Monday, 6 June 2011
Australia's final day medallists at the 2010 Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta. Image copyright Katie Culbert.
by Craig Heydon
Australian sailors are making final preparations at the 2012 London Olympic Games venue in Weymouth, England, with racing at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta set to get underway on Monday morning.
The regatta offers an opportunity to compete on the Olympic Games course against the best sailors in the world with more than 1,000 Olympic and Paralympic class sailors making the trip to the penultimate round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup.
Australia will be well represented in Weymouth with 40 crews featuring 57 athletes competing in nine Olympic and three Paralympic classes, with racing being held from Monday June 6 until Saturday June 11.
The Australian Sailing Team has already had great success in Weymouth, with the 2010 regatta resulting in Gold medals in the Laser, 49er, Skud 18 and Women’s Match Racing classes, and a Silver medal in the 470 men’s.
Laser sailor Tom Slingsby’s Gold in 2010 followed his victory at the same event in 2009 and the three-time World Champion heads into this week’s competition as world number one and as current ISAF Sailing World Cup Laser class leader with just two rounds remaining.
“It’s always a good confidence booster to win at the Olympic venue,” said Slingsby. “The racing here will be of a really high quality as the fleet is the same as we get at a World Championship.”
The current ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year has finished on the podium at every World Cup event he’s competed in this year, with Bronze medals in Melbourne and Hyeres, Silver in Palma and Gold last week in Holland.
“I’m feeling quite good heading into the event,” he said. “I’ve got a new boat for the regatta so I’ve spent the last couple of days out on the water adapting to it and am ready to get into racing now.
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen have also won both of their appearances in Weymouth, with back-to-back Gold medals in the 49er class.
“It’s good to head into the regatta having confidence based on our past results here,” said Outteridge. “All of the top crews will be racing here so it will be a different type of racing to what we had last week in Holland where the fleet was quite small.
“We’re also racing on a course we haven’t raced on here before so we’re keen to learn as much about it as possible as we continue to learn as much about the venue as possible before next July,” he said.
The 2009 World Champions finished second at round five of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Holland last week, their first regatta since Sail Melbourne last December.
“It feels like we’ve picked up right where we left off from after our European season last year and then the test event in Perth in November, so everything is on track at the moment,” said Outteridge.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page head into the regatta following a strong Gold medal performance in Holland which also saw them take back the 470 men’s class ISAF Sailing World Cup lead.
“We’ve been training here in Weymouth for the last week and it’s all been tracking along really well,” said Belcher. “We’re keen to go racing again on the Olympic waters in what’s certainly going to be a tough regatta.
“For a lot of countries this event is a major Olympic qualifier so everyone’s going to be at the top of their game so the racing will be extremely tight.”
Belcher and Page’s win in Holland was a major step towards Olympic qualification for the pair and was also their third podium finish for this year’s ISAF Sailing World Cup, following a Gold in Melbourne and Silver in Miami.
“Our win in Holland made the path towards London 2012 a bit easier and we find ourselves in a good position now,” said Belcher. “We can now shift our focus slightly onto long term development, we’re happy with where we’re at, are continuing to progress and are keen to see where our competitors are at.”
Brendan Casey heads into the regatta following his Finn class Bronze medal in Holland, his first ever ISAF Sailing World Cup round podium, while Australian Sailing Team member Tom Burton will race in the Laser class.
In the women’s 470 class two Australian Gold medalists will team up for their first regatta together, with 2008 Beijing Olympic Games champion Tessa Parkinson and 2000 Sydney Olympic Games Gold medalist Belinda Stowell beginning their campaign towards London 2012.
The Australian Sailing Team will be well represented in the Skud 18 Paralympic class with three crews lining up in Weymouth.
Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch will be keen to continue the good form they showed in their first World Cup regatta together back in January in Miami, where their brought home the Gold medal.
2000 Sydney Paralympic Games Gold medalist Jamie Dunross and 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games Silver medalist Rachael Cox will compete in their first international regatta together, while Ame Barnbrook and Lindsay Mason will be looking to build on their strong performances both in Europe and Australia in 2010.
The Australian Women’s Match Racing Team will have two crews racing in Weymouth with Nicky Souter sailing alongside Jessica Eastwell and Lucinda Whitty while Olivia Price will compete with Nina Curtis and Rayshele Martin.
The Australian Sailing Squad, which has been designed to create Australia’s next group of Olympic and World Champion sailors, will be out in force in Weymouth with representatives in seven classes.
Sam Kivell and Will Ryan will have their sight set on a second straight medal race appearance following their strong showing in Holland and will be joined in the 470 class by Alexander and Patrick Conway.
The 49er class will feature Squad members Will and Sam Phillips, Steven Thomas and Nick Brownie, and Tom Johnson and Rhys Mara.
In the Laser class Squad members James Burman, Mark Whittington, Ryan Palk, Ashley Brunning and Jared West will all compete, while in the Laser Radials Krystal Weir, Ashley Stoddart, Gabrielle King and Alex South will race.
Jessica Crisp and Allison Shreeve will be out to continue their strong form from Holland where they finished second and third respectively in the RS:X women’s class.
The Australian Sailing Squad will also be represented in the 2.4mR and Sonar Paralympic classes with Matt Bugg racing in the 2.4mR and Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Rod Angwin in the Sonar.
There are also a number of other Australians competing in Weymouth, including Rob McMillan, Shaun Wells, Tim Castles and Oliver Tweddell in the Finn, Ki-Raphael Sulkowski in the Laser class, Laser Radial sailor Caitlin Elks, RS:X women’s competitor Joanna Sterling and RS:X men’s racers James Levy, Tim Gourlay, Luke Baillie and Patrick Vos.
For more information on the Australian Sailing Team visit www.australiansailingteam.com.au and follow the team on Twitter