Sailing: Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey qualify for Rio Olympics

Withdrawal of Algerian entry opens the door for Irish sailors in 49erFX class

Saskia Tidey and Andrea Brewster will compete in this summer’s Rio Olympics. Photo: Inpho

Saskia Tidey and Andrea Brewster will compete in this summer’s Rio Olympics. Photo: Inpho

 

The Irish sailing team for Rio grew to six on Thursday with the announcement that Ireland is to get a wild card entry in the 49erfx class following the withdrawal of an Algerian entry. In a boost for the Irish squad ahead of next week’s important Trofeo Princesa Sofia regatta in Mallorca, the Royal Irish Yacht Club (RIYC) pairing Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey have been confirmed as Ireland’s first ever women’s Olympic skiff crew.

With nearly all the country Olympic places secured the Mallorcan regatta represents the last chance for some of the European and African countries to get one of the last 15 places available for Rio.

Brewster and Tidey were gearing up for a crunch regatta where Europe’s final Olympic 49erFX berth is the big prize but the no-show by Algeria hands them a free pass to Rio as African qualifiers.

Ireland was in first in line for the African spot by virtue of the Dun Laoghaire girl’s 2015 world championship performance in Argentina last November.

It’s been a long ride to Olympic inclusion for Brewster, who raced radials for GBR for a number of years before switching allegiance to Ireland and committing to the skiff. Tidey is in her first Olympic campaign, but has sailed skiffs for a while, first making her name as a member of ‘Skiff Chicks Racing’ in the Aussie 18 circuit.

Ireland will be represented in Rio in the mens and women Laser, the 49er and now the 49erfx.

More good news could come from Spain next week with an Olympic regatta berth securable in the mens Laser class by any one of three Irish Laser helmsmen at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia event.

A record entry of 775 boats – earmarked as the second of three Irish tests – has attracted a red hot fleet of 150 in the mens Laser class where even qualifying for the 60–boat gold fleet by this day next week represents a big achievement in itself. A stand out performance such as Finn Lynch’s gold fleet finish a fortnight ago at the European Championships would give the edge in what is a neck–and–neck race for the single Irish berth. 19–year-old Lynch from Dun Laoghaire’s National Yacht Club (NYC) is a point behind Royal Ulster’s James Espey after the first test in Brazil last December. Baltimore’s Fionn Lyden is five points off.

The final selection trial for the Irish men is the World Championships in Mexico in May with next week’s overall result providing a good steer for August’s Olympic regatta.

This morning’s (Friday) Royal Ocean Racing Club Easter Challenge in Cowes enacts Ireland’s Commodore’s Cup defence at the same venue in just over four months time.

Composition of the three boat 2016 team has yet to be announced for July’s big date but Cork Cup Captain Anthony O’Leary is back on Solent waters where the opening regatta of RORC’s domestic calendar will provide the 50 or so crews with the first glimpse of form.

Under the gaze of UK rivals, O’Leary will be keen to start 2016’s title defence on a strong footing this weekend, replicating last year’s performance where his Crosshaven–based yacht Antix was the runaway Easter victor.

Ireland has twice won the Cup in 2010 and 2014 both under the captaincy of Anthony O’Leary of Royal Cork Yacht Club. This year the biennial flagship event for national teams with amateur crews has a new format that promises a tough mix of inshore and offshore racing in a seven-day programme that pits three-boat teams against one another to accrue overall team points.

Joining O’Leary for this weekend’s warm–up is Royal Cork club–mate Conor Phelan in the Ker 37 Jump Juice.

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