On the first day of 2018 Sail Melbourne International, Melbourne’s weather presented itself from a challenging side with the day starting out in rainy, windy and ever-changing conditions, requiring a lot of patience from sailors and race management alike.
But while the zombie cyclone sitting over Melbourne led to major disruptions in other areas of the city, it did not stop the sailors from getting in some high-calibre racing action on Port Phillip.
And it certainly did not stop Australian Sailing Team’s experienced Olympic medallist sailors and World #1 Mat Belcher (QLD) and Will Ryan (QLD), who kick-started the competition successfully with two bullets and taking the lead in the men’s 470.
“We certainly don’t come here for the weather, but it’s still good to sail here, it’s great race management, a really good fleet, and obviously we want to support one of Australia’s most respected events. They promise us every year that it’s going to get sunny, but I live on the Gold Coast, so I don’t believe it,” Mat Belcher laughed.
“We had about 20 knots, two-metre chop, and torrential rain to start with and had to wait out there in the rain for about an hour and a half just for the breeze to stabilise. Then it ended up a lot better than it started with no rain, a couple metre seas and 15 knots,” Belcher added about the conditions.
After day one of racing, the Australians are leading the 470 fleet ahead of the Japanese crew of Daichi Takayama and Kimihiko Imamura in second (2,3) and with Spanish 2018 World Championships bronze medallists Jordi Xammar Hernandez and Nicolás Rodrigues Garcí-Paz in third (5, 2).
The Olympic 470 class features one of the most international events of the regatta, with the fleet including sailors from seven countries.
Racing in the mixed fleet with the men are Germany’s top women’s 470 sailors Frederike Loewe and Anna Markfort, who sit on equal points with Australian Sailing Squad’s Nia Jerwood (WA) and Monique de Vries (WA), who won Sail Sydney last week. Both crews had a first and second in the two races of the day.
“We are definitely hoping to beat the Aussie girls this time and we also hope for better weather conditions. No more rain please, but we are looking forward to the next days of racing,” Frederike Loewe said about the goals ahead.
“It was a bit crazy today, we arrived at the boat park and it was raining a lot and it never stopped until after the first race. I guess the conditions were perfect to start the acclimatisation process to head back to German winter next week, but it was a good day of racing,” Anna Markfort laughed.
The duo has been in Australia over the last five weeks training together with the Australians and other internationals 470 crews, including fellow Germans Simon Diesch and Phillipp Autenrieth.
Patience was also required in the Laser fleet with sailors out on Port Phillip for a while, before the fleet managed to finish two races in swirling wind conditions. New Zealand’s Sam Meech is leading the fleet after a first and second, with Australian Sailing Team’s 2018 Laser World Championships silver medallist Matt Wearn (WA) following in second after a fourth and third place. New Zealand’s Thomas Saunders is ranked third posting a third and fourth. Wearn won last week’s Sail Sydney just ahead of Meech and Sail Melbourne looks like it will be a tight battle once again. Britain’s Lorenzo Chiavarini won the second race of the day to be ranked fourth overall.
“It was a really good day. After Sail Sydney we are all racing at similar speeds, so it is always fantastic racing the boys,” Meech said.
Swiss sailor Maud Jayet won the one race in the Laser Radial fleet with Sail Sydney winner Otto Henry (NSW) coming second and Frazer Brew (QLD) third.
Australian Sailing Squad’s Mara Stransky (QLD) is the second ranked female in the mixed Laser Radial fleet finishing fifth, while Victorian Casey Imeneo finished third female and overall seventh.
“It is a very different venue to Sail Sydney but a lot of the same competitors so it is just very interesting to see how everyone measures up against each other in some very different conditions,” Stransky said.
A rematch from Sail Sydney is also on in Sail Melbourne’s Finn class with current World #1 and winner of Sail Sydney Nicholas Heiner (NED) winning both races of the day. Heiner was chased by Rio 2016 Olympic champion Giles Scott (GBR), who finished second and fourth as well as Britain’s Ben Cornish, who posted a fifth and third. Australia Sailing Team’s Rio Olympian Jake Lilley (QLD) moves into fourth place after a third and fifth.
“This was the first day on the road to the 2019 World Championships for us here in Melbourne and it was a different day with quite a weather event. I suppose it’s not unusual for here, we had a very tricky breeze south to southeast, swinging around a lot and dropping in and out, coming in and just making for tricky racing,” Lilley said.
Royal Brighton Yacht Club will be hosting the 2019 Finn Gold Cup, the World Championships of the Finn class in December next year, and the international fleet is using the event to test the waters.
“We have some of the best guys in the world here, from Great Britain we also have Kiwis and the Dutchman, four of the top ten from the last world championships and all of these guys are very serious about qualifying for the Olympics in 2020 and doing well in the World Championships next year and this is a day one of the road to next year worlds and its really exciting to walk away with two keeper scores and looking to keep building on that this week.”
The Invited classes include the youth and pathway classes and have attracted a large number of Youth sailors, who make the most of the opportunity to test their skills ahead of the 2019 Australian Sailing Youth Championships in Tasmania in January.
It is an opportunity Victorian sailors and twins Lily and Matilda Richardson from Mornington Yacht Club, do not want to miss. The pair finished tenth overall after a 13th and an eighth place in the mixed fleet making them the second highest ranked female crew behind fellow Victorians Sophie Jackson and Chloe Harper.
“Instead of Sail Sydney we were in New Zealand competing, so this is our first time competing against everyone for a while. Youth nationals are up next and everyone is pretty good and has been training hard, which makes for some really good competition. Today was a tricky day on the water, but we hope to come back again tomorrow and have a good day.” Matilda Richardson said.
New South Wales sailors Ryan Littlechild and Jack Ferguson are leading the 420 fleet ahead of Marcello Torre and Tom Larkins with Ben Hinks and Alexander Magarey in third.
Racing was cancelled earlier in the day for the skiff sailors in the 49er, 49erFX and 29er classes as well as for the para-sailing classes.
Racing continues tomorrow, Friday, 14 December with weather conditions being closely monitored by race management and additional races scheduled in those events that did not race today. On Friday, also the OK Dinghy and WAZSP will join the action.
Racing at Sail Melbourne International runs from Thursday, 13 December to Sunday, 16 December 2018 with 375 competitors from 18 countries contesting the event.
See results here: http://bit.ly/SailMelb18Results
AUSTRALIAN SAILING TEAM AND SQUAD RESULTS
Mat Belcher/Will Ryan – 1, 1 – 1st
Chris Charlwood/Josh Dawson – 3, 5 – 4th
Nia Jerwood/Monique de Vries – 2,1 – 1st
Dana Tavener/Katherine Shannon – 3, 3 – 3rd
Jake Lilley – 3, 5 – 4th
Oliver Tweddell – 26, 7– 16th
Lewis Brake – 15, 19 – 18th
Jock Calvert – 11, 18 – 15th
Matt Wearn – 4, 3 – 2nd
Luke Elliott – 6, 5 – 5th
Mitchell Kennedy – 10, 7 – 7th
Finn Alexander – 14, 11 – 10th
Mara Stransky – 5 – 5th (1st Female)