Monday, 11 April 2011

Aussie sailors make a winning start to European season

Belcher and Page chasing down their Japanese competition. Image copyright Jesus Renedo/Princesa Sofia/MAPFRE.

by Craig Heydon

Australian sailors have made a solid start to round three of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Spain, with Australian Sailing Team crews topping the leaderboard in two classes after a windy opening day.

With the breeze getting up above 25 knots throughout the day Australian sailors Tom Slingsby, Nicky Souter, Nina Curtis and Olivia Price all reveled, finishing day one undefeated.

Slingsby, the 2010 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year and reigning Laser World Champion, kicked off his 2011 European season in style, winning both of the opening Laser races in Palma.

Slingsby sailed consistently well in the strong conditions and ended the day with a three point lead over second position.

The Australian Women’s Match Racing Team crew of Nicky Souter, Nina Curtis and Olivia Price had a good day on the water, winning all three races to be in a four-way tie for the lead.

“It was a great day of racing here,” said Souter. “We had 19-24 knots on the Match Racing course with some strong puffs which tested all of the crews. We managed to come away with three wins from three races, although had to come from behind once or twice.”

“The girls did a great job today and we’re looking forward to finishing up qualifying first up in the morning,” she said.

In the 470 men’s fleet 2010 World Champions Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page ended the opening day in ninth overall, following a 10th and a third in Monday’s two races.

“In the first race today we were leading but ended up going to the wrong first mark, the course was skewed to the wind and the whole fleet got fooled,” said Page. “We were the first ones around and were reaching out looking for the wing mark when we realised what had happened, by the time we got back we were so far behind that the second fleet that started 10 minutes later were catching us.”

“But we managed to fight our way back to 10th by the end,” he said. “For race two we got the course right which is always a good start and came away with a third. The score card wasn’t too bad at all, it was a solid start and could have been two top three finishes but the whole European season is a marathon and today was the first day, by no means are we at our top form yet.”

Brendan Casey has started his regatta well, with a fifth and a fourth in the very strong Finn fleet leaving him tied for seventh overall.

Krystal Weir is currently sixth in the Laser Radial fleet following a fifth and a third in the day’s two races.

The Australian Women’s Match Racing Team crew of Katie Spithill, Jessica Eastwell and Lucinda Whitty had a mixed day on the water, winning one of their three races to finish day one fifth in their group. All three were tough fought races in tricky, gusty, winds, with four more opening round robin races to be sailed on Tuesday.

Australian Sailing Squad crew Sam Kivell and Will Ryan finished the day 18th in the 470 fleet, after a strong opening race fifth and a 16th. The pair is just eight points outside the top 10.

In the Laser fleet Australian Sailing Squad member Ashley Brunning is 27th following a seventh and a 13th while new Australian Sailing Team member Tom Burton is 41st after an 11th and a 16th.

Racing continues in Palma on Tuesday with round three of the ISAF Sailing World Cup finishing on Saturday, 9 April.

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