Australia's sweep of the 470 gold medals at the Beijing Olympic Games is set to be repeated at the first event of the ISAF Sailing World Cup, although the remaining home crews are playing second fiddle to their international counterparts following the penultimate day of racing at Sail Melbourne.
Australia has a remarkable record in the Men's and Women's Two Person Dinghy 470 fleets since 'Medal Maker' coach and Sail Melbourne Ambassador Victor KOVALENKO joined the Australian Sailing Team in 1997. The trend looks set continue at the first event of the inaugural ISAF Sailing World Cup
, with Australian crews heading for overall victory, World Cup gold medals and a maximum of 20 points in the World Cup Standings. However, with just one day of racing to go, the Aussie competitors have ground to make up if they are to avoid playing second fiddle to their international rivals in the remaining fleets competing in the Sail Melbourne regatta at Sandringham Yacht Club.
Openly inspired by their more experienced counterparts, fledgling West Australian 470s pair Stacey OMAY
and Chelsea HALL
, aged just 19 and 18 respectively, have a bright future ahead of them if this week is any indication. While still in the 420 Class, they were coached by Beijing 470 gold medallists Elise RECHICHI
and Tessa PARKINSON
(AUS) - now they have their sights set on replicating their mentors.
"We're really excited to give it a shot towards 2012 and this is the first step towards that - Elise and Tess coached us and now we're competing against each other so it's definitely a turnaround but we've taken very similar pathways I guess,"
The talented youngsters will take a commanding lead into tomorrow's final race after completely dominating the women's fleet all week long. However, even though they look set to top the ISAF Sailing World Cup Standings with a maximum 20 point score for victory at Melbourne, the young pair are realistic about their goals for this year.
"At the end of the day, the standings aren't important for us at this time, it's just a big learning experience and we're here just being big sponges and trying to soak as much up information from Victor [KOVALENKO] and Mal [PAGE] and Mat [BELCHER] and other coaches who are out there as well,"
"We'll keep pushing for as long as we can, Mal's a good inspiration for how long you can be in it for and continue to be so competitive,"
OMAY added with a grin.
OMAY and HALL have won all but one race leading into tomorrow's final race of Sail Melbourne - they lead on nine points, 14 points ahead of Amy KIVELL
and Alexandra WARD
(AUS), with Laura BALDWIN
and Michelle MULLER
(AUS) a further four points in arrears.
Hot off a win at the Sydney International Regatta last week, OMAY and HALL will add an ISAF Sailing World Cup gold medal to their trophy cabinet, sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile Men's 470 favourites Mat BELCHER
and Malcolm PAGE
(AUS) continue to pile on the pressure with a second and first place in today's two races. Olympic gold medallist PAGE and his new skipper BELCHER admitted to struggling a little in the first race of the day however still managed to cross the line in second place.
Rectifying what BELCHER said were a few annoying elementary mistakes they made initially, the duo felt very comfortable in the second race to record their seventh win from 10 starts.
Stealing the honours from their more fancied rivals in race nine were Sandringham young guns Sam KIVELL
and Max TAYLOR
KIVELL and TAYLOR's victory has put them within touching distance of a podium finish and an ISAF Sailing World Cup medal. Silver is not out of sight either with the pair on 26 points and only trailing US Olympic representatives Stuart MCNAY
and Graham BIEHL
by six points.
Tight Finale In RS:X Fleets
It is going to be a nail-biting finish for full first round ISAF Sailing World Cup points in the Men's RS:X fleet tomorrow.
Locked on 16 points a piece are French windsurfer Nicolas LE GAL
, who has led the regatta for the most of the week, with fast finishing Kiwi boarder Antonio COZZOLINO
COZZOLINO has strung together three wins in a row to head into tomorrow's final race slightly favoured on his late-week form.
Sitting in third position is another New Zealander, Joshua NIXON
on 26 points.
In the Women's RS:X class, Spanish boarder Blanca MANCHON
would have to make some dramatic mistakes to be headed by three-time Aussie Olympian Jessica CRISP
in second place.
MANCHON, who sits on 15 points, is nine points clear of CRISP, with Kiwi Kate ELLINGHAM
just one point further back.
Chile Heading For Gold
Matias DEL SOLAR
of Chile picked the perfect time to find his best form as he took a major step towards an ISAF Sailing World Cup gold medal with two great results in today's Laser races. The two-time Chilean Olympian finished with a silver medal at Sail Melbourne two years ago and is now firm favourite to go one better this time out. DEL SOLAR scored second and first place finishes in races nine and ten of the Laser series to extend his overall lead to 13 points with just one race remaining.
(NZL) is DEL SOLAR's closest rival, but lost ground on the leader after scores of 8 and 3 in today's two races. BULLOT now has a fight on to maintain second place overall with Canadian skipper Michael LEIGH
just four points further back and Croatia's Milan VUJASINOVI?
also well placed to mount a challenge.
In the Laser Radial fleet, Aussie young gun Gabrielle KING
is showing the talent that has brought her the overall title at the last two Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championships
. With two second places in today's races, KING has closed the gap on overall leader and Olympic gold medallist Anna TUNNICLIFFE
to just seven points.
The US skipper knows all about dealing with high-pressure finishes after her dramatic comeback to win gold in the Laser Radial Medal Race at the Beijing Olympic Games, but nevertheless will have a tough job tomorrow to hold off her young Aussie challenger. Tina MIHELIC
of Croatia, another past winner of the Youth Worlds title, is leading a close battle for third place, just ahead of Sara WINTHER
(NZL) and Andrea BREWSTER
Finn Fleet Enjoy The Wind
The big men of the small, yet competitive Finn fleet enjoyed the heavier 12-15 knot conditions on Port Phillip Bay today.
"The waves are a bit particular off here and if you're training off here all the time it helps a little,"
regatta leader, young Sandringham sailor Warwick HILL
HILL is enjoying a healthy rivalry with his South Australian counterpart James PATERSON
"James certainly wasn't too slow out there today and in the first race there was probably only a couple of millimetres in it … we were both pumping until we were cramping up on the last reach to the finish,"
PATERSON won at the Sydney International Regatta last week, but has ground to make up in tomorrow's final race if he's to avoid lowering his colours this week to HILL. HILL is leading the fleet on 11 points, five clear of PATERSON, with Chris CALDECOAT
(AUS) well out of contention in third place on 28 points.
Great Britain look to be heading for gold in the 49er fleet, with Paul CAMPBELL-JAMES
and Mark ASQUITH
(GBR) racking up another two wins in races 12 and 13 of the series. The British pairing now have a 17-point overall lead over second place William PHILLIPS
and Sam PHILLIPS
(AUS) and appear virtually certain of taking maximum points in their first ISAF Sailing World Cup event.
Click here for all the news on Sail Melbourne 2008.
ISAF Sailing World Cup
The ISAF Sailing World Cup 2008-2009 consists of the following events:
16-21 Dec 2008 - Sail Melbourne The Asia Pacific Regatta, Melbourne, Australia
25-31 Jan 2009 - Rolex Miami OCR, Miami, USA
4-10 April 2009 - Trofeo SAR Princess Sofia MAPFRE, Palma, Spain
18-24 April 2009 - Semaine Olympique Francaise, Hyeres, France
27-31 May 2009 - Delta Lloyd Regatta, Medemblik, Netherlands
20-28 June 2009 - Kieler Woche, Kiel, Germany
14-19 Sept 2009 - Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, Weymouth, Great Britain
Find out more about the ISAF Sailing World Cup, including more on the seven events, the scoring system and the Notice of Series at www.sailing.org/isafsailingworldcup.