Saskia Tidey on cusp of Olympic medal but not for her native Ireland

She joined Team GB to find ‘another girl who had the experience to sail with me’

Saskia Tidey goes into the weekend on the cusp of winning an Olympic medal at Tokyo 2020, this time for Team GB rather than her native Ireland.

The 27-year old sailor now competes with Charlotte Dobson, who like Tidey competed at Rio 2016 and finished eighth.

The Irish sailor had previously campaigned in a Laser Radial for over a decade but switched to the women's skiff event in the 49erFX class when she was paired with Andrea Brewster, an English athlete with a grandfather hailing from Schull in West Cork.

After the Rio Games, the pairing parted amicably when Brewster decided to end her competitive racing career.


That left Tidey, whose home club is the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire with no obvious successor at the same experience level to pick-up on.

Her option was to seek a place with the British team using her father Don Tidey’s British citizenship to qualify.

A former supermarket supremo who led the growth of Tesco in Ireland, he was the victim of a kidnapping and ransom attempt by an IRA gang in 1983.

"There wasn't an option here in Ireland in the 49erFX with another girl who had the experience to sail with me at the same level that I had finished up at (at Rio 2016) to be competitive and win a medal in 2020," Tidey told The Irish Times in January 2017.

“The 49erFX is a very specific boat and it takes a vast amount of time and commitment, full-time commitment to even get to the level we got to.”

Although Annalise Murphy briefly tried a switch to compete in the 49erFX along with Katie Tingle, the skiff proved too complex to make significant inroads with and ultimately changed back to her established class.

That left Ireland without any representation in the 49erFX women’s event, a situation that still holds today in contrast to the strength of the single-handed sailors of the ILCA6 class (formerly know as the Laser Radial).

Murphy competed against Aoife Hopkins from Howth and Lough Derg's Aisling Keller – who actually qualified Ireland for Tokyo 2020 in 2019 - in a selection trial that she was leading until the Covid-19 pandemic ended the series and she was nominated for Japan.

Dobson and Tidey started the 12 race qualification series in Tokyo with a strong set of results and were leading going into the penultimate day of racing on Friday.

There followed their worst set of results in a single day and they dropped from first place to fourth with three races remaining to strengthen their position going into the medal race on Monday.

David Branigan

David Branigan

David Branigan is a contributor on sailing to The Irish Times