Thursday, 3 December 2009

Sail Sydney entries top 200

by Di Pearson

Yachting NSW, the organisers of Sail Sydney, are pleased to announce that at the close of entries they had received 222 applications for their annual event to be held from December 5-8 on Sydney Harbour.

Hosted by Woollahra Sailing Club, the second event of the Sail Downunder series is one of only two ISAF Grade 1 events in the southern hemisphere and a strong level of commitment has come from the Olympic classes, especially the Laser and Laser Radial single-handed dinghies, which is not surprising considering the next summer Olympic Games is less than three years away.

The Laser class is headed by two-time world champion and Beijing Olympian Tom Slingsby (AUS) who has put in some strong performances since returning home from China.

In a ‘Clash of the Olympians’ Slingsby will face some of those he competed against in Beijing inclusive of Matias Del Solar (CHI), Michael Leigh (CAN), Javier Hernandez (ESP), Jeemin Ha (KOR) and Andrew Murdoch (NZL), the best placed of the six with a fifth place finish in Qingdao.

A second Kiwi competitor and Youth sailor, Josh Junior, could give the seniors some trouble. Last week he skippered his team to a win at the Musto International Youth Match Racing Championship on Sydney Harbour after stumping up third at the Harken equivalent on Pittwater the week before.

Robert Godwin, one of Britain’s many standout Laser sailors will also provide good racing, as will third place-getter here last year, Daniel Mihelic from Croatia.

“We’re all ramping up for the Olympics again,” says Slingsby continuing, “It’s good to have such a good group at Sail Sydney. We’re all here to get ready for our next European season.”

Unbeatable in strong conditions, “Slingsby says “I’d like to get a variety of conditions on the Harbour for this event; I’d like to show everyone I’m not just a heavy air sailor. I’m actually quite good in light air; I just don’t particularly enjoy patchy light and no wind conditions.”

The two-time world champion (2007 and 2008) says he is well and truly over his disastrous Beijing Olympics at which he finished 22nd after being firmly favoured to win Gold. “It really knocked my confidence and it took me around three months to get over it,” the 25 year old says.

“It didn’t help that Paul (Goodison, Beijing gold medallist) went on to win all these regattas after China,” he says of the British sailor’s five straight wins at major events.

However, Slingsby, who is extraordinarily tough on himself, bounced back with a second at the Europeans and a win at the Grade1 Sail for Gold, held at the 2012 Olympic venue in Weymouth, UK. “That win gave me a new drive for the London Games,” he concedes.

There are a number of Olympians competing at Sail Sydney (formerly known as SIRs). Beijing Olympian Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen come to the event fresh from taking out the 49er Australian Championship, where they won all but two races, finishing second in those.

The Australian pair has also won every Grade 1 event they have contested this past year; one of the reasons why Outteridge had the rare distinction of making the finals of the 2009 ISAF Sailor of the Year Awards. Recently, he and Jensen were named the Australian Institute of Sport Team of the Year at the 2009 AIS Awards.

Mat Belcher and his Beijing gold medallist crew Malcolm Page (AUS) will head the line-up in the 470 and will be joined by long-time campaigners, separately and together, Roy Junhao Tay/Terence Kiat Koh (SIN) and less experienced Olympic aspirants Sam Kivell/Will Ryan (AUS).

Headline acts in the Women’s 470 are Stacey Omay/Chelsea Hall (AUS) and former Laser Radial Olympic campaigners Jo Aleh/Olivia Powrie (NZL). Aleh sailed the Radial to seventh at the Beijing Games.

There are an unprecedented 17 Finn entries, headed by triple Olympian Anthony ‘Nocka’ Nossiter (AUS), who is in for what is likely to be his stiffest competition ever for Olympic selection to London.

Nocka’s adversary for Beijing Games representation, Brendan Casey, along with young talents James Paterson and Warwick Hill, whom Olympic coach Mike Fletcher identified as “Olympic talent” last year and new Olympic hopeful Bucky Smith, the current Etchells world champion crew, are just some of the Aussies after Nocka’s scalp.

Nick Burfoot (NZL) a great mate of Nocka’s, along with Conrad Brown (USA) and two British entries; Henry Bagnall and Craig Kirkpatrick-Whitby, will showcase the best Finn sailing Sydney Harbour has witnessed since the 2000 Games.

The Australian Olympian line up is complete with triple representative, Jessica Crisp and in a switch of class, Krystal Weir. Melbourne sailor Weir sailed for Australia in the Yngling class at Beijing, after campaigning unsuccessfully for the Laser Radial spot, and will make her debut in the Olympic RS:X sailboard at Sail Sydney.

Over 50 Laser Radial entries have been received, split between Women’s (Olympic class) and Men’s. In the Women’s event, polar opposites will face the starters gun on the same course; two standout Youth entries with their sights set on the Olympic Games in the future, Ashley Stoddart and Alex South and 2009 Masters Worlds gold and silver medallist Vanessa Dudley, who won Gold in the Women’s and scored a solid Silver in the Open competition.

There are also a lot of top Youth sailors coming through the ranks as they too, prepare for Olympic campaigns, with strong representation from Australia and Singapore.

International representation is exceptionally strong three years out from the London 2012 Games, with competitors making their way to Australia from Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, the USA, Chile, Spain, Singapore, Greece, Canada, Japan, Finland, Hungary, Switzerland, Norway, India, Korea, Norway, Croatia, Poland and Italy.

Other classes featuring at Sail Sydney are the 29er, 420, Laser 4.7 Youth classes and the Moth and Bic Techno classes.

The 18th edition of Sail Sydney kicks off on Saturday with racing expected to get underway from midday.

Sail Sydney

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