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11 January 2007, 09:21 am
Olympic And Invited Classes At Sail Melbourne
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Sail Melbourne 2007
Melbourne, Australia

The annual highlight at Sail Melbourne is the ISAF Grade 1 Olympic and Invited Classes Regatta, which is set to be a big week of racing once again from 15-20 January at host Sandringham Yacht Club.
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Already in excess of 100 entries have been received by Yachting Victoria, the organizing authority. New Sail Melbourne event manager Rod AUSTIN says they expect a flood of late entries when competitors arrive just prior to the event start with their boats in tow.

Olympic Classes involved in the 2007 event are: Men's and Women's 470, 49er, Laser, Laser Radial and Men's and Women's RS:X sailboards, and the Paralympic 2.4 Metre, while the Invited classes include the 29er, OK Dinghy, Tasar and Laser 4.7.

A large international contingent is expected, with 49 entries received so far representing Switzerland, Russia, Hong Kong, Croatia, New Zealand, Slovenia, Great Britain, New Caledonia, Bulgaria, Finland, Sweden, Norway, India, Hungary, Germany, Japan, Korea, France and Thailand, who will take on the locals and other entries from Australia wide.

Aussie Stars

While many of the Australian Team members will be on the other side of the world contesting the ISAF Grade 1 Rolex Miami OCR, a number will be in Melbourne, including 2004 Laser Radial World Champion and current world #3 Krystal WEIR (AUS), aiming at her first Olympic Games and Allison SHREEVE (AUS), the 2005 and 2006 Formula Windsurfing World Champion, competing in the Women's RS:X sailboard.

The focus is expected to be on the RS:X Boards, with 32 entries locked in and more expected. From the Australian entries, watch out for last year's runner up SHREEVE, vying for her third opportunity to represent Australia in Beijing. Having just missed selection to the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, she is determined to win the spot this time around.

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Krystal WEIR starts as favourite
in the Laser Radial fleet
© Jeff Crow, Sport the Library
at Sail Melbourne
In the Men's RS:X, Michael LANCEY (AUS) is a strong contender. From Newcastle in NSW, the 25 year old was a strong contender in the former Olympic class Mistral sailboard and in 2002 won the Eurolymp Austrian International Lakes Week, Sail Sydney, the 2001 Sydney International Regatta, finished third at Sail Melbourne in 2001 and finished eighth at Sail Melbourne in 2005.

International Challenge

Strong competition will come from the internationals including a strong challenge from the eight Koreans, four from Hong Kong and four from Thailand amongst others. Hong Kong is strong in the RS:X, so watch out for Chin Ho HO (HKG) who finished seventh in a world class fleet at last year's event and is looking to up the ante this time round.

In the women's fleet, Wai Kei CHAN (HKG) returns to extract revenge after just missing out on a top three place last year and being relegated to fifth on countback. Her team mate Wai Man CHAN (HKG) will also be there, after finishing three points behind her team mate to place sixth in 2006.

The RS:X is the new windsurfer board that will be showcased at Olympic level for the first time at the Beijing Games in 2008 and was adopted as the new equipment for the Olympic windsurfing events in November 2004. It is termed a Hybrid board as it forms a cross between the older displacement hull of the Mistral and a planing hull such as the Formula Windsurfer.

Apart from the RS:X, the Laser class has attracted a large field, with 32 currently entered in the full rig, including four-time Laser Master Worlds champion Brett BEYER (AUS) from Sydney. BEYER, 40, who also coaches Olympic hopeful Laser sailors, recently finished third at the ISAF Grade 1 Laser Australian Championships in Hobart.

Olympic Medallist Lines Up

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Allison SHREEVE is one of
Australia's big gold medal
© Jeff Crow, Sport the Library
at Sail Melbourne
Vasilij ZBOGAR (SLO), who won the bronze medal at the Athens Olympic Games, will be hard to beat. Finishing eighth at the Australian National title, in 2006 he placed fifth at the Olympic Test Event in Qingdao, won the Izola Spring Cup, finished second at Expert Olympic Garda and won the 2004 SPA Regatta and is always a focused competitor.

Many of the competitors this year are tomorrow's Olympians out giving it their first go against some of the more experienced campaigners in the Olympic classes, while some new names have emerged in the feeder classes such as the 29er.

In the 2.4 Metre Paralympic class, there are some old names. Paralympian Peter THOMPSON (AUS) is at the top of the list. Winner of the 2004 event and second placed at the IFDS Worlds sailed as part of Sail Melbourne the same year, THOMPSON has twice represented at the Paralympic Games.

Peter RUSSELL (AUS) finished the event second overall last year and will be one to watch, along with Michael MCLEAN (AUS), who finished third last year, just one place in front of his wife Cathy.

New Chairman Looks Forward

Commenting on the regatta and his new role as Sail Melbourne Chairman, Mark TURNBULL OAM said, 'I am excited about my new role and looking forward to welcoming some of the top sailors from around the world to Sail Melbourne.

'As a former competitor myself, I realize how valuable a regatta like this is to each person's campaigns. I'm looking forward to viewing some of the racing and to catching up with some of my former contemporaries.' TURNBULL, with Tom KING (AUS) as his skipper, represented and won the gold medal for Australia in the 470 class at the Sydney 2000 Games and is a former Sail Melbourne ambassador, making him the ideal Chairman to fill the large shoes of long term outgoing Chairman Kevin WOOD.

Sandringham Yacht Club has hosted the Olympic and Invited Classes and other world class Sail Melbourne events for many years. It is arguably the most able club in Australia when it comes to hosting major international events, having had many years experience and boasting up-to-date facilities and the room needed to accommodate the large fleet sizes that arrive each year and is very welcoming to its visiting sailors.

Studies estimate the Sail Melbourne regatta generates an economic impact of approximately $6 million for Victoria each year, but without the support of sponsors, this regatta could not be what it is and we thank event sponsors, the State Government of Victoria, Parks Victoria; Veolia Environmental Services/Collex, associate sponsors Bayside City Council, Menere's BMW Brighton, and support sponsors Ronstan International, Schenker Australia, City of Kingston and the City of Port Philip.

Sail Melbourne will be included in the first running of the ISAF World Cup© series for the Olympic Classes. For more on the ISAF World Cup© CLICK HERE.

For all the news on Sail Melbourne CLICK HERE.

Di Pearson (As Amended by ISAF). Image, The Olympic Classes head to Melbourne next week:© Jeff Crow, Sport the Library at Sail Melbourne
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