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#SailorOfTheYear - Robert Dickson and Seán Waddilove have been named Afloat Irish Sailors of the Year for 2018 in recognition of their gold medal victory in the 49er U23 Junior World Championships, amid another landmark 12 months for inspiring performances in Irish sailing.

September’s Olympic Sailors of the Month were presented with their prize by Minister of State Mary Mitchell-O’Connor at the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards gala in Dublin’s RDS Concert Hall this evening (Friday 8 February).

Robert Dickson (21) of Howth and Seán Waddilove (20) of Skerries rose to the challenge in Marseille last August and September as they battled a strong international field — and a Mistral at full strength — to score their first world gold, and their first major win.

“HowthHowth YC Commodore Joe McPeake (centre) at the reception to welcome home the new gold medallists Robert Dickson (left) and Sean Waddilove | Photo: Ian Dickson

It was down to the wire at the climax of the final race on Saturday 1 September as the Dublin duo led a chasing pack in the fleet of 52 boats.

However, their placing was no surprise to anyone following the former 420 pair’s performance during their week on the Cote D’Azur, with seven results out of their first nine races in the top five — and all that after starting out on only two days of training, with Robert levelled by a bout of food poisoning.

Going into the final day as leaders no doubt piled on the pressure, which must have doubled when gear failure in their 10th race saw them slip down the finish order.

But according to Robert, the pair played it cool. “We were still leading the regatta by three points which we didn’t know at the time,” he told Afloat.ie. “We never think about points. We need a clear mind to carry out our jobs on the water.”

What a job it was, too — and a testament to their skill and steely nerve that after that humbling stumble, they recovered to win the final and claim Ireland’s first ever major victory of their age group in the skiff class.

It was also vindication of more than year of extraordinarily hard work put in by both young men, after injury felled Seán in early 2017 and almost scuppered their campaign for the 2020 Olympics.

Far from it, the signs now look exceedingly bright for a stellar performance in Tokyo next year.

According to the International 49er Class — whose president Marcus Spillane must be delighted at his home nation’s achievements — the academy set-up in Ireland has been key to this country’s boost in competitiveness in the skiff. 

Despite the departure of Saskia Tidey to Team GB slowing down Irish 49erFX ambitions, on the men’s side the squad has grown since the split of Rio challengers Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern, the former forging a new partnership with Seafra Guilfoyle for Tokyo 2020 (McGovern retired last year and is now high performance manager with RYA NI). 

And indeed, Robert and Seán are an integral part of this growth.

Recounting for Afloat.ie his and Seán’s path to the title, Robert explains that for both it began well before any world-class ambitions. 

Each got into sailing as a child at club level, Robert sailing an Optimist alongside family in Lough Ree while Sean got his start via a taster course in Skerries. 

As their talent shone through and competitions became a matter of course, the two would meet and become friends on the national circuit, forming a bond as their success soon took them abroad. 

And after joining Irish Sailing’s Olympic Pathway in the Oppy class, it made perfect sense that they would team up to progress to the 420 class — in which they started training in their Transition Year — and then two years later to the 49er, often regarded as the ‘Formula 1’ of dinghy racing.

“Training with the 49er Development Squad and having a 100% committed coach makes training much more effective,” says Robert. “You can train solo but it’s not as effective as having a group of boats around you, pushing each other on and off the water to strive to be the best. This medal was certainly a team effort!”

That team, past and present, includes former 49er Development Team coach Tytus Konarzewski, Thomas Chaix, Ross Killian, ex-Olympic duo Ger Owens and Scott Flanigan, Graeme Grant, Philippe Boudgourd, John and David White, and sports physio Mark McCabe at SportsMed Ireland.

And that’s not to mention Robert and Sean’s families and fellow sailors, supportive clubs and sporting bodies — and their colleges that allow them to work classes and assignments around their full-on training schedule.

To confirm a suggestion proffered by the 49er class, the investment made in creating Olympic contenders like Laser Radial silver medallist (and 2016 Sailor of the Year) Annalise Murphy has indeed — in the success of Robert Dickson and Seán Waddilove — been leveraged in bringing the next generation of youth and junior talent into the top levels of their age categories.

WM Nixon will have a profile of the 2018’s Afloat Sailors of the Year as well as the many worthy nominees in his Sailing on Saturday column, available later tonight right here on Afloat.ie.

“GuestsGuests taking their seats at the 2018 Volvo Irish Sailing Awards | Photo: David O’Brien

Robert and Seán topped another incredible field of nominees for 2018, among them faces recognised from 2017’s shortlist and years previous, as well as a fellow Olympic contender.

Liam Glynn was a Sailor of the Month in July for his bronze at the U21 Laser Worlds, while Peter and Rob O’Leary were stars in the Star class. Wins at home and abroad put Justin Lucas on our radar, as was Irish Topper number one Hugh O’Connor, and Firefly duo Atlee Kohn and Jonathan O’ShaugnnessyBrendan Lyden captained UCC1 to victory at the University Sailing Association Team Championship.

Last year’s Sailor of the Year Conor Fogerty made the list again for his runaway victory in Class 3 at the RORC Caribbean 600 mere days after collecting his Afloat gong.

Tom Dolan topped the rookies in his first Figaro Minitransat, while Barry Byrne skippered the Irish Defence Forces to the top of the corinthian ranks (and second overall) in the Volvo Round Ireland Race, besides a successful defence of the Beaufort Cup at Cork Week.

Niall Dowling took line honours in the Round Ireland, while later in the year Vicky Cox and Peter Dunlop topped the ISORA standings.

The inspirational Enda O’Coineen was no April fool as he completed his delayed circumnavigation for his own personal Vendée Globe milestone.

Pat Kelly and company got off to a flying start on their J/109 Storm, while windsurfer Oisin van Gelderen set new Irish speed records in Luderitz.

Classic boating was ably represented by Ilen restorer Gary MacMahonDave Cullen’s Wave Regatta champion Checkmate XV and Mermaid fan Darragh McCormick, while Darryl Hughes found a fruitful partnership with his vintage ketch Maybird.

Peter Kennedy fought hard to claim his All-Ireland title, Molly Breathnach cruised her way to a spot on the list, Fintan Cairns showed true leadership vision with the DBSC Turkey Shoot, and Donal O’Sullivan bowed out from his role at the same club after decades of unparalleled contributions.

Former sailmaker Ross Kearney is now sailing for the love of it, while Mark Lyttleproved he’s still winning calibre with his Grand Masters title in September.

And Gregor McGuckin got a nod in September for his selfless actions during the Golden Jubilee Golden Globe Race, racing to the aid of the injured Abilash Tomy with his own storm-worn yacht under jury rig.

In the night’s other prizes, Irish Sailing president Jack Roy presented the Senior Instructor Award to Southern Region winner Ellen O’Regan of Schull and the Fastnet Marine & Outdoor Education Centre for her exceptional instructor management abilities and skills.

Bray Sailing Club took one of the night’s two new categories as the Inclusion Award was presented by Gina Griffin to senior instructor Jack Hannon for his work on the Watersports Inclusion Games. The club was also named Training Centre of the Year for 2018 (presented by Cllr Ossian Smyth).

Howth Yacht Club and the Royal Cork Yacht Club shared the inaugural Sustainability Award, presented by Irish Sailing’s new sustainability ambassador Damian Foxall.

And Youth Sailor of the Year, presented by Irish Sports Council chief executive John Treacy, is the National Yacht Club’s Nell Staunton, one of the standouts of Ireland’s Laser Radial youth squad and eighth-place finisher in last summer’s Youth Sailing Worlds in Texas. 

Hosted once more by master of ceremonies Fiona Bolger, the night as always welcomed guests from Irish club and high performance sailing — youth and veteran, professional and corinthian.

Among the 500 people in attendance at the RDS Main Hall were Volvo Car Ireland MD David Thomas and PR and events executive Emma O’Carroll; from RYA NI, chair Jackie Patton (also of the Atlantic Youth Trust) and chief executive Richard Honeyford; and UK Sailmakers’ Barry Hayes.

Representing the Olympic Federation of Ireland were CEO Peter Sherrard, secretary Sarah O’Shea and Colm Barrington, first vice president and former chairman of Irish Sailing’s Olympic Steering Group. 

From the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport were assistant secretary Deirdre O’Keeffe and Peter Horgan, principal officer of sports policy and the National Sports Campus, while Fianna Fáil spokesperson for sport Robert Troy also joined the evening.

From Dun Laoghaire’s waterfront were harbourmaster Simon Coate; National Yacht Club Commodore Ronan Beirne with Vice Commodore Martin McCarthy and club archivist Frank Burgess; Royal Irish YC Commodore Joseph Costello; Royal St George Vice Commodore Peter Bowring; and DMYC Commodore Frank Guilfoyle

Representing the rest of Co Dublin were Dublin Bay Sailing Club’s new honorary secretary Chris Moore; Howth YC’s Vice Commodore Emmet Dalton with the club’s Rear Commodores Paddy J Judge and Ian Malcolm, race officer Richella Carroll and communications officer Brian Turvey; and Malahide YC Commodore Matt Ryan and Rear Commodore Ciaran O’Reilly.

Also in attendance were Bray Sailing Club’s outgoing Commodore Darina Porter, incumbent Boris Fennema, treasurer Torren Gale, and Jack Hannon; Skerries Sailing Club Commodore Kathryn Collins with Vice Commodore Liam O’Callaghan; and Dublin Port Company assistant harbour master Tristan Walsh.

Cork’s flag was flown by Kinsale Yacht Club Commodore David O’Sullivan and Vice Commodore Michael Walsh, along with Baltimore Sailing Club Commodore Niall O’Neill, and Royal Cork’s Admiral Pat Farnan, general manager Gavin Deane and sustainability chair Aoife Deane.

RTÉ broadcaster Fergal Keane; Volvo Ocean Race photographer Brian Carlin; Sailing Into Wellness founder Colin Healy, World Sailing delegates Con Murphy and Paddy Boyd; Nobby Reilly, formerly of ICRA; and former ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney were also in attendance.

Guests were also given a special up-close look at some of the boat models sailed by Ireland’s next generation of high achievers in sailing at home and abroad.

“BoatsBoats on display at the rear of the RDS hall during the 2018 Volvo Irish Sailing Awards | Photo: David O’Brien

Ian O’Meara of Viking Marine and Pierce Purcell Jr and Nicky Bendon of CH Marine represented the dinghy scene presenting Lasers and a Topper respectively, while Kenny Rumball of the Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School brought along a training Optimist and RS Quest — and Gerry Salmon, Joss Walsh and Martin Salmon of yacht broker MGM Boats showed a scale model of the new Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300 that wowed the Paris Boat Show in December.

Hosted by Irish Sailing with Afloat magazine, the Volvo Irish Sailing Awards aim to highlight the breadth of sailing across the country.

Afloat’s Sailor of the Year awards have been running since 1996, recognising over 500 Irish sailors in that time. The awards “were originally formulated to bring a bigger profile to sailing achievements that do not get their fair share of the media coverage,” says editor David O’Brien. “Now these achievements are reaching a wider audience than ever before.”

Afloat.ie neared 1.3 million visitors in 2018 — an audience the publication is eager to share with Ireland’s sailing community.

“Afloat.ie wants to work with every club and every class in the country,” says O’Brien. “Please get in touch.”

Update Saturday 9 February: This article was corrected to show that Bray Sailing Club won Training Centre of the Year and not Lough Swilly Yacht club as previously indicated.

Published in ISA

If it wasn’t for their habit of appearing in national media reports following major competition success over the past few years, one might think that Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove’s sailing campaigns have been deliberately shrouded in secrecy to protect and preserve a secret weapon until ready to reveal. But anyone who knows the Irish 49er Olympic hopefuls knows their reticence and ability to avoid the limelight is more a product of their inherent quiet charm and understated focus on the real prize.

Winning the 49er U23 Junior World Championships in September this year was a massive endorsement of the determination of the Howth and Skerries duo, catapulting them into the limelight of international sailing and to attention that they surely enjoy, albeit without self-promotional fanfare. Robert and Sean recognise that their gradual progression to the top of international competition changes the rules of engagement in respect of their previously ‘covert’ media presence and they realise that they are now of interest to many sailing and sporting followers.

Robs first Optimist Little RosieRob's first Optimist Little Rosie

Like the thousands of people who first learn about the sport, Robert and Sean began their sailing in Optimists. With a long and successful history of sailing in the Dickson family, Robert was destined to get his feet wet in dinghies and even by the tender age of six, had already secured his first boat and started sailing his bright red Optimist named ‘Little Rosie’, which was named with the help of some influence from his grandfather Roy, who’s all-conquering Corby 40 ‘Cracklin Rosie’ had won the 1996 Boat of the Year close to the time that Robert was born. Blessed with a nautical genealogy that must give any renowned sailing family a run for their money, Robert began racing and competing in his Optimist in Lough Ree alongside his older cousins and siblings including Cormac Dickson whom he followed around the course to ensure that he found the right marks and Cillian who later successfully progressed to keelboat racing and some stellar international results with the K25 team on the J24 Kilcullen. Always bound to be part of the IODAI circuit and encouraged to do so by his Uncle David, Robert soon found himself at the front end of the Optimist fleet on the circuit and joining the ISA Squads to international competition including events in the UK, Germany and Spain. Like many other young sailors who have sailed at Sutton Dinghy Club, he also spent some time racing in the Mirror Class, winning the 2012 Southerns and the 2014 Eastern Championships. Robert is naturally at home and intensely focused when at the helm of his boat and when asked about his favourite place to race he is quick to state: ‘Once the gun goes, I could be sailing anywhere!’ However, he does hold a fondness for sailing in Spiddal – certainly the centre of gravity in the West of Ireland for the 420 Class, where he asserts is ‘the best place I’ve ever sailed’.

Sean in OppieSean in his Oppie

Sean Waddilove started his sailing in Skerries and like Robert, he got the opportunity to get his feet wet in Optimists at an early age and in his own boat at 7 years of age. His mother Lucy (Coleman) has a long connection with Skerries, her family has lived in the seaside town for more than 5 generations. She met her husband Cliff while working in the Middle East and they came home to live in Skerries and to raise a family of five children amongst her many friends and family in the North County Dublin town. Despite having very little history of sailing in their families, Cliff and Lucy joined the ‘local trend’ by enrolling Sean in a ‘Taste of Sailing’ course in Skerries Sailing Club, where he and his friends took part in the ISA’s successful introductory dinghy course for children. Sean wasted no time in warming to the sport and enthused by his ‘Taste of Sailing’ experience, he continued to sail his Optimist into the Autumn after school and at weekends. Cliff remarks in respect of Sean’s early emerging talent ‘Not being a sailor nor appreciating what I was watching, the pivotal moment for me was when one of my sailing friends told me that Sean really stood out amongst the other sailors and that he clearly had a natural talent for the sport’. When you realise that Sean’s youngest sister Lucy is currently on the Irish Gymnastics Development Squad, you might understand that the Waddilove family are quick to act on and encourage their children’s talents and Sean’s progression through the Optimist ranks and onto the ISA Development was helped by their attentive recognition and support.

Following many years of racing in this competitive class, one of Sean’s final events in his Optimist was the India International Regatta, when he travelled east with his coach Thomas Chaix and was given the opportunity of an incredible experience for a 14-year-old, no doubt whetting his appetite for competition and travel for his years to come. He explains: ‘Anyone who gets the opportunity to attend this event should definitely go. It’s not just the sailing, but to see and experience a culture so completely different to Ireland and Europe.’

One of the toughest decisions for many a talented Optimist racing sailor who inevitably outgrows his trusty craft, is whether to continue on the single-handed pathway in something like a Laser or to step into a double-handed boat like the Feva or 420. Sean spent much of 2011 in the Royal St George Yacht Club assessing these options and following some advice from his former coach Thomas Chaix who advised that if the wrong initial choice was made, it would be easier to change from racing 420s to Lasers rather than the other way around, Sean took the step into the 420 and joined Robert whom he knew well and had raced against and travelled with in the Optimist circuit. They then became part of the ISA’s 420 squad that was clearly going to be a step to prepare the young sailors for the potential of high-performance and possibly even Olympic competition. But starting to race a new boat can present a rude awakening for a sailor at any level and Sean remembers: ’Just because you were good in the Oppie does not necessarily mean you will be good in the 420. The skills required, especially for crewing, are completely different. If I‘m honest, the Oppie didn’t prepare me really at all for crewing. It was like starting from scratch again’.

Training under ISA coach Ross Killian and also with Graeme Grant in what their home club at Howth Yacht Club, Robert and Sean wasted no time in getting up to speed and competed regularly over the next three years in major international championships with a host of top-twenty results leading to their winning the ISA Youth Nationals on Lough Derg in 2013 and again and in some style in Howth in 2014.

Following a trail already paved by Alan Ruigrok who had lived and trained in his Laser at La Rochelle a few years earlier, they seized an opportunity to move to La Rochelle for their Transition Year in August 2014 and to school in Lyceé Jean Dautet – a brave decision for two 15-year-old sailors, but one that would allow them to avail of France’s excellent youth sailing development programme and would see them training under their coach Philippe Boudgourd and joining with the La Rochelle 420 Squad at least 3-days-a-week on the water with additional days ashore during all of that school year. Taking time to manage occasional trips back home to compete in Irish championships, they also spent many of their weekends in France travelling to and competing in events in Maubisson, Brest and Sable D’Olonne. Robert and Sean acknowledge that their decision to spend the year in France was crucial in building their pathway programme and was a major turning point and step up to competing with national and international competition at an important stage of their development.

When they returned in 2015, they were invited by the ISA to join with the 49er Development Squad as part of a preparation programme for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. They bought a boat in Weymouth and launched it in Howth on the 8th March. Not the easiest boat to step into (or onto!), the first year seemed more like a swimming lesson mixed with a crash course in engineering and DIY – the 49er is a difficult beast for newcomers to tame. The extra power of the boat over the 420 is not easy to quickly adapt to, but by their own determination and with help from their Polish coach Tytus Konarzewski they began to make considerable progress by the end of the year.

The 49er training was done mainly with other two teams (Sean and Tadgh Donnelly and Mark Hasset and Oisín O’Driscoll) whom had already done the swimming and DIY ‘penance’ during the previous year and the Development Group’s training regime was facilitated in Howth, Dun Laoghaire and Schull. Both boys were now in their final two years of school and preparing for their Leaving Certificate exams, so their schedule became much more intensive with the additional but now compulsory gym-sessions with Mark McCabe, their Strength and Conditioning Coach and they would wake up for at 5am twice a week, cycle into the city centre for their 6am start and then cycle back home for breakfast and off to school. Robert would also manage to play Frisbee at 8am before school started!

During Easter 2016 and as they were approaching their Leaving Certificate exams, they travelled to Palma to race in an event and were there to see teammates Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern win the regatta. This event was to demonstrate to Robert and Sean the level of competition that they would now be facing and included America’s Cup sailor Nathan Outteridge beside them on the beach, whose entourage included a team of 4 professionals specifically to set up his boat and manage logistics.

2017 was a very busy year for their 49er campaign and saw them cover more than 16000km as they travelled internationally to and from their training camps and events. Robert had started college in DCU to study Sports Science and Health where his schedule is supported by a Sports Scholarship and a facilitative programme that affords him the ability to mix his training and events with study and classes. Sean has also been able to utilise a Sports Scholarship in DIT and with the generous support from the college, has the similar facility to manage much of his tuition and study for his courses in International Business and French in conjunction with his training and competition. He father Cliff explains: ‘It’s difficult to know when to help with assessing and managing education for a career in such circumstances, however the pathway to possible Olympic competition is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and these guys clearly have a drive and ambition that will allow them to apply focus to their education at the right time.’

It’s clear that our sailors and their families need to make considerable sacrifices when they commit to the high-performance programme, not least for the fact that the Olympic Games four-year-cycle might not allow athletes to get a second chance, given the training and fitness levels required as well as the time taken from education and building a career. The high-performance ‘carding’ system is a considerable help to aspirational sailors and helps with lots of the associated cost of reaching the required standard for an Olympic programme, but the spread of the limited available funding in Ireland and across all sports will mean that it has to be substantially supported by families and patrons of each campaign.

During 2018 they competed in a number of high profile events such as Princess Sophià Regatta, Medemblik, Kiel Week, Gdynia, Aarhus and then in September at the 49er World Junior Championships in Marseille. Robert said of the preparation for the World Championships: ‘I knew we were in good shape and feeling confident of a medal because we had been able to assess their competition at events throughout the year’. But the team was tested at the last minute when Robert suffered from food poisoning during the training days before the regatta and missed three of the five days that they had to prepare! However he recovered in time for the main event and the guys were described by the team at Irish Sailing Performance as giving ‘an ice-cool display as they defended their lead on the last day, fending off the chasing pack – a phenomenal result from the Howth/Skerries pairing’ – winning gold and the World Championship.

When they returned from Marseilles, they were greeted by fellow members in Howth for a celebration that was hosted by Commodore Joe McPeake who was delighted for the guys and said: ‘Having watched their results in the World's and seeing the report on RTE of this spectacular and colourful event one has to admire their tenacity, skill, fitness and focus and they surely deserve support from all the sailing community. I have no doubt they will be very successful in the coming years.’

Robert and Sean have been busy training as part of the Irish Sailing 49er Senior Squad in the months since their win in early September – spending time in Ballyholme, Dun Laoghaire and currently in Cadiz. Southern Spain offers the chance of longer days for training in addition to the ideal winter sailing conditions in the bay of Cadiz. A recent mast-breakage has been the latest test for the guys. They returned to Dublin this week to attend a gala awards dinner hosted by the Northside People and were presented with the Young Sportspersons Award by broadcaster Joe Duffy.

Sean and Rob with Mattress Mick at Northside People AwardsSean and Rob with Mattress Mick at the Northside People Awards

Their busy home-schedule had them meet with local and national dignitaries including Fingal Mayor Anthony Lavin, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Senator Catherine Noone and Minister Richard Bruton at a reception in Howth Yacht Club. Then, after a short break from sailing (but not their intensive exercise and training regime), they will move on to Portugal where they compete in the Vilamoura Grand Prix, an event that unfortunately clashes with an invitation that they had to decline to attend the RTE Sportsperson of the Year Awards. With another short trip home for Christmas, they return again to Portugal in January to prepare for the Portuguese Grand Prix and then onwards to Palma afterwards.

Their full 2019 event schedule looks like this:

Feb – Portugal Grand Prix
Mar – Princess Sophia Regatta, Palma
Apr – Sailing World Series, Genoa
May – European Championships, Weymouth
Jun – Kieler Woche, Kiel
Jul – Junior World Championships, Norway
Aug – Sailing World Series, Enoshima
Nov – World Championships, Auckland

Their immediate goal is to help secure an Irish place at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020, with a distinct mission to ensure that their boat qualifies.

Published in Tokyo 2020

Robert Dickson won the Junior 49er World Championships in France last month and here he describes how victory in Marseille came through years of preparation with this long-term sailing partner Sean Waddilove (21).

Believe it or not this is our first win in 49er sailing! Unlike the Laser class where many sailors have gone from club level and gradually progressed to World Class, all our 49er racing has been international.

We began sailing when we were very young. I began sailing in Lough Ree with my sister and brother and cousins in my red wooden Oppie. Seán began with a 'Taste of Sailing' course in Skerries Sailing Club and immediately fell in love with being on the water. We started club racing and then started the National circuit where we became good friends and represented Ireland in international events such as Palma and the German Nationals.

I then began to sail in Sutton Dinghy Club and finally moved to Howth Yacht Club.

We both joined SRR in La Rochelle for our Transition Year 2013/14, where we trained in our 420 dinghy with the La Rochelle Team.
.
We joined the Irish Sailing Olympic Pathway in Optimists and progressed to the 420 and are now finally in the Olympic Class dinghy, the 49er.

Formula One of Dinghy Racing

The 49er is often described as the Formula one of dinghy sailing. It is fast, technical, addictive and we love it!

We have had to strike a balance between training, racing and studying. DCU and DIT support this through their Sports Scholarship Programmes. We depend a lot on wifi in the evenings to catch up on lectures!

Robert Dickson and Sean WaddiloveDickson and Waddilove love sailing the 'Formula One' of dinghies Photo: Pierii/49er Class

Training with the 49er Development Squad and having a 100% committed coach makes training much more effective. You can train solo but it’s not as effective as having a group of boats around you, pushing each other on and off the water to strive to be the best. This medal was certainly a
team effort!

We have had support all along from:

  • Family
  • Sailors
  • Coaches: Tytus Konarzewski, Mark McCabe, Ross Killian, Ger Owens, Thomas Chaix, Graham Grant, Phillippe Boudgourd, John and David White, Scott Flanigan and many more.
  • DCU and DIT
  • Clubs: HYC. SSC, SDC, LRYC, SRR
  • Institute of Sport
  • Sport Ireland
  • Irish Sailing

We were invited early in 2015 to join the recently developed 49er Development Squad and started training in June 2015 with Seán and Tadgh Donnelly and Mark Hassett and Oisín O’Driscoll down in Schull Sailing Centre.

Twelve knots felt like twenty

For the first year sailing 49ers, we didn’t even dream of trying to sail in a regatta. We spent a lot of time upside down trying to learn how to get around a course and learning how to fix everything we broke after being smashed around the boat. The 49er felt so much more powered up than the 420. Twelve knots felt like twenty.

The group became better and better together all learning from each other.

Irish Sailing got us a passionate and dedicated coach Tytus Konarzewski from Poland for the Squad in September 2015. Tytus put in a huge amount of work with us and really helped us a lot in many ways on our path to winning the U23 Worlds.

49er JuniorIreland's Dickson and Waddilove wearing the leaders gold vests in the thick of it in Marseille Photo: Pierii/49er Class

Our Strength and Conditioning was guided by Mark McCabe at SportsMed Ireland. His knowledge and expertise Mark improved our fitness to that of World Class athletes.

Together we all travel to events and training camps. For the last three years, we had some really productive training together pushing ourselves and each other to get better. We learned a huge amount from our coach and teammates. This was the key to success. Over the last two years, we spent a lot of time training in Cadiz and Palma to escape the Irish Winter. Interestingly last year we stayed as long as we could in the stormy freezing Dún Laoghaire harbour right through to December. In comparison, sailing in warm sunny France was much easier!

This season we sailed six regattas Princess Sophia, Medemblik, Kiel, Gydinia, Aarhus and Marseilles.

Robert Dickson  and Sean Waddilove Perfect balance - Dickson and Waddilove powering to victory Photo: Pierii/49er Class

We had a poor start to the season at the Europeans in Gydnia. We were happy with our ISAF Worlds performance in Aarhus. We made a few critical mistakes which added a lot of points to our score but overall we were happy to finish in the Silver Fleet and gained a lot of experience.

When it came to the Junior World Championships in Marseille, France we felt in good shape and knew we had a chance to medal because we had seen all of the U23 guys throughout the season and knew what we were up against.

Food poisoning

In the training days before the regatta, I had food poisoning and couldn’t sail for three days so we only had two days on the water before the start of the regatta. We had a range of conditions from extremely light all the way to extremely windy. We started off with consistent top five results apart from one capsize on Day three of racing. We went into the final series in fifth having not yet won a race.

On day four the race committee got one race in where we finished 2nd before the mistral wind kicked in and started blowing over 25 knots. We were sent to the harbour to wait until the evening when the wind died down a bit. We got our first race win after a port tack start off the committee end and scrambled a 7th after a bad start in the last race of the day.

That was enough to make us overnight leaders with one more discard to come. On the final day of racing, we waited on the shore for a few hours because the wind was too unstable. When the wind did come in we were met with the mistral again. The launching signal was displayed and we headed out. They sent us out to the course close to the shore with time for two races in maximum conditions. In race one we were in a good top five position when I made a mistake with a tack and broke a tiller extension. We threw on the spare tiller extension from the boom and finished in ninth.

We were still leading the regatta by 3 points which we didn’t know at the time. We never think about points. We need a clear mind to carry out our jobs on the water. In the final race, we played it extremely safe on the start and tacked out right after a committee boat start towards the cliffs.

We were lifted on port until we got close to the cliffs when we could tack and cross the fleet. This is something we had learned about in previous days on this course. We defended the position and in the end extended a decent lead.

dickson waddilove prizesRobert Dickson and Sean Waddilove take to the podium after an epic week Photo: Pierii/49er Class

The regatta wasn’t decided on the last day. It was all about consistency in our results throughout the week of racing as well as years and years of preparation. We had mostly top fives and only one result outside of the top ten in the regatta.

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Published in Tokyo 2020

Howth Yacht Club members have already logged some remarkable successes during the 2018 season, but the Gold Medals won by Robert Dickson (21, HYC) and Sean Waddilove (20, Skerries SC) in the Olympic 49er U23 Worlds last weekend at Marseilles was worthy of special honours writes W M Nixon. Last (Saturday) night, HYC Commodore Joe McPeake hosted a Welcome Home celebration in the clubhouse which was attended by well-wishers and fellow-members from other successful local families in the international scene, such as Hopkins and McMahon, in addition to many members of the families of the Medallists.

The special occasion was put to good use with Commodore McPeake asking the queries in a focused Question & Answer session with the two Medallists, an intensive exchange of information which gave much pause for thought among those in the audience who sail in the relatively easy-going local classes such as the Howth 17s and the Puppeteer 22s. For instance, with a top-level 49er, the minimal ideal is to have a new jib and kite for every major regatta, and a new mainsail for every second regatta.

By international standards, the Dickson/Waddilove campaign was being run on a shoestring. But by May of this year, they’d achieved the basic ideal of having one boat permanently in Ireland for continuing intensive training when they’re at home, with a second boat for the international circuit. Now with a Gold Medal in their CV, they and their support team can hope for greater resources, while their fellow members who operate at club level have a much better understanding of the pace of competition and performance in this ultra-athletic class.

Published in Tokyo 2020

#HYC - This evening, Saturday 8 September, Howth Yacht Club will host a special reception for newly crowned 49er U23 World Champions Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove.

All members are welcome to join the Prosecco toast for the youth skiff pair and Tokyo 2020 hopefuls, who won their last race from a chasing pack to claim the title in Marseille last weekend.

Tapas will be serves at the reception, which kicks off at 7pm in the clubhouse — and juniors are also welcome, with pizza and soft drinks on the menu.

In other HYC news, there’s only one week left to go before the club’s new-look Autumn League begins.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the six-week series from next Saturday includes a special family day on 22 September.

Published in Howth YC

#Tokyo2020 - National Yacht Club members Seán and Tadhg Donnelly’s Olympic 49er campaign for Tokyo 2020 owes much to the latter’s connections with the Hamptons boating community on New York’s Long Island, according to 27east.com.

Tadhg, who is studying law at UCD, spent a J1 summer coaching at Westhampton Yacht Squadron where he met junior programme director Jim Schultz and head sailing instructor John Zambriski.

The pair had connected with Tadhg online in their search for a foreign instructor to bring something new to their sailing programme.

And his work training with some of the club’s youngest sailors in the summer of 2016 proved a big hit, helping raise the game of trainees and instructors alike.

Now the club wants to give back in appreciation for Tadhg’s efforts with a fundraising regatta for his and his brother’s 49er Olympic campaign.

“Campaigning is not cheap, and when John and Jim organised the event and told the support they had behind it, I was just thinking of how kind it was of everyone,” Tadhg said of the $2,000 raised towards their Tokyo 2020 goals.

27east.com has more on the story HERE.

Published in Tokyo 2020

Tralee Bay in County Kerry was the perfect arena for a high–paced weekend of sailing. Led by the Tralee Bay Maritime Centre with the support of Tralee Bay Sailing Club, 49er Olympic hopefuls gave an incredible ballet of spinnakers over three days.

The primary event was the return of the 49er national championships but the added benefit was that local dinghy sailors could see Irish Olympic sailors at first hand. With the addition of John Chambers Waszp design, the event was a great conclusion of the summer season.

On the racing front, four races were completed on Friday afternoon in 10-12kts from the south west on the west side of Fenit Marina. The start line was just a few boat lengths away from the Marina bridge making it very spectators friendly. Indeed, one of the aims of the weekend was to bring the sailing as close as possible to the public as opportunities to actually see top sailors in action at home is rare enough.

With four different race winners, it was tight racing and Matt McGovern and crew Robbie Gilmore headed back ashore with a narrow lead over the rest of the field.

Matt Mcgovern Robbie Gilmore tomas chaixNorthern Ireland duo Robbie Gilmore (left), regatta organiser Thomas Chaix and Matt McGovern with the 49er National Championships trophy

Saturday saw the passage of a very active front, and despite a progressive drop of the strong winds, racing was definitely abandoned at 16.30.

Sunday gave the sailors some great sailing conditions with 8-12kts from the south west. This time the course was located to the East of the Marina with the windward touching distance from the Marina walls. The U–23 European bronze medallists Cian Byrne and Paddy Crosbie were on form with three second position and ended their challenge with a race win but Matt and Robbie’s consistency was enough to secure the title.

Overall top 3
1st Matt McGovern – Robbie Gilmore, BYC, 1-2-2-2-3-1-1-3
2nd Cian Byrne – Paddy Crosbie, RCYC, 4-4-1-4-2-2-2-1
3rd Robert Dickson – Sean Waddilove, HYC, 3-3-3-1-1-3-3-2

The weekend was not all about racing and the sailors returned the warm welcome given by locals by taking kids sailing and giving crewing experience to local sailors. John Chambers Waszp was also a great addition to the weekend. TBMC principle Brian O’Sullivan and organiser Thomas Chaix were delighted with the outcome and are definitely looking forward to welcoming the 49ers again.

Published in Tokyo 2020

There has been a set back for Northern Ireland's Ryan Seaton and his new crew Seafra Guilfoyle of Royal Cork Yacht Club at their first world championships in the 49er class.

Guilfoyle had a bike accident on the eve of the Portuguese event and attended hospital in Porto for a hand injury ruling him out of the championships. After six months of hard work training for the event – and the stated aim of Gold in Tokyo 2020 – Carrickfergus Sailing Club's Seaton has opted to sail instead with the team coach, Nikolaus Resch.

Irish Results

This new impromptu combination are lying in 22 place in the 81–boat event, well ahead of the next of five Irish boats, Sean and Tadgh Donnelly of the National Yacht Club who are in 54th place. Next is Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove in 60th with Matthew McGovern and Robert Gilmore 64th. Mark Hassett and Oisin Driscoll are 73rd and Cian Byrne and Patrick Crosbie are 75th. 

Afloat in Porto, Capsizes, gear failures, and even seasickness beat up numerous crews, but none of it fazed newly crowned European Champions Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell at all. The British Olympic skipper and his new-for-2017 crew (a former Olympic medalist in the 470 Class) couldn’t put a foot wrong today, taking all three races on the Alpha course and carrying a four-point lead into the Gold Fleet action tomorrow morning.

It was moving day for Diego Botin and Iago Lopez, the young Spanish duo notching a 2,3,5 score to overcome yesterday’s UFD and move into second place overall – their best ever current position at a Worlds. For Botin the position is good but he knows it doesn’t mean much, especially with two boats tied with them on points. “Everything will be decided tomorrow and Saturday, we’re basically starting over now,” said Botin, who nearly threw away Race 5 with a capsize at the top mark. “I dropped the tiller at the last tack at the top mark so we flipped, but we were lucky the wind was so strong and so many of the other boats had problems,” said Botin. Lopez explained that the runs were extremely tough to handle; “The waves were nasty downwind, requiring big eases of the gennaker every five seconds or so,” he said. “Also finding a flat spot for the gybe was rare, and that’s why you saw so many teams overstanding the bottom marks.”

The strong German sailors we wrote about yesterday continued to excel in the big breeze, with two veteran and two youth teams advancing to Gold Fleet at the end of the day – double the number of any other nation. While the success of Schmidt/Boehme (3rd) and Heil/Ploessel (6th) after Day 4 surprised no one, youth sailors everywhere should rejoice to see two young German teams advance to the Worlds Gold Fleet for the first time. Nils Carstensen (22) and Jan Frigge (23) pulled an ultra-consistent 8,7,7 in the ultra-chaotic conditions to take 15th place after 6 races, while Jakob Meggendorfer and Andreas Spranger squeaked through into the semi-final round in the last available position – 20th place.

The 20 and 21 year old phenoms seem to eat big breeze for breakfast – they showed poise and speed far beyond their years in Kiel when the winds came on at the European Championship, and they continued their heavy weather excellence today in Porto despite several capsizes and a major equipment issue. “Strong wind is so fun, but we didn’t expect to be so fast against some of these teams,” said Meggendorfer. And fast they were; the duo recorded some of the highest speeds on the water today, recovering well from their capsizes to advance to the next round. “Our coach says boat speed is king, so even if we have some problems, at least we have that!” said Spranger.

Published in Tokyo 2020

After a breezy edition of 2017 Kiel Week, it was Belfast's Ryan Seaton and Cork's Seafra Guilfoyle who were top of the six Irish campaigns that travelled to Kiel Week in Germany last week. The London and Rio helmsman with new Royal Cork crew Guilfoyle were 18th in a 69–boat fleet dominated by the heavy air speed of the Australians.

Seaton concluded he was pleased to 'mix it up at the front of the gold fleet in some races'. 

Also sailing in the gold fleet were Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove were next in 26th with Cian Byrne and Patrick Crosbie two places behind in 30th.

Mark Hassett and Oisin O'Driscoll were 32nd in silver fleet with Sean and Tadgh Donnelly 38th. Matt McGovern and Robbie Gilmore completed the Irish sixsome in 40th. 

Next up for the Irish crews will be training camps in Denmark, before heading back to Kiel for the 49er Europeans.

Published in Tokyo 2020

After some stand–out performances in the qualifying rounds of the Trofeo Princesa Sofía in Mallorca this week, Belfast Laser sailor Liam Glynn sailed in the first day of the ultra competitive Gold fleet yesterday. The former Topper World Champion has graduated to the Laser full rig having finished 29th in the Laser Radial Boys World Championships at the Royal St. George YC in Dun Laoghaire last year. He is currently 45th from 60 in gold with more races for the entire 134–boat Laser fleet today.

Equal levels of top consistency proved elusive across the two races for the Laser class, particularly among the top three sailors who all sailed one bogey result today. Spain’s emerging Grand Canaria based Joel Rodriguez is back at the top of the fleet.

The Royal Irish YC sailor Saskia Tidey from Dun Laoghaire who is now sailing with Team GB's Charlotte Dobson lies fifth in the 49erFX. 

A silver fleet finish for all four Irish 49ers in Palma, Mallorca this week is a reminder of the competitiveness of the Olympic sailing circuit and the standard required to secure the single Irish berth for Tokyo in 2020. Results are here

In the Finn class, Donaghdee's Oisin McClleland is 31st from 57.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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