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Displaying items by tag: olympic sailing

The 53rd Semaine Olympique Francaise de Hyères - Toulon Provence Mediterranee, is back from April 23 to 30, 2022 and Irish Olympic campaigners are among the 50 nations competing on the Mediteranean.

Fresh from his fourth overall at Palma earlier this month, the National Yacht Club's Finn Lynch is entered for the French event in the ILCA 7/Laser as is Howth Yacht Club's Aoife Hopkins who has recovered from COVID and competes in the ILCA 6/Radial.

Competing against Lynch is Hopkins' clubmate Ewan McMahon who, in his third season as a senior (and in 20th place for most of the week in Palma), is already demonstrating why he is arguably Ireland's second most successful full rig sailor since Mark Lyttle, Ireland's inaugural Laser helmsman at Atlanta 1996. 

Howth Yacht Club's Aoife HopkinsHowth Yacht Club's Aoife Hopkins

Royal St. George's Tom Higgins is also competing in the ILCA 7. 

Also heading for Hyères are Howth and Skerries duo Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove in the 49er who will be keen to make the medal race after a capsize cost them so dearly in Palma. 

Hoping to close the gap on their rivals for Paris are Royal Cork Yacht Club and Baltimore Sailing Club's new skiff combination Seafra Guilfoyle and Johnny Durcan who raced in the silver fleet in Palma. 

Royal Irish's Saskia Tidey will be sailing with Freya Black for Team GB in the 49erFX.

Once again, the Olympic sailing elite will be in Hyères for one of the most anticipated events of the season. For the first time in France, the SOF will bring together on the Hyères field of play the 10 classes that will be present in Marseille for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Coming from more than 50 countries, the 650 registered competitors, including the world's best Olympic sailors, will make the Hyères event an exceptional edition. After the Trofeo Princess Sofia, at the beginning of April, Hyères will be the second major event on the Olympic calendar.

The 10 Olympic classes: iQFOiL (foil windsurfing, men and women), Kitefoil (foil kiteboarding, men and women), ILCA (solo dinghy, women and men), 49er (double dinghy, men and women), Nacra 17 (double foil catamaran, mixed), 470 (double dinghy, mixed) will compete on the Hyerois field of play, which is as technical as it is tactical and renowned for its often strong easterly winds.

The gold medallists at the Tokyo Olympic Games last summer, who will be competing in Hyères: Australia's Matt Wearn (men's ILCA), Italy's Ruggero Tita & Caterina Banti (Nacra 17, mixed), Brazil's Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (women's 49er), Britain's Eilidh McIntyre, with new partner Martin Wringley (470 double dinghy, mixed).

For France, the world champions of iQFOiL, Helène Noesmoen and Nicolas Goyard will be competing in women's and men's in Hyères. Goyard will be up against Thomas Goyard, silver medallist in RS:X in Tokyo, and Pierre Le Coq, bronze medallist in RS: X in Rio. In KiteFoil, the field includes the world champion, Theo de Ramecourt; the European champion, Axel Mazella; and Lauriane Nolot (3rd in the World Championship). Gold medallist in Rio and silver medallist in Tokyo, Charline Picon, returns - and for the first time in competition in France in the 49er - partnering with Sarah Steyaert. Bronze medallist in Tokyo in the 470, Aloïse Retornaz will form a new mixed duet with Kevin Peponnet.

More here

Sailing needs the Olympics much more than the Olympics need sailing. And in Ireland in particular, sailing’s inferior position in this uneven relationship is exacerbated by the national obsession with sport in all its forms, and the often cringe-inducing neediness which the organisers of the various international sporting disciplines will manifest in seeking success abroad in order to get public attention, approval and financial support at home.

For the reality is that sailing is a complex vehicle activity that is too difficult of comprehension for the casual observer to be drawn enthusiastically to it as a spectator sport, as they see it as no more than a briefly-glimpsed pretty picture on a summer’s day. This is an interest barrier that is heightened by sailing’s total reliance on wind and weather conditions. A sailing match in light winds is fascinating for those taking part, but it makes for switch-off live television. Thus as far as the general public is concerned - and with them the politicians who try to anticipate and meet their interests and expectations - sailing only makes sense, and briefly provides general interest for the population at large, when they can easily relate to it through five simple and recognisable metrics.

REQUIREMENTS FOR SAILING TO HAVE POPULAR INTEREST

These are (1) The winning of prestigious internationally-recognised prizes, at its most clearcut in Olympic medals. (2) The probable involvement of seemingly vast sums of money. (3) The participation of celebrities famous for their pre-eminence in something other than sailing. (4) The existence of real danger, with the possible and occasionally fulfilled risk of drownings, and (5) The achievement for the first time of some feat of easily-comprehended seagoing historical significance. To that list could of course be added “a whiff of scandal”, but that applies to any human activity, and scandal-addicted saddos really should get themselves a life.

Be that as it may, because the Olympic Games are officially hosted by cities rather than nations, Olympic sailing events will almost inevitably be located at waterside centres which are at some distance – sometimes a very considerable distance – from the main city-located theatres of sport, emphasising sailing’s distancing from central areas where arenas attract large crowds to witness individual athletic achievements which most clearly typify the Olympic ideal as conceived in ancient Greece, and revived there with the beginning of the modern games in 1896.

For sure, even then just what is entitled to be thought of as an Olympic sport had been expanded, and sailing had been included in the proposed 1896 list. But when it didn’t happen, this attracted so little attention that the historians cannot agree whether or not the reason was because of a lack of suitable boats, or the persistence of a gale-force-plus Meltemi in the Aegean Sea.

An Irish link to early Olympic sailing success. The International 8 Metre Ierne, designed and built by William Fife in 1914 for Arthur Sharman Crawford, Commodore of the Royal Munster YC in Cork, was one of the first of her class to carry Bermudan rig. However, when she won the Gold Medal in the 1920 Olympics in Belgium, she was Norwegian-owned.An Irish link to early Olympic sailing success. The International 8 Metre Ierne, designed and built by William Fife in 1914 for Arthur Sharman Crawford, Commodore of the Royal Munster YC in Cork, was one of the first of her class to carry Bermudan rig. However, when she won the Gold Medal in the 1920 Olympics in Belgium, she was Norwegian-owned.

Nevertheless, it figured more prominently in subsequent Olympics, but increasingly it had to be at some distance from the host city.

Yet even then, people would not have paid money to pile into vast arenas to watch sailing events, had it been made possible in some artificial way. And it is only in special and usually rather artificial circumstances that it can provide anything of interest for the betting industry, while any attempts at televising it results in a very distorted version of the sport as usually enjoyed by its participants.

SAILING AS A PERSONAL AND ABIDING PASSION

Yet for a small but not insignificant segment of the population in Ireland, sailing is their personal and abiding passion, they’re convinced we should regularly give of our best for Olympic participation, and in order to get a share of governmental sporting expenditure for what can be an expensive activity when pursued at a global level, they have to be prepared to encourage their national authority in developing a very elite high-performance division which can bring home universally-recognised evidence of global success.

Ronnie Delaney, Olympic Gold Medal athlete in 1956, with sailing Olympian Saskia Tidey at the NYC Reception for Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy in August 2016. Photo courtesy NYCRonnie Delaney, Olympic Gold Medal athlete in 1956, with sailing Olympian Saskia Tidey at the NYC Reception for Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy in August 2016. Photo courtesy NYC

To achieve this, nothing is now remotely comparable to the heights of national exultation given to an Olympic Medal. Once upon a time, it was different. When super-runner Ronnie Delaney won his Gold Medal in the 1500m in the Melbourne Olympics on 1st December 1956, it caused turmoil in the newsrooms of the Dublin media – such as it was at the time - for not everyone was even aware he was there, let alone being the best in the world.

Then when David Wilkins and Jamie Wilkinson won Silver in the Flying Dutchman in the 1980 Moscow Olympics (with the sailing at Tallinn in what is now Estonia, but that’s a story for another time), everybody was well clued in to what was going on for the FD duo. Nevertheless, their reception home was a very genteel little ceremony at David Wilkins’ home club of Malahide.

Perhaps a quiet little celebration is in order….? 1980 Olympic Silver Medallists David Wilkins (Malahide) and Jamie Wilkinson (Howth) are welcomed home. Photo at Malahide shows (left to right) Bill Cuffe-Smith (Commodore HYC), Jamie Wilkinson, Peter Killen (Commodore MYC), David Wilkins, and Paddy Kirwan, President, Irish Yachting Association.Perhaps a quiet little celebration is in order….? 1980 Olympic Silver Medallists David Wilkins (Malahide) and Jamie Wilkinson (Howth) are welcomed home. Photo at Malahide shows (left to right) Bill Cuffe-Smith (Commodore HYC), Jamie Wilkinson, Peter Killen (Commodore MYC), David Wilkins, and Paddy Kirwan, President, Irish Yachting Association.

HUGE MODERN GROWTH OF PUBLICITY FOR ALL SPORTS

However, fast forward 46 years, and the 2016 Olympics are being held in Rio de Janeiro which – despite being one of the most dangerous cities in the world – is also one of the most spectacularly beautiful, with the singular advantage for sailing that its Olympic events can be staged virtually within city limits, so much so that it was actually easier to personally watch the sailing than almost any other contest.

So when Annalise Murphy won her Silver, it was like a dream come true not only for Irish sailors, but for all Ireland. We were still recovering in our own accentuated way from the horrors of the global economic crash of 2008-2011, while Murphy had to overcome her personal setback of slipping from a seemingly certain medal to a fourth in the 2012 Olympics. So this was magic. The entire country cheered.

Absolute magic…Annalise Murphy wins Silver at Rio, 16th August 2016.Absolute magic…Annalise Murphy wins Silver at Rio, 16th August 2016

Thus her welcome home to Dun Laoghaire and her own base of the National Yacht Club just five days after winning was a glorious gala occasion on a scale never witnessed before in Irish sailing. And inevitably it raised the stakes for the need for further success in the upcoming 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, for by now – in Irish terms at least – big money was being invested by Sport Ireland in future sailing success at many levels, and most especially in the Olympics.

Just the beginning of something very big. Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy returns to Dun Laoghaire for the beginning of an extended welcome home……..Just the beginning of something very big. Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy returns to Dun Laoghaire for the beginning of an extended welcome home……..

……which finally concluded far into the night with a rapturous reception from a crowd from all over Ireland packed in at the National Yacht Club……which finally concluded far into the night with a rapturous reception from a crowd from all over Ireland packed in at the National Yacht Club

The Olympic sector of Ireland’s performance sailing became a voracious monster, devouring any rising talent to feed its need for new medal material. This was particularly the case with developing young 49er stars Rob Dickson and Sean Waddilove who, with super-coach Tytus Konarzewski, were building a steady programme towards the 2024 Paris Olympics, when the sailing will be held at Marseille.

But then in September 2018, this “Fingal Flyer” crew won the 49er U23 Worlds in Marseille. Big mistake. The Gold Medal and the Marseille location were just too much temptation for the powers-that-be. They snapped up the Dickson-Waddilove crew for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics potential lineup, and when Konarzewski’s contract concluded at the end of September 2018, they let him go.



The sheer athleticism of 49er racing is in a league of its own

HIGH RISK POLICY

This was the beginning of a high-risk policy aimed at optimum success in what would be an expensive yet ruthlessly pruned campaign towards a venue at the other side of the world. In the end, the wheels came off so completely that an analytical report was subsequently commissioned from a highly-qualified outside agency. It has been published this week, but in such a redacted form that it’s already creating discussion elsewhere in Afloat.ie which will run and run, both here and at the next AGM of Irish Sailing.

But for those who have already had more than enough of official statements and denials and specialist jargon, let us look instead at the very human story of something which, if it hadn’t happened, would probably have made the publication of doubtless expensive official outside reports unnecessary.

It’s a matter of weight. Just 0.09kgs, or 3.2 ounces in old money. 3.2 ounces, for heaven’s sake……Yet if it hadn’t been for something weighing 3.2 ounces more than it should have done, the rail-roaded young 49er crew, hustled into an Olympics which became even more difficult with the year’s delay through the COVID pandemic which also made Japan an intimidating place to be competing on a socially-distanced world stage, would have returned home with a job well done.

SHARED SENSE OF SHAME

Everybody knows what happened, but that fact is that, had the weight infringement not occurred, the 49er crew were on a roll, they were going to come home with a good result, and a medal was within sight. Yet instead they came home with a 13th in a fleet of 19. Questions Were Being Asked, and our sense of empathy with the young sailors exceeded only the sense of shared shame within the Irish sailing community, that this should have happened in the most prominent setting of all.

Appropriately for the Hellenic-originating Olympics, it was like a Greek tragedy. At mid-regatta, after one of their best days with a 6th and a 2nd recorded, the Irish 49ers were told that all boat equipment was going to have a routine weighing check. The result was a complete shock. Of the nineteen 49ers, two – the Irish and the Brazilian – were found to each have one trapeze harness which was overweight. The maximum permitted weight is 2kg, but while the Brazilian clocked in at 2.3kg, the Irish were just 2.09kg.

Harnessed to ill-fortune ? A 49er’s trapeze harness is the sailor’s most important – and most intimate – item of personal equipmentHarnessed to ill-fortune ? A 49er’s trapeze harness is the sailor’s most important – and most intimate – item of personal equipment

It was absurd. Yet despite re-weighings, the penalties – a massive 20 points docking – stood firm, and with it went any chance of an Irish medal, while equally with it came the expectation of a very serious follow-up enquiry. So how did it happen?

The trapeze harness is the 49er sailor’s most intimate item of equipment. Those of us whose Christmas-gift jerseys are still in the wrapper will have every sympathy with an Olympic sailor who stays with the same proven and comfortable harness long after it has reached an age where moisture absorption into its fabric could be a problem. In fact, as it’s all made from synthetic materials, the idea of absorption would not readily occur.

But the reality is that after a while its protective coating becomes worn and it does permit the absorption of moisture, and thus the meticulous checking of harness weights should be every bit as important as ensuring that other weight-sensitive items are monitored. The harness in question had apparently been comfortably compliant when last seriously weighed. But that may have been as far back as 2019.

DUTY OF MANAGEMENT

However, when it gets to the stage that the campaign is on its way to the Olympics, doing these checks is surely a duty of management. Only two Irish boats were competing in the Tokyo Olympics, and as the Olympic Laser/ILCA and all its equipment were being provided by the host nation, the only boat and equipment package which the Irish squad took to Tokyo was the 49er, a situation which emphasised the importance in this one instance of the most thorough managerial input.

In time, just where the buck stops on this one will need to be resolved. But meanwhile, the partial publication of this report is a painful reminder of the day last summer when the entire Irish sailing community hung its head in shame over an infringement of 3.2 ounces.

Yet life goes on, and we hope to learn. Certainly, we can learn from the way that Rob Dickson and Sean Waddilove comported themselves after this monumental setback. Heaven only knows, but it’s beyond imagination, just how they felt on the night after the judgment. But in the morning, they resumed racing with determination and style. They concluded the Tokyo Olympiad with a win in the final race. And it’s now only two years to the Paris Olympics.

Published in W M Nixon
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Irish Sailing has declined to expand on the findings from its review of its Tokyo Olympic Team performance by publishing the 'full report' instead of an executive summary released this week.

A 'summary of findings' was published on Tuesday that concluded the Tokyo performance was "a disappointing Olympic Games that did not deliver on the high expectations post-Rio".

"Fewer boats qualified than the expected targets, and the performance of the boats which did qualify was disappointing", the summary stated.

The review, commissioned by the ISA, was prepared by sports coaching guru Gary Keegan of consultants Uppercut and a summary was published on the association website on Tuesday evening.

Introducing the report, Irish Sailing President David O'Brien said, "I am very pleased to share the independent external review of the Tokyo Olympics with you, Irish Sailing members and the wider sailing community".

The report author notes on page 3 of the summary: "A comprehensive report was issued to the Review Steering Panel which outlined the detailed findings, supporting evidence and recommendations based on the data and information shared during the review and also shares some perspectives and comparatives based on our experience of HP environments".

In response to a request for details of the 'comprehensive report', O'Brien told Afloat yesterday that "there is only one report “Summary of Headline Findings” published as a result of the review, which is as it indicates an Executive Summary of the full report, presented to and accepted by the Board. It is not intended to publish the full report".

The review follows criticism from a number of key sailing observers including Olympians and former coaches as well as plain-speaking former ISA President Roger Bannon, who called for some 'dispassionate reflection on Ireland's sailing performance' post-Tokyo.

Specifically, there are ongoing misgivings over the manner in which the Tokyo Olympic selection process was cut short by Irish Sailing in the women's Radial class, a point not mentioned in the published summary except to say 'consideration could be given to building in a “force majeure” provision to the Selection Policy' and 'communication with athletes who do not qualify needs to be enhanced'.

Sport Ireland has also commissioned its own independent Tokyo review.

In the five years from Rio, Irish Sailing received €3.87m in High-Performance state funding making it one of the top three funded Olympic sports.

A copy of the summary findings document is available to download here

Published in Tokyo 2020
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Irish Sailing, the sport's national governing body, has added to its growing fleet of vehicles, this time with a new van for its Olympic Sailing Team.

The vehicle will be used to transport boats and equipment to international events on the road to Paris 2024, the first of which is now only around the corner with the massive Spanish Trofeo Trofeo Princesa Sofía Regatta kicking off in Palma in April.

There's little chance of this latest rig going missing in any airport car park given the not too subtle vehicle wrap of the Mercedes-Benz Vito, a van that is a firm favourite of both the now-retired Olympic silver medalist Annalise Murphy and her Radial rival Aoife Hopkins.

Sailing results from the Tokyo Olympics were "incredibly disappointing" and should lead to an independent review of the High-Performance unit within Irish Sailing, according to former Former Irish Sailing Association president Roger Bannon.

In his article for Afloat here, Bannon points out that the current High-Performance Unit has presided over Irish participation at four Olympics since 2008. "Apart from Annalise Murphy's silver medal in Rio, an exceptional result for a variety of reasons, Irish results at all these Olympics have failed to fulfil our much-heralded promise," he writes.

It is estimated that at least €15m has been spent since 2006 on High-Performance Sailing in Ireland, excluding what the participants themselves have contributed, and the Government regularly spends more supporting Irish sailing than any Olympic sport other than Athletics. Bannon notes this windfall is unlikely to continue after our poor results in Tokyo and consistent disappointments in the past.

Roger Bannon, who served as President of the association from 1994 to 1996, is credited with the 1993 'Joint Membership Scheme' (JMS). The JMS underpinned the financial viability of the association by making every member of a sailing club also a member of the ISA. An outspoken critic of former ISA policies, Bannon spearheaded a group of sailors in 2013 calling for change at the association, claiming it had 'lost touch with grassroots sailing'. He rejoined the board in 2014 as its Treasurer and resigned in 2016.Roger Bannon, who served as President of the association from 1994 to 1996, is credited with the 1993 'Joint Membership Scheme' (JMS). The JMS underpinned the financial viability of the association by making every member of a sailing club also a member of the ISA. An outspoken critic of ISA policies, Bannon spearheaded a group of sailors in 2013 calling for change at the association, claiming it had 'lost touch with grassroots sailing'. He rejoined the board in 2014 as its Treasurer and resigned in 2016.

Disappointment in the US team at its failure to win sailing medals has sparked a new appointment of Paul Cayard, a world-class Olympic and international sailor, as that country's new high-performance supremo. In addition, the UK's RYA recently appointed the renowned Olympic and international sailor Ian Walker as their high-performance supremo to direct what they hope will be the ongoing British dominance in Olympic sailing, demonstrating their willingness to review and change even an outstandingly successful high-performance structure which has delivered so many medals over the last 12 years.

In Ireland, writes Bannon, "we have basically not changed our approach for the last 4 or 5 Olympic cycles and the core methodology is obviously not working and needs to be totally reappraised, probably with new blood and revised structures.

Among the changes suggested by Bannon are:

  • Professionalising our coaching support techniques to improve performance at each Olympics.
  • Peer reviews ourselves other more successful nations of similar size, such as New Zealand.
  • High-performance sailors should not be isolated from mainstream domestic sailing activities.
  • Improved PR and visibility for the High-Performance sailors and improved relations with young athletes' families
  • New protocols to assist in improving communication and consultation with families that support young athletes attempting to gain traction at international level.
  • Changes to the composition of the High-Performance Olympic Committee.

In its response to the article, Irish Sailing said: "As is normal after each Olympic cycle, Irish sailing is undertaking a comprehensive review of our support to and performance of our sailing athletes. To this end, we are engaging an external sports management expert to undertake the review.

"Sport Ireland has also commissioned their own independent review which we look forward to receiving in due course. The Irish Sailing Board welcomes views from all those with Olympic sailing experience and in this regard is delighted to receive the views of our esteemed Past President, Roger Bannon.

"We expect to conclude our review by the year-end."

Published in Tokyo 2020

It's almost a month since the last sailing race of the Tokyo Olympics. In most sports, the end of each Olympic Quad (in this case a Quinq) is the traditional time for reflection on the previous campaign and consideration of the one (or more) ahead. It is also, traditionally, a time of changing personnel, both ashore and afloat. 

Deep thought is given by sports National Governing Bodies to current and future resources, both human and otherwise. This time around, the changes to the Olympic Sailing programme must be taken into the mix. During the Tokyo competition itself, Irish team management was acknowledging the need for a full debrief in order to"strengthen processes" in "every aspect of its preparations".

A key factor in the consideration is that, typically, not many of the Olympic Classes, have ever developed fleets with meaningful depth in Ireland, or, for that matter, in the UK. Think, Flying Dutchman, Soling, Star, Tempest, Europe, even 470. Except for the ILCA (Laser) fleets, aspiring Olympians in Ireland have to travel to get the competitive experience necessary to advance along the Olympic pathway.

Sailing talent

This raises the question of how to identify the talent worthy of support if they are not currently sailing the boat that they might aspire to.

The (hopefully temporary) rejection of an Offshore event in Paris in favour of kites, means that only three of the ten Olympic disciplines have Irish sailors anywhere on the world ranking lists.

As regular Afloat readers will know, Ireland targeted qualification in four Olympic classes for Tokyo but despite full-on campaigns ended up qualifying in only two.

While Annalise Murphy uses well-earned downtime to contemplate the future, Ireland's pool of sailors with proven talent is perhaps limited to Rob Dickson and Sean Waddilove in the 49er, Aisling Keller, Aoife Hopkins and Eve McMahon in the ILCA 6, and perhaps Finn Lynch in the ILCA7. Of course, there could be, and probably are, many others out there, but which of these would make it to the start line in Marseille in under three years time?

Annalise Murphy – well-earned downtime to contemplate the future Photo: Sailing EnergyAnnalise Murphy – well-earned downtime to contemplate the future Photo: Sailing Energy

Parsi prospects  - Rob Dickson and Sean Waddilove in the 49er Photo: Sailing EnergyParis prospects - Rob Dickson and Sean Waddilove in the 49er Photo: Sailing Energy

Another uncertainty is the investment Sport Ireland are prepared to put into Irish High-Performance Sailing over the next three years.

No medal race finish

On average, just over €750,000 was granted to Irish Sailing every year since 2017. Will Sport Ireland be prepared to cough up the same, given the fairly meagre return of two classes qualified with results in the mid-teens and no medal race result?

Paris 2024

And how are we preparing for beyond Paris? Observers of this month's Laser 4.7 Youth Worlds on Dublin Bay pointed in frustration to the nationally supported squads of European sailors, where the Dutch, Italian, Spanish and Greek fleets seemed particularly well-organised and featured many sailors in the gold fleet. By contrast, the largest country by fleet numbers, Ireland, could only manage to get four out of 35 boys into the gold fleet and two of the 35 girls. If this is a pointer to future Olympic results, then Ireland will struggle to qualify.

Bold decisions

Irish Sailing should and probably will use the post-Olympic period to study clinically the quad just passed, apply the lessons learned to the next cycle, but perhaps most of all, consider a longer-term approach to developing talent considering ways to balance the investment in current and future talent. It may be time for bold decisions that may favour a bigger input of resources into youth sailing that may not pay off until Los Angeles 2028 or Brisbane 2032.

Time was when the question of whether the 2020-Olympics-in-2021 should or should not be staged would have been described as the Elephant in the Room, suggesting the presence of an imponderable so large and unthinkable that the sanity-seeking majority of the global sporting population have continued determinedly along as though it is, of course, going to happen. The ponderous pachyderm, they've said, is a figment of people's imagination.

But a small but growing minority in sport are increasingly in agreement with the fact that an international super-spreader event like the Olympics simply has to be cancelled as the world still grapples with an ever-mutating virus.

That's the balance of attitudes within the gung-ho sporting community. But within the population at large, the situation is already very different, with 90% of the general population in host country Japan being against the idea of the Games going ahead in July – just two months and one week away, to be precise – while at the more specific level, at least 40 Japanese townships, which in previous Olympiad years had generously hosted national teams, have indicated that in July 2021, such teams will no longer be welcome.

A Spreader Event of Olympic proportions…..but even if the traditional Olympic Parade is not staged in the event of the games being held in Tokyo in July, can safe distancing be maintained in a country where vaccination levels are still very low.A Spreader Event of Olympic proportions…..but even if the traditional Olympic Parade is not staged in the event of the games being held in Tokyo in July, can safe distancing be maintained in a country where vaccination levels are still very low.

The emergence of this and other gloom-inducing facts during the past week or so, such as a lowly 1% vaccination rate in Japan itself, have contributed to what appears to be a tipping point in opinion in top sporting circles. This is leading to the weary resignation of preparing for acceptance of the unthinkable – that the postponed 2020 Olympics will not happen in 2021, and thus is there any point of thinking about a third attempt at staging them in Japan in 2022, when the 2024 Paris Olympics are already thundering up the agenda?

The scenario is so unthinkable - so unreal and rumour-prone - that those of us on the outside can only grasp at straws in the wind as to how things are going in the real decision-making centres. And for long enough, as the majority of us clung to the hope that the Games would go ahead - albeit in very shrunken relatively spectator-less settings – each little indicator that suggested things were on track was hopefully added to our viewpoint.

But in doing so, we were ignoring the sheer vastness, the extremely spread-out nature, and the very lengthy time-span of the modern Olympics. Even in the most normal of times, the potential for some section of the games to come off the rails is ever-present. So heaven alone knows what twists of disease and other trouble might unravel in the extreme heat of 2021 Tokyo in high summer, when hysteria can run amok.

When Ireland first sailed in a Japanese Olympics in 1964, the racing was staged in October when the intense summer heat had eased. This year's regatta is planned here at Enoshima in July, a bit cooler than the main centre of Tokyo nearby, but still making a period of acclimatisation for Irish sailors highly desirable.When Ireland first sailed in a Japanese Olympics in 1964, the racing was staged in October when the intense summer heat had eased. This year's regatta is planned here at Enoshima in July, a bit cooler than the main centre of Tokyo nearby, but still making a period of acclimatisation for Irish sailors highly desirable.

The two factors that seemed to put us through the tipping point this past week have been the Japanese townships' declining of the opportunity to host teams – for that was something very specific as opposed to the vagueness of a national opinion poll – and the outcome of an announcement last week, that this week would be seeing all national teams receiving their first jab of the Pfizer vaccine if they hadn't already got it, or were on some other vaccination.

The Pfizer seems to have emerged as the Gold Standard, as it provides 95% immunity whereas some of the "workhorse" vaxes, while still effective, give significantly less protection. But anecdotal evidence from personal experiences suggests that the two-part Pfizer super-jab leaves you in no doubt whatever that your body has been put through quite a major biochemical experience.

There's a four week gap between the two Pfizer injections, and a full return to feelings of normality shouldn't really be expected until about a fortnight after the second jab, though the latest research suggests that you'll have achieved virtually full immunity one week after Jab Two.

Full immunity and a feeling of general well-being are two very different psycho-physical states, and thus it's realistic to think that an Olympic athlete receiving the full Pfizer treatment would need to have a clear eight week period after the first jab, before they could hope to return to that very finely-tuned condition which is optimal performance preparedness, and has more physical and mental components than you'd think possible.

Thus when the announcement came last week that agreement had been reached for all un-vaccinated Olympians to begin the Pfizer course this week, with the response coming that Olympic medical teams were ready and able for the administration, it gave us small grounds for added optimism. For this proposed schedule was just within the time-frame for the full post-vaccination recovery of the athletes by the time the Games began to take shape.

Team Dickson/Waddilove performing at peak. To achieve this level of fitness, an athlete would need to be as far post-vaccine as possible.   Team Dickson/Waddilove performing at peak. To achieve this level of fitness, an athlete would need to be as far post-vaccine as possible.  

But so far this week we've not been able to confirm any evidence at all that the widely-welcomed vaccination programme for the Olympians has gone ahead, and that apparent non-event - in addition to the Japanese townships' "Not Welcome" announcements - suggest we're in a domino-effect continuum, at the end of which we'll find the cancellation of the 2021 Olympics.

That said, much of the athletic preparation towards the postponed Games has been done under the radar, and it could well be that it's official Olympic management policy not to reveal that a vaccination programme is under way at the moment until it is successfully completed, for fear of arousing some unpleasant protests from career begrudgers about the Olympians receiving elite treatment when the world is crying out for vaccination.

Most reasonable folk would strongly support the view that Olympic athletes – a very tiny minority – have done so much to inspire the rest of us, cheering us up generally through two winters of gloom, that they should as a matter of course have been among the primary groups for vaccination.

For sure, the real heroes deserving immediate vaccination have been the frontline health workers. But it's almost impossible to over-estimate the psychological benefits which those able to continue successfully with their sport have gifted to the rest of us. And while the unique nature of our sport has meant that quite a bit of in-Ireland sailing has been possible in pandemic gaps, it is the Irish sailing breakthroughs at a restricted international level that have been the brightest lights in the general gloom.

It was as recently as mid-March that the Afloat.ie Editorial Team were having a conversation with renowned coach Tytus Konarzewski about the chances of the "Fingal Flyers" 49er team – Rob Dickson of Howth and Sam Waddilove of Skerries - making it past the final stages of Olympic selection – the last chance saloon - at Lanzarote at the end of the month.

The hugely experienced Konarzewski has seen and done it all, and comfortably takes the long view. When he started coaching with Dickson & Waddilove, it was with the long count-down to the 2024 Olympics in mind. But didn't the boys go and spoil it all by winning the U23 49er Worlds at Marseille in September 2018?

This not only made them the Afloat.ie Sailors of the Year 2018, but also saw them yanked by the powers-that-be out of their buildup programme towards 2024, and pushed instead into the main road towards Tokyo 2020, while the highly-regarded Konarzewski was let go.

The Sage of Successful Sailing – renowned coach Tytus Konarzewski in thoughtful observational mode on Dublin Bay. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien   The Sage of Successful Sailing – renowned coach Tytus Konarzewski in thoughtful observational mode on Dublin Bay. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O'Brien  

It was an arguably unhealthy development in terms of campaign planning, but where others then came to see the postponement of the 2020 Olympics as a problem in the latter stages of securing the 49er slot in 2021, Dickson & Waddilove saw it as an opportunity to up their game, and as the final selection races came over the horizon, they were in a new place in terms of performance and potential.

Nevertheless, in that mid-March conversation with the great Tytus, there was still a huge element of the "what ifs" about the permutations which could make the breakthrough possible. And in the actual event when the pressure was palpable, the burden on the two young sailors was inescapable. Yet they managed it with the medal race to spare. And with the pressure off, their carefree performance of brilliance in the final race to leave so many top sailors behind them simply adds to our hopes that the 2021 Sailing Olympics at Enoshima will somehow take place.

The Fingal Flyers qualify for the Olympics – Sam Waddilove of Skerries and Rob Dickson of Howth in Lanzarote, with Rob wearing his lucky hat which reminded everyone of………The Fingal Flyers qualify for the Olympics – Sam Waddilove of Skerries and Rob Dickson of Howth in Lanzarote, with Rob wearing his lucky hat which reminded everyone of………

…..the sailing headgear which was the trademark of his famous grandfather Roy Dickson, seen here at the helm of his Corby 40 Cracklin Rosie at the start of the 1997 Fastnet Race. Photo: W M Nixon…..the sailing headgear which was the trademark of his famous grandfather Roy Dickson, seen here at the helm of his Corby 40 Cracklin Rosie at the start of the 1997 Fastnet Race. Photo: W M Nixon

Not least of the pleasures in their success in Lanzarote was that Rob Dickson took part in a post-race interview in his new "lucky hat", which fondly reminded all those who knew of it of the similar hat which was the trademark headgear of his legendary sailing grandfather, the late Roy Dickson.

This in turn reminds us that at its best, Irish sailing is just one great big family affair, even if it often involves putting an extremely broad meaning on what "family" signifies. But whatever it is, it's good. And while we hope very dearly indeed that our reading of the rules about the staging or not of the 2021 version of the 2020 Olympics proves to be wrong, should it be right we can only point to the next suitable date as being 24th July 2022.

Published in W M Nixon

Leading sports photo agency Sportsfile has included a photo of the Irish Olympic Sailing Team in its 'Sportsfile Images of the Year' portfolio.

The image by ace snapper Dave Fitzgerald captures Irish Laser sailors, from left, Eve McMahon, Liam Glynn, Finn Lynch and Annalise Murphy during a high-performance squad training session at Dun Laoghaire Harbour on Dublin Bay.

The image was taken in June when many sports were allowed to resume training and open training facilities from June 8 under the Irish Government’s Roadmap for Reopening of Society and Business following strict protocols of social distancing and hand sanitisation among other measures allowing it to return in a phased manner, having been suspended since March due to the Irish Government's efforts to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.

Published in Tokyo 2020
Tagged under

The Notice of Race of the Tokyo Olympic Games has been published by World Sailing, the sailing regatta will take place from July 25 to August 4.

Following the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to 2021, World Sailing has released the Notice of Race for the Olympic Sailing Competition.

The competition will run out of Enoshima Yacht Harbour in Japan and will commence on 25 July with the concluding Medal Race on 4 August.

The Notice of Race states the key conditions for the 10 sailing events at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The Men's 470, Women's 470, Laser, Laser Radial and Finn fleets will sail ten races as part of their opening series with a concluding Medal Race. Twelve races will be held for the 49er, 49erFX, Nacra 17, Men's RS:X and Women's RS:X fleets ahead of their Medal Races.

Included within the Notice of Race are details on the rules, regulations, entry and qualification guidelines, format, scoring, schedule, venue and courses.

Athletes, coaches, trainers and other team officials shall comply with the Olympic Charter, as well as with the World Sailing rules, in order to be eligible for participation in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Competition, and shall be entered by a National Olympic Committee (NOC).

Download the full notice of race below as a PDF

Published in Tokyo 2020

Annalise Murphy, (30), the only Irish sailor nominated so far for the 2021 Olympic Regatta, has spoken of the difficulties presented by COVID-19 in attempting to train at the Tokyo Regatta venue.

The fact that the Olympics is going ahead at all is positive news for the Irish star but after a year of continuous training at home, and little in the way of competition, it has been a frustrating scenario for the National Yacht Club sailor in her bid for Olympic gold next year. 

She told a special presentation of the Irish Laser class at its recent AGM that she 'obviously would love to train in Tokyo before the Olympics but the reality is that it might be very difficult to do that'.

Firstly, Murphy says, there is the question about whether international athletes will be allowed into Japan at all during the current lockdown, then there is the level of quarantining required once in Tokyo. "If we have to spend two weeks quarantining in a hotel room in order to just do a two-week training camp then the reward may not really be worth the loss of all that time".

Rio Silver medalist Annalise Murphy was crowned 2020 Italian Olympic Week week champion in October, just one of a few international Radial regattas held in 2020Rio Silver medalist Annalise Murphy was crowned 2020 Italian Olympic Week champion in September, just one of a few international Radial regattas held in 2020

As a result, the Rio silver medalist says, in reality, she 'doesn't really know what is going to happen'.

'We just have to be happy to take it one step at a time. If the opportunity presents itself to go out to Japan beforehand, that's brilliant but if not I can’t worry about it too much because no one else can go out there either'. 

Her plan is to stay positive over the winter and 'roll with whatever happens', she concludes.

Published in Tokyo 2020
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