by Craig Heydon
The Weymouth and Portland International Regatta, which is a test event for the London 2012 Olympic Games, has Australian sailors busy making final preparations. The regatta is designed to mirror the conditions that sailors will face both on and off the water during the London 2012 Olympic Games as closely as possible, including having just one entry per class per country.
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen lead the 49er fleet at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta
Racing begins on Tuesday for the Women’s Match Racing competition with Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty set to represent Australia.
The match racing trio will be competing in only their third regatta together following a Bronze medal at the final round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Germany and a seventh place finish at the 2011 European Championships in Finland.
The RS:X classes are the next to hit the water on Thursday with Jessica Crisp and Tim Gourlay flying the Australian flag. Crisp is campaigning for her fourth straight Olympic Games appearance and heads into the regatta off the back of a win at round seven of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in June. Western Australia’s Tim Gourlay is aiming for his first appearance at an Olympic Games with this event an important stepping stone on the way to London 2012.
The action heats up on the water on Friday with the 470 men and women, Laser and Laser Radial classes all getting their racing underway. Reigning World Champions and current world number ones Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page will compete in the 470 men class with Page looking to make it back-to-back Gold medals in 12 months time.
'We feel like in the last few weeks and months things have come together really well,' said Page. 'Our development and education has really clicked and our results have been really good of late, I see no reason why we can’t be fighting for a medal at the end of the regatta.
'This regatta is different in many respects, especially with just one entry from each country per class, but it’s a good opportunity for Mathew and I as a team to get the feeling of what it will be like at the Games,' he said.
470 women’s sailors Tessa Parkinson and Belinda Stowell have both had experience at the Olympic Games, though sailing with different partners, with Parkinson winning Gold at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and Stowell winning Gold in Sydney in 2000. The pair only teamed up in May this year with the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta only their third event together.
Current Laser World Champion and ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Tom Slingsby will be racing in the Laser class with the Gosford based sailor undefeated after three years of racing at the Olympic venue.
Krystal Weir is set to race in the Laser Radial class and had recent success at the World Cup event in Germany where she won Silver.
The 49er, Finn and Star classes are the last three to begin racing with their first races set down for Saturday.
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen will be out to make it four wins from four starts in Weymouth in the 49er class. 'We’re looking forward to going racing here, we’ve had a good year so far but this is probably our most important regatta and we’ll be looking to show that we can perform at our best when we need to,' said Outteridge. 'It’s quite a different regatta for us with two lay days in the middle and less boats than usual so it will be interesting to see how it pans out.
'With a much smaller fleet every race counts and there are no easy races so we’ve got to be ready to go from the start of day one,' he said.
Gold Coast sailor Brendan Casey will compete in the Finn class and will be competing in his third event in Weymouth, Casey also had success this year at the World Cup round in Holland in May with a Bronze medal.
The final Australian entry racing at the test event is the Star class crew of Paul McKenzie and Philip Toth who are set to race in their first regatta together since the French World Cup round in April.
Australian Sailing Team High Performance Director Peter Conde said that the team is progressing well with a year to go until the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
'We’ve had some really good success on this venue in recent years, with some teams going undefeated in three events. They will be looking to continue that and we have a number of crews building well towards London 2012. This is a key opportunity for them to spend time at the Olympic venue, which is critical,' said Conde.
Racing continues in Weymouth until Saturday 13 August.
Australian Sailing Team website