Matt McGovern and Ryan Seaton are hoping to qualify for the London Olympics next summer.
The duo sail the fastest boat in the Olympic fleet, the men’s 49er, which is a double handed twin trapeze skiff and the world championships and Olympic qualifying regatta get underway this weekend in Perth, Australia.
It’s a second attempt for Matt, 27, to make the Games. Along with his brother Russell they missed out on going to Beijing. After that Russell decided to get married and settle down but Matt wanted to continue to pursue his dream but needed to find a new partner.
“I was keen to do another campaign but had no one to sail with. We sort of knew about each other and had done a couple of fitness camps at the Sports Institute of Northern Ireland (SINI) together but Ryan was sailing single boats at the time and struggling to make weight. SINI Performance Manager Jo Hopkins, who was working with both of us at the time, brought us together to look at the idea of us working as a team and we haven't looked back since. The first time we actually got into a boat together was six weeks before the world championships in April 2009,” said Matt.
Ryan, four years younger, was one of Ireland’s top talents at under age level but he too was looking for a new challenge.
He explained, “It was a big change for me, I had come up through the youth levels in Ireland and had a couple of top 5s in the worlds in the laser but when I moved up into the standard fleet I struggled for body weight. It was okay when I was sailing in light winds but it was harder in stronger winds and frustrating for me because I felt I was losing out because of my size rather than my skill so when the opportunity came along to sail with Matt it suited me a lot more.
It was a big step because I’d never trapezed before or sailed a skiff and then there’s the communication as well which I wasn’t used to so it took a while to get used to.”
For two and a half years now the pair have travelled the world competing for Ireland and getting used to each other both on and off the water.
“We’re both quite open people and we’ll speak how we feel but it took a year and a half, nearly two years to really get to know each other and understand how we both work in the boat,” added Ryan.
“When we’re sailing the boat now there are a lot of times we don’t need to say anything. When we’re coming up to an maneuver you’ll automatically do what you need to do and we don’t need to talk.”
Talking through any issues they have with each other is an important part of being successful when it comes to the racing itself.
They take advantage of the services of SINI Performance Skills Coach Des Jennings who they communicate with using Skype and email when at the other side of the world.
“The one thing that Des always brings to the table is a reality check. You can go and have a bit of a moan or whatever or talk over a problem, at the end of the day what it can be very stressful what you’re doing especially when you’re striving for something like a place in the Olympics but Des will put a bit of a different slant on it.
He’ll sort of remind us that we’ve been away together for ten weeks, that we’ve never left each other’s side and of course things are going to arise so it’s always nice to have someone else there that you can talk with in a confidential manner and that’s nice as well,” says Matt.
So now the moment of truth is upon them. There are fourteen places up for grabs at the World Championships for next year’s Olympics with the rest of the places allocated at the 49er worlds next year.
Ryan has put his degree in Sports Studies at the University of Ulster on hold to try and make London 2012.
They have a new coach, the back up from SINI, which includes their own physio who will travel out to Australia.
It’s time to produce on the water and Ryan and Matt are confident they can. “We’re really excited about the World Championships. Over the last twelve months Matt and I have put in a lot of hard work. We’ve been out in Australia training with the world number ones and been in the gym doing our strength and conditioning so I feel if we can put everything out on the table that’s all we can do.
The hard work is done and whatever the opposition come out with then so be it but we feel like we’re prepared well and as long as we go out there and do our job and don’t get caught up with the Olympic qualification then we’ll deliver,” insists Ryan.
“We’ve had some really good results this year, the World Cup in Holland was our first good one when we won the medal race and we were really pleased with that. We then had the Irish trials for the Olympic spot and won that comfortably but then took some time off and we didn’t perform well in the pre-Olympics regatta in Weymouth and that was probably our worst performance. Bar our first world championships together we’ve never been outside the top fourteen and we’d be really shocked if we didn’t make it,” added Matt.
The World Sailing Championships begin in Perth this weekend with the men’s 49er racing running from 12-18 December. Also competing and with hopes of qualifying a place in London are Sailing Ireland Performance squad members Peter O’Leary, David Burrows (Star Class) and Annalise Murphy (Laser Radial).