by Craig Heydon
Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships - The Laser fleets are now split into Gold, Silver and Bronze with the first races held today, Thursday 15th December.
Laser Men’s Tom Slingsby at the top mark - Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships
Tom Slingsby has extended his lead at the top of the Laser class following a strong day of Gold fleet racing.
The defending World Champion went into the day’s two races with a seven point lead over Great Britain’s Paul Goodison with Thursday being the first time that the two had raced in the same fleet at this event.
The pair led the way in race one, with Slingsby first and Goodison second, setting them up as the men to beat as the event reaches the business end.
In race two Slingsby fought back from being in the middle of the fleet at the top mark to finish fifth, with Great Britain’s Nick Thompson taking the win and Goodison finishing 24th.
The two results have allowed Slingsby to open up his lead over Goodison to 11 points with Thompson hot on their heels a further six points behind.
'Today was another good day,' said Slingsby. 'The first race was a really nice one, I got out to a nice lead and was able to hold it the whole way.
'In the second race I did it the hard way again, it seems that I’m having a good first race and struggling in the second, I was doing really well up the first beat but got caught out by a big shift and was around 20th at the top mark.
'I also touched the mark so did a turn and kept going, it was tough to come back but I’m really happy I came home fifth, it was about as good as I could have done,' he said. 'I’m starting to feel a bit more comfortable after today, today was the day it could have really gone wrong, we’ve still got one more day of tricky Gold fleet racing really close to the shore with plenty of obstructions so it’s going to be another tough one but at least I locked in two good ones today.'
Fellow Australian Ashley Brunning is right in contention for a medal, finishing the day just two points behind Nick Thompson in fourth place.
Brunning, a member of the Australian Sailing Squad, finished fourth in the opening race of the day and then slipped a bit in race two with a 31st, but is still right up there heading into the final two fleet races.
'I’ve managed to have a consistent series until that last race when I got caught out of phase,' said Brunning. 'Everyone’s been caught out at some stage and I knew it would happen sooner or later, it’s part of the course here but I’m going into Saturday’s two races confident.
'It’s been a long year for me with injuries keeping me out of a couple of events so it would mean a lot to me to be up there at the end and I’m going to keep fighting for that podium spot,' he said.
Tom Burton is just outside the top 10, in 12th overall, after a third and a 16th on Thursday, with Ryan Palk the next best placed Australian in 43rd.
The 49er fleet also got the finals series underway today, with just one race completed on what was originally the fleet’s lay day.
Australian’s Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen finished fourth in that race, keeping them in their overnight third position, with the pair just a point off second and seven points off the lead.
'It was nice to do a Gold fleet race today,' said Outteridge. 'We were back to our normal 25 boats, the course was the right size for the number of boats, the start line was right and it was just good to know that every race you do now actually does count for more than qualifying.
'A lot of people had some high scores throughout qualifying and we’re just got to try and keep them inside the top 10 now for the rest of the week and hopefully some others will make mistakes,' he said. 'We ended up within a boat length of the Kiwis at the finish line, they got third and we were fourth so it was a good day.
'The only downside was that the guys with the yellow dot were in second so they’ve put two points on us but many people got high scores today and that was the main goal, to avoid that high score on the first day of Gold fleet,' said Outteridge.
Will and Sam Phillips sit in 14th overall after an 11th place finish, with the brothers just 10 points off a spot in the medal race with six Gold fleet races remaining.
In the Women’s Match Racing competition Australians Nicky Souter, Jessica Eastwell and Katie Spithill finished the regatta fifth overall following two wins in the fifth to eighth playoff.
Souter and crew started the day with an all-Australian match, against Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty with the winner to take on Sweden’s Anna Kjellberg for fifth and the loser going up against Dutch sailor Mandy Mulder for seventh.
Souter, Eastwell and Spithill won a close race against Price and crew and went on to beat the Swedish and take fifth, while Price finished eighth after a loss to Mulder.
'It was nice to finish the regatta strongly with a fifth,' said Souter. 'Our first race with Olivia was a fun, fair race. We were both over the line early but we managed to get into a better position when we re-crossed and kept the lead up the first lap.
'It was really close at the bottom mark and we had a good fight up the second beat but we were patient and got the win,' she said. 'We then had a good race against the Swedes where we won by half a leg and she also had a penalty on her at the end.'
In the RS:X men’s class Luke Baillie and Tim Gourlay are the highest ranked Australians in 43rd and 45th respectively.
The 470 women and Star classes had a lay day on Thursday and return to racing on Friday, along with the 49er fleets and the Women’s Match Racing medal races. The Laser and RS:X men’s class have a day off.
Australian Sailing Team website