Sail Melbourne fires up tomorrow

Di Pearson looks at the formidable line-up of talent taking to the water

Sunday January 8th 2006, Author: Di Pearson, Location: Australasia
Sail Melbourne’s Olympic & Invited Classes Regatta gets underway at Sandringham Yacht Club tomorrow and the club was a hive of activity again today as many competitors arrived to register in their various classes.

The Only ISAF Grade 1 event in the Southern hemisphere, the regatta once again has fielded not only entries from all over Australia, but from around the world as well.

Carolijn Brouwer, a Sail Melbourne veteran and Olympian from the Netherlands said today: “it’s so nice to be back here - this is a great regatta and I am looking forward to racing in my new class.” Brouwer, who represented at Olympics in the Europe and 470 classes is also a former Laser Radial world champion and this time round has surprised many, as she will steer a Tornado with boyfriend Sebastien Godefroid crewing. The pair will represent Belgium, the hometown of Godefroid, a multiple Olympian medallist.

“Since the Tornado got the spinnaker, it is too hard for a woman to crew, but I am enjoying steering, although that can be sometimes difficult as well - because it is not so easy when you do the main as well in stronger winds.”

Darren Bundock, Australia’s top ranked Tornado sailor and Olympic silver medallist said he and crew Glenn Ashby (a Victorian), are also looking forward to another year at Sail Melbourne. “We feel very comfortable with how we are sailing right now.” And well he might. He and Ashby won the Sydney International Regatta (SIR) against the same competition they will face here at Sandringham this week.

Add to the equation Ashby’s win of the A Class Catamaran Nationals at Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron today and you know the pair will be the benchmark.

Michael and Kathy McLean from the 2.4mR class are happy returnees too. “It’s really good to be back here,” said Michael, adding, “I haven’t sailed too much lately - too busy with work, but Kathy has, so she will probably beat me this year. I’ll have her and Peter Russell (double Paralympian) to contend with and Michael Leydon.”

First timers to Sail Melbourne are the new Yngling keelboat crew of Nicky Souter, Angela Farrell and Sarah Willmot from NSW. Souter, at 21, was aboard Wild Oats XI for its triple line, handicap and record breaking 2005 Rolex Sydney-Hobart run.

“It was my first Hobart and this is my first Sail Melbourne, but I feel very relaxed right now and we are just looking forward to racing here. We have only been on the boat together five times, but we are pretty happy with the way we are going,” Souter said. The trio were happy with their third place at the SIR.

Local sailor Ricky Ironmonger will take on two NSW sailors in the Finn class; Olympian Anthony 'Nocka' Nossiter and Josh Beaver and New Zealand’s Dan Slater. Fairly new to the class, having previously sailed a laser, Ironmonger is also quite relaxed.

In his first major regatta, the Finn Gold Cup in Moscow, Ironmonger surprised everyone but himself, making the Gold Fleet finals and finishing 45th - an unbelievably good result for the newcomer. He also recently finished third at the SIR, so sailing on home waters should give him an edge.

In the Laser Radial class, two well-known Melbourne sailors will slog it out against each other and an international contingent. Sarah Blanck just missed a medal in the Europe class in her first foray into the Olympic arena in Athens and after taking some time out, has returned to sail in the Radial class, already showing the form that got the 28 year-old to the Games.

Her nemesis is Krystal Weir, who held the No. 1 World Ranking spot just after the announcement of the Radial’s inclusion for the Beijing Olympics. Weir, who will turn 21 later this month, is currently ranked No. 3 in the world, but has not been in her best form of late, producing mixed results. But she is a fighter and sails well under pressure and has won this regatta before.

Sailing in the Men’s Laser Radial for the first time at this event is Dylan Perham. The 28 year-old has had the fortune of training with both Blanck and Weir of late. Perham was only introduced to sailing 18 months ago through the Sail for Life program for disadvantaged Youth. He took to sailing like a duck to water to the point where he is now a sailing instructor at the Sandringham SC Sailing Academy as has aspirations of being a world champion one day.

“I loved sailing from the moment I started. I don’t know how I will go against the competition at Sail Melbourne, but I will be out there trying,” said Perham, who is very open about his former life as an alcoholic and drug addict living in the streets. It’s hard to imagine, looking at him, fit and happy with his new way of life.

So many others with ‘names’ continue to come to the event; Allison Shreeve from Sydney, the new Formula Board world champion, Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page, the 2004 and current 470 Men’s World champions, Leigh McMillan and Will Howden (GBR), ranked no. 4 in the world and second at the worlds in the Tornado class, Nathan Outteridge (NSW), former 420 world champion, match racer and trophy winner in a variety of disciplines, returning since his near-fatal accident just prior to this event last year, Seve Jarvin (NSW), another youth champion and match racing specialist, Euan McNicol, 2005 29er world championship crew amongst his achievements and New Zealanders Bruce Kendall and Aaron McIntosh, former Mistral Olympic medallists, now sailing a Tornado - the list goes on.

On-water action starts off Sandringham Yacht Club tomorrow from 12.00pm, with the 49er skiffs away first, then at 1.00pm, the Finn, Tornado, Laser Radial, Yngling and 2.4mR, followed at 2.00pm by the 470, Laser and RS:X classes - weather dependent.

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