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Sailors enjoy blue skies, light winds

26 July 2012

SAILING: Australia’s sailors have spent the week prior to the Opening Ceremony in Weymouth preparing for their Olympic assault, but the team of thirteen have had conditions quite foreign to them for Weymouth.  

Despite the brilliant sunshine and sparkling blue skies, the wind gods haven’t delivered and the week of light shifty training has given the team the opportunity to sharpen up their light wind tactics.  

For 470 men Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page, the lighter conditions have been a welcome opportunity to train in conditions they haven’t seen a lot of in Weymouth.  

“It’s been great to get out in these lighter winds and sharpen up our light-weather sailing,” Page said.  

The pair head into the Olympic regatta as current world champions and favourites and if successful, Page will be the first Australian sailor to defend his Olympic gold medal.  

Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jenson also head into the event with the favourite’s tag in the 49er class, having won the last two world titles in this event.  Despite being designed in Australia and first used in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Australia is yet to win a medal in the 49ers, so the pair will be creating history of their own if they win gold.  

In the Laser class the last time Australia medalled was in 2000 when Michael Blackburn took the bronze.  Blackburn is now coaching hot medal favourite Tom Slingsby, who brings top form into the Olympic regatta, having also won the last three world titles in his class.  

Another Aussie vying to be the first to win back-to-back gold medals is 470 sailor Elise Rechichi.  Following her gold in Beijing, Rechichi came out of retirement at the end of 2011, teaming up with 2000 gold medallist Belinda Stowell to campaign in the women’s 470 event.  Despite only a short time together, the two have the pedigree and knowledge of what’s needed to win gold and will be a pair to watch.  

Meanwhile in the women’s match race (Elliot 6M) event, three young Aussies are lapping up their first Olympic experience.  Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty will all be competing at their first Olympics and with a successful year to date they’ll be another team to watch on the waters off Weymouth.  The girls have finished on the podium in three of this year’s four World Cup events, and with a current world ranking of six they’re looking forward to the experience ahead.  

Krystal Weir, an Olympian at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, has made the move back into the Laser Radial class for London.  Weir won a world title in this class back in 2004, before making the move into the Yngling for Beijing.  Back at home in the Laser Radial, Weir has enjoyed the range of sailing conditions off Weymouth, at times being reminded of home town Melbourne’s Port Philip Bay.  

Four-times Olympian Jessica Crisp is no stranger to the Olympics, having first experienced the Games in 1984 when she competed in the windsurfer as a demonstration sport.  In 2012 she is drawing on her experience and maturity, along with renowned Kiwi windsurfer Barbara Kendall as coach, to build on her previous best Olympic result of fifth.  

In the Finn Class Australia’s Brendan Casey will be competing in his first Games but is unphased by the competition ahead.  With a strong fleet, including legendary British sailor Ben Ainslie, taking to the water in the Finns, Casey will be looking to draw on his successes at world cup events earlier this year.  Perhaps the most traditional of all the Olympic classes, the Finn has been an Olympic boat since 1952.  

Megan McKay in Weymouth


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