|MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA-(17-1-2007) What started as a steamy light breeze day turned into a typically slightly chilly honking sea breezed afternoon on Port Phillip where the Sail Melbourne Olympic & Invited Classes held their third day of competition.
The RS:X Womens 2006 world champion Alessandra Sensini (ITA) continues to lead the class after Races 5 and 6 with a drop in place. Sensini, who is here to escape the Italian winter and get in some practice before heading to New Zealand for Sail Auckland, scored 2-1 results in gusty big wave conditions on Port Phillip.
Australia’s Allison Shreeve has closed the gap with a win and a third place on her scorecard, now three points behind Sensini, with two-time Olympian Jessica Crisp (AUS) nine points behind her fellow Aussie, making a recent return to Olympic class competition.
Sensini is enjoying her time here. “It is difficult to sail here because of the waves. Yesterday was gusty,” she says, “there were big holes on the course – that is very good for training.” She also said, “Allison is fast and Jess is always a good competitor.”
Shreeve, in her turn, is looking deadly. Having lost some weight, she says she is feeling good – and she looks it. “I’m happy with my performance. This is an important regatta for me; this is our Nationals.
“It’s been very beneficial to compete here – to see how I’m going against some of the top sailors in the world (Alessandra and Jessica). Alessandra pounces on every mistake you make. She pushes me.”
The Mens RS:X is also being led by two international sailors. Benjamin Tillier (FRA) has a strong eight point lead over Tomizawa Makoto (JPN) with Australia’s Sean O’Brien moving up into third place today after scoring a third and a second.
In the news of the day, former Olympic campaigner Brendan Todd at 33 years of age has decided to reignite his Olympic ambitions, announcing today he would make a bid for the RS:X Mens spot. Todd, who also coaches Olympic prospects in South Australia, last campaigned in the Mistral board with a top 10 result in both 1996 and 1997.
“I know I have a lot of hard work ahead of me with only a year and a half to go, but it feels right – I’m in the right place now in all respects and keen to go. I know I’ll have to work hard, but I’m ready for it,” he said today.
In the Laser Radial class, local star Krystal Weir has surged ahead on the pointscore table, racking up two more wins in races five and six today. Only a fourth place mars her otherwise perfect scorecard, but with a race drop in place, Weir, who turned 22 on the first day of competition, now drops that fourth and has a seven point lead over Gabrielle King (AUS) who finished the day with two second places.
“It was quite light in the earlier race; 10-12 knots. It lightened off at times, but the waves were still there, which makes it more challenging,” Weir said.
“The second race I reckon we got 20 knots at times and the waves were really steep. I enjoyed myself out there today, I live here, so I’m used to Port Phillip,” she said.
The two Singaporean girls taking part currently hold down third and fourth places. Both Victoria Chan and Man Yi Lo had better results in Race 5, with third and sixth placings, but both had trouble coping in the stronger conditions, finishing seventh and 10th, their worst results for the series and consequently used as drops.
Girls fill up the first six places on the leaderboard; the first male in the overall tally is Mark Lincoln (AUS) with 35 points. Just four points away in 10th place is Dylan Perham, who through a Sandringham program to help Youths in trouble, started to sail a Laser only last year.
You couldn’t wipe the smile off Perham’s face as he came ashore proudly with eighth and fifth results. “This is only my second season and I beat some of the internationals today. I’m happy but hurting,” Perham laughed.
Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) is provisionally leading the Laser class, but with a number of Black Flags and some protests over them, results are shaky. However, Zbogar drops his OCS of Race 4 for a huge lead over second placed Brett Beyer (AUS) who is one of those Black Flagged in Race 6.
A shame for the Aussie, as he revels in the heavier conditions of Port Phillip and was relishing getting out on the track today. “I do most my training offshore and I love the big waves on Port Phillip – the winds are piping in, I know I can do well in this stuff, no matter how badly I start.” He obviously didn’t take into account a BFD.
A couple of sailors in between races said a big gust had hit just prior to the start gun, and Beyer, amongst others was forced over by the sheer power of the wind and waves.
Interestingly, Zbogar, who had been OCS’d in Race 4 yesterday said: “I will be more patient today – I will be careful at the start – that is what costs races – impatience – you are out before you started.” And that is what the Slovenian did, coming up with two wins and dropping his OCS for a currently massive lead of 16 points.
But at least 16 have been scored BFD, so it could be a busy night for the international jury here at host venue, Sandringham Yacht Club, host of this event each year.
Tobias Etter/Felix Steiger (SUI) have increased their lead in the 470 Combined fleet after a race drop came into play today. The Swiss pair helped themselves to a win and a second place to get a jump on their Russian rivals Dmitry Berezkin/Alex Zybin who finished Races 5 and 6 with a third and a win, to be seven and a half points behind the leaders.
Zybin joined Berezkin, a quietly spoken four-time Olympian, two years ago to campaign for the Beijing Games and they are Russia’s No.1 470 pairing. Berezkin competed at the 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 Games with a best result of fifth in Atlanta in 1996.
As a duo, the two finished the ISAF Worlds in fourth place and are at Sail Melbourne for some practice prior to their 2008 World Championship here next year. Like some others here, they are yet to test the waters of Beijing, but will do so at the Test Event in August.
“At home we sail in medium breeze, so I think Beijing will be very difficult, hard” Berezkin said, and Zybin agreed. “Great sailing here, its very good weather, good for training, big waves,” commented the Russian skipper, who competed in Melbourne in 1994 and 2000, while Zybin is here for the first time.
A Singaporean crew is currently in third place. Yuan Zhen Xu/Terence Koh scored double fourth places to be placed only half a point away from the Russians in what is shaping up to be a tight series; the Singaporeans are moving up the World Rankings and will bear watching over the next year.
The first two Womens crews are Singaporeans Yuan Zhen Xu/Terence Koh and Liying Toh/Deborah Ong who are currently separated by just four points.
Michael Leydon still leads the 2.4mR class from Peter Russell and Paralympian Peter Thompson following a further two races today.
Wheelchair bound Michael McLean had a better day with a third and a fourth, lifting him up into fourth place. His wife Cathy, who normally competes here too, said: “he sold my boat, I think he’s worried I’ll beat him.” McLean said “It was good sailing out there – I think we got our two races in just in time – it was starting to get a bit hairy as we came in.”
Paul Borg/Morgan (AUS) Staley are leading the new Paralympic Skud 18 skiff class from Ame Barnbrook/ Leigh Dunstan, the earlier pair notching up a further two wins. Barnbrook is considering an Paralympic campaign while concurrently attending Wollongong University.
“The Skud is so fast – I’ve never gone so fast in a boat before – I love surfing down the waves,” the 18 year old said this afternoon.
In other classes, Will Phillips/Jon Newman (AUS) continue to lead the 49ers, scoring two further bullets today, Michael Williams (AUS) is in front in Finn, also scoring two from two wins today, the Laser 4.7 is led by Viktor Matyas with two wins, and David Chapman/Dean Curtis (AUS) are out front in the 29er with a bullet and a second place