Ireland's Olympic hopefuls tac...

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Ireland's Olympic hopefuls tackle near-calm waters in Japan

Stephen Doyle
Stephen Doyle

07:22 19 Jul 2019


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Two of Ireland's Olympic sailing hopefuls, Aisling Keller and Aoife Hopkins (pictured), weren't helped by near-calm waters in Japan on Friday.

The mild conditions made for a tricky opening day of the Laser Radial World Championship at Sakaiminato where the Irish duo are aiming to qualify for the women’s single-handed event at the Tokyo Olympics next year.

Only one of two races was held and a big shift in wind direction eventually saw the course shortened after three legs.

The first three days of the event are qualification rounds with the 111 entries split into Blue and Green flights.

Both Keller (Nenagh, Co. Tipperary) and former under-21 Radial European champion Hopkins (Howth, Co. Dublin) are currently sailing in the Blue group.

"Both our sailors are sailing well considering the conditions," commented Rory Fitzpatrick, Irish Sailing’s Head Coach, after today's event.

"Aisling’s result is definitely a 'counter' but Aoife was unlucky that the race was shortened."

Mixed day for Ireland's Olympic sailing hopefuls

Keller, of the Lough Derg Yacht Club, sailed well in the shortened race, reaching as high as tenth place with the leaders and consistently held a top 20 position to eventually place 16th for the first day.

The 40-degree wind-shift caught Hopkins, from the Howth Yacht club, on the wrong side of the course and she ended in 34th place with no opportunity to recover places when the race ended.

Although the opening-day of racing faced light conditions, forecasts for Saturday suggest an improvement with around ten knots of breeze expected.

Ten nation places for Tokyo are available at the end of this event following the 20 places already allocated out of a total of 44 berths in the women’s event at the next Olympics.

Success at Sakaiminato will only guarantee team qualification. To gain individual qualification, sailors will have to prove themselves at a number of events over the coming months.

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