Irish Sailing Performance Quarterly Update

Irish Sailing Performance Quarterly Update


Welcome to the second Performance Quarterly of 2021. With the Olympic Qualifiers behind them, the Irish Sailing Team’s eyes are firmly fixed on the Tokyo Olympic Games starting on 25 July.

Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove qualify Ireland for the Olympic Games in the 49er

After a thrilling week in Lanzarote in late March, Robert Dickson (Howth Yacht Club) and Sean Waddilove (Skerries Sailing Club) qualified Ireland for the Tokyo Olympics with a race to spare. They finished the regatta in style with a bullet (first) in the medal race, and the Bronze Medal overall. Rob and Sean joined the Irish Sailing Pathway Programme ten years ago as junior sailors and will be nominated to represent Ireland at the Tokyo Games. As a young team, their qualification is a huge achievement not just for them, but their coach Matt McGovern who has been 18 months in the role.

It was a bittersweet moment on the other hand for Ryan Seaton and Séafra Guilfoyle who missed qualification. After a short period of reflection, Ryan announced his retirement from the Team. It was a tough decision for Ryan, but the time was right to move on to the next phase of his life.

Leaving the helter-skelter of campaigning behind, Ryan now might get time to reflect on some of the highs during his time from Irish Sailing Academy athlete to Olympic team member. His CV is littered with top 10 finishes at World Championships and a medal race final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. He and 49er teammate Matt McGovern took silver at the 2014 World Cup regatta and went one better in 2016 winning the prestigious Princesa Sofia regatta in Palma. Despite the impressive results ensuring his place amongst Ireland’s best ever sailors, Ryan’s biggest legacy will be with his teammates. Seáfra Guilfoyle teamed up with Ryan in 2017 in their bid for Tokyo selection and has now embarked on a new campaign as helm, doubtless full of knowledge and information from his former skipper. Likewise, it does not overstate things to say that Robert Dickson and Seán Waddilove would not have progressed as quickly as they did had Ryan not been so open with information and tips.

Ryan was open because he was in pursuit of excellence. He knew that if the younger team got better it would push them all to get better. Rather than fear this he embraced it.  He was, and will be a hugely positive influence around the team and a constant presence even on the tough days, of which there are many in high performance sport. He will be hugely missed by the entire team and we wish him all the best in his future endeavours.

Laser Men miss qualification, but look ahead to Paris 2024

Alongside the high of the 49er qualification came the low for the Laser Men in Portugal at the start of April. This is what makes performance sport so high stakes – and what makes the athletes who chose to explore their potential so brave. They put everything into what they do and sometimes the hard work gets the reward it deserves and sometimes it doesn't.  The joy is rightly celebrated publicly. The disappointment is a harder one to crack and can feel lonely but the reality is you have to accept it as part of the game.

Our job now is to support this young team (Finn Lynch, Liam Glynn and Ewan McMahon) and take a look at what we could have done better. These are hard conversations but if done well can be the turning point in a career. We are already in Year 1 of the Paris 2024 Olympic cycle, with the Laser World Championships coming up in September, so already the team are planning and looking ahead to the next challenges.  

Laser Radials

The Laser Radial Team (Annalise Murphy, Aoife Hopkins and Eve McMahon) joined the Vilamoura Laser Regatta with mixed success. The team missed the Gold Fleet qualification, but Annalise won three bullets (first place) in the Silver Fleet and won the section overall. Annalise will represent Ireland in the Laser Radial class at the Tokyo Games this summer.

Junior and Youth Sailing

The younger sailors on the Performance Pathway are now very much back to training. Coach Sean Evans and his team are preparing sailors for the 4.7 Laser World Championships in Dun Laoghaire in August. The Optimist Teams are working towards the European Championships in Spain and the World Championships in Italy at the end of June. Meanwhile the 420s compete at the World Championships in Italy in June.

Tokyo planning

Despite the uncertainty around the Games and the very tough protocols being put in place for living in Tokyo, there is a very positive atmosphere amongst the Team. The thinking is that tough protocols are preferable to the Games not happening, so the changes in accommodation, travel, and access are being dealt with without complaint and a can-do attitude.

Support and Backing

As always, the Team is lucky to have the support of so many clubs and sailors throughout the island of Ireland. Sport Ireland have backed us the whole way with their long-term strategic thinking, their faith in our young and emerging athletes and the Pathway Programme. The support of the Irish Sailing Foundation has been instrumental in the story so far, and we are now witnessing the benefits of having a Performance HQ.

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