Murphy hoping for windy days in Weymouth30/07/2012 - 11:29:51
By Joe Finegan
Is there a better way of gaining confidence for an Olympics than winning bronze in the official test event at the Games venue?
That’s exactly what Annalise Murphy did at the ‘Sail for Gold’ World Cup event at Weymouth last month, the Dorset venue for this year’s Olympic sailing contests. Conditions there suited her perfectly – lots and lots of wind. In fact, she admits it herself, the windier it is, the better it suits her.
Calm conditions tend to see the 22-year-old Dubliner struggle more than most, and she freely admits that.
Bearing her record in the Weymouth waters in mind, and with conditions hopefully in her favour, Murphy enters the dinghy park in buoyant mood.
“I enjoy racing in Weymouth,” she says. “It’s a good racing venue and experiences similar variables to Ireland such as the tide and wind. One advantage has been that it’s very close to home which makes it easier to spend time there preparing. We’ve been fortunate enough to have been based there for much of our training in the lead up to the Olympics this summer and the opportunity to compete there at Sail for Gold this year was invaluable.”
Murphy will be following in the wake of her sailor mother Cathy MacAleavey, who competed at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 as one part of the Irish 470 crew – the first year women’s sailing classes were held at the Games. In fact, sailing is deeply ingrained in Murphy genes. Her father Con holds the round-Ireland speed record, and Murphy began serious sailing as a six-year-old when crewing for her mother’s Hurricane. She progressed to Oppys when she was 10 before eventually taking command of Laser Radials – the Olympic women’s single dinghy.
“When I was younger I dreamed of sailing at the Olympics, like mum,” she says proudly. “It’s great having my mum to look up to and to have her being a part of my Olympic campaigning experience. My parents have been a huge support to me and I feel privileged to compete on the circuit and aim for the Olympics as mum did. It is amazing to be able follow in her footsteps and once I know I have done my best I will be proud of myself.”
Murphy begins her Olympic quest at noon today. There are 10 Laser Radial races scheduled, and an individual’s worst position will be discounted in order to qualify for tomorrow’s top 10 final, when the sort out for medals will be determined.
Murphy, from Rathfarnham, Dublin and a member of Dun Laoghaire's National Yacht Club, has every reason to feel confident. Results have been going her way. In 2009, the year she turned to sailing full-time, she finished eighth in the world championships, in 2010 she was the first woman to win the national championships before finishing 10th overall in the Skandia Sail for Gold regatta.
Last year she finished an unlucky sixth in the World Championships in Perth, Australia. In that event, she won four of the races in the series and was in the bronze medal position going out for the final race. But the wind decided to cease and with that went her chances of winning a medal. At this year’s world championships, she had to endure a collision in the first race but recovered well to finish first twice and two seconds but finished 25th overall.
“I’ve put my Science Degree at UCD on hold for the past two years so I could compete and train full-time,” she says. “There is a lot of travelling involved in sailing and any free time in between events is used to train on and off the water.
“I’m very happy with what I’ve achieved so far this year. I’ve gained a lot of experience in what’s been a very competitive season but my training and hard work seems to have paid off. I won bronze at the Sail for Gold for the second year in a row in June here in Weymouth so it was great to stand on that podium just a couple of months before the Games.”
Murphy has been based in Weymouth since March as part of preparations for today, getting fine tuned to its unique winds.
On the water, she works with Rory Fitzpatrick, who himself sailed a laser radial at the Athens Games in 2004.
On dry land, she has the services of Mark McCabe as her conditioning coach, who runs her through her paces on bicycles and in the gym.
“As part of my training I do a lot of cycling, wherever I go my bike goes too,” says Murphy. “At a training camp in Fuerteventura earlier this year I cycled the distance equivalent of cycling to the top of Everest in just one week. As well as being mentally demanding, sailing is a hugely physical sport so you need to take your physical fitness very seriously.”
She discloses a typical day in her training routine consists of a two-hour cycle, three hours of sailing, following by a session in the gym. Down time is precious to Murphy.
“When I do have down time, I enjoy spending it at home with my family and two dogs,” she says. “I continue cycling and I play tennis as I enjoy being active. I also have a real passion for baking and cooking - in my rare spare time I like experimenting with new recipes.”
As Murphy’s noon departure time approaches, will the nerves set in?
“I’ll arrive at the dinghy park in plenty of time and I find that the simple task of preparing my boat for the day helps me to get focused on the job in hand.
“Weymouth is usually cold and can get quite windy. In weather like that I’m dying to get sailing when everyone else is moaning and wishing they were basking in sunshine!”
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