Australian Sailing Squad members to sail at ISAF World Cup Qingdao

Four sailors will represent Australian Sailing at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao, China with racing starting on Wednesday, 16 September 2015.

More than 240 sailors from 37 nations will race in Qingdao, China from 16 – 20 September 2015 for the final ISAF Sailing World Cup of the 2014-15 series and ahead of the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi (29 October to 1 November 2015).

Australian Sailing Squad’s RS:X Windsurfer Joanna Sterling (QLD) will compete in Qingdao as well as Ashley Stoddart (QLD) in the Laser Radial. Mitchell Kennedy (QLD) and Ryan Palk (QLD) will contest the Laser. Sterling, Stoddart and Palk qualified for the event by ranking in the World’s top 30 while 33rd ranked Kennedy secured a late entry.

VIS athlete Jeremy O’Connell (VIC / ranked 29th) completes the Australian contingent in Qingdao.

The event is the Olympic Asian continental qualification regatta with international sailing talent joining Asian hopefuls within the respective fleets to secure a share of the $150,000 USD prize fund as well as World Cup medals and Abu Dhabi ISAF Sailing World Cup Final spots.

The opportunity to get valuable racing experience ahead of their upcoming respective class world championships (RS:X Oman 19-24 October 2015, Laser Radial 17-22 November 2015) is the main reason to compete in Qingdao for Joanna Sterling and Ashley Stoddart, who already qualified for Abu Dhabi at the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup in Melbourne in December. Both athletes are yet to qualify their boat class for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

“Qingdao is a great lead up regatta and a good opportunity to get some international competition in before the Worlds in November,” Ashley Stoddart said.

“I will be using it to practice race processes and putting a regatta together. It is a venue with a challenging environment and well known for the complexity of the tide and wind.”

The Laser Radial has attracted a fleet of 36 boats, while the Laser has the maximum possible Sailing World Cup fleet with 40 boats.

It will be the first time for Australian Sailing Squad’s Laser sailors Mitchell Kennedy and Ryan Palk at the 2008 Olympic venue and they are looking forward to the challenge of posting some strong results in the absence of Australian teammates and Laser World #1 and #2 Tom Burton (NSW) and Matthew Wearn (WA), who will compete in Abu Dhabi next.

“I am very curious to see what Qingdao brings, I'm looking forward to racing in a new venue and getting career best performances”, Ryan Palk said. “Australian Laser sailors have had mixed results here over the years but we have never won and it will be a good challenge to see if one of us can.”

And about the calibre of the fleet he added: “It’s a World Cup with plenty of good guys here. The 40-boat SWC cut off makes the racing slightly smaller than other major regattas, but it will be tough at the top as usual. The guys who won Gold and Silver last year are here again and multiple European champ Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) is going for a hatrick at this event. Everyone is preparing for their Olympic selections and there are plenty of people to look out for.”

With the number one and number two spots on the ISAF Laser World rankings taken by his teammates Burton and Wearn, Mitchell Kennedy’s motivation for Qingdao is to close the performance gap to the top of the strong Australian Laser squad coached by Olympic medallist Michael Blackburn.

“One of them (Burton / Wearn) is pretty much certain to go to Rio. To still be able to train with those guys and see where they are at and gauge against them is probably the biggest motivator. And try to get to their level,” Kennedy said.

“After Rio, then there is Tokyo and it comes on pretty quick. To bridge the gap sooner rather than later, that is my goal at the moment; that is my driver,” he added.

Racing across the nine Olympic fleets is scheduled to commence on 16 September with Medal Races bringing the regatta to a close on 20 September.

Australian Sailing at the Rio Sailing Test Event

Men's One Person Dinghy – Laser
– Mitchell Kennedy (QLD/QAS) – ASS
– Ryan Palk (QLD/QAS) – ASS
– Jeremy O’Connell (VIC/VIS) – non-ASS

Women's One Person Dinghy – Laser Radial
– Ashley Stoddart (QLD/QAS) – ASS

Women's Windsurfer – RS:X
– Joanna Sterling (QLD/QAS) – ASS

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