by Craig Heydon
Australian sailors are preparing for the first ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta of the Olympic year with racing set to begin in Miami, Florida, on Monday. (USA time)
Mathew Belcher, Malcom Page, 470 Men World Champions
Seven Australian crews have made the trip to Miami for the second round of the 2011/2012 ISAF Sailing World Cup, following the opening regatta in Melbourne last November.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page will be out to try and win the only World Cup regatta which has eluded them, either together or separately, in their first event since claiming the 2011 470 World Championship in Perth just before Christmas.
'It's great to be back in Miami,' said Page. 'Victor (coach Victor Kovalenko) is calling this our 'holiday regatta,' not sure if this is because the Aussie dollar is making the shopping cheaper or that he is trying to make us relax!
'Mat and I have placed second in this World Cup event the last two years,' he said. 'I know Victor is saying it's a holiday regatta, but it would be great to come away with a win from this event, it's the only grade one event that has alluded us both in all our Olympic sailing.
'We arrived quite close to the start of the regatta and even though we are sleeping ok, we are far from being in the time zone,' said Page. 'We’re using the 470 'Australia' which was the Games boat from Beijing and it feels good, we must thank NSWIS crew Rob Size and Scott Cotton for lending us the boat for this regatta.'
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page training in Miami - Photo Victor Kovalenko
The 470 fleet lining up in Miami is compact, with 25 boats entered, but the competition is set to be as tight as ever with the second and fourth place crews from the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships racing alongside the Aussie world champions, together with local pairing Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl who won the opening World Cup round in Melbourne.
Australia’s two Women’s Match Racing crews will open their 2011/2012 ISAF Sailing World Cup campaigns in Miami, with both crews coming off the back of a strong result in Perth.
Nicky Souter, Jessica Eastwell and Katie Spithill and fellow Australian crew Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty were both quarter finalists at the World Championships. The efforts of both crews ensured that Australia will have a crew racing for Gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
'We arrived here a couple of days early to get in a few decent training sessions,' said Souter. 'It’s been pretty light here this last week in Miami but it looks like it will pick up a little tomorrow.
'The format is different to usual with 24 teams split into two groups, with each group doing a single round robin and the top four from each group go through to Gold fleet, with the rest going home,' she said. 'It means the pressure is on from the start as there is no repecharge for a ‘second chance,’ we’re looking forward to racing tomorrow, we’re in Group A and have an early start with racing at 9am.'
Price, Curtis and Whitty have been drawn in Group B and will hit the water for their first races on Tuesday.
'We have had a good break over Christmas and are back fresh,' said Whitty. 'Before flying out we had a solid week in Sydney and then a couple of days training here and we’re looking forward to racing again.
'The format has been changed here but we haven’t approached it any differently, we’ll take each day as any other and execute our game plan, the format should work well with more racing for us,' she said.
Whitty said that the trio took a lot out of the recent World Championships as they continue to develop as a team.
'The more time we spend in the boat helps us be more prepared for the year ahead, every time we sail against the strong teams we learn more and we’re looking forward to going racing in Miami,' she said.
Brendan Casey will be racing in the Finn class, with the Gold Coast based sailor having a strong result in Miami last year, finishing just off the podium in fourth.
Casey had mixed results at the recent World Championships and will be keen to kick off a big 2012 with a strong finish in Miami.
Two Australian crews will feature in Paralympic class racing with Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch to race in the Skud 18 and Matt Bugg in the 2.4mR.
Both crews head into the event having raced recently in Florida, with the 2012 IFDS World Championships finishing in Port Charlotte last week.
Fitzgibbon and Tesch won their second straight World Championship Bronze medal in the Skud 18 class, while Bugg was 11th in the 2.4mR fleet, with a number of strong top 10 finishes during the week.
The Skud 18 crew will take some confidence into racing in Miami, with the pair the defending champions, having won the event, the first they had ever contested together, in 2011.
Australia will also have a crew racing in the Star class with Paul McKenzie and Phil Toth racing in the 31 boat strong fleet.
McKenzie and Toth finished 23rd at last year’s World Championships and will be competing together in this regatta for the first time.
Racing begins in Miami on Monday (US time) and continues until Saturday 28 February.