by Craig Heydon
After the penultimate day of racing at the 43rd Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mapfre regatta in Palma, Aussie sailors are prepared for the final day showdown in the medal hunt for five classes.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page racing in Palma - Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mapfre Regatta 2012
Heading into the final, double points, medal race 470 men’s crew Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page, Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell in the 470 women, Laser sailor Tom Burton and Laser Radial competitor Krystal Weir are all in a position to win medals while Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty will race for Bronze in the Women’s Match Racing competition.
After three days of light conditions the breeze finally blew in Palma with 15 knots a test for crews who had spent the previous days and weeks racing and training in single-digit conditions.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page were the standout performers with a pair of wins giving them a 14 point lead over Israel’s Gideon Kliger and Eran Sela with just one race remaining.
The Australians have a 26 point gap to third position, guaranteeing them at least a Silver medal on Saturday.
'We had a really good day’s racing, it was great to finally stretch the legs with the breeze up to 15 knots but it felt like 25 after the last few weeks,' said Belcher. 'We managed to get good starts in both races and were a bit lucky with the wind shifts but managed to get ourselves into good positions and maintain the lead from there.
'The top 25 crews in the world are all here so it’s been good to check in and see where we’re at,' he said. 'For the last three years this has been our worst regatta of the year as it’s taken us a bit of time to settle into racing again in Europe so it’s fantastic to be able to do that quicker and get right into the swing of things.'
Joining Belcher and Page in the medal race will be fellow Australians Sam Kivell and Will Ryan who are currently placed sixth overall. A podium finish is just out of reach for Kivell and Ryan but they will take a lot from their strong start to the European season.
Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell head into the 470 women’s medal race third overall, just three points behind the leading Japanese crew and a point off the second placed Italians.
Rechichi and Stowell finished with a 16th and a 20th on Friday with all of the leading crews having mixed results in the stronger conditions.
'It was a tough day’s racing and we lost quite a lot of points,' said Stowell. 'We had all the ingredients there but unfortunately just couldn’t put it all together.
'Saying that we actually came out of the day better than expected and are still well and truly in with a chance tomorrow,' she said. 'It’s been good to learn those lessons here and we’re looking forward to going out and testing ourselves again tomorrow.'
Tom Burton heads into the Laser medal race in third position, with 12 points to make up to take the Silver medal from Great Britain’s Paul Goodison.
43 Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia - Burton
Burton started the day with a slender lead at the head of the fleet, crossing the line in the two races in 20th and 11th.
Fellow Australian Tom Slingsby has finished the regatta in 13th; following a 25th and a black flag in the final two fleet races. The result means that for the first time in almost three years Slingsby is off the podium but the result is sure to spur him on for the next round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in France in two weeks’ time.
Ryan Palk finished in 40th, ahead of Jared West in 42nd and Ashley Brunning in 45th.
In the Laser Radial fleet Krystal Weir heads into the medal race fourth overall, after another two strong races where she finished ninth and third.
Weir is 14 points behind third, current World Champion Marit Bouwmeester of the Netherlands, and just a point ahead of the fifth placed Lithuanian sailor, with West Australian Caitlin Elks finishing the week 43rd.
Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty came up against reigning World Champion, Anna Tunnicliffe of the United States, in the Women’s Match Racing semi-final.
The Australian trio pushed Tunnicliffe in all three races but went down three-nil and will now take on Spain’s Tamara Echegoyen for the Bronze medal.
'The semi- final was a great way to get some quality racing against Anna Tunnicliffe, especially in the stronger wind conditions and even larger rolling swell,' said Price. 'Unfortunately we lost to her three-nil, but we made it a tough fight, with lead changes occurring all around the course.
'We were able to apply pressure around the course because of the surges on the waves, especially downwind where boat lengths were gained and lost,' she said. 'We’ve been able to highlight our own mistakes and point out where all the races were won and lost, which has been a goal for us this regatta and now it’s all on for the Bronze medal tomorrow.'
In the Finn class Brendan Casey ended the week 19th overall. Casey started day five with his best result of the regatta, a fifth, rounding out the event with a 23rd.
Saturday’s medal races are scheduled to begin with the Women’s Match Racing at 10am.
Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mapfre Regatta website
Australian Sailing Team website