HOWTH Yacht Club’s Robert Dickson and Skerries Sailing Club’s Sean Waddilove produced a groundbreaking week at the Lanzarote International Regatta as they qualified for Olympic Games in sailing’s 49er class.
With just one place on offer from the event, it was billed as the last chance saloon for the Dublin duo with six nations vying for that spot amid a wider regatta.
Ireland were contesting the final European quota place in the class with Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Portugal, Estonia, Slovenia, Turkey and Russia.
And that target was achieved in emphatic fashion, doing so with a race to spare ahead of nearest rivals Belgium. Into the bargain, they took the overall bronze medal from a top-class field and they rubber-stamped their ticket with first place in the event-ending Medal Race.
“We are absolutely delighted, an unbelievable feeling to take this next step,” Dickson said after the event. “It was our first ever medal race so to get the win was brilliant, 100% record. We are just so happy with the result.
“The whole week we just focused on the processes, didn’t really think about the result too much. We are still on quite a steep learning curve so we will take everything that we get and do our best.”
Waddilove agreed and says there is more to come from the pair who were world Under-23 champions in 2018.
“For sure, we are getting better every day,” he said. “The qualification series got moved a whole year because of Covid so we had an extra year to prepare and train for this which was probably a blessing in disguise. There is still more to come.”
Early in the regatta, Dickson and Waddilove established a strong lead with two third places and a first from their first three races. They racked up more bullets in races seven, nine and 11 but a pair of disqualifications – one when they led home the field once more – in races eight and 12 slowed their progress and gave Belgium an outside chance.
“It was a bit of misjudgement, trying to be on the line but it was not the end of the world,” Dickson said of the UFD outcomes as they crossed the start line too early.
Waddilove added: “We are usually quite good at staying behind the line and generally it’s that we are too far under [back from the start line]. It was unusual but still so happy with the performance.”
Indeed, by that stage, they had a big enough gap to allow them to take a more cautious approach to the next series of races to maintain their healthy lead.
And, last Friday, they got over the line in the 16th of 17 potential races. It meant the pressure is off for Friday afternoon’s medal race with the Belgians unable to overhaul Waddilove and Dickson and they duly landed another gong.
James O’Callaghan, Irish Sailing Performance Directed commented: “The whole team have all worked really hard preparing for the Tokyo Olympics and qualifying today is a really important step, and a milestone for Rob and Sean.
“The result is proof positive of our sailing programme supported by Sport Ireland – today demonstrates what is possible when you invest and plan long-term. In addition, the Irish Sailing Foundation funded the Performance HQ which played a vital role in preparing the team for today.
“Qualification has given the whole team a lift and it’s some good news for our fantastic support base at home in Ireland”.
For the duo, they said it will take a while to process.
“We haven’t really had time to process it. We will have a few weeks off, look at our training again,” Dickson said before Waddilove added: “We don’t even know what our next step will be. Recently, the Europeans was cancelled so we haven’t had a chance to re-plan yet. So we’ll just reset and get training again.”