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Sailing World Cup about to launch off St Kilda

Colin Cheng at 2014 World Cup Melbourne

Melbourne is the first stop of the 2016 Sailing World Cup series and close to 1,000 competitors from around the world are in the final hours before launching off the historic seaside suburb of St Kilda tomorrow, Wednesday December 9, 2015 for the opening bout of the Olympic, Paralympic and invited class racing.

Tonight the Victorian sailing community, international delegates, three London 2012 sailing gold medallists and other high profile sports stars are gathering for the World Cup's official opening event and by midday tomorrow the quest for greatness will be underway.

To put sailing front and centre, the seventh edition of the event moved from Sandringham to the specially created St Kilda sailing precinct of the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron (RMYS), St Kilda Baths, St Kilda Beach and Catani Gardens.

There's historical significance attached to RMYS which played host to the Summer Olympic Games in 1956 and where Australia won its first two medals in Olympic sailing. John Scott and Rolland Tasker claimed silver in the 12 metre class, while the team of Doug Buxton, Devereaux Mytton and Alex 'Jock' Sturrock won bronze in the 5.5 metre class. Of the five sailing classes at the '56 games, only one, the Finn class, is still an Olympic class.

As well as the wonderful fusion of the sailing and entertainment precincts, St Kilda offers a huge variety of restaurants, cafes and shops plus sailors have access to local attractions Luna Park, the recently developed skate park and markets.

Olympic class names to watch out for

Competition begins tomorrow for the following; 470 Men, 49er Men, Finn Men, Laser Men, 470 Women, 49erFX Women, Laser Radial Women, RS:X Women, IKA - Formula Kite Open, 2.4mR, SKUD18 and Sonar.

Eight Olympic classes and three Paralympic classes totalling 180 sailors will vie for top ten selection for Sunday's Medal Races when a huge summer crowd is expected to line St Kilda Pier and other viewing locations enjoying the expert commentary or live streaming of vision at the stage next to RMYS.

For international followers, racing can be watched in 2D and 3D through the series here

International names to watch out for in the coming days include; Tatiana Drozdovskaya (BLR) in the Laser Radial, Laser sailor Giovanni Coccoluto (ITA), Stefano Marcio (RSA), that country's Laser class qualifier to Rio 2016 and Lee Parkhill (CAN) who finished fifth in the Laser at the Olympic test event in August and won bronze at the Pan American games Toronto in July. London Olympian Colin Cheng from Singapore and Khairulnizam Mohd Afendy (MAS) are two more hoping to feature in the Medal Races on Sunday.

In the Paralympic fleets, France's Damien Seguin won gold in the 2.4mR class at last week's Para World Sailing Championship. The Athens 2004 gold medallist finished ahead of another World Cup name to watch, Great Britain and London gold medallist Helena Lucas.

Aussie Paralympic gold medallists and 2015 Para World Sailing champions Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch have had the British team of Alexandra Rickham and Nicky Birrell on the ropes ever since they relegated the British sailors to bronze place in London in the SKUD18. The ding-dong between three-up Sonar British team of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas and Australians Colin Harrison, Jonathan Harris and Russel Boaden is expected to continue at the World Cup.

The Sailing World Cup Melbourne is also the Oceanic qualifier for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Australians to watch out for

Last Friday six sailors were selected for Rio 2016 and at the Sailing World Cup Olympic hopefuls still vying for selection to the Australian Sailing Team's Olympic squad are competing. Australian Sailing's Ashley Stoddart (QLD), Joanna Sterling (QLD), Carrie Smith (WA), Jaime Ryan (QLD) just recently secured country qualification at their class world championships in the Laser Radial, Women's RS:X and Women's 470, respectively.

As event ambassador and Rio hopeful in the Finn class Oli Tweddell says, "It's a pretty cool move having the World Cup at St Kilda, there's great exposure for the sport and lots to do from an international sailors point of view.” On his own campaign between tomorrow and the gold medal round on Sunday Tweddell adds, "It's always great having a World Cup on home waters and I'm happy to support the event.  This regatta I'll be targeting a few key areas where I made some mistakes at the Finn World Championship in New Zealand a fortnight ago. I'll be trying to eradicate those from my game.”

Irish, Canadian and United States teams have travelled the furthest to one of Melbourne's signature sporting calendar events. Canadian Laser sailor Evert McLaughlin goes into tomorrow's first race with extra zest having beaten the international fleet in the Laser Warm Up regatta that finished yesterday.

Pre-regatta confidence for Kiwi 470 sailors Sam Barnett and Zak Merton was boosted when the pair scored a win in the 470 Australian Championship that also wrapped up on Port Phillip yesterday in funky winds.

Forecast winds for day one of racing on Port Phillip tomorrow, Wednesday December 9, are variable 10 knots becoming west to north-west 15 - 20 knots early in the morning then turning south-westerly in the middle of the day. South to south-westerly 10-15 are likely for Thursday December.

Racing will take place from 12:00 local time until around 17:00 and ashore the public is invited to mingle with the athletes before and after racing, enjoy the restaurants and bars at the Baths, try kiteboarding, stand up paddle boarding and Discover Sailing on the weekend.

Invited classes

Thursday sees the invited classes schedule commence for the following; 420; 2.4mR (Open); 29er; Optimist; Laser 4.7; Laser Radial; Minnow; Open Bic; Viper; Liberty.



Skud 18 Fleet at the Para World Sailing Champs


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