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Annalise Murphy has been promoted to third overall at Rio Olympic Sailing Regatta following the disqualification of regatta leader Lijia Xu from race one of the Laser Radial Class yesterday. Murphy is now on 14 points, alongside Evi Van Acker (BEL) and Ashley Stoddart (AUS). The Irish girl is listed ahead of the others due to her win in the first race.

Xu's disqualification was for failing to get well clear of other boats in good time following a port and starboard with American sailor Paige Railey. Demonstrating that seconds are crucial, the jury noted that the Chinese sailor rounded the mark four seconds after the hail and then commenced her turns. Apparently she should have sailed to windward immediately she heard the hail and exonerated herself before the mark.

World Sailing continues to struggle with the results - twelve hours after racing ended they are still not complete.

Races 3 and 4 today for the Lasers and Radials will take place on the Ponte course, the most landward of all the courses. Today's forecast suggests southerly winds building from 11 knots at the 1300 (1700 Irish) start to 16 knots by close of play.

Published in Olympic

Irish sailing's medal hopeful Annalise Murphy is lying fourth overall after her first two races in Rio today.

The National Yacht Club sailor got her Olympic dreams off to a perfect start in an explosive first race. She provided the world with further evidence of her blistering medium to heavy air pace in a cracking first of ten races in the single–handed class.

She opened her account at the 2016 Olympic Games in a very impressive manner, taking the bullet in the first race. Following up with a 14th in race 2, the Rathfarnham sailor made most of the stronger than normal breeze that kicked off the Rio regatta to lie 4th overall after day one.

While the organisation appears to be having some problems with broadcasting the scoring, apologising through the blog for the shortcomings, the conditions in Rio did not fall short with a mean wind speed of 14 knots and gusts up to 18 knots favouring the Escola Naval course, just off the Olympic Marina.

Murphy clearly enjoyed the above average wind speed, and ends the day bookended by two of the pre-event favourites, Denmark's Anne-Marie Rindom in 3rd place and the Belgian Evi Van Acker in 4th. 2012 Gold medallist, Liija Xu of China, leads overall with a 3rd and a 4th, from Marit Bouwmeester of the Netherlands, another pre-regatta favourite, whose 6th and 5th places put her in 2nd overall. 

Murphy's performance will not suprise insiders, only two weeks ago the 25–year–old won in similar conditions in one of the many Rio test events. She has previously said she is one of eight that has the ability to win in Rio. There are 10 races throughout the week before the medal race takes place next Monday, so this is definitely a marathon not a sprint. 

While the Radials are not far off following the predictions, the Laser fleet saw some of the favourites having to recover from deep, particularly in Race 1, where pre-regatta favourites, Tom Burton, (AUS), Nick Thompson (GBR) and Robert Scheidt (BRA) were in the twenties for long periods. Scheidt recovered well to win race 2 as did his wife Gintare (LTU) in the radial fleet, overcoming a U flag disqualification in race 1. 

Annalise's club–mate 20-year-old Finn Lynch is 21st after his two opening races today. The Carlow man came home in 14th and 27th place.

Racing continues tomorrow for both these fleets, with race numbers 3 and 4 scheduled.

Published in Olympic
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Ireland’s six sailing Olympians have reached their selections for the 2016 Games at different times. Some have been secure with their places for many months, while others have been confirmed more recently, with the final place being filled on May 18th. Now, if all goes according to plan, for the next six days they’ll be at some remove from the petty hassles of everyday life, safe in a cocoon of mental and physical security as the clock ticks steadily on towards their appointment with destiny. The official opening of the 2016 Games is in Rio de Janeiro next Friday (August 5th). Then for the ISA squad, it’s into practice races and the start of the Sailing Olympiad on Monday August 8th. W M Nixon takes an overview.

The Olympic Games are very important for Irish sailing. Some would say disproportionately so, while a few contrarians might even argue that, as a vehicle and equipment sport as much as a physical pursuit, sailing is questionably Olympian in the first place, and certainly not mainstream.

Perhaps. But for a specialist sport like sailing, the Olympics provide a unique four year opportunity to be in the national and international limelight. Over the years, we’ve learned that an Olympic Medal – or even the prospect of one - is a matter for general interest and celebration regardless of how the sport in question is perceived by the general public at home.

Like it or not, the Olympics simplify it all. And the value of winning a medal, even the most modest one, is almost beyond quantification. But at the very least, if at the Olympics you put in an honourable performance, clearly give of your very best, do your uttermost as part of a warm human story, then your sport’s feelgood factor rises to provide new levels of interest and tangible support at official level.

Annalise Murphy2The Olympics may reduce sailing to its basics, but when a medal seems a possibility – as for Annalise Murphy in 2012 – suddenly our specialist sport comes centre stage at national level

But how can Olympic sailing project itself as something of particular human interest? It’s simple. People want a people story, and while sailors will happily discuss the minutiae of boat design, sail shape and equipment structure for hours on end, Joe and Josephine Public think a boat is just a thing, and an odd, often wet, and uncomfortable thing at that. They want a human story with which they can identify, and if they don’t get that human story - and quickly – their interest will immediately move elsewhere, for there’s any amount of ready distraction in today’s world.

Time was when the Olympics were about catering for the needs of the athletes, but now the demands of an instant global audience dictate everything. And time also was when the sailing Olympics had at least as many keelboat classes as it had dinghies, and the venue was selected at locations sometimes hundreds of miles from the hosting city in order to provide “ideal” sailing conditions.

But in this age of cities, the demands of the glamour city dominate, and if the host city happens to be picturesquely beside the sea, then that’s where your sailing will be, regardless of the effect of a steep coastline and high buildings on the winds of the race area.

As for keelboats in the sailing Olympics, forget it. Ballast keels reduce the need for athletic capability. And forget individuality and a sense of ownership in boats. Today’s Olympic sailing ideal is exemplified by the Laser, with anonymous newly-manufactured utterly standard boats, sails and masts allocated only days before the event, thereby making the athleticism and ability of the sailors the paramount factor, rather than having any technological edge in boat and equipment.

This paring-back of our beloved sport means that the inevitably ageist structure of the modern Olympic sailing team is not at all representative of the true overall picture of modern world sailing, with its themes of a Sport for Life, and Love Your Boat. With our global spread of 143 different boat classes entitled to hold a world championship, sailing is something of a mystery for the rest of the world. Yet it’s only with the artificially-imposed simplicities of Olympic sailing that we get a chance to explain what it might be about.

Or more accurately, we get a chance to see how the general run of journalists respond to sailing. For it’s only with the very big things of popular interest like the Olympics and maybe the America’s Cup, and perhaps disaster stories like the Fastnet Race of 1979, that your solitary sailing journo gets to rub shoulders with other journalists. So when the ISA staged a Press & Radio Conference this week for the media to meet and question the 2016 Olympic Sailing squad, we went along not to ask questions ourselves, but rather to hear what sort of questions these inquiring representatives of the outside world would ask about sailing.

It’s ironic, but once upon a time it was thought that yachting reports should really appear in the social and gossip pages rather than in the sports pages. Yet today, thanks to its involvement in the Olympics with that nationally-electrifying almost-Medal of 2012 and the ever-increasing emphasis on human stories, sailing is now accepted in Ireland as a proper sport.

sailing was best reported in the social and gossip pagesOnce upon a time, it was thought that sailing was best reported in the social and gossip pages...

But the reality beyond that is that all sports, sailing included, are now being reported with the emphasis on the human angle rather than on the athletic and technical issues, though of course good old-fashioned winning is still paramount. But as for how that win is achieved – well, open any sports section of a print newspaper (remember them?) and most of the photos will be of people, frequently in facial close-up and showing extreme reaction to some incident or achievement which is of itself so incidental that it is seldom illustrated.

Thus we’re getting to the stage that serious newspapers are veering away from carrying anything like old-fashioned social diaries. Today any event – whether it be a sports championship, company annual general meeting, or a major political announcement – is reported as though it belongs in the social diary, becoming just another happening in the daily progress through the world of the nation’s social life.

So although Tuesday’s press conference made token gestures of getting to grips with how our youngest Olympic sailor Finn Lynch seems to do all his main training in Croatia, and whether or not Annalise Murphy has been made ill by the fact that she has put in significant time during the past three years training in the polluted waters of Rio de Janeiro (she hasn’t), really what the press corps wanted was human stories based on past events to which their readers could relate, and happily for Irish Olympic sailing, our team could come up with the goods.

Thus next morning’s papers came up with a story in the general news pages about how Saskia Tidey continues to draw inspiration from her 81-year-old kidnap-surviving dad Don, while another paper had the sports pages telling of how Annalise Murphy came within a whisker of winning the Bronze in 2012, but then came to terms with it, put it behind her, and went into the dedicated count-down towards Rio 2016.

Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey4Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey, 49erFX Olympic crewAs for the 49er guys from the north, Ryan Seaton & Matt McGovern, they provided oodles of copy about just how they’ve managed to stay together for so long to such an extent that you could see a spectral “The Odd Couple” sign hovering over them during their part of the show.

And then to give everyone a warm community feeling, we’d the real page-turner of how Finn Lynch of Bennekerry in County Carlow comes to be the youngest sailor in Ireland’s Olympic squad. As the details of that were teased out, we may have learned more about the GAA in Bennekerry and the little sailing club in Blessington than we did about the Laser in Rio. But if the purpose of Tuesday’s gathering was to give Irish Olympic sailing a friendly and responsive human face, then Finn Lynch and his team mates have won gold in the social stakes already.

Carlow Profoundly rural – Finn Lynch’s home county of Carlow
Finn LynchThe Young Man and The Sea – Finn Lynch takes the Olympic Laser place in Mexico on May 18th

Their boats? At the conference, boats were very quickly shunted aside in the pursuit of human stories. Boats are trouble enough to comprehend, sailing boats are double trouble. The problem with sailing boats is sails. Mysterious sails harnessing the invisible wind can make the straightforward fact of Olympic participation into something very weird.

With rowing, by contrast, you may have boats, yet it’s so obviously sheer athletic prowess which brings rowing success. But sailing? For sure, athletic ability, training and coaching are more important than ever. But sails and the wind remain firmly in the region of the sacred mysteries. Thus far from trying to group sailing together with rowing and swimming as water-based sports, it’s arguable that the only Olympic area which shares a unique complexity with sailing is equestrianism, for a sailing boat can seem as much of a living thing as a horse.

So how are our sailors of the sea horses going to do in Rio? As Annalise Murphy has more experience of the venue than anyone else, her opinions were of special interest. She crisply dismissed any grumblings about the flukiness of the sailing waters by saying that the unpredictability is so general in sailing in Rio’s winter (or what passes for winter when you’re near enough to the equator) that in the end it’s the same for everyone.

Certainly she’s giving it her best shot, and she has benefitted – as have all the Irish sailing squad - from the involvement (intensive in her case) of uber-coach Gary Keegan of the Institute of Sport. He’s leaving the Institute for a new venture after the Olympics, but for now, he has helped guide Murphy to peak form, thanks to a closely-controlled weight reduction programme as part of a carefully-monitored training plan which, at Tuesday’s conference, had the Irish sailor looking extremely fit and well, with her mental outlook in a very good place.

Annalise Murphy radialAnnalise Murphy in thoughtful mood on Tuesday. Photo: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Inevitably the new-look Murphy has to be the most likely medal prospect, for despite her significant height, she’s certainly rated as a contender by her peers. Of the rest of the team, the two 49er guys have shown they can do it, they won the gold in Palma in April but have been erratic since, yet with the selected nature of the Olympic fleets, they could well be on the money.

Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern8Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern keeping busy
Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey on the women’s skiff made it into the Olympic qualification by the skin of their teeth, but if a sporting outlook and gallant determination are keys to success, then their showing will have an added interest.

While the rest of the team have been on the scene for a while, Finn Lynch is the new kid on the block. But despite only turning twenty back in April and then not getting his Olympic qualification until May, he has been maturing before our very eyes ever since he started this particular journey a year ago.

The Finn Lynch story just builds and builds, for not only is he the youngest member of the Irish sailing team by far, but he is competing in the most numerous class as the Lasers will be mustering 46 boats at Rio. And he will find himself racing in the distinguished company of one of the most popular sailors in the world, Brazil’s legendary Robert Scheidt, who at 43 will be the oldest competitor in the Sailing Olympics 2016.

There are great stories already there. And there could be some mighty stories in the making. As ISA Performance Director James O’Callaghan put it, it may be very much an outside shot, but we might even be due a medal. Either way, our dedicated Olympic squad – sailors and coaches alike – have brought sailing centre stage in the Irish consciousness for the next three weeks. But for now, they’re very deservedly in seclusion even if, in the outside world, the rumour mills will inevitably grind on.

James OCallaghan Sailing9ISA Performance Director James O’Callaghan in Rio de Janeiro

Published in W M Nixon

China's Lijia Xu, The Netherlands' Marit Bouwmeester and Belgium's Evi Van Acker, medallists from London 2012, will make their Olympic return in the One Person Dinghy (Laser Radial) at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. For Ireland's fourth placed Annalise Murphy it is a chance to settle old scores.

The four were locked in a thrilling winner take all Medal Race battle at the London 2012 Olympic Games with Annalise missing out on the podium in Weymouth and Portland, Great Britain.

Four years on and Xu returns to defend her crown, Bouwmeester and Van Acker will be aiming to go one and two spots up whereas Murphy will be wanting to vanquish the demons from London 2012.

The Chinese racer initially stepped away from the sport after London 2012 but the lure was too strong as she made a return to Olympic sailing at the end of 2015.

"Of course the goal is to get another medal,” explained Xu, "but realistically it's a very short time, only one year, to prepare.

"I decided to retire because of so many injuries. I suffered quite a lot and I wanted to have a healthy body to live the rest of my life with, rather than having pain here and there. Last August I suddenly felt that the Olympics was still something that fired me up. After two years break I actually felt my body was recovering much better than before so I thought why not give it another try.”

Xu has secured some steady results since making her return with a silver medal at the 2016 Sailing World Cup Weymouth and Portland regatta the highlight. Whatever her result at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is, the picture is much broader for Xu, "The Olympics is just part of the goal and I want to lead an active life forever and leave a legacy for Chinese sailing. That's the ultimate goal I'm seeking and the Olympics is just a part of it.

"I think I am one of the few who is doing something I truly love and enjoy doing. Of course, in terms of Olympic sailing and the Olympic circuit it takes a lot of effort and you need to be prepared to make some sacrifices like being away from home, travelling a lot and spending thousands of hours in the gym and on the water.

"So long as you find something that interests you it will motivate you to keep going, no matter what lies ahead. I feel very lucky to find sailing as not just my hobby but as my career.”

As for the form guide, Bouwmeester and Van Acker have dominated the Laser Radial over the Olympic quadrennial. The Dutch and Belgian racers have featured regularly on World Championship, European Championship, Sailing World Cup and Olympic Test Event podiums. They will both be major contenders in Rio.

Building up to the 2016 Games, the World Championship titles have been shared four ways. Tina Mihelic of Croatia took the title in 2013, Bouwmeester snapped it up in 2014 followed by Anne Marie Rindom (DEN) in 2015 and Alison Young (GBR) in 2016. Mihelic, Rindom and Young have the Olympic experience under their belts as well so know what it takes to perform.

Away from the World Championships, Lithuania's Gintare Scheidt, Beijing 2008 silver medallist and wife of Brazilian sailing legend Robert, claimed gold at the 2015 Olympic Test Event. Scheidt will be making her third Olympic appearance and will also have the honour of carrying her nations flag at the Opening Ceremony on 5 August.

Further leading lights of the Laser Radial, who will have an eye on the podium, are Tatiana Drozdovskaya (BLR), Veronika Fenclova (CZE), Tuula Tenkanen (FIN), Ireland's Murphy, Josefin Olsson (SWE) and Paige Railey (USA).

Much like the Men's One Person Dinghy (Laser), the Laser Radial will feature some of the tightest, tactical racing at Rio 2016 and any sailor on any given day could come up with a performance of a lifetime to seal the deal.

Racing will commence at 13:10 local time on Monday 8 August on the Escola Naval racing area.

 

Published in Olympic

The chances of winning an Olympic sailing medal next month, have been described by Team manager James O'Callaghan as an 'outside shot'. Can Ireland's four boat Irish Olympic Sailing Team deliver on the 36–year medal drought? Afloat.ie gives its assessment boat by boat

Belfast Lough's Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovernBelfast Lough's Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern start racing in Rio on August 12

49er – Ryan Seaton & Matt McGovern 

Ryan Seaton and Matthew McGovern have been steadily working their way up the world rankings this year, from 22ncd at the start of the year to 11th in the latest version. These London 2012 veterans (14th) have put in some stellar performances in recent months, most notably winning the Princesa Sofia Regatta in Palma in April.
Seaton and McGovern qualified Ireland at the first possible opportunity at the combined World Championships in Santander in 2014, finishing 8th. But their performance since has been erratic and the win in Palma was bookended by a 37th in Miami and a 28th at the 2016 Europeans. Most recently, at the international sailing week in Rio, the Belfast pair finished down the fleet, but may have been using this regatta for testing or training purposes.
There is no doubt, that on their day, Seaton and McGovern can compete with the world's best.

Men’s Skiff (49er) 20 competitors Race duration: 3 x 30 minutes daily (medal race 1 x 20 minutes) Competition days: Fri 12th/Sat 13th/Sun 14th (Reserve)/Mon 15th/Tue 16th/Wed 17th (Reserve)/Thu 18th - medal race/Fri 19th (Reserve)

Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey Dublin Bay's Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey start racing in Rio on August 12

49erFx – Andrea Brewster & Saskia Tidey 

Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey were the last of the Irish team to qualify, enduring heartbreak at the 2015 worlds where they were denied qualification by a protest in the final race report here. However, their performance at the Worlds was good enough to secure the next available place a few months later when no team from Africa emerged. Story here.
Brewster, a product of the British Olympic Laser radial squad, and Tidey, who transitioned from the Radial to the 49er following a season racing 18ft Skiffs in Sydney, have, until this year, hovered in the early 20s in world ranking and results at major events. 2016 has been something of a breakthrough for the Royal Irish duo, finishing in the teens more consistently, including a 12th at the European championships in Barcelona in April. A final day scoreline of 2,1,3 shows the potential that resides in this team.

Women’s Skiff (49erFX) 20 competitors Race duration: 3 x 30 minutes daily (medal race 1 x 20 minutes) Competition days: Fri 12th/Sat 13th/Sun 14th (Reserve)/Mon 15th/Tue 16th/Wed 17th (Reserve)/Thu 18th - medal race/Fri 19th (Reserve)

finn lynch6Dublin Bay's Finn Lynch starts racing in Rio on August 8

Laser – Finn Lynch  

Finn Lynch's fairytale journey to Rio is recounted in Sailing on Saturdays by Winkie Nixon. However he had to overcome the 2012 Olympian James Espey, who's 38th place at the 2014 world Championship in Santander qualified the country. ISA imposed a three regatta trials system, starting with the Copa de Brasil regatta in Rio in December 2015, where Espey shaded Lynch by one place. At the next event in Palma in March and April, neither sailor made gold fleet, but Espey increased his advantage with a 53rd to Lynch's 58th. Going into the final trial, the 2016 Laser Worlds in Mexico in May, Lynch had it all to do, but a solid series of consistent results saw him qualify for the Gold Fleet, while Espey never really got off the ground until it was too late. 

While Lynch, who's best results have been at under age events, is certainly not a favourite for podium in Rio, his trajectory suggests that a medal in Tokyo in 2020 is well within his capability.

Men’s One-person dinghy (Laser) 46 competitors Race duration: 2 x 50 minutes daily (medal race 1 x 25 minutes) Competition days: Mon 8th/Tue 9th/Wed 10th/Thu 11th (Reserve day)/Fri 12th/Sat 13th/Sun 14th (Reserve)/Mon 15th - medal race/Tue 16th (Reserve)

annalise murphy SOFDublin Bay's Annalise Murphy starts racing in Rio on August 8

Laser Radial – Annalise Murphy 

Currently perhaps Ireland's most famous sailor, Annalise Murphy dismissed the challenge of Aoife Hopkins in the three event trial. However, recent form contradicts her suggestion that she is one of eight in the fleet with the potential to win a medal in Rio. Since January, her results at major events have been 48th (Miami World Cup), 30th (Laser Europeans), 39th (Laser Worlds) and 34th (Weymouth World Cup). The historical profile of light and fickle winds at the Olympic venue suggests that Annalise, a heavy weather specialist, will struggle to make the medal race. The 2013 European champion has, however, surprised on many occasions before and as recently as this month scored an important win on Olympic waters in her last regatta before the Games at the Rio de Janeiro International Sailing Week. Results of that win are here.

Women’s One-person dinghy (Laser Radial) 37 competitors Race duration: 2 x 50 minutes daily (medal race 1 x 25 minutes) Competition days: Mon 8th/Tue 9th/Wed 10th/Thu 11th (Reserve day)/Fri 12th/Sat 13th/Sun 14th (Reserve)/Mon 15th - medal race/Tue 16th (Reserve)

Afloat.ie has charted the progress of the 2016 Olympic sailing team over the last four years in a dedicated Irish Olympic Sailing section

Published in Olympic

The 32–month long Olympic sailing qualification process, incorporating events ranging from Takapuna to Toronto, has concluded with 380 athletes sailing 274 boats that will represent 66 nations in Rio de Janeiro this August.

One nation per event
This process, devised by World Sailing in consultation with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), prioritises performance with later places allocated in accordance with the IOC's principle of universality. With only one nation permitted per event, it can be argued that the process does not allow the Olympics to showcase all the world's best sailors, but the alternative is to have the fleet filled with the top sailors from a smaller number of countries, opening the possibility of a clean sweep of medals by one nation. The Finn, for example, has been a happy hunting ground for British sailors three of whom have won seven out of the last ten Finn Gold Cups. It is not inconceivable that, were multiple entries from a single nation allowed, then GBR could own the podium in this class at least.

Ireland qualifies three at first opportunity
The first qualifying opportunity was at the combined World Championships in Santander in September 2014 where half of the places available for Rio were secured. Ireland's sailors were successful in achieving qualification in the One-person Dinghy Men and Women and the Skiff Men events in Santander.

Andrea Brewster Saskia tidey 49erfx Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey confirmed for Rio next month Photo: B Gretz

Ireland gets African slot
Remaining performance places were allocated to the 2015 Class World Championships and a series of Continental Qualification Events sanctioned by World Sailing, to finish by 1 June 2016 at the latest. Brazil, as host country, get an automatic entry in each event, while 4 places, 2 each in the Laser and Laser Radial classes are reserved for allocation by IOC to smaller nations. The Irish 49erFx qualified through the 2015 Worlds when the place reserved for Africa was not used, thus increasing the original number of places available from the Worlds.

Quality or Quantity? - Some countries reject their places
Things got even more complicated this year as seven countries (Australia, Austria, Canada, Croatia, Germany, New Zealand and Sweden) have decided not to send sailors in qualified classes, thus opening the door for countries lower down the pecking order. In at least three of these countries appeals against these decisions were dismissed by higher authorities. But social media continues the debate and it is sure to be a topic for some time to come.

Lynch overturns Espey, Murphy stays on course
Ireland, in common with many countries, put in place an additional selection system to determine the individuals that would be chosen for Rio. Finn Lynch defeated James Espey in the Laser class to secure selection, while Annalise Murphy held off the challenge of Aoife Hopkins in the Laser Radial. There were no challengers to the Skiff teams of Seaton/McGovern and Brewster/Tidey so these pairs travel to Rio.

Events & Equipment
While sailors traditionally refer to the class of boats they sail, IOC/World Sailing first define events, then equipment as per the following table:

Event Equipment     Total Places 2014 WC 2015WC Continental Places
  Men Women Mixed Fleet M/W      
Windsurfer RS:X RS:X   36/26 18/13 6/6 11/6
One-person dinghy Laser Laser Radial   46/37 23/19 9/4 11/11
Heavyweight one-person dinghy Finn     23 12 4 6
Two-person Dinghy 470 470   26/20 13/10 6/3 6/6
Skiff 49er 49erFX   20/20 10/10 3/3 6/6
Multihull     Nacra 17 20 10 3 6

 

Next: In the next article we take a look at the format of the Olympic Regatta.

Published in Olympic

After a weekend of poor Irish performances at the British round of the Sailing World Cup, the Irish Sailing Association has acknowledged results from Weymouth were 'far from ideal'. 

The Sailing World Cup on the Dorset coast, billed as the 'final opportunity for sailors to lay down a marker before the Rio 2016 Olympic Games', was attended by 380 Olympic sailors from 44 nations.

Men’s skiff sailors Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern from Belfast reached the medal race final which they led for its entirety before sailing the wrong course to the finish line. 

London 2012 veteran Annalise Murphy, Ireland’s most successful sailing athlete in the last 30 years, had one of her most disappointing results of the season when she placed 34th in the 39–strong Laser Radial fleet.  Murphy has been concentrating on preparations for her second appearance at the games but the Rio venue offers much lighter winds to four years ago when she narrowly missed a podium result.

Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey in the women’s skiff placed last in the 49erFX event.

“We have two months to focus on the things we can improve before starting the Olympic regatta in Rio', Team Manager James O'Callaghan said yesterday.

Men’s single-hander Finn Lynch, the youngest ever Irish helm to be selected for Team Ireland did not take part in the regatta due to training-camp commitments in Croatia.

The 49er pair have one further regatta at Kiel Week in Germany later this month before final preparations begin for their second Olympic appearance at Rio 2016 in August.

The first race in the Rio 2016 regatta begins on Monday 8th August when Murphy and Lynch begin their respective events.

A facebook campaign update from the 49er crew:

Published in Olympic

'Results not what we had planned for but valuable time on the water nevertheless' is the ISA conclusion from a mixed bag of results posted by the Olympic Sailing Team in Weymouth this weekend. On the eve of the Rio Olympics, there is at least some consolation that Northern Ireland 49er pair Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern are through to today's medal race final. 

By virtue of winning the last race of four sailed yesterday, the Belfast Lough duo qualified for today's medal race. (Watch race live here at 13.50)

In the Laser Radial, the National Yacht Club's Annalise Murphy finished 34th, one behind Howth's Aoife Hopkins in the 39–boat class. Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey were 15 from 15 in the 49erfx womens skiff.

Although this 2016 edition of the Weymouth World Cup was a bit of a light air wash–out, expect competition to be a whole lot tougher in similar conditions in Rio in just 54 days time.

Published in Olympic

A better day yesterday for Ireland’s Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern brought the 49er skiff duo into the top ten when they posted two sixth places for the day, boosting the Northern Ireland pair to ninth overall.

Unfortunately, Ireland’s sailors in the both 49erFX and Laser Radial classes had more disappointing results and they are in the back of their respective classes.

Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey stay 14 from 15. In the Laser Radial, Annalise Murphy lies 37 from 39. Howth Yacht Club's Aoife Hopkins moved up to 29th yesterday.

'Tight' and 'light' were the main descriptors used by sailors at Sailing World Cup Weymouth and Portland as challenging conditions continued across the London 2012 Olympic waters.

The light breeze ensured Friday's racing was challenging and tense across the fleets that were able to race in the morning. All fleets came ashore at 13:20 with only the Men's and Women's 470, 49er, Finn and Nacra 17 completing races in the morning session.

At 16:00, the 49erFX, Men's and Women's RS:X, Laser and Laser Radial fleets went out onto the water and all but the 49erFX got some racing in.

It's fair to say the day was a tough one for all of the 330 sailors from 43 nations racing across the ten Olympic fleets. Saturday's schedule sees 33 races on the agenda as the Race Committee look to catch up on lost races.

49er and 49erFX

Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign (GBR) thrived in the light breeze, snapping up a first and a second from two 49er races. They lead on 17 points and are five clear of Poland's Lukasz Przybytek and Pawel Kolodzinski.

The pair were recently selected to sail for Team GB at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after a gruelling selection battle. Their ticket to Rio is booked and they're now firmly focused on the competition, "Last year we had some difficult times and we made some changes, but now we are on an upward curve,” explained Fletcher. "We are really finding our feet now in Rio style conditions, which are a bit patchy. They seem to be our favourite conditions and we seem to thrive in them.”

Every athlete heading to the Olympic Games is nearing their peak physical and mental fitness. Weymouth and Portland gives the sailors one last chance to test themselves before the summer showcase.

French Rio representatives Julien d'Ortoli and Noe Delpech have found their feet in Weymouth and Portland and after the Brits took the first race win, they claimed the second.

They sit in fourth overall and are enjoying racing in a competitive 30-boat fleet. "Everybody is sailing well,” explained d'Ortoli, "and they are definitely ready for the Olympics so the competition is tough.

"Our preparation isn't finished and we are here to complete that preparation. We need to work on technique, speed and tactics. We are happy that there are good teams here to test against.”

The French team are ahead of many Rio medal hopefuls such as Jonas Warrer and Christian Peter Lubeck (DEN), Nico Delle-Karth and Nikolaus Resch (AUT) and Ryan Seaton and Matthew McGovern (IRL) giving them a huge confidence boost. "It's the last regatta before Rio so just being in front of people is good for the spirit if nothing else,” concluded d'Ortoli.

The 49erFX endeavoured to get a race in but it was just not to be. Sweden's Lisa Ericson and Hanna Klinga will take their lead into the fourth day of racing.

Men's and Women's 470

Overnight leaders Sofian Bouvet and Jeremion Mion of France fell victim to the day's challenging conditions and were black flagged in the single Men's 470 race.

They now count their 21st from the day prior and drop down to tenth overall. They weren't the only top team who fell victim to a black flag. Jordi Xammar and Joan Herp (ESP), Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) and Yannick Brauchli and Romuald Hausser (SUI) were all hit and drop down.

Luke Patience and Chris Grube (GBR) were the winners of the day, taking the single race victory in a convincing manner. They grabbed an early advantage and never looked back, sealing the win by 50 seconds over Croatia's Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic.

As a result, the Brits are on top on nine points followed by the Croatians on ten. Carl-Fredrik Fock and Marcus Dackhammar follow on 14.

In the Women's 470, the overnight tie between the top three has been split but the margin between first and third sits at just two points.

A third in the single race by Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) gives them the advantage. They are followed by compatriots Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark and Switzerland's Linda Fahrni and Maja Siegenthaler.

Nacra 17

Weymouth and Portland is the final event for the German Nacra 17 sailors to clinch the Rio 2016 berth. Beat your national rivals and finish in the top ten, you're in. Claim the overall title, consider yourself a Rio 2016 contender.

Paul Kohlhoff and Carolina Werner (GER) are on track to do exactly both after a solid third in the single Nacra 17 race promoted them to first overall.

Kohlhoff and Werner have been involved in a long-running selection battle with their compatriots Jan Hauke Erichsen and Lea Spitzmann as well as Stefan Rumpf and Anna Bettina Goos.

Weymouth and Portland is the decider and pressure can often be an assumption but it is certainly not the case for Werner as she explained, "The selection process has been going for half a year so we are used to it now.

"We feel pretty good at the moment. We had one good race and we came third in the race today. It's been light conditions out there and the boat is going good in the light wind.”

The Germans are one point ahead of overnight leaders Luke Ramsay and Nikola Girke (CAN) and two ahead of Ben Saxton and Nikola Groves (GBR).

Laser and Laser Radial

Things just keep getting better and better for Hungarian youngster Maria Erdi. After winning gold at the 2015 Youth Sailing World Championships, Erdi qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the tender age of 18 earlier this year at the final qualification event.

The Laser Radial fleet in Weymouth and Portland features all the major contenders for Rio 2016 and they are looking to get one up on their rivals ahead of the summer showcase. Sailing without pressure or expectation around the world class competition, Erdi picked up the only race victory of the day, beating London 2012 silver medallist and two-time World Champion Marit Bouwmeester.

"At the first mark we were all very close. Marit, Evi [van Acker of Belgium], Tatiana [Drozdovskaya of Belarus]. Lots of good people around me and I just tried to concentrate on my own downwind, and it worker because I gained a lot,” explained Erdi. "I was leading quite a bit after the first downwind and on the upwind I was just trying to defend my position. There was a part when the wind stopped and I got really nervous. But luckily I stayed in front and won.

"I'm very happy. I won a race two years ago in Palma and it's been a long wait for another.”

Still young, new to the senior Laser Radial fleet, does Erdi feel any pressure with a big race win and third overall? "No, not at all,” she expressed. "I'm just happy to have a good race at the moment and learn from the bad ones.”

Bouwmeester's second pushes her up to first overall on six points, Lijia Xu (CHN) follows on 13 with Erdi on 15.

The Laser fleet hit the shore at 19:00 local time and Australia's Tom Burton held firm with a second to retain his overall lead. Jesper Stalheim (SWE) and Nick Thompson (GBR) followed in third and fourth and occupy the final podium positions.

Finn

Sweden's London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Max Salminen (SWE) found his groove in the light breeze, taking the single race victory to move into third overall. Salminen grabbed the lead after the second mark rounding and pulled ahead of his competitors to claim a comfortable 18 second victory over Tapio Nirkko (FIN).

Giles Scott's training partner in the build-up to the Rio 2016 is Ben Cornish and he's proving to be a worthy one, snatching the lead off of Scott. Cornish's third to Scott's fifth gives him a two-point lead.

Men's and Women's RS:X

China's Peina Chen continued her dominance in the Women's RS:X with two further race wins. Chen, the 2015 Women's RS:X World Champion, is five points clear of Isobel Hamilton (GBR) who finished second in both of the day's races.

In the Men's RS:X, Toni Wilhem (GER) moved up to first overall following a pair of race victories. The German is now seven points clear of Chunzhuang Liu (CHN) and a further two ahead of Aichen Wang (CHN).

Racing continues today for the fleet series across all classes. The top ten boats in each discipline will compete for the medal race final tomorrow.

 

Published in Olympic

Ireland's Olympic Sailing Team will be hoping that the prospect of slightly more wind for the second day of racing tomorrow might boost some poor opening results scored today at the Sailing world Cup in Weymouth. There is still plenty of racing to try to catch up over the next three days and tomorrow Friday will be used to continue the catch up on Wednesday's missed races. Ireland's best result was in the mens 49er skiff where Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern are mid fleet.

All of the ten Olympic fleets took to the water to tackle a bumper day of racing. Wednesday's little to no breeze and bright sunshine was replaced with strong easterly winds and fog on Thursday morning. As the day progressed, the breeze dipped and the fog disappeared as a full schedule of 34 races spread across all ten Olympic fleets concluded.

For all but the Men's RS:X, it was the start of the competition after Wednesday's frustration and the serious Rio 2016 Olympic contenders took to the front of the packs.

For the Irish Olympic team bound for Rio, Annalise Murphy of the National YC is well capable of improving on her 37 from 39. She is a place behind Rio trialist Aoife Hopkins of Howth in 36th. After three Radial races, the top three nationalities replicate the positions of the flags at London 2012, China, the Netherlands, then Belgium. The familiar faces of Lijia Xu (CHN) and Marit Bouwmeester (NED) remain but Emma Plasschaert is leading the charge for Belgium with the London 2012 bronze medallist, Evi Van Acker, 15th after a black flag in the opening race. Each sailor took a race win and Xu leads on three points. Bouwmeester follows on four and Plasschaert on seven.

Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern are 16 from 30 but they will rue the black flag disqualification in race 2. The 49er fleet touched back ashore at 18:20 after four light and tricky races. New Zealand's Logan Dunning Beck and Jack Simpson continue to fly the flag for the nations 49er sailing, leading the 30-boat fleet on 12 points. Spain's Diego Botin and Iago Lopez and Great Britain's Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign follow behind the Kiwis. 

In the womens 49erfx, Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey of the Royal Irish YC are 14 from 15. Sailing World Cup Hyères winners Lisa Ericson and Hanna Klinga didn't immediately pick up from where they left off just a few short weeks ago as they were OCS in the opening race. However, they quickly found the form that helped them win in Hyères, following up with a third and double bullets to lead the fleet.

"It's the beginning of the regatta so anything could have happened today,” explained Klinga. "Apart from the OCS, we are happy but we will take less chances now because we can't afford to get another bad result, but we will think exactly the same as normal, just race and look forward.”

The Swedes have moved into serious contenders for an Olympic medal and have got their spot at Rio all sewn up. They were involved in a long running battle for national qualification, facing up against Julia Gross and Cecilia Jonsson, one in which Ericson and Klinga triumphed. However Gross and Jonsson are still keeping their rivals on their toes and sit one point behind them on the leader board.

Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth (GBR) follow, two points off the leaders with Norwegian twin sisters Ragna and Maia Agerup occupying fourth overall.

The Agerup sisters will be heading to Rio 2016 and are using Weymouth and Portland to sharpen up, "We wanted to have some racing before the Olympics so that's why we decided to come here. We only got selected a few days ago by the Olympic Committee so it's been pretty full on. We have been training in Rio the past couple of weeks and we will go out again soon.

"We take this regatta as good training and we will push it and see how far we can go

Full results are here

Published in Olympic
Page 10 of 34

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