by Craig Heydon
Sailing World Cup Miami - New crewmates Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch have picked up Australia’s first medal at the 2011 Rolex Miami OCR, the second round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup, after winning Gold in the Skud 18 class.
Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch won Gold on the water at Miami OCR 2011
Fitzgibbon and Tesch, who only sailed for the first time together in Sydney on Boxing Day 2010 led the Skud 18 fleet from start to finish to eventually win by six points from Americans Scott Whitman and Julia Dorsett.
Fitzgibbon, who won Silver at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, and Tesch, a three-time Paralympic Games Wheelchair Basketball medalist, teamed up after Fitzgibbon tracked Tesch down after seeing her on an SBS documentary following the 2009 Rolex Sydney to Hobart. Tesch was keen to gain experience in another elite sport and the pair have had instant success.
'We’re pretty happy with the final result, to win our first major regatta together is awesome,' said Fitzgibbon. 'We’ve come a long way in a very short space of time, seeing as we only sailed together for the first time just over a month ago.'
Even though they led the regatta from start to finish the pair didn’t have it all their own way and had to push right through to the final race for the win.
'We had two good wins to start off the day and then consolidated it well to bring home the Gold medal,' said Fitzgibbon. 'We were up against some really good teams and it was great to show a bit of dominance early on and get them thinking about us.'
Tesch was thrilled with the result in a sport that she has only begun competing at an elite level in and still testing the waters with.
'I’m over the moon with the win, it’s unreal, and I’m having a great time on the water' said Tesch. 'Sailing is totally different to other sports I’ve been involved in but at the same time there are so many similarities; sport vision, awareness and the psychology of sport, they all overlap.'
While Fitzgibbon and Tesch already have medals around their necks the remainder of the fleets will contest their medal races on Saturday with Australian crews lining up in four classes.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page remain in third position in the 470 men’s fleet but with double points on offer in the shorter medal race the Australian pair is in contention to bring home the Gold medal.
After nine races Belcher and Page finished on 43 points with a second, third and 18th on the penultimate day and are just four points behind Nic Asher and Elliot Willis of Great Britain in second with Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell, also of Great Britain, three points further ahead in the lead.
The reigning 470 World Champions and 2010 ISAF Sailing World Cup Champions are chasing down their fifth straight ISAF Sailing World Cup medal following two Silvers and two Golds at the last four events, and back-to-back Rolex Miami OCR medals after winning Silver in 2010.
The Australian pair has still never finished outside the top six since teaming up just over two years ago.
Brendan Casey heads into the Finn medal race in fourth position, behind three sailors from Great Britain, and is 10 points behind Ben Ainslie of Great Britain.
Casey has had a strong week, picking up a race win and finishing in the top four in six of the nine races, in an incredibly close and competitive fleet.
Jessica Crisp heads into the RS:X medal race in fifth position following a sixth and a fourth in the two races on Friday and is only five points of the Bronze medal position.
Crisp has sailed well in the variable conditions served up in Miami during the week and has been in top 10 in every race, including three top three finishes.
Racing has been close all regatta with the top six RS:X sailors in the world lining up for the second round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Miami.
Krystal Weir took the 10th and final position in the Laser Radial medal race, after an 11th, sixth and 21st in Friday’s three races.
Fellow Australian Gabrielle King is in 19th with Queensland sailor Ashley Stoddart 27th.
In the men’s 470 fleet Australian Sailing Development Squad crew Sam Kivell and Will Ryan are in 14th position with a 19th, 18th and 17th place finish on Biscayne Bay on Friday.
The Australian Women’s Match Racing Team crew of Nicky Souter, Jessica Eastwell and Olivia Price finished the regatta in eighth position. The Australians lost their quarter-final against Claire Leroy three wins to two in a close battle, with Leroy going on to win her way through to Saturday’s final.
Fellow Australians Katie Spithill, Nina Curtis and Angela Farrell finished the regatta in 17th position with both Australian crews taking part in their first World Cup event since changing crews in late 2010.
For full results visit http://rmocr.ussailing.org/2011/Results.htm