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4 January 2007, 09:39 am
BLACKBURN Takes The Honours
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Laser Australian Championships 2006
Hobart, Australia

Michael BLACKBURN (AUS) added to his World Championship gold with victory at the ISAF Grade 1 Laser Australian Championships in Hobart, Australia, again beating his younger Australian rival Tom SLINGBY (AUS) into second place. A solid finish also saw Krystal WEIR (AUS) wrap up victory in the Laser Radial fleet.

Sydney sailor BLACKBURN continued his terrific run since returning to the Laser fleet in the second half of last year, following a break after the Athens Olympic Games. Today, on Hobart's River Derwent, he added a sixth Australian National Championship to his 2006 World title and an outstanding record in the world's most popular single-handed dinghy.

Among his exploits in the 12 foot Laser was to sail one across Bass Strait in 2005 from Stanley and Wilson's Promontory, 13 hours of sailing the 115 nautical miles,

Battle To The Finish

BLACKBURN, at the age of 36 qualifying for the Laser Masters (if he chose to do so) won the Australian Championship by a mere two points from 22 year old SLINGSBY, with the title being decided in the last of 11 races.

On a day when the northerly breeze failed to get much above 6 knots, the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania managed to get one race sailed, but had to abandon race 12 because of lack of breeze within the time limit.

'The lighter breeze today favoured me today against Tom, who sails well in heavy winds,' BLACKBURN said after placing second in the final race, with SLINGSBY back in seventh place.

BLACKBURN, from Middle Harbour Amateur Sailing Club in Sydney, and SLINGSBY, a member of Gosford Sailing Club on the NSW Central Coast, both sailed consistently through the series.

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Action from Hobart
© Jane Austin
Eight qualifying races were sailed, followed by three of four scheduled races in the gold fleet finals. SLINGSBY finished top scoring competitor in the qualifying races, winning six races. In the finals he placed 7,2,7 in the 45 boat gold fleet.

Gold Fleet Races Decisive

BLACKBURN was second after the qualifiers, with four wins and in the final three races placed 4,3,2, with his discards from the entire series being a second and a fourth.

'It has been an excellent series with Australian and international competition, with a mix of light winds and more pressure but sailing in flat water, which is unusual down here at this time of the year,' BLACKBURN said after his overall win was confirmed.

'Tom is a good competitor and we compliment each other's skills in championship racing, but today the lighter breeze favoured me,' BLACKBURN added. 'We are both in the Australian Sailing Team training for the Beijing Olympics, heading overseas early in the New Year.'

BLACKBURN has represented Australia at the Olympic Games three times, placing fourth overall at Atlanta in 1996, winning a bronze medal at Sydney in 2000 and ninth at Athens in 2004.

He won the Laser Radial World Championship in 2004 and the Laser World Championship in South Korea in 2006, in which SLINGSBY finished runner-up.

Extensive CV

BLACKBURN has also become involved in one-design keelboat and ocean yacht racing, competing in three Rolex Sydney Hobart Races and sailing as a tactician for Sydney yachtsman Martin HILL (AUS) in winning the 2006 Australian Sydney 38 OD Championship. He will have the same role on HILL's Farr 40 OD, Estate Master, and the Australian title in February.

BLACKBURN finished with a score of 15 points after two discards (one from the qualifying series and one from the gold fleet) with SLINGSBY on 17 points.

Third place overall in the Australian Championship went to World Masters Champion Brett BEYER (AUS) from Sydney on 33 points, but in the overall fleet standings that included international competitors, the Canadian sailor Michael LEIGH placed third with BEYER fourth.

Of the other internationals, Kristian RUTH (NOR) finished fifth in the overall standing, James ESPEY (IRL) sixth, Athens bronze medallist Vasilij ZBOGAR (SLO) eighth, Michael BORDE (FRA) ninth and Robert GOODWIN (GBR) 11th,

In the silver fleet, West Australian Richard LESLIE won by half a point from Norway's Einar SUNDE and Tasmanian Rod CHAMBERLAIN (AUS), while countback was required to determine the winner of the Laser 4.7 class.

Tasmanian teenager Chris 'George' JONES (AUS) from the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania won on the countback from Sam PHILLIPS (AUS) and another Tasmanian, David FLETCHER (AUS) from the Tamar Yacht Club in Launceston.

Radials Go To The Wire

The strongly contested Laser Radial class was decided in the protest room, requiring an interpretation on whether there should be one or two discard races from the 11 heats sailed.

As result of the National Jury's decision that there should be two discard races, the winner of the 2006 Australian Laser Radial Championship is WEIR from Melbourne's Sandringham Yacht Club who finished on 28 points, one point ahead of fellow Victorian Sarah BLANCK (AUS) on 29 points.

Third place went to Tasmanian Ben PRICE (AUS) on 33 points followed by Youth sailor Ben GUNTHER (AUS) on 39 points. In sixth place overall and third women was Tania ELIAS CALLES (MEX).

Peter Campbell (As Amended by ISAF). Image, Michael BLACKBURN leads the fleet away:© Jane Austin
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