Sailors strike gold
Northern Ireland sailing duo Matt McGovern and Ryan Seaton are on the crest of a wave having secured the biggest victory of their lives.
Seaton from Carrickfergus and Bangor's McGovern took themselves to a whole new level in their sport yesterday by claiming the 49er title at the prestigious Sail for Gold Regatta at Weymouth, home of the 2012 Olympic course.
Regarded as a pair with real potential in the sailing world since 2009 when they started to compete together, this is the major breakthrough the Ballyholme Yacht club members craved.
Bar the Australians and New Zealanders, first and second in the Olympics last year, all the top teams were in Weymouth but none could match the speed and strength of McGovern and Seaton who now have genuine belief that they can build on this and achieve their ultimate aim – making the podium at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Entering yesterday's medal races, McGovern and Seaton had a six point lead but with double points available on the final day any of the top 10 could have overtaken them.
The Ulstermen (pictured), sailing for the Irish team, continued their outstanding form of earlier in the week to post a third and second in the two races that took place, increasing their outright lead in the 49er class.
The win was a huge boost after finishing a disappointing 14th in the Olympics last year.
McGovern said: "It's pretty awesome – it's our first event back since the Olympics and we were just hoping to get a bit of boat handling and a bit of training and we won, so we're really happy with how things went!"
Seaton added: "It's our best win ever and it is brilliant for sailing in Northern Ireland.
"It shows if you put the work in guys from Northern Ireland like us can compete with anyone.
"That was our aim this year. We wanted to prove to people that we weren't just here for the lifestyle and to be sailing at different events around the world.
"We wanted to win medals and hopefully this is the start of that. We weren't too happy finishing 14th at the London Olympics last year as we were aiming for the top eight. Now our focus is for Rio to get a medal there."
Due to the conditions, the Sports Institute Northern Ireland supported sailors wondered if they would get to race on the final day.
Seaton said: "They finally launched us and it was about 18 or 20 knots out there and pretty crazy at times.
"It was full-on and the boats were going very fast.
"In the big breeze it is all about being consistent and not making any mistakes.
"It's physical and really hard work and thankfully we delivered solid results."
Next up for the dynamic duo is a competition in Germany next week and the European Championships in Denmark at the start of July followed by the big one in 2013 – the World Championship in Marseille in September.
While McGovern is back home celebrating with friends and family, Seaton has stayed in England to train in a single handed high performance boat before flying to Germany from London. Ryan can certainly reflect on a memorable week as a few days ago he received his university results which informed him he had graduated from the University of Ulster in his Sports Studies course.
He won't be at the graduation later in the year though because he will be away competing!
The Sale for Gold Regatta, part of the 2013 EUROSAF Champions Sailing Cup stages, saw further success for the Irish with Dubliner Annalise Murphy taking bronze in the Laser Radial class, while former Miss Northern Ireland Tiffany Brien and Saskia Tidey, in their first regatta of their campaign to reach Rio, finished seventh in the new 49erFX class for ladies.