Belfast Lough to witness the 'Annalise effect'
200 young sailors will take part in next week’s youth championship at Ballyholme
The welcome homecoming ceremony for Annalise Murphy after her silver medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Photograph: David Branigan/Oceansport
A welcome trickle-down benefit of last summer’s Olympic Games should be in evidence next week on Belfast Lough when the Irish Sailing Association’s Youth National Championships are held for the first time.
The “Annalise effect” that first appeared in the aftermath of the London 2012 games when she famously placed fourth having led most of the regatta, and then the roller-coaster ride to the podium and her silver medal at Marina da Gloria last August.
Both performances are being credited for the cast of 200 young sailors on the “pathway and indicator” system that next week’s championship at Ballyholme Yacht Club represent.
More especially for the ISA’s performance team, Murphy’s medal is vindication of the direction the programme has taken over the past decade.
“I think it’s been a driver for a lot of people. There’s more belief for one thing because Annalise has proven belief,” Rory Fitzpatrick, her coach who is also the ISA youth & development manager. “There’s more enthusiasm and there’s more application; people saw Annalise sailing Monday to Friday and time on the water is what helps.”
Criticism hasn’t changed significantly particularly in respect of costs, with one family recently estimating annual campaign costs of close to €30,000 for a single-handed sailor starting out at senior level.
Annual costs of campaigning at junior level of upwards of €10,000 including travel and coaching fees are not unheard of either.
Cost as a deterrent is one aspect of regular criticism but so too is the effect this has on class selection for junior training programmes for the majority of younger sailors who are not interested or able to commit to an Olympic pathway.
“Top level events are defined by World Sailing and what your programme needs and you spend money around that,” said Fitzpatrick, who cites this as the reason for Irish class selection and priorities.
Such details won’t be to the fore for the four days of racing in Bangor as competitions will be matched by evening presentations by noted experts including Annalise Murphy and fellow Olympian Matt McGovern, as well as local sailor Bill O’Hara.
“Ballyholme is a real stalwart Laser club over the past decade or two and some of the great Irish sailors have come from there so it makes sense,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s a real hub for Toppers, Lasers and 420s.”
A major step forward noted by Fitzpatrick for 2017 is that the growing trend in the number of girls competing has continued, especially in the Topper class that feeds into the senior Laser fleets.
Fitzpatrick cites recent performances by Erin McIlwaine from Newcastle Yacht Club, Jenna McCarlie from County Antrim YC, Kate Fahy from the Royal St George YC and Natasha Hemeryck from the National Yacht Club as up-and-coming performers.
Racing gets underway next Thursday and are open to all boats of the 420, Laser Radial, Laser 4.7, Topper and Topper 4.2 classes and will form part of the selection trials for the 2017 ISA national squads and an indicator for the youth academy.