Michael LEIGH and World Champion Tom SLINGSBY are fighting it out at the front of the 125-strong international fleet for the ISAF Grade 1 Laser Australian Championship at Sail Melbourne.
Host venue Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron held the final race of the qualifying series today and Michael LEIGH
(CAN), who won the ISAF Grade 1 Sydney International Regatta, from Tom SLINGSBY
(AUS), remains in the lead with 13 points following a second place today, SLINGSBY giving chase just two points behind after finishing today's race 8 in third.
However both will have to watch their backs. Nick THOMPSON
from Great Britain won race 8 and is now only one point in arrears of SLINGSBY, with Dutch sailor Rutger VAN SCHAARDENBURG
only a further point away. Although an international cannot claim the title, they can win the series.
Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron spokesman James MITCHELL described today's conditions as "challenging."
MITCHELL told: "We had a 20 knot southerly on steep choppy waters. We really put the 125 sailors through the ringer; they raced three laps around the course. There are a lot of tired sailors this afternoon."
MITCHELL told how one boat sank, but was retrieved. "We had some minor injuries to sailors and three broken masts too. It was a tough day," he said.
The fleet will now be split into groups for the series final and the winner will come from the gold group. The event is an important lead up to the Laser Worlds to be held off Terrigal on the NSW Central Coast in February. The best Australian sailors will be selected from this series to represent at the Worlds.
Despite not competing today, Victorian sailor Sarah BLANCK
(AUS) leads the Laser Radial Women's fleet from international adversary Veronika FENCLOVA
(CZE). BLANCK, who will represent Australia at her second Olympic Games in Beijing, is just four points ahead after the Czech girl broke the start today.
Results - www.viclaser.yachting.org.au
Sail Melbourne - www.sailmelbourne.com.au