Sailing's not all gin and tonics, say Olympic hopefuls
THE Irish Sailing Team had their most successful Olympics for 30 years at London 2012 with fourth, 10th and 14th place finishes setting the bar for the Rio games in two years time.
The legacy of London has certainly seen an increase in interest in the sport but a leading competitor said more needed to be done to overcome the perception that sailing is the preserve of the privileged.
"Some people think we spend our time drinking gin and tonics and hanging out in our Porsches but we are actually trying get across that we do this as a job," Matt McGovern, who competes in the 49er Class, told the Herald.
The 29 year-old said he would be unable to take part in the sport was it not for funding from the Irish Sports Council. But he said an attitude remained that the sport is financially unviable for some.
"Myself and the guy I race with do not come from wealthy backgrounds," he said. "Our first boat was €50 and was just a scrap of wood. We had to sail and do well to get up the rankings in order to receive funding," the Ballyholme Yacht Club member added.
The sailor who came 14th in his discipline at the London Olympics was speaking at a press conference in Dublin yesterday announcing the sailors to represent Ireland at the Sailing World Champions to be hosted in Santander, Spain this September.
This event will be the first opportunity for Providence Team IRL to qualify the nation for Rio with 50pc of the Olympic places in each discipline up for grabs. The target is for each of Ireland's three teams to qualify along with two campaigns from the Irish Sailing Association's (ISA) Development Squad.
The qualifying rounds for the 2016 Paralympic Games will take place in Halifax, Canada in August with an Irish three-man team, including John Twomey, in contention.