Next races crucial for Lynch after disappointing start to Laser championships

Opening day in Japan not without high points for the Irish squad

After a disappointing start to the Laser World Championships for Finn Lynch in Japan on Thursday, the next two qualification races on Friday are certain to prove crucial to his prospects of qualifying Ireland for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

And while there were good performances from the younger Irish squad members competing at Sakaiminato-City, Lynch’s strong performances earlier this year, plus his veteran status from the Rio games, make him the country’s best hope in the single-handed event.

The story so far this year has been that of consistent top 10 results, edging towards the podium in Miami, Palma and Genoa. Until the European Championships in Porto. The gruelling schedule and relentless focus on competition took a toll. That and arriving later than usual at the venue resulted in Lynch slipping to 18th overall; still not bad and possibly inevitable.

The Laser squad set up camp in Japan three weeks ahead of the competition and, led by head coach Vasilij Zbogar, set about making themselves familiar and comfortable with Miho Bay and their base ashore. That left the stage set for a strong opening day that started with a delay ashore waiting for breeze that peaked at 10 knots.

After receiving two black flag disqualifications for premature starts at the Europeans, a more cautious approach to starting might well be understandable. Yet perhaps being overcautious this week saw Lynch lag behind the front-runners in both races, eventually placing 24th and 30th in his flight.

Still, it is early days, but he has previously said how important it is to get good results in early in a regatta to have in store for when the cream of the three flights come together in the Gold fleet for the second half of the event.

Now lying joint 78th overall, his form from earlier this year indicates his ability, as confirmed by Zbogar. “Finn has everything he needs to perform, but must look beyond the pressure of the event for the remaining races.”

Leading boats

Meanwhile, the opening day was not without high points for the Irish squad. Bangor’s Liam Glynn was with the leading boats in both races of his flight that he shares with Lynch. In his opening race he was in the top 10 at the first mark before he slipped back to place 21st. In the second race he held his ground and placed 10th, leaving him best of the Irish and in 34th overall.

Ewan McMahon from Howth also did well, and took third place in the opening race of his flight. But pushing the start in the next race got him disqualified under the black flag rule, which he can discard later in the series and work on repeating his opening race result.

Other Olympic hopefuls in action this week include Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove defending their 49er Junior World Championship title in Norway. After six races the pair are in ninth overall in the 50-boat event thanks to a 2-6-2 scoreline for the day.

Total entries

Ahead of next week’s Volvo Dún Laoghaire Regatta organisers have confirmed that total entries have reached 495 boats. While the entry deadline has passed, late-comers are unlikely to be refused. Actual entries received topped 505 boats, but the inevitable drop-outs reduced the likely fleet that comprises 50 per cent visitors from outside the Dún Laoghaire area.

IRC-rated boats account for almost 100 entries, but with a further 37 boats racing offshore on the coastal course and a similar number racing under non-spinnaker.

The traditional and classic boats have also returned in strength, and word has spread resulting in a large contingent of Welsh entries, notably 15 Trearddur Bay Sailing Club Myth and Seabird Half-raters.

Along with the Howth 17-footers, Water Wags and other assorted classics, a spectacle is assured on Dublin Bay next week starting on Thursday afternoon and running for four days.

David O'Brien

David O'Brien

David O'Brien, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a former world Fireball sailing champion and represented Ireland in the Star keelboat at the 2000 Olympics

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