IRISH SAILING PERFORMANCE SPRING 2023 UPDATE
Welcome to the Spring 2023 Performance Update. Already this year there has been great results in the Youth Programme with 16 year old Rocco Wright winning bronze in Italy and gold at the Irish Sailing Investwise Youth National Championships, some disappointment and injuries for the Team, while Annalise Murphy and David Nucifora join the Irish Sailing Olympic Steering Group.
Irish ILCA sailors succeed in Italy
After an eleven race series at the ILCA European Championships in Andora, Italy in March, defending title-holder Rocco Wright (Howth Yacht Club) won the bronze medal in the ILCA 6 Men’s class.
In the men's senior ILCA7 event, Finn Lynch (National Yacht Club) worked back from twin disappointments on Thursday to finish a very respectable 10th in the European Championships and 13th overall in the Open event.
Although Ewan McMahon was able to comfortably qualify for the Gold fleet, including a race when he placed second behind Lynch in an fantastic 1-2 result, the Howth sailor ended the event in 45th overall.
Meanwhile, his sister Eve rounded off her regatta in the ILCA 6 women's event in 14th. The 19-year old is on her first full season at senior level and is making steady progress after her triple Gold medal season in 2022.
Big youth turnout for the Investwise Irish Sailing Youth National Championships
“186 young sailors, six classes, four days, 25 clubs, 11 counties, 52 races – this is what makes the Youth Nationals one of the most exciting events in the Irish Sailing calendar, and one we’re very proud of” said John Twomey, President of Irish Sailing.
“When I see so many young faces coming in off the water smiling, I know that the future of sailing is indeed bright”.
Ireland’s biggest youth sailing event was hosted by Howth Yacht Club in April across six different classes – the ILCA 6, 29er, 420, ILCA 4, Topper, and Optimist. It’s a chance for our young sailors to meet the coaches from Irish Sailing, learn more about the Performance Pathway, get inspired by the senior athletes in the daily post-sailing talks, and compete against the best in the country.
This year the event was sponsored by Investwise Financial Planning, and saw a total of 186 competitors with a 40:60 girl:boy split and very good media coverage (a reach of 713,192 and AVE of €56,100).
Winners included Rocco Wright who won the ILCA 6 class, closely followed by his club-mate Luke Turvey, and his Irish Sailing Academy teammates Tom Coulter (East Antrim Boat Club) and Sam Ledoux (Royal St George YC) in third and fourth place respectively.
Disappointment and determination for Irish sailors in Palma
Gold fleet racing ended at the Princess Sofia World Cup of Sailing regatta in early April in Palma (Mallorca, Spain), with no Irish crews through to medal race finals for the first time in several years.
Robert Dickson (Howth Yacht Club) and Seán Waddilove (Skerries Sailing Club) finished 20th in the 49er skiff class.
In the single-handed classes where Finn Lynch, Ewan McMahon and Eve McMahon had all reached Gold fleet, impressive boat-speed alone was insufficient to lift Finn (National Yacht Club) into the top ten for the medal race in the ILCA 7 class and he ended the series in 25th overall.
Ewan McMahon (Howth Yacht Club) ended in 37th place in the 184-boat class though he was quite pleased with some of his work over the event and has identified areas he can improve on in the coming months.
His sister Eve McMahon achieved Gold fleet on her first World Cup of Sailing regatta, and finished 35th in her 107-strong ILCA 6 event.
For the coaches, debriefing the sailors and working on several fixable issues is the next priority.
"The result is not what we want for sure, especially as for the past four years we've always been battling for a medal here in Palma," commented Vasilij Zbogar, Laser coach with Irish Sailing.
"Recovery from the Europeans two weeks ago wasn't managed well enough so we need to adapt for the next time. Finn Lynch's hand injury still hasn't healed fully but his boat-speed is clearly very good and he showed this week that he can recover from a bad starting position in the fleet really well. It's really hard sailing, very close and really small things make the difference like being 100% rested, 100% focused”.
Injury concerns end French Olympic Week for the Team
The team then competed at French Olympic Week at the end of April (in Hyères, Cote d'Azur) and after a week of highs and lows, returned home with firm resolve ahead of the main season ahead.
The week of full Mistral wind conditions would normally have seen strong results based on past events. However, two of the three boats were carrying illness and injury concerns that affected performance and ultimately led to early withdrawal from the regatta.
"Although not a peak regatta by any means, we have come to expect strong results from our key sailors in large international events such as Hyères ," commented James O'Callaghan, Performance Director with Irish Sailing. "In the final analysis, it is important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater; for sure there are work-ons but there are positives too."
Finn Lynch secured a place in Gold fleet despite carrying a persistent wrist injury for the past month. He competed but didn't finish the series on Friday when he suffered further inflammation of his injury and he withdrew from further competition.
It was a similar situation for 49er crew of Robert Dickson and Seán Waddilove, with Robert suffering from the after effects of a viral illness. The pair delivered a third place and a tenth but ultimately opted to withdraw from the regatta's Silver fleet.
Séafra Guilfoyle with Johnny Durcan (Royal Cork Yacht Club) continued to make progress in the 49er class and while they didn't reach the cut for Gold fleet, the pair delivered strong results in the Silver fleet making for an enjoyable end to the week where they placed 35th overall.
"Illness and injury are major factors in any sport and have significant bearings on performance," said O'Callaghan. "Our immediate priorities will now be recovery and rehab then straight into venue preparations for the season highlight with the World Sailing Championships in August."
Top performers Murphy and Nucifora join Irish Sailing Olympic Steering Group
Irish Sailing has secured some of sport’s top performers to join the Olympic Steering Group (OSG) with Olympic silver medallist Annalise Murphy, and Irish rugby’s performance director David Nucifora.
The OSG is approved by the board of Irish Sailing and operates on a four year cycle in line with the Olympics to oversee the delivery of the performance plan with the goal of winning medals. Along with Sport Ireland, the OSG works to ensure that Irish Sailing meets the highest standards of good governance.
The OSG is chaired by John Menton who competed in the Sydney 2000 Olympics as a discus thrower.
Annalise Murphy is a three time sailing Olympian and Rio Olympic Games silver medallist. She competed in the 2017/2018 series of the Volvo Ocean Race on Turn the Tide on Plastic and was awarded both the Irish Times Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year and the Volvo Irish Sailing Sailor of the Year in 2016. She recently completed her MBA at Trinity College Dublin and as a member of the Olympic Federation of Ireland’s Athlete Commission, recently launched the Olympic Mentorship programme.
David Nucifora is High Performance Director for the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and former Australian player. Nucifora brings a wealth of experience working with top athletes in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, and has been in the Irish rugby Performance Director role since 2014.
Launching the new Irish Sailing 29er Academy
Applications are now open for the new 29er Academy. The team will be made up of three boats (provided by Irish Sailing) which will enter domestic and international training and competitions. The sailors will be provided with coach support on the water, strength & conditioning and physio support as well as a programmed and monitored physical training programme for the body, and psychological skills for the mind. This will be backed up by a performance life skills expert to allow for better understanding and management on how to balance the demands of sailing and life.
The academy will be selected by a number of factors including performances/observations at events over the last twelve months (including the Irish Sailing Investwise Youth National Championships); feedback from the regional/club coaches; and feedback from the coaches running the Irish Sailing training over the winter. Age is restricted to under 19, and the academy will have a continual assessment process with reviews every six months.
Topper and ILCA 4 Summer Squads
Plans are underway for the Topper and ILCA 4 Summer Squads with the aim of preparing a team to compete at an international level. The programme will take the form of domestic training camps, followed by event support at the chosen major internationals. It will focus on the development of the sailors led by our lead coach with input from support services such as Sports Med Ireland, Irish Sailing’s partner in strength and conditioning and physical training. The number of sailors on the team will be determined by safety, with the secondary objective of teaching the sailors how a high-performance youth sailing team works at home and abroad.
Prestigious Irish Sailing Sailor of the Year awarded to Finn Lynch, with Eve McMahon winning Youth Sailor Award for fourth year running.
In March, Finn Lynch won the prestigious Irish Sailing Sailor of the Year for the second year in a row, along with Laura Dillon. Finn was nominated on the basis of his World Sailing number 2 in the world ranking, and Laura for her wins at Cowes Week, Women at the Helm and her representation of Ireland overseas.
Eve McMahon won Irish Sailing Youth Sailor of the Year for the fourth year in a row. 2022 was a record year for the 19 year old who won gold medals at the ILCA6 Youth World Championships in Texas, the Youth Sailing World Championships in the Netherlands, and the European Youth ILCA6 Championship in Greece. She also claimed silver at the U21 ULCA Youth World Championships in Vilamoura, Portugal.
Media Day at the Performance HQ
In March, journalists were invited to meet the Irish Sailing Team at the Performance HQ in Dun Laoghaire for a media activation day. After lunch and interviews with the Team, the journalists went out on ribs into Dun Laoghaire harbour to see the Team training. There were big smiles all around afterwards with many of the journalists saying that it was the first time they realised the exhilaration of being out on the water and the “sheer athleticism” of our sailors. There was coverage in the RTE Six One news that evening as well as a great piece in the Irish Times by Ian Riordan here: https://www.irishtimes.com/sport/2023/03/25/paris-olympics-the-next-major-port-of-call-for-irelands-sailing-elite/
Major events still to come in 2023
Kieler Woche (Kiel Week) 21-25 June Kiel, Germany
Olympic Test Event 7-14 July Marseille, France
World Sailing Championships and ICLA 7 Men’s World Championships (first Olympic qualifier) 10 – 20 August The Hague, Netherlands
49er European Championships 8-13 Nov Vilamoura, Portugal
You can follow all the Performance news and the team’s progress on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Tik Tok.
PREVIOUS PERFORMANCE UPDATE: DECEMBER 2022