by Craig Heydon
Australian sailors have qualified for three medal races at the final round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Hyeres, France, with two crews set to race for gold.
2013 ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres - Laser, Tom Burton
Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan take a 16 point lead into the two 470 men’s medal races, with Tom Burton currently five points off the lead in the Laser class. Burton will be joined in the Laser medal races by fellow Australian Ryan Palk, with Oliver Tweddell to contest his first European Finn medal race.
If Belcher and Ryan bring home gold on Saturday they’ll extend their unbeaten run together to five regattas, with Belcher’s reign on the top step of the podium stretching back to November 2011.
The pair crossed the line ninth and sixth in Friday’s two races, with two French crews tied on points for second and third 16 points adrift of them.
'It was a tough day out on the water,' said Belcher. 'We managed two consistent results compared to our competitors to open up a 16 point lead heading into the medal races tomorrow.
'With these medal races there is still plenty of excitement,' he said. 'The conditions were very variable and extremely shifty. At one point we had one to two knots in a race which started in 16 knots. With most of our top competitors getting some high scores we’re pretty happy with how today went, even though the points we got today were more than our total Palma score from a few weeks back and our points to date here. It just shows how challenging it was.'
Tom Burton had the best results of the leading Laser sailors on Friday and will head into the medal race in third position.
Burton, who has finished on the podium at the other two World Cup rounds he’s contested this year, was ninth in the opening race of the day before winning race two, moving him into third.
Burton is two points behind second placed Tonci Stipanovic of Croatia and a further three behind Brazil’s Robert Scheidt, but with two double point medal races scheduled for Saturday there will still be plenty of movement on the leader board.
Joining Burton in the 10 boat medal race will be fellow Australian Ryan Palk who is currently ninth overall. A pair of 10th place finishes on Friday allowed Palk to move up from his overnight 14th and into the medal race.
Palk has also been in the last two Laser World Cup medal races, finishing on the podium in Melbourne last December.
Fellow Laser sailor Ashley Brunning just missed out on a place in the medal race, finishing 11th overall, with Matthew Wearn in 18th. Jared West was 21st and Luke Elliott 58th.
Finn sailor Oliver Tweddell has qualified for his first European Finn medal race following two good results on Friday.
Tweddell started the day 13th and with plenty of work to do to make the top 10, but a fourth and a seventh was enough to move him into ninth overall.
'I had an awesome day of racing today, leading both of the day’s race to finish with a fourth and a seventh and get into the medal race,' said Tweddell. 'It was another tricky day on the water and I missed a shift in one race and a band of pressure in the other which cost me the wins.
'I was having a lot of fun out there today and my arms were feeling good too,' he said. 'I’m really excited about the medal races tomorrow, there are a lot of points up for grabs so it will make for interesting races. The medal races will be very tough as there are some great sailors racing and I’m pleased to be amongst them.'
Brendan Casey ended the week in 21st position, ahead of Jake Lilley in 32nd and Rob McMillan in 60th.
Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin finished their first Nacra 17 regatta in 15th, moving up from their overnight 18th.
The pair had three good races on Friday, with a sixth, an eighth and a 14th, as they continue to learn their way in the new boat.
In the 470 men’s class Matthew and Robert Crawford ended the week in 43rd, ahead of fellow Australians Angus Galloway and Tim Hannah in 47th.
Joanna Sterling was 25th in the RS:X women’s fleet, ahead of Annalise Gilbert and Paris Stowell who were 39th and 40th respectively. Patrick Vos finished 43rd in the RS:X men’s.
Full results are available at http://swc.ffvoile.com/.
For more information on the Australian Sailing Team visit www.australiansailingteam.com.au and follow the Team on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AusSailingTeam.