Nathan OUTTERIDGE and Ben AUSTIN from Australia sailed the race of their life in the Medal Race at the 49er World Championship to claim the title off Sorrento this afternoon.
Going into the Medal Race, worth double points, Nathan OUTTERIDGE
and Ben AUSTIN
(AUS) were positioned at the pin end of the start line with their two greatest rivals; defending World Champs Stevie MORRISON
and Ben RHODES
(GBR), who were on equal points with the Aussies, and Rodion LUKA
and George LEONCHUK
(UKR) just one point behind them.
OUTTERIDGE takes up the story: "Rodion tacked onto port just before the start and we forced him to tack back and they capsized. So that was one out of the way,"
The race was sailed in 15-18 knot gusty winds on choppy waters in front of host venue, Sorrento Couta Boat Sailing Club, thrilling onlookers both on and off the water.
Although LUKA and LEONCHUK got their skiff upright fairly quickly, they were at the point of no return, finishing the race in last place, their World Championship dreams over. Despite their placing, the Athens silver medallists took home the bronze medal.
Getting away clean off the line, the Brits right on their tails, the two took off up the first work of the two-lap windward/leeward course, OUTTERIDGE and AUSTIN rounding just three boatlengths ahead.
By the time they rounded the windward mark for the second time, the Aussies had increased their lead over the Brits, coming home well in front of the rest of the nine others in the Medal Race.
MORRISON and RHODES came home in third place behind brothers Jan-Peter PECKOLT
and Hannes PECKOLT
(GER) in the Medal Race, but it was enough to give the Brits second place overall.
MORRISON was the first to congratulate the Australian pair. "They were a bit quicker than us in that breeze. There was nothing we could do about it. Nathan and Ben are the best 49er sailors in the world."
For OUTTERIDGE in particular, it was a big deal. In 2005, driving to Sail Melbourne for his first ISAF Grade 1 49er event, he suffered spinal and head injuries in a car accident, unable to get back into real race mode for a year.
"Even while I was in hospital, all I thought about was getting back into sailing. When I did, Ben  and I trained hard to get where we are today. Of course we're very happy with our win - it's what we both worked for,"
"Ben and I were so happy to get two good results yesterday. We knew coming into today that we would be in a position to win,"
the 22 year old said.
"We were a bit quicker upwind. The wind shifted a bit in our favour. Up the first work we went left; it was the right way to go. After that, we knew we just needed to hang in, and we did,"
said AUSTIN adding: "This has been a dream for years and years and now it's a reality. All the hard work has paid off."
The pair will take a week or so off, then it's into training and preparing for the Beijing Games, for which they have already been selected. "We will lose some weight for the light conditions there and work on our equipment to suit the conditions. We also want to work on our sailing in breezes of 8 knots and less,"
OUTTERIDGE and AUSTIN also paid tribute to their coach: "We couldn't have done it without Emmett LAZICH, he's been great,"
OUTTERIDGE and AUSTIN are the first Australians to win the 49er Worlds since three-time World Champion Chris NICHOLSON
, with various crews, won in 1999. Ironically, all three sailors live close to each other on the NSW Central and North Coast, a well-known breeding ground for elite skiff sailors.
Five other crews at the 49er Worlds qualified their nations for the Beijing Games. Those were; Andre FONSECA
and Rodrigo DUARTE
(Brazil), Christopher GUNDERSEN
and Frode BOVIM
(Norway), Jonas LINDBERG
and Kalle TORLEN
(Sweden) who all made the gold fleet, and Akira ISHIBASHI
and Yukio MAKINO
(Japan) and Pavle KOSTOV
and Petar CUPAC
Click here to view more of Jeff Crow's fantastic photos from the Worlds.
Sail Melbourne - www.sailmelbourne.com.au
Results - www.yachting.org.au/site/yachting/event/14245/