Sunday 19 January 2020

Irish duo show Olympic class to stay in the hunt

WM Nixon

Ireland's Olympic Star Class crew of Peter O'Leary (Cork) and David Burrows (Malahide) have kept themselves in the frame with sixth overall in a class of 25 boats racing at the French Olympic Week at Hyeres on the Mediterranean coast.

But as with everything to do with Olympic sailing except the final result at the main event itself in August, it's something which can be read in several different ways.

For sure, they're ahead of some formidable international competitors on the leaderboard. But equally, while it's a quality fleet, some notable names are conspicuously absent.

And some both were and weren't. Absent, that is. Current world No 1 Robert Scheidt of Brazil, crewed by Bruno Prada, went out in the first race and won. Then he seems to have disappeared, but showed up for Races 7 and 8, getting two thirds.

For those who stayed with the game, the big show has been by highly fancied British crew of Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson. Having been selected for August's big one, they eased back a bit over mid-winter but in Hyeres they've re-geared like several rockets, and knocked up a scorecard of 2, 5, 4, 1, 1, 1. They didn't have to sail the final race to win the points series going away.

The O'Leary/Burrows listing was 4, 10, 11, 7, 7, 3 and 9 -- all of which they had to carry as they had a DNF in the final race.

In the 49er class, Ireland's Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern concluded on a welcome upward curve, taking 19th in the fleet racing with a scoreline of 11, 14, 13, 7, 7, 21, 10 and 6, discarding a DSQ.

The fleet in the Volvo Ocean Race have been having a nervy time of it, getting through the light airs towards the equator as they race the 4,800 miles from Brazil to Miami, with a huge reward waiting for whoever breaks through a waving cold front first. Beyond it, the front-runner to the northeast trade winds will have an enormous boost to lengthen away.

The in-port race in Itajai last Saturday provided a useful gain for Franck Cammas, Damian Foxall and crew on Groupama -- they won, while initial leader Telefonica, which is also overall points leader, threw half a dozen points away by going round the wrong marker buoy.

In the long haul to Miami, Kenny Read with Puma has been showing best, but positions may have another shake-up as they round the corner of Brazil at Recife.

There's been encouraging news for Irish sailing in two very different branches of the sport.

UCD were a great force in universities sailing in times past, but they'd had a drought until this spring, when it all leapt to life for them again with the overall win in the Irish Universities Nationals.

They then went to the British Opens as Irish representatives, and showed it wasn't a flash in the pan by coming home with the bronze. UCD's team were Simon Doran and Aoife Coffey, Barry McCartin and Eimear McIvor, and Aidan McLaverty and Bella Moorehead. And that's not the end of it, as the Dublin college will now be providing Ireland's team for the Student Worlds in France in October.

Cork voyaging couple Stephen and Aileen Hyde are now shaping their course out of the Caribbean with their 56ft Oyster after adding racing success to the circumnavigation which they completed last year.

With son Stefan -- former Helmsman's Champion of Ireland -- joining the ship with three keen racing crew, they took part in the International Oyster Regatta at Tortola, winning their class and finishing second overall.

For a veteran cruising crew, this racing success was the icing on the cake -- they'll return to Ireland this summer.

Irish Independent

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