Youth championships to give glimpse of Ireland’s prospects
Howth Yacht Club hosts country’s future hopefuls in what is now a pathway event
Ireland’s Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern competing in the 49er skiff event at the Princesa Sofía Regatta where they are in joint first overall with up to four races remaining. Photograph: David Branigan/Oceansport.
As the Princesa Sofía Regatta for Olympic classes draws to a close on the Bay of Palma, future hopefuls are underway at Howth Yacht Club for the annual Youth National Championships that are now an established pathway event.
With upwards of 250 boats and nearly 300 competitors, only a handful of clubs around the country can undertake staging the event that requires three course areas and matching race management support.
Changes over the years have been made to make the format as close to the Youth World Championships though this year’s venue has yet to be confirmed after Oman withdrew from hosting the event last month.
Both sailed for Ireland in the national Optimist squad that for the first time is using the youth nationals as the full selection trials to decide this year’s line up for the World and European Championships with around 60 sailors competing for a place at either event.
It’s a pathway already proven by Finn Lynch, who stood out in this regatta a few years back before winning silver at the 2012 Youth Worlds.
Now, at the age of just 19, he is already a real prospect to make his Olympic debut this year. But the Youth Nationals are as much a talent-spotting opportunity as well as a championship.
Rory Fitzpatrick is the Irish Sailing Association’s youth and development manager in addition to being an Olympic coach and will be on the water through the event in Howth.
“It’s a showcase for the pathway and where the sailors can see what’s ahead of them when they get a bit older,” he told The Irish Times. “And it’s also a chance to meet parents as it’s an indicator for them of what lies ahead.”
In the 420, Dougie Elmes and Colin O’Sullivan from the host club are fresh from bronze at youth worlds in Malaysia in January and are certainly favourites.
Amongst the girls, Cliodhna Ní Shúilleabháin with Niamh Doran are the form favourites but sisters Gemma and Cara McDowell are a new pairing to be watched.
Amongst the Laser Radial girls Aoife Hopkins, who is currently trialling against Annalise Murphy for the Rio 2016 berth, is competing and then heading off to Mexico for the final showdown to decide the trials while Nicole Hemeryck who first sailed for Ireland at the 2011 British Optimist nationals is another up and coming sailor following in Murphy and Lynch’s wake at the National Yacht Club in Dún Laoghaire .
Among the boys’ fleet, defending champion Conor O’Beirne from the Royal St George Yacht Club just finished in the top-10 in the recent Laser Radial European Championships but will be facing the on-form Ewan McMahon, the under-17 medallist in the Laser Radial and Liam Glynn, the former Topper World Champion.
In the Laser 4.7 fleet, Henry Higgins, as current national champion, is the favourite but newcomers Clare Gorman and Peter Fagan will be worth watching out for.
PRINCESA SOFÍA REGATTA
Wind blows no harm for Irish
Ireland’s Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern bounced back up the leaderboard at the Princesa Sofia Regatta, Mallorca, following a gruelling four-race day in breezy conditions.
The London 2012 veterans are tied for first place on points with German and Austrian crews and face a final day of fleet races for the top-10 boats in the their 49er skiff class.
As joint overall leaders of the 25-strong Gold fleet, they started on Monday competing against 70 other boats in the qualification round.
However, the third day of sailing was beset by light winds that only allowed one race of a three-race schedule to be sailed.
The following day saw an extra race sailed to catch-up on the programme while the final may also have a fourth race added.
Meanwhile, in the Silver fleet of the men’s Laser class, the Irish selection trials swung back in favour of veteran Olympian James Espey.
Nineteen-year-old Finn Lynch has proven to be a credible challenger but ended his opening race in an uncharacteristic 37th place before going on to finish 14th in the second race of the day.
Fionn Lyden, who is also hunting for the Rio Olympics 2016 berth, sailed well and at one stage all three Irish boats were within a few places of one another.
The trials are certain to continue well into the final event at the Laser World Championships in Mexico in May.