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Two Howth Yacht Club Olympic campaigners will share in The Olympic Federation of Ireland Paris Scholarships fund, as preparations are already underway for the Summer Olympic Games in Paris 2024.

Dublin's ILCA 6/Laser Radial campaigners Aoife Hopkins and Irish Sailor of the Year Eve McMahon - who begins her Leaving Certificate examinations this morning - will receive $15,000 each from the Federation.

A total pot of $350,000 will be distributed to Olympic hopefuls with the Women’s Hockey team awarded the team grant of $100,000. The fifteen individual grants to a total of $250,000 were awarded to athletes from twelve sports.

The funding for the grants is primarily provided through a combination of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Olympic Solidarity programme funding and OFI funding, split $250,000 from the IOC and the remaining $100,000 from the OFI to allow for a greater number of scholarship awards in Ireland.

Aoife HopkinsAoife Hopkins

The scholarships aim to support the athletes in their preparation for Paris, and to assist on the qualification journey. Athletes were nominated by the national federations and are representative of a mix of Olympians targeting a second Games, and athletes targeting an Olympic debut.

Making the announcement, Team Ireland Chef de Mission for the Paris Olympic Games, Gavin Noble, said,

“Thirty-five individual nominations were received from nineteen member sports for the Paris Scholarship fund, and today we are delighted to formally announce our Paris scholars and of course our support of the women’s hockey team. In the Tokyo cycle, twelve scholarships were awarded, and from those nine athletes qualified for the Games, with two finalists in the Tokyo Olympics. Naturally, we are aiming to build on those results. Through the support of the International Olympic Committee Solidarity Fund, and with the additional backing of Permanent TSB, Allianz and Deloitte, we are able to fund more athletes, to a higher level than ever before, and it is very much part of our performance and commercial strategy that we continue to move in this direction.”

Details of all recipients are below:

TEAM GRANT - $100,000

Women’s Hockey Team

The Women’s Hockey Team were awarded the team grant of $100,000 to assist with their preparations towards Paris 2024. The team consists of both experienced players who competed in the Tokyo Olympics, and emerging talent looking to make their Olympic debut in Paris.

INDIVIDUAL GRANTS – $15,000 PER PERSON

Ten points off a medal, Finn Lynch leaves the Laser/ILCA 7 World in Mexico disappointed not to be on the podium, but it nevertheless confirms the National Yacht Club ace as one of the World's top ten Laser sailors as the battle for a single place in Paris 2024 intensifies.

After his week-long domination at the front of the 126-boat championship, Jean Baptiste Bernaz of France emerged with Gold. However, his lead narrowed in the penultimate race after a disqualification for early starting.

Lynch went into the final day in fifth (he was as high as fourth overall last Wednesday) but overhauling either Croatia's Tonci Stipanovic or 2017 Laser World Champion Pavlos Kontides proved to be too big an ask. Two solid races on the final day were needed to reach the podium and sit with his silver medal from the last world championships in November 2021.

Lynch had a 21st place in the penultimate race, which he couldn't discard, having previously used his discard through gear failure (a downhaul rope breakage in the last qualified on Wednesday that he may well rue). 

He wasn't the only one to drop back as New Zealander Thomas Saunders who was second had to be satisfied with the leather medal after the final shake-up.

The first race of the day brought a little drama when the event leader Jean-Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) got a Black flag, and Pavlos Kontides (CYP) finished fifth, which lifted him to a second overall place, with just 12 points behind Jean-Baptiste. By finishing 14th place, Thomas Saunders (NZL) fell to the third position, only five points ahead of Tonci Stipanovic (CRO).

According to the Notice of Race, the last possible Warning signal at 1500 made it impossible to race committee to give to the Silver fleet a second race, so they finished the championship with 11 races sailed total.

However, the Gold fleet still managed to get their last race started in time and Michael Beckett (GBR) made his best race during the regatta by winning that race. Filip Jurisic (CRO) finished second, which moved him up to the 3rd overall position; Joel Rodriquez Perez (ESP) finished third.

Jean-Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) by finishing 7th in the last race secured his position he held almost the whole regatta and became the new ILCA 7 World Champion.

For the first time, the ILCA 7 Men's World Champion title goes to France!

As the top Irish contender, Lynch is attempting to rebuild after his disappointment of failing to qualify for Tokyo 2020. All credit to him that he is on the right tack at the first opportunity.

A catalogue of quality results achieved since last November shows the depth of the ambition of a new and improved Irish number one.

Since the Laser/ILCA 7 dinghy made its Olympic debut 25 years ago, Ireland has sought a top 30 result at the annual World Championships. Now it has two top tens and a silver medal thanks to Lynch's exploits.

Lynch's own best Worlds performance before Barcelona 2021 and Mexico this week was 31, scored in Melbourne in 2020, a position he also got in Aarhus, Denmark, in 2018. 31st is also a result achieved by his predecessor James Espey in Oman in 2013.

It's not popular to air it in some quarters, but despite 25 years of trying, and until 2021, Ireland had never finished in the top 30 of the World Championships never mind the top ten. You have to go right back to the 'eighties to find any higher Irish results.

In 1983 Lyttle finished 19th and Bill O'Hara 13th, a record, albeit achieved in pre-Olympic times, that stood until Lynch changed all that in blistering fashion.

A short break now follows for Lynch before he returns to competition in The Netherlands for the Allianz Regatta and preparation for the 2023 world championships, which will be the first qualification opportunity for Paris 2024.

Final top ten

1. Jean-Baptiste Bernaz, FRA, 51 points
2. Pavlos Kontides, CYP, 68
3. Filip Jurisic. CRO, 75
4. Thomas Saunders, NZL, 77
5. Tonci Stipanovic, CRO, 81
6. Finn Lynch, IRL, 85
7. Elliot Hanson, GBR, 88
8. Philipp Buhl, GER, 99
9. Jonatan Vadnai, HUN, 101
10. Stefano Peschiera , PER, 105

Full Results

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The National Yacht Club's Finn Lynch is off to a great start to his silver medal defence at the ILCA7/Laser World Championships in Puerto Vallarta.

Lynch posted is lying sixth overall on the Banderas Bay after the first two qualification races in typical sea breeze conditions. 

The 26-year-old scored a tenth then second place in his flight in the 126-boat regatta and was placed sixth overall. They are scores the Carlow native will be keen to maintain as a good average, which is the key to gold fleet qualification on Wednesday in the week-long 12-race event.

The massive fleet is split into two “flights” for the first three days of the series which will then determine the Gold fleet cut, building towards Saturday's final day.

Ewan McMahon 'unwell'

Unfortunately, as Afloat previously reported, Ireland's second team member Ewan McMahon of Howth Yacht YC is reported as 'unwell'. Although he did sail, critically he is unable to hike in the 12-17 knot conditions, according to the team camp.

After a 32nd and 40th places for the day, McMahon lies in the bottom half of the fleet in 72nd place overall.

Overall, the rankings show Hungary's Jonatan Vadnai leading from Croatia's Tonci Stipanovic with Nik Aaron Willim of Germany in third. 

Results are here

The ILCA7 is the Men's single-handed event for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Qualification for the Marseille regatta in just over two years' time will be at next year's combined Sailing World Championships in The Netherlands with another opportunity at the 2024 worlds.

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This week's confirmatory announcement of Sport Ireland High-Performance funding allocation is good news for sailors who have benefited from improved performances and an increase in the amounts awarded to International and World Class level athletes.

Finn Lynch's silver medal at last year's ILCA 7 World Championships has promoted him to the Podium level which awards him €40,000 per annum through to Paris 2024. The 49er pairing of Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove is considered world-class, which brings €25,000 each.

49er duo Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove will receive €25,000 each to Paris 202449er duo Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove will receive €25,000 each per annum to Paris 2024 Photo: Sailing Energy

Seafra Guilfoyle, Johnny Durcan, Aoife Hopkins, Ewan McMahon and Eve McMahon will receive International level funding of €18,000 each.

Sport Ireland High-Performance fundingSport Ireland High-Performance funding for Irish sailors

€3.2m for Irish Sailing

Irish Sailing's high-performance programme funding has increased by €130,000 from €3,070,000 to €3,200,000 which seems positive, but analysis of the funding increases in other sports relegates Sailing to 17th of the 21 sports awarded this funding.

Five sports (Canoeing, Judo, Taekwondo, Gymnastics and Badminton) enjoyed increases of over 100%, while eight further sports received increases of between 20% and 70%.

Irish Sailing's increase of 4%, will actually be a decrease in real terms as increased levels of inflation bite into associated costs.

Sailing, which was the second best-funded Olympic Sport for Tokyo 2020, has now fallen to fifth place in the funding rankings.

John Menton

Sydney Olympic discus thrower John Menton leads the Irish Sailing Olympic Steering Group following the retirement of Patrick Coveney.

In a statement, Irish Sailing said it will 'continue to work closely with Sport Ireland to help meet the challenges of implementing the recommendations from the Tokyo Olympic Report'.

Full Sport Ireland report here and Irish Sailing's commissioned Tokyo Independent External Review review is here

Sport Ireland High-Performance funding

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The transition from junior to senior sailing is difficult at the best of times, and the Irish “Sailor of the Year 2021Eve McMahon of Howth has found that the arbitrary dictates of personal birth dates means that she has been dealing with the demands of the Leaving Cert in her education, while at the same time taking her departure from the junior scene to move towards the challenges of the bigger world.

Yet she did it in considerable style in April’s Youth Nationals at Ballyholme, where the 38-strong ILCA 6/Radial fleet from all over Ireland may not have been the most numerous class, but there’s no doubting that it was the sharp end of the entire regatta. And even with some days providing strong onshore winds with waves of such size that they had to be handled individually rather than as a sequence, she finished in style with two wins on the final day, and the title with it.

Published in Sailor of the Month

A medal race finish is a possibility for Irish 49er duo Robert Dickson and Seán Waddilove if they sail three good final races on Friday at Semaine Olympique Francaise (French Olympic Classes Week) in Hyères.

The regatta has added significance as it's the first of the quadrennial to take place down the coast from the Paris 2024 Olympic waters of Marseille. 

Beautiful conditions graced the fleets. A light and shifty morning gave way to an afternoon of fine if choppy conditions in 12-15 knot easterlies. It made for a full day of competitive sailing across the 10 classes.

Thursday was the fourth day of racing and the first day of the final series. Medal races begin on Saturday.

Dubliner's Dickson and Waddilove have moved up the 49er fleet into 16th place (from 19th on Thursday) after scoring a 6, 7 and 20 in the three races of the day.

49er rivals for Paris Séafra Guilfoyle and Johnny Durcan of Royal Cork YC remain in 30th place overall, scoring 29, 28 and 27 in Thursday’s races.

ILCA 7/Laser

Both Finn Lynch and Ewan McMahon have moved up the rankings of their 128-boat fleet. The National YC's Finn Lynch, who is struggling with an arm injury, now lies in 22nd up eight places and Ewan McMahon (Howth YC) moves up to 27th overall after a 9 and 22 in today’s two races.

49erFX

The Royal Irish's Saskia Tidey of Dun Laoghaire who is competing for Team GB is lying 21 with new partner Freya Black in a fleet of 38.

Full results here

The 53rd Semaine Olympique Française de Hyères - TPM opened in classic Côte d’Azur style on Monday (25 April) with the world’s best rising to the strong winds through a field of 751 sailors from over 50 countries. It was like they had never been away.

After missing two years because of COVID, it was the most welcome and vivacious of returns for a venue and event that means so much to so many.

Racing began at 11am local time in glorious sunshine, under cloudless skies and with strong offshore westerly winds of 15-20 knots.

A choppy sea state, more so on the more the easterly courses with less protection from the bay and Îles d’Or, as well as wind gusts between 25-30, kept everyone on their toes.

Both the world and sailing have changed since the last Semaine Olympique Française de Hyères in 2019. The 10 classes that will be contested in Marseille for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games were in Hyères — which is just 50 miles west down the coast — for the first time. And it was flight time for the five foiling classes on show.

Olympic Champion Quality

The quality of competition throughout the fleets was immediately demonstrated at the start of the day in the men’s ILCA 7, where Matthew Wearn, Australia’s Olympic champion, and Philipp Buhl, Germany’s 2020 World Champion, traded wins at the head of a lead group that dominated both races.

“Today was very very nice, I like Hyères and I prefer a windy Hyères to a soft Hyères,” Buhl, who has particular reason to have a soft spot for Hyères, said.

“It’s a special place for me because it was my first junior European title in 2007, my first European Cup cup here in 2008, I did my first World Cup Medal Race here in 2009 and ten years ago, in 2012, I had my first ever World Cup win here.

“It’s quite funny to look at the results seeing Tom Burton, Slingsby — Matthew Wearn was in the fleet. So, I have some very good memories.”

Racing against the backdrop of the stunning Côte d’Azur | Credit: FFVoile/Sailing EnergyRacing against the backdrop of the stunning Côte d’Azur | Credit: FFVoile/Sailing Energy

Also competing in the ILCA 7 class are Ireland’s Ewan McMahon and Finn Lynch, who place 18th and 34th overall after two races, respectively.

Other Irish contenders to watch out for this week are Aoife Hopkins in the ILCA 6, who currently stands in 17th overall after her first two races, plus two contingents in the 49er.

Robert Dickson and Seán Waddilove are in 23rd overall after two races, with Seafra Guilfoyle and Johnny Durcan not far behind in 27th. See the full results table HERE.

ILCA7/Laser sailor Finn Lynch is hoping to build on recent top performances such as his silver medal win at last November's World Championships and this month's fourth at the Princesa Sofia Trophy when he races at Hyères in the French Olympic Week regatta starting next Monday (23 April).

As Afloat reported previously, the National Yacht Club solo ace along with other Irish Olympic campaigners have been training close to the Marseille Olympic venue this week and have now moved along the Cote D’Azur to Hyères.

Lynch is building towards the defence of his 2021 World Championships silver medal next month at Riviera Nayarit in Mexico.

Competing against Lynch is Ewan McMahon who, in just his third season as a senior (and in 20th place for most of the week in Palma last month), is already demonstrating why he is arguably Ireland's second most successful full rig sailor since Mark Lyttle, Ireland's inaugural Laser helmsman at Atlanta 1996.  Royal St. George's Tom Higgins is also competing. 

ILCA 6/Laser Radial

In the ILCA 6 (Laser Radial) Howth's Aoife Hopkins returns from a bout of COVID for her first major regatta of the Paris quadrennial. Her clubmate and rival for the single Paris place, Eve McMahon, is currently competing at the Youth Nationals in Ballyholme and does not return to the Olympic circuit until after her Leaving Certificate examination in June. 

Irish 49ers

Tokyo Olympians Robert Dickson and Seán Waddilove along with Paris rivals Séafra Guilfoyle and Johnny Durcan from Royal Cork are competing in the 49er class. 

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Described as a regatta that is ‘not important in terms of results’ by the Irish Sailing Association, Laser sailor Finn Lynch's consistent score against a quality fleet in the Bay of Palma has, on the contrary, produced a very important result that reveals the depth of his Paris ambitions. 

By dint of an error-free series and a thrilling medal race finish, the National Yacht Club ace took fourth overall at the Princesa Sofia Trophy, the first Olympic classes regatta to be sailed in three years.

It's yet another credible international career-high in a fleet of 160 for the 25-year-old and a result that matches his previous best overall score from Mallorca in 2019.

The ILCA 7 medal raceThe ILCA 7 medal race

Lynch went into the medal race in fifth place having climbed up the top ten from ninth on Wednesday and made the best of the points situation to finish with the leather medal. 

With the moderate breeze freshening off Ca'n Pastilla on the Bay of Palma, the ILCA7 medal race was the first final to get underway for the Princess Sofia trophy and Lynch made a clean start and was up to fourth place by the first mark.

In the next two legs, he held the lead until the final few hundred metres when the wind freshened on the opposite side of the course and he was overtaken on the finishing line to place third in a group of overlapped leading boats.

Nevertheless, the result was enough to move him from fifth to fourth place, continuing his rise through the ranks of the top ten boats all week.

Britain's Michael Beckett placed seventh in the race and took the Gold medal as Afloat reports here while Australia's Matt Wearn was second and took Silver. Germany's Philippe Buhl was last in the race and placed third overall.

Finn Lynch put together a really solid event in Palma while sailing with a swollen arm that meant painkillers for two days Finn Lynch put together a really solid event in Palma while sailing with a swollen arm that meant taking painkillers for two days of the competition Photo: Sailing Energy

Far from being 'not important', Saturdays’ fourth overall result is a valuable confidence boost both in terms of Lynch's physical and mental preparations, right at the beginning of a crucially short Olympic cycle for Paris 2024.

The Laser hopeful who, did not qualify for Tokyo but a few months later finished second at the World Championships last November has had a head-scratching time of it of late.

While whatever happened for Tokyo is not easy for Lynch or his supporters to reconcile, the hope now must be that the 2021 Worlds and 2022 Palma scoresheets bring with them a real sense of belief.

After all, Lynch became Ireland’s youngest ever Olympic helmsman when he qualified for Rio at the first attempt in 2016.

Judging by his early achievements already in this triennial there is no reason he cannot repeat the feat for Marseille in arguably the hottest of all the Olympic classes.

After a 'challenging' Tokyo Review, Irish Sailing needs to show it is putting all efforts into ensuring Lynch's promising tack towards Paris continues. It should do its utmost to eliminate any needless shoreside aggravation, (such as onerous clauses in team contracts) that have the potential to knock him or indeed other team members off course.

Next up for Lynch is May's defence of his 2021 silver medal at this year's Worlds to be held in Puerto Vallarta in Mexico.

Full results here

Britain's Michael Beckett took Princesa Sofia Trophy gold in the ILCA 7 class Photo: Sailing EnergyBritain's 27-year-old Michael Beckett from Pemorkeshire took Princesa Sofia Trophy Gold in the ILCA 7 class Photo: Sailing Energy

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The current Olympic and world champions in the 49er and 49erFX will compete for the 51st Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca against top contenders in both classes.

Many of the leading sailors have been training during recent days, taking advantage of the excellent conditions on the bay of Palma, sporting the striking black sails that have been incorporated as the new official equipment for Paris 2024.

Among the 10 classes that will compete for the 51st Trofeo Princesa Sofía, the 49er stands out as the fastest and most spectacular monohull in the fleet.

The powerful two-person skiff has been an Olympic class for the 49er since the Sydney 2000 Games — and since Rio 2016 for the women’s 49erFX. Both share the same hull and crew of two, but the FX has a scaled-down rig.

According to Canadian Ben Remocker, manager of both classes: "The special thing about the 49er and FX is the balance between skipper and crew.

“In other classes, the crew is almost anonymous, whereas here he basically drives the boat with the sails and works in full conjunction with the skipper, which has allowed many sailors in the class to become great and respected sailing professionals, such as Xabi Fernandez, Blair Tuke or Iain Jensen. The 49er was the catalyst for them to become what they are today.”

With just under two weeks to go before the annual showdown begins on the waters of Palma, the list of entries includes a total of 80 boats from 28 nations in the 49er class and 59 teams representing 25 nations in the 49erFX class.

A cocktail of talent

The 49er fleet will include the world leaders in the class, who arrive in Palma after making interesting crew changes. Such is the case of GBR’s Olympic champion helm Dylan Fletcher, who will now compete with Rhos Hawes as crew.

Also changing partners are the 2021 world champions, the Dutchmen Bart Lambriex and Pim van Vugt, now in different boats, and Denmark’s representatives in Tokyo 2020, Jonas Warrer (the 2008 Olympic champion) who now sails in a rival boat against his former crew Jakob Precht Jensen.

In addition to the performance of these new partnerships, the new Spanish duo formed by Diego Botín and Florian Trittel is generating a lot of expectation. This new pairing will land in Mallorca directly from San Francisco, where they are competing with the Spanish SailGP team.

The 470 Olympic runner-up, Swedish Fredrik Bergstrom, will be making his debut in the 49er. And wwo boats will fly the Indian flag, something slightly more unusual in this division.

Saskia Tidey and Freya Black are a new 49erFX team for Paris 2024Saskia Tidey and Freya Black are a new 49erFX team for Paris 2024

Simply the best

In the 49erFX category, the Olympic champions of Tokyo 2020 and Rio 2016, Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze, will be back in Palma. The Brazilians’ track record includes six medals in the last nine World Championships (one gold, four silver and one bronze) and the title of champions in the last edition of the Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca.

The Mallorcan Javier Torres, Grael/Kunze’s coach in their last titles, highlights the revolution undergone by the 49erFX fleet since the Games: “Of the top 10 from Tokyo, seven are no longer here, but there is a young generation that is very strong and will give us something to talk about: the Belgians, the Poles... We will have to see how the change of the New Zealanders works out.” Torres is referring to Alexandra Maloney, Olympic runner-up at Rio 2016, who is now competing with Olivia Hobbs.

Other pairs making their debut in Palma are those formed by the current World Champion, the Dutch Odile van Aanholt, and the Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist Annette Duetz; or the Team GB pair of Freya Black and Saskia Tidey, the latter a two-time Olympian, 2020 world runner-up and Dublin native now based in Dorset.

Black sails

As the first scoring event for the Hempel World Cup Series, the 51st Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca will be the first time that the teams will use the new regulation equipment for Paris 2024 in competition, in which the incorporation of 3Di technology sails stands out.

This detail will mean a spectacular aesthetic change in the fleet due to the characteristic black colour of the material, but it will also mean an interesting change in performance, at least in theory.

“Still a few teams that don’t have it, and of course teams can use the old equipment through the season as well,” Remocker says. “We’ll see what the performances differences are.”

The 49er and 49erFX teams will be based at the Club Nàutic S’Arenal. Their competition programme will consist of a maximum of 12 races to be sailed between 4-8 April, and their medal race on 9 April.

The 51st Trofeo Princesa Sofía Mallorca is the first qualifying regatta for the Hempel World Cup Series 2022, organised by World Sailing, the International Sailing Federation. For more visit www.trofeoprincesasofia.org

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