The Opening Ceremony yesterday was an emotional event as it recognised the dedication of the sailors, the commitment of the volunteers and highlighted the joy of being involved with this regatta.
The looks on the faces of Chris WILSON (left), Chairman of the Organising Committee and David STALEY, Manager of the Sail Melbourne International regatta say it all. This year, over the six week period in December and January, the Sail Melbourne International Regatta ran 27 regattas in different locations around Port Phillip Bay. These 23 regattas include:- 4 x Worlds championships, 11 x Australian Championships, 3 x State championships and Olympic and Invited Classes.
Every competitor, their supporters, the volunteers, the Jury, the Classifiers as well as members of Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron attended the Opening Ceremony function that was held in the Senior Lounge on the upper deck.
All competitors were asked to line up on the stage area where there were formally introduced to the audience. The introductions were done following the procedure of the Olympics/Paralympics with Greece, the founder of the Games , always introduced first.
After the introductions there were short addresses from Phil VARDY, Technical Delegate and Vice President of IFDS, David STALEY, Manager of the Sail Melbourne International Regatta and Ian WARNER, Commodore of Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron, who read a message of support from IFDS Chairman, Ian HARRISON.
To finish the Ceremony the Portugese Team presented 15 gifts to a representative of each country and members of the regatta Organising Committee.
Twenty-two contestants hit the water for the first day of racing on Port Phillip Bay today in the championship. Two races in each Fleet, A and B will be held each day starting at 11.00am and 2.00pm local time over the next few days.
In Fleet A, today's two heats got underway at 11.00am and were won by 27 year old Queenslander Daniel FITZGIBBON (AUS). A quadriplegic since an accident in Sydney in 1997, Fitzgibbon was a top class sailor before his accident, having won two State titles in the 420 class.
Sailing the Chris MITCHELL designed Access Liberty, the designated boat for this event, Bento AMARAL (POR) finished second in Race 1, with South Australian Andrew HARTLEY third. In Race 2, it was Mat BROWN (W.A.) in second and Colin JOHANSON (Vic) in third place.
In Fleet B today, Zoltan PEGAN (NSW), won both races from Peter THOMPSON (ACT). This was the first time Thompson had set foot in the Liberty, he arrived after finishing second in the 2.4mR class at the Olympic and Invited classes at Sandringham Yacht Club and is set to represent Australia at the Paralympic Games later this year.
Maryanne IRELAND (NSW) finished third in Race 1. She only took up sailing six years ago and is the only female to figure in a top three place today. Craig CLARKE (S.A.) took second place in Race 2.
These results put Fitzgibbon and Pegan, a paraplegic after an aircraft accident, in a tie for first place. The pair led their races for most of the day.
Fleet A, mostly made up of quadriplegics, will commence racing each day at 11.00am, while Fleet B, with lesser problems, start their races at 2.00pm local time.
The World Championship will go to the competitor with the lowest point score from the two Fleets, A and B, at the end of the eight race series, which includes one race drop if at least five races are sailed.
Today's races were sailed in near-perfect conditions, 12-15 knots, flat water and sunny blue skies.
Racing continues on Port Phillip Bay tomorrow.