At Sail Melbourne, the opening round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup, the medal races were run and won with Australia’s home team coming out on top.
The 49er class was the first race contested with the Gold medal coming down to any of the top three crews. 2009 World Champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen went into the medal race with a four point lead over local sailors Sam and Will Phillips, with Peter Burling and Blair Tuke of New Zealand a further three points back.
The top three covered each other and Western Australian’s Steven Thomas and Jasper Warren ran away with the win, extending on every leg and winning the race comfortably.
Outteridge and Jensen finished the race second, taking the Gold medal by eight points ahead of the Phillips’ brothers, with Burling and Tuke third.
In the men's 470, world champions Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page knew they had a lot of work to do, going into the medal round in third place and needing to put five places between themselves and the leading Americans, Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl.
Belcher and Page’s race win wasn’t quite enough to give them the overall win with McNay and Biehl crossing the line second.
'Stu saw a lot of chop and bad air from the motor boats out to the left, so we tacked out and got clear air,' Graham Biehl explained.
Belcher and Page were pleased with their medal race win, and Silver medal, but reflected on what might have been. 'If we'd done that earlier in the week it would have made things easier,' Page commented.
However, in typical fashion for these true champions, they seemed to have more concern for compatriots Sam Kivell and Will Ryan, who had gone into the race in second place. 'We're disappointed for our training partners,' said Belcher. 'They got caught on the start and couldn't get back into the race. But we're all working well as a team and it’s going to be good in Perth (at the Olympic qualifier).'
The women's race was a repeat of the men's, with an Australian crew totally dominating the race from start to finish. The difference was that Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell took a seven point lead into the final, and continued their amazing run of form.
It was the American crews of Erin Maxwell/Isabelle Farrar and Amanda Clark/Sarah Lihan who emerged from the chasing pack to take second and third places in the race, but Ai Kondo and Wakako Tabata did enough to win the silver medal ahead of Clark and Lihan.
Triple world champion Tom Slingsby had already won the gold medal, taking an unbeatable nineteen point lead into the medal race. He had vowed to 'stay out of the way' of sailors still in contention for the minor medals and did that in the best possible way - by leading at every mark.
In reality, Slingsby showed his class in the wide range of conditions that prevailed throughout the week, winning in light, moderate and heavy airs.
British sailor Nick Thompson took the silver medal, 27 points behind Slingsby with Tom Burton holding off another Australian, Ashley Brunning for third.
In the women's event, the two overnight leaders could not be caught by the rest of the fleet and they indulged in a covering duel that left other sailors to fight out the medal race. Ultimately, Lijia Xu of China placed eighth to take the Gold medal, while sailing Tuula Tenkanen back into tenth place and the Silver, with Australia’s Krystal Weir third.
The men's RS:X final was one of the best races of the event, as any of three sailors were in a position to win. Dorien van Rijsselberge of the Netherlands managed to find the best boat speed, but JP Tobin of New Zealand dogged him all the way, finishing second in the race to win the gold medal by a point. Zach Plavsic of Canada was fourth in the race behind James Levy (AUS) but took the bronze comfortably.
In the women's race, Bryony Shaw of Great Britain needed to beat Australian Jessica Crisp because her lead was reduced to two points after a successful protest by Crisp had seen an OCS for Shaw in the fifth qualifying race reinstated, after initially being reversed.
'I threw the daggerboard down, changed the outhaul and downhaul and started on starboard, going to where I wanted to be,' Crisp said. She admitted to being reluctant to pump on the first downwind, which cost her some distance, with Shaw closing the gap significantly.
'On the second downwind I just pumped my guts out,' she said. It was enough to win the medal race and take the gold medal on a countback from Shaw. A brave effort from Flavia Tartaglini (ITA), who was suffering from a bout of flu, saw her cross third and take the bronze.
The final race of the day saw the heavyweights in action. Brit-turned-Aussie Oliver Tweddell continued his dramatic improvement to win the medal race comfortably, but Oleksiy Borysov (UKR) had already done enough to win the gold medal. He finished with 18 points, to beat Tweddell on 26 and Rob McMillan, another Brit turned Australian on 38.
Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell claimed the Gold medal in the Skud18 class, ahead of Australians Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch, with Jamie Dunross and Rachael Cox third.
In the 2.4mR class Matt Bugg continued his dominance of the event with a final race win giving him a 21 point win over Greg Hyde with Michael Leydon third.
Sail Melbourne Website