A 21st birthday is a very special day for anyone but for Ireland’s Annalise Murphy, Tuesday became even a ‘more special’ occasion as she learnt she had broken into the World’s Top 10 ranking list for the first time, following a very encouraging 4th place in the Laser Radial event in the latest round of the International Sailing Federation’s (ISAF) World Cup in Miami, Florida last weekend.
Like so many of the world’s top sailors, Annalise took up the sport at an early age. In her web blog she reveals how that early love for the water came about:
“I have been sailing since I can remember, going out and crewing for my mum in her Hurricane when I was 6, was just something that I considered completely normal, I started sailing oppy’s when I was 10 and then laser 4.7’s, mirrors and toppers before moving into the Laser Radial, the Olympic woman’s single handed dinghy.
I have been sailing a Radial since 2005. I am sailing full-time at the moment in preparation for 2012, I finished 8th at the 2009 World Championship and since then I haven’t looked back, I finished the 2010 season with a top 10 finish at Skandia Sail for Gold regatta and winning the Irish National Championships…the first girl to do so! “
Honours have come ‘thick and fast’ for the Dun Laoghaire woman and the ISAF cup result is only the latest in a series of top finishes in her full-time Olympic campaign. Early in 2010 there were wins in Brisbane and Melbourne. In July 2009, she became the first Irish sailor to win a Europa Cup event in 13 years. Later, in Japan, at her first world championship as a senior, she won the under-21 world title.
She was chosen as “Irish Times/Irish Sports Council’s “ January 2010 Sportswoman of the Month and in an interview in the ‘Irish Times’ with Mary Hannigan, said there was a moment at the senior World Championships in Japan in August when she realised she was doing just fine, in making the transition from Youth to Senior ranks.
‘I remember seeing the gold medallist from Beijing behind me, I was half thinking I should let her pass,’ she laughs. ‘But I didn’t, and ended up beating her in that race. I couldn’t believe it, really.
‘It was all a bit intimidating at first, suddenly I was up against people who had been competing at that level for 10 years and more, world-class competitors, so it was a big jump. But I’d put a huge amount of work in to it, I just hoped it would pay off.’
The hard work had already reaped rewards earlier in the year when, in the Netherlands, Murphy became the first Irish sailor to win a Europa Cup Laser event in 13 years. She brought that form to Japan, winning the under-21 world title by finishing eighth in the senior event, made up of 87 boats from 30 nations. She had five top-four finishes in the 10 counting races, including two runners-up spots.
It was, said Irish Sailing Association performance director James O’Callaghan, ‘a fantastic achievement’ by the Academy member. ‘We always knew Annalise had the potential, but she has even been surprised by the speed in which she has delivered on it.”
And her wins in Australia? : ‘Australia was a nice end to the year alright,’ she says, ‘I definitely surprised myself, I just wasn’t expecting to do quite so well at this stage. It’s all given me so much confidence it just means I’ve started setting my goals a little higher. There’s a long way to go, I know, but I’m becoming more and more focused on ‘London 2012.’
Her mother, Cathy (nee McAleavey), represented Ireland in sailing at the 1988 Olympic Games and, with her husband, Con, still holds the Round Ireland speed record, set in 1993 as crew on Steve Fossett’s trimaran Lakota.
‘I’ll leave that record to my parents,’ says Murphy, ruling out a challenge.
She has deferred her science degree in UCD, throwing herself full-time into her sport. ‘I just want to give it everything this year and see where it takes me. I love sailing, but there’s no feeling like winning a race – hopefully I can win a few more this year.’
At 21, Annalise is improving all the time but there are ‘choppy waters’ ahead, to the 2012 Olympic Games Sailing events in Weymouth. Forsaking her other hobbies of surfing, kite boarding, road cycling, music and movies means that Annalise will certainly give of her all ,in her quest for qualification and ‘if anyone can Annalise can’