by Craig Heydon
Australian sailors have won a Gold and a Silver medal on the penultimate day of racing at the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta, the test event for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Tom Slingsby on the podium in Weymouth - Photo Craig Heydon - Weymouth and Portland International Regatta 2011
Tom Slingsby won Gold in a dramatic Laser medal race while Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page were forced to fight their way from the back of the fleet to take the Silver medal in the 470 men’s class.
Slingsby went into the final 10 boat medal race second overall, just one point behind New Zealand’s Andrew Murdoch and one ahead of Dutch sailor Rutger van Schaardenburg, with Olympic champion Paul Goodision of Great Britain just behind in fourth.
The scenario was simple for the triple World Champion, finish ahead of Murdoch and van Schaardenburg and within a couple of boats of Goodison.
'Rutger and Paul both got a really good start and were first and second most of the time,' said Slingsby. 'I didn’t get a good start and just tried to be patient, some of me was screaming to tack and take a big risk and go to a side but I decided to stay patient and try and chip away and in the end I just got there.
'Coming into the last mark before the short reach to the finish Rutger and I were right alongside each other, he called that he had room, I said that he didn’t and he called a protest,' he said. 'I knew I was about a metre clear and luckily the jury saw it the same way. He led me the whole way around and I only got him at the last point, you can’t ask for anything more than that.
Slingsby’s last gasp win made it four Gold medals from four regattas at the venue for the London 2012 Olympic Games, and just a year out from the main event the current ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year is progressing well.
'It’s always good to win at the Olympic venue, Goodison won all of the test events before China and my goal was always to stay undefeated leading up to the Olympics, and obviously the Olympics themselves,' he said. 'It doesn’t mean anything but it’s good for the confidence and shows your competitors that this is a venue that you like and you’re going to be hard to beat.'
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page went into the 470 medal race 14 points off the leading French crew of Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos and with plenty of work to do to snatch the Gold medal away.
The pair found themselves at the back of the fleet at the top mark and were forced to fight their way back to eventually cross the line fourth and secure their Silver medal.
'The race started off dramatically, obviously due to the points it was hard to get to first and hard to lose third, we thought we started ok but got what we thought was a bogus penalty that we didn’t agree with but that’s just the way it is,' said Belcher. 'We found ourselves dead last at the top mark and then knew that we had the speed and had the experience and slowly chipped back and got back to fourth so we’re happy with the result.'
Page said that the pair kept things calm when they were at the back of the fleet and let the race play itself out.
'We kept saying to each other that we had to keep it simple and keep working on the little things and chip away a boat at a time,' said Page. 'We managed to do it which is always nice and were actually all but a boat length off second but by that stage we just said lets keep our noses clean and not get another foul and bring our other competition back into the race.
Belcher said that they were pleased with how they fought back from a tough start to the regatta.
'We started off a little slow and would have liked to have started this regatta a little better but it’s also nice to know you can come back from a difficult situation as we lost 30 odd points to the French in the first three races,' he said. 'We clawed our way back the best we could and had a few things go our way and a few things didn’t, we’ll take that into next year and get them then.'
Krystal Weir finished eighth in the Laser Radial class following a seventh place finish in the medal race.
Weir had some great results during the week, including four top 10 finishes in the 10 fleet races.
'I had a good start to the medal race and was doing really well at the end of the first lap but unfortunately the last downwind was a bit tough and I got passed by a few boats which was a bit disappointing but overall it wasn’t a bad race,' she said. 'I had some really good moments in this regatta and it gives me a lot of confidence, I’ve got a year now to iron out a few little things and be ready to go next year.'
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen head into the 49er medal race on Saturday just four points behind the leading Spanish crew, after a mixed final day of fleet racing on Portland harbour.
The pair started the day with a 14th, their first race this regatta outside the top 10, but bounced back well with a third in the final race.
'It was a difficult day, much lighter than the last few days and we had a bit of a bad race to start the day,' said Outteridge. 'We were in the fight the whole way around and just lost a few on the last run.
'The last race wasn’t looking so good for us up the first beat as we were just behind the Spanish at the top mark with New Zealand back a bit,' he said. 'We moved our way up to third by the finish with the Spanish in eighth.
'We’re in the hunt with one race to go, only four points off the lead and we’ve just got to get a boat between us and the Spanish to get the Gold,' he said.
Brendan Casey finished 15th in the Finn fleet following a fourth and a 10th in the final two races.
In the Star class Australian sailors Paul McKenzie and Philip Toth finished the regatta 16th after crossing the line 14th and 19th on Friday.
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