by Craig Heydon
Australian sailors are preparing for a final hit out in Weymouth, ahead of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Sail for Gold Regatta is the penultimate round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup and begins on Monday.
Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch (AUS) in SKUD-18 - Miami OCR 2012
Australia has had great success in Weymouth in recent years and a strong contingent have again made the trip to England with 27 crews competing in 12 classes.
The Australian Sailing Team has had an incredibly successful last month with Laser sailor Tom Slingsby, 49er crew Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, and 470 pair Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page all defending their World Championship titles.
Slingsby’s win at the 2012 Laser World Championship was his fifth in six years, and third straight, and the world number one heads into the Sail for Gold regatta with the added confidence of knowing that he’s never been beaten in Weymouth.
'This regatta is important but for me I’m just really concentrating on learning as much as I can more than focusing on the result,' said Slingsby. 'Hopefully we get a few different conditions so there are no surprises come the Olympics. 'I’m more focused on the bigger picture, the Olympics, but to win here for a fifth straight time would be nice for the confidence,' he said.
'After the worlds in Germany I have had some forced rest to recover from an ankle injury. It’s a tricky injury because it’s kept me out of the boat and off the bike so my cardio fitness is lacking a bit leading into this regatta. I’ve had a few days in the boat here but am a bit behind the eight ball in regards to fitness for this event, I’m looking forward to the final hit out on the Olympic waters.'
Slingsby will be joined in the Laser fleet by Tom Burton who was fifth at the 2012 Laser World Championship, Jared West, Ryan Palk, Jake Lilley, Luke Elliott and Ki-Raphael Sulkowski.
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen also head into the event having won four straight events in Weymouth. The pair recently won the 2012 49er World Championship, their third together and Outteridge’s fourth, making him the first sailor to reach the milestone in the class.
Racing alongside Outteridge and Jensen in the 49er class are West Australians Luke Parkinson and Jaspar Warren.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page’s 2012 470 World Championship win made it three straight for the Australians as they continue their strong buildup to the London 2012 Olympic Games. The pair has yet to stand on the top step of the podium in Weymouth, winning three silver medals from four events, but head into the event as the stand out performers in the class, winning their last six regattas, including two World Championships.
'Our form coming into this event has been great,' said Belcher. 'We’re really happy with where we’re at and from now to the Games we’re just trying to continue to improve our performances. 'Winning the 2012 worlds in Barcelona was a great reward for our performances over the year,' he said. 'It was a special moment for us, being the first team to win three men’s titles in a row. But in saying that our competition are working extra hard because of this, but our approach is simple, we are continuing to work on our performance and focusing on making ourselves better. 'It’s important for us to be here at Sail for Gold, everyone is here to gain valuable experience on the Olympic course and we just want to get familiar with the conditions and try and get comfortable with the surroundings,' he said.
Australia will have three crews in the 470 men’s fleet at the event with Sam Kivell and Will Ryan, and Matthew and Robert Crawford also lining up against the world’s best.
In the Skud 18 class Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch will be out to make it back-to-back golds in Weymouth.
The pair recently won round four of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Hyeres, France, as they continue their preparations for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Krystal Weir heads into this week’s regatta off the back of her first ever ISAF Sailing World Cup win, taking out the Laser Radial class at the Delta Lloyd Holland Regatta last week.
Weir will be joined in the Laser Radial fleet by fellow Australians Alexandra South, Ashley Stoddart and Caitlin Elks.
Jessica Crisp also had success in Holland, winning silver in the RS:X women’s class. Crisp will race in her fourth straight Olympic Games this August, the most of any current member of the Australian Sailing Team. Racing alongside Crisp at the Sail for Gold regatta will be Queenslander Joanna Sterling.
In the 470 women’s class Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell will race together for the first time in Weymouth this week.
Australia will be represented in the Finn class by Brendan Casey. Casey heads into the event off the back of a win at the ISAF Sailing World Cup round in France and a 13th at the recent Finn Gold Cup in Falmouth, England.
Australia’s Sonar Crew of Colin Harrison, Stephen Churm and Jonathan Harris won bronze last week in Holland and will race in Weymouth together for the first time. The trio is progressing well as they continue towards the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Fellow Paralympian Matt Bugg is racing in the 2.4mR class, having competed at the last two Sail for Gold Regattas. Luke Baillie will compete for Australia in the RS:X men’s class at the event.
Racing begins on Monday 4 June and continues until Saturday 9 June.
Australian Sailing Team website