All eyes will be on Yachting NSW's Sydney International Regatta (SIR) when the cream of Olympic and Youth sailors from around the globe congregate to race at the ISAF Grade 1 event on Sydney Harbour.
As the Australian Sailing Team
for the Beijing Games is set to be announced later this month, and many international competitors yet to be selected for the Games, the SIR, to be held from 15-18 December, will be a key selection event for some nations.
Set to showcase the world's best, on courses mirroring those of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, big fleets are expected in the Finn, 470, 49er and 29er classes at the SIR, as their World titles will be sailed at Sail Melbourne in January, along with the Tornado Asia Pacific Championship, which will boost Tornado numbers too.
The gloves are off already with the recent announcement that Great Britain's Ben AINSLIE
, considered one the world's greatest ever Olympic class sailors, will face-off against rival countryman Ed WRIGHT
for selection in the Finn heavyweight dinghy class for the Games.
WRIGHT, currently World Ranked #5, will have a difficult job ahead of him. Although AINSLIE has been noticeably missing from the Olympic track as he competed with Team New Zealand
at the America's Cup for the past couple of years, it has not lessened his Finn sailing sills.
Counting wins at both the 2006 and 2007 Qingdao Olympic Test Events, despite the layoff, AINSLIE, a two-time Olympic gold medallist, will undoubtedly be a brick wall for all-comers.
Highlights for the Brit include Finn gold at the Athens Games, the 2004 and 2005 Finn Gold Cup and 2003 ISAF Worlds. Prior to that, he sailed the Laser one person class, taking gold at Sydney 2000 after victory at the 1998 and 1999 Laser Worlds.
"All the good Finn sailors will be at the SIR, me included,"
says Australia's two-time Olympian, Anthony NOSSITER
, who qualified Australia for the 2008 Olympics. "The 'Big Raffa' will be hard to beat,"
he says of fellow America's Cup team mate (the +39
syndicate crew were predominantly Finn sailors) and 2007 Finn world champion Rafa TRUJILLO
World Ranked #2, #3 and #4, Pieter-Jan POSTMA
(NED), Dan SLATER
(NZL) and Emilios PAPATHANASIOU
(GRE) and Australian Olympic prospect Brendan CASEY
(AUS) will also be there.
Athens Olympians and 2007 Test Event and World's winners Nathan WILMOT
and Malcolm PAGE
will lead the Men's 470 field. They will go head-to-head with fellow Aussies and World Ranked #4 pair of Mat BELCHER
and Nick BEHRENS
Silver and bronze World's medallists Sven COSTER
and Kalle COSTER
(NED), Gideon KLIGER
and Udi GAL
(ISR) and 2007 Test Event silver and bronze winners Nick ROGERS
and Joe GLANFIELD
(GBR) and Alvaro MARINHO
and Miguel NUNES
(POR) will head the international field.
In the Women's 470, Elise RECHICHI
and Tessa PARKINSON
will lead the Aussies, having won the 2007 Olympic Test Event. They will face stiff opposition from 2007 World's top three; Marcelien DE KONING
and Lobke BERKHOUT
(NED), Ingrid PETITJEAN
and Nadege DOUROUX
(FRA) and Christina BASSADONE
and Saskia CLARK
(GBR) and others.
In the 49er skiff, young and talented Nathan OUTTERIDGE
and Ben AUSTIN
will lead the Aussies into battle. The two won bronze at the ISAF World Sailing Championships. Poised to take gold at the Qingdao Test Event, and leading the final race, a breakage pushed them back to fifth place.
Hot competition at the SIR will come from Athens Olympian brothers Pietro SIBELLO
and Gianfranco SIBELLO
(ITA), Worlds runners-up Nico DELLE - KARTH
and Nikolaus RESCH
(AUT) and Test Event silver and bronze medallists Iker MARTINEZ
and Xavi FERNANDEZ
(ESP) and brothers Peter HANSEN
and Soren HANSEN
(DEN), along with Athens silver medallists Rodion LUKA
and George LEONCHUK
(UKR) and two-time Olympian in the class, Marcus BAUR
, crewed by Max BAUMANN
Australia's silver medallist from Sydney 2000 Darren BUNDOCK
and his crew Glenn ASHBY
, World Ranked #1, will be hard to beat on home soil in the Tornado class. The pair have won a number of titles since pairing up, including the 2006 World's, silver at the Qingdao Test event and fourth at the 2007 Worlds.
Competition at SIR will be rife with international top rankers, Johannes POLGAR
and Florian SPALTEHOLZ
the new German national champions, Niko MITTELMEIER
and Tino MITTELMEIER
(GER), Oskar JOHANSSON
and Kevin STITTLE
(CAN), Leigh MCMILLAN
and Will HOWDEN
(GBR), Iordanis PASCHALIDES
and Konstantinos TRIGONIS
(GRE) and Carolijn BROUWER
and Sebastien GODEFROID
BROUWER, an Olympian, is the lone female vying for Olympic selection in the Tornado and has proved herself with some top three results of late.
"There'll be a few of us; Russia and a couple of others will be sending multiple teams. We're looking forward to racing at SIRs on Sydney Harbour - it'll be like sailing at the Sydney Olympics,"
As the Laser Worlds are to be sailed off Terrigal on the NSW Central Coast in February, expect to see elite sailors from around the globe at SIR. Australia's own Tom SLINGSBY
, the 2007 Laser World Champion and current World Ranked #1 will head the line-up.
SLINGSBY, who hails from the Central Coast, will fend of challenges from fellow countryman and Sydney 2000 bronze medallist Michael BLACKBURN
, the 2006 World Champion and currently World Ranked #4.
Internationally, 2007 Qingdao Test Event winner and World Ranked #2, Paul GOODISON
(GBR) will be a major threat. Other top ranked players will include silver and bronze medallists from the Worlds; Andrew MURDOCH
(NZL) and Deniss KARPAK
(EST), Michael LEIGH
(CAN), Gustavo LIMA
(POR), Vasilij ZBOGAR
(SLO) and Luka RADELIC
The Laser Radial Women's one person class will be well represented too. Early entrant and Australia's gold medallist at the 2007 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship, Gabrielle KING
, (she won gold just days before her 17th birthday in July), is to get her dream of competing against Olympic class competition earlier than she thought.
Athens Olympian Sarah BLANCK
(AUS) is a confirmed entry and Krystal WEIR
(AUS) is expected. Both are campaigning for the 2008 Games. "I'm looking forward to the competition and being back at SIRs,"
says BLANCK, who spent many years competing in junior competition at Yachting NSW's Sail Sydney.
Internationally, the top three in the world, Anna TUNNICLIFFE
(USA), Evi VAN ACKER
(BEL) and Tania ELIAS CALLES WOLF
(MEX) will be there, along with Jo ALEH
(NZL), Finland's Sari MULTALA
and some British entrants.
Big numbers are not expected in the Olympic RS:X and Yngling classes, due to conflicting world titles and other major championships, although China and South Africa may send a pair of Yngling crews each.
"We expect to see record numbers at the Sydney International Regatta, as many will be here doing their final preparations and gaining valuable points towards Olympic selection,"
says Yachting NSW's CEO Adrian STEER.
"We will also know who the Australian Sailing Team for Beijing is by that stage, so it's exciting that our event will be their first major Grade 1 regatta since the announcement. SIR's will give spectators not only the opportunity of seeing our Olympic team in action, but watching the best from other countries as well,"
Other classes to take part in the SIR include the Laser Radial Men's, Laser 4.7, 29er, 420 and 29erXX and it has been estimated that a record 400 boats and 600-700 competitors approximately will attend, the largest entry level ever. Previously, 1999 attracted the most entries, as many teams used the event for their Sydney 2000 preparation.
Now in its second year as an ISAF Grade 1 event, 2007 will be the 16th running of the Sydney International Regatta, which will be hosted by Woollahra Sailing Club, Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club and the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron.
Notice of Race and all other information can be found at www.nsw.yachting.org.au