Aussie sailors hit the front as breeze picks up at Olympic test event

Australian sailors have reveled in strong winds at the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta, the test event for the London 2012 Olympic Games, with four crews ending the day in the top three of their respective classes.

With the breeze getting up above 25 knots at times, a number of Aussie crews were in their element. Laser sailor Tom Slingsby and 49er crew Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen took the lead in their classes, while Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page have moved into second in the 470 men’s and Krystal Weir into third in the Laser Radial. 

Outteridge and Jensen started day two of the 49er competition second overall, just behind the leading German crew after the opening three races.
 
The Australians sailed consistently well in the strong winds to finish the day with a fifth, a seventh and a first, and now lead the regatta by three points, the 2009 World Champions are the only crew to have finished all six races in the top 10.
 
“It was a good day for us today, really windy and we were racing on the Nothe course with very flat water,” said Outteridge. “We managed to stay out of trouble most of the time today, I fell off the boat a few times and cost us some points but it was nothing major so we’re pretty happy with the day.
 
“It was one of those days we knew it was going to be about fighting all day long, not just against the competition but against the weather itself and to come away with the results that we did was great,” he said.
 
Jensen said that the breeze picked right up for the final race, with a number of crews spending time the wrong way up.
 
“The last race was definitely about survival,” said Jensen. “We rounded the top mark third and had the Spanish and the British go down in front of us, so from there we thought we’d take it easy. Even if we had to sacrifice a few points to make sure we stayed upright, it was about getting around the course to finish in the top three and we eventually came out with the win.”
 
Tom Slingsby built on his strong first opening races in the Laser class with a race win and a second on Sunday moving him into the overall regatta lead.
 
The triple World Champion heads into the Laser class lay day with an eight point lead over New Zealand’s Andrew Murdoch, and is a further seven ahead of the third placed Dutch sailor.
 
“It was definitely my kind of conditions out there today,” said Slingsby. “I felt great and went the right way, sailed well and came away with a good day with a first and a second.
 
“It’s all coming together well so far, there are another two days of racing before the medal race so I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and see how it all adds up before the last race,” he said.
 
470 men’s sailors Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page had a perfect day on the water with a pair of race wins on Portland harbour.
 
The reigning World Champions continue to move up the leader board, with Sunday’s two wins leaving them second overall behind the first placed French crew.
 
“Today was a lot better day for us,” said Belcher. “We were racing back in the harbour and it was nice to have that experience again. We came away with two wins which is all you can ask for and we’re happy with the way we sailed in some tricky conditions.”
 
Page said that the pair felt better racing on the harbour course than they did on the opening day.
 
“It felt more like our boat today,” said Page. “I suppose we didn’t have the mojo early on, not to say that we’ll have it for the second half of the regatta either but certainly today it felt normal.”
 
Krystal Weir continued her solid start in the Laser Radial class, with a second and a sixth moving her up to third overall, just one point behind the second placed Irish sailor.
 
“Things were a bit exciting today with the most wind we’ve had for the whole regatta,” said Weir. “I picked up a second in the opening race with a really tight battle with Marit Bouwmeester of the Netherlands. I led the whole way round; it was only on the last half of the last downwind that she got past me heading into the finish.”
 
“I was really please to be consistent on a day like today where it was pretty tricky on the course,” she said.
 
In the Finn class Brendan Casey has moved his way up to 12th overall, just two points outside the top 10.
 
Casey had a 15th in the opening race before a strong race two, picking up his best result of the regatta so far, a fourth place finish.
 
Tessa Parkinson and Belinda Stowell sit 24th in the 470 women’s class, following their best results of the week so far with a 19th and an 18th.
 
Star sailors Paul McKenzie and Philip Toth are 14th in the Star class, crossing the line 20th and 13th in the day’s two races.
 
The RS:X and Women’s Match Racers had a lay day on Sunday, with Jessica Crisp currently 10th in the RS:X women’s while Tim Gourlay is 25th in the RS:X men’s.
 
Australia’s Women’s Match Racers, Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty will be back in action on Monday in the fifth to eighth place race off.
 
For more information on the Australian Sailing Team visit www.australiansailingteam.com.au and follow the team on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AusSailingTeam. Video highlights, including the latest Ask the AST segment with 49er sailor Iain Jensen will be available at www.youtube.com/YachtingAUS.