A giant photo of Olympic silver medallist Annalise Murphy took centre stage when Irish Sailing unveiled its new High Performance HQ in Dun Laoghaire yesterday - but not the one you would expect.
The new training centre, which cost €300,000 and was funded by a philantropic group of benefactors called the Irish Sailing Foundation, is cleverly constructed, using three simple industrial shipping units to provide gym, coaching and storage areas.
Each unit is still portable and the coaching/debriefing block will be transported to Tokyo ahead of the 2020 Olympics where it will act as Ireland’s team HQ. The choice of image on its wall speaks volumes. It is not of Murphy celebrating in Rio 2016 but of her in tears, just moments after finishing fourth at London 2012. The image also includes a post-it note she wrote at the time which reads: ‘Not to fear losing but to see the opportunity to fight to win’.
Irish Sailing’s bid to make the most of its opportunities to fight and win are symbolised by this simple but inventive centre, which also includes a launching pontoon and boat storage, all on a site donated and shared with the Commissioners of Irish Lights. It is not only designed to make life easier, logistically, for Ireland’s elite sailing squad but to also foster their collective ambition and team spirit.
Ireland’s Head Coach Rory Fitzpatrick described it as “a major milestone for Irish performance sailing”. Annalise Murphy said: “For the first time we have a home, somewhere we can train, share experiences and focus as a group on how we can perform better. Our new HQ means we don’t need to rely on the nomadic overseas campaigns of the past.” Murphy, who took a year out after Rio to crew in the Round The World ocean race, also has a new team element to her own sailing.
After sailing solo for two Olympic campaigns, she’s now bidding to qualify in the 49er class with Katie Tingle (30). Tingle, from Douglas and a member of Royal Cork Yacht Club, never dreamed she would be part of this Olympic campaign. “Katie was a superstar when she was younger, sailed Optimist at U15 and was national champion three times, but when she moved to seniors she never had quite the right boat to sail,” said Murphy who approached Tingle when she heard, a year ago, that she was planning a career break from primary teaching in Greystones.
“I definitely had (Olympic) aspirations in school but I didn’t have anyone to sail with or at the right size,” said Tingle (5’2”). “I was friendly with Annalise so I knew what was involved. It’s not so much a learning curve as totally vertical! But the system is amazing. Straight away, I was able to access things like a nutritionist, a psychologist and the Institute of Sport.”
They suffered a setback last September when Tingle broke her arm badly during training, putting her out of the boat for four months, yet Murphy feels they have made up the necessary ground.
“Most athletes come back less fit after an injury but Katie came back fitter and, while she was rehabbing, I found a training partner locally, a 21-year-old boy who was absolutely fearless. In some ways, that’s what I needed because sailing the 49er can be scary, it is so different from a Laser.”
Their first competition - a World Cup in Genoa on April 14-21 - is eagerly anticipated but their big target, in December 2019 is the World Championships in New Zealand, where Olympic spots are up for grabs. Crosshaven’s Seafra Guilfoyle (22) also has high hopes of making Tokyo 2020. He has also gone from racing Lasers to a 49er, partnering Antrim’s Ryan Seaton, a two-time Olympian who was one half of the Irish 49er crew who made the medal race and finished 10th in Rio.