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23 December 2001, 02:06 pm
The Battle For Top Honours Continues
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2nd Malta Euromed Optimist Championship
St. Pauls Bay

At the end of the third day of racing in the second Euromed Championship for Optimists currently being held at St. Paul's Bay, the battle for the top places is still wide open although the Swedes are still in command.

With ten of the 13 races done to date, and some highly competitive sailing with equally close finishes, the top three Swedish sailors have managed to hold on to the top three overall places they gained right from the start and which they consolidated yesterday.

In fact, after Day Three, it is still Ton Thorn, the Swedish Number 9 Opti-sailor who is leading strongly challenged by his fellow team mates Rebecka Harding and Karl Malmqvist who are the Nordic Optimist champions in their class. The latter two sailors held the first and second places on Day One of this competition being organised by the Malta Young Sailors Club off the Tax-Xama shoreline at St. Paul's Bay.

But despite the totally Swede command of the top three places, the tussle for competition title is still wide open and it is anybody's guess who the winner will be. In fact, after the heavy sailing conditions of Friday, Day 2, which favoured the Maltese team and pushed them up into the top 6 places behind the Swedes, the inclement weather settled to a more steady north westerly at 14 knots. This then reduced to a lighter 12 knots for the last race of the day.

As a result, Malta's team slipped down a gear in their performance ("we need windy conditions" said Malta coach Jean P.Fl;eri Soler) yet number one Optimist sailor Matthew Fleri Soler held on to the fourth place again today and is perfectly poised to ruffle the Swedish command at the top if he sails consistently tomorrow Sunday. In fact, if he can slightly improve his performance for the last three races by ending up in one of the top 8 positions, he should find himself easily in the middle of the Swedes in the top three places.

Young Briton Ben Saxton, 11 years, also continued fighting hard with very consistent sailing and moved up into the 5th position, hotly followed by Malta's Number Two Optimist sailor Zak Borg, who recently competed very favourably in Croatia and placed high up the final list out of over 200 sailors.

Mattias Holmgren, another of the Swedish team, was tussling it out with Malta's Sebastian Ripard in the 7th and 8th positions with two Britons, Claire Walsh and Tim Saxton (Ben's twin) making up the 9th and 10th places just ahead of Benjamin Borg and Daniel Calascione. Interestingly the two Saxton brothers are junior Optimist sailors in the Cadet class.

The Indian sailors in the competition placed immediately after the Maltese, with one of their two girl sailors, Shilpa Operoi, the national Number 3, leading the group. Their coach and team leader, A.P. Singh, said that the Indian sailors were chosen from open national selection trials and the team currently in Malta may be considered as their top sailors at the moment. In fact, Ashok Rohith, currently 17th, is the Indian champions with Salil Sabir, currently 16th, is the Indian number two sailor. The team has good racing experience having even participated and done well in the Dubai championships earlier this year but Mr. Singh said he was not very happy with their overall performance and felt they should have done better. In fact, his team has been suffering more from the cold weather conditions rather than the heavy seas and windy conditions since they all come from the Bombay and Goa areas where wintertime is very warm indeed. "For us this is the first time we are racing in a European winter conditions" he said with a sarcastic smile, adding that he was hoping the last racing day on Sunday would really be a sun day!!

Overall Results, After Day Three:

1. Ton Thorn (SWE)
2. Rebecka Harding (SWE)
3. Karl Malmqvist (SWE)
4. Matthew Fleri Soler (MLT)
5. Ben Saxton (GBR)
6. Zak Borg (MLT)
7. Mattias Holmgren (SWE)
8. Sebastian Ripard (MLT)
9. Claire Walsh (GBR)
10.Tim Saxton (GBR)
Malta Euromed Press/News Editor
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