by Craig Heydon
The Australian Sailing Team 2011 has been announced with the team including current world number ones, reigning World Champions, new faces and returning members.
Australian medallists at the 2010 Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta
The Australian Sailing Team enters 2011 with two crews ranked number one in the world, with Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page topping the 470 class and Tom Slingsby the leading Laser sailor.
Belcher and Page had a stellar 2010, winning the 470 World Championship and the 470 class in the seven round ISAF Sailing World Cup series.
The pair’s results saw them jump to the top of the 470 class rankings, a position they have held since August 2010. Belcher and Page have already tasted success in 2011, finishing second at the ISAF Sailing World Cup round in Miami and then winning the 470 Australian Championship 2011 in early March.
Tom Slingsby was a man on a mission in 2010, working his way back to be world number one, winning a third Laser World Championship in four years and being named the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year.
Throughout the year Slingsby won three rounds of the ISAF Sailing World Cup, including a second straight victory in Weymouth, England, where the 2012 London Olympic Games will be contested.
Slingsby will have company in the Australian Sailing Team in 2011 with 20 year old Sydney based sailor Tom Burton also qualifying in the Laser class.
Burton qualified for the team following his second place finish at Sail Melbourne in December, a regatta where he sailed consistently well in a range of conditions to finish ahead of some highly fancied competition, including his now team mate.
Burton’s Silver medal in Melbourne was reward for his commitment and increasingly impressive results, including an 11th place finish out of more than 180 boats at the final round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Weymouth, where he missed the medal race by a single point.
Gold Coast based Brendan Casey is no stranger to Australia’s high performance sailing programs having been involved at some level for most of the last decade and returns to the Australian Sailing Team in 2011, in the Finn class.
After a couple of years away from the water Casey returned to Finn sailing in 2010 and has been steadily working his way up the rankings with a tenth place finish at the 2010 Finn Gold Cup in San Francisco securing him a place in the 2011 Australian Sailing Team. Most recently he finished fourth at the Sailing World Cup round in Miami.
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen continue their campaign towards London in the 49er class after another strong year in 2010. The pair finished second at the 2010 49er World Championship in the Bahamas and then won World Cup rounds in Holland and Weymouth.
Outteridge and Jensen are also yet to be beaten on the Olympic course with just three major regattas left to contest there before the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The Australian Women’s Match Racing Team welcomes back Lucinda Whitty who will sail in 2011 alongside Katie Spithill and Jessica Eastwell. Australia will continue to campaign two Women’s Match Racing crews at the top level with Nicky Souter, Nina Curtis and Olivia Price also representing their country.
Souter, Curtis and Price had a strong finish to 2010, winning the final World Cup in Weymouth, a Grade One regatta in America just a few weeks later and then finished third at the 2010 ISAF Women’s Match Racing World Championship, leading them to the World number one ranking at season’s end.
For the first time ever the Australian Sailing Team will have representatives in three crews in the Skud 18 Paralympic class. 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games Silver medalists Daniel Fitzgibbon and Rachael Cox qualified for the 2011 team following their third at the 2011 IFDS World Championship. Fitzgibbon is now sailing alongside three-time Paralympic Games wheelchair basketball medalist Liesl Tesch and Cox has teamed up with 2000 Paralympic Games Gold medalist Jamie Dunross.
The two crews will face tough competition from fellow Australians Ame Barnbrook and Lindsay Mason who qualified for the team at their first major international Skud 18 event, the IFDS World Championship in 2010, and have continued to impress since then.
Australian Sailing Team High Performance Director Peter Conde said that the team is progressing well towards London, as all crews increase the intensity with just 18 months left to go.
'This year will be an incredibly busy one for the Australian Sailing Team with crews competing at all corners of the globe, training hard at home and in Weymouth and preparing for the Perth 2011 World Championship in December where 75 per cent of the Olympic places will be decided,' said Conde.
'It’s great to see some fresh faces in the team for 2011, while our established members continue to succeed at the highest level with two World Championship Golds, a Silver and two Bronze medals in 2010,' said Conde.
Australian Sailing Team members will next be competing at round three of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Spain beginning next Monday.
For more information on the Australian Sailing Team click here