by Craig Heydon
Weymouth and Portland International Regatta, the test event for the London 2012 Olympic games, has again posed testing conditions for the sailors with Australia’s Women’s Match Racing and 49er crews having strong days.
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen racing their American competition in Weymouth - Weymouth and Portland International Regatta 2011
After narrowly missing out on a place in the semi-finals, Australia’s Women’s Match Racing crew of Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty took on Great Britain’s Lucy Macgregor in the first round of the fifth to eighth sail off.
The Australians started exceptionally well against their higher ranked opponents and quickly raced out to a two-nil lead, with the first team to get to three wins progressing to the fifth and sixth sail off.
The Brits fought back well, winning the next two and forcing a fifth and final race. Price and crew found themselves on the back foot in the fifth race but stormed home to take the win and a well deserved spot in the sail off against Mandy Mulder of the Netherlands.
The first race in the match up against the Dutch took place in the early evening on Monday with Price, Curtis and Whitty again forced to come from behind, taking the win on the final downwind to lead one-nil. The final races will be sailed on Wednesday.
'Today was tough, with really tricky conditions,' said Price. 'The breeze was shifty all over the place, with the pressure being up and down but we had a good day, we came up against the British team and won the first two, lost the next two but came back well to take the overall win.
'To us today felt like a semi-final,' she said. 'We were racing against really tough competition and we’re happy to get in such good racing in a great venue like this,' she said.
Crew member Nina Curtis said that the trio pushed hard in the final race of the day to get the one-nil lead over their Dutch opponents.
'We came from behind on that last downwind which was really good for us,' said Curtis. 'We were strong downwind which is a massive leap forward for us compared to the other day and we’re continuing to learn all the time and are loving the racing here.'
In the 49er class Australians Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen had another solid day and currently sit second overall, just four points adrift of the leading Spanish crew.
The 2009 World Champions had a second, a seventh and a fourth in the strong breeze, and are currently the only team in the fleet to have finished inside the top 10 in every race.
'We toughed it out a bit today,' said Outteridge. 'We had a good first race with a second but then capsized while doing a penalty turn in the middle one, managing to catch back up to fourth before more equipment failure. We ended up seventh which wasn’t too bad and then in the last race we clawed our way back to fourth after being a long way back, all in all a pretty solid day but not as good as the Spanish who have taken over the lead.
'The Spanish look really solid in the windy, shifty stuff, it’s quite amazing given their last regatta was the World Championships January last year, we’ve definitely got a boat to catch now,' he said. 'It’s great to have the Spanish back, their raised the level of the whole competition and for us it’s definitely good to have to top boats to race against and they are showing how to do it at the moment.
'We’ve got a lay day tomorrow to think a bit more about it and hopefully we can claw them back over the next few days,' he said.
Jensen said that the pair is placed well but with six fleet races plus the final medal race left to contest the regatta is still anybody’s.
'There’s plenty of racing left in this one and we’re just trying to stay consistent, make sure we don’t have any high scores and hopefully when we get to the pointy end there’s not much between us and the Spanish,' he said.
Jessica Crisp currently sits 12th overall in the RS:X women’s class following a 17th and a seventh on Portland harbour. The three-time Olympian is six points off 10th position and a spot in the final medal race with two fleet races left to contest. Fellow windsurfer Tim Gourlay is 25th following a 31st and a 27th in the day’s two races.
Brendan Casey had a tough day in the Finn class, getting a black flag in the opening race and then crossing the line 22nd in race two after a capsize and finds himself 17th overall.
In the Star class Australians Paul McKenzie and Philip Toth are 15th following a 17th and a 14th.
The 470 men and women, Laser and Laser Radial classes all return to the water on Tuesday for two further races.
Australian Sailing Team website