by Craig Heydon
Australian sailors are off to a strong start at round three of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Palma, Spain, with crews ending the opening day inside the top 10 in four classes.
Australian 470 sailors Sam Kivell and Will Ryan - ISAF Sailing World Cup in Palma, Spain
A lack of wind kept the crews onshore on Monday morning, delaying the start of the first European ISAF Sailing World Cup round of the Olympic year, with racing eventually getting underway in a light sea breeze.
At the end of day one Krystal Weir is the best placed Australian, with the Victorian leading the way in the Laser Radial class. Weir, who is campaigning to compete at her second Olympic Games this August, won the opening race of the day, following it up with a fourth in race two to give her a one point lead at the front of the fleet from Spanish sailor Alicia Cebrian.
In the 470 men’s reigning World Champions and current ISAF Sailing World Cup leaders Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page are second overall, just a point behind the leading French crew of Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos.
Belcher and Page won the first race of the day with a sixth in race two in the light winds and choppy seas. In the second 470 fleet fellow Australians Sam Kivell and Will Ryan got their year off to a winning start, with a race one victory and an 11th leaving them sixth overall, just five points off the overall lead.
'It’s always nice to win the first race back for the European season,' said Belcher. 'It sets the mood for the season and it was also great to see our training partners get a win as well today, it’s rewarding for all of us. 'The breeze was only between five and eight knots, the sea very choppy and we were racing close to shore in a big fleet which made it a difficult day,' he said.
'To come away with a one and a six is great, we’ve got new gear and haven’t raced for a while so all of our training has paid off.
'We’re not focusing on results too much here, you can sail well and still end up with a 20th, it’s more about how we sail together and determining what we need to work on with the new boat,' said Belcher.
In the Laser fleet Australia’s four time World Champion Tom Slingsby sits in seventh position after a 12th and a second, seven points behind opening day leader, Nick Thompson of Great Britain.
'It was a nice day to get back into racing, quite light and shifty,' said Slingsby. 'In the first race unfortunately I chose the wrong side of the course and was happy to get back to a 12th, but race two was much better, I had a good battle with Maciej Grabowski of Poland and got a second.
'Today was my first day of racing since the World Championships in Perth last December and I’m definitely a bit rusty and a bit heavy at the moment but with more sailing I’ll start to feel a bit better,' he said.
Fellow Australian Tom Burton is 12th overall following a 17th and a second while Ryan Palk is 23rd, Jared West 50th and Ashley Brunning 72nd.
In the 470 women’s class Olympic Gold medalists Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell ended their first day of racing in Europe together in 10th position with the pair picking up a fourth and a 19th.
Australia’s Women’s Match Racing crew of Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty had a long day of waiting around with the trio onshore until late in the day, eventually completing two round robin races, for two wins.
'We got on board the boats at 6pm in a dying breeze and choppy sea,' said Curtis. 'We were able to complete our first two races in the tricky conditions against the German team and the American entry skippered by Stephanie Roble, with wins in both races.
'It’s still very early in the round and tomorrow we’re up first with light conditions forecast again,' she said.
Brendan Casey is 22nd in the Finn class with the Queenslander beginning his regatta with a 31st and a 15th.
Racing continues in Palma on Tuesday with the final medal races to be held on Saturday 7 April.
Australian Sailing Team website