Irish enjoying Fremantle base


SAILING:WITH ONE year to go before the ISAF World Championships in Perth, many of the world’s top sailors aiming for the London 2012 Olympics have arrived in Western Australia for intensive practice and a warm-up event.

Although a fleet comprising around 900 sailors can be expected this time next year for the worlds, 235 competitors have been based at Fremantle for the last two weeks before the start of racing last Tuesday.

Ireland is represented, though with a considerably reduced presence compared to the squad that attended the Sail for Gold Regatta at Weymouth in August, an event that ended with success for Peter O’Leary in the top place in the Star class.

Annalise Murphy also sailed well at the Olympic venue in the summer, securing her place in the medal race final for the Laser Radial class and is amongst the squad competing Down Under. The only other Irish single-hander is Ross Hamilton in the Finn and taking part on his own initiative outside the Irish Sailing Association’s Olympic group.

The remainder of the squad comprises two 49er skiff crews led by Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern, who have gone to Fremantle in expectation of strong winds and a large fleet boosted by the popularity of the skiff in Australian sailing tradition.

“It’d be a lie to say we don’t enjoy it – this is what we’ve come for,” said McGovern yesterday. “Between the breeze and the nice temperature our training is much more effective than back at home.”

The pair has had two tuning clinics in Fremantle in addition to daily training afloat but still regard this event as a “train-through” regatta, though a place in the medal race would be a bonus. Top-10 results so far make this a real prospect for them as they currently lie in 13th place.

Competing in the 49er is completely different to the other Olympic classes. Races are just 25 minutes duration, not the 60 minutes of the other disciplines while the shorter course amplify small errors in boat-handling.

The second Irish 49er is their training partners Ed Butler and Ben Lynch, who have risen through the development programme but are already pushing the senior pair hard.

Meanwhile, aside from avoiding heat-exhaustion, a carcass of a migrating-whale has presented other problems as great white sharks have been seen in the course area and several attacks along the beaches have been reported.

“There is a lot of talk about the sharks in the dinghy-park, especially in our fleet as we’re expected to spend some time in the water,” said McGovern. “But when we’re in race-mode it’s a different story, we have a job to do so thinking about sharks doesn’t come into it.”