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Sail Melbourne to feature the world’s best Olympic, Para-sailing and Youth Sailors

by Michael Martin 12 Dec 2018 01:18 PST 12-16 December 2018
Sail Melbourne 2018 © Michael Martin

A selection of the world's best sailors has assembled at Melbourne's Royal Brighton Yacht Club this week to contest the 2018 edition of Sail Melbourne International (SMI) starting tomorrow, Thursday, 13 December 2018.

Sail Melbourne is Australia's premier Olympic and Invited Classes Regattas, held annually in the waters of Port Phillip, Victoria and is the largest annual 'Off the Beach' regatta in the southern hemisphere.

The world-class regatta this year will also feature the inaugural Australian Para-sailing Championships with 2018 World Para-sailing champion in the Hansa 305 one-person Chris Symonds (TAS) and 2018 World Para-sailing silver medallist in the women's Hansa 305 Genevieve Wickham (WA), contesting the event. See yesterday's Para-sailing media release here for more details.

Racing at Sail Melbourne International will run from Thursday, 13 December to Sunday, 16 December 2018 with 375 competitors from 18 countries contesting the event.

Less than two years out from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, this year's Australian summer sailing season has attracted the best of the best with Australia providing some of the leading training and competition conditions in preparation for the Olympic Games.

"It's an exciting time for sailing in Melbourne and Victoria and it's great to see close to 370 entries at this year's Sail Melbourne International. The event is key for the Australian domestic calendar for both the Olympic classes looking towards Tokyo, and also the youth classes with their eyes on more distant horizons. It's also great to welcome sailors from fifteen countries to this year's event," Event Director Mark Turnbull said.

With Victoria hosting a series of the World Sailing Olympic qualifying regattas at next year's "2020 Summer of Sailing", Sail Melbourne International is a welcome opportunity for domestic and international sailors alike to test Port Phillip's waters.

"Next Summer will certainly be very busy with the six Olympic Class World Championships (including Olympic continental qualifiers), one Masters Worlds, and for 2020, Sail Melbourne International moving to its traditional January dates. The Victorian State Government has again assisted to make this happen with the continued funding for the SMI event and then Major Event funding for the 2019/2020 Worlds, which has been branded as the '2020 Sail Melbourne Summer of Sailing'," Turnbull explained.

Under this banner, Royal Brighton Yacht Club will be hosting the 2019 Finn Gold Cup, the World Championships of the Finn class in December next year, while Sandringham will be hosting the Olympic Laser and Laser Radial class in February 2020. Geelong will be the epicentre for three Olympic sailing classes including the 49er (men), 49erFX (women) and Nacra World Championships.

"With the 2019 Finn Gold Cup held at Royal Brighton Yacht Club in December, many sailors are here now trying to get an edge on their opposition well ahead of time. The quality of the racing at Sail Melbourne will be absolutely first class and it is a very real opportunity for local sailors to race against the best in the world and the likes of Giles Scott and Nicholas Heiner in the Finn class." Phil Chadwick, President of Australia's Finn Class, said.

The Olympic Finn class will be one of hottest contested fleets of the regatta with current world #1 Finn sailor Nicholas Heiner from the Netherlands spearheading a fleet that includes the who's who of Olympic Finn sailing. It includes 2016 Rio Olympic Champion Giles Scott from Great Britain as well as four of the current world top ten Finn sailors. Heiner, who won Sail Sydney last weekend ahead of Josh Junior (NZL) and Ed Wright (GBR) in third, will be aiming to continue his winning series in Sail Melbourne.

"Sail Sydney was a great battle between Josh Junior, Ed Wright and myself," Heiner said. "Sorry (Aussie) boys, we beat you on your home turf but we'll have a rematch in Melbourne."

Heiner most recently won round one the 2019 World Cup Series as well as the Olympic Week event at the Tokyo 2020 Sailing venue at Enoshima in September. The former Laser World Champion started his Olympic Finn career at Sail Melbourne in 2016 and has his eyes firmly set on Tokyo 2020.

"Sail Melbourne was my first world cup in the Finn and I just missed out on bronze by a meter in the medal race that year. I definitely had the most consistent year of the fleet this year, but Giles was missing at a few events so I'm looking forward to another fun battle with him here in Melbourne."

Rio 2016 Olympian Jake Lilley (QLD) was the first Australian at Sail Sydney in fourth and will be aiming to mix it up in Melbourne.

Having some of the world's best sailors at Sail Melbourne International offers a great opportunity for Australia's up-and-coming sailing talent and the young champions of the future to mix it up with the national and international champions of today on the Port Phillip racetrack, including Rio medallists and members of the Australian Sailing Team on the road to Tokyo 2020.

Australia's Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallists and current men's 470 class world #1 tea Mat Belcher (QLD) and Will Ryan (QLD) will be contesting Sail Melbourne International in a fleet that includes sailors from seven countries and features Spanish 2018 World Championships bronze medallists Jordi Xammar Hernandez and Nicolás Rodrigues Garcí-Paz.

Belcher and Ryan finished second at the first round of the Sailing World Cup at the Olympic venue in Enoshima, Japan and finished just ahead of Japanese team of Daichi Takayama and Kimihiko Imamura at Sail Sydney.

"Sail Melbourne and Sail Sydney are great opportunities to get through some testing and to get back on the water after a long European season. Will and I have taken some time out of the boat competing in other classes over the last couple of months, so it's great to come back together, re-assess where we are and plan towards 2019. We have a great fleet here so we are looking forward to the racing," Mat Belcher said.

Belcher was instrumental in supporting a couple of the international crews to come to Australia to compete and organised some boats for the international visitors to compete in.

"We are really fortunate that we have a small but strong fleet competing. After a few discussions with some teams earlier in the year, it just worked out that they wanted to come to Australia and that we were able to help them come over," Belcher said.

The 470 will be racing in a mixed fleet, including the Australian Sailing Squad's winner of Sail Sydney Nia Jerwood (WA) and Monique des Vries (WA). The WA pairing had a tight battle with Germany's top women's 470 sailors Frederike Loewe and Anna Markfort in Sydney.

The Australian Sailing Team and Squad will be strongly represented in Sail Melbourne with most sailors contesting the event, including 2018 Laser World Championship silver medallist and Sail Sydney laser winner Matt Wearn (WA).

Sail Melbourne International has also attracted a large number of Youth sailors with Sail Melbourne the last hit-out ahead of the 2019 Australian Sailing Youth Championships in Tasmania in January with fleets looking strong across the Bic Techno 293, 420, 29er, Nacra 15 and Laser 4.7.

In a new addition, Sail Melbourne will also feature the WASZP class, an exciting one-design foiler class that continues to take off around the world. The WASZP has been added to the race program in response to its growing popularity and exciting racing thrills. WASZPs racing starts December 14, 2018.

Sail Melbourne International is World Sailing 100 points graded Olympic sailing events and as such are ranked as major international events on the World Sailing event calendar.

See entries here

Follow results here.

For more information visit www.sailmelbourne.com.au

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