Six months out from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Sail Melbourne International 2020 saw the world’s best sailors wrapping up the five-day event with a light wind day on Port Phillip Bay on Tuesday (21 January 2020).
Over 300 competitors from 25 countries contested Melbourne’s premier event for Olympic and Invited class sailing, which is part of Melbourne’s Summer of Sailing 2020 series.
The event was used by many sailors as a warm-up regatta for the next round of world championship events held around the bay in February with everyone experiencing a whole range of sailing conditions on Port Phillip.
With the wind dropping on the last day, racing was delayed in some of the classes, before all fleets got at least one final race in, with most finishing a full race program.
Sail Melbourne International 2020 included the Laser Oceania Championships, the International 505 class Australian Championships, the Australian Kitefoiling Championships as well as the 2020 Australian Para Championships.
In the Olympic events, the RS:X fleet was one of the first ones to get their three races in with Britain’s Tom Squires taking home the overall win after a total of 15 races ahead of Israel’s Yoav Omer. Dual Olympian Makoto Tomizawa from Japan finished third.
The race wins of the day went to Squires, Ofek Elimelech (ISR) and Kieran Holmes-Martin (GBR).
“The week was breezy and we had all kinds of conditions. Everyone was scared that I would lose the medal today because it was light conditions, but I managed to hold it together and showed them who is boss,” Squires said, who took over the lead on the second day of the regatta and never let it go.
“Sail Melbourne was the warm-up regatta for our World Championships in Sorrento and it was actually really relevant – it’s offshore here and it’s offshore in Sorrento so it was good to get some practice,” Squires added
“I qualified for Toyo in the European summer and it has been a long process. Now I am building up for the World Championships. It’s going to be full power and I am really excited to get training for the Olympic Games which is a bit surreal right now,” Squires added.
While Squires has already secured his Tokyo 2020 spot, in other countries selection is still underway, including for Israel’s top windsurfers who have travelled to Melbourne with a strong team. Three of Israel’s five men and two out of the four women competing at Sail Melbourne finished in the top five.
“We are five in the boys and four in the girls as all the teams came here and the preparation for the worlds is really important for us. The world championships are the main goal and they are super important so we did everything to succeed here and after that at the worlds,” Yoav Omer said, who finished as Israel’s top ranked sailor at Sail Melbourne in second place.
“This was our last competition before the worlds and it was a really good preparation for us to see if there are problems in windy or light conditions or with the equipment and it was good for us to have all these conditions at Sail Melbourne.”
“The world championships in Sorrento will be our last competition for selections and in the boys it’s really close. After the worlds the federation will decide who will go to the Olympic Games and I hope to be there. I really believe in my sailing over here and I’m feeling really good and I will do my best at the world’s next,” Omer added about the goals added.
The RS:X attracted a world-class field with everyone utilising the event to prepare for the RS:X World Championships at Sorrento Sailing and Couta Boat Club at the end of February (23-29 February 2020).
Racing in a mixed fleet, Israel’s Noy Drihan took home the win in the women’s class ahead of Rio 2016 Olympic champion Charline Picon. Hong Kong’s Hei Man Chan finished third.
“It was exciting to go into the last day with quite a few points ahead of Charline and it was good for me to see that I can be in front of an Olympic Champion,” Drihan said.
The race wins of the day went to Noy Drihan with her team mate from Israel Maya Morris taking out two bullets in the other two. With Israeli selection for Tokyo 2020 still ongoing, the upcoming world championships promise to be a tight battle within the team.
“The last selection event for the Israeli girls will be here in Melbourne with the world championships our final selection round. We came to Sail Melbourne to prepare before the worlds and to do another competition, to practice our starts and up-winds and we are also trying different things. It was a good competition and great that we had many sailors from the top fleet who came here,” Dihan said.
Olympic champion Picon also enjoyed the event and the various conditions thrown at them.
“We had a great week with strong winds, not today but the other days were quite intense. It was a good fleet so it was a very good training and it was nice to be here,” Picon said.
Picon already arrived in Melbourne mid-December with her family and two-year old daughter and has been enjoying some of the sights as well as training.
“I am with my daughter and my husband, so we also tried to enjoy ourselves. We did the Great Ocean Road in a campervan, and now they are here for my training camp. It is nice to have them with me. My daughter also got to feed some kangaroos which was nice,” Picon added about her stay in Victoria.
Australian Sailing Team’s Rio Olympian Jake Lilley (QLD) took home the win in the Finn Class and enjoyed the tight racing in the small, but high-calibre fleet.
“We had some fantastic international guys and Aussies here at Sail Melbourne. There was some really tight, close racing so happy to come away with the win in what were basically ten practice medal races. There were just millimetres in some of the races so I couldn’t have asked for much more,” Lilley said, who finished fifth at the 2019 Finn Gold Cup, the Finn Class world championship held at Royal Brighton Yacht Club in December, and secured Australian the quota spot for Tokyo 2020.
Lilley will continue training in Melbourne over the next few weeks together with some of the international Finn sailors, before heading over to Europe for the 2020 Finn Gold Cup.
“We’ll stay here in Melbourne with everybody and soak up the summer of sailing in Melbourne with plenty of World Championships on. It’s the best training venue so everybody’s here and we will be too. We’re going to be training down under until the end of February, and then I’ll do some racing in the Etchells class before heading over to Palma in the Finn (2020 Finn Gold Cup in Spain). I’ll keep pursuing the dream of Tokyo and chasing that hard,” Lilley added about his goals ahead.
The two races on the final day were won by Switzerland’s Nils Theuninck and Canada’s Tom Ramshaw. Theuninck finished second overall with Anders Pedersen (NOR) in third and Ramshaw in fourth.
The light winds on the final day resulted in a long wait for the Laser, but in the end, all fleets managed to get one final race on the scoreboard.
A third place in the one and only race of the day was enough for three-time Olympian Jean-Baptist Bernaz from France to take home the overall win at his first Sail Melbourne event.
“We had a little wait on shore today but then got one race in. It was my first time here and it was really great to sail here. It was a good week and I’m happy to win,” Bernaz said.
Australian Sailing Team’s Matt Wearn, who has already been selected to represent Australia at the Tokyo 2020 Games, posted a fifth to finish the regatta four points behind Bernaz in overall second. Australian Sailing Squad’s Luke Elliott jumped from sixth into third place.
With the event ranked as the 2020 Laser Oceania Championships, Wearn won the Oceania Champion title with Luke Elliott following in second and New Zealand’s Thomas Saunders in third.
“It has been a pretty good regatta. It has been pretty breezy in some testing conditions so it was nice to stretch your legs a little bit and do some hiking on the last day,” Matt Wearn said.
“We have had a great competition here with nearly 70 boats and pretty high quality as well so I’m happy with where I am standing at the moment. There’s obviously still a lot of stuff I need to polish off on, a few things in the starts and things I’m not really doing a 100% right so hopefully between this and the Worlds I can polish it all off and be good to go in February for the world championships,” Wearn added with the upcoming world championships in mind.
Two time Olympian and former world champion Rutger van Schaardenburg from the Netherland won the final race of the regatta and finished 15th overall
The 2020 ILCA Laser Standard Men’s World Championships will be hosted by Sandringham Yacht Club 9-16 February 2020.
Olympic champion Marit Bouwmeester from the Netherlands took home the win in the women’s Laser Radial and held on to her lead with an eleventh place in the last race. Louise Cervera from France was the winner of the final race and finished in 25th overall.
Following a consistent regatta, including two race wins in the eight-race series and dropping Sunday’s black-flagged race, Bouwmeester was happy with her pre-worlds event that saw her finish six points ahead of second-placed Olympic silver medallist Annalise Murphy (IRL).
“It has been really good! We have been here for Nationals and now Sail Melbourne and I think the organisation is doing a great job and there are so many volunteers, which is great,” Bouwmeester said about Sail Melbourne.
“Whilst this event has been completely different to the Nationals, it was nice to experience some different conditions,” Bouwmeester added after already contesting the Australian Laser Nationals at the start of January.
“It has been challenging with the wind, it has been a lot of fun and it has also been fun racing against the young boys who make us work hard so that’s been really good,” Bouwmeester added about the men’s Laser Radial sailing in the same fleet and with Western Australian youth sailors Stefan Elliot-Shircore and Michael Compton finishing the event in first and third respectively.
“This regatta is obviously very competitive, there are a lot of good girls over here so it’s really great to be able to race against them and a really cool opportunity to be racing against Olympic medallists,” Stefan Elliot–Shircore said.
Italy’s Silvia Zennaro finished the regatta in third and really enjoyed the windy conditions at Sail Melbourne.
“All but one were stormy windy days, but I like these conditions, they are not like Italy where it is sunny and light winds. I prefer strong winds so I like it here in Australia and I also expect a week of wind for the worlds, which makes it a bit easier for me for our trials. For our selection the worlds will be the most important regatta for me and I want to do my best performance at the worlds,” Zennaro said with Italian team selection on her mind.
Australian Sailing Squad’s Mara Stransky (QLD) finished Sail Melbourne as the highest ranked Australian female in ninth in the women’s ranking and overall 12th in the mixed-fleet after posting an eighth on Tuesday. As the top ranked women’s Laser Radial sailor from Oceania she took home the Oceania champion title.
“It was a nice change to not have so much wind on the last day and something a little different that’s not super windy. It has been a really good week to identify a few things to work on before the worlds and I’m looking forward to it,” Stransky said.
The 2020 ILCA Laser Radial Women’s World Championships will take place at Sandringham Yacht Club in February (21-28 February 2020)
Kite-foiling has been added to the Olympic program for Paris 2024 and as a first-time event of Sail Melbourne International, the 2020 Australian Kite-foiling Championships attracted a lot of interest. On Tuesday, three races in light winds concluded the 18-race series of the fleet racing after waiting for wind delayed the start.
17-year old Scott Whitehead from Townsville took home his first national title after posting an impressive eleven race wins, six second places and with an OCS in one race. Whitehead finished the regatta with a second and two first places on the final day.
“It is a really an amazing feeling and it’s really great to come down champion at the National Championships today. It has been a good regatta for me and I think it is the best result I ever got and it’s so great to be competing against people older than me and I am sure heaps more events like this are coming up.” Whitehead said.
“The regatta was really fun, we had all conditions, hail, shine, everything and it’s been really good. We battled all kinds of conditions yesterday with high seas and today with calmer waters,” Whitehead added about the conditions.
“It is still ages until 2024 but I will be going to World Championships all over the place, I think our next one is in China in September and before then it is just full on school work.”
Scott Whitehead finished the regatta with a 22-points lead over second placed Andrew Cooksey (WA) and Alty Frisby (WA) in third.
Scott Whitehead’s sister Breiana Whitehead defended her national title as the top-ranked female and finished racing in the mixed-fleet in a strong overall sixth place. Victorian Natalie Flintrop-Clarke finished second.
“The event was pretty tricky weather-wise, classic Melbourne I guess we got everything we could possible get; we were kiting rain, waves, flat water, sea breeze, everything… it was cool to try out everything. I think the racing was close, fun and really enjoyable,” Breiana Whitehead said about the mixed conditions over the four days of fleet racing.
“I am really happy to be the first woman in Australia which is really cool, but I would love more girls to be racing. It’s pretty fun to race in the mixed fleet, to race everyone, so I’m really happy to come sixth overall.”
Like her brother, Breiana Whitehead has her eyes set on Paris 2024, which has the mixed-relay proposed for the kite-foiling, but she also intends to enjoy the individual racing until then.
“I am looking forward to 2024 but I also want to enjoy all the kiting up to there. I still really like the individual racing and I would like to do well at Worlds and compete at more International events,” Whitehead said who finished the 2019 world-rankings in fifth place and also competed at the 2019 World Beach Games.
In the Invited classes, Sail Melbourne International also included the Australian Championships of the International 505 Class with American World Champions Mike Holt and Rob Woelfel taking home the overall win after winning four out of the eight-race series and posting a third and second place on the final day.
“It has been a fantastic week. Great breeze, really good racing and good race management – we have had a spectacular time. And some interesting weather as well,” Mike Holt said about the event.
“We got beaten quite a few times so we have had great competition, we have been pushed hard by all the guys here in different conditions. It has been challenging, it has been tough and it has been fun. We will definitely be back. We have been here every year now for five years, we have had a great time so we would love to come back,” Holton added.
South Australians Robin Deussen and David Snoad took out the Australian Championships placing second overall and first Australian boat.
Western Australians Christoph Paterson and Thor Schoenhoff won the first race on the final day and finished third overall, while South Australians Malcom and Angus Higgins won the last race to finish sixth overall.
Liberty and 2.4mR
The Liberty and 2.4mR classes were part of the 2020 Australian para sailing championships and after racing was cancelled for both classes on Monday, three races were completed on the final day.
South Australian Bob Schahinger took home the overall win in the Liberty with Western Australian para sailors Robert Crofts (WA) and Tracy Odiam finishing second and third.
With the class part of the 2020 Australian para sailing championships, Robert Crofts took home the win in the para category with Tracy Odiam coming second and first woman.
In the 2.4mR, the top two spots went to Michael Leydon and Peter Russell (both ACT) with Royal Brighton Yacht Club’s Neil Patterson finishing third and first para-sailor.
“We’ve had an amazing regatta. Five days of crazy easterlies which we never get and these light westerlies. This is my Yacht Club and I haven’t seen this kind of stuff, especially in one week but we’ve had some amazing sailing. Some really tight racing amongst the para sailors and the able-bodied sailors. It was awesome to see the para and the able-bodied sailors all together at the top mark within three, four boat lengths,” Patterson said about the events of the week.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had racing that is this close and we’ve just had literally every kind of weather thrown at us, so it was another great event, smashed out some great races and I can’t wait for next year,” Patterson said.
The Kevin Wood Award, which is awarded to a person, who has made an outstanding contribution to Sail Melbourne International was this year awarded to Principal Race Officer (PRO) Mark Taylor.
“It is a fair bit of work and effort to organise these events, there is some responsibility and accountability in being a PRO for this event but it wouldn’t work without the partner clubs and the course race officers to actually make this work out there on the water,” Mark Taylor said on receiving the award.
“So I would like to thank all the partner clubs that make this work, the course race officers and to all the volunteers who spent their hours this week out on the water, getting wet, getting hot, getting tired and only getting two beers a day in compensation, I will do my upmost to change this for future events,” Mark Taylor said in acknowledgement to the regatta teams at both Royal Brighton Yacht Club and Sandringham Yacht Club, who delivered yet another Sail Melbourne International event.
Over 300 competitors from 25 countries competed at Sail Melbourne 202 over five days with the event hosted by Royal Brighton Yacht Club as well as Sandringham Yacht Club (Laser fleets).