In just a matter of days the 2011-2012 ISAF Sailing World Cup Series begins its fourth series with Sail Melbourne kicking things off at Sandringham Yacht Club, Melbourne, Australia.
First launched in December 2008 the ISAF Sailing World Cup brings together the existing major regattas on the Olympic sailing circuit, starting in Australia.
This year Sail Melbourne welcomes sailors preparing for the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships, which takes place from 3-18 December.
With 57 entries the Laser fleet boasts the most entries at Sail Melbourne. Tom Slingsby
(AUS) heads into the regatta as the sailor to beat following his victory at the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta at the Olympic Sailing Venue in Weymouth, Great Britain and his comprehensive victory in the overall ISAF Sailing World Cup Laser Standings.
But the 2010 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year will have his work cut out having come third at the regatta in 2010. Great Britain's Nick Thompson
took the gold medal last year and is back to defend his crown. Tom Burton
(AUS) also finished ahead of Slingsby at the 2010 Sail Melbourne and will look to replicate his performance.
And with World #4 Roelof Bouwmeester
(NED), World #7 Josh Junior
(NZL), World #10 Ryan Palk
(AUS) also competing there will be no easy ride throughout the week.
A competitive fleet will line up in the Laser Radial spearheaded by World #2 and 2010-2011 ISAF Sailing World Cup Champion Marit Bouwmeester
(NED). The Dutch girl has recently hit a rich vein of form and sealed gold at the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta with a day to spare. She will be favourite to take gold but like Slingsby the Dutch girl finished third last year behind Dongshuang Zhang
(CHN) and Nathalie Brugger
The World #44 Chinese sailor will find it tough to retain her title with sailors ramping up their preparations and looking to gain an upper hand on their rivals one month out from the Perth 2011 ISAF Worlds.
World #8 Tatiana Drozdovskaya
(BLR), World #11 Andrea Brewster
(GBR) and World #18 Annalise Murphy
(IRL) will also be in contention throughout the week.
2010-2011 ISAF Sailing World Cup Men's RS:X title holder Dorian van Rijsselberge
(NED) begins his campaign in Melbourne and will be up against Jon-Paul Tobin
(NZL) and Zachary Plavsic
(CAN). The Women's RS:X fleet features Jessica Crisp
(AUS) and Bryony Shaw
(GBR) who look to get in some vital preparations before Perth.
A strong 14-boat Men's 470 fleet will line up in Melbourne featuring World #1 Australian duo Mathew Belcher
and Malcolm Page
. The Australians won the opening ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta last year and after claiming the Men's 470 they will look to get off to a good start. Last year's silver medallists Stuart Mcnay
and Graham Biehl
(USA) return, as do the bronze medallists Sam Kivell
and William Ryan
. 2011 ISAF Youth Worlds 420 bronze medallists Angus Galloway
and Alexander Gough
(AUS) will also sail in the competitive fleet.
The 2010 Women's 470 gold medallists Kathrin Kadelbach
and Friederike Belcher
(GER) return and will go against 2010-2011 ISAF Sailing World Cup Women's 470 Champions Erin Maxwell
and Isabelle Kinsolving (USA) and Weymouth and Portland International Regatta winners Ai Kondo
and Wakako Tabata
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) and Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) will sail in the 49er fleet and nine Australians feature in the 11-boat Finn fleet with Oliver Tweddell the highest ranked competitor at #59 in the world rankings.
The SKUD-18 and 2.4mR sailors also begin their 2011-2012 ISAF Sailing World Cup campaign.
For more information on the ISAF Sailing World Cup click here.