Annalise Murphy shows top form with double win
Olympic sailor breezes in ahead of the pack on first day of European Championships
Ireland’s Annalise Murphy leading her flight to the first of two victories for the London 2012 Olympian at the Laser European World Championships at the National Yacht Club. Photograph: David Branigan/Oceansport
A breezy day on home waters yesterday provided the setting for Annalise Murphy to plot a definite course for Rio 2016. The Rathfarnham sailor duly obliged, with two race wins in her yellow flight just off Dún Laoghaire’s East Pier.
The conditions, on the first day of the 2013 Laser European and World Championships, were perfect for her to repeat the form she is best known for: gaining an early lead and protecting it to win by a so-called country-mile.
Except such wins aren’t quite so gigantic in reality, and yesterday was no exception. Race one was a 15-second lead at the finish but the next race was more like five seconds.
And this is only the build-up to the real test that begins on Wednesday.
More than 300 competitors from around the world have gathered in Dún Laoghaire, many since early August when they started training for this top-grade regatta.
Murphy’s Laser Radial class is divided into two flights that sail six qualifying races, ending tomorrow evening when the gold, silver and bronze fleets are decided for the next three days’ championship racing.
The Men’s Laser Standard rig turnout is big enough to warrant three flights, while the Men’s Laser Radial event is also their world championship.
While another day of strong results today will help Murphy considerably, Wednesday will be her first proper test when she faces fellow London 2012 Olympic finalists Marit Bouwmeester from the Netherlands and Evi Van Acker from Belgium who are currently drawn in the other flight for the Laser Radials.
Barely a year ago, Murphy had been sailing off against both, along with China’s Lijia Xu, in the final race. She was in the lead, but due to a fateful decision not to cover the righthand side of the course, was denied a place on the podium.
Xu won gold, Bouwmeester silver and Van Acker bronze. The National Yacht Club single-hander had to accept fourth place, the hardest result at the Olympics.
Aside from a European Championship title or a podium place, added to her gold medal performances earlier this summer on the European mainland, a win for Murphy this week would draw a decisive line in the sand, but not under London 2012 – that’s been done apparently. It will actually mark a year closer to the next Olympic Games, which is her sole focus.
And while her racing a championship at this level on home waters is something of a novelty for the home following, such pressure only creates a distraction; Dún Laoghaire will be treated like any other venue anywhere in the world with just a small bonus of familiarity.
Meanwhile, the local conditions got a thumbs-up from a legendary figure in the world of Laser sailing as Brazil’s Robert Scheidt debuted his return to the class on Dublin Bay.
Before racing started, he admitted that, while in good form, he wasn’t yet at peak readiness and was cautious about his prospects this week.
The five-time Olympic medallist proved to be consistent, however, and scored a third and fourth in his flight yesterday for the Laser Standard course sailed in Seapoint Bay.
Further out to sea on the second course area, where Murphy had delivered her race wins, her clubmate Finn Lynch was also having a good day in the challenging conditions.
A first and fifth for the young ISA Pathway sailor sets him up nicely for the week ahead, as well as marking him out as another potential candidate for the Olympic squad in the making.