Sailing: Two Irish skiff pairings to bid for Olympic berth in Auckland test

Defining 49er World Championship for Seaton and Guilfoyle and Dickson/Wadilove

 Seafra Guilfoyle (left) and Ryan Seaton are one of two Irish skiff teams contesting the 49er World Championships in New Zealand next month where a Tokyo Olympic berth for Ireland is available. Photograph: David O’Brien

Seafra Guilfoyle (left) and Ryan Seaton are one of two Irish skiff teams contesting the 49er World Championships in New Zealand next month where a Tokyo Olympic berth for Ireland is available. Photograph: David O’Brien

 

A top-eight position overall will be a prerequisite for either or both Irish teams to take the single place for Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics when the 49er World Championships gets underway in Auckland, New Zealand early next month.

London and Rio Olympian Ryan Seaton of Belfast, now teamed with Seafra Guilfoyle of Cork Harbour, plus under-23 rivals Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove of Howth have each shown potential this season but inconsistency has also led to some mixed finishes for both skiff pairings.

Now the race is on to produce a world-class result and an Olympic berth to boot.

Up to 100 of the world’s top teams, including multiple champions, New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Blair Tuke of the host nation, compete at the Royal Akarana Yacht Club from December 3rd.

In August, at the World Sailing World Cup in Enoshima, venue for the 2020 Olympic sailing competition, Seaton and Guilfoyle were medal race finishers and tenth overall.

And in another fine skiff display for Ireland, defending under-23 world champions Dickson and Waddilove of Howth Yacht Club put in an outstanding defence to win a bronze medal in Norway in July. Both results underline the potential for Ireland in Tokyo if only a berth can be secured next month.

The chances of Ireland fielding a skiff team in Tokyo largely depend on the December performance as the last of the Olympic places are snapped up. If not, then Paris 2024 looks very much like the next option.

As the men’s Laser remains unqualified, the only Irish boat qualified for Tokyo so far is the women’s Laser Radial. Four sailors, including Rio silver medalist Annalise Murphy, will contest a three-event trials series in 2020 to decide who represents Ireland on the Bay of Enoshima next July.

Offshore keelboat

Following this month’s World Sailing Conference in Bermuda, the slate of events and equipment announced for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games are being heralded as a “showcase for the diversity of the sport” but it remains to be seen how much interest Ireland can drum up in three new disciplines for the next quadrennial.

The world governing body may be trumpeting its success in gender balancing and likewise in its bid for “true universal representation” but a look down the new discipline shows that, as things stand, Ireland will certainly contest the two dinghy disciplines, the skiff and perhaps the new offshore keelboat in a line-up that also now includes Kiteboarding and Foiling Windsurfing.

Ushering in the new keelboat, pundits say the move gives significant benefits to both the sport and the Olympic Games.

An idea has been floated to hold qualifications in chartered boats already available on a regional basis which might cut the cost of campaigning a keelboat that has been guesstimated at €350k.

World Sailing’s aim is to see more nations participating in Olympic qualifiers than ever before to add “real value to the Olympic programme” so it will be interesting to see what Irish campaigns might emerge for Paris.

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