Welcome to the 2021 Q3 Performance Quarterly. After the Tokyo Olympics, the Irish Sailing Team are back in the thick of international competition, with eyes already looking ahead to Paris 2024.
Tokyo Olympic Games
After a delay of a year, the Tokyo Olympic Games went ahead in July. The Games marked a culmination of an excellent Olympic career for Annalise Murphy. However, despite scoring a race win and a second place in the middle of the week, she was unable to make up on ground lost early in the week. She finished 18th overall.
Performance Director James O’Callaghan sums it up nicely: “ For over a decade Annalise has made a massive impact on our sport. She has been a European champion and competed in three Olympic Games, won races in each and won a silver medal. Her legacy lives on in the dozens of female and male athletes inspired by her performances."
Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove sailed an excellent regatta in the 49er class – marking their Olympic debut with a win and capping off the week with a second race win. In the middle of the week however, they were routinely spot-checked by the official equipment measurers. In two cases, Ireland and Brazil, it was found that the trapeze harnesses, used by the sailors to hang from wires to balance the boat, were slightly in excess of the permitted weight. The resulting disqualifications put pay to Dickson and Waddilove’s medal race hopes. While disappointing, the resilience the team showed in their response along with their race scores points to a very bright future.
Autumn is a time to take stock and learn from the experiences, and challenges faced in the last Olympic cycle culminating at the Tokyo Games. There are three different reviews in the works: one each from the Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI), Sport Ireland, and Irish Sailing. All three reviews will deliver learnings and recommendations to be incorporated into the Performance Pathway Programme.
Revitalising Youth Sailing
A pipeline of strong talent is at the bedrock of the Irish Sailing Performance Pathway Programme. Identifying and training up future team members is a key role for the coaches. The two year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic means that the talent pipeline is not as strongly populated as we would hope for. It’s important for Irish Sailing to assess the current systems in place and see what supports are needed and to make sure that connections are made with the best aspiring athletes. One of the best ways of doing this is the Investwise Irish Sailing Youth National Championships.
Youth National Championships
Irish Sailing are delighted that Investwise Financial Planning have come on board as title sponsor for the event. This is Ireland’s biggest youth regatta with over 100 young sailors gathering at the Royal Cork Yacht Club, Crosshaven, from 28-31 October.
Competitors will compete across four different classes: the 420, Topper, ILCA 4 (Laser 4.7) and ILCA 6 (Laser Radial). These are the classes that have been identified as the best to facilitate progression through the Performance Pathway. For the first time the 29er class who are in discussions about becoming a full Performance Pathway class, will be on the start line as an invited class.
The Youth National Championships are unique - not only is it the biggest youth event held in Ireland, it’s the only time that different youth classes come together to compete, gain valuable experience on the water, hear from Irish Sailing coaches, and, along with their families, learn more about the Irish Sailing Performance Pathway.
IODAI National Training Week
Although normally part of the Youth Nationals, this year due to COVID safety measures, Irish Sailing and the IODAI (Irish Optimist class) decided to organise a separate training week. The IODAI National Training Week is part of an overall plan to kick-start the junior pathway and as such is being supported by Irish Sailing. Participants will get access to top coaching and sport science information used by our Olympic sailors. This year’s training week is in Malahide; future editions will rotate nationally.
Johnny Durcan rejoins the Team
Johnny Durcan has rejoined the Irish Sailing Team. Having graduated from the Irish Sailing Academy Johnny spent a brief period training with the Laser Men’s team in late 2017 before resigning to pursue other interests. Now he is back in the system following a three-month trial period and will crew with Seafra Guilfoyle in the 49er discipline. The Cork duo sail alongside teammates Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove and are based out of the Irish Sailing Performance HQ. Both Johnny and Seafra are from Crosshaven and are Quercus Sports Scholars at UCC. Johnny will split his final year of law and business over two years so he can compete. You can read an interview with him here: https://sailing.ie/News/id/4600/meet-johnny
Carding with Sport Ireland
Most of our athletes are at the end of a two-year funding period with Sport Ireland called “carding”. Carding is the financial support given to athletes for their training and competition programmes with the aim of getting medals. Sport Ireland have a range of criteria for results gained at senior (and some U21 or U23 events) events. They identify the events and the results to gain, which have a knock-on effect of identifying the team membership and make-up for Irish Sailing. There’s a very clear equation: results reached at specific senior events = funding and membership of the Irish Sailing Team.
From a programme perspective the Sport Ireland carding process and athletes’ funding is binary and based on results at events. In the past two years, some of the athletes have moved from ‘development’ to ‘senior’ and from novice to seasoned campaigners. Younger athletes have broader targets to hit as they gain experience and explore their potential. Our more seasoned athletes are looking to make sure they hit their targets. In the heat of battle they need to focus on process and ignore the stark metrics. For all of them, good results now help set up the campaigns with a secure funding base. Some will be looking to maintain their current carding status and others, to elevate themselves to the next level.
Wide support team
All through the Performance Pathway, sailors are supported by a range of sport science expertise to give them the best chance of success. From coaches who oversee the programme, to strength and conditioning experts, physiotherapists, psychologists, communications professionals to the athlete’s families, there is a strong and multi-faceted support system in place.
Sport Ireland is the primary source of funding for the delivery of the programme alongside Department of Sport funding capital. The Irish Sailing Foundation continues to provide generous and vital philanthropic support, and over the years commercial partners have been a key ingredient for success. Alongside that are a broader group of supporting stakeholders, from clubs, families, and friends.
Welcome Home for the Irish Sailing Team
Irish Sailing and the Irish Sailing Foundation held a low-key welcome home party for the Team at the Performance HQ in Dun Laoghaire. The atmosphere was friendly and informal, and it was a wonderful chance to thank the families and some of the key supporters of the Team.
Although the Tokyo Olympics have just finished, there are only three years left until Paris 2024, with year 1 and year 2 of the Olympic cycle now merged. Competitions that normally don’t run in an Olympic year are now still on.
This autumn the Laser Men and the Laser Radial Women have both World and European Championships, and 49ers have World Championships.
You can follow the team’s progress on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Pic of Liam Glynn, Laser/ILCA 7 in Bulgaria.