|MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA-(20-1-2007) The Olympic and Invited Classes Regatta hosted by Sandringham Yacht Club at Sail Melbourne conducted the Medal Races as a finale to the week-long event in very wet conditions.
With Athens bronze medallist and leader in the Laser Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) having to leave the event a day early, he was scored as a 10th place, as double points in the medal race cannot be discarded.
Capitalising on Zbogar’s absence, Kristian Ruth (NOR) came fifth in the Medal Race, but had enough up his sleeve to take the gold medal four points ahead of Brett Beyer (AUS). Ruth has his sights set on the ISAF Worlds in Portugal and will be competing in the European circuit in the lead up to the regatta in Cascais.
Beyer should be proud. At 40 years old, the four time current World Master Laser champion is still extremely competitive and still beats the Olympic hopefuls he coaches around courses.
Taking first place in the Medal Race, Blair McLay (AUS) placed third overall, but finished the main part of the series quite some points behind the more experienced Zbogar, Ruth and Beyer.
With three earlier races of the series abandoned due to unfit racing conditions, the Laser Radial class got their Medal Race away in a six knot breeze.
As winds increased on the course, so did Krystal Weir’s (AUS) performance. The Victorian revelled in the conditions to take first place from Cushla Hume-Merry (NZL) in second. The number of races abandoned was frustrating for all, but as Melbourne sailor Weir pointed out: “at least we got some starting practice in!”
With the windier conditions not favouring the Singapore girls, they slipped down the board. Weir took first place for the overall series on 13 points followed by third place getter in the Medal Race, Gabrielle King (AUS) on 23. Victoria Chan (SIN) was just two points behind in third after finishing fourth in the Medal Race.
The wind had decreased by the time the RS-X sailors started and after leading the series from Day 1 with seven straight wins on his scorecard, Benjamin Tillier (FRA) finished the Men’s Medal Race a surprising seventh and had to relinquish overall first place to Tomizawa Makoto (JPN) who relished the light airs.
“Makoto is really fast in light winds, that is what I need to concentrate on,” the Frenchman commented.
Unsurprisingly, another light air specialist, Chi Ho Ho (HKG) finished second in the race for third in the series.
Light winds also affected some in the RS-X Women’s fleet. World champion Alessandra Sensini (ITA) came home third in the Medal Race, but having led the fleet all week, had enough in store to win the series by 10 points.
Again, the Medal Race went to a good light air sailor, Wai Kei Chan (HKG), whose win gave her second place overall from Formula sailboard world champion Allison Shreeve (AUS).
Shreeve finished the race fifth, one place behind Jessica Crisp (AUS), but Crisp finished the series in fourth place overall behind Shreeve. The battle is well and truly on between the two Australian girls for the spot on the 2008 Olympic Sailing Team. This battle has raged through the two past Olympic Games, with Crisp winning the place to both Sydney and Athens.
The 2.4mR Medal Race led to a very close finish board in a three way battle for the prize. Paralympian Peter Thompson won the race for third overall, Peter Russell (AUS) finished the race second and Michael Leydon (AUS) who led most the series finished the race third. The latter two finished the series equal on 22 points, with Russell taking first on countback. Thompson was just one point behind them.
Tobais Etter/Felix Steiger (SUI) continued their domination of the Combined 470 class, winning the final race and the series to easily taking the Championship. Consistent sailing paid for Mathieu Higgins/Timothy Lynch (AUS) who stole second place from four-time Olympian Dmitry Berezkin and his crew Alexander Zybin (RUS).
In the Women’s 470, Liying Toh/Deborah Ong, members of the Singapore Olympic Team took first place overall and finished sixth in the Combined scores. Catherine Carroll/Ria Yau (HKG) were second in the Women’s.
Sail Melbourne will host the 2008 470 Men’s and Women’s Worlds on Port Phillip, so for those here, the experience was an important one.
Michael Williams (AUS) in the Finn Class scored every sailors dream, bullets in every race to take the Championship from old campaigner John Shallvey (AUS) and Geoffrey Francis (AUS).
With the Finn Gold Cup also coming to Sail Melbourne in 2008, these guys will be out on Port Phillip putting in some hours training to be competitive for next year – a good move considering the competition they will be up against.
While Ame Barnbrook and crew Leigh Dunstan (AUS) won the final race of the Skud 18, world champion blind sailor Paul Borg (AUS) with crew Morgan Staley had enough in the bank to win the event by one point.
At the Presentation Ceremony, Barnbrook displayed another of her many talents entertaining competitors and guests with jazz on her trumpet. The 18 year old Victorian was born with Phocoamelia, a condition that manifests itself by the absence of limbs, but has never let that stop her from achieving her goals in life.
Will Phillips/Jon Newman (AUS) enjoyed in the breezier conditions on Port Phillip, scoring yet another bullet to easily win the 49er series. The Croatian pair of Bojan Vrscaj/Nikola Topic came second overall after a few dips in cold of Port Phillip Bay, shuddering but happy when they came ashore.
Lachlan Pearman/Aaron Gavin (AUS) who did not finish today’s race, finished third overall on count back.
Sail Melbourne is hosting the 49er Worlds in 2008 and Phillips/Newman used this event as practice for bigger things to come at those Worlds, looking forward to sailing well on home turf.
David Chapman/Dean Curtis (AUS) had a near-perfect series in the 29er, taking first place overall from James Sly/Shane Voyer (AUS) and Emma-Louise Daly/Amy Mercer (AUS). With the 29er Worlds also in Melbourne in 2008, all these crews will be training hard to make the cut for the event.
That wraps the Sandringham Yacht Club hosted Sail Melbourne Olympic & Invited Classes for another year. Many of the sailors competing here are heading off to the ISAF Grade 1 Sail Auckland and then to the Northern Hemisphere for the European circuit.
Sail Melbourne looks forward to welcoming all sailors in 2008, with no less than five World Championships. The Grade 1 ISAF Olympic & Invited Classes Regatta in 2008 will be one of the last events before the all important 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Event Wide Sponsors: State Government of Victoria, Collex, Parks Victoria. Associate Sponsors: Bayside City Council and Menere’s BMW Brighton. Support Sponsors: Singapore Airlines, Ronstan International, Schenker Australia, City of Kingston, Yachting Australia, Yachting Victoria.