Stevie Morrison (and new crew) on a charge
Despite some bleak weather expectations for day five of the ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne 2013, Port Phillip turned on a corker. The grey skies and big seas of the morning eased as the day progressed. The sun shone brightly and all appeared to be well with the world – today was just the second of sunshine and summer warmth.
The southwesterly, which had given Port Phillip a hammering for a day and most of the night, eased as the day unfolded. In its place came an oscillating breeze with plenty of variations in pressure and direction.
The Australian Nacra 17 combination of Darren Bundock and Nina Curtis has taken a one-point lead after 10 races, in the new Olympic multihull class. However, as Bundock noted, they have already used their discard so with three races and a medal race to go, leaving the series still wide open.
“The first two races were really good for us,” Bundock commented when reflecting on their two wins. “The wind was really shifty and patchy. In the third race we struggled a little. I was being too patient and sitting in bad spots waiting for the breeze line to arrive. We were just getting hammered. In the start of the third race, we just sat there for a very long time before we got across to the breeze.
“Today we got the shifts right, in the first two races. We got a bit lost on the first upwind in the third race. In the last race, we were back at the top mark but on the first downwind we made good gains.
“We are learning the boat, not being fast enough changing gears upwind is our greatest weakness. Every now and then we get it right and the boats takes off.”
Consistency was the game of the day in the Nacra 17s, with Bundock and Curtis picking up just 10 points under the low-points system used for scoring. Second overall, Euan McNicoll and Lucinda Whitty (AUS), were even more consistent scoring just nine points. Overnight leaders Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders (NZ) picked up 18pts from the day causing them to drop to third overall, despite winning the final race of the day.
"It was a tough day, we had the dying gradient breeze, then the tiny bubbling thermal breezes. We were consistent, so that was pleasing” said McNicoll.
"We are learning a lot this week, the variety of conditions here in Melbourne enables rapid progress,” he said.
The NZ coach, five times America’s Cup winner, Murray Jones said, “Boats could be a few hundred metres apart and some would be sitting inside and the others would be full trapezing.”
It was similar story in the 49er with damage control on the points table being the order of the day.
The new British crew of Stevie Morrison and Chris Grube gave the fleet a master class in this facet of the regatta, by accumulating only seven points in the four races sailed. This was a substantially better achievement than those ahead of him in the 12-boat fleet allowing them to jump into third place – a position more in keeping with Morrison’s pedigree in the 49er, as a past World Champion and double British Olympic representative.
“There was some steep chop left around, it showed the benefit of being lighter than the fleet,” Morrison explained. “We are 8kgs lighter than most in the fleet, so we kept going when the others stopped. Looking ahead to Rio, there might be some dieting going on to get down to our weight. Our crew-work is far from slick, but the sun shone on us a little more than anyone else day,” he added.
Australian Olympic Gold medal winning crew, Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, were seen more often down the back of the fleet than at the front. They started the day well with a win, but then returned a ninth place in the second race sailed, then finished off with a seventh and a third.
Outteridge commented, "No excuses today. It was shifty, we were trying to predict the wind and it was not moving, but it was dropping the sky a bit, a bit like our results today.
"This just shows the quality of this fleet. The Australian squad is getting stronger. Make a mistake and you will get mowed down."
Australian crew of Tess Lloyd and Caitlin Elks have taken the lead in the new Olympic Women’s skiff, winning two races and placing second and fourth in the other two today.
Overnight leaders, 18year old Norwegian twins, Ragna and Maia Agerup, struggled to cope with the light and shifting winds, placing sixth, sixth and seventh in the eight boat fleet, before halting the point score damage with a second place in the final race of the day. They now lie in third place overall having led all series.
Chinese competitors hold the top three places overall, with Chuankun Shi having an outstanding day with three wins from three races sailed. He now has an 11 point lead over compatriot Chunzhuang Liu, with Zhengnan Fang (CHN) a further two points behind.
Manija Zheng (CHN) retains her lead in the Women’s RS: X after scoring two, three and three for the day. She is now seven points clear of Qiaoshan Weng (CHN), who is six points ahead of Peina Chen (CHN). Chen had a good day in the lighter winds placing first in the final two races of the day.
Tom Burton (AUS) won all three races sailed in the Men’s Laser and extends to a 17-point lead over Ashley Brunning (AUS). New Zealand’s Thomas Saunders is close behind in third. Burton will take an unassailable lead into Saturday’s Medal race.
In the Laser Radial women’s single hander, 2013 Qingdao Sailing World Cup Silver medallist, Tatiana Drozdovskaya (BLR), has broken well clear of the fleet. Currently second is the ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao Gold Medallist, Dongshuang Zhang (CHN) and the 2012 World Cup Melbourne winner Krystal Weir (AUS) is third.
“I’m pleasantly surprised with my results so far,” said Weir after today’s racing. “I’m looking forward to the Australian Championships in a few weeks, then we will decide where to from there."
Tomorrow’s medal race will determine the silver and bronze medals only, with Ashley Stoddart (AUS) who is currently lying fourth overall, a reasonable chance of medalling.
Matthew Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) lead the nine boat 470 Men’s fleet, with Croatia’s Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic second, three points in arrears. There is a big 17-point gap back to the third placed crew of Angus Galloway and Tim Hannah (AUS).
The Brazilian crew of Geison Mendes and Gustavo Thiesen are two points behind Galloway and Hannah and still in contention for the Bronze medal, after a better today, winning Race eight.
“Today was very shifty, light wind conditions, and we are pleased with how we sailed,” said Thiesen. “The first upwind legs were very good for us in the first and second races. We were first to the first mark in both races. In the last race we did not have a good starting plan and we didn’t get as good a start as we did in the other races,” added Mendes.
John Bertrand, the Australian Squad Finn coach, summed up the day for the 14 strong Finn fleet, "Today was a great day. Light and shifty, choppy and swelly. In Europe you see these conditions all the time. So it was great experience for all the sailors.”
Overall Sweden’s Bjoern Allansson scored two wins from three races and leads by three points from Australian Oliver Tweddell. Allansson enjoyed the conditions today, his two firsts and a second, placing him atop the leader board.
"It was just like home only warmer, " he smiled.
“It was light and shifty all day,” said second placed, Tweddell. “There were 20-30 degree shifts for all three races. The breeze felt like it was trying to die off, but it kept filling in from the right hand (westerly) side. I had a good battle with Bjorn all day long.”
Tweddell scored a first second and third placing for the day. “Bjorn took me on a couple of the downwinds, to stop me getting a few more wins,” Tweddell added. “It was a good fun day.”
The medal race will be sailed in the Finn tomorrow, which will is expected to determine the Gold and Silver medals between Allansson and Tweddell. Jake Lilley (AUS) and Brendan Casey (AUS) who are currently locked on 23 points are expected to contest the Bronze.
Medal races in the 470 men, 470 Women, Finn, Laser and Laser Radial classes, will be sailed on the Stadium course directly off the Sandringham Yacht Club breakwater.
Fleet racing will be sailed in the other classes, who will have their Medal races on Sunday.