Picture
Fourth place -  the so called leather medal - is always the hardest result to accept for an Olympic athlete. But for both the 2012 Olympic sailors who collected their respective Laser European titles today after a thrilling final day on the sparkling waters off Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, winning the first big championship since they finished fourth in the Laser Olympic regatta marked the first steps on the long road from 2013 Dublin Bay to Rio 2016 on Guanabara Bay, with a key title victory.

For 23 year old Annalise Murphy from Providence Team IRL it was a fairy-tale win, her first ever major Laser title, won on the waters where she learned and trained as a youngster and the same sea to which returned to the Laser in the freezing cold of last November, her first time back in the boat since the bitter disappointment of losing an Olympic medal on the last race. Murphy had lead overall after the first two days of her first Olympic regatta, winning four races in succession and went in to the Medal Race finale as one of four girls who were only one point apart.

Just over a year ago Murphy proved to be the one who finished empty handed and disappointed in but as she triumphantly topped out the European Championship standings today, with eight wins from 12 starts, she left Holland’s 2012 silver medallist Marit Bowmeester in her wake as runner up, a conclusive 22 points behind, and Belgium’s bronze medallist Evi van Acker 31 points adrift. Britain’s Alison Young took third overall.

Murphy was carried up the slip of the National Yacht Club shoulder high by her fellow Irish sailors still in her Laser, smiling broadly. “It was pretty tough after the Olympics. It hurt to have finished fourth, especially to have been in a medal position all the way through. It made me train pretty hard this year, I have been pretty focused these last few months and I knew I had a goal here. I was not too sure how everyone else was going to perform. I am so delighted.” 

“It is so special to win here at my home club. My mum and dad are here, my sister is here. It is awesome, it is great to see all the club members here sharing it with me. They have been such a huge support for me over the last two years. It is great. Rio is still three years away. I have a lot of training to do and a lot of racing, But this feels great to win my first big event.”

“I have not done any more or less training here or before Weymouth. I have always done plenty. I have another year’s experience. I was extremely nervous after my first two days at the Olympics after winning the first four races. But here, after winning so many races, I did not have that same nervous feeling, because I knew what not to do. I was a bit apprehensive today but mostly I want to just prove I could go out and have another good day.”

In the Men’s Laser Radial fleet Australia’s Tristan Brown retained the World title despite a shaky final day. Brown, from Fremantle, WA, is a regular training partner for Marit Bouwmeester who he has worked with since two years before she won the Women’s Radial World 2011 title. Poland’s three times World Champion Marcin Rudawski pipped 17 year old local ace Finn Lynch, who won silver at last year’s ISAF Youth World Championships, to win the European Men’s Radial championship. 

But Ireland’s Finn Lynch didn’t fare too badly either. The 17 year old from Bennekerry, Co. Carlow is the 2013 U21 Men’s Laser Radial World Champion. He also won Bronze in the overall World Championship and Silver in the European Championship. The ISA Academy teenager sailed consistently throughout the 12 regatta races notching up nine top 5 finishes including two race wins.

Croatia’s Tonci Stipanovic secured the Laser Men’s European title for the third time, following wins in 2010 and 2011. But it was only within the final 500 metres of the last race that he took the one place that ensured the championship and the European Trophy were both his. In the closest finish to the hardest fought Laser European Championship for many years, the sailor from Split emerged one point ahead of Brazil’s five times Olympic medallist and eight times World Champion Robert Scheidt in the European Trophy, and had just two points in hand over Holland’s Rutger van Schaardenburg.

After a full diet of 12 races on Dublin Bay in a broad range of conditions, from 5 to 20 knots and most directions of the compass, only five points separated Stipanovic from Great Britain’s Nick Thompson who started the final day with a two points lead but finished fifth overall. On Weymouth & Portland’s notorious Medal Race arena 14 months ago Stipanovic rounded the final gate in bronze medal position but rather than cover, he tacked away from Sweden’s Rasmus Myrgren who worked ahead to steal the medal.

The doughty Croat gave himself just a month off from training and has worked tirelessly since. Murphy took time away from the Laser after the 2012 Games but retained her fitness with competitive triathlon and iron-man events. As respective rewards for their European victories Murphy was due to treat herself to a ‘99’ cone from legendary local ice-cream Teddy’s of Dun Laoghaire maker while Stipanovic was relishing to seven days at home, looking forwards to long walks with his beloved dog.

Stipanovic, World Championships runner up last year in Boltenhagen, Germany returned to the boat park this afternoon dazed but delighted, confirming this was significantly harder than his previous European titles. “This was the hardest because when it was not going good I was pushing, pushing. No one could say I was lucky.”

“I am sailing better than this time last year. I am fitter and stronger for the strong winds when I am feeling more comfortable.” 

“It was so hard today. I was trying to do the best I could. On the first upwind mark it was not looking good I was 31st and managed to finish eighth. So I was leading by one point. The second race we were all close but I lost the wind pressure downwind and they all passed me. Then I knew I had to push more. In the end I finished sixth. That was enough. It was so hard.”

Of his fourth place at last year’s Olympic Games, he said “The Olympics finished last year and that is it. And the door is closed. Now it is a new road to Rio. I don’t think about the Olympics, what happened. I had very little time off because I did not do my job properly, so I had to train more and not to rest. So I started working almost immediately to be better for Rio.”

Robert Scheidt, back in the Laser after a seven years gap, proved he is close to his championship winning best. Two weighty scores in the four Finals races meant Scheidt counted a 23rd in his 46 pts final aggregate. Otherwise he never finished worse than fourth and lead overall into the final race. “Overall I am happy to finish second” Scheidt said, “I had two big scores in this regatta a 24th and a 23rd, so to end up second is a good result. But overall it was a great regatta, testing all the skills strong medium and light winds, current, very high level competitors. I am glad to have come here. And for me the main thing is my performance not necessarily the result.”

Rutger van Schaardenburg missed the European title by two points but Holland’s Laser sailors finish runners up in both Men’s and Women’s Olympic classes. He said “I am really happy with my second in the last race and in fact my end result as well, but two points from being European champion is pretty hard to take at this moment. That is really hard, you start to think about those races which went before, maybe the odd point here and there you could have gained. But, then, that is what makes the difference between being champion and runner up. I am really pleased, but when it is that close it is hard.”

Poland’s three times World Champion Marcin Rudawski pipped 17 year old local ace Finn Lynch, who won silver at last year’s ISAF Youth World Championships, to win the European Men’s Radial championship.  


 
 
The final day of the 2013 Laser European & World Championships on Dublin Bay and a fair forecast seems to promise a decent set of races to decide the titles. Winds are set to be from the North again at between 10 and 12 knots which should be enough for the Laser Radials to catch up on their programmed 12 races, after having lost one yesterday due to the very light airs.

In the Olympic classes the two sailors which lead their respective standings have a great chance to land their first major Laser titles.

Annalise Murphy goes afloat with a lead of 17 points over silver medallist Marit Bouwmeester. She has a relatively straightforward task but she does have a weighty discard at the moment after her 27th in yesterday’s race and so she really can’t afford to get tied up in any individual matches.  Bouwmeester has GBR’s Ali Young three points behind in third.

Nick Thompson has a two points lead in the Men’s Standard fleet and is looking to seize a good chance to land his first big title nearly ten years after he won the ISAF Youth Worlds title.

And defending champion Tristan Brown has an 18 points margin in the Men’s Laser Radial World Championship. Dun Laoghaire’s Finn Lynch leads the European Championship but needs to keep Poland’s three-time world champion Marcin Rudawski behind.

The British Sailing Team’s Chris Gowers, who was head coach for the 2012 Olympics and coached Paul Goodison to Olympic gold in 2008 in Beijing, is in the coach boat today looking to help Thompson convert potential to a title today. “I think we should see a reasonable northerly gradient breeze which should not be messed around as much as other days. The breeze blows down the low land the gap. I don’t think we are expecting very much, F2-F4 in the gusts.” He said. “Nick just needs to go out and sail very well and then see what happens. He has a big discard which can make life hard if either Tonci or Rutger have a good first race. So it is a case of going out and seeing what happens.”

“Nick is sailing well. This is the kind of place where you can get punished for your little mistakes or you can get away with them. All round his game his good, his decision making is strong. You would always like to be faster.”

Of the level that Thompson has reached since coming back, Gowers comments “I was a little surprised how he was not so good at the start of the season. I thought he might be doing better straight out of the box. He had a nine month break after he had appendicitis 14 months ago. He was racing well but was just a bit slow. I think it is a little bit of a monkey on his back. He won’t be thinking about that too much, maybe in the second race. He will just be focusing on performance. It has got to the stage where I don’t need to open my mouth sometimes, he just says ‘yes I know’”.

“But here were go, you just never know in gold fleet racing. One little mistake, one little shift missed and you are 30th. As Robert Scheidt showed yesterday. His decision making is exemplary and he is not slow in a straight line. But it is nice to see him make a couple of mistakes this week. It is a funny dynamic after the Games because some people take a little bit of a break. So the likes of Jean Baptiste Bernaz who are just coming back to form now. You will see some of the older faces getting back into it now.”

“There are some who have got back into it straight away, like Tonci where the ‘leather’ medal tends to focus the mind and he has been doing it a long time, he is sailing fantastically well and not making many mistakes and is fast so when he does make mistakes he gets back out of it.”

Does he expect Goodison back in the Laser fleet? 

“I think Paul will be back. I would not be surprised. He needs to be back my Palma next year or it will be difficult. He has been doing it so long, as Robert demonstrates here, that skills are so deep learned it does not take that long to get back. And especially for Rio. It not going to be the most physical of regattas and so age and experience is going to be more important than useful exuberance.”

 
 
Picture
Ireland’s Annalise Murphy goes into the final races of the Laser European and World Championships tomorrow (Friday) on her native Dublin Bay with a comprehensive 17 point lead ahead of Holland’s Olympic silver medallist Marit Bowmeester. 

With the prospect of a breezy finale on the waters off Dun Laoghaire Murphy is looking to resume the same kind of form which has led to seven wins from her nine starts here and convert her big lead to her first major Laser Radial title.  A disappointing 27th in today’s light breezes is her discardable result. 

In contrast the contest for the titles and trophies in the Olympic men’s fleet is very delicately poised after two tricky races in light and unpredictable northerly winds today which made consistency very elusive. Indeed of the top ten sailors in the Men’s fleet all sailed one good result and one poor, discarded race. 

As Britain’s Nick Thompson promoted himself to the top of the standings with a second place in the second of their pair of races today to earn a two points margin ahead of Croatia’s Tonci Stipanovic and three up on Holland’s Rutger Schaardenburg, Brazil’s Robert Scheidt returned to shore frustrated to have scored his second poor result in consecutive days. After winning the first race he fell into a wind hole in the second contest and struggled to a 24th.  

Scheidt, who will bid for his ninth Laser world title in Oman in November, has returned to the class after seven years in the Star keelboat. He believes that racing in amongst most of the best in the class at the moment he is close to being back to his best, but needs to polish up on his consistency. 

“I think that independent of tomorrow’s results I have the chance to win regattas the way that I am sailing.” Scheidt confirmed today, “I think that I have already proven this week that I sail well in strong winds, I can sail well in light winds. I am still not as consistent as I used to be but it shows the field is pretty open and I can still do well.” 

After taking time out from the Laser Thompson, who missed out on the British Sailing Team’s selection to the last Olympics despite twice finishing runner up at consecutive World Championships behind Australia’s Tom Slingsby, would love to mark his return with the first major title of his long and distinguished career. Since winning the 2004 ISAF Youth World title in 2004, Thompson has won world cup and international regattas but has yet to win a major class title. 

“I am pleased with the way I have sailed at the event so far” Thompson said, “I have made few mistakes. The Worlds is the main focus but this event is hugely important, but for me it is nice to feel I am sailing back on top of my game again. The competition is great with Rutger, Scheidt and Tonci all up there and so I am looking to an interesting final day.” 

Thompson’s pair of results – a 30th and a second – were characteristic of the day’s highly unpredictable conditions. In the offshore northerly breeze, choosing the best side of the first beat was key but there were big holes in the breeze which summarily halted many of the top seeds in their tracks. 

Croatia’s Tonci Stipanovic, twice European champion in the past, has a slightly better discard in his locker, but Thompson has been better in the stronger breeze, scoring best of the fleet in Wednesday’s wilder winds. 

Although the men finished two races for the Olympic rigged fleets, the corresponding Women’s Radial class only managed one because the fickle breeze died away too much. Murphy was disappointed not to have the chance to atone immediately for her disappointing 27th place, while Bouwmeester was also dismayed that only one race in her preferred lighter conditions was sailed. 

The Dutch sailor said “It is a shame to only get one race. It looked like a bit of an early decision. That is a shame. It was a tricky race which reminded me a bit of Weymouth in the N’ly wind, so it was nice to race in that again. I was just in the top group at the windward mark and then got up to second on the second upwind. But we will be back hiking again tomorrow.” 

Annalise Murphy says she will change nothing for the decisive final day, concentrating on making better starts than today’s which was the start of a frustrating downwards spiral which was concluded when she ran out of breeze close to the finish line. “It was difficult” Murphy said, “ I had a bad start and struggled to get into the race in the first half, but made a good comeback on the second upwind, the last downwind and the reach to get into the top 15. But I was close to the finish line and then the wind died. I was not moving and could do nothing at all about it. I lost 15 places at the finish line and so that was disappointing. It was a shame not to get a second race in. The breeze came in but it is always hard to tell.” 

“I am disappointed with today. I would much preferred to have a 15th rather than a 27th or whatever it is. I will just have to get out there and have good races on the last day. I just need to get better starts than today’s and try and not make any mistakes.” 

While Bouwmeester rose to second overall she is now just three points up on Britain’s Ali Young. 

In the Men’s Laser Radial World Championship Australia’s defending champion Tristan Brown won again to build his lead to 18 points. Ireland’s Finn Lynch, the home club’s ISAF Youth World Championships silver medallist leads the European Championship by two points ahead of Poland’s three times world champion Marcin Rudawski. 

Lynch, who sails from the National YC said “The conditions were very shifty and challenging conditions today. I had a good start and was in 10th at the first mark and then climbed to first but then dropped to third at the line. Tomorrow I am hoping for two solid races and to hold on to a podium position tomorrow.”


 
 
Picture
As the Laser European & World Championships reach the second day of the Final Series out from Dun Laoghaire on Dublin Bay, winds are set to be much lighter – northwesterly from 4-8 knots. That promises to be the lightest conditions yet which may well shuffle the results a little in each of the classes. And, given a few of the aches and pains which were reported around the boat parks at the National Yacht Club and the Royal St George after yesterday’s 20 knot plus races, the quieter stuff might be a timely change. 

Defending Laser Radial World Champion Tristan Brown leads the overall standings in the men’s fleet, holding Poland’s three times world champion Marcin Rudawski at bay by a comfortable 12 points after winning five races so far. 

Brown is from Fremantle, WA and is coached by Arthur Brett. He admits that his sailing has improved a lot since he started working as a training partner to Holland’s Marit Bouwmeester. He trained with her on his home waters as she built up to Perth 2011, the ISAF Sailing World Championships where Bouwmeester won the Women’s Radial World Championship. Brown has won two Australian national titles as well. He is going well, but is finding the chilly weather a factor. “It is pretty tricky with the weather, the clouds and things make it very shifty. It is quite challenging and the cold is a bit of a factor. Apparently this is good weather” Brown comments. 

Of his pre-regatta expectations and hopes he says “You get here never really knowing how you are going to go. But it is going well so far. I have managed to stay consistent I guess. I’ve been training with the youth guys at Fremantle Sailing Club where Arthur Brett coaches us who used to coach Tom Slingsby.” 

To help pay for his sailing costs he works in a plastics factory “I work as well, doing some coaching. I work as a ‘slave’ in a plastics factory, sorting out little plastic things to pretty much pay for my sailing. I have been doing a fair bit of training, working with Marit Bouwmeester, so before I came here I did some training in Rio with her. She is really good and that has helped a lot. That started when she came out to Fremantle to train before Perth 2011 (where she won the World title), for a couple of years for a month at a time.” 

He is looking forwards to the lighter winds promised today but is taking nothing for granted. “I just have to keep chipping away and see how it goes. The last worlds were in Brisbane and so there were not so many internationals there. So it would mean more to win here. There are some good young Irish guys here. Marcin Rudawski, the Polish guy who has won three worlds (2009 in Japan, 2010 in Scotland and 2011 in France), is going well, so there are plenty there who are capable of winning races. It is good to get a mix of conditions over the course of the event


 
 
Strong winds and big waves meant tired bodies and minds at the first day of racing for the Final Series at the Laser European and World Championships on Dublin Bay. Experience gained over years in the Laser proved as valuable as physical strength and stamina as Brazil’s five times Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt climbed into the overall lead of the Laser European Trophy regatta.

Local favourite Annalise Murphy continues to delight her army of supporters, sailing on her own home waters, as she reeled off another two race wins to lead the women’s Olympic Laser Radial class by a comprehensive 15 points. Murphy may have been very much revelling in the tough conditions in which she has always excelled but she admits she still found it hard going. “It was really windy, the windiest I have been out in for a while.” Murphy recalled, “ The downwinds were a bit scary and I was in safety mode at times”.

Murphy maintained her perfect score line, now counting seven wins from the eight starts so far and discards a second place. British Sailing Team’s Alison Young, who finished in fifth at the 2012 Olympic regatta – one place behind the Dublin helm – is now up to second place, whilst the Netherlands Olympic silver medallist Marit Bouwmeester lies third.

“Annalise is having a storming regatta. Fair play to her. She is going well and we need to figure out how to catch her. We need to hike harder!” smiled Young.

“I had a bad start in the first race” Murphy reported, “I was just slow to get off the start line and took a bit of a risk but it came good and got round the windward mark first and so was a bit lucky but I was pleased with that race. The second race I rounded the top mark second and was first on the first downwind. The other girls overlayed the first lay line on the second upwind and so they sailed a bit more distance, so I did pull out a good bit”.

“Every day has been going well so far. It felt much the same today. I am just trying to focus on sailing well and not making too many mistakes. I had a bit of luck in the first race getting that wind shift and I am not complaining about that too much. That is the way in sailing, sometimes it just goes your way and you are grateful for it.”

Although Scheidt leads the overall European Trophy regatta now by ten points after a 23rd (discarded) and a third place today, it is the Netherlands Ruttger van Schaardeburg who leads the European Championship. But the Laser legend Scheidt admitted that even with five Olympic medals, races in which everything seems to stack against him come along.

“I did struggle a bit in the first race. I had a bad first beat, over stood the layline. Then I had a bad first run. The second beat I went right, the wind shifted left, and so I did everything wrong” Scheidt recalled,

“I regrouped, made a good start, rounded the top mark second finished third and so that was a good race. Everything is mixed now in the finals. It was really windy, demanding because there were so many waves. The problem is we have sailed in strong winds but not so many waves. It took me a while to get used to these conditions again. You can see that some guys are really ready for these conditions, the Swedish, Estonian and Russian. My goal is not so much strong winds, it is more for medium winds. I think I am sailing well in medium winds but when it is blowing 25kts I still have to improve.”

In the European Championship Van Schaardenburg leads only on countback, sharing the same 27 points tally as Britain’s Nick Thompson and Croatia’s Tonci Stipanovic. Thompson, twice runner up in the Laser World Championships, was the most consistent, lowest scoring sailor in the Laser standards today with his third and second.

Thompson said “It was hard but the thing I always remember is that everyone else is finding it hard. I did find a second wind for the second race which I put down to doing a lot of physical training though last winter and I think that pays off now. I was ill at the start of the season and the first few events were a real challenge but it pays off now.  I think the experience in the boat pays a bit today because you are able to focus on the tactics when you are in a lot of pain. Key today was starting and nailing the first shift. I made a reasonable job of it. Now I feel like I am only about half way through the event.”

Sweden’s Jesper Stalheim had lead overall after the first Finals race today but capsized twice in the following race, finishing 13th.

And in the Laser Men’s Radial World and European Championships Australia’s Tristan Brown also holds on to his superlative form, extending his overall lead in the world title chase, although Ireland’s Finn Lynch – who won silver on these waters at the ISAF Youth World Championships last year – now leads the Europeans.  

 
 
A protest hearing yesterday evening resulted in the disqualification from Race 5 of Sweden’s Jesper Stâlheim thereby dropping the Swede from the overall lead in the Laser Men’s European Championship to sixth place.

Brazil’s Robert Scheidt takes over the top spot in the Laser European Trophy with a two points lead over Croatia’s past double European Champion Tonci Stipanovic who now leads the European Championships going into the first day of racing for the Final Series today. Stalheim has dropped to sixth overall.

Breezes have been light since early this morning but a change is expected with winds due to blow from the South at 12 to 19 knots. Olympic bronze medallist Michael Blackburn is in charge of the strong Australian Laser squad which has two sailors in the top 10 and four in the top 23.

“These guys love sailing, they love sailing the Laser and they work hard together. We concentrate on making sure it works when the guys are together. There is a lot of testosterone of course, they want to compete, they want to work hard and so way make sure that they have time away from each other, apart.”

“We have been getting a good variety of conditions which is good in that it tests the sailors across the board in all their skills. Tom Slingsby was a training partner for myself many years ago and now he is also a training partner for all these young guys too, now and so it goes on and then in time these guys will work with the next group which comes along.”

“The European championships for the strong Laser fleets in Europe is regarded as the second most important event of the year and so for that reason they put a lot of resources and effort into and so for that reason it is a very important testing ground for us.”

 
 
In conditions more akin to the Mediterranean than Dublin Bay; bright sunshine, warm temperatures and even an unusual sea breeze, Ireland’s local favourite Annalise Murphy remains the only sailor at the Laser European & World Championships to complete the six-race Qualifying Series counting a score line of five race wins.

The change from the offshore, shifty westerly breezes of the first two days might have been welcomed, but in their place was a difficult, at times frustrating, thermal sea breeze which was often riddled with holes and peppered with puffs which still brought significant changes in wind direction. But the change did not seem to worry Murphy who built a significant lead in both of her races for another two winning guns. But as the Final Series now starts - the business end of the championships - she will face much stiffer competition.

“I’m feeling pretty good. Now it’s gold fleet and it will be very different, much harder with twice as many good people in the fleet. I feel good after these last few days but there are three days to go. I am taking nothing for granted. I am just looking to keep sailing well, to get good starts and hopefully it will work out. I don’t worry about what the weather forecast might bring, they have been wrong the last three days and so there is no point in speculating” Murphy, who is sailing on her home waters, reported.

She goes forward with a lead of seven points over Belgium’s Evi Van Acker, the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist who finished second twice today, whilst the British Sailing Team’s Ali Young and Denmark’s Sarah Gunni are three points further back on 17 points.

Last year’s European Championships runner-up, Sweden’s Jesper Stalheim, goes into the Final Series of the Men’s Olympic class with a lead of two points over Brazil’s Robert Scheidt who he kept behind him twice today as he sailed to a first and a second, with the five times Olympic medallist taking second and third.

Scheidt confirmed again today that he is racing the Laser not through any sense of obligation but because he loves it, and it is his best option at the moment for him to win a sixth medal. “I think this is my only option in terms of an Olympic class. It is a boat I know, I have the experience, easy to start a campaign. The most important thing is I still enjoy sailing the boat. I would not be doing this if I did not enjoy sailing this boat” he smiled in the Dun Laoghaire sunshine this afternoon.

Of his races today he reported “In the first race I rounded the top mark in 25th and so I was pleased to come back from that. It was pretty difficult with a lot of holes in the breeze. It was very fluky wind, getting up to 16 - 17 knots but then dropping very quickly to four knots. That made the racing very difficult. Also downwind sometimes you were going but sometimes you were stopped. I am happy to have made two results in the top three today. But tomorrow it is like the start of a new regatta. We all start again in the one fleet”.

Although Swede Jesper Stalheim sailed to first and second place finishes, he maintained he had found the conditions confounding at times. “It was a game of luck at times and my luck again seemed to work out” said Stalheim, “There were such big pressure differences. You would go from full hiking to no wind in a matter of seconds and just stop. And people would still be going around you. It feels really good to be sailing well though”.

“The conditions were weird at the last Europeans where I was second. I must be OK at it. But the standard there was not so high (as many sailors were in Weymouth preparing for the Olympics). I feel I am sailing well. I will have to be good from here.”

With a first and a third today Croatia’s Tonci Stipanovic is up to third overall. Twice Laser European Champion – in 2010 and 2011 – Stipanovic shares the same raw motivation as Annalise Murphy. He too missed out painfully on an Olympic medal in the Medal Race at Weymouth and Portland just over a year ago.

“It will be difficult as of now. You have to sail well on the first day of the finals, the pressure really is on then. If you don’t it becomes complicated. It is not necessary to win races, just get good results”  said Stipanovic.

In the Laser Radial Men’s fleet Ireland’s Fionn Lyden dropped to second after a 20th in the second race today but remains only one point behind Australian leader Tristan Brown. “I got everything wrong” Lyden said later, “I had a reasonable start and thought the wind was going to shift left but it didn’t. I was in the bottom 15 at the first mark but gained about 15 places on the run. I thought it was going to shift left again on the second beat but it didn't. I then gained a few more places on the reach but finished 20th. It was a weird race”.

 
 
A bank of mist over the race area has held up proceedings so far this morning, the third scheduled day of racing at the 2013 Laser European and World Championships. Sailors have been held ashore waiting for the cloud cover to clear. In fact it is warm and sunny in the boat parks at the National Yacht Club and the Royal St George Yacht Club. Winds are much lighter than so far although the various forecasts do not necessarily agree. If the cloud cover does clear then a lighter sea breeze may roll in. So far the breeze is in the S to SW at around 5 - 9kts.

In the Women’s Laser Radial fleet the British Sailing Team’s Alison Young, who finished fifth at the 2012 Olympic Regatta, is nicely poised counting three third places so far. She lies seventh, on the same points as Olympic silver medallist Marit Bouwmeester and leads a strong British squad, including Hannah Snellgrove, which is racing on Dublin Bay.

The British Sailing Team’s Women’s Laser Radial coach is Hugh Styles, who knows Dublin Bay well having also coached the British team at the ISAF Youth World Championships here in July 2012. He believes the sea breeze will come in and is happy with the performances from the British girls so far. “We have some gradient coming off the land and it is a little bit cloudy this morning, but the race officers say they believe we might get some sea breeze which would be nice. I did the Youth Worlds here last year and it is not very common that we get a sea breeze coming in. So there is a bit of excitement but I think we might get something nice in from the SE” Styles says.

“Hannah Snellgrove won one of here races yesterday, and she’s only just back into sailing after doing well in her geology exams at Cambridge. Ali Young is having a solid regatta so far counting three third places. It was a tricky day yesterday with a load of youngsters coming in now. I look after Ali Young, Chloe Martin and Hannah Snellgrove. We have ten girls here.”

“I have only been involved in the Radials since a year before the 2012 Games but we are working really hard at the moment and have just done some time out in Rio, stuff preparing for other big regattas on the programme. In terms of the four year programme we are looking to the future with a lot of enthusiasm.”

“I think Ali showed so much potential going into and at the last Olympics and so that is good for the British Radial squad as a whole, so we working on becoming the dominant force in Laser Radial sailing in the world in the next three years. We are working to hard towards that and I think we are doing well.”

“We are working on processes here, trying to make sure that everyone builds a good regatta. In terms of the venue and the forecasts being a bit weird and wonderful then it is hard to actually put numbers to sailors but we will be happy if we go away from here with some sailors having what they call in other sports ‘personal bests’, achieving some goals.”

“The French have a good group. Quite a lot of the ‘older’ faces have taken some time out so this will be an interesting year to see who does what. We have another month until the World Championships in China, so we all have our eyes down before that.”

 
 
With four qualifying races sailed at the Laser European & World Championships on Dublin Bay, local favourite Annalise Murphy remains on impressive form on her home waters as she leads the Women’s Laser Radial European Championship by five clear points. She counts three race wins, discarding a second place from the first race today. 

Murphy has both of the 2012 Olympic medallists behind her. Neither Holland’s silver medallist Marit Bouwmeester nor Belgium’s bronze winner Evi Van Acker have been able to maintain anything close to Murphy’s consistency, both scoring one relatively weighty score apiece today. Bouwmeester, the 2011 World Champion, claims to be just getting used to the testing offshore westerly winds which produce big shifts in wind direction and pressure. “At the moment it seems best to follow Annalise” Bouwmeester joked as she returned ashore to Dun Laoghaire’s National Yacht Club. 

In the other Olympic class, the Men’s Laser Standard Rig, Australian Ashley Brunning tops the overall table counting two firsts and a second to lead Holland’s Rutger Van Scahaardenburg, Sweden’s Jesper Stalheim and the ominous presence of Brazil’s five times Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt who matched Brunning’s first and second place qualifying race finishes today. 

Brunning leads a strong Australian presence with four of their squad in the top 25 in these early qualifying races when points are tight and evenly spread. His preparation in Europe is paying an early dividend, while Schaardenburg – who leads the European Championship – could not quite maintain his Day 1 speed edge in the choppier conditions of the offshore course where the Men were racing today. “One and two is solid, I sailed really consistently and did not make too many mistakes and that is a sailboat race” affirmed Brunning, “ I have been living in Europe for the last six or seven months, training with some other teams and of course my own Australian team. I have been in Sweden a lot, and so these are quite similar to the conditions around Gothenburg and so that helps”. 

“I think our team works so well because we all live close together in Sydney. We all train together. We work hard together and share everything together. We are very open and in terms of fitness and sailing we work hard together. Obviously having a mentor like Tom Slingsby and Michael Blackburn are good people to learn from. The squad here are doing really well. We were all charging together today and I think we are all in the top 15 so we are going well” Brunning continued. 

Scheidt appears to be raising his game progressively “I was happy that the breeze was not as strong as expected. It was not extremely windy and the race course which we sailed on was much better than the one we sailed on yesterday. The breeze was a bit more steady and a bit more predictable than the other course. A second and a first was good enough for me for the day. The first race I was second at the top mark. The second race I rounded second and passed the Estonian guy and there are three of us who had a big lead on the group. I have some solid results so I am pretty happy. I am really looking to get a good range of wind conditions so it tests everybody’s skills. That would be the best for everyone”.

Annalise Murphy remains cool and confident in the Women’s Laser Radials but cautions that it is still very early in the regatta, and lighter winds are expected Tuesday. “It is nice to have all low scores at this point when some of the others had some higher scores today. But then again that can all change in a few races.” 

“First and second was pretty good overall for the day. It was very difficult on the different course, the wind pressure was up and down much more, sometimes there was five knots in some places and then 20 knots in others, and very changeable in direction too.”

“The wind was moving through 60 degrees or something like that. But I really enjoyed it. The first race I sailed pretty perfectly on the upwind, but I was sitting in no wind on the downwind with the fleet coming down at me but there was nothing I could do. That was a bit frustrating because I already had a big lead. The second race I got a good start, was first at the first mark and just held on.”  

For the 2012 Olympic medal winners in the fleet some of whom took time out after the Games coming back into the white heat of competition is about playing catch up again quickly.  Cypriot Pavlos Kontides, who won his island nation’s first ever Olympic medal when he took silver, may be a national hero now but he has been back to Southampton to complete his BSc degree in Ship Studies. He got back to the Laser in June while Belgium’s bronze medal winning Evi Van Acker is just six weeks back in the boat after a 13 month layoff.  She won the first race in her fleet today and paired it with a fourth after capsizing on the final beat. 

Van Acker commented “I had two mega-comebacks. Twice I was very bad at the first mark, but the first race I won and the second race I was bad off the start but got up to second and then capsized on the final upwind and dropped to fourth. So for someone who has not really sailed in 13 months then a 1 and a 4 is not so bad. I started again six weeks ago. I have finished my studies now and so only have my thesis to go (on sports drinks). I am back into it, full time from here. There have been so many changes since the Games, I bought an apartment, renovated it, moved in with my boyfriend, so a lot of changes. I tried to stay fit. It is good it was shifty because you are not having to hike for too long”. 

While the charismatic Kontides is now fully focused on his programme for the future, scoring a 13th and fourth today “It could be better, it could be worse. It was a medium, conservative day for me really. It is strange conditions because if you get it wrong off the start then you immediately lose a lot of metres, and then it’s hard to get back into the race”.

“I did not do so much sailing in the early part of the year because I had to finish my studies, so now I have a BSc in Ship Science. I came back in June so obviously a lot of the other guys have done way more racing than me, but I think it is coming back nicely in the next few days.” 

“It has been really nice since winning the medal, nothing has changed in my life, people recognise me, it is a nice incentive to know you are a national hero and that is a great incentive going on, but what really has changed now is that I have finished my studies and I can focus on my sailing because that is what gives me the most pleasure in my life.” 

In the Men’s Laser Radial World & European Championships it is still Ireland’s young Fionn Lyden who leads overall after a second and a fourth today. Baltimore, West Cork based Lyden said “I am really happy. The conditions are tough and so consistency is hard. To be still on top is great. It was very shifty today with big pressure differences. It was easy to make mistakes. I am doing better than I expected but then we have done loads of training here through the summer, probably three or four weeks here which makes a big difference. I am confident in these conditions but we will see how it goes in the lighter winds which I think we will see tomorrow. There are some older, smarter sailors in our fleet”.
 
 
Picture
With a relatively promising forecast for the week, Monday looks like it will be breezy with plenty of wind out on the race areas for the 2013 Laser European and World Championships this morning. It is likely to moderate a little in the afternoon, but it should be pretty brisk. The winds are just south of west again and in the mid-teens with some more in the gusts.

In the Women’s Laser Radial fleet the Finnish sisters Heidi and Tuula Tenkanen made a great start to their championship yesterday. Heidi, younger by two years, won both races in the Blue fleet, with her sister Tuula was second in both races. “I had a great first day. I had good speed and good tactics on the upwinds and after that it was easy. I am happy today because it is windy” Heidi recalled this morning at the National Yacht Club where the strong Finnish Laser Radial squad are based. 

“In the first race I had a bad start but then got into the shifts and took them and I was first by the upwind mark.” 

“This is much better than I expected to do, because I have never won a race in the Women’s fleet before. I am very happy.”

“I think there were a lot of mistakes made by others. They were left a bit behind. Even if I am a bit slow in the downwinds then they could not catch me. Normally my sister is a little better but she had two second places yesterday which is not too bad at all.”

“We sailed the same boats, starting in Optimists and then moving to Laser 4.7s and then to the Radial. She changed a little before me because she is two years older.”

In the Men’s Laser Radial World Championship it is Ireland’s Fionn Lyden from the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) Academy who leads – on countback – with a second and first with the same points as Australia’s Tristan Brown, whilst Finn Lynch, also an ISA Academy sailor, is third.