Tough going at Sail Sydney
The Sail Down Under series is an open event, meaning that everyone from youth sailors to masters' competitors can take on world champions and after the second day of competition, it is obvious that not all of the young guns are in awe of their more accomplished heroes.
In 2010, Tom Slingsby has won two world championships and has confirmed his status as a favourite for the Laser gold medal at the 2012 Olympics. But after four races, he finds himself 15 points behind Australian Development Squad member, Tom Burton and with other ADS members also snapping at his heels.
To be fair, Tom has been out of the Laser and sailing on a Farr 40 in recent weeks, and he is also preparing for the Moth Worlds at Lake Macquarie in early January. But he still professes to be surprised by the difficult conditions and the tenacity of his young foes.
Burton has put together an almost flawless regatta in the light, oscillating north-easterly winds, finishing 4th, 1st, 1st and 2nd in the four races sailed. By contrast, Slingsby has had a very ordinary start, with 7th, 10th, 5th and 1st against his name. “I started to get it together today,” he said, “But Tom Burton is a long way ahead.”
The Lasers are sailing a 12 race series with only one drop, but it is unlikely that more than 10 races will be completed in the remaining two days, limiting Slingsby's chances of taking the title. However, Burton knows he has to maintain his place near the front of the fleet in every race to hold off the master.
It is a similar story in the 49er, where former world champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen also find themselves in 2nd place. In their case it is a couple of Kiwis, with whom they have locked horns all year, who are giving them grief. Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have put together a score sheet that reads 2, 5, 1, 4, 1, 1 to lead the Australians by six points.
Outteridge and Jensen have been uncharacteristically poor at the start, finding themselves recalled on two occasions. In the first race yesterday they managed to fight back for a win, but their 3rd, 5th and 4th places today have offered them a reality check ahead of next week's ISAF World Cup event in Melbourne.
Stepping into the 49er at the last minute for an injured David Gilmour, Torvar Mirsky suffered an OCS in the first race today but fought back with a 6th and a 2nd to show he is quickly mastering the switch from match racing to skiffs.
Although Slingsby and the 49er team are competing on their home waters, the light winds yesterday and this morning made many races a lottery, where sailors could see where the wind was coming from but in many circumstances just couldn't reach it. The wind finally climbed above 10 knots this afternoon, but by then Laser sailing had finished for the day.
In other classes, favoured sailors and crews have been more dominant. Three-time Olympian Anthony “Nocka” Nossiter is comfortably leading the Finn class after three “bullets” from four races. Scott Babbage and Robert Gough have shared the Moth spoils, taking the first two placings in every race. Babbage has won four while Gough took the other two.
Among the younger sailors, Byron White and Ashlen Rooklyn are leading the 29er with two wins and two 2nds, Alex and Sam Moloney have three wins and two 2nds in the 29erXX, Queenslanders Angus Galloway and Alexander Gough are holding off James Brewer and Dylan Passmore in the 420, and after dropping his first race, when he finished 8th, Eamon Robertshaw has nudged ahead of Sam Treharne in the Bic Techno sailboards.
An International leads in the men's RS:X, where Italian Marco Baglione has won four of the six races contested to hold a five point lead over Queenslander Luke Baillie. In the women's Australia's triple Olympian Jessica Crisp is tied with Jannicke Stalstrom from Norway and Flavia Tartaglini of Italy, all on nine points. However, had Crisp not been DSQ'd for going too close to a Manly ferry in the first race today, she would be leading by a single point.
World number one Marit Bouwmeester reinforced her dominance of the Laser Radial today, winning all three races.
The forecast for the remaining two days of the regatta is for strengthening winds, which should allow organisers to get more races completed – and put some smiles back on the faces of the leading competitors.