by Craig Heydon
Australian sailors are preparing for racing at the first European ISAF Sailing World Cup round of the Olympic year in Palma, Spain, including current world number ones Tom Slingsby, Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page.
Tom Slingsby - racing in Palma - 42nd Trofeo SAR 2011
Racing begins at round three of the ISAF Sailing World Cup on Monday with 13 Australian crews across six classes making the trip to Spain.
For Tom Slingsby the regatta will be the first time he has raced in the Laser class since winning his fourth World Championship in Perth last December.
Slingsby arrived in Palma directly from Mexico where he had been taking part in a training camp as he begins the countdown for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
'I’m actually loving being back in the Laser,' said Slingsby. 'It’s easy to forget how fun and how tight and tactical the racing is.
'I’m still feeling a bit rusty and would have preferred a little more training leading into a World Cup event,' he said. 'I’m using Palma as a training event so the result is not my main focus, just have to improve a little each day, all the way to the Games.'
The Laser fleet is the largest in Palma with 152 sailors currently entered, with Slingsby racing against not only the top ranked crews in the world, but also five other Australians; Tom Burton, Ashley Brunning, Jared West, Ryan Palk and Luke Elliott.
'I think everyone has one eye on the competition,' said Slingsby. 'It’s always interesting to see who is going fast at the start of the season, but I think most of the top dogs are just starting to ramp it up for the Games.'
In the 470 men’s class Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page will be keen to continue their strong start to this year’s World Cup, having finished second at the opening round in Melbourne and then winning Gold in Miami in January.
'We’re happy with our preparations and seem to be in good racing shape after being away from racing for a few months,' said Belcher. 'All our top competitors are here so it will be great racing, we’re feeling good and are ready to start racing, this is just the starting point of our season leading into the Games.'
Belcher and Page will be debuting a new boat in Palma, having spent the last week training onboard Practical Magic.
'The new boat is great, it will take some time to get the feel but that's why we are using it here and not later on in the season,' said Belcher. 'We don't have any expectations but to focus on our own performance here.
'Our level indicates that if we do this well, we will be there at the end,' he said. 'However, Palma is not the regatta we want to win this year, that one is in Weymouth in August.'
Australian Sailing Squad members Sam Kivell and Will Ryan, who will compete in their first regatta since the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships, will join Belcher and Page in the 470 men’s fleet.
Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell will continue their campaign towards the London 2012 Olympic Games in the 470 women’s fleet with the pair competing in their first ever European regatta together this week.
Rechichi and Stowell have gotten their partnership off to a strong start, winning their first ever regatta together at Sail Melbourne last November and then finishing ninth at the World Championships on home waters.
In the Women’s Match Racing competition Australians Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty will be looking to continue their strong start to the 2012 season having won Silver in Miami in January.
Two Australians will be lining up in the Laser Radial class with Krystal Weir and Caitlin Elks racing in the 92 boat strong fleet.
Brendan Casey will compete in the Finn class having competed at the 2012 Finn European Championships in Italy a few weeks ago.
Racing begins on Monday and continues until Saturday 7 April.