With the London 2012 Olympics now little more than a year away, 2011 will officially see the biggest Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta ever, as a record-breaking entry of more than 1,000 of the world’s top Olympic and Paralympic sailors bid to claim early supremacy on the 2012 waters of Weymouth and Portland. Among those taking part in the Laser Radial class will be 21 years old U.C.D student , Annalise Murphy from the Royal National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, currently lying in eight place in the World rankings.
The young Dubliner is striving hard to gain qualification for the London Games and a good result here is essential. There is a long road ahead but she has done very well so far this year, against the world’s best in this gruelling event.
“I have been sailing since I can remember, going out and crewing for my mum in her Hurricane when I was 6, was just something that I considered completely normal, I started sailing oppy’s when I was 10 and then laser 4.7’s, mirrors and toppers before moving into the Laser Radial, the olympic woman’s single handed dinghy. I have been sailing a Radial since 2005. I am sailing full-time at the moment in preparation for 2012, I finished 8th at the 2009 World Championship and since then I haven’t looked back, I finished the 2010 season with a top 10 finish at Skandia Sail for Gold regatta and winning the Irish National Championships…the first girl to do so!”
Marit Bouwmeester (NED) and Evi Van Acker (BEL) are tied at the top of the Laser Radial Standings on 69 points each. They will renew their rivalry in Weymouth but with the top ten in the Standings all set to compete, and the third place Veronika Fenclova (CZE) within touching distance of the leaders the gold medal is far from a foregone conclusion. Murphy has 40 points so far.
With a confirmed entry of 1050 sailors, in 740 boats, from 62 nations, competition within every class will be extremely fierce, with many of the sailors bidding to show their Olympic selectors why they should be in contention to represent their country at next year’s Games. No fewer than 11 reigning Olympic and Paralympic champions, and a whole host of Beijing 2008 and World medallists, will do battle across a total of 13 classes when 2011 Skandia Sail for Gold takes place between 6 – 11 June.
In the Star, Brazilian legends Robert Schiedt and Bruno Prada, the Beijing silver medallists and current ISAF World Cup Series leaders, will want to make it an uncomfortable week for Olympic champions Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson (GBR) on their home waters, while Ireland’s Peter O’Leary will look to show his 2010 Sail for Gold win was no fluke, with David Burrows.
Strong international competition is guaranteed in the Finn class, from the likes of Beijing silver medallist Zach Railey (USA), Rafa Trujillo (SPA), Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) and Dan Slater (NZL) desperate to prove home advantage counts for nothing. The competition amongst the British Finn contenders is likely to be just as fierce, with three times Olympic Finn champion Ben Ainslie, Giles Scott and 2010 World champion Ed Wright, who respectively make up the top three in the ISAF World Cup standings going into Skandia Sail for Gold.
Ainslie says: “The Finn is a pretty open class at the moment. There is a really strong foreign contingent taking part in the regatta, while, especially if there is a bit of breeze, the other British boys can do very well. Normally you find in these high pressure situations that some people step up and sail out of their skins to get results people might not expect, while others crack under the pressure. It is always interesting to see how people deal with pressure and there will be plenty of that of Skandia Sail for Gold.”