James Espey best of Irish squad after reaching Gold fleet cut-off

Annalise Murphy in the Laser Radial failed to qualify for the Gold fleet and two race wins in the Silver group will be of little solace

 James Espey  is best of the Irish squad competing at the Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma, Mallorca.

James Espey is best of the Irish squad competing at the Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma, Mallorca.

 


Ballyholme sailor James Espey is best of the Irish squad competing at the Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma, Mallorca, this week and has reached the Gold fleet cut-off in mixed conditions so far.

Weather variations were reported to be as wide as near calm to fresh across the Bay of Palma at times since Monday’s first races.

The veteran of the London 2012 Olympics in the Laser single-hander delivered three top 10 results in his group qualification round in the 144-strong entry.

He begins today’s racing in 36th overall in the Gold fleet but ranks inside the top 20 by nation, a crucial indicator for his Rio 2016 qualification hopes.

Espey was a surprise addition to the Irish Olympic team at Weymouth event two years ago when he qualified the country just months before the regatta after campaigning outside the official ISA squad for several years.

However, Espey’s colleagues in two other disciplines have fared poorly. . Annalise Murphy in the Laser Radial failed to qualify for the Gold fleet and two race wins in the Silver group will be of little solaceSimilarly, Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern in the 49er skiff also didn’t make the cut, leaving Espey as the only positive result for the week.

Newly-formed pairing Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey were amongst the back-markers in the 49er FX event, the new women’s skiff discipline for Rio that has replaced the match-racing event.

“It’s been a difficult week for the Irish sailors, there’s no doubt about that,” said James O’Callaghan, ISA Performance Manager in Palma last night. “We hadn’t set particularly high targets coming off the back of the winter period so we were expecting some rustiness, just not quite this much rustiness.”

A format change at this event has seen the qualification round days reduced from the usual three to two days meaning a poor opening day severely limits qualification chances for the Gold fleet.

Nevertheless, O’Callaghan readily acknowledges that the same format applies for all competitors.

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