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'Everything we need' - Big Olympic boost as top Irish sailors open the doors of their 'new home'

Rio medallist Annalise Murphy is among the 13 leading sailors based at the new facility in Dún Laoghaire.

ALTHOUGH THERE’S SOME time to go just yet, Ireland’s medal hopes at Tokyo 2020 have been boosted significantly with the opening of a new home for the country’s elite sailors.

Annalise Murphy celebrates winning silver Annalise Murphy after winning silver in Rio. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

The Irish Sailing High Performance Headquarters officially opened its doors in Dún Laoghaire this morning, the excitement around the senior team’s first-ever base somewhat infectious.

It’s a major milestone for the sport on these shores, with 13 sailors from across the country — including Rio 2016 silver medallist Annalise Murphy — availing of its services.

The Olympian has made the switch from the individual Laser Radial class and teamed up with Cork’s Katie Tingle for a 49er FX 2020 bid, with this boost really helping their cause.

“It’s great,” she told reporters at this morning’s launch. “I think particularly for future, for everyone to do the training together with the same mentality.

“Lessons that people are learning, you can share them with the entire team and prove to the entire team that it isn’t just [about] individuals.”

Costing €300,000 and funded entirely by the Irish Sailing Foundation, the base consists of three converted shipping units and is entirely mobile. Within, there’s a fully-equipped gym, an athlete briefing room and chill-out area, and a storage and boat maintenance section. The briefing room, for one, will be shipped directly to international competitions. Outside, there’s a boat park and pontoon for launching the boats.

sail The Irish sailing team. James Crombie / INPHO. James Crombie / INPHO. / INPHO.

The argument can of course be made that she didn’t need a Performance HQ like this before but Rathfarnham native Murphy insists that top-class coaching, opportunities and advice from older team-mates got her to where she is today, and that will only increase with this base.

“I was always in the right place at the right time and that’s probably why I’ve had success. These younger guys are getting all of those things that I got and now, hopefully something like this is going to bring that extra level.”

2017 European champion for U21 Laser Radial in 2017 Aoife Hopkins’ enthusiasm towards the new development shows just how much this means to the country’s sailors.

It’s everything they need in one place, the 20-year-old Howth native explained.

“Because we train abroad a lot and we’re all in different boats, we’ve got different programmes,” she told The42.

“Before now, it was rare enough that the entire team was in the same place at the same time. It’s really nice even catching up with everyone and seeing everyone. 

plan Plans for the facility. Irish sailing. Irish sailing.

“On Wednesday, we did a gym session here in the base. We were all just chilling out, having lunch and then it was like, ‘Right lads, warm up — kettle-bells in five.’ It was just lovely to do a gym session at our new home with the entire squad. Very motivational as well, we’ll all push each other.”

She added: “It’s really efficient use of the funds.

“A huge amount of planning went into it. Rory Fitzpatrick [Irish Sailing Performance Head Coach], it was very much his baby. He should have a lot of pride this week, seeing it come out.

“The plans, I think it did cross a few people’s minds that it was just three shipping containers put together. I think I lacked the creativity to see it myself but now that it’s all here, it’s absolutely fantastic and pretty impressive.

“They’re small spaces but the use is so efficient, and it’s everything we need.”

And while 30-year-old Tingle, who’s taken a career break from teaching to pursue the Olympic dream with Murphy, is also impressed with the new infrastructure, it’s about much more than that for her too.

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“Even more important than the actual building is the soft side to it,” she said.

“The team come together a lot more and you support each other. You’re only as strong as the weakest people on your team. Even though it’s an individual sport. having people around to ask questions to [is great].

“Everyone has been so helpful to me. I was kind of expecting it to be hard to arrive into a scene that had been set up, but people have been so helpful and so kind.”

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