing cannot solve all such problems, but as an organisation it, and its members can work towards acceptance of all nations and towards finding suitable solutions within the current political arena. As a result of this, World Sailing shall strengthen its processes to prevent discrimination within the sport.

World Sailing had the full support of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during the build up to the Youth Worlds and will continue to enlist their help and expertise in this matter.

Further information on the report and the proposed actions will be provided after the emergency Executive Committee meeting on the 8 January.

Published in Youth Sailing

Offical results from the first rounds of the Irish Olympic Sailing Laser Trials in Brazil appear to show an inauspicious start for Annalise Murphy at Ill Copa Brazil de Vela. According to the official scoresheet (downloadable below), Murphy 'did not compete' in the first day of competition yesterday and is recorded in last place but the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) say this is not the case.

Murphy did race yesterday and the DNCs shown on the scoresheet are the result of a 'scoring error', according to the ISA. Irish team manager James O'Callaghan says Annalise scored 'about a 20 and 13'. The official results have yet to be updated by organisers to reflect this position.

Howth Yacht Club 17–year–old Aoife Hopkins who is contesting the single irish Rio place scored a 28 and a 20 in the opening races to be 23rd overall in the 38–boat fleet.


Racing starts today So excited ! Proud to be part of team CH Marine and ISA Performance Youth Academy

Posted by Aoife Hopkins Sailing on Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Winds were light, below ten knots, for the first day of competition at the Ill Copa Brzail de Vela venue.

At the top of the women's fleet, the world's top Radial sailors occupy the first three places with Evi Van Acker of Belgium leading on six points, Holland's Marit Boumeester one point behind in second place and Danish champion Anne–Marie Rindom third.

In the mens division, a 19 and 30 scored in the 46–boat fleet puts the National Yacht Club's Finn Lynch in 21st overall and eleven places clear of Fionn Lyden of Schull Harbour Sailing Club in 32nd with Belfast's James Espey in 36th place. Download results below.

Racing continues today with eight more races left to sail. The Irish 49er and 49erfx skiff crews are also competing.

Published in Olympic
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In spite of qualifying the nation for Rio 2016, both London 2012 Laser sailors Annalise Murphy and James Espey face a test for their Olympic places on Rio waters this afternoon. The first of three Irish Olympic sailing trials begins at Copa Brasil De Vela regatta and three young Irish pretenders (from an earlier possible shortlist of eight) seek to unseat Murphy and Espey for the two Rio berths available.

In the Womens Laser Radial class, Aoife Hopkins threw down the gauntlet to Irish sailing sensation Murphy a month ago. The Howth Yacht Club backed 17–year–old declared for the Radial trial in an ambitious campaign that's ultimate aim is a medal in Tokyo 2020.

In the mens division, Belfast's Espey comes up against ISAF silver medalist Finn Lynch and West Cork's Fionn Lyden. At one stage there was arguably two more would be contenders but both Seafra Guilfoyle of Royal Cork and Daragh O'Sullivan of Kinsale ruled themselves out of the costly trials series. The build up to the trials has not been without its own drama when the National Yacht Club's Lynch dislocated a shoulder a month ago.


Hanging around waiting for wind?

Posted by James Espey Sailing on Monday, 14 December 2015

Both mens and womens Laser divisions will race ten races with a single discard on the Olympic waters and the forecast is for winds of less than eight knots after some stormy weekend weather.

Racing begins at 1pm local time, two hours behind GMT. The NOR is downloadable below.

The Irish Sailing Association coach Rory Fitzpatrick and the  ISA's Olympic Sailing Group member Trevor Millar, (who is Founder and Executive Director of the Laser coaching service, Sailcoach Ltd ) are monitoring the Irish trial.

Despite strong winds and rain that hammered Rio at the weekend the race progamme is going ahead without amendments, even though there a reports of increased pollution in the bay.

The competiton runs until 20 December and will be based in San Francisco beach in Niteroi, and will be used used by the host nation to fill the remaining spots of the Brazilian Sailing Team in the Olympics. 

An event website is here with no entry list available. Twitter followers are using # vempravela ‪#‎agoraébra‬.

After Copa Brasil de Vela, the Irish trial continues with the 2016 ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami, and the 2016 Laser Radial World Championships (Women) and the 2016 Laser World Championships (Men).







Published in Olympic

As the world governing body for sailing, ISAF, sits down to its annual powwow this week in China it is in the knowledge that it intends sticking to plans to hold races in next year’s Summer Olympics inside highly polluted Guanabara Bay.

But polluted Olympic waters is by no means the only embarrassment on the table for the blazers attending in Sanya.

The fundamental governance structure of ISAF is in question, with a proposal from Portugal to disband Council to be considered at the AGM. The remote and costly nature of this year’s meeting in Sanya has resulted in a smaller than usual turnout of smaller nations who might support this move. 

The woes of the Sailing World Cup will also be discussed, with rescue proposals being placed on the agenda by ISAF, who acknowledged that 'the Final is a long way from being a compelling event that attracts top sailors'. In this year’s final two classes were cancelled for lack of entries, one class had only six boats and only two classes attracted the full complement of 20 boats.

Also, the decision by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC to drop sailing from the Paralympic Games programme in 2020 has galvanised ISAF into a rearguard action to prove to the powers that be that sailing merits its place. will have more on this.


Published in World Sailing

#rio2016 – Just over a year before the Rio Olympics Sailing Regatta, the much anticipated 2016 Olympic Games Sailing Nomination Procedures has been published by the Irish Sailing Association (downloadable below).

A real dilemma for selectors has been the men's Laser class. Belfast's James Espey (31) did Ireland a great service in qualifying the country at the first attempt. The selectors have been aware that two years can make a difference to the development of younger sailors, suggesting that recent Youth World silver medalists Finn Lynch (19) and Seafra Guilfoyle (18) will come into the selection mix. Espey's age and performance profile suggest, that while he could triumph in an unambiguous trials format selectors have decided Irish sailing might be better served by looking to the future, especially as the talent glass in this class is more than half full.

It looks like early selection in the Laser Radial and 49er class has not been too hard a decision for the ISA. Any significant competition to the Rio nation qualifying sailors has not materilaised, and this removes the uncertainty of a trial series. This can bring benefits to the performances of Annalise Murphy (25), Ryan Seaton (26) and Matt McGovern (28), allowing them to build a programme focusing on podium positions at major events. Funding, coaching and athlete needs support can be built around this model. In the case of Murphy, in particular, improving performance in light air conditions is a must if Ireland is to improve on its 2012 result in Weymouth. 

In the nomination procedure, the ISA sets out a trials series for the Laser standard class (men) and notes that apart from the Laser standard, a trial will only take place in another class if more than one candidate meets a minimum standard. For the Laser Radial this is top 60% at the Oman Laser Worlds later this year. According to the criteria, if a trial is needed the entry will be open to all candidates.

So far Ireland has secured nation qualification for Rio in the Laser, Laser Radial and the 49er dinghies. A campaign for a fourth slot in the women's 49erfx is currently underway. 

In the 49erFX, selection has to await country qualification, but this should be a formality given recent top performances by Brewster and Tidey. Their performance may have inspired other young sailors to up their game and pose a challenge for them even late in 2015 or is such a prospect now too remote?

The Trial Regattas for Laser and Laser Radial shall be, 2015 Copa Brasil de Vela, 2016 ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami, and the 2016 Laser Radial World Championships (Women) and the 2016 Laser World Championships (Men)

The Trial Regattas for 49er and 49erfx shall be, 2015 Copa Brasil de Vela, 2016 ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami, and the 2016 49er and 49erfx World Championships

Full details downloadable below.



Published in Olympic
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