by Craig Heydon
Sail Melbourne 2011, the ISAF Sailing World Cup opening round, was held on Melbourne’s Port Phillip. Australian sailors have dominated the final day of the event with the home team claiming 16 medals across the eight Olympic and two Paralympic classes.
Jessica Crisp winning the RSX class at Sail Melbourne 2011
The final day of Sail Melbourne featured close racing across the fleets with the top 10 boats in each class hitting Port Phillip Bay for the medal races.
Australia claimed its first Gold medal in the 49er class with Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen prevailing in a tight finale.
Outteridge and Jensen had to stay ahead of fellow Australians Will and Sam Phillips and keep New Zealanders Peter Burling and Blair in check to claim the medal and the pair finished the race second to grab the Gold medal.
'It was a very tricky medal race with the positions swapping more in that one race than in any other over the whole event,' said Outteridge. 'The last week had been the perfect lead in to the Worlds in Perth, we’ve had a lot of good weather, it’s been tight the whole way which is what we wanted, one error out there and it was going to cost us and we managed to avoid that.
'This event last year is the only one Iain and I have competed in together where we haven’t been on the podium so it was nice to get back onto that top step,' he said.
Tom Slingsby already had the Laser Gold medal secured thanks to his 19 point overnight lead but went on to claim the title in style, with a medal race win giving him a 27 point buffer over Great Britain’s Nick Thompson with Australian Tom Burton winning Bronze.
'I just wanted to keep my nose clear out there, I was back off the line and steady in my movements and found myself last three-quarters of the way up the first beat,' said Slingsby. 'A big set of waves from a boat going past gave me a good boost and I shot around the top mark in first.
'We’ve had a good range of conditions this week and it’s been a great buildup for Perth,' he said.
Jessica Crisp won Gold in the RS:X women’s in the tightest finish of the regatta, with the triple Olympian only claiming the title after a count back following the medal race.
Crisp knew that she had to beat Great Britain’s Bryony Shaw to get the Gold and she did it in style, pushing hard the whole way through the medal race and crossing the line first, with Shaw second and Italy’s Flavia Tartaglini third.
'It’s been a super close regatta with the top four really close on points,' said Crisp. 'We had a small fleet but the quality’s been exceptional and you can see from the results that we were really close all week.'
Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell continued their dominance of this week’s 470 women’s class with the new pairing winning the medal race and Gold in just their first regatta together.
Rechichi and Stowell have only just teamed up and are working hard towards the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships which will be sailed on their home waters in December.
It’s nice to have the win and our first medal race together which has given us some great practice,' said Rechichi. 'While it’s great to have the results it’s been an awesome opportunity to improve everyday given our short time in the boat, everyday is hugely valuable and hopefully we can keep building on that and putting in the work for Perth.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page went into the 470 medal race third overall, in a tight battle with fellow Australians Sam Kivell and Will Ryan and American’s Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl for the medals.
Belcher and Page did all they could in the medal race, taking the win, but McNay and Biehl’s second gave them the Gold medal with Belcher and Page finishing with Silver and Kivell and Ryan Bronze.
The leading crews have been neck and neck all week with all three spending some time at the top of the leaderboard across the event.
In the Laser Radial class Krystal Weir went into the medal race in third position, just three points ahead of the fourth and fifth placed crews.
The Australian finished the medal race in third, giving her the Bronze medal by a single point off Great Britain’s Alison Young.
'It was a really tight race and we had three general recalls with Alison match racing me before the start each time, it was all on,' said Weir. 'In the end I managed to get clear and was able to sail my own race which was the plan.'
Matt Bugg finished the 2.4mR regatta in the same way as he started it with a race win to claim the Gold medal.
Bugg won nine of the 10 races to secure himself the Gold medal by a massive 21 points from fellow Australians Greg Hyde and Michael Leydon.
Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch continued their great second half of the regatta in the Skud 18 class with a final race win securing the Silver medal for the pair, with fellow Australians Jamie Dunross and Rachael Cox third.
'We had a disappointing start to the regatta, I’m not sure what the issue was but we won the last three days and it was good to come home strong and finish on a positive,' said Fitzgibbon.
Australian sailors claimed Silver and Bronze in the Finn class with Oliver Tweddell winning the medal race to cement his second position behind Ukrainian Oleksiy Borysov with Australian Rob McMillan winning Bronze.
Next stop for the Australians is Western Australia with the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships beginning on December 3.
Full results are available on the event website.
Australian Saling Team website