Olympians Set the Standard at Sail Melbourne

A flurry of activity returned to the shores of Brighton today with more than 220 competitors in Olympic and invited classes beginning their Sail Melbourne campaigns in glamour conditions.

Also known as the Sailors Regatta, Sail Melbourne 2023 is host to a number of big names, including Matt Wearn, who is looking to cement his position at the top of the fleet following his fifth ILCA 7 national championship win last week.

It’s going to be a great week here at Sail Melbourne, we’ve got pretty much the same fleet as nationals where the top 10 or 15 boats are concerned so it’s looking like it’ll be super competitive,” began Wearn.

“We’ve got a few international sailors here which is always nice, and it looks like we’ll have a good mix of conditions over the next five days too which will be a great way to build up for the big European season we have coming up.”

Time on the water has been a priority for Wearn over the last few months after his covid-impacted season in 2022.

“There was no way around the big break I had last year so it’s just nice to be doing some consistent sailing,” said Warne.

“I’ve almost doubled my regattas in the last couple of months from last year so it’s just great to be getting that time on the water and Sail Melbourne is the perfect opportunity. I’m feeling good about going to Europe in March and hopefully giving that a good crack.”

Wearn is currently in second place in the ILCA 7 fleet at the end of day one, with the early lead going to international sailor Michael Beckett from Great Britain. In the ILCA 6 fleet, two-time Hungarian Olympian Maria Erdi is sitting in first place, with Zoe Thomson from the Australian Sailing Squad (ASS) in second and Mara Stransky from the Australian Sailing Team (AST) in third.

Samantha Costin CREDIT Alex McKinnon Photography
Samantha Costin CREDIT Alex McKinnon Photography

In the iQFOiL class, Samantha Costin made the most of the shifty conditions and is sitting confidently in first place after posting straight bullets on the first day of competition. Grae Morris leads the Men’s fleet after the first five races on day one, with Harry Joyner only a few points behind after a strong day on the water.

“I’ve done Sail Melbourne for the past five years, it’s definitely an event we all look forward to,” said Morris.

“We’ve got a good little crew around and it’s just nice that all the boats are together so we can all have a lot of fun, socialise and get on the water together. It’ll be great to experience it with everyone so I’m super excited for the week to come.”

The 2023 Australian Para Championships are included within the Sail Melbourne event, with both the Liberty and 2.4 meter classes demonstrating exemplary racing on day one. 2022 Australian Sailing Para Sailor of the Year Chris Symonds (Tasmania) is leading the Liberty class with a 1 and a 2, just one point ahead of Victorian local Alison Weatherly. In the overall results Peter Coleman posted two bullets today to claim the lead in the 2.4Rm class, coming in just ahead of Mark Seager and John Collingwood.

ASS athletes Nia Jerwood and Conor Nicholas from Western Australia are in top spot in the 470 class at the end of day one, closely followed by AS Futures athletes Sophie Jackson (Victoria) and Angus Higgins (South Australia) in second and Axel Fleet and Jamie Randall (Western Australia) in third. Young team Ben Hinks and Fallon Katz have positioned themselves nicely in fifth and are excited to be racing at Sail Melbourne against such a competitive fleet.

“We’ve come over from South Australia to compete against all the other states as we don’t have many other 470’s in South Australia and want to get a better idea of where we sit in the racing fleet,” started Katz.

“We’re keen to get some more experience as we’ve only been in the 470’s since September so are pretty new to the class.”

“We competed at Sail Sydney which ended up being quite a windy event so we’re looking forward to competing in some lighter breezes and some different conditions that we haven’t raced in yet,” finished Hinks.

Laura Harding and Annie Wilmot CREDIT Alex McKinnon
Laura Harding and Annie Wilmot CREDIT Alex McKinnon

In the 49er class, Queenslanders Thomas Needham and Joel Turner are in first, closely followed by ASS teammates Jim Colley and Shaun Connor. It’s Australia versus Japan in the 49er FX class, with Teruaki Shimakura and Minaki Endo claiming the top spot at the end of day one with Sena Takano and Anna Yamazaki second and Olivia Price and Evie Haseldine top Aussies in third.

A successful first day of competition was no surprise or Principal Race Officer Stephen Aulich, who predicted a great day out on the water even before the first boat had launched from the beach.

“It was a great sunny say here today and the wind settled into the north at about 10-15 knots by the afternoon, so it was a great day out on the water,” said Aulich.

“The next few days will bring varied weather which will be challenging but will bring great racing all the same.”

Sail Melbourne is supported by the Victorian Government.

Visit the Sail Melbourne website for more information on the regatta, and view a full list of results here.

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