After a disappointing early season that saw Ireland’s Finn Lynch lose some of his hard-won form, there are strong indications this week that the Carlow sailor has turned a corner in his preparations to qualify for the Olympic Games in Paris next year.
A recurring arm injury overlapping with a gruelling series of regattas resulted in him slipping down the world rankings from third to eighth place.
But a break in the regatta schedule last month allowed him time to undergo some intensive therapy that appears to have worked well.
Racing alongside multiple Olympic medallists in the ILCA7 single-handed class (formerly the Laser Standard), Lynch took silver in the North Sea regatta.
Although not one of the world cup of sailing mega events, the result was significant because it was sailed on the same waters that August’s crucial world championships will race on.
Not only that but the conditions were breezy with big seas, and therefore demanding on his recovering arm injury.
“We had big conditions – big waves and a strong current so it was a very physical regatta,” he told The Irish Times. “I was a bit nervous going into it but the arm is really good and I’m very happy that it held up well.”
The Rio 2016 Olympian has had a two week bloc of strength training at SportsMed Ireland working on his arm and shoulder muscles, though he isn’t out of the woods yet.
“I need to keep up the rehab work, this is definitely not behind me,” he said. “But that’s sport, there are ups and downs and I’m taking all the positives I can from this.
“It was nice to show that I can perform well in those waters while sailing against all the Olympic medallists.”
Lynch will now move to Marseilles for training there ahead of the pre-Olympic test regatta next month along with most of the main competitors in his class, all looking to gain area knowledge in expectation of competing there for the Paris 2024 regatta.
Country qualification for Paris begins with the combined World Sailing Championships in August back in the Netherlands, which this week is hosting its annual Allianz Regatta – normally a staple for the Olympic classes. But given the focus for many elite teams on Marseilles, the organisers at the last minutes cancelled racing for half the events due to lack of numbers.
That brought disappointment for Ireland’s newest team seeking senior level experience, as Erin McIlwaine from Ballyholme with Ellie Cunnane from Fenit were already in Almere, ready for the milestone event when the cancellation of racing for their 49erFX event was made.
The duo will be the first Irish crew for the demanding skiff class since Annalise Murphy with Katie Tingle mounted a campaign in the lead up to Tokyo 2020, before Murphy opted to return to her ILCA6 class (formerly the Laser Radial) where she had won silver at Rio 2016.
Tokyo 2020 Olympians Rob Dickson and Sean Waddilove are competing in the Men’s 49er class, marking their return to competition after period of illness.
Cork’s Seafra Guilfoyle and Johnny Durcan are also contesting that class, while Howth brothers Ewan and Jamie McMahon are racing in the men’s single-handed ILCA7 fleet.