Day 6 final report:
European championship marks a tough regatta in France for the Irish
Gold for Rocco Wright (Howth Yacht Club) in the ILCA6 event of the European Championships on the Côte d'Azur today was the highlight of a week of mixed fortunes for the Irish sailors competing.
Wright's win in the ILCA6 Men's event was always in prospect as he wore the yellow leader's bib for over half the event.
His result came down to the single final race on the last day that he started on level points but ahead on tiebreak from Cypriot Georgios Yiasemides. Wright kept his nerve to place fourth while making sure to stay well in front of his main rival who placed 13th.
"I'm extremely happy with this week as the first few days were very challenging and that was my weakness coming out of summer," he said. "I'm just speechless to be World and European champion this year. It was always a dream of mine to win a Worlds and a European and to do it the same year... I'm just over the moon!"
Meanwhile, in the ILCA6 Women's championship, Eve McMahon (Howth YC) delivered her goal of a strong finish when she placed 13th, lifting her to 21st place overall to end her season that includes three Gold medals at World Youth level.
A strong start to the regatta for Rio 2016 Olympian Finn Lynch (National YC) looked promising in the strong conditions that were present for the qualification round. However, lighter winds with large windshifts saw the Carlow sailor suffer though he might normally have performed well in such weather.
Matching Eve McMahon's final score, Lynch placed 13th to bring him to 26th overall, some distance off a top ten or podium result that he might normally deliver.
Meanwhile, two other McMahon siblings were in action on the Bay of Hyères. Ewan McMahon had a faltering start to the event but regained his composure in time to qualify for Gold fleet. Younger brother Jamie had been in the hunt for the top 55 as well but in the end had to settle for Silver fleet.
The sixth Irish sailor in action was Tom Higgins (Royal St. George YC) who delivered a race win in the Bronze fleet series to take seventh place in that event.
"It won't quite be the results that they want but those guys (Finn Lynch and Ewan McMahon) are going to be back," said Rory Fitzpatrick, Head Coach with Irish Sailing. "We have a new European champion in Rocco Wright so we're pretty pleased about that, it's really great for Irish Sailing, his parents and his club."
Full results HERE
DAY 5 UPDATE:
Team searching for best outcomes at European Championships
After a gruelling seven hours afloat off the Côte d'Azur today, the team are considering their options for a best case finale to the ILCA European Championships on Monday (tomorrow).
In contrast to the start of the series earlier in the week, conditions have proven unpredictable with most team-members dropping down their respective rankings despite some individual promising performances.
Finn Lynch (National Yacht Club) was unable to find his more regular form for the lighter winds in the three race day that saw him score a 16th-39th-32nd which dropped him to 32nd place overall.
"We just didn't find the right mode to get in front of the fleet at the beginning," commented Vasilij Zbogar, Irish Sailing's Laser coach. "The truth is... I don't know; we were going so well before the event but now we have different conditions."
"Finn mentally was prepared well and is feeling well. We're struggling a little bit for speed in these conditions for the set-up we have could be a little bit better."
The triple Olympic medallist pointed to Lynch's improved performance in the upper wind range earlier in the week calling it a "huge step forward." Normally, the Carlow sailor would be expected to perform well in the conditions of the past two days.
"I'm not feeling great - I need to be doing better," Finn Lynch said after racing ended. "There is a lot of luck involved in these conditions but I need to be better so that I can afford to have bad luck."
For the remaining two races, Lynch will be aiming to finish on a high with individual best results though both the podium and most likely the top ten are beyond his reach.
"It’s very much snakes and ladders, you have to keep your wits about you all the time because of the gusts coming left right and centre across the course," said Ewan McMahon (Howth Yacht Club) who lies 41st in the Gold fleet. "You really have to be switched on and take your opportunities when you get them."
Making as few mistakes as possible but also taking risks was a point made by all the Irish sailors and echoed by McMahon. Like his senior team-mate, he too is looking for two solid results on Monday to finish off the championship on a high note.
In the women's ILCA6 event, Eve McMahon (Howth YC) also pointed to the tricky conditions. "It's not really a good thing for a sailor to say but I think that with these conditions you just have hit a side (of the course) and say a prayer - it's absolutely mad out there! There's no playing through the middle so you just have to chance your luck."
McMahon reckoned she was rounding marks in good positions but then dropping back so learning to manage the fleet will be a learning priority at the start of her senior career.
A 20th and a 34th leaves her in 34th overall in the 55-strong Gold fleet event for the ILCA6 women’s title.
Meanwhile, only eight races have been completed for the ILCA6 Men's event despite almost eight hours afloat. Having won the Gold at the Youth World Championships earlier this year, Rocco Wright has his sights firmly set on the Under 21 title as he leads his 64-boat fleet by a comfortable 20-point advantage with the final day to sail.
Tom Higgins had a good day on the water with a 1st and and a 6th place leaving him sitting in 4th place in the Bronze fleet.
DAY 4 IN HYERES:
Missing the shift at European championships in Hyères
After three days of fresh to strong conditions off the Côte d'Azur, light and tricky winds today had a dampening effect on the prospects for the team competing at the ILCA European Championships.
Slight changes in wind direction during a race can dramatically alter a sailor's standing on a race course and heavy reliance is placed on predicting such alterations.
The ILCA7 men's Course A was tucked in under a nearby mountain of the Massif des Maures range which produced some significant windshifts for the two races completed for the day.
Finn Lynch (National Yacht Club) had been hoping that the first day of Gold fleet racing would lead to a breakthrough from 15th overall into the top ten.
Instead, he was caught in both races on the wrong side of the early shifts and he placed 41st and 44th which dropped him to 28th overall. The event is still relatively high scoring and with four races remaining in the series, a comeback from the Carlow sailor is not unlikely.
Meanwhile, in the ILCA6 women's event, Eve McMahon (Howth YC) had been having a good opening Gold fleet race, sitting in the top ten on the first upwind leg. However, she later suffered when other boats took more chances that paid off and she ended in 24th place and 29th overall.
In the ILCA6 Men's event, Rocco Wright (Howth YC) in second overall started the only race of the day which he was leading until the wind changed so the race was abandoned. Nothing further was sailed after five hours afloat for either ILCA6 women or men's events.
The race management team will try to sail three races on Sunday, the penultimate day of the regatta when results will prove critical for Monday's final outcome of the championships.
At the end of Day 4, Ewan McMahon lies 45th in Gold Fleet.
Jamie McMahon is placing at 101 with Tom Higgins in 133.
DAY 3 UPDATE:
Three through to Gold fleet at European Championships in France
After a delay ashore to allow near gale conditions off the Côte d'Azur abate, organisers at the ILCA European Championships were only able to get a single race sailed in the quickly fading breeze earlier today.
The single race was enough for three Irish sailors at the competition to make the Gold fleet cut in their respective competitions. With the breeze continuing to blow off the land, nearby mountains made for tricky shifting wind direction that could easily help or hinder crews.
Eve McMahon (Howth Yacht Club) had one such encounter in her race today when she found herself on the right handside of the course when a windshift favoured the left. However, the race was abandoned due to the conditions and she went on to deliver a seventh place, her best of the series so far that moved her up to 35th place, well inside the top 55 boats that now form the Gold fleet in her ILCA6 event.
"We were racing under a mountain (shadow) so it was very, very tricky and absolute carnage to be honest," she said. "I was very happy, I got a good start and I was happy with my overall speed; that's how I should be racing all the time."
It was a similar story for Finn Lynch (National YC) in the ILCA7 event. After dropping back to 20th he was able to play a huge windshift in his favour and recovered to ninth for the day.
"The first two days were very shifty and hard but today was another level with 30-40 degree shifts," he said after racing. "It was very hard to get a counter result so ninth is okay."
After passing the halfway stage of the regatta, the event switches into the final round with two races daily scheduled until Monday afternoon - subject to weather which has proven quite unstable all week.
"It's still race by race - by after the first day of Gold fleet we'll have a better idea of who the guys fighting for the medals are," said Lynch.
Joining Lynch in the ILCA7 Gold fleet will be Ewan McMahon who found form enough in the last race of the qualification round to finish just inside the cut-off thanks to a seventh place in the single race of the day.
"I just wanted to go out and give it my all and not come in with any regrets," he said. "The first day I wasn't performing anywhere close to my potential and I just wanted to go out and prove to myself that I'm well able to race with these guys."
Unfortunately, the third McMahon sibling at the event had a slip in form as Jamie McMahon had a 42nd place and dropped back to 70th overall from well inside the Gold fleet range.
Meanwhile, a penalty applied to Rocco Wright (Howth YC) on Thursday evening saw him slip from the overall lead to second place in the ILCA6 Men's event after he had an eighth place. Nevertheless, just four points separates him from the lead with six races remaining.
RACING DAY 2:
The Team aiming for Gold fleet at European Championships in Hyères
As the local Mistral wind whipped up conditions for the 300-boat ILCA European Championships at Hyères today (Thursday 17th November 2022), Irish sailors are poised to take Gold fleet places with one day of qualification racing remaining.
Rio 2016 Olympian Finn Lynch (National Yacht Club) continues to deliver the strongest showing of the Irish Sailing athletes competing on the Côte d'Azur in the ILCA7 class this week. Although he had a 13th place which he discarded as four races have been sailed, he returned with his best result of the series in fourth place.
The world Silver medallist now lies 14th overall but is closely matched with all the top sailors with a spread of just six points between his position and the podium.
"I wouldn't say that I'm pleased (with the day) as I had one counter and a 13 which wasn't a great race," said Lynch after racing ended for the day. "I'm still in the game which is the goal for these long, six-day regattas.
"You just need to be within 15-20 points of the leader then you're still in the game."
The Carlow sailor had been in the leading group of boats but lost ground at a busy mark rounding as winds gusted close to 30 knots for a time.
"The conditions were very tricky, very unpredictable and super-attritional - I'm sure there are lots of sore bodies after today!" he said.
Meanwhile, the ILCA6 Women's event sees Ireland Eve McMahon (Howth Yacht Club) inside the cut-off for Gold fleet after a very consistent day in which she produced 13th and 14th places. She has to finish inside the top 55 boats in her 110 strong event and she lies 41st overnight.
In the ILCA6 Men's event Rocco Wright retained his overnight lead of his 48-strong event. A second place followed by an eighth means he has a ten-point lead at this early stage of the regatta.
In other Irish results, Ewan McMahon (Howth YC) enjoyed improved form for the second day when he placed ninth in the breezy opening race followed by a 20th. His overall standing at 66th leaves him trailing Gold fleet qualification on Friday with a 20-point gap to overcome.
Finn Lynch opens European Championship bid with two top six places in Hyères
Two top six places for Ireland's Finn Lynch (National Yacht Club) on the opening day of the ILCA7 European Championships in Hyeres, France today is an ideal start for the final major event of the season in the build-up to Paris 2024.
Conditions built steadily during the short day afloat to a brisk offshore wind that brought mixed results for the seven Irish sailors competing.
Rio 2016 Olympic veteran Lynch lies 12th in his 169 boat event in the ILCA7 class (formerly known as the Laser Standard) with two more days of qualifying races remaining to decide the Gold fleet split.
"It was a great day in very tricky conditions so to come away with a six and a five is very good for day one," the Carlow sailor said after racing. "The four or even five days of regattas like these you just need to stay in the game, stay in the game and then see where you are on the last day."
The course was shorter than expected at just 0.7 nautical miles so getting a good start was important.
"Where to start on the line was important because there wasn't that much catching up to be done on the upwind (first leg) so you needed to start in the perfect position."
Meanwhile, triple youth Gold medallist Eve McMahon (Howth Yacht Club) opted to take a penalty in a post-race arbitration session for an incident at a busy mark-rounding in the second race of the day.
In 59th overall after day one, she will be looking to climb the rankings to contest in gold fleet.
Meanwhile, the remaining McMahon siblings were also in action in the Men's event. Jamie McMahon delivered an eleventh place in the second race of the day which with his earlier 36th place moved him to 63th overall in his flight. Older brother Ewan was unable to find form in either race and incurred maximum points.
Howth clubmate Rocco Wright laid down a very clear statement of intent in the ILCA6 men's event where he leads overall after a race win and second place for the day. Although not an Olympic class in itself, as a stepping-stone to senior level the transition year student continues his upwards trajectory after his Youth World Championship win earlier this summer.
The series continues with more qualification races on Thursday and into Friday before the final rounds build towards Monday’s (21st November) conclusion.
To follow the competition and results: https://2022-senior.eurilca-europeans.org/results/
All pictures by David Branigan/Oceansport