by Craig Heydon
Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta opening day produced light winds which tested the crews. Australia’s Paralympic sailors were standout performers in Weymouth, with the Australian Sailing Team’s three Skud 18 Paralympic crews were on the top of their game on day one of racing.
Belcher and Page in Weymouth - Skandia Sail for Gold 2011
Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch ended the day in first place just ahead of Jamie Dunross and Rachael Cox. Ame Barnbrook and Lindsay Mason are in fourth place.
Fitzgibbon and Tesch picked up where they left off at the last ISAF Sailing World Cup round they competed at in Miami in January, with a first and a second in Monday’s two races giving them a three point lead over their fellow Australians.
'Today started out with plenty of delays but eventually we got out there and had a very good day,' said Fitzgibbon. 'We were actually leading the first race but got rolled right on the line and finished up second, it was another Aussie which got us which wasn’t too bad and then we managed to get the win in race two.
'Our biggest competition at this stage is from the other Australian crews which is really good for us, it’s making us better in our racing and is awesome for Australian Paralympic sailing,' he said.
Fitzgibbon and Tesch are only competing in their second World Cup regatta together and are well aware of the challenges ahead of them to qualify for the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
'It’s going to be very tough to get the Australian spot for the 2012 Paralympic Games so every race out there is incredibly important for our training and preparation,' said Tesch, who has won three Paralympic Games medals in Wheelchair Basketball.
Fellow Australians Jamie Dunross and Rachael Cox had two strong races in their first ever international regatta together, finishing with a fourth and a second.
Dunross, who won Gold at the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games, and Cox, won Silver at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, have only recently teamed up, getting in as much training as possible in Perth before making the trip to Weymouth.
Ame Barnbrook and Lindsay Mason are currently in fourth overall, after a win in race one and an eighth in race two.
Australia’s Sonar crew of Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Rod Angwin had a great opening day with a second and a first giving them the lead on a count back from their American competitors.
The West Australian trio has been training heavily at home in their first international regatta since the same event last year.
The Australian Women’s Match Racing Team crew of Nicky Souter, Jessica Eastwell and Lucinda Whitty ended day one with two wins and a loss, with their races taking place in the shifty conditions earlier in the day.
'We had a good, but long, day as we hit the water at 11am and didn’t get back till 5pm, quite a long time for three 15 minute races,' said Souter. 'Due to the seedings in Match Racing we raced the three lower ranked teams today so we’ve got four of the higher ranked teams tomorrow which will provide a little bit stronger competition which will certainly push us further.'
Fellow Australian’s Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Rayshele Martin had a tough day on the water with four losses from their opening four races.
The Laser fleet only managed one race late in the day with three-time World Champion Tom Slingsby finishing fourth. Slingsby fought back well late in the race after rounding the top mark in 22nd position, while fellow Australian Sailing Team member Tom Burton was ninth.
Australian Sailing Squad member James Burman is ninth, Ryan Palk is 49th, Ki-Raphael Sulkowski is 79th, ahead of Mark Whittington in 101st and Jared West in 105th.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page are 15th in the 470 fleet after an opening race 17th and then a race win in the highly competitive fleet.
'It was an interesting day as there were plenty of first day nerves from a lot of teams which made the racing very intense,' said Belcher. 'We sailed ok, we’re trying a few different things here and got into a good position in race one but lost out a bit due to a few incidents, we managed to get our act together and won the last one and are looking forward to going racing again tomorrow.'
Fellow Australians Sam Kivell and Will Ryan ended day one in 35th following a 13th and a 23rd, while brothers Alexander and Patrick Conway are 59th.
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen are 14th in the 49ers with a 17th, fifth and a sixth in the opening three races.
'It was a pretty tough day as we were the first group to go out and had two races in pretty light and variable conditions,' said Outteridge. 'After that we came back in and had four hours on the shore before going back out and having a race tonight where we picked up a sixth, it wasn’t a terrible first day but something to build on for the rest of the event.'
The 2009 World Champions are just five points off sixth position with five days of racing left.
Fellow 49er sailors Will and Sam Phillips are 18th, ahead of Steven Thomas and Nick Brownie in 23rd and Tom Johnson and Rhys Mara in 27th.
Brendan Casey is 12th in the Finn class after just one race was possible on day one.
In the Laser Radial fleet 2008 Beijing Olympic Games representative Krystal Weir is 17th overall following an opening race ninth, with Gabrielle King 41st, Ashley Stoddart 45th and Caitlin Elks is 57th.
Jessica Crisp is the best placed Australian in the RS:X women’s class in 15th after an eighth and a seventh, ahead of Allison Shreeve in 45th and Joanna Sterling in 53rd.
Matt Bugg is 12th in the 2.4mR Paralympic class finishing with a seventh and an 18th in the opening two races.
In the RS:X men’s class Tim Gourlay is the top Aussie in 51st, with Patrick Vos 67th, Luke Baillie 81st, followed by Jimmy Levy.
Oliver Tweddell is 26th in the Finn fleet, while Rob McMillan and Tim Castles are 47th and 48th respectively, and Shaun Wells is 54th.
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