|MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA-(18-1-2007) Another hot start to the day at the ISAF Grade 1 Olympic & Invited Classes Regatta being hosted by Sandringham Yacht Club at Sail Melbourne on Day 4.
Tobias Etter/Felix Steiger (SUI) took a first and second place in 470 Combined Races 7 and 8 on Port Phillip to extend their lead over the Russian pair, Dmitry Berezkin/Alexander Zybin by 12.5 points.
“We were following the Russians all the way during the first race today,” Steiger said, “and we just caught him and overtook right on the finish line.”
The Swiss pair have sailed an extremely consistent series, with only one place outside the top three against the higher ranked Russians. When asked what their aim was for the event, Steiger answered with a smile: “We were checking the entry list to see who had entered and then we decided we wanted to win.”
Berezkin had one good Race 7, scoring a second, but dropped down in Race 8 with a disappointing sixth. “I prefer more wind,” Berezkin commented after what for Melbourne has been another unusually calm day with winds of 6-8 knots.
The Russian pair should make good use of the light airs, as that is what they will get should they be chosen for the 2008 Olympic sailing competition, which will be held in the Chinese Provence of Qingdao. “We have had very close racing today, so that is good,” Berezkin said.
With the Swiss pair now so far ahead, only a major mistake can stop them from taking first place in the series.
The Singapore pairing of Yuan Zhen Xu/Terence Koh remain in third place, but are knocking on the Russians’ door, just half a point away in what is shaping up to be a tight battle for second and third places.
In the Laser Radial class, Victoria Chan (SIN) took out Races 7 and 8 – her first two wins of the series, which puts her just three points behind Gabrielle King (AUS), who also moved up the board with a 3-2 results.
A first time competitor in the Sail Melbourne Olympic and Invited Classes event, King has just come from a win at the Australian Youth Championships and is worth keeping an eye on as a probable future Olympian.
“The Singapore girls are really fast, that’s what they’re used to,” commented King. And that’s what the rest of the world will have watch out for – the Asians and the Chinese are experts in light airs and will be the biggest threat in all classes come Beijing.
“Not a good day” was the comment from Melbourne’s Olympic campaigner in the class Krystal Weir (AUS), who agreed that the “Singapore girls are fast”.
“I’ve just had one of those days,” she said of her fourth and third places, “I’m making some fundamental errors.” In Melbourne’s normally windier conditions, she revels and is now spending more time on training in light airs, agreeing that it’s an area that needs improvement. “It’s good that they beat me; it makes me work harder,” says the positive 22 year old, whose lead of the series has narrowed to five points.
With all the black flag disqualifications in the Laser class yesterday, Brett Beyer (AUS), who led the series prior to yesterday said: “We were all better behaved today, but it wasn’t as windy, so it was easier.” Beyer scored a sixth and seventh, putting him 10 points behind second placed Kristian Ruth (NOR).
Obviously pleased with his performance today Ruth, competing at his first Sail Melbourne event commented: “There is good competition here; it’s fun sailing with Brett and Vasilij.” And with two bullets today, and in second place overall, he has every reason to have a smile on his face.
The series leader, Vasilij Zbogar (SLO), was more reserved commenting: “It has been a tricky day.” A wrong decision in terms of how strong the current was on the right hand side of the course, along with the sea breeze filling in from the left hand side, led the Athens bronze medallist o a fourth place in Race 7 and a third in Race 8.
Racing today in the Laser fleet has been close, with Zbogar saying he had “kept an eye on Brett behind him for the entire race.”
Zbogar was more philosophical about the Black Flag incidents of yesterday, saying: “I had two bad starts. I was being more conservative because I had to already carry one OCS.”
One competitor, who in his own words had “a really, really, really, bad day,” was Robert Godwin (GBR). After capsizing twice Godwin, who after yesterday’s racing was sitting pretty in fourth place overall, is now down in ninth place following a 17th in Race 7 and a disastrous 39th in Race 8.
Whilst obviously disappointed with his results, the Brit said he was happy with his performance overall, and will do his best to make the medal race.
Alessandra Sensini (ITA) continues to dominate the women’s RS:X competition with two bullets in Races 7 and 8. “Well, we’ve had all conditions now, no wind, medium wind, and lots of wind,” she said.
Now sitting 10 points clear of nearest rival Allison Shreeve (AUS), Sensini said the conditions have been really good for training and testing her skills in all wind strengths.
With a third and a fourth today, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympian Jessica Crisp (AUS) was frustrated about her lack of practice. “If you don’t practice, you don’t get anywhere.” Annoyed with herself, “if there was a gust to be had, I’d be missing it,” Crisp will be looking for a better day tomorrow to bring her closer to her Australian rival for the 2008 Olympic Games team position, Shreeve.
Crisp is fourth placed overall behind Wai Kei Chan (HKG) who notched up two second places today. Warning to others – another light air specialist on the upward move!
One to watch for in the future in the RS-X women’s class is Justina Sellers (NZL). Sellers is the daughter of Rex Sellers, double gold medal winner in the Tornado class at the ‘84 and ‘88 Olympics.
Coming back from a recent shoulder reconstruction, Sellers says she is “at least four months away from peak physical condition,” and had only been back sailing for a week before competing at this event.
“It’s goods to get back into racing, and the atmosphere here is great - relaxed and friendly. The top girls help you out,” she said. Aiming for the 2012 Olympics, and with a pedigree like hers, Sellers will be a name to look out for in the RS-X class.
The Men’s RS:X competition has been dominated by Benjamin Tillier (FRA). Using a third place in Race 8 as his drop, the wily Frenchman has won every other race of the series so far.
Aiming for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and like all competitors at Sail Melbourne this year, he agrees that the sailors from the Asian nations are the ones to watch. “Tomizawa Makoto and Chi Ho Ho are very fast in light winds”.
Makoto (JPN) is currently in second place and Ho (HKG) in third, with the Japanese board sailor racking up his best result so far, a win in Race 8.
Australians Michael Williams, Geoff Francis and John Shallvey, the top three in the Finn class, are all in training for the Finn Gold Cup to be held at Sail Melbourne next year. Whilst only a small fleet is here this year, Shallvey says, “You come to Melbourne for the wind and the waves.”
Michael Leydon (AUS) holds a comfortable lead in the 2.4mR class with Peter Thompson (AUS) second and Peter Russell (AUS) in third.
Will Phillips and Jon Newman (AUS) maintain their first place in the 49er class, and in the 29er, David Chapman and Dean Curtis hold onto their first place.
In the Skud 18 class, Paul Borg’s (AUS) domination has been broken by Ame Barnbrook (AUS), the NSW teenager scoring her first two wins today. She is now six points behind Borg on 12.
The Tasars had their first two races today, and Ronstan’s Alistair Murray, an Associate sponsor of the event, skippered his boat to two from two wins with crew Scott McKenzie to lead that series. Nice to see our sponsors get some rewards!