Olympic hopes get wind in their sails

Less than a year after the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Irish Sailing Association yesterday announced a title sponsor for the high-performance squad currently preparing for the next Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro.

Providence Resources have backed the team in an effort to improve on the performance hailed as the best Irish result in 30 years at Weymouth last summer.

To be known as Providence Team IRL, the squad will use the sponsorship, in addition to core Irish Sports Council funding, to begin a training camp in Rio as well as other caching services for each of the crews in the squad.

Three boats, all veterans of London 2012, have declared for Rio 2016.

Annalise Murphy, who famously narrowly missed a podium finish on her Olympic debut in the Laser Radial, has delivered a series of strong performances this year, including two gold medals on the European Olympic classes circuit.

Her main focus however, is certain to be the class European championships, to be hosted by her home club, the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, in September. Whether or not home waters offer an advantage, however small, rounding off a year with a strong result will boost her prospects as the Laser Radial class competition intensifies.

James Espey is also aiming to qualify Ireland once again for the Laser Standard rig men’s event.

But this cycle will be different for the Ballyholme sailor as he will be inside the fold thanks to his eleventh hour qualification for London 2012, having privately campaigned for several years and peaked in time to be included in Team Ireland.

Clubmates Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern were also veterans last summer, their first Olympics and in the 49er skiff event. Building on their steadily improving performance going into the London Games is starting to show through in the build-up to the class world championships next weekend.

The three boats complete the initial line-up though other crews are also expected to contest places, including a high-profile team in the women’s 49FX skiff, a new event for the Rio Games.

The event may also lead to another twist in the line-up based on the host country’s strong track record in the Star keelboat.

Officially, the 112-year old design has had its last appearance at the Olympics but speculation remains strong the host country will use its status to select an Olympic discipline of its own choosing.

If that occurs, the prospect of double Olympian Peter O’Leary returning in the class is a strong possibility.

Meanwhile, ten-times Paralympic veteran John Twomey has also declared for the Sonar class, along with Ian Costello. The Kinsale sailor is preparing to host the World Disabled Sailing Championships in August as part of his build-up to Rio.

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