The only ISAF Grade 1 event held annually in the Southern Hemisphere, Sail Melbourne's premier regatta regularly attracts the top national and international sailors, and starts on Monday 12 January from Sandringham Yacht Club.
This year the event has the added significance of being the first multi-class, ISAF Grade 1 event featuring every one of the Olympic classes, since the ISAF World Championships in Cadiz last September.
Pressure is mounting leading up to the Olympic Games in Athens later this year both for those athletes hoping to be selected to represent their country, and for those already selected, hoping to improve or consolidate their world standing, whilst not wanting to peak too early.
The Australian Yachting Federation is using the Sail Melbourne Olympic & Invited Classes Regatta as the final selection trials for the Australian Olympic Sailing Team in 470, Tornado, Laser, Finn, Europe and Mistral Men and Women.
Nathan WILMOT and Malcolm PAGE (AUS), ranked first in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, are using the 420 World Championship, which is going into its final day tomorrow, as a perfect test bed for the Olympic Classes event. Although they haven't had it all their own way, they are currently leading this world-class championship.
This event is to be hosted by Sandringham Yacht Club, the largest on the bay and only 15km from Melbourne's CBD. SYC boasts a state of the art floating marina, crane, hardstand, boat chandlery and rigging shop on site. The first stage of the yacht club's redevelopment will be fully completed for the 2004 Regatta, benefiting all competitors with more space and improved launching facilities.
On shore facilities include the Members Bar, the Red Anchor Restaurant and Bar, Members Lounge and Billiards Room and the Outdoor BBQ and garden. The recently opened Ken King Centre features new competitor facilities and a place you can enjoy a coffee on the deck overlooking the marina.
The 2,000sq kilometres of deep open water that make up Port Phillip are unaffected by tide or geographical features. Sailing conditions off Sandringham in January are some of the best in the world, with water temperature of 20°C, consistent sea breezes and air temperatures about 30°C. Melbourne is on of the best places to sail in Australia.
All the Olympic classes are catered for next week, along with the Laser Radial, 29er and 420 being the invited classes. So expect to see some of the world's best sailors in the world, many of whom have taken advantage of the southern hemisphere summer to train in Melbourne over the last few weeks, ready to battle hard, as we approach the final build up to Athens 2004.
ISAF will bring you daily reports from Australia. Further details and full results from the Olympic and Invited classes, as well as all the events taking place as part of Sail Melbourne will be available on the event website at the address below.