by John Curnow
Descending once again on Melbourne’s Port Phillip and the world class facilities of the Sandringham Yacht Club is the ISAF Sailing World Cup - Sail Melbourne. The first round of this year’s Cup series will take place from December 2 to 8, 2012 and will feature all of the Olympic sailing classes, bar the Nacra 17 cats. Sail Melbourne will also host twelve invited classes including a strong kite-boarding fleet. It heralds the beginning of a new season of World Cups, before they move on to Miami and then on to Europe for two more regattas.
Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty match racing in front of the Western Australian Maritime Museum December 4, 2011 off Fremantle, Australia. As the Elliott 6 has been dropped from the 2016 Olympics, Price will switch to the 49erFX skiff for the 2012 Sail Melbourne
Since recently securing the event for another four years in conjunction with the State Government of Victoria, the event host, Sail Melbourne have had great interest from nearly all the official classes and looks forward to staging another action packed event. With the very late inclusion of windsurfing, it is hoped that enough competitors will enter with the entry deadline for the RS:X class, extended to Sunday 2 December to provide enough time for the category to be represented.
Of course, Port Phillip is renowned for having true wind that generally runs from either the South or the North and a consistent, if often short, seaway to offer competitors. As such, it has hosted more than its fair share of World Championships.
This time around, with Olympic sailing having undergone significant changes since the recent London games, there is bound to be a lot of interest in the new class for women, the 49FX. This is the first time that the girls have been offered a skiff to race on and there is strong interest from former match racing crews and 470 teams. Given the likelihood of good breezes, this class alone will be worth watching for great action. Overall however, there are close to 300 boats and over 400 competitors from 27 countries.
For 2012 there is a strong Australian competitor field, but there are many sailors from overseas attending too. No class would be better described as such, than the global phenomenon that is Kiteboarding, which is part of the Sail Melbourne invited class program of the regatta. 51 men and 22 women are attending, with the sweeping majority of these coming from overseas. Florian Grüber from Germany is ranked seventh and 30 year-old Riccardo Andrea Leccese comes from Fiumicino, which is just outside of Roma. He is second in the world (IKA ranking). Two Turkish women, Bilge Ozturk and Merve Ceylan deserve a special mention just for being from the same overseas country and add to individual entries from New Zealand, The Philippines, France and Switzerland.
Sail Melbourne Kiteboarding (credit to Cabrinha Kites)
In terms of the ISAF Sailing World Cup line up, there are 11 crews in the Men’s 49er skiff class and it is very interesting to note that the talented Phillips Brothers are racing separately, with Sam joining Sam Kivell and Will taking Nick Brownie as his crewman.
Samuel & William Phillips (AUS) Sailing World Cup / 49er 2011 Sail Melbourne / ISAF World Cup Sandringham YC / 6 - 12 Nov 2011 © Sport the library / Jeff Crow
12 Finn sailors will challenge each other for the medals, with Chris Caldecoat, the newly crowned F18 Cat New South Wales Champion in his Capricorn 2, up against the likes of Oliver Tweddell and the well-credentialed, Brendan Cassey (number one).
The Men’s Laser class has attracted 35 entries with Eric Bowers getting a mention because he hails from the Minnetonka Yacht Club in Minnesota, which is where the inspirational Blake Middleton comes from, as well. Tom Burton is racing there as well and he would be keen to take over the mantle from the other Tom, as in Slingsby.
Laser / Tom Burton (AUS) 2010 Sail Down Under Series Sail Sydney / Woollahra Sailing Club Sydney NSW / Dec 6 - 9th 2010 © Sport the library / Jeff Crow
23 women will line up for the Laser Radial with local Sandringham Yacht Club member, Krystal Weir (number five) someone to look out for. There are four Women’s 470 crews, so perhaps keep the trend going and look out for local combination, Jacqueline Gurr and Sophie Robson.
Krystal Weir (AUS) Sailing World Cup / Laser R 2011 Sail Melbourne / ISAF World Cup Sandringham YC / 6 - 12 Nov 2011 © Sport the library / Jeff CrowKrystal Weir (AUS) Sailing World Cup / Laser R 2011 Sail Melbourne / ISAF World Cup Sandringham YC / 6 - 12 Nov 2011 © Sport the library / Jeff Crow
There are more than enough great names amongst the Patrons and Ambassadors for the ISAF World Cup and Sail Melbourne, as well. The first Patron is John Bertrand, who won a bronze medal at the Montreal Olympics, wrestled the Auld Mug away from the Americans with the crew from Australia II, won the Etchells World Championship in 2010 with Tom Slingsby and Andrew Palfrey and was also the Chairman of the Selection Committee for the 2012 Games.
Known as the medal maker, the amazing and truly inspirational, Victor Kovalenko has created success for Australia in 470s all the way back to Sydney 2000 and including the back to back effort between Beijing and London with Belcher and Page.
Two-time Olympic Gold Medallist, Malcolm Page is an Ambassador, as too is 49er star, Iain Jensen, who sailing with Nathan Outteridge has amassed three World Championships and one Olympic Gold.
Liesl Tesch has only recently taken on Paralympic sailing and was in London for her sixth straight games, having been in wheelchair basketball beforehand. She won Gold in 2012 with Daniel Fitzgibbon in an amazing display to completely dominate the scoreboard with a day to spare.
Olivia Price is the first of the Competing Ambassadors. She was the youngest Australian sailor at London 2012 and collected Silver as Skipper with crew of Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty in the Women’s Match Racing, which is not available in Rio. She’ll be one of seven 49FX crews out there, but as she is sailing as a mixed crew with James Sly, therefore will be ineligible to win a medal. Accordingly, Haylee Outteridge, Nathan’s younger sister, and Alison Dale have been getting more than a passing eye cast over them. Time will tell.
It is true that London 470 Gold Medallist and Competing Ambassador, Matthew Belcher, will be out on the course with new crewmember, Will Ryan. Matthew was a 420 World Champion in 2000 and has been dominate in 470s with Malcolm since they teamed up in 2009. There are 11 two-man crews competing in this historic class.
However, out of it all, there is a lot of new and rebuilding going on, as a result of the most recent crop of medallists and superstars now being very heavily involved in the AC72s. This is actually really good, for it means there a lot of things to keep track of and ponder in light of Rio 2016.
If all of that was not enough, then the 12 invited classes like 29ers, 420s, Access Dinghies, Vipers and perennial favourites, the Optimists, will be doing battle as well. This amounts to something like 140 vessels and their one or two person crews. Four entries in the Skud class are our only Paralympic representatives. They are Russell Phillips and Justin Millsom, Malcolm Cameron and Vanessa Waller, Alan Merry and Bob Schahinger, with David Staley and Michael Lewenhagen.
So spare a thought for Race Management headed by ISAF IRO, Athanasios Papantoniou (Sulis) and event IRO, Ross Wilson, along with the complete plethora of volunteers that will make the ISAF World Cup and Sail Melbourne be the event that it is and kept it part of the four that are run around the world, albeit that this will soon be expanded to five when China joins the circuit. It’s a small number of regattas and a large number of classes, races and sailors and as time closes down on the first gun, there will be more than enough sailing action to be reading about.
The ISAF World Cup, which is part of Sail Melbourne from December 2 to 8, 2012, can be found at www.sailmelbourne.com.au.