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30 December 2006, 12:04 pm
World Champion Takes Clear Lead
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Laser Australian Championship 2006
Hobart, Australia

World champion and Olympic sailor Michael BLACKBURN has taken a clear lead in the ISAF Grade 1 Australian Laser Championship being conducted by the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania on Hobart's Derwent River.

A fleet of 185 Lasers, the Olympic single-handed men's dinghy, today enjoyed hard sailing in a 15-20 knot east-south-easterly breeze, with BLACKBURN winning both races in his division of the Laser Big Rig division..

With a score 0f 1-2-1-1, the Sydney sailor is on 5 points, two points clear of younger rival Tom SLINGSBY on 7 points from placings of 2-1-1-3, sailing today in a different division to BLACKBURN.

SLINGSBY, from Gosford on the NSW Central Coast, was leading in the second race but capsized in a sharp gust just 40 metres from the finish. The capsize cost him two places, placing third after a quick recovery.

Holding third place overall is another NSW sailor, Michael LEIGH with a consistent scorecard of 6.5-2-2-2 to be on 12.5 points, while the current World Masters champion Brett BEYER, also from NSW, won race four in his division to be fourth overall on 18 points.

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Tom SLINGSBY chasing hard
© Sören Klement
'It was a beautiful day for Laser sailing, a 15-20 knot breeze, but not quite straight up the river like the normal seabreeze; this favoured the left-hand size of course,' said Richard HOWARD, one of the organisers of the Australian championships in Hobart.

'It was fresh and bumpy with the river full of sailing boats…the Sydney Hobart boats were coming up the river between the two Laser fleets and the Cadets were out as well for their Nationals.'

Also a competitor, Richard added that he had had a better day with a sixth and a tenth to be 22 overall. It's been a busy day on and off the water for Richard, originally from Newcastle but now based in Hobart.

'At 7.30 I was down at Constitution Dock to greet my younger brother Will as he finished the Sydney Hobart aboard AFR Midnight Rambler, then out sailing in two races, ' Richard said. 'Now I'm off to the Docks again to meet my Mother, Jan, who today completed her 15th Sydney Hobart Race, sailing in the crew of the Newcastle boat Aurora.'

Did he wave to his Mum as Aurora sailed up the river? 'No, I was too busy sailing my Laser,' he quipped. 'But I'm looking forward to meeting her tonight.'

Athens Olympic bronze medallist Vasilij ZBOGAR from Slovenia, who unsuccessfully protested the Race Committee for declaring him OCS in race one yesterday, has moved up to 18th overall. He won yesterday's race two and placed third and fourth in today's racing.

The Dyson Security Laser championships have attracted 185 competitors from all Australian States and from many overseas sailors, including Britain, Finland, Slovenia, France, Norway, Mexico, Ireland, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.

Leading the Laser 4.7 division after four races is Tasmanian Christopher JONES with a score of 4-3-1-1 while in the Laser Radials the Victorian Krystal WEIR has taken overall lead from fellow Victorian Sarah BLANCK.

WEIR has placed 4-2-3-2 for 11 points while BLANCK is on 12 points from placings of 2-4-4-3. WEIR also leads the Laser Women's championship from BLANCK and the Mexican sailor Tania ELIAS CALLES.

Races five and six for all divisions will be sailed tomorrow, starting at 13:00 (local time).

Peter CAMPBELL (As Amended by ISAF). Image, Michael BLACKBURN © Laser Worlds 2006
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