Mansfield and O'Brien

Ireland's Star helmsman, Mark Mansfield, talks to Ed Gorman
The increasing professionalism of Olympic sailing and the advent of Lottery funding and other sources of backing, which is enabling yachtsmen to sail full-time throughout the entire Olympic cycle, is making it harder and harder for amateurs to get to the Games. One who has made it this time is Ireland's Mark Mansfield, who is racing with David O'Brien in the Star class. While most of their rivals have been going at it full-time for two or three years, Mansfield, aged 38, was still behind his desk at the building society where he works in Cork until two months ago. Nevertheless this talented pair, who launched their part time campaign 14 months ago, have achieved significant success in the build-up to Sydney with an excellent third place at the recent class world championships in Annapolis, which qualified them for the Games fleet. Despite the relatively short work-up Mansfield, a veteran of four Admiral's Cups and twice the 1720 class European champion, believes he has a reasonable chance of doing much better than his 12th place in the class at Savannah. "We've come third in the worlds, so there's no reason why we can't do it again. But we're just going to have to get a few breaks. If we do and start well, we have a chance," he said. He points out that although many of his rivals are full-time pros, few of them spend all their time in Stars. But adds: "I think probably we're at a slight disadvantage - you know up to two months ago I was sitting behind my desk whereas a lot of others were out sailing. There's also the problem of time for organisation and structuring a campaign which is hard if you're trying to fit it in after 8-10 hour days in the office." Mansfield and O'Brien