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10 November 2011, 01:15 pm
Strong Winds Blow The Cream To The Top At Sail Melbourne
Australia's Gabrielle King
Australia's Gabrielle King

Sail Melbourne
Melbourne, Australia

After most racing was cancelled yesterday because of strong winds, the competitors at the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Melbourne were pleased to see more moderate westerlies blowing onto the shore at Sandringham Yacht Club this morning.
Although the breeze fluctuated in strength and direction, the race committee was able to sail additional heats to be almost back on schedule by this evening.

One man who will sleep more easily tonight is 49er champion, Nathan Outteridge. With no races yesterday, he and his crew Iain Jensen went to bed in second place and without a win in the series, not a position that Outteridge is used to - or comfortable with.

Today started poorly, with a fourth place, but improved dramatically as the pair put together a 1,2,1 sequence to finish the day two points clear of their arch rivals, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL). The Kiwis could have been closer but for a "swim" in the third race which dropped them from second to fourth.

"We just pushed a bit hard trying to get ahead of the Phillips brothers, and lost it,"
Tuke said. Sam and Will Phillips (AUS) also had an excellent day out, recording 2,3,1,2 to finish a single point behind the Kiwis. These three crews will fight out a fascinating conclusion to the series over the next two days.

In most classes, the leaders had consolidated their positions by the end of the long day of intense racing. The Women's RS:X has become a three-way battle between Bryony Shaw (GBR), Flavia Tartaglini (ITA) and Jessica Crisp (AUS). For Shaw and Tartaglini it is their first regatta since the end of the European summer, but both found good speed today.

Shaw was originally scored OCS in the first race, which she won, but had the decision overturned. Her places of first and third in the remaining races sees her at the top of the table six points clear of Tartaglini, who is the partner of Australian Laser sailor Tom Slingsby. Tartaglini also showed great consistency to finish 2,2,2 and leads Crisp, 3,3,4 today, by two points.

Shaw said that the breeze had been "interesting" today. "I was on the dagger (board) and others were on the fin, so I was able to point higher. I was slower, but a lot higher." This was obvious on the computer trackers, which showed that Shaw sailed 400 metres less distance in the first beat of the first race than her nearest rivals.

The men's division is also down to three, with Zach Plavsic (CAN) and JP Tobin (NZL) tied on 11 points and Dorien van Rijsselberge (NED) on 12. Their nearest competitor is a distant 15 points further back.

In the Finn class there was no change in the order, with Ukrainian Oleksiy Borysov (1,2,3) sharing the honours with Oliver Tweddell (2,1,1) today to hold a two point lead. Veteran Rob McMillan is in third.

In the Women's 470, the early leaders Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell (AUS) are considered to be light airs specialists because of their light weight. However, they won the first race before a "stumble" to fourth and a rebound for another win in the final race of the day. They lead the class by three points from the Japanese pair of Ai Kondo and Wakako Tabata.

In the Men's 470, overnight leaders Sam Kivell and Will Ryan had a forgettable day, slipping to third place after scores of 5,5,2. The American pairing of Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl have regained the lead after two wins, but are only two points clear of world champions Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page (1,3,3 today).

The 470 crews finally reached the rigging area at 19.15 local time after general recalls and windshifts delayed their starts. Two races began under black flag, but no-one fell victim.

The large Laser class was split into gold and silver fleets today, and Australian Ashley Brunning excelled in the lively conditions to win two races. However, world champion Tom Slingsby remained consistent despite the totally changed conditions and leads the class comfortably by 11 points over Nick Thompson (GBR).

Slingsby made it hard for himself in the second race of the day after being caught on the wrong side of a wind shift. "A big right came through and I was back in the 20s at the top mark," he said. Using all his considerable skills, he worked back to 12th at the bottom mark, then to eighth at the second top mark. "The guys were bunched up in front of me and I took a bit of a risk but it paid off and I got up to third at the finish," he explained.

Combined with second in the first race and a win in the third, this was more than enough to increase his lead with three heats and the medal race to sail.

The Laser Radial also sees a dominating performance, where Lijia Xu of China has an eight point lead over Tuula Tenkanen of Finland. Xu recorded 2,3,1 today. Alison Young (GBR) holds third position.

Unfortunately, the wind forecast for Melbourne tomorrow is for a return to very light winds. This means that gains made today could prove invaluable, if racing is not possible in the 4-5 knots that are predicted to prevail. In that case, it will all come down to the double-points medal race on Saturday, where winds should be light to moderate.

For full results click here.

For more information on the ISAF Sailing World Cup click here.

Roger McMillan
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