8 HYC Sailors Aim High at Optimist Trials
Author: Dan O'Grady & Ross McDonald Posted on: 2/4/13 Print Version

Young Howth sailors Daniel Hopkins, Jamie and Alex O'Grady, Darragh Kelly, Jamie McMahon, Tim Farrelly, Max Kavanagh and Shane O'Brien are all gunning for places on the Optimist Teams this year when they head for the Trials this month. Most are graduating from the junior fleet and hoping to make their mark on the Irish circuit.

All of them, with the exceptions of Darragh Kelly and Jamie McMahon, are moving up from the Junior Fleet. Jamie McMahon still has another 2 years in the junior fleet, so he's done really well to qualify. Daniel, Alex and Jamie O'Grady were all part of the U12 National Squad last year and are hoping to move on to gain more experience and challenge for team places.

Due to the large number of HYC qualified sailors, a top level coach was invited over from the Netherlands for the week before Easter to build on training that most have been doing over the winter. The weather could not have been worse, with 20 plus Easterlies, huge rolling seas, and a wind chill that made it feel well below zero. Despite this, they all persevered and despite some bone chilling dunkings, most of the sailors have learned lots and each has set their own targets for the upcoming trials.

The trials are designed to select 4 Optimist squads for the 2013 season. They will be held over 2 weekends: 5-7 April in Lough Derg YC, and 4-6 May in RCYC. The top 40 in the rankings from 2012 in both senior and junior (U12) fleets are invited. Due to some of the senior fleet departing the scene, that should mean a fleet of approximately 60 boats, all of whom will be quite experienced.

There is a lot at stake with the top 5 invited to compete in the Worlds (Lake Garda, Italy in 2013), the next 7 finishers will make up the Europeans team (Lake Balaton, Hungary), and the next 7 will form the Development Squad that will travel to compete in the French Nationals in Brittany in July. Any juniors who are in the top 35 will (and do not qualify for one of the above) will be invited to compete in the UK Nationals later in the summer as part of the Irish U12 squad.

Form Guide:

Daniel Hopkins was the highest ranked HYC junior last year in 5th place and he has the ability to string together a good series if conditions are to his liking. He has trained well all winter with the OPG group and he will expect to be in the shakeup as the series concludes.

Jamie O'Grady is remarkably consistent and this may be useful over a long series (16 races). His primary focus during the winter has been rugby, fingers crossed he gets out of the blocks quickly.

Alex O'Grady has shown the ability in 2012 to win championship races by large margins, so obviously has good speed. Like his brother, he will be a bit cold after a winter of rugby.

Darragh Kelly has improved steadily over the last 12 months and will use his good heavy weather technique, should the opportunity arise.

Jamie McMahon will be one of the top juniors in 2013 and, despite only being 10 years of age, would expect to be in the running for the Junior National title later this year, where he would hope to emulate his older brother Ewan, nothing is beyond this young sailor.

Tim Farrelly is armed with a new boat and is a light weather specialist with a great understanding of the more cerebral elements of optimist racing. Watch him if it's light.

Max Kavanagh battled extremely hard late last year to qualify for the trials and got his just reward. He has trained extremely well over the winter and will expect to show some of this improvement in light to medium conditions.

Shane O'Brien showed huge tenacity to make the cut for the trials and will bring his good humour to bear on the fleet. Expect the unexpected!

Best of luck to all involved!!