Two match racing crews fight to qualify Australia for London 2012
by Rob Kothe and the Sail-World team on 6 Dec 2011
Nicky Souter, Jessica Eastwell and Katie Spithill are at the top of the leader board after three days of racing at Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships being sailed on Fremantle Harbour, Western Australia.
Nicky Souter, Jessica Eastwell and Katie Spithill - Womens Match Racing. Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships © Richard Langdon /Perth 2011 http://www.perth2011.com
They have seven wins and one loss, to rival Australian team skippered by Olivia Price with crew Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty. They currently sit at 4-2.
Skipper Nicky Souter commented ‘This is probably the toughest match racing course we have ever sailed.
‘Because there is so much traffic coming and going in the harbour, when there is no breeze the water is disturbed and the little puffs that are there are funnelling around the buildings.
‘The spectator grand stand set up is good, so there's been lots of fans and supporters and even competitors who have not yet started sailing, coming down to watch the match racing.
‘You can hear the crowd, especially in the prestart area about 30 metres from the grand stand, so you hear everyone cheering. That is pretty exciting for an Australian race course because you only get that in Europe, where you have lots of spectators.'
Souter explained ‘We have had a Squad Rotation program within the Australian Match Racing teams.
‘It's had its good moments and it’s had its challenging moments. It was really good in the beginning of the match racing program as we were rotating crews around a lot to try and find out what combination could achieve the best results.
‘We’ve had a few other curve balls thrown in also that have mixed it all up, and that’s just made it a little more challenging. At the end of the day it has made us fight harder to get that one representative spot for London.
‘I am happy with the team we have together now. It is good to have another skipper (Katie) on the bow helping out with the tactics. Katie and I think very similarly on where you can place the boat and I do have a lot of trust in Katie’s calls. We are always on the same wave-length, which is quite nice.
‘Right from the start of this event the team has been calm and relaxed. In our very first match I didn’t get off to the best start with the Portuguese team, but we knew the race course was going to produce opportunities for us.
‘There are so many shifts and if you are just patient and put them together you can always climb back into the race. We took that approach and managed to grab the lead just on the finishing line, which was quite nice.
‘Either of the two Australian teams can qualify Australia for London 2012, by finishing in the top eight nations at Perth 2011.
‘For the Women’s Match Racing we have to meet a base line performance – that is make top six here in Perth from the 29 crews or win a World Cup event, including Miami, Palma, Hyeres, before qualification cut off date.
‘If one team meets that criteria and the other team doesn’t, then the team that makes base line goes to London. If both teams make the base line performance, then it goes to a selection panel and they choose the team. If neither team makes base line performance then Yachting Australia may not send a team, or the selection panel will choose the team they want to send.
‘Both of the teams want the matter settled as quickly as possible, but this process could be still going on until Skandia Sail for Gold in Weymouth.
‘The selection policy has been rewritten. The current teams are the final crews, with Olivia and myself being the two helms. We get to choose whoever we sail with and obviously Olivia will pick Nina and Lucinda and I will pick Jess and Katie.
‘Katie is awesome. We had the privilege of having her brother James (Spithill – the America’s Cup winning skipper) here in Perth doing some work with us for the last couple of days before this event. That was really good.
‘Jessica (Eastwell) is great. Jess has sailed with myself and Katie for the past six years match racing, so we are not strangers to each other.
‘We are really keen for everyone to come down to the grand stand area and cheer us on. We’ve had a couple of hundred people each day and it has been quite exciting having them cheering in the pre-starts and cheering when you cross the finish line and there’s plenty of good viewing spots down on the break walls and in the grand stand’ concluded Souter.
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