'Any events we did, Annalise was always a step above us. She was very determined'
As Annalise Murphy faces a decisive race in the Olympics today, friends and family in the Dún Laoghaire yacht club where she trained talk of her early years
AS THE breeze blows stiffly across Dún Laoghaire harbour, one of Annalise Murphy’s oldest sailing friends points to the type of craft the Olympic hopeful began her sailing career on.
Six-year-old Murphy began, at the National Yacht Club, on small sailing boats before moving on to a hard plastic “topper” in her teens. Then came the Laser Radial, a single-handed dinghy and Murphy’s competition vessel of choice, in which all of Ireland now hopes she will sail to Olympic success.
“This is where her toes go,” Jill Roy, a sailor and senior instructor, says, lifting a not-too-secure-looking strap from the bottom of the craft. “This is where the rest of Annalise would be,” she adds, pointing into thin air on the vessel’s port side, “all 6ft 1in of her”.
Roy, who has known Murphy since they were about nine years old, charts her friend’s rise through the club’s ranks: “She moved out of the smallest boat, the Optimist, quite soon because of her height. Any events we did, Annalise was always a step above us.
“She would always be up the earliest. Every Sunday we’d come down and our coach would say, ‘We’re going to run the pier’, and we’d all groan. It would be a Sunday evening, freezing cold and Annalise would be there, ready to go. She was always very determined.”
But it’s not just discipline and determination that have set Murphy on the road to success. Her family have serious form when it comes to sailing.
The 22-year-old Dubliner is the youngest daughter of Con Murphy and Cathy MacAleavey. Before Annalise was even born, in 1988, her mother sailed in the Seoul Olympics in the women’s 470 Class with Aisling Byrne. Her father, a pilot, is an international race officer and former Olympic coach.
Both parents helped set the current round-Ireland speed record in 1993 as crew on Steve Fossett’s trimaran Lakota.
Their love of sailing saw all three of their children, Claudine, Finn and Annalise, start at a young age in the National Yacht Club in Dún Laoghaire where today, down on the “hard” (the platform on which the boats are kept when not in the water), children are taking the same juniors course which the Murphy children attended: “Our second home was the yacht club,” Claudine says.
To really get an idea of Annalise’s competitive streak there is no better person to talk to than her older sister. Annalise overtook Claudine in the Olympic event she would have liked to pursue. There was “big rivalry” between the two when they were younger, her sister admits. But the girls also recognised only one of them could represent Ireland in the Laser Radial, so they reached a very mature decision: the sister who showed the greater potential would support the other.
“She’s my best friend in the whole world,” says Claudine, who flew in to support her last week from the Caribbean, where she is campaigning to take part in the next Olympics in kite-boarding.