by Craig Heydon
Australian sailors have won a silver and bronze medal on the final day of the EUROSAF Champions Sailing Cup on Lake Garda in Italy, including the country's first medal in the new Nacra 17 class.
Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin won silver in just their second event in the new mixed multihull Nacra 17 class, with Ryan Palk claiming bronze in the Laser class.
Waterhouse and Darmanin started the day third overall, winning the final race to take the silver medal, with Austria winning gold and Italy bronze.
“The medal race went really well today, it was a nice short course and about 12 knots of breeze which allowed us to two trapeze around the course, both upwind and down,” said Waterhouse. “The goal was to hold onto a medal position and put ourselves ahead of the two boats in front of us on the scoreboard.
“We had a great start and sailed our strategy up the first beat and rounded in the lead,” he said. “We were overtaken by the regatta leaders on the downwind but clawed them back on the second upwind.
“Despite our best attempts to slow the Austrians down on the final leg to get a place in between us it wasn’t to be, we won the medal race but finished second overall,” he said. “We’re very happy to have achieved all of our goals this regatta and many lessons were learnt, we’re off to Holland next week to take on a very competitive fleet and are looking forward to more racing and training in the coming weeks.”
While Waterhouse and Darmanin may be new to the Nacra 17 class they have a long history in multihull sailing with success across a number of classes, including a gold medal together at the 2009 ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships.
In the Laser class Ryan Palk won bronze, with his fourth place in the final race enough for him to hold onto his overnight third and take the final place on the podium, behind New Zealand and France.
Fellow Australian Tom Burton started the day first overall but with an experimental point score system that did not reward Tom’s consistent sailing throughout the regatta, the top six boats were bunched right up. His sixth place in the final race saw him slip to fifth overall.
“The final race was super tight, the experimental point scoring system used here put everyone so close that you couldn’t afford to protect one boat,” said Palk. “I had a good first beat to lead around the top mark but got into some tight battles with the French boat to be third at the bottom.
“From there Tonci Stipanovic from Croatia, Tom Burton and myself started battling at the head of the fleet with some great, tight, racing between the three of us in the building Ora lake wind,” he said. “It looked like it was going to be a three-way battle between us but then right at the top mark the other three boats came in on a very good shift and stole the lead away.
“It then turned into a race to keep a podium position and I was able to pass Tonci on the last run and keep my third. Even though there were only six boats in this race the points were so tight it was hard to protect one person,” said Palk. “In the end I’m happy to have sailed as well as I did to keep the bronze but it was certainly a little frustrating to be so close to the win and have it slip away.
“My teammate Tom sailed a great week as well and it’s harsh to lose it like that on the last day off essentially what was one shift but that’s what you get with this point system,” he said. “I’m feeling good now after what was a tense week with all kinds of conditions and am happy to be sailing well and more consistently and am taking it all in and learning heaps every day.”
Next stop for Australian sailors is the Delta Lloyd Holland Regatta in Medemblik, beginning on May 21.
Full results from Garda, including the Australians who finished racing on Saturday, can be found here.
For more information on the Australian Sailing Team visit www.australiansailingteam.com.au