Young sailors to put ambitions to test at Royal Cork Yacht Club

Youth National Championships an indicator of sailors’ hopes of future Olympic success

With barely a week to go before the start of the Youth National Championships at the Royal Cork Yacht Club, the south coast is already buzzing with final training sessions for the key hopefuls for the "pathway" classes.

More than 200 boats are expected to take part in the four-day event, sponsored by CH Marine.

A squad of Lasers have already been preparing in Baltimore Sailing Club, which hosts the Munster Championships this weekend.

Next week’s regatta has added importance as it now becomes the selection event for the Optimist class to decide squads for the coming season. In previous years, trials were held over a number of events.


In previous years the youth nationals were used to select the Irish team for the Youth World Championships, as this event is not being held until December in Malaysia. Now squad selection will be based on soon-to-be published selection criteria that will take account of the large number of events taking place over the summer.


“It’s the pinnacle domestic event for youth and junior sailors across


, ” said James O’Callaghan, performance director at the

Irish Sailing Association

. “They are competing for places in teams and events in


this summer, so it’s going to a closely fought battle in all the classes.”

Next week’s event will live up to its official title as the “Pathway championships” as an indicator of future athletes aiming for Olympic-level success. To that end, a possible emerging trend has been dubbed the “Annalise factor” as about half the up-and-coming sailors are now girls, possibly inspired by the London 2012 performance of Annalise Murphy.


“It’s too early to call it a trend, but it’s definitely one to keep an eye on,” said O’Callaghan. “It could be a compete coincidence but there are a lot of female sailors there, which is very healthy.”

Erica Ruigrok, Aoife Hopkins and Nicole Hemeryck are all in contention for the Girls Laser Radial class, a close match for up-and-coming talent indicators.

Meanwhile, an interesting battle is again likely at the front of the Laser Radial class. In 2014, Cian Byrne went head to head with Seafra Guilfoyle, who eventually won and went on to take Silver at the Youth Worlds.

With Guilfoyle now graduated to the senior ranks, Byrne has an opportunity to win this year, but in turn must watch out for another up-and-comer in the form of Liam Glynn from Ballyholme.

The former Topper World Champion also had a podium result in the Andalucian Olympic Week last year and has Conor O'Beirne and Ross O'Sullivan, both on form as fellow challengers.

In the Girls 420's, Kinsale's Cliona O'Sullivan has just partnered with Niamh Doran from the Topper class but after only six-week together, the event will be a proving ground for them.

David Branigan

David Branigan

David Branigan is a contributor on sailing to The Irish Times