Traditionally, sailing is not really a spectator friendly sport but, all of that will be changing when the Perth 2011 ISAF World Sailing Championships get underway off Fremantle. 'You will get as close to sailing as you can,' promised Perth 2011 chairman, Ian Campbell. 'We hope that it brings sailing to a lot of people.'
For United States match racing skipper, Anna Tunnicliffe, the prospect of competing in a stadium-like arena in Fremantle’s Inner Harbour is exhilarating. 'It’s going to be awesome for spectators', she said. 'We’re kind of excited.'
Tunnicliffe also believes the challenges of racing in a working port will add to the spectacle of the Women’s Match Racing event.
'There are going to be a lot of obstructions which is something we’re not used to seeing,' the 2011 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year said. 'So there are going to be a lot of rules we’re going to have to pull out that we don’t normally use.
'It’s not as tight or confined an area as we originally thought, but it’s definitely going to make it shifty and if the wind is not from the right direction, it’s going to be very interesting racing.'
With courses like Bathers Bay and Centre close to land and with grandstands purpose-built for the event, the Perth 2011 organisers are hoping to make the World Championships and the sport more accessible. 'We know that only two per cent of people in Australia sail,' Event Director John Longley said. 'We do know that 40 per cent of people aspire to sail.'
'We hope that a lot of people who don’t have anything to do with sailing will turn around and say ‘hey, my kids should be a part of this, I should be a part of this’ and the sport will grow from there.'
While there may be plenty of fun and excitement surrounding the event, Australia’s three-time world champion and Laser world number one Tom Slingsby doesn’t mince words when it comes to the importance of this regatta.
'For us it’s the biggest event of the year,' he said. And with three-quarters of qualifying places for the London 2012 Olympic Games to be decided in Perth over the coming two weeks, everyone is expecting performances nothing less than world class. 'Olympic sailing challenges people,' ISAF Technical Director Alastair Fox said. 'It’s not run at a certain level, this is at the top level.
'This really is going to be make or break for an awful lot of sailors, and if the breeze stays as it has been and is certainly forecast for next week, they’re going to have some pretty exciting conditions to do it in too.'
Perth ISAF Sailing World Championship website