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Scoping the creation of Ireland’s first underwater artificial reef in Mayo’s Killala Bay has received a grant of 50,000 euro as one of a number of outdoor projects approved for funding by Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys.

Design of a recreational trail linking Cong to Lisloughrey pier has also secured 50,000 euro, while a sum of 35,847 euro has been approved for a feasibility study into a tidal pool on the Aran islands, Co Galway.

A total sum of 2.3 million euro has been approved under the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme (ORIS) on improving or developing outdoor amenities such as walkways, cycleways, rivers, lakes and beaches.

inister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys.Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys

This funding will be invested in 50 outdoor recreation projects that are currently at the early stage of development, according to Ms Humphreys, with sums of up to 50,000 euros to bring them to a “shovel-ready stage”.

They will then be in a position to secure further funding through the other measures of the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme, she has said.

Other marine and freshwater projects approved include 47,579 euro for planning and design for water sports opportunities in New Ross and the tidal section of the River Barrow.

A study to identify the potential of the development of Cavan’s Swellan lough as a recreational amenity has been approved for 49,500 euro, while Leitrim and Cavan county councils secured 22,693.50 euro for a feasibility study on a canoe trail on Lough MacNean.

Published in Coastal Notes
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Alistair McCreery, a 24-year-old canoeist from East Belfast, is the sixth athlete to have been awarded a £500 bursary as part of the ongoing Hughes Insurance partnership with the Mary Peters Trust.

The £5,000 bursary programme is now in its second year and awards funding to ten young athletes from across Northern Ireland to support them on their sporting journey. Each of the ten athletes are selected by the Mary Peters Trust.

Alistair has been representing Ireland in canoe slalom since 2015. The sport calls on competitors to navigate a decked canoe or kayak through a course of downstream or upstream gates on river rapids in the fastest time possible.

Alistair McCreery the 24 year old Irish Canoeist

Lady Mary Peters said: “Alistair has achieved so much already including progressing to the semi-finals at two ICF canoe slalom world cups. He is a fantastic ambassador for Northern Ireland and an inspiration to other young athletes.”

Inspired by the uniqueness of slalom canoeing, Alistair took up the sport in 2009 at the tender age of thirteen. He quickly progressed and has gone on to compete internationally, including at the World Championships in Augsburg this past July with 8000 spectators looking on.

This year marks 50 years since canoe slalom was first introduced to the Olympic program in Munich 1972, significant given that too is the year Lady Mary Peters brought home gold.

Commenting on his bursary, Alistair said: “It is an honour to be given this award and to become part of a group of athletes who have received awards and support from Lady Mary’s Trust over the years, such as Rory McIlroy and Paddy Barnes". 

“Over the years, I have developed so much love for my sport. I enjoy how different it is. It’s fair to say that canoeing has not only changed my life but become my life, and it’s been my vehicle to see the world taking me to Brazil, all over Europe and even India. It has allowed me to become part of a community of athletes around the globe and experience things that very few people get to.”

Alistair plans to use the bursary to access training at world-class facilities in Europe ahead of the 2023 season.

Alistair added: “For the remainder of 2022, I will be focusing on preparing for the year ahead, to qualify for and compete in the 2023 European games in Krakow and the 2024 Olympic qualifiers in London. The bursary will be a huge help in accessing the training I need to be at my very best and continue to do Northern Ireland proud.”

Published in Canoeing
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Irish Canoe Slalom's resurgence continues with two canoeists racing in the weekend final of the World Cup in Prague.

Liam Jegou and Jake Cochrane both qualified through to Sunday's top 10 final of the first World Cup race of the season. Finishing in 8th for Liam and 10th for Jake was a statement to their form for both the rest of the season, and for next year's Olympic qualification event.

The 5 race Canoe Slalom World Cup series got off to an incredible start for the Irish Team at the first race in Prague. The seven-strong team were fresh from the European Championships and ready to sink their teeth into the 2022 season. The C1 Men’s team were the outstanding example of this, getting two athletes into Sunday's final, a moment in history for Canoe Slalom in Ireland. For Jake Cochrane, it was his first appearance in the final of a World Cup, coming after a very tense wait in the semi-final. Going off early in the semi’s Jake put down a very composed run on a course that saw many of the World’s best stumble, this run stood up to the test as more paddlers suffered penalties and slotted in behind Cochrane. Liam Jegou similarly kept his cool to put down a solid run on the difficult course, sealing his place in the final with a 4th place in the heats.

Liam JegouLiam Jegou

The final itself was a much more challenging affair, with the 10 athletes having taken a lot of learnings from the semi-final and began taking on the course with a new level of speed. Neither Liam nor Jake could improve on their outstanding performances from the semi-final, finishing in 8th and 10th respectively in the final. While the final itself did not go the way of our two athletes, the moment in history of having two C1 athletes in a World Cup final is still something to be extremely excited about, both for the rest of the season and on the run in to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

The third boat of the C1 Men’s team, Robert Hendrick, had a similarly good race, finishing in 18th place in the semi-final after a strong showing in the heats. In the C1 Women Michaela Corcoran also qualified through to her second-ever World Cup semi-final where she finished in 27th place. The K1’s had some more mixed results, with Alistair McCreery getting out of the blocks well to qualify through to the semi-final in 30th. With Noel Hendrick showing some great pace, with penalties, unfortunately, keeping him out of the semi-final. In the K1 Women’s, Madison Corcoran finished in 43rd.

The team now moves on to the next World Cup race in Krakow, Poland, where our athletes have had some extremely strong results in the past. 

Published in Canoeing
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€173,474 has been granted to the Irish Canoe Unionin the latest Sports Capital and Equipment Programme Capital Allocations for upgrades to its national training centre on the River Liffey at Strawberry Beds, Lucan in County Dublin.

Canoeing Ireland's Training Centre is a purpose-built centre which offers a range of paddling courses catering for the complete beginner and also for those who wish to progress their skills to intermediate and advanced levels. It offers a range of skills courses and paddling opportunities for both young people and adults.

Sailing and rowing also benefitted in the latest funding awards as Afloat reported previously.

Minister Martin announced an overall package of €150 million in new capital grants under the latest round of the Sports Capital and Equipment Programme (SCEP) on Friday, February 11th.

€144 million is allocated to almost 1,900 applications with €6 million kept in reserve for successful appeals lodged by unsuccessful applicants.

More here

Published in Canoeing
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Liam Jegou has qualified through to the semi-final of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in the C1 Men category.

This morning's heats provided some serious challenges for the field with Liam proving no exception to this.

As Afloat reported earlier, the Irish star incurred a 50-second penalty on his first run, leaving him at the bottom of the results with everything to do in the second run.

Liam put down a solid and composed run of 104.4 seconds including a 2-second penalty to see him safely through to tomorrow's semi-final.

With athletes having only one run in the semi-final it is wide open, with the medals being decided later tomorrow in the final.

Published in Canoeing
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Ireland canoeist Liam Jegou has had mixed results this season, but he flies to Tokyo on Monday buoyed by a good showing at the recent World Cup in Leipzig.

Sixth place in Germany sets him up nicely for the Olympic Games – particularly since the competition for the C1 paddler in Tokyo is set to be less testing than he is used to in World Cups and the World Championships.

“I feel pretty good. I had a few complicated races at the beginning of the season because I was training through them in order to peak for the Games this summer,” he says.

“So, the fact that last week in Leipzig I managed to put down a really good performance in the finals really boosted my confidence.

“It came at the right time, when I needed it. I’m feeling pretty confident in the way I’m paddling. I’m ready to show what I’ve got in Tokyo.”

Only 17 will compete in the C1 (Canadian canoe) in Tokyo, a very different scenario to the big numbers in World Championships and World Cups – 41 started at the World Cup in Markkleeberg, near Leipzig, with multiple entries from big powers like France and Slovakia. And some of the top men will not be going to Tokyo. The reigning Olympic champion, Denis Gargaud Chanut of France, won in Leipzig but did not make it through France trials.

“The Olympics is quite special in that regard in canoe slalom, because we only have the best of each nation there representing their country. At the World Championships you have three Slovaks, three French, three British. [The Olympic rules] narrow down the field [but] the guys that are there are the best in their nations.

"I’m feeling pretty confident in the way I’m paddling. I’m ready to show what I’ve got in Tokyo"

“So the Olympic champion is not going to the Olympics, but he was beaten by someone else [Martin Thomas] and that someone else is a very good paddler and he will be up there for a spot on the podium. The same with the Slovaks and all the [other] bigger nations.

“There are less people, but all the people that are there won very difficult selection [races] to qualify for the Games.”

One of the big challenges for most competitors will be heat in Tokyo in high summer. Jegou feels he is well prepared.

“It will be quite difficult. I have raced in the heat before; I raced in Rio, which was very warm. I was very lucky to be able to go to a training camp in February of this year on Réunion island. The temperature and the humidity was similar to what we are expecting in Tokyo.

Liam JegouLiam Jegou - a really good performance in the finals in Leipzig has really boosted his confidence

“I’m not too worried about it. I think we are very lucky [as competitors] in canoe slalom, [the heat] doesn’t affect us as much as some of the other athletes that aren’t in water.

“The measures we are taking are to stay out of the sun as much as we can, stay hydrated, [use] cooling vests and ice packs in the evening. I’m not too stressed about the heat.”

Jegou, who is 25, grew up in Clare, with a French father and Irish mother who moved back to France when he was a child of seven. However, he retained his sense of being Irish – and his accent. He is now based in Pau in France where he is coached by Nico Peschier. The arrangement owes a lot to another Irishman based abroad.

Mike Corcoran, who has lived in the United States for many years, was the last Irishman to race in the Olympics in the C1: he finished 12th in Barcelona in 1992 and 10th in Atlanta in 1996.

He sponsors Jegou, and stays in contact.

“Without him it would be much more difficult to qualify for the Games and to have gotten the results I have gotten,” Jegou explains.

“I know him well. I’m on the phone to him regularly. It’s great to have Mike on board with the team and to hear of his experience of the Games. It’s been brilliant and it’s a huge opportunity for me.”

“Mike talks a lot about enjoying the race, just doing your best and not focusing on the others. That really works for me – not worrying about who’s doing what, just making sure I’m doing my best run.”

Corcoran advises him not to take it too seriously.

“Be serious in training, but when you’re racing you’re there for the fun. Even though it takes a huge amount of time – and, I wouldn’t say, sacrifice – a huge investment, not to forget that when you’re racing you’re doing it because you love it and because it’s fun.”

As a lot of Irish fans may find in the next few weeks, slalom canoeing is a good watch. One of the selling points is that tiny margins – a touch on a gate (they hang down over the course), or a misjudgment of the flow of the charging water can be the difference between a medal or nothing at all.

"Jegou welcomes the help of a sports psychologist"

Being psychologically strong – willing to embrace risk knowing it may end in failure – is crucial to success, and Jegou welcomes the help of a sports psychologist.

“It’s a huge part of the sport. You can be as [good] physically, technically, as you want [but] if on the day you’re stressed out, you’re too tense and you push too far on your knee or you are too close to a gate it is over.

“So, it’s a huge aspect, a huge part of the sport. And any mistake in canoe slalom is very expensive. So, it’s a huge part of my training.”

He is very thankful for the backing of Canoeing Ireland, Sport Ireland the Olympic Federation and his frame of mind going to Tokyo is good.

The lift of making the final in Leipzig was even greater because he finished just under two seconds short of a bronze medal – he had three touches on gates, each cost two seconds. Two touches and he would have been on the podium.

This was all the sweeter as his most dispiriting result had come in the previous event – he missed out on even making the semi-final at the World Cup in Prague.

“So in Markkleeberg, having spent a pretty bad week after the World Cup in Prague, with a lot of self doubt, I was really proud to turn it around and put down three really good runs: to qualify for the semis, and then in the semis a solid run to qualify for the finals, and then in the finals I paddled the way I wanted to paddle. I took a lot of risks, I cut some lines, picked up a few unfortunate touches and [was] a touch away from a medal.

“So, a really big confidence boost for myself. I proved to myself that I have what it took and I can do it.

“It came at the right time!”

On Monday he departs for Tokyo. Three more good runs and the podium could be in his sights.

Published in Canoeing
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The Irish Canoe Sprint Team got back on the start-line for the opening race of the 2021 World Cup in Szeged, Hungary.

The event also played host to the return to competition for Paracanoe, and to the European Sprint Qualifier for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Competing for Ireland were Jenny Egan (200m & 5000m), Ronan Foley (1000m & 5000m), and Patrick O’Leary (Paracanoe 200m VL3 & KL3).

The event opened with the Olympic Qualification racing, with the only Irish athlete contesting the spots on offer being Jenny Egan in the K1 Women 200m. Racing was very tight with the Olympics on the line, but Jenny displayed some very strong racing to progress through the rounds to make the final of the 200m where the top 2 nations would obtain an Olympic quota spot. After a great start putting her right in contention for the spot, Jenny slipped down the order to finish 8th in the final, with Olympic spots begin claimed by Great Britain and Italy.

In the World Cup which followed immediately on from the Olympic Qualification event Ireland saw some more finals appearances with some fantastic racing, and received a few upsets. Patrick O’Leary, Ireland’s Tokyo bound Paralympian, got his year off to a great start, qualifying through to the 200m final in both the KL3 and the VL3. With both being events Patrick will be contesting in Tokyo this summer, they were great markers to his form for the 2021 season. The VL3 saw his best performance, with a strong finish seeing Patrick come home in 6th. With the KL3 having a no less impressive performance to finish in 9th in the final.

In the longer 1000m and 5000m events Ireland had promising performances from Ronan Foley, mixing it with the best in the world at still a young age. Ronan finished the event in 22nd for the 1000m and 17th in the 5000m, and will look forward to taking this experience to the U23 competitions later this year. Jenny Egan who was also competing in the 5000m suffered a setback during the race, and ended up not completing the event.

Published in Canoeing
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The Irish canoeing C1 men's team today took a silver medal in the team race, behind the Slovenian team, the newly crowned European Champions.

The three-man team of Liam Jegou, Jake Cochrane and Robert Hendrick put together a very solid run to take Ireland's first team medal in a long time, doing so on what was a very difficult course. Having been the second team off in the race the three Irish athletes had a nervous wait, watching teams including World, European and Olympic Champions fall victim to the difficulty of the course in Prague, and only being beaten to the gold by a strong Slovenian team featuring the newly crowned individual European Champion, Benjamin Savsek.

The three-man team of Liam Jegou, Jake Cochrane and Robert Hendrick put together a very solid run to take Irelands first team medal in a long time, doing so on what was a very difficult courseThe three-man team of Liam Jegou, Jake Cochrane and Robert Hendrick put together a very solid run to take Irelands first team medal in a long time, doing so on what was a very difficult course

This result came off the back of further strong performances from Jake Cochrane and Liam Jegou, Ireland's Olympian for the 2021 Tokyo Games, who finished 12th and 15th respectively in the individual C1M race earlier in the day. The third boat in the team Robert Hendrick had a disappointing race but was no doubt buoyed up by the team's medal success.

Elsewhere in the competition, the Irish K1M had great performances, with Noel Hendrick finishing 21st in the semi-final, and Eoin Teague finishing in 36.th

This silver medal performance comes during what is a resurgence in the sport of canoe slalom in Ireland, with medals again being won and athletes qualifying for the upcoming Olympic Games after a brief drought.

Published in Canoeing
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A lone kayaker who died on Sligo’s Lough Gill last year may have become separated from his Canadian canoe in bad weather, an investigation has found.

A Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report into the incident on January 29th, 2019, has found that wellington boots worn by the kayaker would have weighed him down on immersion.

The incident is believed to have occurred sometime between 18.27 hours on January 26th and the next evening, January 27th, before darkness fell.

The man had set out from a pier in Trawane Bay opposite Inishfree on the southwestern corner of Lough Gill and planned to camp overnight near Slish woods.

His body was found by Sligo-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter about 0.75 km from his campsite on the morning of January 29th, after the alarm was raised by his partner.

His canoe was found later on the shore by his partner approximately 0.4 km east of the campsite which he had established.

Weather conditions were not suitable for a small craft, and the personal flotation device (PFD) worn was designed to aid a person to stay afloat and swim to safety.

“The PFD would not keep him afloat as an inflatable life jacket would have done,” the report states.

The report says the canoe and the casualty “were found in two different locations indicating that the casualty entered the water and became separated from the canoe due to some incident”.

“There were no grab lines attached to the canoe to assist recovery,” it says.

The kayaker had a mobile phone but did not carry any other means of signalling for help, such as flares or a marine VHF handheld transceiver, the report states.

The report notes the man’s partner advised that he had bought the canoe within the past 12 months, and was inexperienced in using this type of craft or any craft on the water.

“He was, however, a competent swimmer having gained several certificates for achievements in swimming,” the report states.

An autopsy recorded cause of death as freshwater drowning.

The MCIB report recommends that a marine notice should be issued, highlighting the requirements set out in Chapter 7 of the Code of Practice for Recreational Craft for canoeing/kayaking.

It says particular attention should be paid to the code’s section 7.1 on training, 7.2 on carrying a mobile phone or marine VHF radio in a suitable watertight cover, and that the hull is fitted with grab loops/towing lines, and that the person is a competent swimmer.

It also recommends that canoeists/kayakers should “ensure that they wear clothing and footwear that will not affect their chance of survival in the water”.

Published in MCIB
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Canoe Slalom racer Liam Jegou has become the first Team Ireland athlete to be selected for the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer. Originally from Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare, the France-based Jegou has already stamped his mark on the international stage, winning silver in the 2014 Junior World Championships and bronze in the 2019 U23 World Championships. The 24-year-old will compete in the C1 category at the Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre in Tokyo from the 26-27 July 2020.

 Jegou is the second Irish athlete ever to compete in the C1 Canoe Slalom at the Olympic Games, with the only other athlete being Mike Corcoran, who last competed in Atlanta 1996, the year in which Jegou was born.

 Jegou said he was intent on seizing his opportunity in Tokyo. “Being an Olympian has always been one of my biggest dreams. I started training when I was 11 or 12, the past month has been unbelievable knowing that I am going to compete for Team Ireland in the Olympics.

 “In my sport the Olympics is everything, it’s what everyone works for in their sport. It’s such a select thing; there’s only one athlete per nation that gets to go and when you to go you just want to give it your all. Most people only get to go to the Games once or twice in their lives, and I’m certainly not going to let the opportunity pass me.”

 Olympic Federation of Ireland Chef de Mission for Tokyo 2020, Tricia Heberle said: “It’s very exciting, this is our first athlete to be approved as part of Team Ireland for the 2020 Olympics – it’s great for the sport and great for Liam.

 “There is a tremendous amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to support sports and our athletes to qualify and perform at the Games. It’s a real team effort with our National Federations, the Sport Ireland Institute and a range of other support groups working together with the athletes as our priority. Liam has his own story and we are so pleased to be supporting the next chapter in his journey as he prepares for the Tokyo Olympic Games.”

 Canoeing Ireland Performance Director Jon Mackey described the significance of this for his sport: It’s big for any sport to qualify for an Olympic Games. For canoeing, it’s great for the exposure of the sport, we are relatively small, and it’s great to tap into the proud tradition of Irish canoeing at the Olympic Games.”

 Jegou was nominated for the 2020 slot after finishing on top in the three-race selection criteria, which included the World Championships in Spain, the event in which Ireland qualified the coveted Olympic berth courtesy of Robert Hendrick.

 The difference between C1 and K1 in Canoeing is that the C1 category involves the athletes using a single-bladed paddle to propel the boat forward while kneeling in the canoe. The K1 athlete is seated and uses a double bladed paddle. C1 Canoe Slalom has been on the Olympic programme since 1992 as a men’s event, and 2020 is the first year that a C1 women’s event is included, in the IOC move towards a gender-balanced games. 

 Ireland has a rich history in K1 Canoe Slalom, with Ian Wiley and Eoin Rheinisch competing in the event for three Olympic Games each between 1992 and 2012. Eadaoin Ní Challarain was the first Irish female canoe slalom racer, competing in the K1 in 2000 and 2004, and in London 2012 Hannah Craig raced in this event also.

 This is the first official Team Ireland Tokyo team announcement. Many sports have ongoing selections and competitions with team announcements expected to come more frequently as we approach the summer, with the final announcement scheduled for the beginning of July. 

Published in Canoeing
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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

ANNALISE MURPHY, Laser Radial

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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