Monday 20 November 2017

Sailing: Murphy makes light of heavy weather in Holland

WM Nixon

Annelise Murphy of Dun Laoghaire is in the top echelons of the women's Laser Radial Olympic class worldwide and in heavy weather, the 21-year-old National YC sailor is reckoned to be one of the very best.

So, when the harsh weather of recent days swept through the Olympic classes Regatta at Medemblik in Holland, Murphy was out there joyfully making hay in the wind and rain.

However, even she found the conditions too hectic at one stage, and, having held the overall lead in the early races, she slipped to second overall after a capsize.

The series continues until tomorrow, with the Star class providing a further focus for the Irish contingent.

The Stars, supposedly facing into their last outing as an Olympic class in 2012, always provide a special fascination, for, in Brazil, which stages the Olympics in 2016, the only two sailors that have real national sportstar status are Torben Grael and Robert Scheidt.

And -- you've guessed it -- the Star is the class in which Grael achieved his greatest honours, while Scheidt is now working his way up the same ladder.

So, suddenly it looked as if reports of the Star class's Olympic demise have been greatly exaggerated. However, the recent policy-making meeting of the International Sailing Federation in that heart of historic intrigue, St Petersburg in Russia, saw some fancy footwork.

The story was put about that in order to meet Brazil's hopes of reinstating the Star for "their" Olympics, the hyper-athletic 49er Skiff would be given the heave-ho instead.

So much indignation went into the maintenance of the 49ers' Olympic role, that the Stars failed to gain a reprieve.

And though one delegate rightly made the point that sailing promotes itself worldwide as "the sport for life", this was brutally rejected with the statement that the Olympics is for athletes in their prime and if sailing is really going to stay as an Olympic sport, Olympic boats that don't rely on great big ballast keels to stay upright while sailing will have to be promoted.

Tough. But, meanwhile for the Irish Star crews, Medemblik is witnessing the final stages of selection for the Olympics, as Max Treacy and Anthony Shanks of Dun Laoghaire challenge the dominance of Peter O'Leary and David Burrows, with the latter crew establishing a clear lead from the off.

Times are busy for our Olympic hopefuls, as this year's Sail for Gold Regatta at the sailing Olympiad's site off England's Dorset coast is next month.

Up in Scotland, the new season is busily under way, even though there's still a lot of winter about, with the annual Scottish Series at Tarbert continuing until Monday.

The Irish contingent is smaller than usual, but Anthony O'Leary's Antix is there from Cork, as is Ross MacDonald's Equinox from Howth, and the top Belfast Lough boats, including the Douglas brothers from Carrickfergus with their J/133 and the ever-young J/35 Bengal Magic, also compete.

Hopefully, summer will soon return for the two big ones in Ireland in June, the ICRA Nationals at Crosshaven from June 17 to 19, and the Sovereign's Cup at Kinsale the following weekend.

There's an attractive offer for boats road-trailing from distant parts -- Royal Cork are providing lift in and out at Crosser at €100 per splash, including mast-stepping.

Irish Independent

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