Keller and Hopkins to face Olympic trial for Radial place

Do-or-die series in the spring 2020 will use the combined scores from three European regattas

 Aisling Keller  on her way to qualifying Ireland in the Women’s Laser Radial for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at this week’s World Championships in Japan.

Aisling Keller on her way to qualifying Ireland in the Women’s Laser Radial for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at this week’s World Championships in Japan.

 

Aisling Keller’s Tokyo 2020 nation qualification secured for Ireland on Wednesday has triggered an Olympic trial to determine which Irish sailor will represent Ireland in the Laser Radial Class and follow in the wake of Rio silver medalist Annalise Murphy.

It’s a development that will certainly add extra spice to a lacklustre Irish campaign that has yet to qualify in any of three other contested classes with just a year to go to the Olympic regatta itself.

The minimum standard to justify a trial in the Radial was reached in Sakaiminato, Japan when both Keller (23) of Lough Derg and rival for the single place, Aoife Hopkins (21) of Howth, both finished in the top half of the World Championships, one of Irish Sailing’s prescribed 2019 qualifying events.

The do-or-die series will start in the spring of 2020 and will use the combined scores from each of three European regattas; Palma in March, the World Cup in Genoa in April and Hyeres Regatta in late April to decide the nomination.

While the manner of Wednesday’s qualification itself, at the back end of the Gold Fleet in 46th and 48th places respectively, may not immediately scream ‘medal prospect’, it is worth noting that three years previously – in Olympic year itself – Murphy finished the 2016 World Championships in Mexico in the silver fleet that May before winning Olympic silver just three months later.

And in that context, because both of this week’s Tokyo trialists have previously demonstrated top international form, both earning U21 European Radial honours in 2017, Ireland certainly still possess significant potential for improvement in Tokyo. But whether or not they can match Murphy’s own performance is another matter entirely.

Meanwhile, Frank Whelan will attempt to make it three in a row early in August at Calves Week in West Cork.

Whelan’s Grand Soleil “Eleuthera” has delivered winning performances in Kinsale’s Sovereign’s Cup in June and more recently at Dun Laoghaire Regatta so Calves Week would be another feather in the cap of the Greystones Class Zero skipper. A total of 65 entries representing 14 clubs are confirmed for the Schull Harbour Sailing Club regatta.

Excellent timing

The Royal Ocean Racing Club’s (RORC) ongoing interest in Ireland continues to grow with the – as yet unconfirmed – development that RORC’s annual Morgan Cup Race will set for Ireland from Cowes in 2020.

The cup attracts an annual fleet topping 100 boats that regularly sails across the Channel to France or the Channel Islands each June. It is a 110-mile offshore fixture that insiders say may now sail instead to Ireland.

It would be excellent timing for a UK fleet fillip given the anniversary year for Irish sailing that includes Royal Cork’s 300th anniversary.

For the first time, Dublin Bay Sailing Club Mermaid dinghies will stage their annual Championship in Crosshaven. The fleet has enjoyed numbers in excess of 25 to 30 boats at its most recent championships but this year’s event at Royal Cork is shaping up to be something special with several former champions rejoining the fray.

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