McMahon siblings making waves in Irish sailing team

by Stephen Findlater

** Eve McMahon in action in Poland last week

With older brother Ewan both a team mate and her chauffeur to international sailing training sessions, 16-year-old Eve McMahon laughs at the idea of being “constantly critiqued” as both pursue their Olympic dream.

“If I do spot something on the water, I can always tell her on the drive home!” jokes older brother Ewan.

“Haha, I do try and take it on board; it can get annoying but I guess it is nice to have that brotherly love,” Eve replies.

Last week in Gdansk, Poland, the Howth siblings made a piece of Irish sailing history as the first brother and sister to be part of the same team at a senior international regatta at the Laser European Championships.

For 20-year-old Ewan, it did not go quite to plan with a 43rd place finish in the silver fleet, below the expectations generated from a gold fleet outcome at the 2019 world championships.

Eve, at 16, was by some way the youngest competitor in the field and she made serious waves by getting into the gold fleet and finishing in 45th, a huge outcome given her age.

“This was my first senior Europeans after a lot of youth stuff,” she told the Dublin Gazette. “It’s a big jump between youth and Under-19s with all the Olympic girls. It is the highest performance racing you can do so I went in with no pressure, just give it all I had and I was delighted with getting into the gold fleet. It was so good to see all the hard work pay off.

“The jump in standard was a shock at the start with the difference in speed and aggression with their racing lines. You have to really fight to get clear air.”

Making the jump so quickly, the 2019 Under-17 world championship bronze medalist now finds herself alongside her idol Annalise Murphy, the silver medalist in Rio four years ago, a mesmeric development for the youngster.

“When I was competing at youth events, she would be there and I always got her to sign my life jacket! I never dreamed I would be able to train alongside her and help her improve as she helps me improve.

“Travelling abroad and racing with her internationally, I really try and make the most out of that time together. It’s an incredible opportunity.”

Ewan McMahon in action in Porto

Ewan, meanwhile, is another to star on the youth circuit with a 2016 world youth silver medal while their other brother Jamie has also represented Ireland – he is currently taking a break from the top level to focus on his Leaving Certificate.

It’s an incredible family love affair with the sport, stemming from their early days in Howth YC, particularly as there was no high performance background in the family prior to them taking to the seas.

But all three were in boats from a young age with Ewan leading the way and Eve “pushed into a boat” when she was seven. The nature of the sport does allow for allcomers to compete with each other in some form and quite quickly get exposure to high level competition.

“That’s the good dynamic about sailing in Ireland,” Ewan explained. “We were doing interprovincial competitions early on. Whether you are high performance or someone just beginning, you can race against each other and get that exposure.

“That applies for myself and Eve. When I was coming through, I got to race against Annalise [Murphy] because the women’s Olympic class was my youth class when I was coming up. She would have been in the same regattas.

“The more competitions we did, the more we wanted to do and it grew from nationals to travelling to the UK and naturally from there, we went to Euros to Worlds and never stopped!”

Post-lockdown, it also allowed the top level sailors to get back into some level of competitive action quite quickly, each getting into a radial class boat for local racing around Dun Laoghaire.

Since then, there have been training camps in Italy and Split among others as possible Olympic spots coming into the horizon.

For Eve, 2024 is the goal. In her current class, Murphy has already been nominated as the Irish representative for Tokyo while Howth club mate Aoife Hopkins – the person who qualified a boat for Ireland – will likely be a back-up option if required.

For Ewan, he is looking at the Olympic qualifiers in the new year which will, all going to plan, likely be in March where he is among three hopefuls in the Laser Standard class along with 2016 Olympian Finn Lynch and Liam Glynn.

“There’s not much clarity about where or when the Olympic qualifiers will take place but we can only take it in our stride and train away in the meantime. Hopefully we can link up with the other international sailors and keep up our standards.”

Related Articles