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Preliminary results from the 49er Olympic Qualifying event in Lanzarote this morning indicate that the Howth and Skerries pairing of Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove have done enough to secure not only Ireland's Olympic slot in the 49er skiff, but the young sailors have won the battle with Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle for the honour to be the Irish representatives in Tokyo.

The Irish team of Robert Dickson (right) and Sean Waddilove booked their place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (49er class) at the Lanzarote International Regatta in the Canary Islands today. The Irish duo got the place even before the Medal Race, for which they qualified in the top fiveThe Irish team of Robert Dickson (right) and Sean Waddilove booked their place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (49er class) at the Lanzarote International Regatta in the Canary Islands today. The Irish duo got the place even before the Medal Race, for which they qualified in the top five. Photo: Sailing Energy

An 11th place in the 15th and final fleet race this morning puts the Irish pair on 101 pts and despite the Belgians finishing five places ahead, it appears that the 24 pt gap cannot be closed in this afternoon's medal race.

Official confirmation of the above is awaited but Lanzarote organisers have already posted the result on social media:

The medal race will be livestreamed here: https://youtu.be/Nu7e9OjJfLs

The 49ers start at 1:30 pm.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove's mission for Tokyo 2021 was accomplished yesterday when they took the last Olympic berth in the men's skiff class but the way it was achieved has been revelatory not only to the 49er fleet itself but to the Irish sailing community too. 

Sheer hard work paid off in the Canary Islands as the Howth and Skerries pair sailed a solid series to win their Olympic dream at the last throw of the dice.

Now the place on the Enoshima startline is secured with such a standout performance, the tantalising question is what else might we expect from the Olympic debutantes this July?

On the podium - the Irish 49er medal race winners finish third overall and Tokyo Olympic qualification Photo: Sailing EnergyOn the podium - the Irish 49er medal race winners finish third overall and Tokyo Olympic qualification Photo: Sailing Energy

As Afloat reported yesterday, following qualification with a race to spare, the duo went on to win the double points medal race yesterday afternoon – the first one they had ever competed in – and secure the bronze medal at the Lanzarote International Regatta into the bargain. Success certainly tasted sweet standing on the podium in the Lanzarote sunshine.

Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove (green spinnaker) lead Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle on a downwind leg in Lanzarote this week Photo: Sailing EnergyRobert Dickson and Sean Waddilove (green spinnaker) lead Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle on a downwind leg in Lanzarote this week Photo: Sailing Energy

It might have been the last Olympic place available, as viewed in some quarters, but the way in which it was won represents far more as a new chapter opens for Irish skiff sailing in Ireland. And It's a chapter that holds out so much promise both for Tokyo and Paris 2024.

Many at home had expected Northern Ireland skiff ace Ryan Seaton would use his 16 years experience from London 2012 to Rio 2016 to easily qualify Ireland early for Tokyo but when that campaign stalled it left the door open for youth to triumph over experience and Dickson and Waddilove seized the opportunity.

Olympic bound - Sean Waddilove (left) and Robert Dickson take the Tokyo berth with a race to spare in Playa Blanca Photo: Sailing EnergyOlympic bound - Sean Waddilove (left) and Robert Dickson take the Tokyo berth with a race to spare in Playa Blanca Photo: Sailing Energy

Frankly, Irish Olympic sailing needed a short in the arm after so many disappointments this quadrennial and the manner in which Dickson and Waddilove put one of Ireland's main medal hopes to the sword has been quite the eye-opener. 

It is six years almost to the day that Dickson and Waddilove first set foot in a 49er and what a voyage of discovery it has been from absolute beginner to Tokyo Olympians at the first time of asking as Afloat's WM Nixon wrote here.

Aside from two UFD scores this week, the young team has been a revelation into the top tier of senior 49er fleets and are now clearly on top of their game, prompting interviewer John Emmet in Lanzarote yesterday to ask how far the modest pairing think they can go in Tokyo (in the video below).

The result is also a big relief for the fledgeling Irish 49er class that at one point had up to five campaigns bidding for Tokyo but each one falling away as key earlier qualification opportunities were missed in Aarhus 2018 and Auckland 2019.

What started out as something of a vertical learning curve for the 420 teen duo in the high powered skiff in Howth in March 2015 was rewarded just three years later with Under 23 World Championships success in 2018 (and an Afloat Irish Sailor of the Year Award). Dickson wrote about that achievement for Afloat here.

Early signs of success - Taoiseach Leo Varadkar congratulates Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove after their Under 23 win in 2018 at Howth Yacht ClubEarly signs of success - Taoiseach Leo Varadkar congratulates Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove after their Under 23 win in 2018 at Howth Yacht Club

But it was from this point on that they truly showed the depth of their ambitions making gold fleet at the first time of asking at the 2019 World Championships in Auckland.

Despite the havoc COVID-19 disruption brought to campaign plans, the pandemic, in fact, played into their hands as it gave valuable time to 'keep learning' as the qualification regatta was repeatedly cancelled to within five months of the Games itself. Dickson and Waddilove stuck to a religious training programme and the buds of Lanzarote success this week were well in evidence last season when they came out ahead of Seaton & Guilfoyle in a Kiel Week 49er test last September. It was the same again in Austria in October at the 2020 Europeans on Lake Attersee when Dickson and Waddilove finished on top in 18th place.

Congratulations from Howth, Skerries & Across Ireland

Dickson's own club at Howth Yacht Club and Waddilove's Skerries were celebrating the qualification news yesterday. Both have both been following the campaign intensely and especially this week's last chance event. It is clear from social media the duo have a strong following especially in north Dublin and are surrounded by supporters and sponsors who admire their progress born out of a strong work ethic.

Reaction from home and indeed across the world has been quick with so many offering their congratulations. Here's a selection of comments via social media: 

GBR Olympic sailor Saskia Tidey wrote: “Just buzzing for you! Well done lads xxx”.

Irish sailing Pro Maurice O'Connell: "TREMENDOUS".

Flying Fifteen class president Chris Doorly: “Brilliant, well done! Great watching the event as we are locked in!”

Royal St George Match Racing champion, John Sheehy: "Was tuned in all week. Phenomenal. Congratulations". 

Howth’s Richard Kissane: "Great result and well deserved!"

Royal Cork's Neil Kenefick: "Wonderful, Sail on". 

Gillian Guinness of Howth: "Well done boys, delighted for you both. Robert your grandfather Roy would be so so proud of you". 

Success in Lanzarote this week was born in the hard conditions of Dun Laoghaire's Coal Harbour says former coach Tytus Photo: Sailing EnergySuccess in Lanzarote this week was born in the hard conditions of Dun Laoghaire's Coal Harbour says former coach Tytus Konarzewski Photo: Sailing Energy

From Warsaw, the coach that took them to their under 23 gold medals in Marseilles, Tytus Konarzewski also sent his congratulations. He believes the duo can go all the way to the podium, if not in Tokyo, then certainly at Paris 2024.

“I remember when it was was really cold in Dun Laoghaire in winter 2017. We were changing sailing clothes on the street in the Coal Harbour. They never complained,  so, months later when it was windy and wavy in Marseille, they were very happy to race in any conditions and gave it all, right up to the end” 

“Success was born in hard conditions, it is why Irish sailors could be successful if they are not spoiled!

I love them, they are good guys and I wish them all the best, I’ll always cross my fingers for them”, Konarzewski told Afloat.

Irish Sailing's James O'Callaghan says "The whole team have all worked really hard preparing for the Tokyo Olympics and qualifying today is a really important step and a milestone for Rob and Sean. It’s a bittersweet feeling for Ryan and Seafra, as they had hoped to win the nomination, but without these two boats working as a team Ireland would have had no chance securing the last available Olympic place." 

Click to read more on 49er sailors Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove

Published in Tokyo 2020

The penultimate day of racing at the 49er Olympic Qualification regatta in Lanzarote proved to be a very nervy one for the Irish teams seeking to secure Tokyo Olympic qualification. What appeared to be a comfortable lead was quickly eroded when nearest contenders Belgium posted a 5th, 1st and 12th compared to the 13th, 11th and 8th recorded by Robert Dickson (HYC) and Sean Waddilove (SSC), leaving a gap of 29 points going into the final fleet race tomorrow.

Once again, near-perfect conditions of ESE 12/15 knots were experienced by a 25 boat gold fleet. The Belgians sailed aggressively in the first two races, recognising early that the left side was favoured and going for it, while the Irish, defending their points lead, seemed to be somewhat more conservative, concerned more with avoiding disaster than recording podium finishes.

Racing was streamed live, with the Irish supporters being very active on the chat line.

The Irish pairing of Ryan Seaton (CYC) and Seafra Guilfoyle scored 18th, 16th and 4th to fall 9 points behind the Belgians.

Tomorrow's final fleet race will be particularly crucial for the Belgians, who cannot overtake the Irish in the fleet racing, but who will need to stay in the top ten to prolong the battle into the medal race. Worst case scenario, a 1st for Belgium and a last for Ireland (Dickson and Waddilove) in the final fleet race would see them entering the medal race with the Irish 5 points ahead. With medal race points counting double, the Belgians would then need to finish 3 places ahead of the Irish to secure the Olympic place.

Olympic Qualifying positions with one fleet race and the medal race to be sailed tomorrow Friday:

  • 3 IRL Dickson/Waddilove 90pts
  • 9 BEL Lefebvre/Pelsmaekers 119pts
  • 11 IRL Seaton/Guilfoyle 128pts
  • 12 ITA Crivelli/Chiste 130pts
  • 15 ITA Anessi/Gamba 141pts
  • 17 ITA Ferrarese/Togni 141pts

Full results here

Published in Tokyo 2020
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Ireland's Robert Dickson (HYC) and Sean Waddilove (SSC) mixed good with bad in today's three races, a disqualification for premature starting following 3rd and 1st place finishes.  However, the chasing fleet didn't improve enough to displace the Irish from their 3rd place overall. And, more significantly, the nearest challengers for the Olympic slot fell further in the ranking to give the Irish pair a 38 point cushion entering the final stages.

Ryan Seaton (CSC) and Seafra Guilfoyle (RCYC) scored 13th, 11th and 14th to lie in 10th place.

Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle lie in 10th place Photo: Sailing EnergyRyan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle lie in 10th place Photo: Sailing Energy

Racing took place in an 8 to 10-knot easterly breeze, graced with warm sunshine.

The Irish sailors will look to consolidate their position tomorrow in the final three races, with a target of two Irish boats in the medal race, but more crucially, aiming to maintain the 38 point advantage to secure the Olympic berth.

Overall scores, 3 gold fleet races and medal race to come.

  • 3 IRL Dickson/Waddilove 58pts
  • 10 IRL Seaton/Guilfoyle 94pts
  • 12 ITA Ferrarese/Togni 96pts
  • 14 BEL Lefebvre/Pelsmaekers 102pts
  • 15 ITA Crivelli/Chiste 107pts
  • 16 ITA Anessi/Gamba 109pts

Full results here

Published in Tokyo 2020
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Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove have withdrawn their protest for a UFD penalty made against them in today's important Lanzarote International Regatta, the final Olympic Qualification event for the European 49er fleet.

As Afloat reported earlier, Dickson and Waddilove did file a protest seeking redress in the second race, claiming they were incorrectly identified as being over the line. However, when they appeared in front of the jury this afternoon it was to withdraw the protests, so the results stand.

Three of the seven countries seeking the one available Olympic slot have qualified for the gold fleet. 

Belgium is in ninth place, while Italy has boats in 15th, 18th and 19th places.  The top 25 boats from the qualifying series will compete in the gold fleet finals, carrying forward their scores from the qualifying rounds.  

The real battle begins tomorrow, Wednesday, with three races scheduled, followed by three on Thursday and a 10 boat medal race on Friday. 

The Olympic qualifying positions are as follows:  

  • 3   IRL       Dickson/Waddilove        31pts
  • 9   BEL      Lefebvre/Pelsmaekers    56pts
  • 10 IRL       Seaton/Guilfoyle             58pts
  • 15 ITA        Ferrarese/Togni              65pts
  • 18 ITA        Anessi/Gamba                71pts
  • 19 ITA        Crivelli/Chiste                 73pts

Full results here

Published in Tokyo 2020

Both Irish 49er skiff teams improved their positions in today's racing at the Lanzarote International Regatta.

Three races were completed in NE winds of 7 to 10 knots. Robert Dickson (HYC) and Sean Waddilove (SSC) combined two firsts with a U flag disqualification and now lie in third place overall.

Ryan Seaton (CYC) and Seafra Guilfoyle (RCYC) scored two seconds and a tenth to move into tenth overall.

Race 1 of the day was particularly exciting as the Irish scored a 1-2 in their fleet with Dickson/Waddilove edging out Seaton/Guilfoyle.

Dickson and Waddilove have filed a protest seeking redress in the second race, claiming they were incorrectly identified as being over the line. If successful, they would increase the qualification lead over the Belgians by five points.

Three of the seven countries seeking the one available Olympic slot have qualified for the gold fleet. 

Irish rivals for the Olympic slot in Tokyo - Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle (11) chase Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove (99) on a downwind leg in Lanzarote today. Photo: Sailing EnergyIrish rivals for the Olympic slot in Tokyo - Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle (11) chase Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove (99) on a downwind leg in Lanzarote today. Photo: Sailing Energy

Full results here

Published in Tokyo 2020

The Irish 49er team of Robert Dickson (HYC) and Sean Waddilove (SSC) didn't quite emulate day one's fleet leading performance but performed solidly enough to maintain Ireland's position as the leader in the battle for Olympic qualification. Two 8ths and a 6th saw the team drop to 5th overall as their closest challengers all recorded improved results. However, they maintain a healthy lead over their nearest challengers for the Olympic slot, Belgium, who, while not scoring as well as the Irish pair, moved up the rankings owing to discarding a 17th compared with the Irish team's 8th.

Fellow Irish competitors Ryan Seaton (CYC) and Seafra Guilfoyle scored two 12ths and a 5th to finish the day at 17th overall.

Racing on a more sheltered course area closer to Lanzarote’s mountains, lighter winds made for a tactically challenging dayRacing on a more sheltered course area closer to Lanzarote’s mountains, lighter winds made for a tactically challenging day Photo: Sailing Energy

British and Danish sailors had the best day's results with all three races in the top five both to lie 1st and 2nd overall respectively.

The three fleets (49er, 49erFX and Nacra) enjoyed moderate north-easterly breezes in good sunshine with some shifts towards the top of the course closer to the land.

As of the end of sailing on day two, the crucial battle for Olympic qualification has the following rankings: Ireland (5th place, 21 points), Belgium (9th, 35), Italy, (12th, 39), Estonia (28th, 61), Norway (30th, 66), Russia (37th, 78) and Greece (39th, 83)

Tomorrow (Tuesday) will see three more qualifying races with the split into gold and silver fleets for racing on Wednesday and Thursday followed by the medal race on Friday.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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A brilliant opening day's sailing by Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove of Howth and Skerries has put Ireland into pole position in the 49er European Olympic qualification shoot-out in Lanzarote today.

Great sailing conditions of a fresh breeze in warm sunshine saw the Irish pair record two thirds and a first in a 44 boat entry split onto two fleets.

17 races are scheduled in total over six days in the Canaries.

Ireland's other entry, that of Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle scored an 11th and two 8ths to lie in 15th place after day one.

Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle are 16th in the 44 boat fleet after the first three racesRyan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle are 16th in the 44 boat fleet after the first three races Photo: Sailing Energy

Two more days of qualifying follow before the competitors are split onto gold and silver fleets on Wednesday for two further days before the medal race scheduled for Friday.

19 nations are competing, but only 7 countries are in the battle for the single remaining Olympic slot.

As of the end of sailing on day one, the ranking is Ireland (1), Belgium (13), Italy, (14), Estonia (17), Norway (30), Russia (35) and Greece (38).

Seven countries from 19 are in the battle for the single remaining Olympic sloSeven countries from 19 are in the battle for the single remaining Olympic slot Photo: Sailing Energy.

Immediately behind Dickson and Waddilove are the already qualified British, French, Croatian and Spanish teams.

Results are here

Published in Tokyo 2020

Northern Ireland Olympic sailor Ryan Seaton of Carrickfergus Sailing Club is set to miss the birth of his first child in his bid to reach the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

As Afloat previously reported, Seaton and team-mate Seafra Guilfoyle along with a Dublin team have one final chance to qualify Ireland for the Games at the Lanzarote International Regatta starting today.

Seaton's wife Jena, an Olympic medallist with Denmark in 2016, is due to give birth while he is qualifying in the 49er class in Lanzarote.

"I'm so fortunate that Jena is so understanding," the 33-year-old told BBC News.

"She is an Olympic medallist from Rio so she understands the commitment and the time required in the build-up to an event like this better than anyone," the father-to-be says.

Seaton and Guilfoyle have been in Lanzarote for three weeks as they prepare for their one shot at reaching the rescheduled Olympics this summer. Having finished 14th in London and tenth in Rio, Seaton now has Irish competition for the Tokyo place in the shape of up and coming Howth pair Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove. Both Irish teams are in a four-way tie for the single available place.

Seaton managed to visit Jena in Greenisland in County Antrim last week before jetting back out to the Canary Islands for qualification.

"I managed to get home for a few days to see Jena last week. It's nice to have the balance of life and sport. It makes me appreciate that I go can sailing and do what I love," he said.

Read the full interview on BBC here.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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A former Irish Olympic sailing 49er coach is confident either of the two Irish skiff teams can win the four-way battle for the last Tokyo place this weekend at the International Lanzarote Regatta.

As Afloat reported last week, there are four nations in contention for one remaining place in the 49er class: Ireland, Estonia, Italy and Belgium. 51 teams are registered for the six-day event. 

Ireland will be represented by two teams; the experienced double Olympian Ryan Seaton (Carrickfergus Sailing Club) and Séafra Guilfoyle (Royal Cork Yacht Club); and first-time campaigners Robert Dickson (Howth Yacht Club) and Sean Waddilove (Skerries Sailing Club).

Tytus Konarzewski who coached Dickson (23) and Waddilove (22), to Under-23 World Championship victory in 2018 offered an insight that it will ultimately be the crew that makes the 'less small mistakes' will succeed next week.

The Polish coach says: "For sure they have a chance. The question is: how are they prepared?"

Seaton (33), the 49er rep from London and Rio, and Guilfoyle (23) are being chased very hard by the former 420 dinghy sailors Dickson and Waddilove who first stepped foot in a 49er in 2015.

An examination of results from world-girdling Irish campaigns provides a form guide but even that is punctuated by COVID.

In only their third-ever appearance at a senior event, in December 2019 the Dickson and Waddilove qualified for the 49er World Championships Gold fleet after a high stakes day in Auckland Harbour, an event in which 'favourites', Seaton and Guilfoyle did not make the cut.  

Neither of the Irish crews then made gold fleet two months later at the 2020 Worlds in Geelong, Australia.  Then, after seven months without racing, Irish crews checked in with the European fleet at Kiel Week last September in a build-up to the European Championships. It produced some important markers for both Irish men's skiff teams, not least the fact that it was the Dickson and Waddilove that came out on top. The Howth pairing finished 14th some 13 places ahead of double Olympian Seaton and Guilfoyle who had a silver fleet finish in 27th place in the 52-boat fleet. 

Dickson and Waddilove's campaign had a meteoric rise with U23 World Championship victory in 2018Dickson and Waddilove's campaign had a meteoric rise with U23 World Championship victory in 2018 Photo: Sailing Energy 

Konarzewski, who coached the Irish 49erFX team in Rio, says that Seaton (who made the 2016 medal race final in Rio) would have been expected to have qualified Ireland by now. There is no doubting the talent of the 31-year-old who brought home the Silver Medal from the ISAF World Championship in Hyeres on France's Mediterranean coast in 2014 and two years later won the Gold Medal in the 49er skiff event in a keen fleet at the Princess Sofia Regatta in Palma in the build-up to Rio in 2016.

More recently, showing the depth of their ambition, Seaton and Guilfoyle placed sixth in the World Cup medal race at Enoshima, the site for the summer’s Olympics, in August 2019. 

Certainly, it's hard to fathom how after starting out ahead of the curve for Tokyo five years ago, Ireland is now in the 49er last chance saloon. However, 'we are where we are', as the saying goes, and the final chance to secure the last berth begins this Sunday.

In his time at the Irish Sailing Association, Tytus Konarzewski oversaw the 49er Development team with the aim of bringing them to an experienced competitive level in senior Olympic sailing, and preparing for the challenge of Tokyo 2020 and beyond to 2024. Tytus has over thirty years coaching experience and is familiar with the Irish setup having coached our 49erFX team in the Rio Olympics.In his time at the Irish Sailing Association, Tytus Konarzewski oversaw the 49er Development team with the aim of bringing them to an experienced competitive level in senior Olympic sailing, and preparing for the challenge of Tokyo 2020 and beyond to 2024. Tytus has over thirty years of coaching experience and is familiar with the Irish setup having coached our 49erFX team in the Rio Olympics Photo: Afloat

Konarzewski, who no longer works for the Irish Sailing Association, believes that Ireland can be on the 49er starting line for Tokyo in four months time and, significantly, also in Paris 2024, where he predicts we could be "medal contenders" in the men's skiff.

The two 49er teams are supported next week in the Canaries by Seaton's former London and Rio crew Matt McGovern and Laser coach Sean Evans.

Originally planned for the Princess Sofia Regatta in Mallorca (Spain), the last-minute change in venue for the Qualifier was announced in February due to COVID-19. The event is hosted by the Canary Islands Sailing Federation over three different race areas. Blustery conditions with strong winds and rolling seas are expected.

The competition begins this Sunday (21 March) and concludes next Friday, 26 March.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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