Peter O’Leary and David Burrows have qualified Ireland for the 2012 Olympics in the Star sailing discipline.
This morning they were the 11th nation at the ISAF World Sailing Championships, with only the top-11 nations qualifying; they had three races ahead of them and the Italians, Swiss and Spanish all eager to take their position.
A seventh position in the first race eased the nerves and gave them some breathing space. However, the second race was where the real drama unfolded.
They rounded the first mark in the mid 20s, but had an incident with the Spanish boat as they rounded, rather than risk disqualification they opted to take penalty turns. This left them at the back of the fleet with their Olympic dreams seemingly in tatters.
However, the team dug deep and showed some real grit in making a comeback to finish the race in 13th.
This result lifts them to 12th overall and the ninth nation, thus securing Ireland their third boat at the Olympics.
ISA Performance Director James O’Callaghan remarked: “The Stars certainly did not do it the easy way, but they showed great character holding their nerve when it looked bleak during that second race.” The programme has delivered on its target of getting three boats qualified early. “A lot of hard work from each of the teams and coaches have made this possible. With our eyes now firmly focused on the Games we will be working hard with the ISC and OCI to make sure we have a successful Olympics.”
Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern, who qualified Ireland in the 49er class two days ago, slipped two positions today to 12th on the leaderboard.
They sailed three races, placing 8th, 17th and 12th. They have one final day of racing tomorrow where they will need to place top ten in order to make the medal race on Sunday. Ireland’s James Espey had a rest day today. He is currently the 32nd nation in the Laser fleet with the top-35 nations qualifying for London 2012. He will need a good performance tomorrow to ensure Ireland qualify in the Laser class.