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19 December 2008, 10:18 am
BELCHER And PAGE Excel In Big Breeze At Sail Melbourne
Mat BELCHER and Malcolm PAGE powered up at Sail Melbounre
Mat BELCHER and Malcolm PAGE excelled in the big breeze conditions at Sail Melbourne today

Sail Melbourne 2008
Melbourne, Australia

Big breeze arrived for the fourth day of racing at Sail Melbourne, bringing with it contrasting fortunes for the crews sitting at the top of the leaderboard and battling for maximum points in the first event of the ISAF Sailing World Cup.
Two days of racing remain at Sail Melbourne and the battle for the medal positions and big points in the ISAF Sailing World Cup standings is heating up. Sail Melbourne is the first event in the 2008-2009 ISAF Sailing World Cup series, with the top finishers set to score 20 points and take an early lead in the World Cup standings. Second place overall is worth 19 points, third 18 points and so on down to one points for a 20th place finish. With a total of seven events scheduled in the 2008-2009 World Cup series, a big score in Melbourne could prove to be a crucial factor in the standings as the series progresses through 2009.

BELCHER and PAGE Pull Away

The new Australian 470 pair Mat BELCHER and Malcolm PAGE are already one of the favourites for the ISAF Sailing World Cup Trophy and are well on the way to claiming a maximum 20 point score from Melbourne. Not even an individual recall for a false start, that banished them to dead last in the fleet, could prevent the duo from once again dominating proceedings on day four of Sail Melbourne today.
Click here to watch the ISAF Sailing World Cup online

Despite only jumping in a boat together for the first time about eight weeks ago, Olympic gold medallist PAGE and his new skipper BELCHER have not taken long to find their sea legs.

In 20-22 knot winds, the strongest of the regatta to date and waves in excess of 1.5 metres, BELCHER and PAGE endured their first hit out in tough conditions with little or no problems - an ominous sign of things to come.

"We jumped the start in the second race so we went back and restarted … it took us a while but we still caught up and won by about a minute and half but it did get a bit scary out there," PAGE said with a grin after race eight.

BELCHER and PAGE have opened up a healthy eight point lead, ahead of their American Olympic counterparts Stuart MCNAY and Graham BIEHL, ahead of Sandringham crew Sam KIVELL and Max TAYLOR, a further five points in arrears.

"It was definitely the windiest we've sailed together and it was good to get into the first jibe … looking at each other thinking this is going to be interesting. We've got different techniques upwind and downwind so it's just a matter of getting used to each other," BELCHER added.

KIVELL and TAYLOR enjoyed a much day on the water today compared to their disastrous day out yesterday. They crossed the line in third and second place respectively, consolidating their third position overall.

"We had a lot of close calls out there today but unlike yesterday we scraped through pretty well," TAYLOR said.

"We were winning the second race for most of it but we could see them [BELCHER and PAGE] coming and there was nothing we could do about it.

"We dropped back into third place and then managed to pick up a spot again which was good,"
he added.

TUNNICLIFFE Struggles

Meanwhile the heavier conditions played havoc with organizers, forcing the abandonment of several classes and even US Laser Radial Olympic gold medallist Anna TUNNICLIFFE struggled but continues to maintain a 12-point lead over her nearest rival, young Australian Gabrielle KING.

KING seemed to enjoy the tougher conditions and posted a pair of fourth places and is now six points clear of third placed Tina MIHELIC (CRO). Following her three race wins yesterday, TUNNICLIFFE could only manage seventh and tenth places in today's two races. The top performer in the big breeze was New Zealand's Sara WINTHER, those third and second place finishes push her up to fifth overall.

In the Men's One Person Dinghy - Laser fleet, world #4 skipper Michael LEIGH (CAN) excelled in the stronger conditions, winning both of today's races. He lies in fourth place overall, but is now just nine points off overall leader Matias DEL SOLAR (CHI). The Chilean skipper slipped to 13th in the day's first race, but battled back strongly with a fourth in race eight to leapfrog Michael BULLOT (NZL) into the top spot on the leaderboard.

France And Spain Lead Windsurfer Fleets

The RS:X windsurfer fleets revelled in today's windier conditions. Nicolas LE GAL (FRA) added another race win to his scorecard today, followed by a fourth and a third place. The Frenchman maintains his overall lead, five points ahead of Antonio COZZOLINO of New Zealand. Hao CHANG of Chinese Taipei was the star performer in the youth fleet with three back-to-back race wins.

Blanca MANCHON of Spain now holds a nine-point overall lead in the Women's RS:X standings after solid 3,5,9 scores in the mixed women's/youth RS:X fleet. She is followed by Beijing Olympians Jessica CRISP (AUS) and Nikola GIRKE (CAN) in second and third place overall.

In the Finn fleet, the close battle behind Warwick HILL (AUS) and James PATERSON (AUS) continues, with HILL still holding a narrow three-point advantage in the overall standings.

With no racing held in the 49ers, the British pairing of Paul CAMPBELL-JAMES and Mark ASQUITH maintain their nine-point overall lead.

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.

ISAF (source: Jodi Kelly)
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