For Irish Olympic Laser fans there was a taste of what's to come next season in the mens Laser Class last weekend in Portland Harbour on the English South Coast. Irish Tokyo trialists Finn Lynch (23) and Ewan McMahon (20) finished only a point apart at a UK World and European Qualifying event.
The pair, along with 2018 Irish champion Liam Glynn, are still seeking a nation berth after the disappointment of the Worlds in Japan in July. There's one chance left and if successful in Genoa's World Cup round next April it will produce a three-way trial between them for the single Olympic spot.
It is McMahon's first senior season in the Laser and already the 2016 Radial world silver medalist is challenging the 2016 Rio Rep, Lynch.
130 Laser sailors raced under blue skies in Portland Harbour with some great breezes, even if shifty conditions led to up and down results for some.
Glynn looked completely off the pace in 16th place after counting a DNS and a DNC in the Standard fleet but Lynch and McMahon finished fifth and sixth respectively and were only a point apart overall after six races. Results are here
Also competing in Portland was 2018 Masters World Champion Mark Lyttle who finished 20th.
More on the Q system for Ireland in the mens Laser is here
A strong finish by the National Yacht Club's Finn Lynch in the Laser class was not enough to secure a medal race position at the Ready Steady Tokyo Event this week. A fourth top ten placing however in the final race of the Official Olympic Test event will greatly encourage the County Carlow native. He finished fifth in the final race and 13th overall in an exceptionally strong field.
The Laser Radial class have also finished their fleet racing. A promising first mark rounding by Aisling Keller ultimately did not materialise in the final result. Despite showing moments of class, no doubt Aisling and Aoife Hopkins will have a long "to do" list before competing again next week at the World Sailing World Cup in the same venue.
Royal Irish's Saskia Tidey took a third for Team GB in the 49erFX and now looks set to sail for Britain at Tokyo 2020. More here.
Light winds mar final day of Ready Steady Tokyo
Only the 470 Women's Medal Race went ahead, starting just after 16:00 local time, and it was French duo Camille Lecointre & Aloise Retornaz who clinched gold.
Other gold medals went to Hungary, Sweden, Belgium and Australia.
Wind speeds did not top 8 knots all day, with a dying 5-knot breeze present in the afternoon which began to decrease towards the end of the 470 Women's race.
Racing in the Finns had already been abandoned for the day, while the Laser Radials managed to start a race but had to abandon it halfway through.
The Lasers and 470 Men went out onto the water with good intentions, but the decision was soon made to call off all racing for the day.
Ahead of the 470 Women's Medal Race, Lecointre & Retornaz led Hannah Mills & Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) in a reverse scenario to the recent Hempel World Cup Series Final in Marseille.
Agnieszka Skrzypulec & Jolanta Ogar (POL) were 10 points off in third, with home favourites Ai Kondo Yoshida & Miho Yoshioka (JPN) and Silvia Mas & Patricia Cantero (ESP) still in with a chance of a medal.
With just a point between the French and the British, it all came down to the Medal Race - and it was the French who executed a perfect performance.
Final top three results:
1. Mathew Belcher / William Ryan, AUS, 25
2. Anton Dahlberg / Fredrik Bergstrom, SWE, 27
3. Jordi Xammar Hernandez / Nicolas Rodríguez García-Paz, ESP, 38
1. Aloise Retornaz / Camille Lecointre, FRA, 38
2. Eilidh McIntyre / Hannah Mills, GBR, 47
3. Agnieszka Skrzypulec / Jolanta Ogar, POL, 51
1. Blair Tuke / Peter Burling, NZL, 53
2. Dylan Fletcher-Scott / Stuart Bithell, GBR, 64
3. Pawel Kolodzinski / Lukasz Przybytek, POL, 68
1. Martine Soffiatti Grael / Kahena Kunze, BRA, 57
2. Helene Naess / Marie Ronningen, NOR, 62
3. Saskia Tidey / Charlotte Dobson, GBR, 62
1. Zsombor Berecz, HUN, 24
2. Nicholas Heiner, NED, 47
3. Giles Scott, GBR, 48
1. Jesper Stalheim, SWE, 60
2. Tom Burton, AUS, 63
3. Hermann Tomasgaard, NOR, 65
Laser Radial Women
1. Emma Plasschaert, BEL, 79
2. Marit Bouwmeester, NED, 82
3. Maria Erdi, HUN, 88
1. Ruggero Tita / Caterina Marianna Banti, ITA, 54
2. John Gimson / Anna Burnet, GBR, 66
3. Ben Saxton / Nicola Boniface, GBR, 68
1. Mengfan Gao, CHN, 50
2. Mattia Camboni, ITA, 61
3. Piotr Myszka, POL, 64
1. Yunxiu Lu, CHN, 42
2. Charline Picon, FRA, 46
3. Katy Spychakov, ISR, 53
Full results here
Ireland's only chance of a medal race finish at the Ready Steady Tokyo, the Olympic Sailing Test event in Enoshima this week lies in the men's Laser class with National Yacht Club sailor Finn Lynch today who is three points outside the top ten in 14th place overall. Lynch is on 90 nett points with tenth overall, and the last medal race place currently on 87 points.
On the Laser and Laser Radial courses (where Ireland is represented by both Aoife Hopkins and Aisling Keller), two races were completed yesterday. Irish sailors each had one very good race, but then, unfortunately, followed up with high scoring second races.
Both classes have two races scheduled today.
49er and 49erFX
Annalise Murphy and Katie Tingle in the 49erFX completed another encouraging day on the water securing their third top five result and finish the regatta in 13th overall.
Likewise, in the mens 49er class, first-timers Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove (49er) of Howth Yacht Club have grown into the regatta this week, and had a solid day on the water - they finish in a very credible 15th place overall.
Ireland has so far only qualified in the Laser Radial Class for Tokyo 2020 next year, so this test event has been another important learning curve on the road to the final qualification regattas later this year for the skiffs and next March for the men's Laser campaigners.
The National Yacht Club's Olympic Laser sailor Finn Lynch continues to sail consistently at the midway point of Ready Steady Tokyo, the official test event for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games hosted by the Japanese capital and is 11th overall, edging closer to medal race participation by the end of the week.
it is becoming growingly apparent that versatility and consistency will determine Olympic champions in a years time and with that Lynch is proving his worth in Enoshima this week, if only he (or Ewan McMahon or Liam Glynn) can manage to qualify Ireland at next year's do-or-die final test in March.
After Day 3 of the Olympic Test event Annalise Murphy and Katie Tingle in the 49erFX had four races, with two 4th places pushing them up to 16th place.
In the 49ers, they also completed four races, with Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove getting an 8th place and a 6th.
And in the Laser Radials where they've now completed six races, Aoife Hopkins and Aisling Keller are in 26th and 29th places respectively.
At Ready Steady Tokyo – it’s fair to say that all 353 athletes here have been put through their paces so far.
Day 3 produced a different bout of weather to the previous two days, with shifting winds and tricky conditions shaking up the standings somewhat.
The variety of racing scenarios faced by the sailors will provide them with plenty of experience for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in one year’s time; the old regatta adage of "consistency is key" certainly applies here.
One team who have demonstrated this with a typically professional performance so far are reigning Nacra 17 Olympic champions, Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli (ARG).
They won two of today’s four races to move up into second place, also picking up a fourth and a 12th (discarded).
And though Lange was disappointed to finish the day with their worst result of the week, he believes they have both taken a lot out of a varied three days of racing.
"It was a really difficult day – really tiring for an old man!" he said.
"It’s a shame we ruined the day a bit in the last race, but overall we are happy; we sailed well with some really good racing.
"It seems like sailing in Japan is about getting used to difficult conditions and performing.
"Today we were expecting the wind to die to a sea breeze, but actually the last race was in some of the strongest winds.
"We need to be really focused to understand what the wind does every day, so we learn something for next year."
Ruggero Tita & Caterina Banti (ITA) remain in front, despite also picking up their worst result of the week today (ninth). John Gimson & Anna Burnet (GBR) move into the top three with a race win, while Iker Martinez & Olga Maslivets (ESP) took the fourth win of the day.
There’s a new leader in the Laser fleet; Jesper Stalheim (SWE) has risen to the top with a string of consistent results.
Picking up two seconds and a third today, and with his discard a 15th from earlier in the week, he’s knocked Sam Meech (NZL) off top spot.
Assessing the week’s mixed conditions, and up against a strong fleet, Stalheim knows it will be difficult to maintain his good form so far.
"Apart from a bit of a shocker in the second race, I’ve had a really good week," he said.
"We’ve had a bit of everything. Today we had a shifty offshore wind, whereas on the first day we had epic southwest winds and big waves.
"It looks like there will be two more light wind days coming up, so we’ll see what they get!
"Both of the Aussies and Sam [Meech] have been quite consistent so far. They’re really strong – they’ve been the strongest throughout this season.
"It will be hard to keep them behind me, but I’ll try my best!"
The Swede has a nine-point lead over Meech, who won one of today’s three races, with Matt Wearn (AUS) in third.
William De Smet (BEL) and Chris Barnard (USA) won the other two races of the day.
In the Laser Radial fleet, a 32nd-placed finish for Maria Erdi (HUN) sees her lose her lead, as she already has a discard of 35th from yesterday.
Emma Plasschaert (BEL) now leads the way, ahead of Sarah Douglas (CAN), who won one of today’s races to move up into second.
Marit Bouwmeester (NED) and Svenja Weger (GER) picked up the other race wins.
The 49ers got four races in, and Kiwis Peter Burling & Blair Tuke have regained top spot with two second places and a third.
Lukasz Przybytek & Pawel Kolodzinski (POL) move down into second, despite winning a race, while Benjamin Bildstein & David Hussl (AUT) keep third after picking up two wins today.
Mathieu Frei & Noe Delpech (FRA) bagged today’s other race win.
The 49erFX fleet now have nine races under their belt after also completing another four today, and Charlotte Dobson & Saskia Tidey (GBR) keep their lead, topping off with a win to build a 10-point advantage.
Martine Grael & Kahena Kunze (BRA) stay second, with Alexandra Maloney & Molly Meech moving into the top three having collected a race win today.
The day’s other two victories were taken by Helene Nass & Marie Ronningen (NOR) and Tamara Echegoyen & Paula Barcelo (ESP).
Elsewhere, Mat Belcher & Will Ryan (AUS) have taken top spot off Jordi Xammar & Nicolas Rodriguez (ESP) in the 470 Men, who took a win apiece today.
Anton Dahlberg & Fredrik Bergström (SWE) stay third, with the top three 16-points clear of the rest of the pack.
Paul Snow-Hansen & Daniel Willcox (NZL) claimed the day’s other race win.
It’s tight between the top two in the 470 Women’s fleet, with just a point separating Ai Kondo Yoshida & Miho Yoshioka (JPN), who won the final race of the day, and Hannah Mills & Eilidh McIntyre (GBR).
Camille Lecointre & Aloise Retornaz (FRA) are nine points behind the Brits in third, with Linda Fahrni & Maja Siegenthaler (SUI) and Haiyan Gao & Mengxi Wei (CHN) claiming the day’s other two victories.
In the RS:X Men’s fleet, Mengfan Gao (CHN) went from third to first, collecting a race win along the way.
Thomas Goyard (FRA) and Mattia Camboni (ITA) follow, with Piotr Myszka (POL) & Mateo Sanz Lanz (SUI) also winning races today.
Yunxiu Lu (CHN) continues to dominate in the RS:X Women, with a 12-point lead over second-placed Katy Spychakov (ISR), who won the last of three races.
Charline Picon (FRA) moves down into third, while Stefania Elfutina (RUS) took two victories today to move within a point of her in fourth.
And on Day 3 of racing in the Finn fleet, Zsombor Berecz (HUN) is back in front ahead of Giles Scott (GBR), with a race win taking him nine points clear of the Brit.
Andy Maloney (NZL) triumphed in the day’s other two races and he is now within two points of third-placed Nicholas Heiner (NED).
Racing continues tomorrow at around 12:00 for all fleets, apart from the Laser Radial, 470 Men and 49er who begin at 14:00.
After teething problems all the results are here
Australia’s Tom Burton, the Olympic Gold medalist from Rio, took the title followed closely by teammate Mathew Wearn.
Ireland's Rio rep, Lynch (Bennekerry, Co. Carlow) was best placed to achieve qualification (the top five unqualified countries go through this week) but has ended the championship in 40th overall in the 148-boat fleet, 11th unqualified country and some 56-points off the tally required. Results are here.
Ewan McMahon (Howth, Co. Dublin) placed a solid 50th for his debut at senior level world championship while Liam Glynn (Bangor, Co. Down) in only his second worlds made the top 100.
"For sure, the result is disappointing, especially after such a strong season," commented James O'Callaghan, Irish Sailing's Performance Director. "However, sport always has highs and lows, the key thing now is to bounce back and be ready for Genoa.”
Last Chance for Ireland in Genoa
Unfortunately, Ireland also missed out on qualification last year when the first 14 nation places were allocated at the 2018 World Championships in Aarhus. This represented 40% of the 35 boat Olympic Laser fleet.
The Laser Men’s European sailing teams who qualified in Aarhus 2018 were;
- Great Britain
Six non-European countries also qualified for Tokyo in Aarhus. Those were;
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- United States
In addition, Japan as a host nation automatically qualifies for the Games meaning 15 of 35 places were already booked coming into the pre-Olympic season.
In Japan today, a further five berths were decided between the 44 unqualified nations from 58 competing. These are:
This leaves 15 places to complete the Olympic fleet.
These will be available at Continental Qualification events throughout the remainder of 2019 and moving into 2020. Full details of how these places will be distributed are in the Tokyo Qualification System document that is downloadable here but for Ireland, the news is that there are just two European places left and these will be decided next year in Genoa.
The following five European countries, (who have still not qualified their country) all finished ahead of Ireland today so Ireland will have to overhaul all but one of these to win a Tokyo berth in Genoa next April 13-19.
Read Afloat's coverage of the 2019 Laser World Championships in one handy link here
With only two races left to sail at the Laser World Championships and Olympic Qualifier in Japan, top Irish contender Finn Lynch needs to move up 16 places overall in order to secure the last of the five Olympic berths up for grabs.
There's no doubt he'll rue some inconsistent sailing this past week that has put him in the same position as 2018 when, with some promising performances, he missed the standard then by 20 points and finished 31st place overall.
This week Guatemala's Maegli Juan Ignacio in 21st place will take the final qualification place as things currently stand unless Lynch, an individual race winner at the Japanese championships, can address the existing 40-point deficit and leapfrog four other unqualified countries between him and Juan Ignacio. Results are here
Tomorrow will be a big ask for the Carlow sailor but he can still do it, for two reasons.
Firstly, he has an uncanny, ruthless ability to finish regattas strongly (he finished ninth in the last race in the 2018 Worlds) and that is perhaps the greatest skill of all for an elite racer.
Secondly, this Gold Fleet in the Laser Worlds is of a ridiculously high standard. What this means in practice is that the overall results can flip dramatically on a single day, especially on a high-pressure final day! World Champions and Olympic medalists are winning races and then coming in the 40s in the next race, for example, the current World Champion Kontides Pavlos is 19th overall.
The National Yacht Club man probably needs no more than about 20 points over the two races to do it, but if anybody in Ireland can, Lynch can!
The penultimate day on Monday saw Lynch (Bennekerry, Co. Carlow) end in 37th overall (down four places from 33rd) as he was unable to repeat the race-winning performance he showed on Sunday.
Debutante Ewan McMahon
On his first-ever appearance at a senior-level world championship Ewan McMahon (Howth, Co. Dublin) had two back of fleet results that showed him pushing hard for experience including a 'Black flag' disqualification for early starting that masked an excellent top five position early in the race.
“I just want to see the fighting spirit tomorrow," commented Vasilij Zbogar, Irish Sailing's head Laser coach.
The series concludes in Sakaiminato on Tuesday before a break for a week when the women's Laser Radial World Championship begins with Aoife Hopkins (Howth, Co. Dublin) and Aisling Keller (Tipperary) both aiming to secure a place for Ireland at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The fourth day of the Championship (that doubles as an important Olympic Qualifier) has two Irish sailors in the Gold fleet final series for the top 52 boats in the 156-strong regatta.
On his first-ever appearance at a senior-level world championship Ewan McMahon (Howth, Co. Dublin) showed good boat speed but has dropped overall from 42nd to 50th.
Finn Lynch (Bennekerry, Co. Carlow) won the eighth race with a 50-metre lead at the finish after starting-well and was with the top five boats at the first mark before pulling ahead.
Currently, Lynch lies 33rd overall having been 50th going into Sunday’s races of the event.
“He didn’t need to do anything special as he is sailing well,” commented Vasilij Zbogar, Irish Sailing’s head Laser coach. “He just needed a spark to boost his confidence and that is exactly what he got.”
The win is hopefully a return to form for Lynch who has been in blistering form this season. Lynch will be attempting to keep some consistent scores going over the remainder of the series and he will be cognisant of the fact that despite three top ten finishes at the 2018 World Championships he missed qualification by about 20 points. He will also be sure to recall that it was race eight last year that proved his undoing with a disqualification while today he celebrates winning it in Japan!
Despite the significant boost of the individual Irish race win, though, Ireland remains tenth of the unqualified countries seeking only five Olympic berths on offer at this event.
Racing continues until Tuesday and with it the chance of an Irish Laser spot at the Tokyo Olympics.
Ireland’s Ewan McMahon (Howth, Co. Dublin) and Finn Lynch (Bennekerry Co. Carlow) made the Gold fleet for the top 52 competitors at the Laser World Championship in Japan that is an important qualification event for next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Six races over the coming three days will decide the finals standings and the next five nations to be included on the Laser Olympic start line next year.
Out of the 44 countries seeking a Tokyo berth this week, Ireland is currently ranked in ninth country position (moving up from 11th after four races). However, five other nations also seeking a Tokyo place are within ten points of McMahon, who counts a Black Flag Disqualification from race two as his discard, so the stakes are high.
See overall results here
While Lynch scored two top 20 places earlier today to stand 50th overall in the 156-strong fleet, it is McMahon who has the best overall Irish placing in 41st place following a 14th and 13th for the day in his first senior World Championship in the class. The 20-year-old rookie has already given notice of his intent this season with a stand out European performance in May, as Afloat reported here.
If McMahon can maintain such form and qualify the nation this weekend, it sets the stage for a trial between him and Lynch for the single Tokyo 2020 berth.
Liam Glynn from Bangor was unable to find his opening day form and lies mid-fleet in 77th overall.
“It definitely depends on the wind; with lighter wind, anything is possible as the (overall) points are actually quite close,” commented Vasilij Zbogar, Irish Sailing’s head Laser coach. “Many good sailors didn’t make the Gold fleet and now we have nothing to lose. For now, it’s not about the (final) result, it’s about sailing freely and having fun.”
Lynch is lying 78th, Liam Glynn is 35th and Ewan McMahon is 81st from 158 boats. Results are here.
The event is the second qualification opportunity for the Tokyo Olympics next year where five places are on offer among 44 countries.
The Carlow sailor has been in exceptional form at most of his major events this year but was cautious on the starting line for both races today and ended up finishing outside the top 20 for the first day.
However, Howth's (Co. Dublin) Ewan McMahon placed third in his first race of the series that is also his first senior world championship. But he was disqualified in the second race for early starting and will endeavour to drop that score under the discard system later in the regatta.
Liam Glynn of Bangor, Co. Down made good on his pre-event training form by placing in the top ten leading boats in both of his races at the first mark before slipping down the ranks by the finish.
The championship series comprises qualification races until Saturday when the 150+ fleet is split into Gold, Silver and Bronze divisions. Ireland needs a finisher in the top five unqualified nations that will certainly be drawn from the upper ranks of the Gold fleet.
"Finn has everything he needs to perform but must look beyond the pressure of the event for the remaining races," commented Vasilij Zgobar, the Slovenian triple Olympic medallist who is the Irish squad head Laser coach. "But I am very pleased with how the younger sailors did on their first day competing at this level."
Racing continues at Sakaiminato-City, Japan on Friday starting at 0300 (Irish Time). The women's Olympic qualifier/Laser Radial World Championship begins in two weeks time at the same venue.
Rio Olympic solo sailor Finn Lynch leads Irish hopes at the start of the Laser World Championship that begins in Sakaiminato, Japan this morning (0800 - Irish time) with the stakes running high ahead of Tokyo 2020.
Ireland is seeking one of five Olympic berths up for grabs among 44 countries from 58 competing in the 160-boat fleet in Sakaiminato. 14 countries previously qualified at the first attempt in Aarhus in Denmark last year.
The regatta marks the start of an extended run of events in the 2020 Olympics host nation which also includes the official Olympic test event and the World Cup Series Enoshima, both in August.
As Afloat previously reported, the three-boat Irish squad this week was the first overseas team to become established at the venue and the trio have fully adjusted to the conditions, afloat and ashore.
“It's been much smoother than I expected,” commented Vasilij Zbogar, the Slovenian triple Olympic medallist who is the Irish Sailing head Laser coach. “We now have good knowledge of the local wind and currents in the race area."
Along with Lynch from Carlow, Liam Glynn from Bangor, Co Down and Ewan McMahon from Howth, Co. Dublin will be seeking to show their best performances of the year.
In terms of qualification for Tokyo 2020, the attention will be on Lynch who has had an exceptionally strong year to date apart from out of form result.
Lynch delivered top ten results at three consecutive regattas in Miami, Palma and Marseilles before slipping to 18th overall at the Laser European championships at Porto in late May.
"It was a little bit expected after four regattas in a row with not much chance to recover from the stress of previous events," said Zbogar. "We were also late getting set-up in Porto and the conditions were very strong so adapting took longer."
The late arrival for the Europeans partly explains the early arrival in Japan to ensure best preparation at the venue.
"Finn is ready, his boat-speed upwind and downwind is excellent," said Zbogar. "But the feeling of stress for the worlds is way more than normal. He has to understand and learn from it and then use it as a weapon."
Meanwhile, the Laser coach is pleased with the progress of the two younger sailors preparing for their first senior worlds.
"Liam has been sailing really well over the last ten days; I am super happy with him and it will be very interesting to see his results," said Zbogar.
"Ewan is quite solid. He’s still quite young and needs experience but he’s a big talent. The good thing here is that there’s no pressure so he can sail freely."
The series begins with two races daily in a qualification round to determine Gold, Silver and Bronze fleets before final rounds next Monday and Tuesday.
Ireland needs to be in the top five of unqualified nations to secure a berth for Tokyo 2020. Once qualified, a trials series will follow to select the best sailor.
Later this month, Ireland's Aoife Hopkins and Aisling Keller will commence their Laser Radial class World Championships, also in Sakaiminato-City aiming to secure a place in their event for the Olympics next year.