Ireland’s hopes of delivering medals at the Tokyo Olympics have received a major boost with the official opening of the Irish Sailing High Performance Headquarters in Dun Laoghaire last Friday.

The first ever base for the senior Irish Sailing Team was launched on the grounds of the Commissioners of Irish Lights in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. The facility was constructed at a cost of €300,000 and was funded entirely by the Irish Sailing foundation.

Thirteen sailors from throughout Ireland will be based at the Performance Centre, which is entirely mobile. It consists of three converted shipping units with space for briefings and athlete education, a gym, gear storage and a boat maintenance area. The athlete briefing room can be shipped directly to international competitions, including the Tokyo Olympics, and will provide a base for Irelands sailing athletes overseas. Outside, there will be a boat park and pontoon for launching the boats.

Team member and Howth native, Aoife Hopkins, was in awe of the final product “I think it did cross a few people’s minds that it was just three shipping containers put together. I lacked the creativity to see it myself but now it’s all here, it’s absolutely fantastic”.

Hopkins, a European U21 Champion in 2017, is hopeful that the opening of the HQ will also lead to more people taking up the sport of sailing and bring a light to its demanding but rewarding nature “it is physical, people don’t see it really but hopefully they will start to now, it is really great to be a part of though. It’s a sport for all and it is a sport for life”.

The new HQ will improve both training and educational opportunities for the sailors. It has been instituted with the specific aim of maximising Ireland’s medal potential in International competitions and qualifying for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Speaking about the opening Rory Fitzpatrick, Irish Sailing Performance Head Coach, said “we will finally have a place we can call ‘home’ and for that reason alone the impact of the new Performance HQ cannot be underestimated. The environment created will allow for consistent coaching, a base for equipment and our own direct access to water, which all adds up to giving our athletes the best opportunities to reach their maximum medal-winning potential in the long-term”.

Speaking to the Gazette, 2018 49er World Champion, Sean Waddilove was keen to stress the importance of team unity “before it would be a big deal if we all met up in the city for a gym session or something after all training in different clubs. Now we all train together and that will really help us improve and come together, there is competition within the group but we are a team first”.

The 22 year old from Skerries has never been to an Olympic Games but was full of
confidence when asked about 2020 “we were always confident of qualifying but now with the opening of the new facility we know that we will be in Tokyo and will be in a great position to compete”.

Olympic sailing qualifiers will begin for the Irish team with the 2019 ICLA Laser Standard Mens World Championship in Sakaiminato, Japan on July 2nd .