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Tuesday 20 February 2018

Finn class can propel rising Carlow talent to greatness with 'laser' precision

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

ANNALISE Murphy dramatically steered her sport into the limelight in Ireland at London 2012, and there is already a new generation of Irish sailing stars coming up fast on her starboard side.

Ireland has three teenagers – Finn Lynch, Robbie Gilmore and Fionn Leyden – ranked in the world's top 10 in the 'laser radial' class.

The biggest surprise is where the best of them is located – in a pretty renovated schoolhouse in a tiny village in land-locked Carlow!

Lynch (17) is doing his Leaving Cert in Carlow CBS next summer and faces a hectic 2014.

As Murphy demonstrated in Weymouth, single-handed sailing, which has been likened to chess on water, is a sport that demands huge levels of physical and mental fitness.

Lynch does some form of fitness training every day and then spends every weekend on the water in Dublin Bay.

Fortunately, the Palatine GAA club, for whom he played football until last year, is a stone's throw from his home and recently installed new gym equipment that saves him the 5km trip back into Carlow town.

On Mondays, Lynch does a gym session before and after school, while his gruelling week of training and study includes two or three marathon cycles, one of them from Blessington to Dun Laoghaire.

Spectacular sailing photos dot the walls of his home in Bennekerry, but they're not all of him. The Lynchs are Irish sailing's version of the Brogans – a family of three talented boys.

Their dad Aidan lives in Blessington, where they started sailing on weekends during their childhood. Finn's older brothers – Ben (23) and Rory (20) – are not only also internationals, but sometimes rivals as they coach the respective Munster and Leinster youth squads in the same class (4.7).

When Ben was on the Irish youth squad, his baby brother would often hide in the room during team briefings, before piping up the answers.

Their mum Grainne also recalls Finn finding Ben's old training diaries and copying them, word-for-word, to try to get extra insight.

A month before Annalise Murphy's heroics in London, Finn won silver at the ISAF World Radial Youths (U-19) when still only 16.

He had previously won silver at the U-17 World Topper Championships and last summer showed again why he's so highly rated when he and Murphy's home club (The National in Dun Laoghaire) hosted the World & European Laser Radial Championships.

That event also incorporated the World U-21 championship and Lynch won that title so comfortably that he could afford to sit out the last race.

His results also left him third overall in the World senior event and second in the European senior championship.

Laser radial is not an Olympic event for men, so he's now moving up into full-sized laser sailing and will compete in the European U-21s (in Italy in July) and the World U-21s (in France in August) next summer – all on top of his Leaving Cert.

Murphy brought the sport to a new mass audience, but Lynch knows that most people still don't understand the unique combination of fitness, tactics and courage that it involves.

"They think you sit on the back of a lovely yacht in lovely sunny weather and all you have to do is steer a wheel," he quips.

Irish Independent

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