Aussies meet the challenges at Olympic Test Event

Day four at the Paris 2024 Olympic Test Event in Marseille was nothing if not consistent to the plan of the last few days.

The weather is hot, the days are long and at the conclusion there are four Aussies in the top ten with two sitting in podium positions.

Australian Sailing Team (AST) Technical Director, Michael Blackburn was out on the water with the coach of the Mixed 470, Andrea Manini, and commented once back ashore, “They had a long day with highly variable wind conditions, but they handled it really well, putting into practice some solid positioning tactics and working the boat hard in the warm moderate Marseille winds.”

“Grae (Morris) ended up being night watchman in the iQFOiL. He waited all day to complete a single race at 6.30pm, foiling into third place. All the Aussies are looking forward to a fresh Mistral breeze tomorrow.”

Today saw 9 to 13 knots on offer for the main part, but decidedly more Easterly in direction. The ‘Mistral’ is much a cooler Nor’wester that collects power from high pressure in the Atlantic Ocean, and low pressure up in the North Sea near Denmark, before it gets funnelled into the Gulf of Lion by virtue of the Pyrenees on one side and the European Alps on the other. Whilst colder, the Aussies will be very accustomed to its increased strength, and most often its consistency.

Western Australians Nia Jerwood and Conor Nicholas continue to do well in the Mixed 470, posting another fourth and third today. The result is that they climb into a very impressive third place overall. Their efforts ashore and on the water are paying dividends, as Jerwood explains, “We are both super happy with our performance today.

“We kept it simple and stuck to our plan. Many of the areas we made gains from today were the things we had focused on over the past month of training in Marseille, so we are stoked the process is working.”

Grae Morris has impressed many in 2023, a racing season that has included his maiden open international race win, en route to a sixth-place finish at the iQFOiL Europeans in May. Following today’s lone race, Morris continues his impressive progression moving up into fifth.

AST iQFOiL Coach, Arthur Brett, spoke about Morris’ great result, “Tough long day at the boat park. One light wind race that Grae managed well. Marathon race tomorrow followed by a couple of course races in what is expected to be a stronger wind than we have had so far.”

Olivia Price and Evie Haseldine on the 49erFX skiff were unable to totally replicate their efforts from the previous day, but remain in the crucial top ten group. Haseldine commented, “We knew coming into the event it was going to be one that would test us unlike any other World Sailing event, because technically it is finals racing the whole regatta.”

Expanding further, Haseldine added, “It’s a super tough racecourse. Very little is the same leg to leg, let alone race to race. Olivia and I need to be continually updating this information about the environment, fleet and racecourse to position ourselves appropriately, especially when the next change is uncertain. We are still learning how to bring consistency to this process.”

There is no doubt that snakes and ladders at this level is utterly brutal, and this is something that skipper Olivia Price has more experience with. “The racing is tight, and some simple mistakes cost us points. Our starts weren’t that strong, but we did make some comebacks during the day.

Breiana Whitehead scored two DNFs (Did Not Finish) today and remains in 12th place overall. “We had a very tricky course today, with the wind fluctuations being extreme. I got stuck in some very big holes and unable to connect the gusts on the course. I ended up dropping off the foil and not being able to continue racing, just like many others in the fleet. Luckily no damage to me, so will keep battling for the last day of qualifying tomorrow.”

The two ILCA classes stayed at home with a scheduled rest day, after being two of the classes to start first last Sunday.

Racing continues tomorrow as crews make sure they qualify for the all-important, double points medal races at the end of the regatta.

Visit the event website for full results.

Australian results at the Olympic Test Event:

ILCA 7 – 42 Entries

3rd – Matt Wearn OAM – 1, 7, 5, (10), 5, 2 (20 points)

Mixed 470 – 17 Entries

3rd – Nia Jerwood and Conor Nicholas – 7, (16), 16, 2, 3, 4, 4, 3 (39 points)

Men’s iQFOiL – 22 Entries

5th – Grae Morris – 9, 3, (24), 10, 3 (25 points)

49erFX – 24 Entries

10th – Olivia Price and Evie Haseldine – 2, (19), 8, 13, 14, 13 (50 points)

Women’s Formula Kite – 20 Entries

12th – Breiana Whitehead – 7, 10, 10, (16), 12, 12, 8, 13, (21 DNF), 9, (21 DNF) (81 points)

49er – 28 Entries

13th – Jim Colley and Shaun Connor – 16, 15, 4, 7, (17), 12 (54 points)

Nacra 17 – 18 Entries

16th – Darren Bundock and Lisa Darmanin – 17, (19 UFD), 11, 11, 14, 16 (269 points)

Men’s Formula Kite – 20 Entries

16th – Scott Whitehead – (20), 10, 12, (17), (16), 15, 16, 16, 15, 9, 11 (104 points)

ILCA 6 – 38 Entries

17th – Zoe Thomson – 11, 8, 13, (39 DSQ), 39 BFD, 10, (81 points)

Words by John Curnow.

Follow the Australian Sailing Team

Race Yachts
Jeanneau JY55
M.O.S.S Australia