by Craig Heydon
At the 2011 Open European Championships in Helsinki, Finland Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page continue to lead the way in the 470 class after three days of racing. The reigning World Champions and world number ones finished the day with an eighth and a sixth to head into the finals series with a four point lead over the second placed Israeli team.
Australian 470 sailors Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page in Finland
'We had some really tough racing today,' said Belcher. 'We went out on time for a 12pm start and the conditions were quite variable with a dying breeze so the committee wasted no time to get us underway.
'We started really well in the race but as we approached the top mark the wind shifted 35 degrees to the left and caught out the majority of the contenders,' he said. 'We rounded the first mark around 17th and fought back to eighth in about three to five knots of breeze before the breeze totally died out.
'After an hour ashore, we were back out for the last qualifying race,' said Belcher. 'In very similar conditions to the morning race we managed a sixth, so are happy with where we are at, we?re at the front so we must be doing things right.
'It was a long day in tough conditions so happy to come away with not too many points and we?re looking forward to gold fleet racing tomorrow,' he said.
In the 49er fleet Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen finished the first day of gold fleet racing fourth overall, following a ninth and a 15th in the day's two races in the extremely light conditions.
The pair had a tough start to the opening race, finding themselves right at the back of the pack in the first five seconds after being rolled by fellow Australians Will and Sam Phillips on the start line.
Outteridge and Jensen fought back well to cross the line ninth with passing lanes difficult to find due to the super light winds and short legs.
In the second race of the day Outteridge and Jensen got off to a good start and were third in the opening stages before being forced to tack by their British competition and eventually rounding the top mark almost last. Outteridge and Jensen fought their way back to 15th in a strong finish where the passing options were almost non-existent.
Fellow Australians Will and Sam Phillips ended the day 15th overall following a 21st and a ninth in the gold fleet.
Steven Thomas and Nick Brownie are 18th overall picking up a 23rd and a 14th in the day?s two races.
In the 470 fleet Sam Kivell and Will Ryan are 18th with a 22nd and a final race third on Monday.
Sydney based brothers Alexander and Patrick Conway are 54th, just ahead of fellow Australians Max Taylor and Tim Hannah who are 58th.
Australia Sailing Team website