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Saturday 23 August 2014

Brave Murphy rewarded for heroics at Olympics

WM Nixon

Published 01/09/2012 | 05:00

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Annalise Murphy of the National YC in Dun Laoghaire is the Irish Independent/Afloat.ie Sailor of the Month for August following her outstanding performance in the London Olympics.

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The talented and dedicated 22-year-old held the nation in thrall as she battled with the fierce challenge of being top of the women's Laser Radial class, and her fourth place, shy of a medal by fractions of a second, is the best Irish Olympic sailing result for 30 years.

Merely to describe her result as fourth overall fails completely to capture the essence of Murphy's performance. For about half of the regatta, she was in the gold medal slot.

Then, having slipped down to bronze in the rankings, she regained the top place with only one race to sail.

At this level of sailing, being top leaves a helm open to all sorts of joint challenges by those chasing.

Because there are 10 boats involved, and with the wind being the motive power, the opportunities to block off a clear breeze or create other distractions for those heading the points table are there for the taking. When a leader is slowed back by one boat, two or three others can climb up the rankings at the previous leader's expense.

With four of the world's top women sailors in contention for the gold going into that final race, the pressure was unbelievable.

And with the race being staged in the fluky breezes close in off the Nothe at Weymouth, tiny gains could suddenly become significant gaps through vagaries of the wind.

It tells us everything about the stratospheric level of sailing in the Olympics that despite conditions which would have seen club racers spread over a wide time band, the women's Laser Radials were finishing in tight order.

But within that order, it was the Irish girl who -- after leading for most of the series -- lost out in the final leg.

But despite the outcome, throughout Ireland -- maybe for the first time -- people fully appreciated what was involved.

Through her achievements and popular appeal, Murphy did more to raise the profile of our sport than any other Irish sailor in this extraordinary year, or, indeed, for many years.

The National Yacht Club, current Mitsubishi Motors Sailing Club of the Year, is setting a hectic pace throughout 2012.

Tomorrow sees the international sailing focus swinging towards the club in its hospitable corner of Dun Laoghaire harbour as the European Tour of the five new MOD 70-class boats gets going from Kiel on Germany's Baltic coast, racing towards Ireland and the NYC in Dun Laoghaire.

Back in July, these 70-foot trimarans leapt into prominence with their first major race -- the Krys Transatlantic from New York to Brest.

Not only did they see two of the boats average better than 25 knots to establish a new Transatlantic record, but they also arrived in good order just after Groupama had won the Volvo Race for France.

As of tomorrow, France and the mighty MOD 70s will be top of the bill.

They'll be in and around Dublin Bay from September 5 to 9. After the rather sedate Parade of Sail which concluded the visit of the Tall Ships last weekend, next week we're going to have a chance to see sailing in which 'sedate' will definitely not be the mot juste.

Irish Independent

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