Lynch to lead Laser sailors Glynn and McMahon into Palma racing regatta

The next country qualification chance is July in Japan for Laser classes and at the end of the year for skiffs in New Zealand

With a month to go to the first major Olympic class regatta of the European season, three Irish 49ers, three Lasers and two Finns will seek to make the standard at the opening of eight 2019 Irish Sailing-prescribed events on the road to Tokyo.

Buoyed up by early season success in the USA, Finn Lynch will lead Laser sailors Liam Glynn and Ewan McMahon into the Trofeo Princesa Sofía Iberostar in Palma, Mallorca.

It represents an exciting but challenging start to 2019, just a week after the opening of the team's purpose-built Irish Sailing performance HQ in Dún Laoghaire harbour on March 22nd.

Yet making the top half of fleet standard next month will not necessarily trigger a trial or a nomination because Ireland must first achieve country qualification.

Ireland missed out at the first chance to do this at the World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, last August, so the squad – a mix of youth and experience – still needs to qualify in any of the five contested classes.

If 49er results from last week's Villamoura Grand Prix are anything to go by the recently crowned Irish Sailors of the Year, Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove of Howth Yacht Club, appear to have closed the gap on London and Rio rep Ryan Seaton of Belfast Lough. Seaton, now teamed with Cork Harbour's Seafra Guilfoyle for a Tokyo bid, returns to competition after an ankle injury to his crew.

Dickson and Waddilove finished 23rd in a fleet of 53 at the second round of the Portugal Grand Prix, just five places behind Seaton and Guilfoyle, setting up the prospect of a fascinating duel.

The National Yacht Club brothers Sean and Tadgh Donnelly are also contesting the men's skiff slot, so a three-way trial is also a 2020 possibility.

Enoshima start-line

The next country qualification chance is in July in Japan for the Laser classes and the end of the year for the skiffs in New Zealand, so the stakes to make the Enoshima start-line in just over 500 days are already high.

In an Irish context, if nation qualification is achieved at either venue a trial will be triggered if more than one boat has made top half in any of the eight 2019 regattas.

Evidence that this is well within his grasp was produced by Rio Laser representative Finn Lynch this month, when he became the first ever Irish sailor to make the Laser medal race in a World Cup Series in Miami. With big improvements in the bag and despite nursing a neck injury, the ninth overall achieved in Miami puts the National Yacht Club single-hander well inside the country qualification zone if he can dial up that speed boost again in July.

Two campaigns (Fionn Lyden and Oisin McClelland) in the men's heavyweight single-handed event complete next month's Irish line-up because there will be no Irish female sailors in Palma.

Annalise Murphy and Katie Tingle are expected to make their international 49erfx debut a month later at the Genoa World Cup from April 15th-21st.

Both Laser radial campaigners Aoife Hopkins and Aisling Keller have college commitments.