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12 January 2004, 03:59 pm
Olympic 49er|s in a flurry
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Sail Melbourne - Olympic And Invited Classes
Sandringham Yacht Club, Melbourne

The first ISAF Grade 1 Olympic Classes regatta got underway today in the waters of Port Phillip Bay. For some it was business as usual, and for other classes a few red faces, and some interesting results.
The first class to sail on the opening day, the 49er, turned into something of a comedy of errors. In ideal conditions for the 1200 hours start, flat water and a building 10- knot breeze, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong - for most of the fleet.

Former three-time World champion in the 49er class, Chris NICHOLSON, with his crew Gary BOYD (AUS), arrived late for the start by around one minute 40 seconds, but still managed to outsail their rivals to finish a clear two minutes in front of the fleet, but voluntarily withdrew conceding that Boyd was still aboard the coach boat inside the start sequence time, and therefore considered to have had outside assistance.

In the second incident, Masato TAKAKI, the crew of Kenji NAKAMURA (JPN) almost forgot to duck during two gybes, slowing them right down.

Then Victorians, Mark TURNBULL, the Gold medal winner in the 470 class at the Sydney Olympics and his crew Nick PARTRIDGE (AUS), capsized just short of the finish line, leaving them in fourth place instead of first.

A number of others capsized and just could not catch the rest up. By Race 2, the shifting breeze had wound itself up to 20 knots on a choppy sea, and prior to the start, the Canadian duo of Gordon COOK/Rob FOX appeared to cartwheel and when they recovered, were minus the top half of their mast.

"You want a quote," Fox said on coming ashore, "I'll give you a quote, we didn't realise just how damn shallow it was out here."

He went on to explain how they had hit bottom, capsized, their mast hitting bottom, surfacing broken. There will be no more racing for them until tomorrow.

Others, such as the much fancied duo of Iker MARTINEZ/Xabier FERNANDEZ (ESP), did not compete, Martinez suffering a knee injury.

By Race 2, most seemed to come to their senses, Nicholson/Boyd winning both Races 2 and 3, but their efforts in Race 1 leave them fourth overall.
Victoria's young brothers, Ben and Marcus TARDREW (AUS) were the only ones who seemed to escape incident free, finishing their first day with a 3-3-2 result to lead the series from Ilya ERMAKOV/Maxim LOGOUTENKO (RUS) and Turnbull/Partridge.

This event is the final selection for the Australian crew to represent at the Athens Olympics.

Race Officials from Sandringham Yacht Club must have been scratching their heads.

Sarah BLANCK (AUS), a former Europe World champion, scored two wins from two races today to provisionally lead the Europe class. Blanck, from Victoria, is hoping to gain selection in the Australian team to represent at the Olympic Games in Athens later this year.

She just missed selection to Melanie DENNISON in 2000, so is keen to perform well at this final selection regatta. Verena WAGNER (AUT) currently holds down second place, with two second places, while Riana HALDANE (AUS) finished her day with two third places in the gusty lumpy conditions Port Phillip Bay dished up.

Anthony NOSSITER (AUS) finished with two first places in the Finn Class today. Nossiter, from Sydney, leads Paul MCKENZIE (VIC) and Josh BEAVER (W.A.), by three points from the fourth placed Dean MCAULLAY (W.A.).

Today's 25 plus knots of wind with big seas was ideal for Finn sailing, Race Officials at Sandringham managing to finish the two scheduled races on trapezoid courses. This is the final Australian team selection for the Olympic Games in Athens, with Nossiter expected to have his second opportunity of representing. Hosted by Sandringham Yacht Club, the all-Australian Finn fleet will sail 11 races, finishing on Saturday.

Former Youth medallist in the Hobie class, Robbie LOVIG and his crew Glen DOUGLAS won both races in the Tornado class today in gusty 25-knot winds to lead the.

Sailing in an all-Australian field, the local Lovig/Douglas lead New South Welshmen Andrew MACPHERSON/Greg Lynch, who finished their day with a 3-2 result, with Greg WYERS/David HART (NSW) in third place overall. Marcus Towell/Steve Short (SA) had their day cut 'short', their mast snapping after a capsize in the heavy conditions, the boat nose-diving, Towell falling and damaging his nose in the process.

It is unlikely they will be back on the water for a couple of days.

Allison SHREEVE (AUS) and Faustine Merret (FRA) co-lead the Mistral Women's class after their two races. Shreeve, a former Youth medallist, revelled in the heavier conditions, posting a 2-1, Merret going 1-2 to tie for first. Bryony SHAW (GBR) is currently in third with a 7-3 result.

In a competitive international field, this is the final Australian team selection event for the Athens Games later this year, in which Shreeve is in contention with Jessica CRISP (AUS) who finished today with 6-4 to be in fourth place overall. Crisp had a lucky escape today, when Lars KLEPPICH, a fellow Australian sailing in the Men's Mistral accidentally collided with her, the only damage a bit of a dent in Kleppich board. World No. 2, Romy KINZI (GER), finished her day in 13, not living up to expectations on Day 1.

Shreeve said it was 25 knots plus on the course with fairly wavy, choppy seas. In the Men's, the highly fancied World ranked 6 Julien BONTEMPS (FRA), outclassed the international field with two wins from two races, to lead Max OBEREMKO (UKR) the World ranked 2, by two points - Oberemko placing second in both races. Ikuo INOUE (JPN) had an excellent day with a 4-3 result to lay third overall.

Lars KLEPPICH (AUS), aiming for Olympic selection, finished back in fifth place after his collision with teammate, Jessica CRISP.

Racing continues on Port Phillip Bay Tomorrow. For full results and photo's, please visit the event website at the address below.
Di Pearson (As Amended By ISAF News Editor)
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