The chances of winning an Olympic sailing medal next month, have been described by Team manager James O'Callaghan as an 'outside shot'. Can Ireland's four boat Irish Olympic Sailing Team deliver on the 36–year medal drought? Afloat.ie gives its assessment boat by boat
49er – Ryan Seaton & Matt McGovern
Ryan Seaton and Matthew McGovern have been steadily working their way up the world rankings this year, from 22ncd at the start of the year to 11th in the latest version. These London 2012 veterans (14th) have put in some stellar performances in recent months, most notably winning the Princesa Sofia Regatta in Palma in April.
Seaton and McGovern qualified Ireland at the first possible opportunity at the combined World Championships in Santander in 2014, finishing 8th. But their performance since has been erratic and the win in Palma was bookended by a 37th in Miami and a 28th at the 2016 Europeans. Most recently, at the international sailing week in Rio, the Belfast pair finished down the fleet, but may have been using this regatta for testing or training purposes.
There is no doubt, that on their day, Seaton and McGovern can compete with the world's best.
Men’s Skiff (49er) 20 competitors Race duration: 3 x 30 minutes daily (medal race 1 x 20 minutes) Competition days: Fri 12th/Sat 13th/Sun 14th (Reserve)/Mon 15th/Tue 16th/Wed 17th (Reserve)/Thu 18th - medal race/Fri 19th (Reserve)
49erFx – Andrea Brewster & Saskia Tidey
Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey were the last of the Irish team to qualify, enduring heartbreak at the 2015 worlds where they were denied qualification by a protest in the final race report here. However, their performance at the Worlds was good enough to secure the next available place a few months later when no team from Africa emerged. Story here.
Brewster, a product of the British Olympic Laser radial squad, and Tidey, who transitioned from the Radial to the 49er following a season racing 18ft Skiffs in Sydney, have, until this year, hovered in the early 20s in world ranking and results at major events. 2016 has been something of a breakthrough for the Royal Irish duo, finishing in the teens more consistently, including a 12th at the European championships in Barcelona in April. A final day scoreline of 2,1,3 shows the potential that resides in this team.
Women’s Skiff (49erFX) 20 competitors Race duration: 3 x 30 minutes daily (medal race 1 x 20 minutes) Competition days: Fri 12th/Sat 13th/Sun 14th (Reserve)/Mon 15th/Tue 16th/Wed 17th (Reserve)/Thu 18th - medal race/Fri 19th (Reserve)
Laser – Finn Lynch
Finn Lynch's fairytale journey to Rio is recounted in Sailing on Saturdays by Winkie Nixon. However he had to overcome the 2012 Olympian James Espey, who's 38th place at the 2014 world Championship in Santander qualified the country. ISA imposed a three regatta trials system, starting with the Copa de Brasil regatta in Rio in December 2015, where Espey shaded Lynch by one place. At the next event in Palma in March and April, neither sailor made gold fleet, but Espey increased his advantage with a 53rd to Lynch's 58th. Going into the final trial, the 2016 Laser Worlds in Mexico in May, Lynch had it all to do, but a solid series of consistent results saw him qualify for the Gold Fleet, while Espey never really got off the ground until it was too late.
While Lynch, who's best results have been at under age events, is certainly not a favourite for podium in Rio, his trajectory suggests that a medal in Tokyo in 2020 is well within his capability.
Men’s One-person dinghy (Laser) 46 competitors Race duration: 2 x 50 minutes daily (medal race 1 x 25 minutes) Competition days: Mon 8th/Tue 9th/Wed 10th/Thu 11th (Reserve day)/Fri 12th/Sat 13th/Sun 14th (Reserve)/Mon 15th - medal race/Tue 16th (Reserve)
Laser Radial – Annalise Murphy
Currently perhaps Ireland's most famous sailor, Annalise Murphy dismissed the challenge of Aoife Hopkins in the three event trial. However, recent form contradicts her suggestion that she is one of eight in the fleet with the potential to win a medal in Rio. Since January, her results at major events have been 48th (Miami World Cup), 30th (Laser Europeans), 39th (Laser Worlds) and 34th (Weymouth World Cup). The historical profile of light and fickle winds at the Olympic venue suggests that Annalise, a heavy weather specialist, will struggle to make the medal race. The 2013 European champion has, however, surprised on many occasions before and as recently as this month scored an important win on Olympic waters in her last regatta before the Games at the Rio de Janeiro International Sailing Week. Results of that win are here.
Women’s One-person dinghy (Laser Radial) 37 competitors Race duration: 2 x 50 minutes daily (medal race 1 x 25 minutes) Competition days: Mon 8th/Tue 9th/Wed 10th/Thu 11th (Reserve day)/Fri 12th/Sat 13th/Sun 14th (Reserve)/Mon 15th - medal race/Tue 16th (Reserve)