All you need to know: Annalise Murphy’s medal race

David Branigan has the lowdown ahead of the Irish sailor’s big moment

Annalise Murphy’s medal race in the Laser radial class gets underway at 5.05pm. Photograph:  Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Annalise Murphy’s medal race in the Laser radial class gets underway at 5.05pm. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

What does the Medal Race final involve?

This is a single race that counts for double points. Only the 10 best sailors in Annalise Murphy’s original field of 36 will be on the start-line. The points won over the last 10 races count and, because of this, only the top five boats are in the running for a medal.

Sounds familiar. Didn’t this happen at London 2012?

London was similar except only four boats including Murphy could reach the podium. Four years ago, the finishing-order determined the colour of the medal. Rio 2016 is more complicated and several scenarios are possible including fourth and fifth places.

What’s the best-case scenario for Murphy?

Gold! However, the Netherlands’ Marit Boumeester has sailed a good series and holds a points- advantage. That means Murphy would need to beat her by five places and stay ahead of Belgium’s Evi Van Acker and Denmark’s Anne-Marie Rindom. Silver or bronze are probably more likely but this will be an edge-of-seat race!

And the worst case?

Second Captains

Disaster. The complicated scenarios mean fourth or fifth are possibilities too.

But Annalise has been in the top three all week long!

Sure, she’s played a brilliant series, transforming herself from a strong-wind specialist four years ago into an ‘all-rounder’ better able to deal with all the different wind conditions that Rio can offer. But light breezes on the course can change direction suddenly, so she needs to anticipate these changes.

What else can go wrong in a race?

Apart from tactics, physical technique – movements, speed, controls and more – is a vital skill. But some movements, even if accidental, are illegal as they can propel the boat by tiny yet vital amounts. Up to two penalty turns can be ordered during the race by judges on the water if they spot an infringement. To her credit, Murphy hasn’t had one ‘yellow-flag’ in the entire event.

What would a medal mean for Irish sailing?

There hasn’t been an Irish sailing medal in 36 years. Aside from some great results in the build-up to the Games, not just from the Olympic squad sailors but young Pathway athletes as well, a medal would confirm the investment and help make sailing truly a sport for “this island nation”. The ISA is hoping for an uplift of interest in the sport with its nationwide ‘Try Sailing’ programme.

How does the race unfold?

A five-minute countdown to the start is signalled. Leg one is sailed into the wind, and boats must zig-zag or ‘tack’ up the course to the first mark. The fleet then sails back down the course with the wind behind, again zig-zagging or ‘gybing’ for best speed to complete a lap. A second lap is sailed before a short, fast leg to the finishing-line. Points are awarded in order of finishing-place.

How can I follow the race?

RTÉ will broadcast the race live on TV, starting 5pm Irish time. You can also follow the race with our live blog on irishtimes.com.

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