by Di Pearson
Nathan Outteridge & Ben Austin (AUS) working their 49er - "We’’re on track and feel comfortable with our progress. We’’re looking forward to the World’’s," said Outteridge, who with Austin is heading to his first Olympics.
The first of five Sail Melbourne world titles get underway Friday when the Olympic class 49er and Youth 29er World Championships start off the host venue Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club shortly after 10.00am.
Eighty 49er crews from 29 nations around the globe will hit the start track in the ISAF Grade 1 event. The World's is a vital series for some, with more than the Championship at stake.
Eight nations are yet to qualify for the Beijing Olympic Games, and with only five places remaining to fill the quota, this is their final opportunity to do so. Ireland, Brazil, Croatia (2 crews), Estonia (1), Finland (4), Greece (3), Hong Kong (1) and Japan (2) will be doing their best to make qualification.
Of the 14 nations qualified, not all have selected their respective crews to represent at the Games, so the 49er World's is make it or break it time for others.
49er of Stevie Morrison & Ben Rhodes (GBR) - won the Gold medal in the recent Breitling Regatta in Holland - photo © Thom Touw
That is not the case for current world champions Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes (GBR) or for Australia's Nathan Outteridge and Ben Austin who have been selected to represent at the Games.
'We're on track and feel comfortable with our progress. We're looking forward to the World's,' said Outteridge, who with Austin is heading to his first Olympics.
Morrison, too, is feeling good. 'Ben and I arrived at Sorrento in December to start our training. We've been checking out the local conditions to prepare. We hope to retain our crown,' the affable Brit said.
China, as host nation, is automatically allocated a place. There are three Chinese crews here to battle it out for one Olympic berth.
The host club is pinning its hopes on Will Phillips and Jon Newman. Phillips is a Sorrento member. He and Newman are hopeful of one day making it to the Olympics and are looking for a good result in front of the home crowd.
The 18-race series consists of nine qualifying races going tomorrow through to Sunday. The Final series starts Monday and finishes on Wednesday when the winners will be announced. Race Officials plan to get racing underway from just after 10.00am each day, weather permitting.
A massive 102 crews have entered the 29er Worlds.
29er downwind - CORK Regatta 2007. Photo: Geoff Webster
Internationally, the largest numbers come from Great Britain with 11 crews.
Australia is well represented with 67 crews, including Haylee Outteridge, the sister of 49er skipper Nathan.
And brothers Andrew and William Chapman, recent winners at the Grade 1 Sydney International Regatta.
Also racing are the ISAF Youth World's bronze medallists Hannah Nattrass and Michelle Muller.
The 29er program is the same as the 49ers, except they will contest four shorter races each day, starting Friday.