by Craig Heydon
The 2012 Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta is now underway and the Australian sailors are off to a winning start in Weymouth, England, as light conditions made for an exceptionally long day.
Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch,(AUS) racing in the Skud class on the day 1 of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta
The ISAF Sailing World Cup round is the last hit out in Weymouth before the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games with four Australian crews beginning their final run to the Games in style with race wins.
On the day they were named to make their Olympic Games debut Australia’s Women’s Match Racing crew of Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty began their regatta in perfect style with six wins from six starts.
Price and crew sailed exceptionally well in the light and tricky conditions with the Australians scoring wins against a number of higher ranked crews, including reigning World Champion, American Anna Tunnicliffe.
'We had a solid first day in tricky conditions,' said Price. 'The racing was close and a lot of fun in the Nothe Course. All of our races were tight with the conditions forcing us to make decisions all around the racetrack and we’re looking forward to more racing tomorrow with hopefully some more breeze.'
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page continued their great form from the recent 2012 470 World Championship, winning the opening two 470 men’s races.
The pair has won their last six regattas, including two World Championships, with the two race wins on Monday the perfect start as they look for that elusive overall victory in Weymouth.
'After being sent out early on for an 11am start we got away on time in quite marginal conditions,' said Belcher.
'The wind was very unstable with big shifts and large velocity changes. We just kept our cool and played the cards we had. We saw a small opportunity on the last downwind to catch the leaders after being in fourth at the last top mark and managed to take the win.
'We then waited two hours until the committee decided enough was enough and sent us back ashore to join the other classes,' he said. 'Unluckily for us we only spent 15 to 20 minutes ashore before being sent back out. The wind was much more stable and we sailed a nice race leading from start to finish. We’re in good shape, obviously coming from our win at the Worlds, so we’re just enjoying our performances on the water and trying to improve each day.'
Fellow Australians Sam Kivell and Will Ryan also sailed well in the light conditions with the pair seventh overall following a sixth and a third with brothers Matthew and Robert Crawford 33rd.
Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell kicked off their first regatta in Weymouth together in style with an opening race win in the 470 women.
Rechichi and Stowell finished fourth in race two to end the day second overall, tied on points with new World Champions Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark of Great Britain.
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen are seventh overall after the opening three 49er races, 10 points behind the leading British crew.
The current World Champions were fifth in the opening race on Monday morning before being sent back to shore as the breeze died out.
After a long delay the fleet returned to the water with Outteridge and Jensen rounding out day one with a second and an eighth, with their final race not finishing until almost 8pm. West Australians Luke Parkinson and Jaspar Warren sit in 28th position.
The Laser fleet only managed to complete one race late in the day with Tom Burton the leading Australian in fifth overall. One place further behind is five-time World Champion Tom Slingsby with the pair finishing third and fourth respectively in the opening race.
Ryan Palk is the next best placed Australian in 43rd, ahead of Jake Lilley in 75th, Ki-Raphael Sulkowski in 87th and Jared West in 93rd.
Jessica Crisp started her regatta in perfect fashion with an opening race win in the RS:X women’s fleet. The triple-Olympian was 12th in race two to be fifth overall. Fellow Australian Joanna Sterling finished the day in 33rd.
The Skud 18 fleet completed just one race early in the day with Australians Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch crossing the line second to be in the same position overall.
20120604 Copyright onEdition 2012© Free for editorial use image, please credit: onEdition Jessica Crisp, (AUS) racing in the RSX Womens class on the day 1 of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, in Weymouth and Portland, the 2012 Olympic venue. The regatta runs from 4 - 11 June 2012, bringing together the world's top Olympic and Paralympic class sailors. 2012 marks the seventh edition of Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta. The inaugural event was held in 2006 when 264 boats from 22 nations competed
'Today was good result for our first day of racing in very light breeze,' said Tesch. 'Whilst we were happy with our downwind performance, we still have loads of room to improve.'
It was a similar story for the Sonar class with just the single race held inside Portland Harbour. Colin Harrison, Stephen Churm and Jonathan Harris were fourth in their first race in Weymouth together as they continue to prepare for the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
'We made a good start but unfortunately missed the first shift which left us chasing some pressure out to the left side of the course,' said Harrison. 'This brought us back to the leaders and over the next few legs we consolidated our third place and closed in on the French in second. The breeze dropped out in the final run to the finish line and we briefly had the lead but some pressure from the other side of the course brought the lead pack over us in the final 50 metres.'
The 2.4mR fleet were able to complete two races later in the day with Tasmanian sailor Matt Bugg currently sitting 15th overall. Bugg was 10th in the opening race before finishing 20th in race two.
The Laser Radial fleet was able to complete two races late in the day with Krystal Weir the leading Australian in 20th.
Weir was 15th in race one and eighth in race two, having been named to compete at her second Olympic Games earlier in the day. Alexandra South is 35th overall, ahead of Caitlin Elks in 59th and Ashley Stoddart in 66th.
Brendan Casey finished the day’s one and only Finn race in 36th to be in the same position overall.
In the RS:X men’s class Queenslander Luke Baillie is 50th following a 55th and a 45th.
Austrailan Sailing Team website
Sail for Gold website