Good start for Australia's Laser men at ISAF Worlds in Santander

It was perhaps just as well that only the Laser classes raced on the first day of the Santander World Championships. Fickle winds and, believe it or not, a one hour break in early afternoon while the officials had a siesta made it a frustrating day for most. However, there was good news for Australia in the Laser Standard with three members of the squad in the top 10 after two races.

As expected, Tom Burton led the Australian charge with a 5th and a 3rd to leave him four points behind the surprise leader, Juan Aguero of Guam. The young Western Australian, Matthew Wearn, is in third place with scores of 7,2 and Ryan Palk is in ninth place after a 5th and a 9th.

Perhaps the surprise of the day, illustrating the fickle nature of the breezes, was Robert Scheidt (BRA) who is in seventh place after finishing 13th in the first race. He atoned with a 2nd in race two and the former Olympic champion, who is making a comeback to the class for is home Games, commented: “I did not get far enough right for the shift. I struggled to catch up and could only get back to 13th. I was happy to finish second in the next race.”

Australian Luke Elliott was another to have mixed fortunes. He lies in 27th after a 20th in the first race and a much improved 3rd in the second. Other Australians in the fleet were Mitch Kennedy (21,8 to be 38th), Ash Brunning (11,30 – 41st) and Jeremy O'Connell (43,5 – 77th).

Ignoring the wishes of the competitors as usual, ISAF is using a new format for these World Championships. Instead of the traditional 10 qualifying races and a double-points medal race, which allows good sailors to still rise to the top if they have bad luck or gear failure in the early rounds, there will be just four qualifying races then six “final series” races and the medal race.

This is bad news for Australia's women in the Laser Radial, who all had a very bad day.

Probably considered the third-ranked Australian leading into the championships, Anna Philip leads the way in 54th place following results of 23rd and 36th. Former Olympian Krystal Weir is 62nd (43,22) and Ashley Stoddart, is 103rd with results of 49th and 45th. It will be a hard road back for all three.

There are new names at the top of the women's leaderboard, where Veronika Fenclova (CZE) leads on just four points (3,1) from Min Gu of China (4,2) and Emma Plasschaert of Belgium (2,5). Fenclova had a big smile on her face as she explained, “In the first race I had a good start and led at the first mark but I could not hold my position downwind and dropped to third even though we did change places several times before the finish.

In the second race she led from start to finish, “I had a good lead which protected me on the downwind.” Fenclova's results were better than she expected as she has had a year off from sailing although she has been training hard for a month at Santander prior to the championship.

Hopefully by tomorrow ISAF will provide usable internet in the media centre, allowing me to bring you a more detailed and informative report.

– Roger McMillan in Santander.

This report was brought to you by Ronstan, supporting the Australian Sailing Team for 30 years.

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