Algerian entry puts Irish 49erfx crew in must-win situation

Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey must triumph in Europe to qualify for Rio Olympics

Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey (foreground) have a six-nation fight for Olympic selection in the 49erfx class next month in Spain. Photo: Brian Carlin.

Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey (foreground) have a six-nation fight for Olympic selection in the 49erfx class next month in Spain. Photo: Brian Carlin.

 

An Irish berth at the Rio Olympics hangs in the balance following the announcement of an unexpected African entry in the women’s International 49erfx fleet this week.

A last-minute Algerian entry means there will be no “reallocation” of the once vacant African Rio place that Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey were first in line for.

It leaves the Royal Irish Yacht Club (RIYC) trialists in a fierce Euro-nation fight for the ultimate Rio berth in the new skiff dinghy class.

The last Rio place comes up for grabs at a crunch Spanish regatta in Palma de Mallorca on March 25th. Ireland faces a two-boat Finnish challenge plus teams from Austria, Croatia, Estonia and Russia.

Race protest

Canada

But even then there was consolation as it looked like Ireland would still qualify thanks to being first in line for the open African berth until the Algerian Sailing Association shut the door this week.

To make matters worse, with just six weeks to go to Palma’s do-or-die event, an ankle injury has robbed Brewster and Tidey of vital time on the water at January’s Miami World Cup event and this week’s world championships, also in Florida.

It’s a “set-back but not a disaster” says team manager James O’Callaghan of the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) who maintains that because Brewster and Tidey have already beaten these five nations previously it is only a matter of repeating the process.

The reason for not competing at this week’s 2016 World Championships is Brewster’s ankle injury but it is described as “precautionary” by O’Callaghan given how important the Palma regatta is going to be. The pair are expected to return to full training next week.

If Brewster and Tidey are successful it will be Ireland’s first women’s skiff entry at the Games, bringing to six the number of Irish sailors heading to Rio.

If not it brings the curtain down on the RIYC’s four-year Olympic campaign.

Qualified already are Belfast’s 49er pair Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern and while Irish trials are currently underway, both London 2012s James Espey, also from Belfast, and Annalise Murphy from Dún Laoghaire, hold the lead in the men’s and women’s Laser disciplines.

Racing technique

The pair claim they are using the championships to work on a number of aspects of their racing technique but there is no doubt a strong performance at this championships would be an important marker, just seven months out from the games itself.

Over 200 Fireballers gathered at the Royal St George Yacht Club last Saturday to celebrate 50 years of the high performance dinghy in Ireland.

The evening on the Dún Laoghaire waterfront included speeches from sailors from five decades and included contributions from 1995 World Champion John Lavery of the host club and ISA President David Lovegrove, a past Fireball national champion himself.

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