by Craig Heydon
ISAF Sailing World Cup has Australian sailors busy making final preparations.
Belcher and Page at the 2010 Rolex Miami OCR - ISAF Sailing World Cup - Miami
10 Australian Sailing Team, Australian Women’s Match Racing Team and Australian Sailing Development Squad crews have made their way to the United States for their first World Cup hit-out of 2011.
Reigning 470 World Champions Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page come into the event off the back of a win in last week’s North American 470 Championships, an important hit out against the world’s leading 470 crews.
'We’re racing well at the moment and while we’re not top of the game speed wise just yet we’re fast enough,' said Page. 'Mat and I are going downwind well and when the opportunities are there we’re able to grab them with both hands.'
'We’re back in our European boat which feels a little different after racing and training for the last few months with our Australian equipment but we’re getting in tune and getting ready for racing on Monday.'
'All of the top 10 crews are here and it’s a real who’s who of 470 sailing so it’s going to be a really good week of racing,' he said.
The pair are joined in the 470 fleet by the Australian Sailing Development Squad crew of Sam Kivell and Will Ryan who have had a strong finish in the North American Championships, finishing 10th and winning the medal race, following their Bronze medal at the opening round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup, Sail Melbourne, in December.
'Sam and Will are coming along really well,' said Page. 'They’ve got really good speed in light breeze, which we could see a bit of during the week here, and it’s great to have them as a benchmark.'
The Australian Women’s Match Racing Team has two crews in action in Miami for their first event of the new ISAF Sailing World Cup season, having not raced at a major international event since the ISAF Women’s Match Racing World Championship in September last year.
The six Australian sailors have shuffled their crew make ups around and after training at home over Christmas are ready to debut their new crews against 22 competitors on Miami’s Biscayne Bay.
Nicky Souter and Olivia Price, who won Gold at the final round of last year’s ISAF Sailing World Cup and then Bronze at the World Championship alongside Nina Curtis, are now sailing with Jessica Eastwell, while Curtis will compete with Katie Spithill and Angela Farrell.
In the Skud 18 class Daniel Fitzgibbon will be sailing in Miami with a new crew with three-time Wheelchair Basketball Paralympic medalist Liesl Tesch trying her hand at Paralympic class sailing.
Tesch, who has won two Silvers and a Bronze at the Paralympic Games is a keen sailor and is taking this opportunity to get a taste of another sport at an elite level. The pair got off to a great start together, winning a lead in regatta at the same venue last week.
'Last week’s win was a real positive for us as all of the top crews were racing,' said skipper Fitzgibbon. 'It was our first regatta together and the first time that Liesl had raced in an event like this so it couldn’t have gone any better.'
Fitzgibbon first came across Tesch in a television documentary following the Sailors with Disabilities crew as they prepared for the Rolex Sydney to Hobart and after chasing her down the pair hit the water aboard the Skud 18 and have been training almost full time since then.
'I’m having the time of my life on the water,' said Tesch. 'I first spoke with Dan on December 23rd last year, we went sailing on Boxing Day and the next thing here I am in Miami. Once I got my head into the game last week I had a ball and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, it was pouring down with rain in the last race and I was loving every minute of it.'
Three time Olympian Jessica Crisp will hit the water in the RS:X women’s class with the top six sailors in the world set to line up for racing in Miami.
Australia will have its largest concentration of crews in the Laser Radial class, with three sailors in the 59 strong fleet. The Australian Sailing Team’s Krystal Weir will be joined by ASDS members Gabrielle King and Ashley Stoddart with all three backing up from the 2011 Australian Laser Championship which finished in Sydney on January 4.
Stoddart then competed at the OAMPS Insurance Brokers Australian Youth Championship where she won selection in the Australian team to contest the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship to be held in Croatia in July.
Both Stoddart and King are back in action after being off the water for much of the last year due to illness or injury and will be keen to take on the best Laser Radial sailors in the world in Miami.
Brendan Casey, who qualified for the 2011 Australian Sailing Team following his 10th place finish at the 2010 Finn Gold Cup, will be racing in a very strong Finn fleet next week.
Casey missed out on a place in the medal race at Sail Melbourne by just one point and has been training hard in the US for the last few weeks prior to racing getting underway in Miami on Monday.
Racing in Miami runs through to Saturday January 29, when the final medal races will be held.