Many aspiring Rio 2016 competitors have been attracted to Melbourne and with all ten Olympic Classes plus two Paralympic Classes in action there is plenty to look forward to. In total, including the athletes racing across nine invited classes, 460 boats and 581 competitors, will be racing on Port Phillip Bay from 2 to 8 December.
A strong Chinese team, many of whom will be seeking a consecutive World Cup medal after their own home success in Qingdao in October, will mount a challenge to the Australian sailors whilst a handful of European athletes will also be looking to make their mark.
The recently named 2013 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Mat Belcher will be seeking his 18th consecutive regatta win and a defence of the title he won with crew Will Ryan in 2012 whilst London 2012 49er gold medallists Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen continue their return from America's Cup duties with Artemis, having proved already they will be back on the pace after taking fifth place at the recent World Championships.
Outteridge commented, "A successful Olympic campaign requires you to take every opportunity to race hard. Leading up to the London Olympics we were doing 300 days a year. Not just on a 49er, but on lots of boats, that's what makes us good sailors. We are pleased we have a strong fleet racing here in Melbourne. This is a good start to the season."
Part of that 49er fleet is 2007 World Champion Stevie Morrison (GBR) embarking on his third Olympic campaign with former 470 campaigner Chris 'Twiggy' Grube.
Morrison said, "For us to succeed we have to sail against the best. Obviously Nathan and Goobs [Ian Jensen] are the benchmark in 49er sailing at the moment and some of the young Aussie gues are really really fast so the ISAF World Cup is a fantastic opportunity for us to come and race some great guys."
Another promising new pairing is Australian double Olympic silver medallist Darren Bundock who has teamed up with London 2012 match racing silver medallist Nina Curtis to race the Nacra 17. After just nine days in the new boat together they are showing promise and are already matching the upwind speed of Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin (AUS) who were sixth at the recent World Championships.
Downwind the debut duo have more work to do as Bundock explains, "We are 12 months behind everyone and this is our first regatta. If it's soft we will be in there with a shot but if it blows then their boat handing experience will shine through. For instance today in 20 knots plus we hit a gust, reared up on the foils and I went water-skiing out the back!"
Racing in the Men's and Women's 470, Finn, Laser, Laser Radial and Paralympic events commences on Monday 2 December through to Saturday 7 December.
The 49er, 49erFX, Men's and Women's RS:X and Nacra 17 fleets start racing on Tuesday 3 December through to their Medal Races on Sunday 8 December.
The Invited Classes are Laser Radial Men, Laser 4.7, Men and Women's Kiteboard, Viper, 420, 29er, Optimist, OK dinghy, 2.4R, SKUB18, Liberty Access and Cadet Dinghy.