National Yacht Club’s Finn Lynch ready to defend Laser World silver in Mexico

Finn Lynch will look to repeat or better his 2021 World Championship silver medal in Monday’s first races of the ILCA7/Laser World Championships in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico, in a fleet of 125 sailors from 45 nations.

Lynch (26) and the second Irishman from Paris 2024 Ewan McMahon (21), as well as the Irish coach Vasilij Žbogar arrived in Mexico a week ago.

As regular Afloat readers will know, last November’s silver medal was a career high for Lynch and Ireland’s best ever finish in the men’s laser. The result also provided the Carlow man with much-needed funding. On Monday, he launches into the defense of his silver medal with Sport Ireland podium funding of €40,000 a year in his hip pocket.

The National Yacht Club ace is also boosted by promising early season results which saw him take fourth place at Palma in April (while nursing an arm injury). Admittedly, Lynch didn’t make the medal chase in Hyères later in April, but still managed to crack the top 15, two high quality results that set him up well for the successful defense of the championship of the world this week.

Two Irish activists from ILCA 7, an Olympic place

Overall, it’s an optimistic scenario at this stage of the Paris 2024 triennale. Plus, Ireland has the added spice of up-and-coming talent in Howth’s McMahon.

McMahon quickly became Ireland’s second most successful male laser sailor after Mark Lyttle, Dun Laoghaire’s lone ace who first sailed for Ireland in laser at the 1996 Olympics.

Howth Yacht Club activist Ewan McMahon

Lynch vs. McMahon

As with all venues, each racetrack has its own unique characteristics. In Riviera Nayarit, the intriguing question – in an Irish context – is, wWith strong, steady breezes, will these conditions suit Lynch or McMahon better over a 12-race series?

Lynch tends to put up an incredibly consistent streak, and recently he’s been growing through the week, ticking off one rival after another as they hit a big score.

It’s a winning formula, and the tougher the conditions, the more the talented man from Carlow seems to thrive.

This week’s challenge for the Irish number one could be that steady sea breezes could be a leveller.

Could the regatta be more of a test of speed than regattas in Europe or venues with more unstable conditions?

Indeed, young MacMahon is a great athlete with excellent boat speed (especially downwind). In this regatta, any tactical or experience deficit (expected at his age) might not be such a problem.

From various reports (including his trainer’s comments), McMahon still needs to improve his upwind tactics and early position, convert good speed and break into the top 10 in upwind flares.

After April’s regatta in Palma, Zbogar said: “The results don’t show it, but it’s just a few small mistakes that keep him out of the top 20,” Zbogar said. “He doesn’t lose places downwind, but you have to work to better execute the upwind tacks.”

The Hague 2023 and Paris 2024

It sets up an increasingly competitive scenario where the two Irish sailors will try to qualify Ireland for the single place in Paris 2024 at the first opportunity in The Hague in August 2023. It is still not popular in certain circles of mention that it is a qualification criterion. Ireland failed to make it to Tokyo.

In this small Irish team of just two, what if we have two sailors in top form in the world top 20?

Are the dynamics changing? Should Lynch start seriously considering his Irish competition, which could have a negative impact on his own programme?

The first answers to those questions are likely to be found on the Vallarta race track and defending Ireland’s best men’s laser result from this Monday.

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