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Returning Olympic Medallists, Including Ireland's Annalise Murphy, Aiming for Radial Repeat at Tokyo 2020

18th July 2021
Ireland's Annalise Murphy (left) celebrates her silver medal in Rio five years ago, with Dutch gold medalist Marit Boumeester (centre) and Danish bronze medalist Anne Marie Rindom. All three are back on the Tokyo start line.
Ireland's Annalise Murphy (left) celebrates her silver medal in Rio five years ago, with Dutch gold medalist Marit Boumeester (centre) and Danish bronze medalist Anne Marie Rindom. All three are back on the Tokyo start line.

With silver and gold from the past two Olympic Games, Marit Bouwmeester (NED) looks well placed to score a hat trick of medals in the Laser Radial at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Competition.

However, the Dutch sailor will be hard pushed to match gold from Rio 2016, with a strong field ready to push the 31-year-old all the way. No one can question her commitment to the cause. She has won four world titles over the past 10 years, most recently in 2020.

See the Laser Radial view preview below

When she won the Hempel World Cup Series in Enoshima two years ago, Bouwmeester celebrated at a karaoke bar (favourite song: Barbie Girl by Aqua, since you ask). This time though, with COVID-19 rules in place, Bouwmeester is looking to make her boat sing and carry her to another gold medal.

Holland's Marit BouwmeesterHolland's Marit Bouwmeester

Perhaps the biggest threat to Dutch victory comes from Denmark and Anne-Marie Rindom who looks to improve on her bronze medal from Rio 2016. This will be her third Games and the Dane believes her best years are still ahead of her.

“In London I was young, and I was there to learn as much as possible,” commented Rindom. “For me just going there was a big thing and the result didn’t matter so much. It was a big experience just to go to the Olympics, especially when it was so close to Denmark. Rio was different. My goal was to go home with a medal and I knew that I had a real chance if everything came together. Everything became about how I could achieve this goal. I was preparing a lot. The whole experience after winning the bronze medal was amazing.”

Denmark's Anne-Marie RindomDenmark's Anne-Marie Rindom

Since Rio, Rindom has put together a stunning few years of world-beating results including world titles in 2015 and 2019, along with a silver medal at last year’s European Championships and the Hempel World Cup Series in Enoshima two years ago. She knows that she will have to put in a complete performance at the Games.

Rindom said, “The conditions in Tokyo are difficult, so learning how the wind reacts is very important. Besides that, I think that mental preparation is the key in winning a medal at the Olympics. At least 10 sailors have the sailing skills to win, but what puts you ahead are your mental skills. In my sailing, I try to make everything as simple as possible. And I see that as one of my strengths.”

Rindom is one of a number of female sailors who have enjoyed spending some time training on the SailGP professional circuit, on multimillion-dollar 50ft hydrofoiling catamarans capable of speed at least five times what she might expect to achieve on her humble Laser Radial. “I’ve been sailing the Laser for 12 years, and I needed a new perspective on the sport.” Joining the Danish SailGP team on the mid-Atlantic island of Bermuda just a couple of months before Tokyo was a bit of a departure from a typical build-up to an Olympic Games, but no regrets from Rindom. “SailGP is a great opportunity to be a part of and learn from.”

There are bound to be difficult moments during the Games, but Rindom is ready for whatever comes her way. “I am working with a sport psychologist and adversity during big events is something that we prepare for. To be able to visualise those difficult situations and find a strategy to overcome them are crucial. Sailing is not about winning every race but about turning those difficult situations into ‘okay races.’ At the end of the regatta, that is what puts you on the podium.”

Emma Plasschaert’s big breakthrough came in 2018 with victory at the World Championships in Denmark. In 2019 the Belgian sailor first won the READY STEADY TOKYO – Sailing, Olympic test event and then also the Hempel World Cup. A double win on Olympic waters which surely bodes well for her hopes of standing on the podium. The last Belgian to reach the Radial podium was Evi van Acker who took bronze after a breathtaking Medal Race battle at London 2012, and van Acker will be head coach for the Belgian sailors in Tokyo.

“After a difficult year the pieces of the puzzle are slowly falling into place,” says the 27-year-old. Somehow, I was a little relieved the Games got postponed. Before it felt I still lacked some confidence in some areas, especially with tactics, race planning and starts. With the extra time we were able to figure it all out.”

As for her ambitions for Tokyo 2020, “I want to be able to look back on my race with no regrets, knowing that the sailor I showed is the best possible version of myself. Sailing is so unpredictable that sometimes you really can't control the outcome."

Ireland’s Annalise Murphy

Talking of that London 2012 Medal Race, where China took gold, the Netherlands (Marit Bouwmeester) silver, and Belgium (Evi van Acker) bronze, the one that missed out was Ireland’s Annalise Murphy.

Having led for much of the competition, the medal slipped away on that occasion. Murphy’s towering height - 1.86m - gives her a huge advantage in strong breeze but the Irish sailor worked really hard on her all-round skills and against all expectations came away from Rio 2016 with Olympic silver. She then turned her attention towards Tokyo 2020 but in a different class, the high-speed 49erFX. Murphy discovered there was too much to learn in too short a time, so she has come back to the Radial and is working hard to be race ready for Enoshima.

Ireland’s Annalise MurphyIreland’s Annalise Murphy

“I’m going to the Olympic Games for the third time, it’s just mad!” says the ever-enthusiastic Murphy. “After Rio, I spent some time in the Volvo Ocean Race, and really enjoyed being part of a crew so I competed for a while with Katie Tingle in the 49erFX. But as Tokyo came closer, I switched the focus back to the Laser Radial. I think the conditions in Tokyo could suit me, and I know I work harder than anyone else out there – so I’m ready for a good competition.”

Someone who has been working longer and harder on this quest is Paige Railey who has been part of the US National Sailing Team since 2005. Now aged 34, Railey has shifted her focus from the podium to the performance. "I just want to perform well. I want to go out there and execute the things I've been training for. If I do that, everything will fall into place."

Narrowly beaten to Olympic selection in 2008, when the woman that beat her - Anna Tunnicliffe - went on to win the gold medal for USA, Railey has suffered many other setbacks along the way. Not long after the Rio Games where she finished tenth, Railey was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that forced her to take time away from the sport. But she bounced back and remains as dedicated as ever to the task. In 2008 her older brother Zach won Olympic silver in the Finn, and Paige could make it a double.

Like Railey, Great Britain’s Alison Young is a veteran of the past two Olympic Sailing Competitions, finishing fifth in London and eighth in Rio. World Champion in 2016 and world bronze medallist in 2019, Young has always been hard to beat in a breeze and in the right conditions could contend for a medal.

Local fans will be wishing Manami Doi all the best in her bid to win a first ever women’s singlehanded medal for Japan. She is a veteran of two Olympic Games and is still only 27 years old. An eighth place at last year’s World Championship suggests the podium is within reach.

Japan's Manami DoiJapan's Manami Doi

Oldest sailor in the fleet, Tatiana Drozdovskaya (BLR), has competed at four Games going back as far as Sydney 2000. In 2007 the Belarusian sailor won the World Championship and 14 years later, aged 42, Drozdovskaya still craves Olympic competition.

At the other end of the age spectrum is Vasileia Karachaliou who at the age of 24 represents Greece at her first Games. A fourth place at last year’s Europeans along with podium finishes at warm-up regattas in Lanzarote earlier this year suggest she could be hitting her stride in time for Tokyo.

Switzerland’s Maud Jayet says she’s ready for the biggest regatta of her life. “The goal is to fight for the medals as long as possible in the competition,” says the 25-year-old who was fifth at last year’s European Championship. “I don't want to blow my chances on the first or second day, which has happened to me in the past. This means that I will have to be consistent and avoid big mistakes. We'll see where it takes me at the end of the competition.”

In 2020 Nethra Kumanan became India's first woman to claim a World Cup medal in sailing. She clinched bronze at the Hempel World Cup Series in Miami. The engineering student is breaking new ground in a country that shows little interest in sailing. “Most people don’t know sailing exists in India," she says, but adds, “I think it’s looking good because now we have more people competing in it at a higher level so I think more and more people are getting attracted to it. I am 22 and if someone younger were to come up to me, I’d tell them that this sport takes a lot of time, a lot of hours in the water but it’s all worth it. And you get to travel the world, meet people from different countries and experience them trying to do their best and you try to do better than them.”

The Laser Radial, Women’s One Person Dinghy, is the largest fleet in Tokyo with 44-boats confirmed to take to the start line. On the Kamakura racing area, their first race will commence at 1200 JST on Sunday 25 July. Ten races will follow ahead of the Medal Race on Sunday 1 August.

A full list of competitors is here

-Andy Rice Team

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Irish Olympic Sailing Team

Ireland has a proud representation in sailing at the Olympics dating back to 1948. Today there is a modern governing structure surrounding the selection of sailors the Olympic Regatta

Irish Olympic Sailing FAQs

Ireland’s representation in sailing at the Olympics dates back to 1948, when a team consisting of Jimmy Mooney (Firefly), Alf Delany and Hugh Allen (Swallow) competed in that year’s Summer Games in London (sailing off Torquay). Except for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Ireland has sent at least one sailor to every Summer Games since then.

  • 1948 – London (Torquay) — Firefly: Jimmy Mooney; Swallow: Alf Delany, Hugh Allen
  • 1952 – Helsinki — Finn: Alf Delany * 1956 – Melbourne — Finn: J Somers Payne
  • 1960 – Rome — Flying Dutchman: Johnny Hooper, Peter Gray; Dragon: Jimmy Mooney, David Ryder, Robin Benson; Finn: J Somers Payne
  • 1964 – Tokyo — Dragon: Eddie Kelliher, Harry Maguire, Rob Dalton; Finn: Johnny Hooper 
  • 1972 – Munich (Kiel) — Tempest: David Wilkins, Sean Whitaker; Dragon: Robin Hennessy, Harry Byrne, Owen Delany; Finn: Kevin McLaverty; Flying Dutchman: Harold Cudmore, Richard O’Shea
  • 1976 – Montreal (Kingston) — 470: Robert Dix, Peter Dix; Flying Dutchman: Barry O’Neill, Jamie Wilkinson; Tempest: David Wilkins, Derek Jago
  • 1980 – Moscow (Tallinn) — Flying Dutchman: David Wilkins, Jamie Wilkinson (Silver medalists) * 1984 – Los Angeles — Finn: Bill O’Hara
  • 1988 – Seoul (Pusan) — Finn: Bill O’Hara; Flying Dutchman: David Wilkins, Peter Kennedy; 470 (Women): Cathy MacAleavy, Aisling Byrne
  • 1992 – Barcelona — Europe: Denise Lyttle; Flying Dutchman: David Wilkins, Peter Kennedy; Star: Mark Mansfield, Tom McWilliam
  • 1996 – Atlanta (Savannah) — Laser: Mark Lyttle; Europe: Aisling Bowman (Byrne); Finn: John Driscoll; Star: Mark Mansfield, David Burrows; 470 (Women): Denise Lyttle, Louise Cole; Soling: Marshall King, Dan O’Grady, Garrett Connolly
  • 2000 – Sydney — Europe: Maria Coleman; Finn: David Burrows; Star: Mark Mansfield, David O'Brien
  • 2004 – Athens — Europe: Maria Coleman; Finn: David Burrows; Star: Mark Mansfield, Killian Collins; 49er: Tom Fitzpatrick, Fraser Brown; 470: Gerald Owens, Ross Killian; Laser: Rory Fitzpatrick
  • 2008 – Beijing (Qingdao) — Star: Peter O’Leary, Stephen Milne; Finn: Tim Goodbody; Laser Radial: Ciara Peelo; 470: Gerald Owens, Phil Lawton
  • 2012 – London (Weymouth) — Star: Peter O’Leary, David Burrows; 49er: Ryan Seaton, Matt McGovern; Laser Radial: Annalise Murphy; Laser: James Espey; 470: Gerald Owens, Scott Flanigan
  • 2016 – Rio — Laser Radial (Women): Annalise Murphy (Silver medalist); 49er: Ryan Seaton, Matt McGovern; 49erFX: Andrea Brewster, Saskia Tidey; Laser: Finn Lynch; Paralympic Sonar: John Twomey, Ian Costello & Austin O’Carroll

Ireland has won two Olympics medals in sailing events, both silver: David Wilkins, Jamie Wilkinson in the Flying Dutchman at Moscow 1980, and Annalise Murphy in the Laser Radial at Rio 2016.

The current team, as of December 2020, consists of Laser sailors Finn Lynch, Liam Glynn and Ewan McMahon, 49er pairs Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle, and Sean Waddilove and Robert Dickson, as well as Laser Radial sailors Annalise Murphy and Aoife Hopkins.

Irish Sailing is the National Governing Body for sailing in Ireland.

Irish Sailing’s Performance division is responsible for selecting and nurturing Olympic contenders as part of its Performance Pathway.

The Performance Pathway is Irish Sailing’s Olympic talent pipeline. The Performance Pathway counts over 70 sailors from 11 years up in its programme.The Performance Pathway is made up of Junior, Youth, Academy, Development and Olympic squads. It provides young, talented and ambitious Irish sailors with opportunities to move up through the ranks from an early age. With up to 100 young athletes training with the Irish Sailing Performance Pathway, every aspect of their performance is planned and closely monitored while strong relationships are simultaneously built with the sailors and their families

Rory Fitzpatrick is the head coach of Irish Sailing Performance. He is a graduate of University College Dublin and was an Athens 2004 Olympian in the Laser class.

The Performance Director of Irish Sailing is James O’Callaghan. Since 2006 James has been responsible for the development and delivery of athlete-focused, coach-led, performance-measured programmes across the Irish Sailing Performance Pathway. A Business & Economics graduate of Trinity College Dublin, he is a Level 3 Qualified Coach and Level 2 Coach Tutor. He has coached at five Olympic Games and numerous European and World Championship events across multiple Olympic classes. He is also a member of the Irish Sailing Foundation board.

Annalise Murphy is by far and away the biggest Irish sailing star. Her fourth in London 2012 when she came so agonisingly close to a bronze medal followed by her superb silver medal performance four years later at Rio won the hearts of Ireland. Murphy is aiming to go one better in Tokyo 2021. 

Under head coach Rory Fitzpatrick, the coaching staff consists of Laser Radial Academy coach Sean Evans, Olympic Laser coach Vasilij Zbogar and 49er team coach Matt McGovern.

The Irish Government provides funding to Irish Sailing. These funds are exclusively for the benefit of the Performance Pathway. However, this falls short of the amount required to fund the Performance Pathway in order to allow Ireland compete at the highest level. As a result the Performance Pathway programme currently receives around €850,000 per annum from Sport Ireland and €150,000 from sponsorship. A further €2 million per annum is needed to have a major impact at the highest level. The Irish Sailing Foundation was established to bridge the financial gap through securing philanthropic donations, corporate giving and sponsorship.

The vision of the Irish Sailing Foundation is to generate the required financial resources for Ireland to scale-up and execute its world-class sailing programme. Irish Sailing works tirelessly to promote sailing in Ireland and abroad and has been successful in securing funding of 1 million euro from Sport Ireland. However, to compete on a par with other nations, a further €2 million is required annually to realise the ambitions of our talented sailors. For this reason, the Irish Sailing Foundation was formed to seek philanthropic donations. Led by a Board of Directors and Head of Development Kathryn Grace, the foundation lads a campaign to bridge the financial gap to provide the Performance Pathway with the funds necessary to increase coaching hours, upgrade equipment and provide world class sport science support to a greater number of high-potential Irish sailors.

The Senior and Academy teams of the Performance Pathway are supported with the provision of a coach, vehicle, coach boat and boats. Even with this level of subsidy there is still a large financial burden on individual families due to travel costs, entry fees and accommodation. There are often compromises made on the amount of days a coach can be hired for and on many occasions it is necessary to opt out of major competitions outside Europe due to cost. Money raised by the Irish Sailing Foundation will go towards increased quality coaching time, world-class equipment, and subsiding entry fees and travel-related costs. It also goes towards broadening the base of talented sailors that can consider campaigning by removing financial hurdles, and the Performance HQ in Dublin to increase efficiency and reduce logistical issues.

The ethos of the Performance Pathway is progression. At each stage international performance benchmarks are utilised to ensure the sailors are meeting expectations set. The size of a sailor will generally dictate which boat they sail. The classes selected on the pathway have been identified as the best feeder classes for progression. Currently the Irish Sailing Performance Pathway consists of the following groups: * Pathway (U15) Optimist and Topper * Youth Academy (U19) Laser 4.7, Laser Radial and 420 * Development Academy (U23) Laser, Laser Radial, 49er, 49erFX * Team IRL (direct-funded athletes) Laser, Laser Radial, 49er, 49erFX

The Irish Sailing performance director produces a detailed annual budget for the programme which is presented to Sport Ireland, Irish Sailing and the Foundation for detailed discussion and analysis of the programme, where each item of expenditure is reviewed and approved. Each year, the performance director drafts a Performance Plan and Budget designed to meet the objectives of Irish Performance Sailing based on an annual review of the Pathway Programmes from Junior to Olympic level. The plan is then presented to the Olympic Steering Group (OSG) where it is independently assessed and the budget is agreed. The OSG closely monitors the delivery of the plan ensuring it meets the agreed strategy, is within budget and in line with operational plans. The performance director communicates on an ongoing basis with the OSG throughout the year, reporting formally on a quarterly basis.

Due to the specialised nature of Performance Sport, Irish Sailing established an expert sub-committee which is referred to as the Olympic Steering Group (OSG). The OSG is chaired by Patrick Coveney and its objective is centred around winning Olympic medals so it oversees the delivery of the Irish Sailing’s Performance plan.

At Junior level (U15) sailors learn not only to be a sailor but also an athlete. They develop the discipline required to keep a training log while undertaking fitness programmes, attending coaching sessions and travelling to competitions. During the winter Regional Squads take place and then in spring the National Squads are selected for Summer Competitions. As sailors move into Youth level (U19) there is an exhaustive selection matrix used when considering a sailor for entry into the Performance Academy. Completion of club training programmes, attendance at the performance seminars, physical suitability and also progress at Junior and Youth competitions are assessed and reviewed. Once invited in to the Performance Academy, sailors are given a six-month trial before a final decision is made on their selection. Sailors in the Academy are very closely monitored and engage in a very well planned out sailing, training and competition programme. There are also defined international benchmarks which these sailors are required to meet by a certain age. Biannual reviews are conducted transparently with the sailors so they know exactly where they are performing well and they are made aware of where they may need to improve before the next review.

©Afloat 2020

Tokyo 2021 Olympic Sailing

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

Following a one year postponement, sailing competitions at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo are scheduled to take place from 23 July 2021 and run until the 8 August at the Enoshima Yacht Harbour. 

Venue: Enoshima Yacht Harbour

No. of events: 10

Dates: 23 July – 8 August 2021

Tokyo 2020 Irish Olympic Sailing Team


Age 31. From Rathfarnham, Dublin.

Club: National Yacht Club

Full-time sailor

Silver medallist at the 2016 Olympic Games, Rio (Laser Radial class). Competed in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017/2018. Represented Ireland at the London 2012 Olympics. Laser Radial European Champion in 2013.

ROBERT DICKSON, 49er (sails with Seán Waddilove)

Winner, U23 49er World Championships, September 2018, and 2018 Volvo/Afloat Irish Sailor of the Year

DOB: 6 March 1998, from Sutton, Co. Dublin. Age 23

Club: Howth Yacht Club

Currently studying: Sports Science and Health in DCU with a Sports Scholarship.

SEÁN WADDILOVE, 49er (sails with Robert Dickson)

Winner, U23 49er World Championships, September 2018, and recently awarded 2018 Volvo Afloat/Irish Sailor of the Year

DOB: 19 June 1997. From Skerries, Dublin

Age 24

Club: Skerries Sailing Club and Howth Yacht Club

Currently studying International Business and Languages and awarded sports scholarship at TU (Technology University)

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