Displaying items by tag: olympic sailing
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.
On Thursday evening, sailing came centre stage in Irish life when our new Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy was officially welcomed back to her home port of Dun Laoghaire. She arrived by sea on a summer’s evening with flags flying in abundance for a public welcome by leading local and national politicians at the landing at the East Pier, followed by a Civic Reception by the County Council in the nearby People’s Park.
Then came the ultimate celebration - the home-coming party to outshine all parties - by Ireland’s sailing community. It was at her sailing home, the National Yacht Club, where she has been a member since she was six years old. There were more than 2,000 well-wishers from all over Ireland in the crowd packed into the clubhouse and onto its balcony and forecourt. Somewhere in the midst of them was Afloat.ie’s W M Nixon, savouring the flavour of an extraordinary gathering.
It’s not the first time that Dublin Bay Sailing Club has re-arranged its regular sailing programme in order to facilitate the return to Ireland of a sailing superstar. But having missed out on the previous one back on Saturday June 20th 1925, when Conor O’Brien returned to what he sensibly called Dunleary with his 42ft Saoirse after his pioneering two year voyage round the world south of the Great Capes, we weren’t going to miss Thursday August 25th 2016 at the National YC to welcome back Annalise Murphy with her Silver Medal.
Particularly not after Dublin Bay SC Commodore Chris Moore had announced some days previously that he was going to move the formerly completely sacrosanct Thursday evening cruiser-racing weekly fixture to Wednesday, in order to clear the decks for the Annalise welcome. That was one very clearcut statement.
But before we get carried away by the great doings of last Thursday night, let us admit that back in 1925 they could also lay on the razzmatazz big-time when they’d a mind to do so. O’Brien’s circumnavigation with the Saoirse was the first notable voyage by a vessel flying the tricolour ensign of the new Irish Free State. It was a mighty venture which pioneered the traversing of the great Southern Ocean in such spectacular style with so much popular interest that when he returned, it was to find that Dublin Bay SC had cancelled their regular Saturday race in his honour.
This was to enable their fleet - many colourfully dressed overall in their best signal flags – to welcome Saoirse into port. But when he finally got ashore, there was a ceremonial procession all the way into Dublin watched by notable crowds, followed by a Gala Dinner at the United Arts Club of which he, as an architect and brother of the artist Dermod O’Brien, had been a founder member.
These days, the fact that Dun Laoghaire is so vigorously the capital of Irish sailing, and so much of an urban centre in its own right, makes the notion of moving on into Dublin for the focus of any home-coming celebration of a seaborn achiever seem absurd. Despite the sometimes fractious interfaces which arise between the various bodies involved with the harbour, the fact is that Dun Laoghaire is gradually developing the facilities of a major leisure port. Thus it has absolutely everything you need within the waterfront/harbour area for a series of events like Thursday’s complex programme, which for total devotees started around 5.30pm and was still going strong at midnight.
The only extra that had been required beforehand was co-operation from the weather, and even that was forthcoming despite this poor summer. We’d a clear gentle evening when in theory you could move comfortably between indoors and out. But the reality was the crowd was on such a scale (I’d reckon there were many more than 2,000) that once you found a comfortable berth, you stayed put, and just enjoyed it all as proceedings unfolded.
Admittedly when you’re celebrating success at this level after a 36 year drought since the previous Irish Olympic sailing medal, any critical faculties will be decidedly muted, but everyone in my area agreed the whole programme went very well indeed. The waterborne parade in the harbour – choreographed by Dun Laoghaire lifeboat cox’n and RIYC Marine Manager Mark McGibney – went with such style you assumed it had been rehearsed, but apparently it hadn’t. Equally there was no chance of any rehearsal for the succession of shoreside events but they all held together, and the final intensive presentation in the National YC forecourt as night drew on was pure magic, rounded out by a fireworks display.
The word is that somewhere in the background pulling the strings was Mr Fixit, Irish sailing’s invisible man Brian Craig, who is our greatest practitioner of the secret art of doing good work by stealth. Glimpsed in the crowd a couple of times, he didn’t look like someone who had the organisational problems of a major event on his shoulders. But then, he always looks like that.
Another rising star is Annalise’s brother Finn Murphy, who is so up to speed with the latest technology that he’s inventing it as he goes along. Naturally, as the public face of the National Yacht Club, Commodore Larry Power expressed concern that everything would be okay in the very hectic few days of buildup. But Finn simply told him not to worry, it would be all right on the night, and so it was.
Irish sailing did itself proud for an attendance which included 1956 Olympic Gold Medallist Ronnie Delany, Silver Medallist Sonia O’Sullivan, and our own David Wilkins who won the Silver in the Flying Dutchman in 1980. But perhaps the most memorable thing about the evening was the universality of the event. Club sailors from all over felt the urge to join with the National Yacht Club in marking this historic high in its busy life, and the mutual goodwill was tangible in the gathering dusk among the friendly crowd.
Of course, nobody denies that getting within shouting distance of a first Silver Medal is bound to involved stressful episodes, but those were receding into the forgotten past by the time Annalise and her support team got themselves on stage. She’d last made an official appearance at that pre-Olympics press conference in Dublin on Tuesday July 26th, when (see recent blog) it was quite clear that the new-look Annalise Murphy was very different from the frustrated sailor whose campaign had lost its way at the Worlds on May 20th.
But here we now were, only three months after that low point in late May, and only thirty days since that re-born vision on July 26th. Here we were, gazing in some wonder at a real live Silver Medallist, one who had controlled the final Medals Race with such competent and confident style that she moved from merely hanging onto to her Bronze Medal into a clearcut Silver Medal win.
It was something which deserved celebration for everyone involved, and it was a very inclusive gathering. For an Irish sailing crowd, it seemed the most natural thing in the world that the returning Murphy family and support team should have come home from Rio bringing with them the New Zealand sailor Sarah Winther. She’d failed by one place at the Worlds to secure the New Zealand qualifying position for the Olympics, such that New Zealand didn’t send a representative in the Women’s Laser Radials at all. So the frustrated Winther then reckoned her talents might be of some use to her friend Annalise Murphy, and as she’s a natural coach and perfect training partner, she brought to Annalise and her coach Rory Fitzpatrick a new dimension for the final countdown, which made a significant difference.
So while Annalise was made an Honorary Life Member of the NYC at Thursday’s gathering, Sara Winther – who’s still a bit surprised to find herself having an unexpected holiday in Ireland in the first place – became an Honorary Foreign Member, which will have heraldry experts scratching their heads, but we all know what it means.
Every speech was right on target, with charming turns from Annalise and her family, a particularly good one from Rory Fitzpatrick, and a well-judged and encouraging one from Colm Barrington about where the Irish Olympic sailing effort can hope to go from here.
We’ll soon have the time and space to analyse them in detail, and having seen how much the extra effort Annalise Murphy put into getting to know the tricky sailing waters of Rio beforehand, and how much it contributed to her success, we’ve already been looking at the little Japanese island resort of Enoshima south of Tokyo where the 2020 Olympics will be held.
But as the Annalise Murphy success has in its way contributed a textbook of how to put together and Olympic campaign and then bring it back on course when things go astray, we can be quite sure that all over the world, other people will be studying just how Ireland won this particular silver.
And as for repeating strategies which were successful in Rio, we have to remember that Japan is very different from Brazil. In Rio the Olympic authorities may not have objected to the fact that Annalise and her team preferred to set up their own base away from the barely-finished Olympic village, in an apartment convenient to the sailing area, and with facilities where they could control their food. But in the more disciplined world of Japan, it mightn’t be allowed.
However, that’s another day’s work. Let us conclude on another note entirely. In the many vox pop interviews on the media, people have been enthusing about what a marvellous role model and inspiration Annalise Murphy has become for Ireland’s young sailors. But surely that’s only partially true? Here at Sailing on Saturdays HQ, we reckon Annalise Murphy has become a marvellous role model and inspiration for all Ireland’s sailors.
Annalise's homecoming photo gallery by Joe Fallon
While Irish Sailing is rightfully basking in the reflected glory of last night's homecoming celebrations for Annalise Murphy and its Olympic Sailing Team there will also be one eye to the future, considering how to turn the positive Rio results into tangible benefits for the development of sailing in Ireland, not just in High Performance, but across every aspect of the sport.
There is no doubt that, in the modern sports world, medals mean money. An analysis of Sports funding in many developed countries shows that successful sports benefit from good results at World Championships and major Games.
In Atlanta in 1996, Britain finished 26th in the medal table (Ireland was 16th – entirely due to Michelle Smith) with a total of 15 medals from six sports. The improvement over the five intervening Olympiads to the 67 medals from 22 sports in Rio, is due to a variety of things, but perhaps most of all to the increased investment in sport aided by the introduction of the National Lottery. Sports with a plan, that medalled in Atlanta, benefitted the most, while the ones that lagged behind were given a boost by the increased investment occasioned by being the host nation for the 2012 games.
Sailing in the UK received £25.5m in the Rio Olympic cycle, the fourth highest funded sport after Athletics, Swimming and Cycling. Sailing in Ireland received €2.545m in High Performance funding, third place after Boxing and Athletics (figures exclude paralympic sports). It might also be argued that Ireland did better in terms of the cost per medal – the Irish Sailing silver medal cost €2.545m, while Britain's 3 sailing medals cost £8.5m each.
David O'Brien reports in the Irish Times that as Sport Ireland looks to fund the Tokyo 2020 squad, there is no doubt that Sailing and Rowing will enter the negotiations with the considerable clout that medals bring, but there will be a more forensic analysis of what led to success and whether the sport has a pipeline that will lead to sustainability of results on the international stage.
The ISA will be able to point to the potential shown in Rio as well as an impressive track record by ISA academy members at Youth Sailing Worlds and World and European Championships. There have been many significant results, not least World Youth Sailing bronze in the 420 in January and as recently as July, World Youth Silver in the Laser Radial.
Also under scrutiny, particularly in light of recent developments, will be whether the sport has robust governance, ensuring fairness and transparency, as well as a willingness to engage with the Irish Institute of Sport, an arm of Sport Ireland that played a leading role in the success in Rio. Irish Sailing passes these test as well, putting it in a very strong position to negotiate vigorously, not only for High Performance, but also for investment into the grassroots of the sport.
Click for more on last night's spectacular Olympic homecoming celebration on Afloat.ie
The National Yacht Club sailor, Annalise Murphy from Dun Laoghaire, who overcame heartbreak in London 2012 to take a silver medal in Rio on Tuesday has been thanking suporters via her Facebook page. In a typical warm but modest fashion the Olympic silver medallist says: 'Wow I don't really know what to say! This is a dream come true, not only for me but for everyone who has helped me get to this point over the last 8 years! Thank you everyone for all the amazing support, it means the world to me! Still in shock but so proud to be Irish! X Annalise'.
She is pictured on the podium with her coaches Rory Fitzpatrick and Sara Winthers who she credits with so much of her success.
Annalise Murphy's journey has been charted in a unique photo review by the Irish Times this morning here
Her road to silver success was profiled in the newspaper yesterday by correspondent David O'Brien here.
After a frustrating wait for wind on the Sugarloaf course in Rio today, Annalise Murphy and the other nine medal race competitors went afloat only to have racing scrubbed when strong winds swept over the course. The racing was postponed and will resume tomorrow.
Giles Scott (GBR) has assured himself of gold after another brilliant performance that leaves him 24 points clear at the top after the fifth day of racing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition. Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) is second, 13 points ahead of Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO). Once again, Rio’s challenging conditions provided a mixed bag of results, with several sailors picking up high scores. There is now just the medal race to sail.
With no clear form through the fleet apart from Scott and Zbogar, it was always going to be a scrap to the finish, with the points around the medal race cut off very, very close. For the fifth day in a row it was all change once again.
After a long postponement, first ashore and then afloat to wait for the wind, Kljakovic Gaspic started his day leading round the top mark in race 9, in very light winds. He was passed on the second upwind by race 1 winner, Facundo Olezza (ARG), who maintained the lead, by mere seconds, all the way to the finish. Alejandro Foglia (URU), who had rounded the top mark in 15th, finally found his speed to cross in third.
Foglia then went on to win Race 10, started in slightly more wind, after overtaking Scott on the final downwind. Caleb Paine (USA) had rounded first but dropped to fourth while Ioannis Mitakis (GRE) ended the race where he started, in third.
To make sure of the gold today, Scott had to gain three points on Zbogar. In the first race of day, he looked to have opened out a nice margin, only to loose ground on the second upwind and finish just one place ahead. But the margin had increased to 18 points and most of his other rivals had high scores.
So in the final race, Scott just had to finish more than two boats ahead of Zbogar to win the gold with a race to spare. For a while Zbogar was right behind Scott, but a few errors on the second upwind let Scott escape, and the gold was gone.
Meanwhile Olezza followed up his race win with a seventh to climb back in to the top 10 again. A last place for Jake Lilley (AUS) in race 9 initially dropped him out of the medal race, after going into the day in third, but after Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) was disqualified from race 10, Lilley gains one point to overtake Ioannis Mitakis (GRE), and was back in the medal race.
In addition, both Paine and Max Salminen (SWE) have closed on the top and are now within striking distance of the podium.
Asked what it meant to him to win the Olympic title, a normally unemotional Scott said, “I know what it meant to me because of the way it made me feel towards the last stages of that final race. I just found myself welling up and in tingles as it slowly dawned on me what I'd done. I wouldn't put myself down as the emotional sort but I had a little cry to myself, which I like to think I don't do that often. Just the emotions that come out of you in that situation you can't prepare yourself for. It's been amazing.”
"When we put the campaign together after London, Matt [Howard], my coach and I we decided that we wanted to campaign flat out. We weren't going to go soft in any regattas and everything we went to, we wanted to win and win it in style.”
"That approach is great but it does put a target on your back. Especially two or three years out that target inevitably gets closer as everybody ups their game. To have been able to maintain that gap enough into the Olympics with a race to spare - it gives great justification to those decisions earlier on.”
A clearly exhausted Zbogar commented, “It was a really difficult day, really stressful because the wind was up and down. Puffs of wind were all over the race area and it was impossible to predict, so very tough mentally. I tried to be conservative playing the middle, and I lost a few places there in both races. But at the end I think I managed to have two good races, which was really good in these conditions.”
“In the first race if there were not the big waves, it would have been easy sailable, but the waves made it almost impossible. It was up and down and was a bit of a lottery at the end. And many guys were ahead and in a few moments lost everything.”
Foe the first time in the regatta, Kljakovic Gaspic has moved into a podium position. “The first race was quite light, but for me was regular. There were big differences in the downwind in pressure and positions so it was not easy to sail. I was lucky being extended on the front so I didn’t have this headache, but for other guys it was quite tough.”
“The second one was tragic for me. I was just getting extra points for nothing and making my life more complicated that it should have been. Right from the start everything started to get complicated and when racing gets complicated it’s never good. And then the wind picked up and distances got that much bigger and it got harder to recover. On the second beat I went on the left side to get more pressure and it didn’t come, and lost even more places.” He finished 13th.
“But at the end of the day I am still in a good position. I need to sleep and relax and get ready for Tuesday.”
Scott still must sail the medal race, but the result is irrelevant. He cannot be beaten. Mathematically, any boat in the top 10 can win a medal, but that would need some letter scores. Zbogar is almost secure for a medal. To lose a medal, he would have to be last, with Paine or Max Salminen (SWE) winning. Kljakovic Gaspic in third, is just five points ahead of Paine and Salminen, so the question is will he attack for silver or try to defend the bronze?
The medal race is scheduled for 13.05 on Tuesday 16 July. It might even be on TV, if you are lucky.
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
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)
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)
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)
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)
As in most yacht races, the general terms for the Olympic Regatta are set out in a Notice of Race (NoR) while the details are covered by the Sailing Instructions (SIs). Both of these have been published and are available on the World Sailing Website www.sailing.org. Like many NoRs and Sis, other documents are referenced - in the case of the Olympic Regatta there are Equipment, Competitions Area and Support Team regulations, while athletes are also bound by a Media Guide. Overarching all these are the comprehensive agreements that athletes enter into with the International Olympic Committee through their National Olympic Committees.
These documents will come under intense scrutiny, not just by sailors and their support teams as part of their normal preparation, but also by the team of officials that will be engaged in ensuring a fair competition both ashore and afloat.
For most of the sailors at this level, there should be no major surprises in the sailing instructions as they will have used these or a version of these in qualifying events, World Cups and Major Championships.
Let us catch up with an imaginary sailor as they prepare to go afloat. Their base is Marina Da Gloria in Guanabara Bay, in what is Rio's middle harbour. While waiting for flag D - the signal that they can go afloat - many sailors will first apply barrier creams to protect against sun and bacteria. Then they will visit the Omega cabin to deposit their accreditation and to collect their tracking module which they will affix to the boat so that we can follow their race progress. Once flag D is up they will proceed to their designated course area, taking care not to stray out of the competition area while also remaining clear of other course areas and official boats. Infractions of any of these area controls may incur a penalty.
Once at their designated course area, things become fairly standard for them, although not every observer will be familiar with the sound signals guns every minute in the countdown that are now used at this level. This table explains the sequence our sailor will encounter:
|Minutes Before Starting Signal||Visual Signal Displayed||Visual Signal Removed||Sound Signal||Means|
|6||Class flag, P or starting penalty flag (U, or Black flag) if required O flag if applicable||Class to start Starting penalty RRS P5 (RRS 42)|
|5||White flag with number 5||One||Warning signal|
|4||Blue flag with number 4||White flag||One||Preparatory Signal|
|3||Pink flag with number 3||Blue Flag||One||Three minutes|
|2||Red flag with number 2||Pink Flag||One||Two minutes|
|1||Yellow flag with number 1||Red Flag||One||One minute|
|0||Green flag||Yellow flag||One||Start signal|
|+1||Green flag and Class flag, U or Black and O.||No Sound|
The format consists of an opening series of up to 12 races (12 in Skiffs and Windsurfers, 10 in everything else) with a maximum of three races per day and a final medal race between the top ten in each fleet after the opening series.
Thus our sailor can expect up to three consecutive races, although if the schedule is maintained it is more likely to be two a day.
While the courses are generally windward/leeward or trapezoid, there are some variations afforded to the race officer, such as final slaloms (possibly windsurfers only), inner or outer trapezoids and different finishing directions for windward/leeward courses.
Rio's location, with a large bay and open ocean close by, offers a considerable variety of course areas and seven have been designated across the three distinct areas of Inner Harbour, Middle Harbour and Ocean. Several of these offer shore viewing and all, except maybe one of the ocean courses, will be considerably influenced by the presence of the land.
Our sailor will need to be wise to the designated course for the day, and once there, will need to be keep their head out of the boat to recognise the influences exerted by wind and current on their course.
At the end of racing the sailor returns to Marina da Gloria where an extensive cleansing of boat, equipment, clothing and bodies will follow. The anti-doping team will be randomly selecting sailors for testing and once over this hurdle sailors can pick up their accreditation while returning the tracker before catching the shuttle to the Olympic Village.
Irish Olympic 49erFX sailing campaigners Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey have an anxious wait before next week's 47th edition of the Trofeo Princesa Sofia. The last Rio place comes up for grabs at the crunch Spanish regatta in Palma de Mallorca on March 25th. Ireland faces a tough two-boat Finnish challenge plus teams from Austria, Croatia, Estonia and Russia but Ireland, it transpires, may yet get a last minute reprieve.
The Royal Irish YC duo can escape the do–or–die regatta altogether if a much publicised Algerian entry does not materialise. Brewster and Tidey will avail of the 'reallocation' of a vacant African spot and will not have to face the fierce Euro-nation fight if there is an African 'no–show'.
No one in the Irish camp wants to tempt fate but – with less than a week to go – there is no sign of an Algerian, or indeed, any other African entry, thus apparently clearing the way for Tidey/Brewster to be declared good to go for the games.
Currently, there is no reference to the Algerian entry and Algeria is not listed as an affiliated country on the 49er and 49erFX website.
Ireland has been first in line for the African berth by virtue of Brewster and Tidey's world champioship result last December. If they do qualify it will be Ireland’s first women’s skiff entry at the Games, bringing to six the number of Irish sailors heading to Rio.
Depending on whether Algeria turns up or not, this emerging sailing nation has wisely used the fact that ISAF has introduced continental Olympic quotas for the first time and the fact that some sailing classes are completly non-existent in Africa. On paper, they appear to be the only African nation in women's 470, men's 49er, women's 49er FX and mixed Nacra 17, so they are guaranteed all of those quotas. If this transpires, they will compete in 7 out of 10 classes in Rio (11 sailors in total). To put it in perspective, Algeria has never qualified a single sailor for the Olympics before.
Wishing everyone a very Happy St Patrick's Day ☘
Oisin McClleland of Dongahdee Sailing Club lies 46th from 90 as the last day of the Finn European Championships in Barcelona concludes today. The Northern Ireland Sailors best result of the series so far is a 26th in race four.
Yesterday's day five had it all. Anticipation, excitement, disappointment and high drama. Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) takes the overall lead for the first time and goes into the final day with a ten point lead over his training partner Josh Junior (NZL). Milan Vujasinovic (CRO) is back up to third.
Though the forecast was for a weak wind again, most of the sailors expected a nice sea breeze to come in later in the day and after a brief postponement the fleet was sent out for two races in a 6-9 knot wind that provided tricky racing and lot of mixed fortunes.
Egor Terpigorev (RUS) showed up at the the front of the fleet for the first time, leading round the top mark in Race 5 from Ben Cornish (GBR) and Postma. Cornish had a narrow lead at the gate but Postma led at the end of the next upwind to set up an exciting final leg.
Cornish explained, “I got off the start quite well and got in phase with the shifts. Then the top five or six managed to break away from the fleet and we had some really close battles. It was just a case of getting it right on the last downwind. We managed to push out to the left and the wave direction was making it easy for me to gain. I felt as if I had control out there and the last reach to the finish was really exciting. As it happened PJ and I ended up neck and neck on the line and I just managed to get the last wave across the line.” Terpigorev sailed a great race to cross in third.
With the breeze still looking good, Ioannis Mitakis (GRE) led round the top in Race 6 from Postma and Ondrej Teply (CZE). The Greek sailor held the lead until the final downwind when with the leaders well split and the wind starting to turn patchy, it was anyone's race. Jonas Høgh-Christensen (DEN) came in with the best pressure to slip round the final mark ahead of Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) and Mitakis. A sixth place for Postma was enough to retain the championship lead he had gained after the first race of the day.
Høgh-Christensen said, “The first race was super tricky. I had a bad start and the wind went left and I thought it was going to go right so I rounded in about 70 something and caught back up to 29th. The second race was much better for me. I had a good start and worked the left side of the course and came up to the first mark in fourth and I think I rounded the bottom in third. I was second at the top and ended up winning the race, so that was super.”
“They were really tricky conditions. I think there were two seas breezes fighting each other and it could go hard right or it could go left, so it was really hard to call which way it would go. I didn't get it right in the first but I did in the second.”
“The fleet here is very strong here are only a few guys missing, and people are fighting hard. It's a high scoring regatta but I'll keep on fighting.”
Cornish drops from third to fifth after a bad second race. “It was a day of two halves. To sum the week up in one word it's been difficult. The breeze has been far from simple. The gains have come in from the sides, so you really have to make sure you are 100 per cent aware of what is going to happen next. And I definitely wasn't aware in the last race, but you can't get it right all the time I guess.”
Of his expectations he said, “A top 10 would be a realistic finish for me. I finished just outside that in New Zealand at the Gold Cup and I was bit disappointed with that as I threw a bit away on the last day. I just want to put together a series that will leave me in touch with the front of the fleet.”
Also added to the mix today was the penultimate day of the US Olympic selection trials. Zach Railey (USA) and Caleb Paine (USA) were neck and neck and locked together all through Race 5, but after the discard came into effect, Paine had a ten points lead. Then in Race 6, Railey got the perfect start at the pin and looked to have the advantage.
However a poor second beat from him and a great one from Paine left them only a few boats apart at the final top mark. Then Railey got a yellow flag and on the last run they started jousting and it looked like something was going to happen. Railey then introduced a mark trap on Paine and prevented him from rounding letting about 50 boats sail past. By dragging Paine back through the fleet, Railey had forced them to both count their discards. This moved Railey back into a 10 point lead over Paine.
They ended up in the protest room so results are still provisional.
Overall leader Postma was happy to be in the lead but also mulling over the missed opportunities to be even further ahead. “It was super tricky, and very hard racing but it's going well. I am winning and my training partner Josh Junior is second, so I am very happy with that.”
On the final day he said, “In a 100 boat fleet you have a put in a good race again. You cannot play it safe. Of course I will keep an eye on which corner JJ [Junior] goes but there are other guys also in the hunt. I'll just try for a great start and play the beat and I'm looking forward to it.”
The championships will draw to close on Saturday with the final fleet race for everyone, with the warning signal time brought forward to 09.30 to make the best of the morning wind. When that has been sailed, the medal race for the top ten will be sailed as soon as possible.