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The Olympic Federation of Ireland is delighted to announce the Tokyo 2020 Team Ireland Performance Support Leads, who will play an integral role in supporting the athletes during the Olympic Games. The Sport and Science leads will be operating under the direction of the Chef de Mission, Tricia Heberle, and the Olympic Games Head of Performance Support, Phil Moore, and will deliver and integrated performance support system to Irish athletes and staff to enable them to perform to their full potential at next year’s Games.

The nomination of the Sport and Science leads is being announced on the back of a rigorous and competitive selection process, and there will be a dual focus on the pre-games training camp environment and on the Games themselves.

Tokyo 2020 Lead Support Role

Name

Organisation

Strength & Conditioning / Holding Camp Deputy Manager

Eamonn Flanagan

SII

Performance Nutrition / Holding Camp Deputy Manager

Dr Sharon Madigan

SII

Performance Physiology

Declan Gamble

SINI

Olympic Transition Support

Eoin Rheinisch

SII

Performance Psychology

Dr Kate Kirby

SII

Sports Medicine (Chief Medical Officer)

Dr Jim O’Donovan

SII

Sports Physiotherapy

Sarah Jane McDonnell

SII

The Performance Support Leads will work as part of a multi-disciplinary Science and Medicine leadership team. Their focus will be on supporting the wellbeing of the athletes and staff before, during and after the Games.

“I am very excited about the calibre and experience of our Team Ireland Performance Support leads,” Chef de Mission Heberle said, “Tokyo 2020, like every Olympic Games, will present challenges and a range of considerations that we need to embrace and effectively prepare for. The support and expertise of these highly experienced practitioners and leaders in their fields will be invaluable to myself, our athletes and staff across Olympic qualification and at the Games.

“Many of our leads are already working with sports that will qualify for the Games and so our aim is to ensure a balance of continuity of support while also providing leadership and direction to a network of practitioners at the Sport Ireland and Sport NI Institutes, and in National Federations.”

Head of Performance Support Phil Moore added, “The appointment of the Performance Support Leads for the Tokyo Olympics is a significant milestone in the development of a world class high performance system in Ireland. The robust and transparent recruitment process ensures continuity of support for our athletes through the full Olympic cycle, delivered by a highly experienced team of science and medical practitioners working closely with Performance Directors and coaches.

“I look forward to working with this team and with the Team Ireland Chef de Mission Tricia Heberle to support our athletes and coaches in the preparation for Tokyo 2020.”

The Olympic Games take place in Tokyo from the 24 July to the 9 August 2020. Irish athletes are currently in the qualification stages across their sports.

Published in Tokyo 2020

Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle were best of the Irish at the first round of the World Sailing Cup in Enoshima, Japan last week. The Belfast-cork partnership, who still seek the Olympic qualification standard for Tokyo 2020, made the medal race cut and finished in sixth place in that finale to 10th place overall. 

In a big improvement for the pair, they had been as high as fifth overall during the heavy weather series, so in the context of their campaign to reach the Olympic standard later this year, they will rue race four in which they did not finish and race seven where they were disqualified.

Watch the duo in action in the medal race below (you can skip to 2:49:00)

With the World Cup in Enoshima now finished, it brings to a close what officials say was 'a really productive summer of sailing' for Ireland and one where Olympic qualification was achieved by Lough Derg's Asiling Keller in the Radial class. 

Ireland will seek to qualify for Tokyo 2020 at the last opportunity later this year in the 49er and 49erFX skiff classes and next March in the men's Laser class.

Australia’s Mat Belcher and Will Ryan won their third consecutive Men’s 470 gold medal on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic waters as the Hempel World Cup Series Enoshima event in Japan concluded.

Belcher and Ryan won the 470 World Championship title on 9 August and followed up with Ready Steady Tokyo, the Olympic test event, success on 22 August.

After five weeks of hard racing in Enoshima, they will head home, take stock of their success during a period of rest and move into 2020, the Olympic year, full of confidence.

The Men’s 470 Medal Race was one of two that was completed on a light wind final day on Sagami Bay. The Women’s 470 sailed the second and Spain’s Silvia Mas and Patricia Cantero came from behind to grab gold.

Light winds saw the postponement of the Laser, Laser Radial and Finn Medal Races which meant the results overnight stand. Nicholas Heiner (NED) and Pavlos Kontides (CYP) had already confirmed gold before the Medal Race in the Finn and Laser.

Emma Plasschaert (BEL) was prepared to fight Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) and Alison Young (GBR) for gold in the Laser Radial. The cancellation confirmed Plasschaert as victor in Enoshima for the second time in ten days after she won Ready Steady Tokyo.

The Hempel World Cup Series will head to Miami, USA in January 2020 as the countdown to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games continues. -- Daniel Smith - World Sailing

Final podium positions:

470 Men
1. Mathew Belcher / William Ryan, AUS, 27
2. Jordi Xammar Hernandez / Nicolás Rodriguez Garcia-Paz, ESP, 37
3. Kazuto Doi / Naoya Kimura, JPN, 47

470 Women
1. Silvia Mas Depares / Patricia Cantero Reina, ESP, 44
2. Nia Jerwood / Monique de Vries, AUS, 45
3. Frederike Loewe / Anna Markfort, GER, 58

49er Men
1. James Peters / Fynn Sterritt, GBR, 49
2. Benjamin Bildstein / David Hussl, AUT, 49
3. Tim Fischer / Fabian Graf, GER, 52

49erFX Women
1. Annemiek Bekkering / Annette Duetz, NED, 27
2. Alexandra Maloney / Molly Meech, NZL, 36
3. Julie Bossard / Aude Compan, FRA, 37

Finn Men
1. Nicholas Heiner, NED, 19
2. Josip Olujic, CRO, 44
3. Ioannis Mitakis, GRE, 47

Laser Men
1. Pavlos Kontides, CYP, 36
2. Matthew Wearn, AUS, 57
3. Jean Baptiste Bernaz, FRA, 62

Laser Radial Women
1. Emma Plasschaert, BEL, 54
2. Anne-Marie Rindom, DEN, 57
3. Alison Young, GBR, 64

NACRA 17
1. Quentin Delapierre / Manon Audinet, FRA, 21
2. Ben Saxton / Nicola Boniface, GBR, 22
3. Ruggero Tita / Caterina Marianna Banti, ITA, 23

RS:X Men
1. Louis Giard, FRA, 48
2. Kun Bi, CHN, 49
3. Pierre Le Coq, FRA, 53

RS:X Women
1. Yunxiu Lu, CHN, 37
2. Katy Spychakov, ISR, 42
3. Zofia Noceti-Klepacka, POL, 49

Full results including Irish places here

Published in Tokyo 2020

The Irish Olympic Sailing Team are still in Japan following the Olympic Test Event earlier this month and compete in the World Sailing World Cup in Enoshima. Racing started today (26 August) until 1 September.

The World Cup series is open to all the sailing classes chosen for the 2020 Olympic competition, and the series moves around the world to be as inclusive as possible to the top 40 boats in each class.

The full Irish Sailing Team is competing with Aoife Hopkins and Aisling Keller in the Laser Radial; Finn Lynch and Liam Glynn in the Laser; Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle, Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove in the 49ers; Annalise Murphy and Katie Tingle in the 49erFX.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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The Royal Irish Yacht Club's Saskia Tidey from Dun Laoghaire leads the 'Ready Steady Tokyo' regatta competing for Team GBR in Japan where Irish team results to date are mixed.

A day of light wind saw a slightly disrupted race schedule on Day 2 in the official test event of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Competition.

But, after a short postponement, all fleets managed to get out onto the water and complete at least one race each, with four days remaining to sail the rest of the series.

Compared to yesterday’s strong breeze and big waves, conditions today were quite different and required sailors to adapt in order to maintain consistency.

One team which has done this very well is the pairing of Charlotte Dobson and Tidey (GBR) in the 49erFX fleet.

Their lowest result out of five races so far is a fourth, with two second places today to add to yesterday’s two wins.

And the duo are unsurprisingly very satisfied with how they have managed the conditions so far.

“Today was lighter than yesterday with around 10 knots,” explained Tidey.

“We were on the Kamakura course today and we had quite a left-handed racetrack to start with; we luckily got into the second race before it switched around to sea breeze.

“Today the sea state was a lot flatter – we had a bit of swell coming in, but nothing like yesterday.

“Yesterday was more about boat-handling and keeping the boat moving through the water.”

On their impressive start to Ready Steady Tokyo, which sees them lead by six points after five races, Tidey added, “We’re thrilled – it’s the way anyone would hope to start a regatta.

“We’ve got a long week ahead; we just have to keep our heads and keep going.”

Behind them in second are Martine Grael & Kahena Kunze (BRA), with Helene Naess & Marie Rønningen (NOR) moving into the top three. Both teams picked up a race win and a fifth place today.

Former Rio team-mate Annalise Murphy and Katie Tingle now competing against Tidey in the 49erFX are 21st in the 23-boat fleet.

Maria Erdi (HUN) keeps her lead in the Laser Radial fleet, despite finishing 35th in the only race of the day, which now becomes her discard.

Nearest challengers Marit Bouwmeester (NED) and Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) also recorded results out of the top 10, coming 23rd and 14th respectively.

Viktorija Andrulyte (LTU) secured the victory in that solitary race.

Unusually, Ireland has been permitted two Radials in the event and Aoife Hopkins is 26th and Aisling Keller is 29th in the 40-boat fleet after three races sailed.

Finn Lynch is 13th

There was only one race sailed in the Laser fleet, too, with Chris Barnard (USA) claiming the win.

Finn Lynch, of Dun Laoghaire, has moved up to 13th overall  in the Laser class after scoring a a six in race three. 

Fleet leader Sam Meech (NZL) is one point ahead of new top-three entry Hermann Tomasgaard (NOR), with Jean Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) finishing 25th but discarding that to keep third. 

The 49er fleet also managed to sail two races despite heading out later, which has changed the look of the top three.

Leading the way now are Lukasz Przybytek & Pawel Kolodzinski (POL) who, although they are yet to win a race so far, have notched some fairly consistent results.

Peter Burling & Blair Tuke (NZL) relinquish their opening-day lead after finishing 13th (discarded) and ninth today, with Benjamin Bildstein & David Hussl (AUT) entering the top three.

Today’s race wins went to Mathieu Frei & Noe Delpech (FRA) and Mads Emil Stephensen Lübeck & Nikolaj Hoffmann Buhl (DEN).

Ireland's Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove are 20th from 21 in that class.  

Racing continues tomorrow, with all fleets departing at around 12:00 local time. All are scheduled to sail three races, apart from the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 fleets, which will sail four.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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As the Irish Olympic Sailing team embark on this week's Pre-Olympic regatta in Enoshima, Japan the fact that only one of four Irish campaigns have yet qualified will be occupying minds just a year out from Tokyo 2020.

The prospect then of a new Olympic class for Paris 2024 will not have escaped some incumbents who may be weighing up the notion of a class change given there's always the chance this new keelboat might offer a different (or easier?) qualification path in four years time.

Existing squad members, however, are not the only ones eyeing up the Mixed Two Person Offshore Keelboat.

The race is already on with a declaration of interest from outside the camp by offshore sailor Conor Fogerty of Howth Yacht Club and sailing partner Susan Glenny who are already competing in the foiling Beneteau Figaro 3 keelboat they have named, Raw.

fogertys raw7Conor Fogerty's new foiling keelboat, Raw

Certainly, there is a big welcome for the return of the keelboat to the Olympic line-up but already hefty price tags are being attached to such campaigns. Regardless of price, however, we can be certain that for the first time in sailing’s Olympic history, a Mixed Two Person Offshore Keelboat event will be on the programme at the Olympic Sailing Competition in 2024.

The Mixed Two Person Offshore Keelboat will join kiteboarding, windsurfing, multihulls, singlehanded and doublehanded dinghies and skiffs, promoting the diversity of the sport.

This in turn will support World Sailing’s desire to promote and grow universality in all disciplines and increase female participation with gender-equal medals and athletes.

To showcase the event and how it may look at Paris 2024, World Sailing has launched this promotional film below

More than 70% of the globe is water – sailing’s field of play – and offshore sailing is played out across long distances in both light and strong wind conditions and a variety of sea states that test an athletes resolve. Offshore sailing is the ultimate test of endurance , skill, discipline, navigation and critical decision making.

Embracing a major part of sailing in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games will enable new stars of the sport to come to the forefront.

Qualification

Offshore sailing is a universal discipline that every World Sailing Member National Authority (MNA) can participate in.

Up to 20 nations will be on the startline at Paris 2024 and sailors from every continent will be represented. To qualify for the Olympic Games, continental qualification events will be held and competition for a spot will be fierce.

Equipment

For qualification events, World Sailing will approve a list of one-design boats that are already regionally available and can be accessed as a charter boat. Boats will be equalised to ensure fair competition.

For Paris 2024, World Sailing’s Council will select a list of different Equipment it considers to meet the key criteria by 31 December 2020 and then make a decision on the Equipment, selecting from the list, no later than 31 December 2023.

MNAs, Class Associations and Manufacturers have all been invited to propose Equipment for the list and a World Sailing Working Party will evaluate each proposal. A recommended list will be presented to Council for approval in November 2020.

This recommended Equipment list will ensure that event organisers, MNAs and the sailors have opportunities to train and compete in Equipment that is readily available and affordable within their continent and country. It will also ensure each MNA has a fair opportunity to prepare for qualification events and eventually, Paris 2024.

Format

Starting and finishing in Marseille, the Mixed Offshore event is expected to last for either three days and two nights or four days and three nights off the French coastline and whoever crosses the finish line first will be declared Olympic champion.

The race course and length will be announced in the lead up to the start so the competition can take advantage of the latest weather forecast. Current options proposed include long and short courses heading towards the West and East of France.

Safety and Security

The French Navy and Mediterranean forces have extensive experience of supporting major oceanic sailing races. They will provide safety and security at Paris 2024.

At the recent Hempel World Cup Series Final in Marseille, France, a demonstration of safety and security procedures was presented to the sailors, coaches and officials.

Media and eSailing

The Olympic programme features 28 sports, all fighting for broadcast time and space in written and digital publications.

The Mixed Offshore event will be the longest and toughest of all Olympic sporting events and will bring a new appeal to Olympic rights-holding broadcasters and international media.

Available to follow via broadcasting and live tracking, the race is expected to capture the imagination of millions and will be the first Olympic event that can be viewed 24 hours a day.

Live broadcasting, tracking and analytics directly from each boat and onboard cameras will give global media insight into life onboard and to tell compelling stories to inspire existing and new fans of the sport.

eSailing has emerged as a true touch point for sailors and non-sailors alike and for the first time in the history of any Olympic sport, tens of millions of sailing and Olympic sports fans will also have the opportunity to compete virtually and simultaneously as the Mixed Offshore event, comparing themselves to the real-life Olympians.

Published in Offshore
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Although Ireland's Finn Lynch and Ewan McMahon have both made it into the top third of the Laser World Championship 158-boat fleet in Sakaiminato today, the main aim of this week's Japanese venture was always to secure one of five country berths on offer for next year's Tokyo Olympic Games because, if unsuccessful, Ireland will have to wait until Olympic year itself for the last and the slimmest chance to make the Tokyo startline.

It's very early days in the Championships, but in the overall standings after six races sailed, (results here) the last of those five-nation slots is currently occupied by Guatemala's Maegli Juan Ignacio in 21st place with 42 nett points. The first of the five nation places is held by Sweden in tenth overall.

As Afloat reported earlier, Ireland's top sailor in these championships is Ewan McMahon currently in 41st on 69 nett points, a score that represents the tenth unqualified country.

In an example of what needs to be achieved by Tuesday, the 20-year-old from Howth (competing at his first senior worlds) would need to move up 20 places in order to take the last qualification berth as things currently stand. That's a tall order by any yardstick especially given the quality of this fleet that, for example, includes the defending World Champion and 2012 Olympic silver medalist, Kontides Pavlos currently in 22nd place.

Scoreboard JapanAll eyes are on the scoreboard in the closing stages of the Laser Worlds in Japan

But in such situations, anything can and regularly does happen and there are still eight races to be sailed. McMahon took silver at the Laser Radial Youth World Championships in 2016 and has been on an upward trajectory ever since but there's no hotter fleet than this one assembled in Sakaiminato so leapfrogging five nations into a Tokyo berth will be tough. What's more, there's a queue of unqualified countries biting at McMahon's heels. The Netherlands, Slovenia, Poland and Portugal, for example, are all within six points of the HYC man.

It has prompted Irish coach, Croatian Vasilij Zbogar, to bet heavily on the elements for Irish success; “It definitely depends on the wind; with lighter wind, anything is possible as the (overall) points are actually quite close. 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.”

Ireland Missed Out in 2018

Unfortunately, Ireland missed out 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 are;

  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Great Britain
  • Norway

Six non-European countries also qualified for Tokyo in Aarhus. Those were;

  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • New Zealand
  • Peru
  • 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.

Last Chance

After a further five berths are decided between the 44 nations from 58 competing this weekend, it will leave 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 below. However, from an Irish perspective, if a qualification is not triggered this weekend then only two European berths are still open for Ireland.

These will be decided at Genoa Regatta in Olympic year itself but neither Lynch or McMahon will want to be waiting in the last chance saloon.

Trials

If Irish qualification is achieved, the focus then shifts to a trial series to decide whether the rookie McMahon or Rio veteran Lynch will be Ireland's rep in Tokyo. Details of the Qualification System is available to download here.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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Irish Olympic sailor Finn Lynch is lying in 13th place, with three days left of the Laser Senior European Championships & Open European Trophy in Porto, Portugal.

It follows on from a string of top performances this season for the County Carlow solo sailor where he reached the medal race at three consecutive international regattas, including two World Cup events.

The National Yacht Club ace lies scored a 2 and a 3 in Day 3 (yesterday) to give him a personal best at the European Championships and the prospect of another medal race finish this season.

He competes against 162 competitors including the top 48 ranked sailors in the world. Ewan McMahon lies in 26th place and Liam Glynn in at 73.

In the women's Laser Radial division, Aisling Keller and Aoife Hopkins (scrub to 1:27 on the vid above to see Aoife's interview) are lying at 47th and 48th respectively out of the fleet of 91 competitors and made the gold fleet cut. 

There are five members of the Irish Sailing Team in action this week at the event, competing in a field of 334 international sailors from 42 nations: Aoife Hopkins, from Howth, Co Dublin, who was the European Champion for U21 Laser Radial in 2017; and Finn Lynch, who was Ireland’s youngest helm ever to compete at an Olympic Games when he sailed at Rio 2016.

Lynch was also the U19 World Champion in the Laser in 2014, and silver medallist in the 2012 Youth World Championships (Laser Radial).

Also in the Lasers are Liam Glynn, from Bangor, Co Down, Bronze medallist at U21 World Championships in Laser in 2018 and Topper World Champion in 2013; and Ewan McMahon, the silver medallist at the Laser Radial Youth World Championships in 2016 (of Howth YC). Aisling Keller, from Tipperary, a silver medallist in U21 Laser Radial European Championships in 2017 competes against Aoife in the Laser Radial.

Racing continues at the Laser Senior European Championships & Open European Trophy 2019 until Saturday 25 May.

Results here

Published in Tokyo 2020
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The sailors at the 2019 Finn Open European Championship in Athens will have to wait another day before racing can commence after a long day waiting onshore Monday, with no racing possible in very light and unstable winds.

As Afloat previously reported here, two Irish sailors Oisin McClelland and Finn Lyden are competing.

The fleet of 84 boats from 33 nations spent the day wishing for wind, but with several rain fronts passing over and often no more then 3-4 knots of wind, racing was eventually abandoned for the day shortly before 16.00.

On Tuesday, the morning conditions are expected to be similar, so racing has been put back to 13.30 on Tuesday with three races scheduled.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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This week's 49er 2019 European Championships, to be held in Weymouth from 13-19 May includes the 49er, 49erFX, and Nacra17 and Ireland is competing in both the men and women's division of the  Olympic skiff class. See details of the Irish Olympic Sailing team competing here.

There are more potential winners than any 49er event in history. Returning to the waters which hosted the 2012 London Olympic Games sailing regatta, any one of twenty teams from around the world have the proven ability to take their place on the top step of the podium.

In past Olympic cycles, the 49er fleet has had stand out performances by a number of teams which ultimately resulted in Olympic medals and top professional skippering positions in the America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race.

In the Rio 2016 cycle, New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Blair Tuke dominated the class, winning four World Championships in a row on their way to Olympic Gold. Preceding Burling/Tuke, Australian’s Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen were the form boat during the lead into the London 2012 games which also culminated in Olympic glory. Preceding that were the reigns of Chris Draper (GBR), Iker Martinez (ESP), and Chris Nicholson (AUS) all of whom went on to helm America's Cup or Volvo Ocean Race teams.

In 2018 and 2019, the 49er class has seen a plethora of event winners and no one team dominating. Whoever manages to emerge will truly be one of the best sailors today.

The most noticeable recent performance was by Great Britain’s Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell (GBR), who won the Trofeo Princesa Sofia regatta in Palma with a lead large enough to wrap up the event prior to a medal race being sailed. While Fletcher & Bithell have had large amounts of time away from the 49er this year due to their involvement with SailGP, this does not appear to have any effect on the British duo.

“Palma was an awesome regatta for us.” Says Fletcher. “We have been pushing for a performance like that. Weymouth is our home and we know it very well, Stu [Bithell] won his Silver Medal [in the 470] here at London 2012. We are feeling good and excited to have everyone back in our home town. The 49er fleet is incredibly strong at the moment, so we are coming here to just put our best foot forward and we know that if we do that we will be hard to beat.”

The rest of the British squad also have ambitions on home waters, none more so than James Peters and Fynn Sterritt. The duo have had a wildly up and down quad so far. They were flying high in the middle of last summer with a 5th at worlds and then winning the 2018 Test event, and critically, ahead of Dylan and Stu in both cases. They did so after spending months on the sidelines as Sterritt recovered from an injury which kept them off the water until just before Worlds.
So riding high into 2019, they entered Palma, as a British test event qualifier and suffered from a dire performance that put them into silver fleet. A controversial OSC call was their final downfall, spelling the end of their chances at a good finish in Palma.

With Dylan and Stu winning Palma, their chances of getting to the Test Event this year took a serious tumble. The test event spot for the British squad can be critical, as it's been practice for any team medaling at the test event to be given the Olympic berth. So, staring into this championship, one of the top 49er teams could already be staring down the last moments of their Tokyo campaign.

Reigning Olympic champions Burling & Tuke (NZL) have only recently stepped back into the 49er after taking time away from the class to compete in the America's Cup and The Ocean Race. The 4x World Champions are already back in form with their two international events in 2019 resulting in a 3rd and 7th place. Their fellow New Zealand teammates of Isaac McHardie & William McKenzie, Josh Porebski & Trent Rippey, and Logan Dunning Beck & Oscar Gunn have all placed in the top ten in 2019, showing that the New Zealand squad will be a force to be reckoned with. Discussing the New Zealand Sailing Team's recent success, McHardie said “I would have to put it down to the squad of 49ers we have working together. Also now with the likes of Pete and Blair back there is a lot of experience in the squad. As the younger team, we are very lucky to be apart of this tight group.”

The German Sailing Team will once again be looking to put on a strong performance, with their cumulative results including a string of podium placings in 2018-2019 as well as an extensive range of top 10 finishes spread out among their pairings. With an Olympic bronze from Rio 2016, 4th at the 2018 World Sailing Championships and a win at the recent Miami World Cup Series, Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel be in with a good chance of a podium. Jakob Meggendorfer & Andreas Spranger will be looking to bounce back from two poor results in Palma and Genoa, while Tim Fischer / Fabian Graf and Justus Schmidt / Max Boehme will once again be expected to finish inside the top ten.
As a country who has already qualified for Tokyo 2020, thanks to Fischer & Graf’s bronze medal at the 2018 World Sailing Championships, the focus is now firmly on Olympic selection. All four of these teams will be looking to use the Euros to claim the test event spot and be in pole position for the Olympic berth.

Among the teams capable of success at the 2019 Volvo Europeans are Spain’s Diego Botin & Iago Lopez Marra, who won the 2018 Europeans in Poland and have finished in the top ten in all three events in 2019. With their focus firmly on the 49er and qualifying their nation for the Olympics, they will be looking to once again finish the regatta at the top of the leaderboard.

Reigning World Champions Sime and Mihovel Fantela from Croatia are the one significant team not in attendance. Congrats to Sime who had his first child last week, and we wish them well as they bond as a family.

On their home waters, Poland's Dominik Buksak & Szymon Wierzbicki placed second in the 2018 Europeans, with team mates and training partners Lukasz Przybytek & Pawel Kolodzinski leading into the medal race only to finish a disappointing 4th place. These two teams have spent most of the European season training together and the 2019 Volvo Europeans will be their first Olympic selection event for the two competitive Polish teams.

Austrians - Bildstein Hussl (6th Miami - 4th Palma) are a contender. The duo won the 'Warm Up' event for the Europeans here last week, and are looking to take their first major title. It's the same story for Team Tilt, Seb Schneiter and Lucean Cujean from Switzerland. These GC32 World Champions are already qualified for the games, and recently hired Jim Maloney, one of the top coaches to get them into a medal contending position.

Argentina’s Yago and Klaus Lange are finding form at the right time, with their worst result so far this year being an 11th in Miami. Yago's racing has never been better, and he's been racing at the top of the game while becoming the spiritual leader of the #Sailors4theSea movement.

Perhaps the most improved squad of the quad is Team France. Frei and Delpesch were 2nd at the Worlds last year, and Rual with Amoros were eighth. Both teams have had very strong years, and could become the first French team to win a major championship since Frei and Rocherioux won the Europeans in 2012.

With a little over a year until the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are set to be contested on the waters of Enoshima Japan, the current 49er fleet is perhaps the most competitive 49er fleet in the class's history. Lacking a dominant team this Olympic cycle and with any number of up to twenty teams currently showing the form to win the regatta, picking a winner will be harder than ever before. Throw into the mix that multiple nations will be using this event as a major qualification event towards their Olympic team selection and it is clear that there is more than just a European title at stake.

49erFX Top 5 – Full entry
1            DEN      Ida Nielsen, Marie Olsen                           11
2            GBR       Charlotte Dobson, Saski Tidey                 13
3            DEN        Jena Hansen, Katja Iversen                     15
4            USA       Annemiek Bekkering, Annette Duetz         18
5            DEN       Martine Grael, Kahena Kunze                   19

49er Top 5 – Full entry
1            FRA       Lucas Rual, Emile Amoros                         9
2            NZL       Logan Dunning Beck, Oscar Gunn             13
3            NZL       Josh Porebski, Trent Rippey                       14
4            SUI        Sebastien Schnieter, Lucas Cujean            15
5            AUS       Will Phillps, Iain Jensen                              16

Published in Tokyo 2020
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At a time when we’re constantly being warned in public life that we have to mark the current “Era of Centenaries” in a sensitive manner, it’s probably insensitive to respond by pointing out that the Irish sailing community is having quite enough trouble, thank you, in getting used to the fact that some boats we still think of as being modern are actually entering the vintage category and beyond writes W M Nixon.

But that’s the way it is. Perhaps “ageless” is not the word we seek. Maybe we should be veering more towards the all-enveloping category of “timeless”. Whatever it is, there are many among us who simply can’t get our heads around the fact that the always-elegant International Dragon is 90 years old in 2019, while the ever-young, fresh-as-a-daisy Laser is having her Golden Jubilee.

Laser Class Golden Jubilee

Or maybe it will be next year – it all depends on how closely things followed on from the ground-breaking Laser-creating phone call in 1969 (or even earlier) between Canadian boat ideas man Ian Bruce, and fellow-Canadian designer Bruce Kirby, aimed at providing an inexpensive easily-carried single-hander which looked good and sailed well.

The boat as she emerged – finally christened the Laser in December 1970 – closely followed Kirby’s original doodle in the immortal style of the best inventions. And of course, she has become one of the few boats to acquire Olympic status (it was in 1996) while remaining genuinely and hugely popular at club level.

We’re well aware that some global Laser production had been going through such a sticky patch recently that we’re now meant to call the officially-recognised boat the “ILCA Dinghy”. But it’s going to take some doing to get a re-naming to stick in place for a boat with the Laser’s long-standing popularity and brand recognition.

This popularity was very clear at last September’s Laser World Masters in Dun Laoghaire, with more than three hundred sailors from all over the globe, and Ireland getting a star performance from Mark Lyttle of the National Yacht Club. A turnout on this scale really was something else – there were Lasers in abundance whichever way you looked, and more than a few of the helms far out-dated the design concept of their wonderful little boats.

mark lyttle2Mark Lyttle (NYC) training in Dublin Bay for the first Olympics with the Laser in 1996, when he was a race winner. Photo: David O’Brien/Afloat.ie
mark lyttle3 Mark Lyttle after winning the Grand Masters Division in the Laser Worlds in Dublin Bay in September 2018. Photo: David O’Brien/Afloat.ie

But equally, as the “Masters” categories begin at age 35, there were quite a few helms who had yet to make their debut on the planet when the Laser was already born, so the vintage overall nature of the boat could well match the impressive range of maturity of some of the most senior helms.

This will be in evidence at the Irish Laser Masters this weekend in Howth, where they’ve had a continuous Laser racing programme on the go since 1974. But though Howth’s annual frostbite series for this timeless little boat continue to attract a healthy turnout, as is so often the case the sheer population weighting to be found south of the Liffey means that Dun Laoghaire names pack numbers and success, and defending champion in the Radials is RStGYC’s Sean Craig, who expects strong competition from clubmate Marco Sorgassi, while the home club’s Dan O’Connell, Dave Quinn and Daragh Kelleher are in winning form.

sean craig4Sean Craig, defending champion in the Radials this weekend’s Irish Laser Masters at Howth
These are all sailors to whom the adjective “timeless” could equally apply - living embodiments of the saying that sailing is a sport for youth of all ages. And even if the Laser does get replaced in the Olympic stakes by some newer design – as has been hinted for the French Olympics in 2024 – we only need to look at the story of the International Dragon to realize that Laser sailors will continue to have their sweet little boats as designed by Bruce Kirby playing a very big part of their life afloat well into the foreseeable future and beyond.

Because once upon a time, the International Dragon was very much a part of the Olympic circus. So much so, in fact, that when she got her marching orders after the 1972 Olympics - having been in the lineup since 1948 – there were those who thought it would lead to an inevitable decline in the class.

Dragon Class is Ninety Years Old

But on the contrary, it seems that most Dragon sailor cared a lot more about the joy they got from their boats than they did about the Olympic thing. So much so, in fact, that today the class is facing into year 90 in the very best of health, and its big championship, the 2019 Yanmar Dragon Gold Cup at Medemblik in the Netherlands from the 8th to 14th June, has already attracted more than a hundred boats from 16 nations in four continents, with Jorgen Schonherr from Denmark the defender after the championship in Finland last year.

dragon fleet5So who needs to be an Olympic class? The Dragon Gold Cup ten years ago. The 2019 event in The Netherlands in June has already attracted more than a hundred entries from sixteen countries.

The Dragon first appeared in Sweden in 1929 to a design by Norwegian Johan Anker, and there has been Irish involvement in the class since at least 1936. Certainly what is probably the most senior Dragon still racing – Don Street’s Gypsy in Glandore – is all of 86 years old, and she has been in Ireland a long time. As for her extraordinary skipper, he is one of the keenest advocates of the Dragon as a boat for sailors of all ages even if he himself is 89, but he concedes in the Dragon-sailing longevity stakes to Australia’s champion Gordon Ingate, who this year will be 92.

don street6aThe legendary Don Street – at 89, he races an 86-year-old Dragon with as much enthusiasm as ever

These figures are enough to make anyone dizzy, so to get some idea of the Dragon’s enduring appeal, let’s consider Irish involvement with the Gold Cup, which dates back to 1936. On several occasions, we’ve had a top Irish boat there or thereabouts, but the harsh reality if that it was brought back to Ireland only the once, and it was to Northern Ireland, to the then-thriving Dragon fleet at RNIYC at Cultra on Belfast Lough.

It was 1947, and the winner when the Gold Cup was raced on the Firth of Clyde was Eric Strain of RNIYC helming Billy Barnett’s Ceres. This led in due course to Strain becoming the British Dragon Helm in the 1948 Olympics at Torquay. But as Ceres was just a standard Scandinavian-built Dragon, Billy Barnett – who owned a successful Belfast engineering firm – decided that the exceptional talent of Eric Strain deserved the very best boat that money could buy, so the legendary yacht-building firm of Camper & Nicholson in Gosport were commissioned for the job.

dragon planing8Offshore at Glandore, the Dragons can get up and fly…Photo: GHYC/Richard Harrison
The resulting Ceres II was an exquisite bit of work. Maybe too exquisite. It was suspected that she was slightly heavier and not as fast as the first Ceres, and at the 1948 Olympiad, while Eric Strain and Ceres II did well, it wasn’t quite good enough. They were fourth. In Ireland, we do not need to be reminded of the huge void – a veritable chasm - to be found between the Bronze Medal-winning third and the otherwise commendable but medal-less fourth…….

1948 is now 71 years ago, yet today the International Dragon continues to play a very special role in world sailing. It’s something we take for granted. But what other sport would be continuing to use equipment designs whose unchanged basic concept originated 90 years ago? Boats which - to many of us - still seem well up-to-date.

Historic Ketch Ilen

It brings us back to that concept of timelessness. This weekend, the Limerick ketch Ilen will be on passage from Dunmore East towards Dublin Bay, and when people get to see her at Poolbeg from Sunday evening, and at the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire next Friday, they’ll be in no doubt that they’re looking at a concept of considerable antiquity, as her design of 1926 was evolved from Conor O’Brien’s Saoirse design of 1923, which O’Brien said was in turn inspired to some extent by a notably able Arklow fishing boat which dated from the 1860s.

Whatever the origins, it means that Ilen is only three years older than the International Dragon, and that the Laser has been around for more than half of Ilen’s existence. Truly, ours is one extraordinary sport. And if you really want to point up the oddities of vehicle design which sailing can produce, just consider that some years ago the berth at the RIYC which Ilen will occupy was very elegantly filled by the 70ft Fife designed-and-built cutter Hallowe’en.

Halloween light9A Fastnet Race record setter, the 70ft Fife cutter Hallowe’en (seen here at the RIYC in Dun Laoghaire) was built in 1926. Photo: W M Nixon
ilen kinsale10The 56ft Ilen – seen here in Kinsale this week – was also built in 1926. Photo: Gary MacMahon

Hallowe’en was built in 1926, and she took line honours in that year’s Fastnet Race in a record time which stood for many years. It’s mind-boggling to think that in the same year – and in a boatyard at Baltimore near the Fastnet Rock itself – the unbelievably different Ilen took shape. Yet such is the case, and next Friday we’ll have the opportunity to savour the variety of sailing craft which the special calls of seafaring can produce - and each and every one of them has their devoted adherents.

Published in W M Nixon
Page 1 of 11

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