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Annalise Murphy was one of three sailors to have made the perfect start to their title challenge at the 2013 Laser European & World Championships on Dublin Bay today.

Each of the three championship fleets sailed two races in offshore westerly winds which varied from 11 to 18 knots, the gusts carrying big changes in wind direction and pressure. Making early errors – reading the first shifts wrong, getting off the start lines poorly or choosing the wrong side of the first upwinds – proved most costly. Often the shape of the races were shaped by the first windward mark. 

However Murphy cruised to two decisive wins in her Women’s Laser Radial qualifying fleet and she was at home in every sense of the word, delivering a pair of results which – among other things – brought smiles to the army of 200 or so volunteers from her home clubs who have given their time to produce a memorable championships.

Murphy stepped clear of her fleet early on both of the first upwind legs and was able to extend a little in the first race. But in the second heat a knot in her mainsheet on the final run compromised her, being challenged by Belarus’ World No. 1 Tatiana Drozkovskaya, but the Dublin sailor was able to sort herself out to hold on and win. 

“It was pretty windy out there, windier than I expected, but also fun because the wind was flicking back and forwards and so if you got into phase. I like these conditions like today because it is something I grew up sailing with here and so it was fun, shifting offshore winds” Murphy reported, adding the same first caveat as her male counterparts.

“It is only the first day and I am happy not to have used up a discard or anything like that. It was a good day and I really have nothing to complain about. I was sailing well on the upwinds and I was sailing a lot of the shifts really well and that was the most important bit. That was important to get ahead. On the last downwind I got a big knot in my mainsheet and ended up going along pretty slowly and Tatiana caught up a lot with me, but I just managed to get here again at the finish line and won it” Murphy continued.

Annalise’s coach Rory Fitzpatrick weighed up the pros and cons of racing a ‘major’ at home “It is nice for her to race on home waters because you do know the strategies which will pay off. It is nice to get the support with so many people we know around the place, but so too there is a bit of pressure and expectation with attention from the press and so on, but then that comes along with the Olympics and so on, so that is good practice. There are pros and cons to being at home, but most of all sleeping in our own beds outweighs everything. Annalise got good starts and was able to get off the start line and sail in phase with the winds, and just wait to cross the fleet, and she managed that both times”.

Ireland’s young ISAF Youth World’s silver medallist Finn Lynch, also racing from his home club, started well with a first and a fifth in his Men’s Laser Radial qualifier. 

Holland’s Rutger van Schaardenburg, considers that there was some Irish luck inspiring him as he posted two wins in very challenging, changeable breezes but the Dutch sailor who finished 14th at last year’s Olympic regatta arrived ashore at the National YC in Dun Laoghaire admitted he has made better starts to big events but knows how little first day wins count for.

“To be honest it is the first day and you don’t take too much from that. I had three wins in a row at the start in Tallinn before and finished 25th but I am happy with the way I sailed” smiled van Schaardneburg. 

Van Schaardenberg and Sweden’s Jesper Stalheim – European Championship runner up last year – may both have looked to be comfortably at home in the conditions when they were en route to their two wins apiece in their respective qualifying fleets, as Ireland’s Annalise Murphy cruised to two decisive wins in her Women’s Laser Radial qualifying fleet. She was at home in every sense of the word, delivering a pair of results which – among other things – brought smiles to the army of 200 or so volunteers from her home club who have given their time to produce a memorable championship. 

While Stalheim felt his performance in the Men’s Olympic class was comfortable enough, everything falling his way to the point it almost felt easy, Schaardenburg said he was thinking of Ireland’s lucky shamrock. “For sure it was tricky conditions. You needed to have a bit of luck too and I was thinking about the Irish shamrock and of good luck a lot and it seemed to be on my side, but I have had good preparation too, but then it still needs to go the way you expect it to go. And it did” he said after racing.

“The first race started not so well but I got into the big shift to the left and was second at the top mark, got ahead on the downwind and it was all done. The second race I got a good start to the right and got to the right as I expected it and luckily enough it happened and from there I just extended.  For me it is very nice way to start” he continued. 

Swede Stalheim, ranked three in the world at the moment, believes his speed was the key today “My speed was good and a lot of the time it was just speed into the next shift. I started to windward and tacked away early for a speed race to the first shift and then I could cross the fleet. And in the second race it was speed race to the sift again and I was good”. 
 
“I started to windward and the wind was left and I just sailed to it until the right hander came and crossed the whole fleet. It felt quite easy though the Croatian guy Tonci was second about ten metres behind. But the rest of the fleet was quite far behind. There were big gaps.” 

“In the second race it was speed again, I got to the left and was into the shift and crossed over the whole fleet. It felt all quite easy.” 

Of those older, experienced sailors returning to the fray of top level racing after a break, Brazil’s Robert Scheidt was disappointed to receive a penalty on the first reach of the first race, but sailed to a solid 4, 3 opening to share the same seven points tally as fourth to eighth placed sailors. The five times Olympic medallist from Brazil said “I did not sail really, really well on the first beats but I am happy. I got a penalty on the first reach so that was an unforced error and I am unhappy about that. A solid first day for me is OK.” 

Martin Evans is the best placed British sailor in the Men’s Standard fleet, while 2010 and 2011’s World Championships runner up Nick Thompson is enjoying his return to the class with his eyes firmly focused on Rio 2016. He found himself with a little to do early in both races, but was pleased with how he climbed through the fleets to open with a 5, 4 loving the chance to spar with Scheidt and Portuguese veteran Gustavo Lima again. He lies 11th overall. 

“It was a pretty challenging day” Thompson affirmed, “But a fifth and fourth for me from my windward mark positions was good. It could have been a lot worse. I managed to dig in, to fight for every place and got a few good wind shifts which made a difference and pulled myself back in there”.

“I have been doing a lot of training in Weymouth with the British team which has been really good, getting back into the boat and trying to getting up to speed again. I started back in Palma and so it has been good. I really am enjoying it to be racing against the new guys coming through, but also the old guys like Robert Scheidt and  Gustavo Lima.”

“I had a good battle with Robert, he was third, just ahead of me, and we were duking it out all the way around. Overall I am happy with the first day.” 

“The first race was about two big shifts which dictated your position and the second race there was big shift off the start and that set up the race too, and so I was fighting back from that, from poor windward mark roundings. I think it is coming back nicely. It is great here. The racing will be interesting if it remains offshore.” 

All results are provisional.


 


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