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Sailing Olympians in final World Cup regatta prior to Rio 2016

The final World Cup sailing competition ahead of Rio 2016 gets underway this week with five of the six Irish athletes selected for this summer’s Olympic Games in action.  The venue is the London 2012 Olympic site at Weymouth though the sailors are preparing for completely different conditions expected in Brazil.


In addition to the Providence Team IRL sailors, a total of 268 boats from 40 nations are taking part in ten disciplines, many featuring athletes expected to be contesting the Olympic regatta in two months’ time.  Ireland is competing in three of the ten disciplines the Laser Radial, the 49er and the 49erFX.


The four-day opening series starts on Wednesday (8th June) while the top ten boats in each discipline will contest a double-points medal race final on Sunday.


“At this stage of the Olympic cycle all eyes are naturally focussed on the Rio games.  However, the competition in Weymouth this week provides a great platform for our athletes to make final improvements in racing situations which are often hard to simulate in training” commented James O’Callaghan, ISA Performance Director. 


The sailing team for Rio consists of three 2012 veteran athletes and three first time Olympians. “We are really pleased with the balance of the team both in terms of gender and experience.  Sport Ireland has been a great supporter of the programme so qualifying all four disciplines is a major achievement and underscores the value of the structures we have put in place,” said O’Callaghan.


Ireland’s Olympic veterans from four years ago will be first into action on Wednesday morning.  


Annalise Murphy in the women’s single-handed Laser Radial event will face all three medallists from her event in 2012 when she narrowly missed a place on the podium.  China’s Lijia Xu (Gold) along with The Netherlands’ Marit Bouwmeester (Silver) and Belgium’s Evi Van Acker (Bronze) are all on form but are in turn are joined by challengers such as Britain’s Alison Young, the recently crowned world champion.  


Newcomer Aoife Hopkins (18) is also in Weymouth for more competition experience at world-class level after unsuccessfully challenging Murphy for the Irish place in Rio during trials earlier this year.


Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern in the men’s skiff 49er class will be seeking to make good on their Gold medal performance at the Princess Sofia Regatta in Palma in early April with another podium result to boost their confidence before final training for Rio in August commences.  However, four-times unbeaten world champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke from New Zealand are not expected to compete in Weymouth this week.


The women’s skiff event makes its debut with the 49erFX class at Rio 2016 and Ireland’s Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey are aiming to build on recent strong individual race performances at recent major regattas following an injury-enforced break at the start of the year.  The pair will be using this week’s regatta to improve consistency across their series with the aim of reaching the medal race final.


Absent from Weymouth is Finn Lynch, the 20-year old rising star of Irish performance sailing who recently won a three-way selection trial to be nominated for Team Ireland.  His event in Rio is the men’s single-handed Laser standard class and the Carlow native is currently at a three-week training camp in Croatia.  Inclusion in the Irish squad for Rio 2016 marks the high-point of an eight-year career that to-date includes world and youth titles and is inspiring the ISA’s Pathway programme for over 100 young sailors from around the country.


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