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27 January 2006, 03:05 pm
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Access Class Australian and International Championship 2006
Melbourne, Australia

The threat of Victoria's hot gusty winds of previous days abated today, making conditions less trying for sailors at the start of the first day of the Access Class Australian and International Championships. However gusts of up to 18 knots plus several afternoon downpours were to test the fleet as they sailed the triangular course around Victoria Harbour, in Melbourne's Docklands.

Division 1 - Access 2.3

The Access 2.3 Single (experienced), had a very relaxed start, but the competition around the course was full on, with very close racing. Alison WEATHERLY of Ballarat convincingly beat able-bodied Morgan STALEY of Black Rock Yacht Club in first race, but Morgan turned the tables on Alison in the second, after she grazed the mark and did a 360 degree penalty turn.

Divisions 6, 8 and 9 - Access 303, Access Liberty and Access Liberty Servo Assist

Divisions 6, 8 and 9 all had an aggressive start, according to Principal Race Officer Peter CASS: 'They were very competitive around the course - you could tell by the look on their faces. They also had the advantage of seeing the others start.'

Of the 303s, Paul BORG of Gippsland Yacht Club, who is virtually blind, convincingly shook off Bill GABRIEL of Sailability ACT in a field of eight boats. Among the Libertys, Maria DALMON of Sailability Pittwater beat David COOK of Canada to first place with a seven minute margin.

'In the second race, the winds became a light breeze. There were lots of tactics to get up to the start and all were on line at the word go and we saw good sporting aggression throughout the race', said CASS.

Heather HADLEY-POWELL of Latrobe Valley Yacht Club, who had her first race only a year ago scored second to Paul BORG in her 303.

Eventually, the storms became so persistent that Races 1 and 2 for Divisions 2, 3,4,5,7 were cancelled and will be run on Saturday morning.

Access Class Australian and International Championships (27-29 January) is one of the highlights of the Melbourne Stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race, at Victoria Harbour, Docklands. Access Dinghies are based on a universal design, ie they can be sailed by able-bodied sailors and sailors with moderate or severe disabilities.

Graeme Adam (As Amended by ISAF), Image: Colin Johansson in his Access Liberty Servo Assist © Graeme Adam
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