When heavy overnight rain cleared across Melbourne at midday on day three and the wind moderated to around 20 knots, it looked as though an excellent day's racing was in store for the strong international field at Sail Melbourne. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
The 470 class managed to get one race in and the RS:X managed two, before the wind increased to over 30 knots at 13:45 local time. The 49er and Laser classes were recalled before they had reached the course area and races in progress were abandoned.
The RS:X sailors looked shell-shocked as they were blown at full speed into the rigging area. According to Australian competitor Luke Bailey, even the heaviest male sailors couldn't keep their boards in the water.
Only four races have been completed in the 11 race series and it is very tight at the top of the men's table. Canadian Zach Plavsic leads on eight points, one ahead of Dorian van Rijsselberge of the Netherlands, with a further point back to JP Tobin of New Zealand.
In the women's division, Bryony Shaw of Great Britain won both races today, to take the lead by two points from overnight leader, Jessica Crisp of Australia. Crisp recorded two fourth place finishes today.
There were further dramas for 470 world champions Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page of Australia, who were adjudged OCS in the only race sailed. This leaves another Australian crew, Sam Kivell and Will Ryan, with a three-point lead over first-day leaders, Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl of the USA. Belcher and Page are a further point back.
Malcolm Page is the most successful 470 sailor in history, with an Olympic gold medal and multiple world championship trophies on his mantelpiece. He was philosophical about today's disqualification.
"We were right on the pin and didn't think we were over,"
he said. "We knew the South Africans were, so when we saw the individual recall we kept going."
With five fleet races and the medal race still to be sailed, the pair has plenty of time to make up the deficit.
It was also a forgettable race for the leading women's pair, Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell, who finished in sixth place to see their lead cut to a single point over the Japanese pairing, Ai Kondo and Wakako Tabata of Japan. The Japanese women won gold at the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta, Olympic Test Event, in August and finished third in today's strong winds. Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan of the USA won the race to move into equal third overall, tied with Kathrin Kadelbach and Rike Belcher of Germany on 13 points.
The strong winds also upset the plans of the event organisers, who had a room full of corporate guests ready to board motor launches for a first-hand look at the sailing action. Event Development Manager, Kate Allen, rushed to the rigging area and co-opted Laser sailors Tom Slingsby (AUS) and Nick Thompson (GBR), along with 49er champion Nathan Outteridge (AUS), to speak to the guests. In a spirit typical of these champions of the sport, they agreed immediately despite the fact they were still in wet sailing gear and had not put their boats away.
Sail Melbourne is becoming much more than just a sailing regatta, with corporate activities, an event dinner and various social occasions such as fashion parades during the course of the event. The sailors are to be commended for giving so willingly of their time to create a positive impression of the sport.
At 15:30, the wind was moderating and sailors were returning to the rigging area, expecting the AP flag to come down at any moment.
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