Extreme weather conditions over continental Europe impacted the opening races of the Moth World Championships on Lake Garda this week.
The Italian venue is considered the spiritual home of foiling boats and a record 240 entries from 29 countries have entered the series, which concludes on Sunday.
However, thunder storms on Monday and Tuesday meant racing was cancelled on safety grounds.
The moth is the fastest dinghy class in the world thanks to its hydro-foiling ability that lifts the hull and sailor clear of the water, leading to high speeds in excess of 30 knots even in light to medium winds.
A healthy contingent of more than a dozen Irish “mothies” are in action, with Olympic silver medallist Annalise Murphy counted as one of the championship’s highest-profile sailors and a contender in the women’s series. After her Rio 2016 campaign, Murphy has spent little time in her moth and only recently returned to training in it; her aim is to repeat her 2015 championship and achieve a gold fleet result.
However, her sights are also set on Tokyo 2020 in the Laser Radial event, with the class world championships in the Netherlands next month marking the start of her preparations.
She had a 19th and an eighth yesterday in the opening moth races, but for consistency, Crosshaven’s David Kenefick served up two ninths and is the top-placed Irish boat. Other notable Irish results include Murphy’s Olympic coach Rory Fitzpatrick, with a 13th and a 10th, leaving him in 40th place, overall.
The top places in the championship are dominated by professional sailors of America’s Cup, Olympic and Volvo Ocean Race standing, with overall leader Tom Slingsby’s double-first places equalled in the other flight by Paul Goodison, the defending world champion.
Meanwhile, earlier this week Murphy’s prime challenger to both qualify Ireland and win selection for Tokyo took another step forward with her plans. Howth’s Aoife Hopkins won the European Under-21 Laser Radial Championship ladies title in Douarnenez, France, taking seven out of 10 races in the 17-strong fleet.
Her team-mate Aisling Keller from Nenagh placed second overall in a strong show for Irish sailing.
Both sailors are entered alongside Murphy for the world championships, which feature 102 entries from 41 countries, including all the top sailors from last year’s Olympics..
The trio are part of a much larger contingent of over 30 top Irish single-handed sailors competing at international level, starting out in the Laser 4.7 rig, graduating up to the Laser Radial for both girls and boys, before splitting at senior level into either the Laser Radial for women or the standard rig for Men.
Though there is significant support and cooperation between squad members, the intensity of competition is certain to increase over the coming 18 months, as places for the Tokyo Games are decided. That prospect of multiple contenders in both men’s and womens’ single-handed classes raises the prospect of a repeat of the trials series that decided Ireland’s team for Rio 2016.
In the Radial event, Murphy went head-to-head with Hopkins, with the latter posing a credible threat to the then London 2012 veteran’s prospects for the Rio games.
The Dun Laoghaire sailor was at a low point just months before the Olympics and barely managed to hold off Hopkins advancing form to win selection. By her own admission, she was sailing “really badly” before turning her game around in time for the opening race on Guanabara Bay and ultimately led to her silver medal.
Hopkins’ progress also matches Murphy’s in that eight years ago the Olympic medallist first hit the podium when she won the European Under 21 Laser Radial Championship.
The pathway is well lit.
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