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Three NI Sailors Prepare To Battle It Out For Their Place At Tokyo 2020

4th March 2020
Donaghadee sailor Oisin McClelland in the Finn at the Miami World Cup Series event in January Donaghadee sailor Oisin McClelland in the Finn at the Miami World Cup Series event in January Photo: Pedro Martinez/Sailing Energy

The countdown is on for three Northern Ireland sailors campaigning for their place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in late July this year, writes Betty Armstrong.

The athletes, who have been training for over four years, as part of their Olympic campaigns, will take to the waters on 11 April to battle it out at the nine-day qualifying competition in Genoa.

In the running is two-time Olympian and World Cup silver medallist Ryan Seaton, from Carrickfergus. Seaton paired up with new crew Seafra Guilfoyle from Cork in the 49er class, following his 10th place finish with Matt McGovern at Rio in 2016.

McGovern is now coach to the Irish 49er teams, all vying for an Olympic place.

Ryan and Seafra finished 10th at the Olympic Test event in Enoshima and recently finished 30th at the 2020 World Championships. They are embarking on a critical training phase in the lead up to the Olympic qualifier and subsequent European Championships in May.

Seaton comments: “Seafra and I have been training well and putting critical elements of speed and boat handling together over this winter period. Our focus has been to get more race practice and working under pressure to refine our performances and add consistency to a regatta week.”

Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle in action at the 49er Worlds in Australia last month (Photo: Jesus Renedo/Sailing Energy)Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle in action at the 49er Worlds in Australia last month | Photo: Jesus Renedo/Sailing Energy

The Finn is a dinghy not normally associated with Donaghadee Sailing Club, but DSC member Oisin McClelland is another contender.

Campaigning in the men’s heavyweight Finn class since 2015, McClelland has secured several top 32 World and European finishes. In January he finished fourth in the Miami World Cup Series event, just narrowly missing out on a bronze medal.

He says: “Really nailing down all elements that make up a successful Olympic campaign was definitely difficult at the start but over time I have been able to get consistent and make big improvements.”

Ballyholme’s Liam Glynn is also gearing up for the challenge in Genoa. Rising through the youth and U21 ranks, he has secured a world junior title and U21 bronze along the way and recently achieved a personal best finish in the Laser at the recent World Championships in Australia.

As part of the Irish Performance Laser squad, the Bangor sailor has been training hard, with a typical day including up to six hours of training, looking at racing skills and focusing on nutrition and recovery.

Commenting on his Olympic campaign so far, Glynn says: “I am motivated by my love of the sport, the feeling when you are in the zone and perfecting your technique and strategy amongst the best sailors in the world.”

Liam Glynn recently scored a personal best result in the LaserLiam Glynn recently scored a personal best result in the Laser

All three sailors graduated through the RYA Northern Ireland’s Performance Pathway and are funded through Sport Northern Ireland. Seaton and Glynn are members of the Irish Performance Team.

In sailing, nations can qualify in 10 Olympic disciplines but just one boat is eventually selected to represent each nation in each discipline.

For the NI athletes, their last chance for a European place in the Finn, Laser and 49er fleets is up for grabs at the Sailing World Cup next month.

RYA Northern Ireland’s chief operating officer Richard Honeyford, is looking forward to supporting the sailors as they make their final preparations.

“For all three boats the focus is now on one event in April and for the final chance to secure their place at Tokyo 2020,” he says. “All three have worked extremely hard during this Olympic cycle, with vast amounts of training, competing and travel to achieve their goal.

“At RYA Northern Ireland we are proud of how well they have applied themselves and their inspirational role as ambassadors for sailing in Northern Ireland.

“We look forward to the sailing community supporting them as they undertake this final challenge for Olympic qualification.”

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down.

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Olympic Sailing features a variety of craft, from dinghies and keelboats to windsurfing boards. The programme at Tokyo 2020 will include two events for both men and women, three for men only, two for women only and one for mixed crews:

Event Programme

RS:X - Windsurfer (Men/Women)
Laser - One Person Dinghy (Men)
Laser Radial - One Person Dinghy (Women)
Finn - One Person Dinghy (Heavyweight) (Men)
470 - Two Person Dinghy (Men/Women)
49er - Skiff (Men)
49er FX - Skiff (Women)
Nacra 17 Foiling - Mixed Multihull

The mixed Nacra 17 Foiling - Mixed Multihull and women-only 49er FX - Skiff, events were first staged at Rio 2016.

Each event consists of a series of races. Points in each race are awarded according to position: the winner gets one point, the second-placed finisher scores two, and so on. The final race is called the medal race, for which points are doubled. Following the medal race, the individual or crew with the fewest total points is declared the winner.

During races, boats navigate a course shaped like an enormous triangle, heading for the finish line after they contend with the wind from all three directions. They must pass marker buoys a certain number of times and in a predetermined order.

Sailing competitions at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo are scheduled to take place from 27 July to 6 August at the Enoshima Yacht Harbour. 

Venues: Enoshima Yacht Harbor

No. of events: 10

Dates: 27 July – 6 August

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Dates

Sailing competitions at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo are scheduled to take place from 27 July to 6 August at the Enoshima Yacht Harbour. 

Venue: Enoshima Yacht Harbour

No. of events: 10

Dates: 27 July – 6 August

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