Sunday 24 September 2017

O'Leary and Burrows right as rain for Star bid

WM Nixon

There's a hierarchy in Olympic sailing which reflects the pecking order in athletics. In the stadium, the various specialities will stake their claims for attention.

The further down the scale they are, the more vigorously they'll fight for their place in the limelight. But nobody beats the drum for the 100m. They don't have to. It's the business, and that's all there is to it.

In sailing, the pinnacle has to be the Olympic Finn single-hander. It's a brutal beast, a powerful boat, a man-breaker. Becoming the Finn gold medallist doesn't necessarily mean you're the greatest sailor in the world, but you're certainly the greatest Olympian.

This Olympic hierarchy is underlined by the sailing programme for London. Sailing is accustomed to being different from other Olympic sports, and the fact that the racing is being staged at Weymouth -- a good 120 miles from the main centres in the capital -- does little to change this perception.

The programme, which starts tomorrow, also seems to emphasise the differences within sailing.

The aristocrats of Olympic sailing will have their contests done and dusted within a week, yet other classes have to hang around the venue until August 10 and 11. The last race of all is the final for the Women's Elliott 6m class a whole fortnight hence, even though the class starts tomorrow with their initial programme of match racing.

We can only hope that whoever finishes last in that final race on Saturday, August 11 is aware that they're supposed to turn out the lights and close the door.

There's no point in expecting the favourite for the Finn Class gold medal to close up the shop. Unless there's a major upset, Ben Ainslie will have collected that gold for Britain on Sunday, August 5, and a couple of days later he'll be in California to start his programme for the America's Cup 2013.

He'll be racing an AC 45 catamaran by August 11. Also rattling through their programme in the first week are the two-man Star class, and here Ireland is well represented by Peter O'Leary and David Burrows.

They're on top form, but the variants involved in reaching the podium are infinite. For tomorrow's opening race in the south of England the boys should feel at home, as an afternoon of rain is expected.

The Laser single-hander ranks high in global sailing, so both the men's and women's Laser racing in Weymouth is dealt with promptly, with the first race on Monday and the final a week later, on August 6. Tom Slingsby of Australia has to be the men's favourite, while Ireland is among the top rankers in the women's class with Annalise Murphy, whose dedication to the Olympic ideal is a wonder in itself.

The 49er class sees Ireland represented by Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern. They've been in excellent form lately and we should see the proof of it by their final on August 8.

The men's 470s -- Ger Owens and Scott Flannigan sail for Ireland -- don't start racing until Thursday, and will sail their final by Thursday week.

The English climate can serve up all sorts of changes in sailing conditions, so anything is possible. Our Olympic squad can draw inspiration from last weekend's silver medal win in the Youth Worlds in Dublin Bay by Finn Lynch, who belied his 16 years with an exemplary maturity of approach.

Irish Independent

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