by Craig Heydon
Australian sailors lead the way in two classes after the opening two days of racing at the 2012 Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta in Weymouth, England.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page, (AUS) racing in the 470 Men class on the day 2 of the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, in Weymouth and Portland.
Crews were greeted with stronger winds on Tuesday but rain and cold temperatures made the going tough for the final regatta in Weymouth before the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
On day two Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page extended their lead in the 470 men’s class while in the Laser fleet it’s an Australian one-two, with Tom Burton leading and Tom Slingsby second. Belcher and Page took a three point lead into Tuesday with the pair picking up a second and a fourth from the day’s two races to open up a seven point lead over the second placed New Zealand crew.
The Australians, who will be out to defend Page’s Olympic gold medal at London 2012, are on a great run at the moment, having won their last six regattas, including the 2011 and 2012 470 World Championships. 'Today was another good day for us,' said Belcher. 'We were faced with some tough conditions today, it just didn't stop raining all day. The wind was quite good ranging from 12 to 18 knots throughout.
'We probably didn't have the best grasp of the conditions and found ourselves working hard early on in both races,' he said. 'We rounded around 13th or 14th at the top mark in each race so to come away with a two and a four we must have sailed quite well, it was one of those days. 'Mal and I are looking forward to tomorrow’s races with a little more wind expected,' he said.
It was a long day on the water for the Laser class with three races held to get back on schedule after the light conditions on Monday. At the end of the day it was two Australians who came out on top on the leader board with Tom Burton hitting the lead and Tom Slingsby close behind in second. Burton finished with a second, a first and a third to take the regatta lead with Slingsby four points behind following a first, a third and a fifth.
'Today was a hard day with it being very cold, pretty wavy and with lots of rain,' said Burton. 'With all the rain it was hard to see the marks but any day that you end up with good results turns into a good one in the end. 'Leading the event after the first four races is a good feeling,' said.
'Although the thing I need to work on the most is minimising the points I put on the board after I get into good positions. At the Worlds I followed up some good days with a really bad day so at the moment I know I can sail well enough to win. I just need to be a little more consistent and turn my bad races into reasonable ones.
'That’s what separates me at the moment from being able to be in contention to win the regatta at the end of the week, so that’s the plan for tomorrow,' he said.
Slingsby said that he’s in a good position at this stage but that the day could have been even better. 'It was a little frustrating today, I was very fast but not too smart,' he said. 'Race one was really good and then in race two I was doing well but couldn’t find the top mark in the pouring rain and overlayed by hundreds of metres, sailing well to get back to third.
'In race three I was doing well and accidently fouled the Swedish sailor when ducking on port,' he said. 'I lost a lot of ground doing my turns and ended up fifth, I’m in a good position heading into tomorrow.'
As the Women’s Match Racing round robin continues the Australian team of Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty sit third overall on a count back with eight wins and two losses. The Australian trio contested four races on Tuesday, finishing with two wins and two losses, and have two races remaining to book themselves a spot in the quarter-finals. '
Today was a mixed day for us results wise but another solid day in terms of our system and team,' said Price. 'The conditions were cold on the coach boat in between races, but when we were racing, it was fun with the swell and wind big enough to get some pretty nice rides downwind!'
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen have moved into second overall in the 49er fleet following a consistent day on the water. The current World Champions were seventh overnight and started their day in the best way, winning the opening race.
Outteridge and Jensen were sixth in the next race after capsizing whilst leading, before rounding their day out with a second to move within seven points of the leading British crew.
Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell are sixth overall in the 470 women’s fleet with the West Australian pair finishing 18th and 15th in the day’s two races.
In the Skud 18 class Australian Paralympic Team members Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch are third overall, tied on points with second and four behind the leading British crew. The Skud 18 fleet completed three races in the pouring rain on Portland Harbour with Fitzgibbon and Tesch beginning their day with a fourth, before improving with a pair of seconds to round out the day.
Australia’s Sonar crew of Colin Harrison, Stephen Churm and Jonathan Harris remain fourth overall after another three races were completed on Tuesday.
The Australians, competing in just their third international regatta together, won the opening race of the day, before finishing in fifth and eighth from the next two to be just a point off the silver medal position.
Matt Bugg continues to hold down 15th in the 2.4mR class, finishing 13th in both of the races on day two.
Krystal Weir is the leading Australian in the Laser Radial fleet, ending day two 15th overall following a pair of eighth place finishes. Fellow Australian Alexandra South is 28th, with Ashley Stoddart 53rd and Caitlin Elks 59th.
In the RS:X women’s class Jessica Crisp is 15th after the opening four races. The triple-Olympian was 16th in race one before not finishing race two due to equipment failure. Fellow Australian Joanna Sterling is 36th.
Brendan Casey has moved up from his overnight 36th to be 25th overall in the Finn class following another three races. The Gold Coast based sailor who will compete at his first Olympic Games this year was 14th in the first race of the day, before a 10th and a 29th from the next two, with gear failure costing valuable places in two races.
In the 470 men’s fleet Sam Kivell and Will Ryan ended day two in 12th overall. The pair finished the opening race in 10th, improving a position in race two with a ninth to be six points outside the top 10. Fellow Australians Matthew and Robert Crawford are 36th.
Luke Parkinson and Jaspar Warren are 25th in the 49er fleet after the West Australians were 14th, sixth and ninth in the three races held on Weymouth Bay.
Ryan Palk is 38th in the Laser class, ahead of Jake Lilley in 51st, Ki-Raphael Sulkowski in 59th and Jared West in 79th.
In the RS:X men’s class Queenslander Luke Baillie is 45th overall.
Full results here
Australian Sailing Team here