#Annalise_murphy – There was Olympic heartbreak for Annalise Murphy on one of the toughest race courses today when the 22–year–old Dun Laoghaire sailor finished fourth overall but only after a tense four way battle saw the Irish Olympic debutante lose out in the final moments of the 50 minute medal race.
The downwind finish was ultimately a tough leg for one of the biggest girls in the fleet. Nevertheless the sporting moment provided not only sailors but the entire country with a great lift when the Irish girl arrived in gold medal position at the first windward mark.
"Hard luck Annalise. You did us proud. Seeing the tricolour come around the first mark in gold medal position was as good as Packie Bonner's save or Dave O'Leary's penalty at Italia 90", wrote one reader on Afloat.ie
Murphy finished the race fifth to be fourth overall. Though there is no Irish medal it is Ireland's best Olympic sailing result in 32 years. Understandably that will be of small consolation to an emotional Annalise in Weymouth this afternoon.
Ashore after racing Annalise said "Coming fourth was definitely the worst result. "I kept losing out downwind because I kept going left downwind and there was less wind. Things just didn't work my way".
"I'm only 22. I'm going to work so hard and be back for 2016", a tearful but positive Annalise said.
In a set of conditions that could not have been more different to those that blasted Annalise into the lead of the Olympic regatta last week, Ireland's Annalise set sail on her final voyage for Gold in Weymouth in 12 knot westerlies and sunshine.
Going in to the medal race Annalise was third overall on 34 points with arch rival Van Acker from Belgium. The lead was held jointly by Liljia Xu and the world champion Marit Boumeester both on 33 points. Paddy Power bookmaker gave odds of 11/4 to Annalise. Boumeester was on 9/4, Liljia Xu 5/2 and Van Acker 11/4.
A tense four-way battle loomed as Ben Ainslie's girlfriend Marit Boumeester of Holland, the reigning radial world champion went for a matching Gold medal.
Annalise chases bronze medal position in the medal race today. Photo: Richard Langdon
Annalise had a mid line start in the stable 12 knot breeze and her upwind speed was clear to see. The Irish girl rounded the weather mark first but China's Lijia Xu quickly passed her on the run. Annalise appeared slow downwind, dropping eight places by the first leeward mark.
China rounded ahead of Holland's Marit Bouwmeester going into the second lap of the race. The other contender Van Acker of Belgium was last with Annalise in seventh place.
But by the top of the second weather mark Annalise was back in silver medal position again storming upwind just behind China with Van Acker on her heels in third having gained on the right.
But Annalise dropped back again on the second run. Boumeester motored down the run into second for the last lap, pulling the rabbit out of the hat downwind.
Annalise rounded the leeward mark for the second time fifth and out of the medals. But on the final upwind leg Annalise was again back in contention. The Dun Laoghaire sailor and Van Acker dueling for Bronze as Xu and Boumeester fought for gold and silver.
One thing was for sure, the Nothe course was never boring with places changing on every leg in the 12-14 knot winds.
On the final downwind leg Annalise was in bronze medal position with Van Acker two boats behind in sixth.
All four sailors from all four nations were neck and neck in the last few moments of the race. Thirty seconds or so separating the top five boats. Crafty Van Acker sailed back in to contention catching a series of good gusts leaving Ireland with Olympic agony just metres from the finish line.
Irish fans were out in force in Weymouth, 'Annalise's army' positioned right in front of the Nothe course. Photo: Finn Murphy
Annalise's club, the National Yacht Club on the East Pier in Dun Laoghaire, had the bunting out for today's medal race and her sailing students were jumping for joy all week. Photos: Michael Chester