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Success in Rio Unlikely to be Plain Sailing

Published on February 25th, 2016

Ireland’s Annalise Murphy started the 2012 Olympics on fire, winning the first four Laser Radial races. However, she couldn’t maintain that standard through the 11-race series, falling off the podium to finish fourth overall. She is hoping the Rio Games will be different.

Murphy has spent around 250 days last year out of the country chasing better than London 2012 and since then has been to Rio seven times. She will travel back to the venue another three or four times before August. Learning the geography and climate system and tides has become a necessity. All the teams are over there cramming.


Annalise Murphy consoled after missing out on a medal at 2012 Olympics.

“There’s probably eight girls that could all easily win the gold medal in the Laser Radial Class,” Murphy reports to The Irish Times. “There’s maybe three or four that are likely to win the gold medal but eight of us definitely have the potential to win. I think on my good days I’m in that eight,” she says.

But Rio isn’t Weymouth. The Rio waters have a split personality which command wariness and respect.

“Rio is one of the most complex places I’ve ever sailed,” she says. “Sailing is inside this huge bay but it has a very small entrance out into the Atlantic Ocean. The tidal flow is massive but there’s also a shipping lane. The shipping lane is very deep and then shallower on the sides. So tides coming in come in much faster in the shipping lane. Then there is a small island in the entrance of the bay and there is a tidal eddy behind. When the tide is coming in the water is flooding back and upwards.

“These complicated features you need time to understand. Every day is different. . . Sometimes the wind is coming from the left of the Sugarloaf Mountain and sometimes it’s from the right. When the tide’s coming in the water is flat, when it’s going out there are waves. There’s the airport too, where the airplanes give wind gusts . . . there’s a lot, a lot of different variables.”

Aquece Rio – International Sailing Regatta 2015 is the second sailing test event in preparation for the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition. Held out of Marina da Gloria from 15-22 August, the Olympic test event welcomes more than 330 sailors from 52 nations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Credit Jesus Renedo/Sailing Energy

Racing at the 2015 Olympic Test Event.

The wind will be between 8 and 13 knots. She’d prefer more but that won’t happen. The water is not clean but can be acceptable. She won’t let it be an issue, the floating furniture, animal carcasses or Zica virus. Any idea of a green Olympics is absurd. But for Murphy they are all problems that can heap up if you let them. She is looking for solutions.

“No the water isn’t clean,” she says wavering a little. “It depends on what the weather is like. If it’s sunny and nice the water is pretty good. If the tide is coming in and it’s sunny nice the water is very good.

“If the tide is going out not so good. If it’s been raining and the tide’s going out, it’s bad . . . But you get on with it. There’s no fear.”

The sailing events during the 2016 Olympic Games will be held on August 8-19.

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