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23 January 2001, 02:19 pm
Strong Winds For Olympic Classes
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Sail Melbourne

Sail Melbourne

Strong winds and choppy seas prevailed across the scheduled five days of Olympic classes sailing providing testing conditions for even the most experienced of competitors.
While many found the going tough, Sydney Olympic bronze medallist, Michael Blackburn, showed all how it should be done, adding another title to his impressive swag in what may be his farewell to the Laser class. But even Blackburn found the going demanding, back in the Laser for his first competition since the Olympic Games in September. He didn't contest the final two races of the regatta due to a sore back, but still ran out a clear winner after recording five wins in the first eight races. Blackburn's Middle Harbour club-mate, 18-year-old Ben Austin, followed on from his victory at the World Youth Championship earlier this month with a creditable second placing, while Alistair Gair squeezed out Josh Beaver for third. Blackburn is now looking to compete in the 49ers, a move already made by Sydney 470 gold medallist Mark Turnbull.

Olympic 470 champion, Turnbull, sailing with Nick Partridge, had an impressive debut in the 49er class, finishing fourth, despite missing three of the 15 races with a torn sail. It was an encouraging start to Turnbull's campaign for Athens in 2004. Fellow Victorians Nigel Abbott and Craig Smith, proved too good as they recorded six race wins to take the title with 20 points, ten clear of another local pair, Kirwan Robb and Ryan Grieve. Perth's Glenn Raphael and Chris Rast, the early leaders, had gear problems and didn't register a result in any of the last four races, dropping to third overall.

Another Sydney gold medallist, Jenny Armstrong - sailing in a mixed fleet in the 470s - featured in one of the closest tussles of Sail Melbourne. Despite winning four of the first eight races, Armstrong and Lisa Rooke couldn't top winning New Zealanders Andrew Brown and Jamie Hunt or Queensland's second placed Belcher brothers, Matt and Dan .

In the Europes, local Sarah Blanck and New Zealander Sarah Macky staged a tremendous battle throughout the 12 race regatta, with Macky's victory in the final race giving her the narrowest possible win, 14 points to 15. Sweden's Charlotte Stroby was third.

In the Men's Mistrals, New Zealanders Matthew McCormick and Scott Radley, and Newcastle's Michael Lancey took the honours, while in the Women's, Illawarra's Natasha Sturges dominated with seven wins from nine races to finish on seven points, with New Zealand's Julie Worth second and Port Macquarie's Allison Shreeve third.
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