by Craig Heydon
The Weymouth and Portland International Regatta has now witnessed Australia’s Women’s Match Racing crew of Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty win their way through to the quarter-finals of the test event for the London 2012 Olympic Games, following a tense final day of round robin racing on Portland harbour.
Australian Women’s Match Racers at the Olympic test event - Weymouth and Portland International Regatta 2011
The Australian trio went into Thursday’s final four races in a three way tie for eighth, knowing that they would have to win at least two races to progress to the knock-out stage of the competition.
Price and crew opened the day with a win against the German team skippered by Sikle Hahlbrook, before narrowly losing to Lotte Meldgaard. The Australians then lost a hard fought race against Mandy Mulder of the Netherlands before fighting back with a final race win against their Finnish opponents, led by Silja Lehtinen.
'We had two wins and two losses, so it was a 50/50 day, but we sailed well and are through to the quarter-finals,' said Price. 'It all came down to the last race against the team from Finland which we won and then we needed the Portuguese to beat the Danish crew which happened so it’s all smiles at this end.'
Nina Curtis said that the crew were in the mix in all four races, even the two that they lost.
'We had a tough race against the Dutch where we led off the start and had a penalty on them but they applied the pressure which we’ve got to expect at this level,' she said. 'We learnt some really valuable lessons in that one, it was good to learn them before the quarter-finals and hopefully we can now bring out the goods when it counts.'
The Australians are competing in only their second regatta together with Lucinda Whitty commenting that they are developing with every race they contest.
'As a crew we’re building and bonding every day,' she said. 'We’re learning something about each other in every race and with every mark rounding.'
Price, Curtis and Whitty have a day off on Friday before lining up against the top ranked Russian crew, skippered by Ekaterina Skudina, in Saturday’s first to three wins quarter final.
The RS:X classes got underway on Thursday with Jessica Crisp and Tim Gourlay in action.
Crisp had a mixed opening day with an opening race 11th and then a 17th leaving her 15th overall in the highly competitive fleet.
'Today wasn’t the best start, if I was there it wasn’t the place to be, if I went right it was better going left and if I went left it was better going right,' said Crisp. 'It took a bit of getting use to, we’re out on a really far away course which is unusual for windsurfers as we’re normally right off the beach.
'It’s totally different out there to what we’re use to in the harbour, there are no waves inside the harbour and out there the swell doesn’t run in the same direction as the wind so it’s really different,' she said. 'Tomorrow we’re on a different course again, the Nothe course, which I think will be more like Sydney harbour so I’m looking forward to that.
'Even with two tough races I took a lot away from today, everyday here is about learning and you’ve just got to get it together by next year when it really counts,' said Crisp.
West Australian Tim Gourlay is making his debut at an Olympic test event and finished day one 22nd overall following a 21st and a 23rd.
'I beat a few guys that I haven’t before so it was a pretty good day,' said Gourlay. 'I’m pleased with my performance in the two races, I had a bad start each time but managed to make it, in the first race I was third last around the top mark.
'Having only one entry per country is fantastic and a new experience,' he said. 'You know who everyone is and every position counts.'
The RS:X classes return to the water for races three and four on Friday and will be joined by the Laser, Laser Radial, 470 men and 470 women who will be beginning their regatta.
Tom Slingsby will contest the Laser class, Krystal Weir the Laser Radial, Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page the 470 men and Tessa Parkinson and Belinda Stowell the 470 women.
Australian Sailing Team website