Belfast Telegraph

Irish sailor James Espey secures his place at 2016 Olympic Games

By Ali Gordon

London 2012 Olympian James Espey became the first Irish sailor to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Racing began on Friday for the sailor from Ballyholme at the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Santander, Spain.

With 50% of the Olympic places awarded at these Championships, competition was fierce and Espey managed to qualify for the Gold fleet in the Laser Standard class just two days into the six-day regatta.

"James is building momentum. He's jumped the qualification hurdle and will now be focusing on getting a personal best," enthused ISA Performance Director, James O'Callaghan.

And Saturday wasn't just an important day for Espey. Annalise Murphy and Finn Lynch also had two fleet races to sail before the Gold, Silver and Bronze splits were decided for the remainder of the regatta.

After the men's Laser Standard Blue fleet had a general recall in Race 3, a successful second attempt saw the 49 boats get a clear start over the line.

Espey finished 33rd to sit comfortably in the top third of the 150 boat fleet in 38th with Lynch in 27th, moving him up to 100th overall.

Espey had another solid performance in the fourth race, climbing to 40th to guarantee him a spot in the Gold fleet at the Olympics.

Lynch dropped one place to 101st and will now compete within the Bronze fleet.

Murphy struggled to get off the line in the Laser Radial Blue fleet on Saturday but had a great start yesterday to improve upon her previous performance.

Murphy finished an impressive ninth to jump up the leaderboard from 86th to 58th.

The female Laser competitors had a long and frustrating wait on the water as the wind died off but once the wind rose to between 7-10 knots late in the afternoon, racing recommenced and Murphy bagged a top-10 finish.

Crossing the line in seventh position, Murphy leapt further up the leaderboard to 41st overall to book her place in the top-60 Gold fleet.

"Annalise showed her maturity in blocking out a bad day and focusing on what was in her control. In light, tricky conditions she did what was needed to keep in the hunt for nation qualification," said O'Callaghan.

Racing continues for both Laser classes until the medal races on September 18.

Belfast Telegraph

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