by Craig Heydon
On the penultimate day of racing at the 470 Australian Championship light and shifty conditions tested the crews.
Belcher and Page racing in Fremantle
The Australian Sailing Team’s Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page extended their lead at the front of the fleet after sailing well in the range of conditions that the 40 crews have faced in Fremantle over the past four days.
A first and a second on Wednesday allowed them to open up a 15 point lead over New Zealand’s Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders.
The American duo of Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl are four points further back in third, one point ahead of Japan's Ryonsuke Harada and Yugo Yoshida with the Australian pairing of Sam Kivell and Will Ryan two points behind in fifth.
'Today was an incredibly light and shifty day,' said Belcher. 'The committee persisted to complete the scheduled two races and got them in after a few attempts. It’s great practice for us being out on our course and gaining some experience leading into the Worlds.
'Malcolm and I are pleased to have come away with a two and a one in these conditions,' he said. 'To be able to race with this fleet in these conditions, we couldn't ask for more.
'We’ve got two final races tomorrow so we’ll wait and see what conditions we get to end the regatta.'
Belcher and Page, the reigning World Champions and current world number ones have finished first in five of the eight races so far in the regatta, an ideal lead in to the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships.
Fellow Australians Matthew and Robert Crawford head into the final day of racing 10th overall and first junior crew, and are just three points behind the eighth placed Spanish crew.
Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell had their best of the regatta with a fifth and an eighth in the mixed male and female fleet.
The results have moved the pair up from their overnight position of 31st to 24th overall and sixth female crew, an impressive jump considering they missed the first two races of the regatta.
Racing is set to conclude in Fremantle on Thursday.
Full results available here
Australian Sailing Team website