Sunday 21 January 2018

Bad weather may be good news for our Olympians

WM Nixon

Sailing folk are getting worried about this summer's weather in north west Europe. There's a real chance that it might be going to improve, particularly in northern France and southern England.

And that might mean gentle conditions spreading in over the Olympic sailing venue at Weymouth on the Dorset coast.

Normally, of course, we would wish Weymouth all the very best in the matter of summer weather. In the heart of the place is a nice little river port where many an Irish sailor has been glad to spend a night or two for a spot of R&R. It has a bustling and attractive quayside which looks all the better for some sunshine. Just enough breeze to waft away the aroma of fish and chips, and Bob's your uncle.

But these are not normal times. A week hence, they'll be gearing up for the opening ceremony of the Sailing Olympiad at the Weymouth and Portland centre. Back in June, they staged the huge Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta there, effectively an Olympic dress rehearsal.

But the weather wasn't impressed -- it was absolutely foul, with strong winds plus enough rain for a year. Yet the Irish contingent loved it, with the Star crew of Peter O'Leary of Crosshaven and David Burrows of Malahide winning gold, while Laser Radial sailor Annalise Murphy of Dun Laoghaire took bronze.

We like to think we're as good as the next crew in racing in light airs and sunshine, but there was no mistaking the way in which the Irish contingent revelled in the Dorset downpour. 'Tis only a shower, they merrily quipped, and went out and notched yet another win.

Meanwhile, other contenders, particularly those from sunnier climes, complained endlessly. And even the British crews (for it was their weather, after all) solemnly announced that they were carefully pacing themselves, as they didn't want to peak too early.

Be that as it may, the Irish squad are in the weird situation that their supporters -- which is all of us -- are getting worried that if things get better, then they'll actually be getting worse. Better on the weather front may mean worse on the results front.

But you never know. The weird weather having moved centre stage in recent weeks, we're now aware that one line of thought is that the level of sunspot activity has a lot to do with disturbed global weather patterns.

For most of us in Ireland, if we could only see the sun now and again, we'd be perfectly happy for it to display signs of advanced acne.

But apparently last week the sun became hyperactive again, and there were sunspots galore on July 12.

The date being what it was, on the Emerald Isle we could be excused for overlooking this.

But the top sunspot honchos tell us that normal predictions are now out the window, and late July and early August could be every bit as awful as June.

It'll all be slightly clearer in a week's time. The first classes will be racing from July 29 onwards, and the final medal races and victory ceremonies -- for the Finns and the Stars -- will be on August 5, with the Laser Radials a day later. Meanwhile, watch those sunspots.

Irish Independent

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