by Craig Heydon
Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia competition is set to heat up at round three of the ISAF Sailing World Cup the finals series begin tomorrow in Spain with a number of Australian Sailing Team crews in the mix.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page on day three in Spain - Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page have taken the lead in the 470 class with Tom Slingsby second in the Laser fleet, while in the Finn class Brendan Casey is 10th.
Belcher and Page started the day third with a race win and a 20th leaving them tied on points with the French crew of Nicolas Charbonnier and Jeremie Mion, the Australians lead the class on a count back.
'This is just the first few days of a long European season for us and it’s great to be back in big fleet racing which we haven’t really had since the final World Cup round of last year in Weymouth,' said Belcher. 'The competition is fierce and it’s certainly getting us into shape quickly, everyone has really stepped up, the crews are all more professional and are taking the game to a new standard and level.'
'Everyone is out to win and are fighting for that extra boat length, we’re all pushing the limits and driving the boat harder, we know that we have to step up but it’s nice to be there in the mix,' he said. 'For us this is the start to our Olympic Games lead up, by no means are we at our peak at this stage but it is great to be out racing.'
The 2010 World Champions and current world number ones have the fleet right behind them with the top four crews separated by just two points.
'At this stage there’s nothing in it,' said Page. 'We just need to be patient, continually chip away and keep on building. It feels good to be at the front of the fleet but we know that we still have lots to improve, the fleet is in good form and it’s great to be up there.'
Tom Slingsby continued his consistent run in the Laser class with two third place finishes on day three in Palma.
The three-time World Champion and reigning ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year has been in the top three in every race this regatta and is just one point behind leader, Great Britain’s defending Olympic champion Paul Goodison.
It’s incredibly tight at the top with third place, Nick Thompson of Great Britain, just a point behind Slingsby. The top three will get a chance to go head to head from Thursday onwards with the fleet splitting into Gold, Silver and Bronze for the four finals races before the medal race for the top 10 on Saturday.
Slingsby’s start to his European season is impressive given he has not raced a Laser since round one of the Sailing World Cup in Melbourne last December and only arrived in Spain a week before this regatta, with much of his competition having been training in Palma for the last month.
Brendan Casey ended day three of the regatta 10th in the Finn class after finishing 11th in both of the day’s races.
The competition is also tight in the Finn class with just nine points separating third through to 10th.
'I felt that my performance was alright today, there were a few opportunities I didn’t take but I’m looking forward to the challenge of the Gold fleet,' said Casey. 'In race one I found myself mixed up in the fleet which didn’t help and then in race two I was second at the top mark but slipped back a bit so I’m still up there.'
'The breeze ended up at about 10 knots today and we spent four hours on the water before getting two good races in,' he said. 'The results didn’t quite turn out how I wanted but all of the good guys are racing together from tomorrow and it’s going to be all on.'
In the Women’s Match Racing competition the Australian crew of Nicky Souter, Nina Curtis and Olivia Price have two races left in the repechage round robin and currently have one win and two losses from their opening three races.
Fellow Australians Katie Spithill, Jessica Eastwell and Lucinda Whitty had two wins and a loss on the first day of the Silver round robin, with two races remaining on Thursday.
The Australian Sailing Squad’s Ashley Brunning ended the qualification series 18th in the Laser class, with a sixth and a 15th on Wednesday. New Australian Sailing Team Laser class member Tom Burton has worked his way up to 41st following a 27th and a race win, his first top 10 finish for this regatta.
In the 470 class Squad members Sam Kivell and Will Ryan have qualified for the Gold fleet following their 18th in the qualifying series with a fifth and a 17th on day three.
Krystal Weir is 16th in the Laser Radial class following her second third place finish of the regatta and a 25th.
Racing continues in Palma on Thursday with the final medal races to be held on Saturday.