Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

rio maintopper

Rio 2016
Marina Gdynia in Poland is the host venue for the two-person events at the 2026-2027 World Sailing Championships
World Sailing has selected the cities of Valencia in Spain and Gdynia in Poland to host the 2026-2027 World Sailing Championships as the event moves to a split format for the first time. Real Club Náutico Valencia (RCNV) will stage…
A short documentary (vid below) follows Robert and Seán on preparations for what they claim is a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to succeed at the very highest level of sport, from their beginnings at Howth and Skerries Sailing Clubs to soon-to-be two-time Olympians at Paris 2024
While many reckoned that the "Fingal Flyers" duo of Rob Dickson and Sean Waddilove had taken Ireland's 49er place for the July-August 2024 Sailing Olympiad in Marseilles before Christmas 2023 had passed, it was still theoretically possible until very recently…
Women sailors embrace at Enoshima Yacht Harbour, the host venue of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Competition
World Sailing has announced the launch of Steering the Course, what it touts as “a pioneering plan” to encourage more women to participate in every part of the sport. The federation says the plan reaffirms its global commitment to fostering…
The Nacra 17, 49er, and FX championships will coincide with the annual Sardinia Sailing Cup from October 7-12, 2025, as the town regains international sailing prominence thanks to the Luna Rossa America’s Cup team
As Olympic sailing teams already begin to eye up Los Angeles 2028 prospects, Cagliari, one of Italy's top sailing venues, has been announced as host of the 2025 World Championship for three doublehanded Olympic Events. The 2025 World Championship of…
New York Yacht Club's Maggie Shea and Stephanie Roble (above, left to right) who will compete in the 49erFX at the  Paris 2024 Olympics
The New York Yacht Club has added another facet to its diverse support of high-performance sailing by unveiling the Club’s Performance Sailing Fund, which has announced its first six grants. “We are so proud of the six Club members who…
Eve McMahon, pictured here racing in 2022, was named Sportsperson of the Year at the UCD Athletic Union Council Sports Awards on Thursday 16 May
Howth Yacht Club’s Eve McMahon is UCD’s 2024 Sportsperson of the Year, as announced at the UCD Athletic Union Council Sports Awards last Thursday (16 May). The BComm International student and ILCA 6 sailor receives the award for her phenomenal…
Seán Waddilove (left) and Robert Dickson
Robert Dickson and Seán Waddilove have emerged best of the two Irish contenders to compete in the men’s skiff event at Paris 2024 this summer. The Dublin crew — from Howth Yacht Club and Skerries Sailing Club respectively — qualified…
Ireland's Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove of Howth and Skerries are lying in eighth place at the  49er Europeans in La Grande Motte, France
With one last gold fleet race of the 49er European Championships in La Grande Motte, France, scheduled on Sunday morning before the medal race decider in the afternoon, Ireland's Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove of Howth and Skerries aren’t counting their…
Royal Cork's Séafra Guilfoyle and Johnny Durcan are proving themselves able contenders for the Irish 49er Paris 2024 Olympic nomination
As the 49er European Sailing Championship enters its halfway stage in La Grande Motte, France, two Irish sailing teams have qualified for the Gold fleet final round that begins on Friday. Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove, veterans of the Tokyo…
Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove from Dublin's Howth Yacht Club lead Irish hopes at the 49er European Championships in La Grande Motte in the South of France
Big breeze and massive wind shifts of day two of the 49er European Championship delivered plenty of drama in La Grande Motte, the South of France as the gap narrowed between the two Irish rivals who are using this event…
Howth Yacht Club's Eve McMahon in Marseille ahead of the Olympic Torch Relay
Celebrations are about to get underway in Marseille, France today (8 May) as the city prepares for the arrival of the Olympic flame to French soil. Irish Sailor of the Year and Team Ireland Paris Scholar Eve McMahon has been…
Cork Harbour's Séafra Guilfoyle and Johnny Durcan from Royal Cork Yacht Club have scored 41 points and are in 27th place after the first day of racing at the 49er European Championships in La Grande Motte, South of France. Their scores for the day were 20, 6 and 15. They are currently competing against Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove, who are leading the Irish selection trials for the single Irish 49er place at the Paris Olympics
The outcome of the final Irish Olympic sailing selection trial for Paris 2024 remains finely balanced between two rivals after the first qualifying races in La Grande Motte in the South of France. Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove from Dublin's Howth Yacht Club and Skerries…
The two Irish 49ers of Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove from Dublin's Howth Yacht Club and Skerries (IRL 99) and Crosshaven's Séafra Guilfoyle and Johnny Durcan from Royal Cork Yacht Club (IRL 11 on port) are pictured on a startline during a warm-up race at La Grande Motte in the South of France
Irish Olympic sailing fans have their eyes fixed on the 49er European Championships that kicked off in La Grande Motte in the South of France this morning. This event is the final trial for Paris 2024 selection, and the international…
La Grande Motte International Regatta 2024 banner
The Nacra 17 World Championship along with the 49er and 49erFX European Championships are attracting 148 teams to La Grande Motte in the south of France for six days of racing from next Tuesday 7 to Sunday 12 May. Of…
In a nail-biting medal race, Germany clinched the third country ticket in the women's 49erFX skiff competition at the Hyeres based Last Chance Regatta
At least 63 nations will be represented across 10 events at the Paris 2024 Olympic Sailing Regatta this summer after qualifying concluded at last week's Last Chance Regatta in Hyères, south of France. The action will begin in Marseille on…
Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove (above) hold a tiny five-point advantage in the Irish Olympic 49er Trial, meaning the Cork crew of  Séafra Guilfoyle and Johnny Durcan (below) must beat them by five places and finish within the top 20 at the Europeans to win the place with Team Ireland for the Paris 2024 Olympics
Irish Olympic class sailors did not make it to Saturday's medal race final at French Olympic Week in Hyères, France on April 26th, 2024. This week's regatta saw all events conclude their series despite moderate winds and torrential rain on…

Irish Olympic Sailing Team

Ireland has a proud representation in sailing at the Olympics dating back to 1948. Today there is a modern governing structure surrounding the selection of sailors the Olympic Regatta

Irish Olympic Sailing FAQs

Ireland’s representation in sailing at the Olympics dates back to 1948, when a team consisting of Jimmy Mooney (Firefly), Alf Delany and Hugh Allen (Swallow) competed in that year’s Summer Games in London (sailing off Torquay). Except for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Ireland has sent at least one sailor to every Summer Games since then.

  • 1948 – London (Torquay) — Firefly: Jimmy Mooney; Swallow: Alf Delany, Hugh Allen
  • 1952 – Helsinki — Finn: Alf Delany * 1956 – Melbourne — Finn: J Somers Payne
  • 1960 – Rome — Flying Dutchman: Johnny Hooper, Peter Gray; Dragon: Jimmy Mooney, David Ryder, Robin Benson; Finn: J Somers Payne
  • 1964 – Tokyo — Dragon: Eddie Kelliher, Harry Maguire, Rob Dalton; Finn: Johnny Hooper 
  • 1972 – Munich (Kiel) — Tempest: David Wilkins, Sean Whitaker; Dragon: Robin Hennessy, Harry Byrne, Owen Delany; Finn: Kevin McLaverty; Flying Dutchman: Harold Cudmore, Richard O’Shea
  • 1976 – Montreal (Kingston) — 470: Robert Dix, Peter Dix; Flying Dutchman: Barry O’Neill, Jamie Wilkinson; Tempest: David Wilkins, Derek Jago
  • 1980 – Moscow (Tallinn) — Flying Dutchman: David Wilkins, Jamie Wilkinson (Silver medalists) * 1984 – Los Angeles — Finn: Bill O’Hara
  • 1988 – Seoul (Pusan) — Finn: Bill O’Hara; Flying Dutchman: David Wilkins, Peter Kennedy; 470 (Women): Cathy MacAleavy, Aisling Byrne
  • 1992 – Barcelona — Europe: Denise Lyttle; Flying Dutchman: David Wilkins, Peter Kennedy; Star: Mark Mansfield, Tom McWilliam
  • 1996 – Atlanta (Savannah) — Laser: Mark Lyttle; Europe: Aisling Bowman (Byrne); Finn: John Driscoll; Star: Mark Mansfield, David Burrows; 470 (Women): Denise Lyttle, Louise Cole; Soling: Marshall King, Dan O’Grady, Garrett Connolly
  • 2000 – Sydney — Europe: Maria Coleman; Finn: David Burrows; Star: Mark Mansfield, David O'Brien
  • 2004 – Athens — Europe: Maria Coleman; Finn: David Burrows; Star: Mark Mansfield, Killian Collins; 49er: Tom Fitzpatrick, Fraser Brown; 470: Gerald Owens, Ross Killian; Laser: Rory Fitzpatrick
  • 2008 – Beijing (Qingdao) — Star: Peter O’Leary, Stephen Milne; Finn: Tim Goodbody; Laser Radial: Ciara Peelo; 470: Gerald Owens, Phil Lawton
  • 2012 – London (Weymouth) — Star: Peter O’Leary, David Burrows; 49er: Ryan Seaton, Matt McGovern; Laser Radial: Annalise Murphy; Laser: James Espey; 470: Gerald Owens, Scott Flanigan
  • 2016 – Rio — Laser Radial (Women): Annalise Murphy (Silver medalist); 49er: Ryan Seaton, Matt McGovern; 49erFX: Andrea Brewster, Saskia Tidey; Laser: Finn Lynch; Paralympic Sonar: John Twomey, Ian Costello & Austin O’Carroll

Ireland has won two Olympics medals in sailing events, both silver: David Wilkins, Jamie Wilkinson in the Flying Dutchman at Moscow 1980, and Annalise Murphy in the Laser Radial at Rio 2016.

The current team, as of December 2020, consists of Laser sailors Finn Lynch, Liam Glynn and Ewan McMahon, 49er pairs Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle, and Sean Waddilove and Robert Dickson, as well as Laser Radial sailors Annalise Murphy and Aoife Hopkins.

Irish Sailing is the National Governing Body for sailing in Ireland.

Irish Sailing’s Performance division is responsible for selecting and nurturing Olympic contenders as part of its Performance Pathway.

The Performance Pathway is Irish Sailing’s Olympic talent pipeline. The Performance Pathway counts over 70 sailors from 11 years up in its programme.The Performance Pathway is made up of Junior, Youth, Academy, Development and Olympic squads. It provides young, talented and ambitious Irish sailors with opportunities to move up through the ranks from an early age. With up to 100 young athletes training with the Irish Sailing Performance Pathway, every aspect of their performance is planned and closely monitored while strong relationships are simultaneously built with the sailors and their families

Rory Fitzpatrick is the head coach of Irish Sailing Performance. He is a graduate of University College Dublin and was an Athens 2004 Olympian in the Laser class.

The Performance Director of Irish Sailing is James O’Callaghan. Since 2006 James has been responsible for the development and delivery of athlete-focused, coach-led, performance-measured programmes across the Irish Sailing Performance Pathway. A Business & Economics graduate of Trinity College Dublin, he is a Level 3 Qualified Coach and Level 2 Coach Tutor. He has coached at five Olympic Games and numerous European and World Championship events across multiple Olympic classes. He is also a member of the Irish Sailing Foundation board.

Annalise Murphy is by far and away the biggest Irish sailing star. Her fourth in London 2012 when she came so agonisingly close to a bronze medal followed by her superb silver medal performance four years later at Rio won the hearts of Ireland. Murphy is aiming to go one better in Tokyo 2021. 

Under head coach Rory Fitzpatrick, the coaching staff consists of Laser Radial Academy coach Sean Evans, Olympic Laser coach Vasilij Zbogar and 49er team coach Matt McGovern.

The Irish Government provides funding to Irish Sailing. These funds are exclusively for the benefit of the Performance Pathway. However, this falls short of the amount required to fund the Performance Pathway in order to allow Ireland compete at the highest level. As a result the Performance Pathway programme currently receives around €850,000 per annum from Sport Ireland and €150,000 from sponsorship. A further €2 million per annum is needed to have a major impact at the highest level. The Irish Sailing Foundation was established to bridge the financial gap through securing philanthropic donations, corporate giving and sponsorship.

The vision of the Irish Sailing Foundation is to generate the required financial resources for Ireland to scale-up and execute its world-class sailing programme. Irish Sailing works tirelessly to promote sailing in Ireland and abroad and has been successful in securing funding of 1 million euro from Sport Ireland. However, to compete on a par with other nations, a further €2 million is required annually to realise the ambitions of our talented sailors. For this reason, the Irish Sailing Foundation was formed to seek philanthropic donations. Led by a Board of Directors and Head of Development Kathryn Grace, the foundation lads a campaign to bridge the financial gap to provide the Performance Pathway with the funds necessary to increase coaching hours, upgrade equipment and provide world class sport science support to a greater number of high-potential Irish sailors.

The Senior and Academy teams of the Performance Pathway are supported with the provision of a coach, vehicle, coach boat and boats. Even with this level of subsidy there is still a large financial burden on individual families due to travel costs, entry fees and accommodation. There are often compromises made on the amount of days a coach can be hired for and on many occasions it is necessary to opt out of major competitions outside Europe due to cost. Money raised by the Irish Sailing Foundation will go towards increased quality coaching time, world-class equipment, and subsiding entry fees and travel-related costs. It also goes towards broadening the base of talented sailors that can consider campaigning by removing financial hurdles, and the Performance HQ in Dublin to increase efficiency and reduce logistical issues.

The ethos of the Performance Pathway is progression. At each stage international performance benchmarks are utilised to ensure the sailors are meeting expectations set. The size of a sailor will generally dictate which boat they sail. The classes selected on the pathway have been identified as the best feeder classes for progression. Currently the Irish Sailing Performance Pathway consists of the following groups: * Pathway (U15) Optimist and Topper * Youth Academy (U19) Laser 4.7, Laser Radial and 420 * Development Academy (U23) Laser, Laser Radial, 49er, 49erFX * Team IRL (direct-funded athletes) Laser, Laser Radial, 49er, 49erFX

The Irish Sailing performance director produces a detailed annual budget for the programme which is presented to Sport Ireland, Irish Sailing and the Foundation for detailed discussion and analysis of the programme, where each item of expenditure is reviewed and approved. Each year, the performance director drafts a Performance Plan and Budget designed to meet the objectives of Irish Performance Sailing based on an annual review of the Pathway Programmes from Junior to Olympic level. The plan is then presented to the Olympic Steering Group (OSG) where it is independently assessed and the budget is agreed. The OSG closely monitors the delivery of the plan ensuring it meets the agreed strategy, is within budget and in line with operational plans. The performance director communicates on an ongoing basis with the OSG throughout the year, reporting formally on a quarterly basis.

Due to the specialised nature of Performance Sport, Irish Sailing established an expert sub-committee which is referred to as the Olympic Steering Group (OSG). The OSG is chaired by Patrick Coveney and its objective is centred around winning Olympic medals so it oversees the delivery of the Irish Sailing’s Performance plan.

At Junior level (U15) sailors learn not only to be a sailor but also an athlete. They develop the discipline required to keep a training log while undertaking fitness programmes, attending coaching sessions and travelling to competitions. During the winter Regional Squads take place and then in spring the National Squads are selected for Summer Competitions. As sailors move into Youth level (U19) there is an exhaustive selection matrix used when considering a sailor for entry into the Performance Academy. Completion of club training programmes, attendance at the performance seminars, physical suitability and also progress at Junior and Youth competitions are assessed and reviewed. Once invited in to the Performance Academy, sailors are given a six-month trial before a final decision is made on their selection. Sailors in the Academy are very closely monitored and engage in a very well planned out sailing, training and competition programme. There are also defined international benchmarks which these sailors are required to meet by a certain age. Biannual reviews are conducted transparently with the sailors so they know exactly where they are performing well and they are made aware of where they may need to improve before the next review.

©Afloat 2020