by Craig Heydon
Sail Melbourne 2011 - After four days of racing at the opening round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup, Australian sailors lead the way in four classes.
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen at Sail Melbourne 2011
Crews were greeted by steady winds and choppy seas on Thursday, allowing for a full schedule of racing on Port Phillip Bay.
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen went into the day second overall, behind New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, with the 49er fleet able to complete four races.
Outteridge and Jensen slipped behind with a fourth in race one before bouncing back well to finish the day with two firsts and a second to take the lead and open up a two point lead over the Kiwis, with local sailors Will and Sam Phillips a point further back in third.
'We had a day off yesterday due to the conditions and it’s always a little uncomfortable when you’re not leading as you never know if you’ll get the races in,' said Outteridge. 'We got four in today and we came through with a good day and we’re really happy to be pulling on the yellow jersey tomorrow.'
In the Laser class Tom Slingsby extended his lead at the top of the table to 11 points following a third, second and a first on the first day of Gold fleet racing.
'It was nice to be racing in Gold fleet today, you could feel that the quality of the fleet had stepped up quite a bit,' said Slingsby. 'In race one I was back in the fleet a bit but fought back on the last run to pick up 10 spots and salvage a third, that was my get out of jail free card for the week.
'The conditions today were really nice, big waves, big pressure differences and plenty of shifts,' he said.
Slingsby leads Great Britain’s Nick Thompson with Australian Sailing Squad member Ashley Brunning third.
Brunning had a great day on the water, winning the first two Gold fleet races and rounding the day out with a third to jump up the leaderboard from his overnight position of eighth.
The 470 crews only returned to shore at 7pm after a long day’s racing where they were able to complete three races.
Reigning World Champions and world number ones Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page ended the day second overall following a race win and a pair of thirds.
Belcher and Page are just two points behind the leaders, Americans Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl, with the race for the Gold medal well and truly on, with two fleet races and the medal race
Overnight leaders, Australian Sailing Squad members Sam Kivell and Will Ryan now sit third, after two fifths and a second, but are just a point behind Belcher and Page.
In the 470 women’s fleet Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell continue to lead the class, now sitting three points ahead of Japan’s Ai Kondo and Wakako Tabata, after a fourth and two wins.
Rechichi and Stowell, who are competing in just their first regatta together have now won four of the eight races this regatta in a range of conditions.
Jessica Crisp ended day four third overall in the RS:X women’s after two thirds and a fourth in the day’s three races.
'The racing is incredibly close between all of the top guys,' said Crisp. 'In that last race Bryony and I only just overlayed the final mark and two boats got up the inside of us, you can’t give anything away.'
The Laser Radial class completed three races with Australian Sailing Team member Krystal Weir jumping up from her overnight eighth to be fourth overall.
Weir had a fourth and two fifths to move within two points of the podium with three fleet races and the final medal race left to contest.
In the Skud 18 class Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch had their best day of the regatta with two race wins and a third moving them from their overnight fourth to second overall.
'We finally had a decent day out there with two firsts and a third, we loved the strong wind and blitzed it on the downwind,' said Tesch.
Tesch is relatively new to Paralympic class sailing after only teaming up with Fitzgibbon in January after a long career in Wheelchair Basketball.
'Everyday we’re trying to get better, trying to get our communications in-sync, I’m still trying to know what’s going on out there and get everything right, I could do with a few more sets of hands,' she said.
Fellow Australians Jamie Dunross and Rachael Cox are currently third with Ame Barnbrook and Lindsay Mason one place further behind in fourth.
Australian Sailing Squad member Matt Bugg continued his great run in the 2.4mR class, with three race wins on day four giving him a nine point lead over New Zealand’s Brett Willcock.
Bugg has now won five of the six races contested, with his worst result a second.
Friday is the final day of racing for the Paralympic classes with the Olympic classes to complete their fleet races on the same day before the medal races on Saturday.
Australian Sailing Team website
Sail Melbourne website