Women’s skiff pair narrowly miss out on Rio Olympics

Olympic prospects of Brewster and Tidey undone at the last by Canadian protest

Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey of Ireland in action in the 49er Women’s race during the ISAF Sailing World Cup. Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey of Ireland in action in the 49er Women’s race during the ISAF Sailing World Cup. Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

 

Buenos Aires proved memorable for up-and-coming prospects Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey last weekend as the pair narrowly missed qualifying for the Olympics in the women’s skiff event.

Places for three nations at the Rio Games were up for grabs in the 49er FX World Championships, where a fleet of 61 boats competed.

Representing Dún Laoghaire’s Royal Irish Yacht Club, the pair indicated their good form with two top-10 places on the opening day. But in lighter conditions later in the regatta, some mid-fleet placings threatened their chances and a good final day on Saturday was needed.

Thanks to consistent early results, the crews from Argentina and Singapore appeared likely to secure two of the three places for Rio 2016, so the final qualification was in play on the last day.

The three races included top-six results, and Brewster and Tidey sailed ashore confident that they had achieved the outcome they needed.

But a protest hearing initiatied by the Canadian entry for an alleged “right of way” incident in the day’s opening race saw the pair disqualified, meaning they had to count a previously discarded 18th place.

The protest saw the Canadians take the third place for Rio on 151 points, beating the Norwegians on a tiebreak. The Irish team had 153 points even after the protest, but were beaten in the race for Rio.

Another opportunity

The Irish pair will have another opportunity to claim a place at the Olympics in the spring, at the Princess Sofia Trophy Regatta in Palma, where they must finish best of the European boats that haven’t already won places for the Games.

But, in an ironic twist, it seems likely that the Canadians would have qualified for Rio in any case. Places are allocated on the basis of a regional quota as well as on performances at world championships. Oceania has a single place available, but as Australia and New Zealand qualified on the basis of world championship performances and no other competitor from the region is active in the class, the single place for Oceania moves to the best competitor nation from another region that has not already qualified.

In this case, that competitor nation is Canada, based on the results standing before Saturday’s protest. The Oceania place then switches region to Europe, and so the Norwegian crew qualified their country on the basis of their world championship result.

Further twist

But in a further twist, while Brewster and Tidey could yet help Ireland qualify by being the best European crew in Palma, their prospects for Rio may also hinge on whether an African crew enters the Olympics hunt, as one place is available for this region.

It’s a long shot, but if the African region doesn’t field a crew in the women’s skiff event, then that regional place switches to Europe and the next best unqualified European nation at the world championships: Ireland.

In the meantime, Brewster and Tidey can count their haul of strong results on the Mar del Plata last week to build their performance for next year, which may yet bring their Olympic debut.

Meanwhile, the Olympic venue will be the setting for the Irish Sailing Association’s selection trials at a test event starting on December 10th.

London 2012 veteran Annalise Murphy has already qualified Ireland for a place in the Laser Radial event in Rio next August, but a stream of promising talent means she must face competition to verify her nomination to the Olympic Council of Ireland for the national team.

Only this week at the Laser Radial world championships in Oman, Murphy failed to live up to her own performance goals for the year.

Prohibitive costs mean that her sole rival is 16-year-old Aoife Hopkins, from Howth Yacht Club, whose planning has been focused more on the Tokyo Games in 2020.

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