by Craig Heydon
On the fifth day of the Sail for Gold Regatta in Weymouth and Portland, strong winds forced the cancelation of racing. After conditions made the going tough for competitors on Thursday, the breeze continued to build overnight, with gusts above 50 knots recorded on Weymouth Bay. At 2.30pm on Friday afternoon, the conditions had still not abated, forcing organisers to cancel racing for the day.
The morning of day 5 of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, in Weymouth and Portland, the 2012 Olympic venue.
The cancelation means that the Olympic classes will head into Saturday’s 10-boat medal races, with Australians to compete in five classes, while the regatta has come to an end for the three Paralympic classes.
Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch won Australia’s first medal of the week, continuing their run of podium finishes with a bronze medal in the Skud 18 class. The pair, who will represent Australia at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, finished in the top three in four of the six races to be three points off the silver medal and a further five behind the gold medal winning British crew.
Fitzgibbon and Tesch will remain in Weymouth for some training as they continue their campaign towards the Paralympic Games.
Australian sailors will be in action in five classes on Saturday, heading into three medal races in first position.
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen will take an eight point lead into the 49er medal race, with France’s Emmanuel Dyen and Stephane Christidis currently second. Outteridge and Jensen, who last month won their third 49er World Championship title together, have finished in the top eight in all 10 races this week. A gold medal on Saturday will mean they will head into London 2012 undefeated in Weymouth.
Another Australian out to make it five from five at the Olympic venue is Laser sailor Tom Slingsby.
Slingsby, a five-time World Champion, is five points clear of Germany’s Philipp Buhl with the Australian finishing in the top seven in every race this regatta. Slingsby will be joined in the medal race by fellow Australian Tom Burton who is fourth overall, currently just two points off the podium and just a further six away from the silver medal.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page will be out to win their first regatta in Weymouth in the 470 men’s fleet, taking a three point lead into the medal race. The Australians, who have won the last three 470 World Championships together, lead the British crew of Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell with New Zealand’s Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders five points further back in third.
Australia’s Women’s Match Racers, Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty will head into the quarter finals, which have been shortened to a best of three races to allow the full schedule of finals to be completed on the last day. The Australian trio has had a good week on the water in Weymouth, following the announcement on Monday that they’ll make their Olympic debut this year.
Krystal Weir will contest the Laser Radial medal race, heading into the final 10-boat race in seventh position. Weir has worked her way up the ladder on each day of the event, currently sitting 11 points off fourth.
The strong winds have brought an early end to the event for those sailors outside of the top 10 in the Olympic classes.
Sam Kivell and Will Ryan narrowly missed out on a spot in the 470 men’s medal race, finishing in 11th, tied on points with ninth and 10th. Matthew and Robert Crawford were 13th in the silver fleet.
In the Sonar class Colin Harrison, Stephen Churm and Jonathan Harris finished up fifth overall.
Matt Bugg ended his week 13th in the 2.4mR class with the Tasmanian to make his Paralympic Games debut at London 2012.
Brendan Casey finished up 14th in the Finn fleet, while Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell were 13th in the 470 women’s class.
Jessica Crisp was 14th in the RS:X women’s, with fellow Australian Joanna Sterling 36th.
In the Laser fleet Ryan Palk was 32nd while in the silver fleet Ki-Raphael Sulkowski was ninth, Jared West 13th and Jake Lilley 18th.
Alexandra South finished the week 34th in the Laser Radials, with Ashley Stoddart and Caitlin Elks 13th and 23rd in the silver fleet respectively.
Luke Baillie was 40th in the RS:X men’s class.
Sail for Gold website
Australian Sailing Team website