In only five days’ time, Melbourne will welcome the Olympic sailing world for the first ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta of the 2012-2013 series. The 49erFX will be seen on the world stage for the first time at a major international regatta and with seven entries, five from Australia, one from Norway and one from New Zealand, it marks the start of the road to Rio.
The 49erFX is already established in 21 countries, and has been confirmed for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics
Australia’s Haylee Outteridge is arguably one of the most experienced female skiff sailors in the fleet having sailed the 29er for many years. And with a 49er Olympic gold medallist brother, Nathan, she knows how hard the journey can be.
'Nathan is a great role model to have,' said Outteridge, 'and one day I would love to bring a gold medal home as well. I see how much hard work he and Goobs [Iain Jensen] put in and know it’s not going to come easily. It’s still such a long way off for me, at the moment I’m just enjoying sailing the FX and learning as much as I can.'
Outteridge will team up with former Laser Radial sailor Alison Dale for ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne but she has no shortage of 49erFX training, 'So far I have just been sailing with a number of different people at home on Lake Macquarie. It’s been fun and challenging, though I’m really looking forward to some proper racing against other girls. I think these early regattas will really help identify what our priorities are in these early stages of the campaign and where to set our focus.'
There is no lack of Australian female sailing experience in the fleet as Beijing 2008 470 Olympic gold medallist Tessa Parkinson teams up with Kate Lathouras and London 2012 Women’s Match Racing silver medallist Olivia Price makes the transition from keelboat to skiff. Further Australian partnerships include Anna Kendall and Michelle Muller and Ella Giudice and Caitlin Elks.
Joining the fleet will be Norwegian twin sisters Ragna and Maia Agerup who finished 14th in the 29er at the Four Star Pizza ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship in Dublin, Ireland in July. At just 17 the duo will be looking to gain valuable experience.
'We are looking forward to competing in the FX in Melbourne because we have never competed in a World Cup before and we look forward to competing against other very good sailors,' said Maia.
The pair are the only FX sailors in Norway whilst Australia boast five teams competing at Melbourne so for the twins there will be much to learn. Maia added, 'It has been a little tricky at first because we are just getting used to the boat and there is not a correct answer on how to set the tension or trim. These are all things we have to figure out for ourselves.'
New Zealand’s Alexandra Maloney, 2009 420 World Champion and 2010 ISAF Youth Worlds silver medallist, and Molly Meech, two time ISAF Youth World Laser Radial sailor, round off the fleet.
The 49er fleet will feature 10 boats and includes 2011 runners up and brothers Sam and Will Phillips. However for the 2012 regatta the brothers have split up with Sam set to sail with Samuel Kivell and Will with Nick Brownie.
London 2012 Olympian and 2011-2012 ISAF Sailing World Cup Finn runner up, Brendan Casey (AUS) will be one of the favourites for gold in the Finn class. The Australian has had a memorable year which included a regatta victory in Hyeres, France to pick up the Australian Olympic Finn spot. He will step back into the Finn looking to get off to a flying start. Young Finn sailor Oliver Tweddell, ranked world number 42, will be aiming to take the Australian Finn top spot so Casey will have his work cut out whilst Rob Coutts (NZL) could pose a threat in the fleet.
There are also five combined Men’s and Women’s RS:X entries as well as strong Laser, Laser Radial and Men’s and Women’s 470 fleets. In addition to the Olympic classes on show in Melbourne there are healthy fleets in invited classes from Optimists, OK Dinghies, the Viper multihull and Kiteboarding.
Sail Melbourne website
ISAF Sailing World Cup website