You had to really concentrate, said Beijing gold medallist Malcolm Page of the conditions on Sydney Harbour when he came ashore on Day 1 of Yachting NSW's Olympic and Youth classes Sail Sydney regatta this afternoon.
Page's skipper Mat Belcher described the conditions: “east, south-south-east, everywhere really. We got 8-9 knots max. It was all over the place and lots of traffic on the Harbour.”
The Australian Sailing Team pair finished the day with second place and a win. “The Kiwi girls beat us in the first race,” Belcher said. “Yeah, but it's only our first race of summer,” Page laughed.
Everyone had similar weather stories, the difference being it suited some, but not others. Olympian Mike Leigh (CAN) was one of those who was not too fazed by the patchy shifty winds that existed on the Harbour all day – nor did he let the traffic upset him.
“It was pretty all over the place with the shifts – typical Sydney Harbour really – you look glamorous one minute and you're ducking ferries the next, but I had a great day,” surmised the Canadian Laser sailor who leads a strong fleet after scoring 2-3-1 results.
Two other Beijing Olympians did not come off the water happy. Two-time world champion Tom Slingsby from Australia: “I sailed really badly,” he said, even though he is fourth overall following three races, his second overall in Race 3 helping him on the ladder.
Matias Del Solar agreed with Slingsby. “No good – very bad – hard day,” said the Chilean sailor, whose best result was a ninth.
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) the current 49er world champions also had their frustrations. “It was pretty frustrating. It was very shifty and we did a lot of things wrong,” Jensen commented. The pair is third placed after scoring 3-3-4 results.
Euan McNicol (AUS), noted for his 18ft skiff sailing, said: It was really tricky, but these are my home waters, so I have no excuse. We won the first race, so that was pretty good.” He and Tim Austin are currently second placed following three races. The New Zealand pair of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke currently lead the series scoring solid 2-1-2 places.
The Finn class sailors enjoyed some of the best competition they've seen in Australian waters since the Sydney 2000 Games with 15 entrants from around the world.
Young South Australian talent James Paterson made the best of the patchy conditions; his 5-4-2 results giving him the series lead so far.
Triple Olympian Anthony “Nocka” Nossiter came ashore with a smile on his face. “I didn't have a bad day. I won the first race and got second in Race 2. We had pretty close racing; it was nice. It's a good hoe-down for the Hobart race,” said Nossiter who will sail south aboard Neville Crichton's 100ft maxi Alfa Romeo on Boxing Day.
Conrad Brown has come all the way from Los Angeles to compete at Sail Sydney. “It's been a life-long dream to sail on Sydney Harbour and here I am at 43 – I finally made it, and it's even better than I expected,” said Brown who is currently seventh placed.
“I am just happy to be here. I love these conditions and it was great seeing so many boats out on the Harbour.”
On the conditions, Brown said: “It became more apparent as the day wore on which was the right way to go. Early on it was horrible; you ‘d think ‘game on' and then all of a sudden, everything would change and you were out!”
The 470, Laser Radial, Laser 4.7 and 420 classes opened the Woollahra Sailing Club hosted regatta at 12.00pm, the remaining classes; Laser, Finn, 49er, 29er, RS:X, Bic Techno and Moth classes kicked off shortly after 3.00pm.
Officials from Yachting NSW are thrilled with the 230 plus entries that hit the water today, including a large international contingent, here to amass points towards their Olympic campaigns for London 2012.
International entries have come from: Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, the USA, Chile, Spain, Singapore, Greece, Canada, Japan, Finland, Hungary, Switzerland, Norway, India, Korea, Norway, Croatia, Poland and Italy.
The Sail Sydney Regatta, the only ISAF Grade 1 event in NSW, is the second event of the Sail Down Under series. The third and final event is Sail Melbourne, the first round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup.
Sail Sydney is hosted by Woollahra Sailing Club with help from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club.
Racing continues tomorrow (Sunday local time) from 10.00am, when the Laser, Finn, 49er, 29er, RS:X and Bic Techno classes get racing, weather permitting.
Di Pearson, Sail Sydney media