Three Aussie crews leading after first day at Weymouth

The Australian Sailing Team has had an impressive start to the Sail for Gold regatta in Weymouth, England, with three crews topping their classes after day one of racing.

The 470 men's crew of Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page, Laser sailor Tom Slingsby and 49er crew Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen all sit in first position as the final round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup got underway.

Belcher and Page won both of the day's races in shifty conditions which caught a number of their competitors out.

“The conditions were quite tricky out there,” said Page. “It reminded both of us of a windy westerly in Sydney with the wind coming off the land. It was tricky with some side swell but all in all was good fun, of course when you see the wind clearly and have a good day it's always good fun.”

The regatta is the first time that the pair have competed in England and Belcher said they are using the regatta to gain an insight into what to expect in the lead up to the 2012 London Olympic Games.

“It's the first time I've been offshore here and it was great to familiarise ourselves with the conditions and the venue and as we've said for this week we're here not to focus on results but to make ourselves at home and find out as much information as we can,” said Belcher.

In the Laser fleet Tom Slingsby also had a perfect start to the regatta with two race wins, revelling in the conditions.

“It was a really good day for me,” said Slingsby. “The wind was about a 15 knot offshore breeze with big shifts and I sailed pretty well, I thought I was quick and thought I was on the right part of the course so in all it was a good day to start the regatta and I'm starting to like this venue already.”

“There were plenty of waves and plenty of shifts with a solid breeze which is generally my strength, in all I think it's perfect sailing out there, tricky but I'm enjoying it,” he said.

Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen continued their winning ways in just their third regatta together, ending the day with a first and two thirds to lead the 49er fleet.

“We were saying out there that in the last two regattas we've had a pretty bad day to start with and this regatta has been the opposite so far with a three, one and three,” said Outteridge.

“Everyone else was pretty up and down, in a 40 boat fleet it's pretty hard to stay at the front all day so it was a really good start to the regatta for us,” he said.

In the RS:X women's fleet Jessica Crisp had a mixed day with a fifth placing in the opening race before a torn sail slowed her down in race two and she currently sits in eighth.

The Australian Sailing Development Squad Women's Match Racing crews led by Katie Spithill and Lucinda Whitty both had two wins and a loss in their opening three matches with both crews in Group B for the round robin.

Reigning Olympic Gold medallists Elise Rechichi and Tessa Parkinson had a tough start to their regatta with a 24th and OCS leaving them in 29th but with plenty of time left to work their way up the ladder.

Alongside Slingsby in the Laser fleet are ASDS sailors James Burman and Sean Bly with Burman in 42nd and Bly in 83rd.

Fellow ASDS sailors Euan McNicol and Rob Bell are 25th in the 49er fleet, an impressive result given that McNicol only arrived at the venue late on Sunday afternoon and they only had time for a quick sail before the regatta got underway.

In his first ever overseas regatta South Australian James Patterson finished the day 31st in the Finn fleet.

In the Paralympic classes the AST Sonar crew of Colin Harrison, Barry Astwood and Russell Boaden had a sixth and eighth placing to end the day in eighth.

Australia's 2.4m sailors Rachael Cox and Duncan MacGregor both suffered with major boat issues, with Cox finishing the day in 13th while MacGregor's mechanical issues meant he didn't even make it to the racecourse.

For more information go to www.australiansailingteam.com.au

Regatta results can be found at http://www.sailracer.co.uk/events/18401/

– Craig Heydon

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