Sailing in the Europe Sarah BLANCK (AUS) has shown this week what it takes to be the World Champion she was in 2002. Blanck, who looks set to represent Australia at the Olympic Regatta in Athens, won all three races today to gives her five straight wins.
Verena WAGNER (AUT) currently holds down second spot with some mixed results, dropping her worst race, Race 5 today, in which she finished in tenth place. A talented Krystal WEIR (AUS), also from Victoria is only one point behind in third place with ten points, coming straight from her win of the Australian Laser Radial Championship last week. Weir, who turns 19 tomorrow, is a virtual newcomer to the class, but a naturally gifted sailor, she may well be the one to fill Blanck's shoes when the time comes.
Her nearest rivals are Maiko SATO (JPN) and Riana HALDANE (AUS) both on 17 points.
Nathan WILMOT & Malcolm PAGE (AUS), newly crowned 420 World champions and Ranked No.1 in the ISAF World Rankings in the 470 class, today took the lead in the 470 fleet after 4-3-2 placings today.
In a truly international field with all the best players in Melbourne for the Sail Melbourne ISAF Grade 1 event, which is also the final Australian selection series for Athens, the lead has changed race by race. Wilmot and Page rose to the top today, to lead by a mere two points from the No. 9 ranked pair, Nick ROGERS & Joe GLANDFIELD (GBR), with eighth ranked Gustavo MARTINEZ & Dimas VALDIVIELSO (ESP) in third, a further point away. It cannot get closer that that.
These are the three that will cross swords for the crown at the end of week - Olympic ranking points at stake and for the Australians, Olympic selection. Add to that the prize money offered to the top finishers - it could not get more exciting.
Disappointing today was the performance of Philippe GILDAS & Nicolas LE BERRE (FRA) who have been sailing so well. They had what sailors would describe as 'a shocker' today, with a 9-20-15 result, their first race drop coming in to play today. This is the pair that most competitors were touting as the crew to beat - the upwind speed superior to everyone else's.
Over in the Women's fleet it was a different story - the French women more than held their part of the bargain, Ingrid PETITJEAN & Nadege DOUROUX showed the rest how it was done, finishing second in the combined fleet in Race 5 to take the lead .
Only Martinez/Valdivielso beat them home in that one, so well did they sail in the one lap windward/leeward course in an average 15 knots of breeze. Perhaps the shortened windward/leeward courses suited them.
The fleet sailed three windward/leewards today, unusual, because the 470's normally sail the trapezoid course, but Sandringham officials decided to vary things today and also wanted to give competitors three races.
Christina BASSADONE & Katherine HOPSON (GBR) had a good day also to sit comfortably in second place overall in the Women's fleet, with an 11-11-9 result in the Combined fleet.
Gold medal winners from Sydney 2000, Jenny ARMSTRONG & Belinda STOWELL (AUS) had a better day also to be in third overall with five races to go. They had a 10-5-12 result, Stowell explaining, 'we are not getting off our starts well in our bad races. We need to work on that. We are sailing better now than we have lately, but we are having a few hiccups that are putting us back a bit. We can still improve - there is always something better to strive for. I still love to go sailing, I really enjoy it, actually I thrive on it. I love my sailing,'
she said late this afternoon.
Along with the Laser class, this is a truly international fleet with the world's best sailors in contention, the places changing daily.
ISAF World Ranked No. 1, Michael BLACKBURN (AUS), today grabbed the lead in the ferocious Laser battle going on between two Australians and two Englishmen.
Blackburn finished his day with a 2-1 result to take the lead on ten points from Britain's Olympic hope, Paul GOODISON who ended the day with 5-2 for 12 points. Brendan CASEY (AUS), enjoying the tough competition, scored a 3-6 to be third placed on 13 points from his training partner Ed WRIGHT (GBR) with 7-3 for 14 points.
In 10-13 knot winds with flat seas on the outer trapezoid course, the racing was extremely close. Blackburn conceding, 'I am just trying to sail safe, I don't want to take any risks at this regatta,'
and who could afford to with the depth of talent here, including a large international contingent that includes a number of up and coming starts of the future.
Nine races have been sailed in the 49er, the Olympic double-handed dinghy open class at the Sail Melbourne Regatta on Port Phillip Bay. Chris NICHOLSON & Gary BOYD (AUS) once again producing their best, with two first places and a third in Race 9 today, the latter used as their first race drop of the series giving them a score of seven for the series with six races to go.
Their nearest rivals are Ilya ERMAKOV & Maxim LOGOUTENKO (RUS) with 16 points after a third place in Race 8 and their first win of the series in Race 9. Their efforts here at Sail Melbourne far surpass any of their fellow countrymen in this class to date.
Kenji NAKAMURA & Masato TAKAKI (JPN) placed 4-4-3 today to fill third spot overall, Takaki saying,'we could have done a bit better, we did not go as well as we wanted today.'
Young players, brothers Ben and Marcus Tardrew (AUS) are showing their rising talent, with 3-2-4 placings, don't be surprised to see them finish in a top three position.
Anthony NOSSITER (AUS) continues to blitz the all Australian contingent in the Finn class on Port Phillip Bay today at the Sail Melbourne Regatta. Hosted by Sandringham Yacht Club, the Finns sailed in lightish consistent 10-13 knot winds and nobody was able to knock 'Nocka' of his pedestal in his final run up to what will be his second Olympic Games. Nossiter has won all but today's final race, in which he finished second and used for his worst result drop this afternoon.
Up and coming star, young Josh BEAVER (AUS) took Race 5 from Nossiter to be placed second overall on eight points, four behind the leader. Nossiter's old adversary for the Olympic spot in Sydney, Paul MCKENZIE (AUS) is in third place with six races to sail.
The surprise package of the 2.4mR class at the Sail Melbourne Regatta, Stuart SHIMELD (AUS), has continued to outsail the eight other entries in the class Prior to going into the regatta, Shimeld, a quietly spoken man with a quirky sense of humour, was rated a top three by those in the know, but more likely to be third, was bet.
With a further two wins today - he has won all four races sailed, he leads the two who were touted for the trophy; Peter THOMPSON (AUS), in second place and Michael MCLEAN (AUS) in third. This regatta is a selection for the Paralympic Games later this year, in which Thompson leads the charge.
Shimeld commented on coming ashore, 'it's a pretty ferocious battle going on out there - it's no joke, the racing is fast and furious.'
Asked was he surprised by his performance at Sail Melbourne, Shimeld said, 'yes, I know I am getting better at this all the time, and I know I'm faster round the boat because I am more able bodied, but I am surprised with all my wins, yes.'
Even more remarkable, six points separates him from second place - he will be hard to beat with six races left in the ten race series.
Racing continues tomorrow. For results and photographs visit the event website via the link below.