|MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA-(14-1-2005) Sailors in the Olympic & Invited Classes regatta left Sandringham Yacht Club at noon for their penultimate day of racing at Sail Melbourne in ideal 10 knot south-south easterlies breezes that steadily built to 15 knots and, by 3.00pm, to 23 knots with steep sharp seas.
With most racing near to or on schedule, race management postponed then abandoned racing in all classes.
The Mistral sailboard fleet, which until today had struggled to complete races in light, fluky winds, relished the stiff conditions and managed to complete Races 7 and 8.
In a major coup for Hong Kong, five of their male and two female board riders took the top positions in their respective fleets in Race 7 and did enough in Race 8 to totally dominate both divisions. They have been a cut above the rest of the fleet throughout the series and will be taking home a veritable treasure trove of trophies tomorrow.
In the battle of Hong Kong competitors, Cheng Kwok Fai has a one point lead from Ho Chi Ho, the earlier series leader, with Chan King Yin one further point away; such is their battle for supremacy.
The Womens is lead by Chan Wai Man, just three points ahead of Chan Wai Kei, with French girl, Gourand Solenn in third.
The 49er class managed two races, but are still one behind schedule and will looking at completing three races tomorrow. Tom Clout’s 49er was the only casualty of the day; towed ashore with a broken mast and tiller extension. Brothers Scott and Mark Kennedy’s (NZL) lead has been depleted somewhat, their Kiwi counterparts, Jake Bartrom/Craig Prentice just one point away after a win in Race 11. Joe Turner/Charles Dorron (AUS) maintain third spot a further three points behind.
The Laser Radials completed two races today. With only one race remaining, Radial world champion Krystal Weir looks safe in first place and set to celebrate her 20th birthday tomorrow with yet another Sail Melbourne trophy.
Today’s conditions were perfect for Weir, a local Sandringham and Brighton sailor, who relishes heavy going.
‘It’s back to typical Sail Melbourne weather,’ Weir said. ‘It was great out there today.’
New Zealand youngsters Jo Aleh and Jane Macky are fighting it out for second place. Both have had a solid regatta with consistent results and at times challenged Weir, leading her at one stage.
Four Australian skippers with their respective classes sewn up are Mathew Belcher (470), Darren Bundock (Tornado), Josh Beaver (Finn) and Nicky Bethwaite (Yngling). All are aiming to clean sweep the regatta with further wins tomorrow.
Belcher (Queensland) and crew Nick Behrens (Tasmania) said today’s conditions were perfect for them.
‘We’ve been doing a lot of work in light air because that’s where we have the problem,’ Belcher said. ‘But this afternoon’s 20 plus knots was really good for us, because we carry about 18kgs more than we should.’
Singapore ’s Roy Tay Junhao/Pei Ming Chung are second placed, but some 20 points behind, whilst West Australia’s up-and-coming team of Elise Rechichi/Tessa Parkinson are leading the women and third behind the Mens on combined results.
‘We struggled for the first few days, but yesterday we realised we had to get more aggressive and we did,’ said Rechichi.’ Her crew Tessa Park said, ‘it was very weird weather, definitely good practice really makes you think.’
Sydney Paralympic sailor Michael McLean today won Race 9 of the 2.4mR and is third overall behind able-bodied sailors Michael Leydon and Peter Russell. Aaron Hill, a 20 year old who lost a leg to cancer aged 13, is in fourth.
Finland ’s Roope Suomalainen heads the Laser class by four points from Queenslander Brendan Casey (AUS) and Tom Slingsby (AUS) on equal points after nine races. Both Casey and Slingsby have shown moments of genius but have not been consistent throughout. David Wright (CAN) has dropped to third place after scoring a 23rd in Race 9.
Mark Lincoln has won all but one race to continue his lead of the Laser 4.7with Mark Edmonds still second, but only two points in front of newcomer Matt Brown in this all Aussie fleet.