by Craig Heydon
On day 4 of the 2012 Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta in Weymouth, England strong winds, heavy rain and big seas limited the racing.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page on day four - Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta 2012
The forecast for Thursday was never promising and it played out as expected with the breeze continuing to build and heavy seas testing all of the crews. Following four days of racing three Australian crews now sit at the top of their respective classes with Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page retaking the 470 lead, Tom Slingsby in front in the Laser class for the first time this week while Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen extended their lead in the 49ers.
Belcher and Page went into the first day of finals racing tied on points for the lead in the 470 class but second on a count back to the New Zealand crew. The Australians, who are out to defend Page’s 2008 gold medal next month, won the opening finals race and placed third in race two to retake the overall lead and head into the last two fleet races with a three point lead over British pair Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell.
'It was a good first day of finals, you could certainly feel the intensity on the water that comes with racing against all of the top crews,' said Belcher.'It was great to race against a number of crews for the first time this week and get an idea of where we’re at overall. 'We’re enjoying the conditions this week as we continue to build our knowledge heading into the Games, the results were never key this week but it’s always nice to be out in front,' he said.
Tom Slingsby went into the first day of finals racing fourth overall in the Laser class with the five-time World Champion excelling in the tough conditions to finish with a fourth and a first to hit the lead, five points ahead of German sailor Philipp Buhl.
'Today was a good day with a fourth and a first, I sailed really well today,' said Slingsby. 'In race one I had a good start and rounded in the top few boats, I lost a lot down the first run though and after that sailed really well to get back to fourth.
'For race two I started well and got out to a good lead and was able to hold on all the way to the finish,' he said. 'Going into tomorrow I have a small lead, but in this regatta you're not going to win it before the medal race. So I’ll try to extend by a couple of points tomorrow to make it a little more comfortable heading into Saturday's medal race.'
Fellow Australian Tom Burton went into the day first overall but had mixed results with a 33rd in race one followed by a 14th in race two. Burton is now fourth overall, just two points off the podium.
Australia’s 49er Olympic representatives, Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, had a short but productive day on the water. The 49er gold fleet completed one race in Portland Harbour with Outteridge and Jensen picking up a convincing win, their third straight and fourth overall of the regatta.
The result has seen the pair open up an eight point lead over the second placed French crew of Emmanuel Dyen and Stephane Christidis. 'We had a good day today,' said Outteridge. 'Due to the conditions we only got one race in, but we made the most of it by winning and moving a few points ahead. We're looking forward to more finals racing tomorrow if the weather permits.'
Krystal Weir has moved into seventh overall in the Laser Radial fleet following the first two races in the finals series, finishing the day with a sixth and a fifth to move up from her overnight 11th.
'Conditions were pretty hectic today with big waves that were a lot of fun,' said Weir. 'For me it was another good day on the water with a sixth and a fifth.'
Fellow Australian Alex South is 34th while the silver fleet did not get any races in with Ashley Stoddart 16th and Caitlin Elks 24th. T
he Women’s Match Racing competition finished off the gold round robin on Thursday with Australians Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty qualifying fourth for the quarter-finals. The Australian trio will race against Great Britain’s Lucy Macgregor in Friday’s first to three race wins quarter-final.
In the 470 women’s class Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell are currently 13th overall after the opening eight races. The pair finished 17th in race one of the day and 16th in race two.
Sam Kivell and Will Ryan had two good races in the 470 men, finishing with an eighth and a seventh. The results have moved the pair into 11th overall, up from their overnight 15th, tied on points with 10th and ninth.
Brothers Matthew and Robert Crawford are 13th in the silver fleet. The Finn class completed one race inside Portland Harbour with Brendan Casey finishing ninth to be 14th overall.
It was the same story for the RS:X women with just the one race possible with Jessica Crisp crossing the line 18th to be 14th overall, with fellow Australian Joanna Sterling 36th.
Ryan Palk is now 32nd in the Laser class with the Queensland sailor finishing with a 34th and a 12th on Thursday, while fellow Laser sailors Ki-Raphael Sulkwoski, Jared West and Jake Lilley are in the silver fleet and were all kept ashore due to the conditions.
In the RS:X men’s class Luke Baillie is currently in 40th position. The conditions kept the three Paralympic classes on shore all day, with Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch currently third in the Skud 18, Colin Harrison, Stephen Churm and Jonathan Harris fifth in the Sonar and Matt Bugg 13th in the 2.4mR.
More strong conditions are predicted for Friday ahead of the medal races on Saturday 9 June.
Full results can be found at www.skandiasailforgoldregatta.co.uk/results/index12.html
Australian Sailing Team website