Joint worlds approach
With 13 nations qualified for the Beijing Games, including Australia, and a place automatically going to host nation China, the five remaining places will be decided at this Worlds, putting the pressure on a number of international competitors. Some countries will select their Olympic representatives in Melbourne too; the game is on!
Australia’s Chris Nicholson, sailing with various crews, recorded a hat-trick of world championship 49er wins, from 1997 through to 1999, but the the top sailing nation, Britain, has had a stranglehold in this high-performance class since winning the 2003, 2006 and 2007 world titles.
Britain’s top pair, Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes scored victories in the 2006 European champions and in 2007, the Qingdao Olympic Test Event, World Championships and Princess Sofia Trophy, along with lots of top three places at other Grade 1 events.
The pair arrived in Melbourne last Thursday to prepare for their defence of the worlds and in a warning to other competitors, the super two, who are undoubtedly the benchmarks in the class, have also been undergoing a strict training regime at home, both on and off the water, including attending a cycling camp and doing some climbing.
“It seems to have paid off,” says Rhodes. “At a recent fitness test, our results were pretty good. We’re now looking forward to getting sailing fitness back, but that comes with long hours of intensive on-water training. We’re both really excited, especially after the long break that we’ve had, and can’t wait to get back into training in Melbourne.”
Before them, fellow countrymen Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks, won the worlds in 2003 and 2006, were runners-up in 2004 and 2005, with a bronze medal from the 2004 Athens Games and Hiscocks' silver medal at Sydney 2000.
Talented Nathan Outteridge (21) and Ben Austin (25) will lead the Aussies into battle. Bronze medallists at the 2007 ISAF World Sailing Championships, they were poised to take Gold at the 2007 Qingdao Test Event, but leading the final race, gear breakage meant a fifth place. Outteridge, a former Youth champion, and Austin are improving all the time. The goal is an Olympic medal as they look to their first Games in 2008.
Other top chances are Athens Olympian brothers Pietro and Gianfranco Sibello (ITA), 2007 world’s runners-up Nico Delle Karth and Nikolaus Resch (AUT), respective Test Event silver and bronze medallists Iker Martinez and Xabier Fernandez (ESP), Athens silver medallists Rodian Luka and George Leonchuk (UKR) and two-time Olympian in the class, Marcus Baur, crewed by Max Baumann (GER).
Host venue, Sorrento, will proudly field its own entry with Will Phillips and Jon Newman who are coming up through the ranks. New to the class, former 29er champion brothers Clint (20) and Ty (22) from Lake Macquarie on the NSW Central Coast will be there too, fresh from their first major competition at the Australian 49 Championship and SIRs regatta.
“We hope to have a bit of experience by the time we get to the World’s. We’re hoping there’ll be some boats behind us when we cross the finish line,” laughs Ty. “We’re looking at doing an Olympic campaign later and Sail Melbourne will be a good gauge for us,” adds Clint.
So far 68 entries have been received in this Youth class skiff from Argentina, Australia, Croatia, Denmark, Great Britain, Germany, Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore and the USA. In these entries will no doubt be some future Olympians.
The 29er Australian Championship is being held close to Sorrento and just prior to the World’s at Safety Beach Sailing Club. A number of internationals are expected to compete, so it will give a good indication as to how the World’s might pan out.
Matias Eurnekian Gainza and Frederico Villambrosa (ARG), 2007 world champions, are expected to defend their title, but are yet to enter. Henrik Sogaard and Soren Kristensen (DEN), 2007 Volvo Youth Sailing Championships gold medallists, are keen early entries.
Taking the girl’s Bronze at the ISAF Youth Worlds, culminating in Australia winning the Volvo Trophy, Hannah Nattrass and Michelle Muller will be sailing for gold this time. It is expected rivals and gold medallists Emily Dellenbaugh and Briani Provancha will also compete. Eighteen year old Dellenbaugh is the daughter of America’s Cup sailor and tactical guru Dave.
Among the entries are other competitors from famous sailing backgrounds. Late ocean racing legend Peter Kurts’ grandson Phil (AUS) has moved up from a Sabot into a 29er under the watchful eyes of his father Simon, a noted sailor himself.
Freya Vickery (AUS) from Victoria gets her sailing genes from father Stewart, a champion 14ft skiff sailor, whilst Haylee Outteridge (AUS) is the sister of newly nominated Olympian, Nathan, who is sailing in the 49er class.
Some Aussie skippers have upped the ante enlisting the help of medal winning Youth champions. Sean O’Rourke has co-opted Evan Walker, and Rayshele Martin will crew for Shane Smith.
Walker has won Youth Sailor of the Year awards for his numerous match racing triumphs, and with Kyle Langford, was the first Australian to ever win Gold at the ISAF Youth World Championships in the Hobie 16 multihull in 2005. Like Walker, West Australia’s Rayshele Martin too has match racing trophies and has won Youth awards for her efforts across a variety of classes including 29er and 420.
Nine pairs from leading sailing nation Britain are already entered, amongst them two sisters, Becky and Hannah Diamond. The two skippers will compete against each other and join several other female skippers whose number increase in the class each year.
Following a welcome and practice races, the format is qualifying races followed by a final series in both events. The qualifying rounds will be conducted from 4-6 January, then the fleet will be split into Gold, Silver and possibly Bronze fleets (based on the number of entries) for the finals, to be sailed from the 7-9 January.
The 49er and 29er World’s will be sailed under the Sail Melbourne banner and Yachting Victoria is the organising authority in co-operation with the International 49er Class Association and the Australian 49er Class Association.