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Displaying items by tag: Laser

Ireland's Olympic silver medalist sailor Annalise Murphy returns to action in the Canary Islands this morning, her first regatta since the European Championships in Poland last October.

The only Irish sailor so far qualified for Tokyo 2021 will compete for 14 races (including a medal race) in her boat 'Ricky Bobby'  in the Lanzarote Winter Series til Thursday.

With 25 weeks to Tokyo, the Canarian regatta has attracted a fleet of 45-boats including one or two of Murphy's main rivals for July's Olympic Regatta. The presence of Denmark's 2015 World Champion Anne Marie Rindom, for example, means it is unlikely the National Yacht Club ace will have things entirely her own way.

Murphy is not the only Irish Radial sailor in action on the Spanish archipelago either with Howth Yacht Club teen Eve McMahon entered for the series that sees four races scheduled today.

Irish Laser men in Lanzarote

Some of Ireland's Olympic men's Laser team including the National Yacht Club's Finn Lynch, Howth's Ewan McMahon and Royal St. George's Tom Higgins are also entered but there is no entry in the 48-boat fleet for Ballyholme's Liam Glyn who posted a personal best last October in the Laser Europeans in Poland.

As regular Afloat readers know, the Irish men are in a scramble for one of the last Laser berths for Tokyo that will be decided in Hyeres in April. Ireland is close to the standard required to qualify the nation but at the same time with rivals Spain, Italy, Belgium and Greece all neck and neck, the challenge is clear.

Afloat understands other IRL sailors are on the Spanish Island this week and may yet decide on a last-minute entry, boosting the Irish presence.

No doubt this morning's dinghy park chat will be around the recent denial of the reports that the Tokyo Games are to be cancelled due to COVID. 

As Afloat reported previously, the Irish sailors have not been based at their Dun Laoghaire performance HQ but instead on the continent, winter training in the warmer climes of Portugal and Malta.

All sailors were required to sign a covid declaration for this week's regatta.

The schedule for the ILCA 6 (Radial) & ILCA 7 (Laser) event is: 

  • 4 races (Monday)
  • 4 Races Tuesday
  • 4 Races Wednesday
  • 2 races on Thursday including a medal race
Published in Tokyo 2020
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2020 was a record season for the Dublin Bay Laser Class, and by all accounts, they’re expecting an even bigger season in 2021.

While continuous sailing has been difficult for all fleets since the start of the pandemic, the single-handed Laser fleet has fared better than most, and as a result, its popularity has surged. For the 2020 Dublin Bay Sailing Club (DBSC) summer series, the Laser had the highest number of entries compared with any other fleet, with over 90 boats registered. Entries were split across the Standard, Radial and 4.7 rigs with both adult and junior sailors taking part.

Lasers are proving to be a very versatile boat, especially in these turbulent times. Local active sailors range in age from teenagers as young as 13 right through to adults in their 50s and 60s. The fleet is also very well balanced between female and male sailors with both genders across the ages competing as equals, particularly in the Radial and 4.7 rigs.

"with the constant changes in COVID restrictions, the Laser is providing a more consistent sailing experience"

Local class captain Brendan Hughes explained why there is an expectation of even bigger numbers in 2021; “We’ve seen interest in the fleet continue to grow especially amongst adults. Many of these already sail cruisers but with the constant changes in restrictions, the Laser is providing a more consistent sailing experience. We’re the only large fleet that has been able to get out on the water in nearly all levels of lockdown.”

As a competitive single-hander, Hughes acknowledges that the Laser can be perceived by some as a challenging boat to sail. “In 20 knots, the Laser can be a challenge for sure! However, there has been a lot of effort put into training across Dun Laoghaire. Right throughout the year, there is coaching taking place for beginners and competitive sailors at both junior and adult level.” The increase in coaching availability over the past number of years is acknowledged by many new sailors as being critical in making this class more accessible.

Dublin Bay's new Laser dinghy Class Captain Brendan HughesDublin Bay's new Laser dinghy Class Captain Brendan Hughes

In addition, constant adjustments to racing formats have helped to ensure the Laser fleet remains vibrant. During 2020, the DBSC dinghy race officers introduced Saturday racing in addition to Tuesday evening racing for the Laser fleet. This proved to be extremely popular and the Laser fleet was eager to see this continued in 2021. The club has confirmed that the format will continue for the new season of the AIB DBSC Summer Series with the entry fee covering both Tuesdays and Saturdays for all sailors.

A number of headline events in 2021 taking place in Dublin Bay are expected to drive continued interest from new sailors. The Irish Laser Master Nationals event will be hosted in Dun Laoghaire’s Royal St George Yacht Club from 12th -13th June. This event is open to all sailors over the age of 35 and the organisers expect to have 50+ boats from across the country participate.

A recent survey of local Laser sailors revealed that over 120 boats intend to participate in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta One Design Championship taking place 2nd - 4th July. “If even two-thirds of that number participate in this new format, it would be the largest one-design fleet on the water at this year’s event, which is very exciting.” says Hughes.

August sees the International Laser Class Association (ILCA) 4.7 World Championship coming to Dublin Bay. Local organisers are expecting several hundred youth sailors from across the globe to participate in this event. This event will be one of the biggest sailing events to take place in Ireland this year and is a great opportunity for our younger sailors to participate on the world stage.

Afloat also hears that planning has begun amongst the Masters fleet to send a delegation to Malta in November. EurILCA, the European Laser organisation is holding its Euro Masters Regatta at Royal Malta Yacht Club from 4th - 7th November.

With a mix of local, national and international Laser events taking place in Dublin Bay this summer, it sounds like another big year for the fleet. More information on Laser sailing in Dun Laoghaire is available by emailing [email protected]

Published in Laser
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In Japan, public opinion may be divided as to whether this summer’s already postponed Tokyo Olympics should be postponed even further, or indeed completely cancelled. But completely focused athletes such as Laser sailor Ewan McMahon of Howth have no choice other than to keep battling on to see if they and Ireland can secure a place in Tokyo in July, and this week he has been in high-powered action off Malta in some seriously big waves.

The plan is to go on to Lanzarote in the Canaries at the end of the month for more competition, and then there’s further diversion for a challenge on Croatia in the buildup to the final Olympic qualifier in Hyeres in April.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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2018 Laser Grand Master World Champion and 1996 Olympian Mark Lyttle reflects on a lifetime sailing against his old rival and great friend Bill O'Hara, who was awarded an OBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours List 2021.

I first recall Bill at the 1978 Pimm's Irish Lasers Nationals at Lough Ree Yacht Club (actually sailed from Hodson Bay and yes, they did sponsor the Irish Laser class) but it wasn't on the race course. As a 15-year-old sailing what we now call a Standard rig as that's all there was, I was nowhere near the front of the fleet especially as a hurricane passed through during the regatta. But I do remember Bill was the centre of social activities ashore as a young university student.

Over the next couple of seasons, Bill emerged as one of the top Lasers sailors along with Gordon Maguire (turned professional skipper), Dave Cummins (twice all Ireland champion) and Colin Galavan. Following a fifth place in the light air Kinsale Nationals (1979) and the curtailed (with another gale) Dun Laoghaire Nationals (1981), Bill took the Irish titles in Ballyholme (1981 where I recall driving to the event in a Renault 5 with three Lasers) and Galway Bay (1982 with Australian and NZL visitors following us home after our extensive continental European tours).

But I remember the 1982 season as my first Laser Europeans, in Athens, where I stayed with Bill and Simon Brien (Dragon Edinburgh Cup winner from Royal North of Ireland YC) and was supported and encouraged all the way by Bill – a true mentor figure.

Bill sailed a brilliant regatta, coming second overall behind the even more brilliant Peter Vilby, a result that has never been beaten by an Irish Laser (Standard) sailor. Consistent with many other Laser sailors across the world in that era, Bill had to realise his Olympic dreams away from Lasers, in his case in the single-hander Finn class.

Some of the 1982 Irish Laser Class supremos, with their mentor Ron Huthcieson on right, are (left to right) Simon Brien (later multiple Edinburgh Cup winner and other majors), multiple champion Charlie Taylor (still at it in the Laser Masters), Olympian Bill O'Hara, and Dave Cummins, All-Ireland Helmsmans Champion 1981 and 1982Some of the 1982 Irish Laser Class supremos, with their mentor Ron Huthcieson on right, are (left to right) Simon Brien (later multiple Edinburgh Cup winner and other majors), multiple champion Charlie Taylor (still at it in the Laser Masters), Olympian Bill O'Hara, and Dave Cummins, All-Ireland Helmsmans Champion 1981 and 1982

I recall stories of him campaigning the Finn with Terry Nielsen (1982 Laser World Champion and eventual Bronze Medal winner) in 1983 in North America in the build-up to the Los Angeles Games in 1984.

Like many Olympic campaigners he returned for the Laser Worlds in Gulfport, Mississippi in October 1983 along with Frank Glynn, Con Murphy (better known now as Annalise's dad), John Simms and me. Most of us Irish stayed with nuns in a convent nearby but that is not what we most remember of the regatta. It was a no discard 14 race series in which Bill was doing brilliantly until a protest by the Jury for his boom allegedly hitting a NZL boat on his outside at the gybe mark. Both were disqualified and Bill ended the regatta knowing he would have been World Champion but for that.

It is often said that Juries stopped protesting boat on boat incidents because of that.

Bill went on to race at the Olympics and recorded a 4th, 10th, 9th and 8th in the first four of seven races and finished 13th overall in a very competitive fleet with sailing legends Russell Coutts and John Bertrand winning Gold and Silver. But Bill affirmed his status as role model and great supporter of Irish dinghy sailing by returning from the glories of the Olympics to race in the Irish Laser Nationals at the end of that summer.

These days Bill O'Hara is an international race judge and race officerThese days Bill O'Hara is an international race judge and race officer

Of course, he was the man we all strived to beat at that event and subsequent seasons in the Laser (he didn't win that one but did win the Irish title three times in the nineties). I remember many great battles around the race course with Bill often ahead at the windward mark with his superior upwind speed and me trying to overtake him by the leeward mark with my superior downwind speed. Bill continued to combine his Laser and Finn sailing through the 1988 Games in Seoul, where he was joined by Peter Kennedy, the 1986 Irish Laser Champion, as David Wilkin's Flying Dutchman crew.

Afloat's 1983 Laser World's reportAfloat's 1983 Laser World's report from Gulfport, Mississippi

Many of us were envious of that given the limited opportunities to access Olympic sailing in those days but that changed with the introduction of the Laser in the 1996 Olympics. Although Bill started off as a competitor in the search for the single Irish place in Atlanta, he still provided advice and encouragement to me all the way. That is the thing about Bill, a fearsome competitor afloat but a true friend ashore. Nothing supports that more than in the 1994 Irish Laser Nationals when going into the deciding last race where I had a slender lead over Gary McCarthy, I had broken my tiller extension and Bill offered me his with the words "this title needs to be earned not won by default" - sorry Gary. Bill went to the 1996 Games as a coach and provided me with vital advice and encouragement throughout the Games.

Although our interaction has been more social than on the race course in recent years, I look back and say he has been a true motivator and influencer on my sailing journey but more importantly a true friend, which like many friendships based on so many years of shared experiences and the ups and downs of competition, will remain despite the passing of time. Bill is a man who knows loyalty and integrity and I am proud to be his friend. Well done, Bill on your OBE.

Published in Laser

The Irish Laser class would remind you of a murmuration of starlings. They major in highly flexible shape-changing formations in which the actual moving around of the fleet is a matter of independent individual units somehow sweeping together with apparently telepathic communication and little hassle. A Laser skipper has no crew problems, and all they need to be part of the countrywide circus is a driving licence and a sufficiently robust car to take the boat and launching trailer on a roof rack.

Admittedly with some very talented juniors such as Eve McMahon making an impact before they’ve even got to the age of 16, the driving licence requirement may need an element of family and older friends support. But either way the class’s approach seems as modern as tomorrow, and it takes an effort to remember that these timeless classics have been in Ireland for nearly fifty years.

With their flexibility of fleet movement, they were sufficiently confident to publish their outline 2021 Events Calendar early in the weekend, and though any fixed post-pandemic programme planning must be in the balance with the developments of the past two days, at least it reminds us that as soon as there’s any possibility of sailing resumption, they’ll be ready and willing for a leaping of Lasers.

IRISH LASER ASSOCIATION 2021 EVENTS

  • 2/4 April – Munster Championship: Baltimore SC
  • 8/11 April – Irish Sailing Youth Nationals: Royal Cork YC
  • Dates TBC – Leinster Championship: Venue TBC
  • 12/13 June - Masters National Championship: Roya St George YC
  • 26/27th June – Ulster Championship: County Antrim YC, Whitehead
  • 17/18 July – Connacht Championship: Wexford Harbour BC
  • 19/22 August – National Championship, Royal Cork YC
  • 2/3 October - End–of-Season Event (new): Kinsale YC
Published in Laser
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As Ireland tries to boost its Olympic sailing team from currently one dinghy (Annalise Murphy in the Radial) with two more (a men's Laser and a 49er), the final Olympic qualifier for the men's Laser class has been confirmed for France in April 2021 (French Olympic Week, April 17-24 in Hyeres).

There are still two nation places up for grabs and three Irish men are chasing a final berth. Ireland is up against Italy, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands so it is likely to go right down to the wire before we know who ultimately claims the place. 

Finn Lynch, Liam Glynn and Ewan McMahon are all looking for the single berth and whoever finishes on top in the Cote D'Azur will be deemed to have been selected.

Since late summer performance sailing has been back in regatta mode with the team competing across Europe in Poland and Italy. 

After training from the Irish Sailing Performance HQ in Dun Laoghaire all summer, once restrictions lifted the Lasers and Laser Radials headed to Lake Garda in Italy for training, and then on to the Italian National Championships – the first time the team had competed since Covid restrictions began. Murphy won this competition overall and from there the team headed to the European Championships in Gdansk, Poland.

As Afloat reported previously, Finn Lynch had a great regatta finishing in 13th position in Gdansk, a personal best for the Dun Laoghaire ace but there was a disappointment overall for Tokyo qualified Murphy. There was another personal best for Lynch's rival Glynn too, who finished 43 from 126.

Howth's Eve McMahon at only 16-years-old had her first senior European championships, qualifying for the Gold Fleet and finishing in 45th - a great marker of future potential.

More on Finn Lynch's plans here

Published in Tokyo 2020
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November sunshine plays tricks with how we see things. Maybe it's because it's so rare. But at the weekend at Howth – with just a month to go to the shortest day of the year – a special coaching course being run in Lasers by international champion Aoife Hopkins was taking place with a low-slung sun so powerful – under a sky of a blue so utterly blue that it hasn't got a name yet – that an educational circuit of Ireland's Eye under the watchful Hopkins' eye did strange things to vision.

Be careful in looking at this photo – when you get hold of the thought that the boat is going away and the sail is coming back again, the brain just won't let itself be re-set correctlyBe careful in looking at this photo – when you get hold of the thought that the boat is going away and the sail is coming back again, the brain just won't let itself be re-set correctly

Maybe it's just us, and maybe it's time we re-visited the pioneering HYC Brass Monkey Winter Series creator Pat Connolly in his day job as an optician. But if you look at the pic above of the trainee flotilla of Abby Kinsella, Una Connel, Fiachra Farrelly and Charlie Keating heading eastward towards the Martello tower and the cliffs along the north coast of Ireland's Eye, there's no doubt that the nearest boat is going away, but the strong low light somehow makes it look as though the sail is coming back again…….

Either way, in the idyllic circumstances a circuit of Ireland's Eye provided an ideal opportunity for a multi-layered day of training, as there was pilotage, navigation and useful wildlife observation added to the mix, even if The Stack on the northeast corner – a summertime Gannet Central since 1989 – was winter silent, with just one gannet watchman left behind.

Closing in on The Stack on Ireland's Eye. In summer, it's Gannet Central...Closing in on The Stack on Ireland's Eye. In summer, it's Gannet Central...

……..but off season, just one lone gannet has drawn the short straw to be The Winter Watchbird……..but off season, just one lone gannet has drawn the short straw to be The Winter Watchbird

It was difficult to imagine the place in a harsh grey easterly, which in some Novembers is the default weather condition around Ireland's Eye. But in Howth, nothing is allowed to go to waste – as Aoife observed after winning the Laser U21 Euros 2017 at Douarnenez in Brittany in a week of extra-fresh westerlies, determined days of sailing in strong easterlies off Howth will set you up for anything, Breton westerlies included…..

Aoife Hopkins winning the Laser Euro U21s in strong westerlies at Douarnenez in BrittanyAoife Hopkins winning the Laser Euro U21s in strong westerlies at Douarnenez in Brittany

Published in Howth YC

Ireland's 2018 Laser Grand Master World Champion Mark Lyttle reveals the depth of his ambitions in the solo Laser class when he interviewed for a UK Laser Class podcast recently. 

One of the most fascinating statistics in the hour-long chat with Ben Flower of the UK Laser class is that in 1996, Laser sailing had the most nations competing of any sport at the Atlanta Olympics. 

As long time Afloat readers will know, Savannah is where the Laser made its Olympic debut and where Lyttle was a race winner, a result that led him to the inaugural Afloat Sailor of the Year award

It's not the only blast from the past contained in the podcast either where Lyttle gives plenty of anecdotes about the 2018 Worlds on Dublin Bay and his homecoming win. A really nice progression in his sailing career from Olympics into masters.

The London based sailor gives some great description of laser campaigning in the 80s; no coaches, just a bunch of lads taking their Lasers off to Europe for the Summer.

There's an interesting account of how old long races have given way to shorter races and how this puts huge emphasis on the run and downwind technique, since the run can be straight after the first beat and so fleet stays so compressed compared to old big triangles when the run was at the end (I assume they did triangle, sausage or triangle, triangle, sausage)

Significantly, as a former chairman of the UK Optimist class, and the architect of the modern Irish Olympic programme, Lyttle speaks about his experiences with youth burnout in sailing.

Listen in to the podcast below:

Published in Laser
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2016 Irish Rio representative Finn Lynch believes that he can take one of the final two qualification spots for Tokyo 2021 in the Men's Laser class if he focuses on improving areas that prevented him from doing so at the last two qualification regattas. 

"There’s a bunch of good people who still haven’t qualified. There are five or six nations with guys who can have regattas in the top ten but I’m not really focusing on that. I’m focussing on trying to improve on the things that held me back on the last two qualification regattas. And If I can do that, there’s no reason that I cannot get a spot", he told the Irish Laer Class AGM last week.

Lynch gave his online interview coming off the back of the European Championships in Poland last month where he showed the depth of his Olympic ambitions and secured a personal best of 13th from a fleet of 126. It's a highly creditable result that will boost the 24-year-old's confidence in his race for one of the final Olympic berths.

Finn Lynch took a 13th overall - and a personal best - at the 2020 Laser EuropeansFinn Lynch took a 13th overall - and a personal best - at the 2020 Laser Europeans

Presumably, Lynch's training will focus on some uneven performances where the Irish ace has shown himself well able to win world championship races but, unfortunately,  just not managed to string together a consistent series to seize one of the prized Olympic berths.

As Afloat reported previously, the World Sailing Championships at Aarhus, Denmark, in August 2018 was the first opportunity to qualify for Tokyo, but Irish crews in three events did not pass the test then. Despite winning Race 7 in the Gold fleet, Lynch missed qualification by about 20 points as he carried two mid-forties results after he was disqualified from Race 8 for a premature start. Yet, in all this, his score sheet showed three top ten results, an otherwise very positive result. At the next qualification opportunity, the 2019 World Championships in Japan, Lynch ended the championship in 40th overall in the 148-boat fleet, 11th unqualified country and some 56-points off the tally required.

Prior to that, in the early part of 2019, the dedicated Olympic solo sailor had overall placings within the top ten at three major international events, and at Genoa 2019 he was an overall leader at one stage, and a slight turn of fortune would have seen him in the medals. His solid Laser performance moved him up to 15th in the world rankings in April 2019, so Lynch really does have the turn of speed required.

Fast forward to today and the scenario is that Slovenia, Switzerland, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland are in the running for the final places with Ireland finishing behind all of these at the 2019 World Championships, so the race is well and truly on to take one of these final European places. 

Portuguese winter training camp

During the special AGM interview section, Lynch also gave details by Zoom of his planned extended training camp in Portugal under coach three-time Olympic medallist Vasilij Žbogar.

Lynch says he is 'really excited' about the plan for this winter. The National Yacht Club sailor will be training with the Norwegian team and aims to stay in warmer climes until the final Tokyo qualification regatta, the venue for which is as yet unconfirmed due to COVID-19.

"It's just a rumour but it could now be Hyeres Regatta next April or it could be Palma or Hyeres or maybe a different World Cup," he told Jim McMahon, Secretary of the Irish Laser Class during the online Q & A.

Also looking to secure Ireland's place in the forthcoming regatta are trialists Bangor's Liam Glynn and Howth's Ewan McMahon and whoever can secure the place at next Spring's Regatta automatically becomes the Irish nominee for Tokyo.

Published in Laser
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The Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI) say in an update that Irish athletes across most sports are still on the qualification journey for the Tokyo Olympic Games which now take place next year from 23 July to 8 August 2021. Sailing is no different with only one of a possible three confirmed so far.

To date, there are 52 confirmed athlete spots for Tokyo, with many more athletes and teams sitting inside qualification status.

Eleven sports to date will enjoy Irish representation in Tokyo, and the current tracking of the team could see Team Ireland travelling next summer to Tokyo with the largest Olympic team to date.

In sailing, Ireland has already qualified one boat for Tokyo – the Women’s Laser Radial, which was achieved via Aisling Keller at the World Championships in 2019 – this position is set to be filled by Annalise Murphy, who has been nominated by Irish Sailing after a cut-short trial that left both Keller and Howth rival Aoife Hopkins 'devastated'. 

'Selection', say the OFI, will be made once the process has been completed.

Seafra Guilfyole (left) and Ryan Seaton are one of two Irish 49er campaigns looking for the last nation berth for Tokyo 2021Seafra Guilfoyle (left) and Ryan Seaton are one of two Irish 49er campaigns looking for the last nation berth for Tokyo 2021

There are still limited opportunities for Ireland to qualify another boat – the 49er can still qualify at the planned European Sailing Cup where one spot is available. As Afloat reported earlier, Ireland is vying with Belgium, Sweden and Italy for the one remaining European place. Form at the 2020 Worlds suggested that Irish sailors would be favourites having finished ahead of the other three candidates.

Laser sailor Finn Lynch, one of three Irish helmsmen seeking one of two final nation berths for Tokyo 2021Laser sailor Finn Lynch, one of three Irish helmsmen seeking a final nation berth for Tokyo 2021

In the Men’s Laser, there are two spots available at the planned European Sailing Cup. Up to six countries are in the running – Slovenia, Switzerland, Spain, Netherlands and Belgium and Ireland with Ireland finishing behind all of these at the latest World Championships.

In both of these events, the majority of spots were available at the World Championships in 2019 but unfortunately, Ireland missed out.

As Afloat reported in back in March the IOC, in their determination to maintain normality – or to return to normality as soon as possible – have issued a position update on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the potential changes to the qualification process disrupted by the spread of Covid-19.

Many sports, including sailing, have had to cancel qualifying events and the IOC has asked International Federations to consider revising the qualification process which may include ranking or historical results. More on this here.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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