by Craig Heydon
Defending World Champions, returning Olympic Gold medalists and stars for the future have all been named in the 2012 Australian Sailing Team, racing against the best sailors in the world in the coming year.
Laser Men’s Tom Slingsby at the top mark - Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships
Australian Sailing Team athletes will compete in World Championships, European Championships and ISAF Sailing World Cup events around the world, with the focus firmly on the year’s two major events, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The 2012 Australian Sailing Team features 20 athletes competing in eight Olympic and two Paralympic classes.
The European season begins this week with sailors competing in the RS:X World Championship and Finn European Championships.
Included in the Australian Sailing Team are the six athletes who have already booked themselves a seat on the plane for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Triple Laser World Champion and current world number one Tom Slingsby will continue his campaign towards the Games having most recently stood on the top step of the podium at the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships last December.
Slingsby will be joined in the team by fellow world number ones and 2011 World Champions Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page. Belcher and Page have kicked off their year in style, winning the recent ISAF Sailing World Cup round in Miami, the first time an Australian crew has won an Olympic class at the event in its 22 year history.
49er crew Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen round out the current Australian World Champions with the pair picking up their second title together, and Outteridge’s third, in Western Australia just before Christmas. The pair will be keen to continue their great run in Weymouth once the Games comes around, having been undefeated in the four regattas they have contested there so far.
AUS Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen - Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships
Jessica Crisp is the final sailor who is already confirmed for London 2012 with the windsurfer to contest her fourth straight Olympic Games. Crisp’s year begins with the 2012 RS:X World Championships beginning in Spain this week.
Yachting Australia High Performance Director Peter Conde said that after a very successful 2011 the Australian Sailing Team will be out to push both themselves and the competition over the coming year.
'With the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games just around the corner attention is firmly focused on Weymouth but for the Australian Sailing Team every regatta they contest is an important opportunity to monitor their progress,' said Conde. 'This year there is a good mix of youth and experience with Olympic Gold medalists and World Champions combined with up-and-coming champions and I’m looking forward to what will be a busy year on and off the water.'
This year women’s 470 crew Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell are both returning to the team, with Rechichi back for the first time since 2009 and Stowell since 2004. The pair, who teamed up just prior to the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships, qualified for the team following their ninth place finish on home waters. Rechichi and Stowell, Gold medalists in 2008 and 2000 respectively, are busy preparing for their first European campaign together as they work towards booking themselves a place on the team for London 2012.
The Australian Sailing Team will feature Women’s Match Racing crew Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty continuing towards representing Australia at the one and only Women’s Match Racing appearance at the Olympic Games. Price, Curtis and Whitty got 2012 off to a strong start with a Silver medal at the Sailing World Cup in Miami with another busy year ahead for the trio.
Krystal Weir has qualified in the Laser Radial class as she aims to get herself to a second straight Olympic Games after competing in the three-person Yngling class in 2008.
Australia has great depth in the Laser class with three sailors in the team for 2012. While Tom Slingsby continues to hold down the world number one spot he’ll be racing with two team mates this year, with Tom Burton and Ashley Brunning also joining the Australian Sailing Team. This will be Burton’s second year in the team after debuting in 2011, with the Sydney based sailor qualifying for 2012 with his top 10 finish in Perth. He’ll be joined in the Laser class by Brunning who is making his debut in team after a great finish to 2011. Brunning finished seventh at Perth 2011, his best ever result at a Laser World Championships after being in the mix all regatta.
Two Paralympic crews have qualified for the 2012 Australian Sailing Team after having strong performances at January’s IFDS World Championships in Florida. Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch continue to develop as a crew in the Skud 18 class, winning Bronze at the IFDS Worlds, their second straight third place finish at the event. The pair then went on to win Gold a week later at the Sailing World Cup in Miami.
A new addition to the team this year is the Sonar crew of Colin Harrison, Stephen Churm and Jonathan Harris, who finished fourth at the IFDS World Championships, an impressive result in their first ever regatta together. Harrison is no stranger to the team having won Silver at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and will be keen to take a new crew to the podium in London.
ISAF Sailing World Championship. AUS Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell - 470 Women
For more information on the Australian Sailing Team visit www.australiansailingteam.com.au and follow the team on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AusSailingTeam.