Ireland’s newest sailing star, Annalise Murphy, is spectacularly dominating the Laser Radial ‘battle of the missuses’
Down on the beach today the man of the moment remains Danish Viking god Jonas Hogh-Christensen, the underdog who has turned the tables on Ben Ainslie.
His performance is so stunningly confident that we on the seafront are getting used to clapping his victories and are torn between wishing Hogh-Christensen well and worrying about the cogs popping out of the Ainslie machine.
But there is an equally impressive woman of the moment.
Because Annalise Murphy’s dominant performance in the Laser Radial has been grabbing our attention. The 22-year-old Irish sailor has won four out of four of her races.
The interesting thing about this fleet is that it headlines as ‘the battle of the Missuses’. The favourite for Gold has been Marit Bouwmeester of the Netherlands. As such, and starring as the girlfriend of Ben Ainslie, she is subject of a huge amount of TV commentary mention-itis.
So is Gintare Scheidt from Lithuania, aka Mrs Robert Scheidt. You may remember that Robert Scheidt was Ben Ainslie’s big rival in the Laser in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
For a news journalist this real and proxy battle is a toothsome coincidence.
But the focus has shifted away from these two to the new rising star of Ireland. Annelise Murphy’s performance has been nearly flawless and is getting more and more confident as she goes on.
The Irish woman, a 6ft powerhouse, now lies 14 points ahead of 2nd place Evi Van Acker from Belgium and 14 points clear of Marit Bouwmeester, while Britain’s Alison Young is 17 points behind in 4th.
Murphy has shown not a shred of vulnerability in the windy conditions today, conditions that are forecast to continue for the rest of this week.
You wonder if, like Ben Ainslie and Jonas Hogh-Christensen, she has it in her blood because Annelise Murphy is one of a small group of second generation world class sailors (Ainslie’s Dad raced in the Whitbread race and Hogh-Christensen’s in the 1980 Olympics).
Murphy’s mother Cathy McAleavey competed for Ireland in the 1988 Olympics in the 470 class, when she was coached by her husband, Anneliese’s Dad-to-be Con Murphy. Con is a great sailor himself, racing SB3s and the historic Dublin Water Wag class with his wife.
Dad is also a past commodore of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, a veritable factory of top class youth sailors, and this is the club Annalise sails for.
Her elder sister also had aspirations to represent Ireland in the sailing Olympics and the pair trained together until Annelise got the upper hand. When the Irish Olympic place became a reality Annelise took study leave from University College, Dublin, where she’s studying science.
“The great thing is that the whole family understands what I’m trying to do,” she says.
Murphy’s rise through the class has been fairly recent. She took a bronze medal at the world championships in Perth last year, but from then the expectations surrounding her have risen, including her own.
“[In 2010] I had never been in the top three at a world cup event. It’s gone from where I didn’t even know what it felt like to being now disappointed if I’m not in the top three,” she comments.
As I say, we’re liking her style down here beachside, and as a fellow countrywoman I’m personally yelling:
GO ANNALISE, GO!!!
The Irish lads are doing well out there as well. Peter O’Leary and David Burrows are lying 6th in the Star, and in the 49er Ryan Seaton and Matthew McGovern are also in 6th. Not at all bad for a wee country.