European Challengers Relish Shifting Winds At Sail Melbourne

From the shore, conditions looked vastly improved for the second day of the ISAF World Cup in Melbourne. However sailors in the Olympic classes racing this morning - the 470 men and women, the 49er and the Laser Radial - all told a different story.

Austrians Nico Delle - karth and Nikolaus Resch, who are leading the 49er class by two points, described the conditions as a bit gusty and tricky, especially in the last race. Resch remarked: "It was a developing sea breeze, but it never fully developed." He said there were lots of holes on the course and it was easy to be in the wrong place when a wind shift came through.

The Austrians put in a solid day, adding a second, fourth, first and a ninth to yesterday's win, but they would have been tied for the lead had the New Zealand pairing of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke not misread the sailing instructions.

"We thought they were all three-lap races, but one was only two. We were winning and we turned upwind at the gate and two other boats sailed through and finished," said a sheepish Blair Tuke. However, with five races sailed crews can now drop their worst performance, so the Kiwis very consistent record of second, fourth, third, third and second which leaves them in a very strong position. Erik Storck and Trevor Moore of the USA are third on 15 points, with Australians Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen a further five points behind.

Dongshuang Zhang of China is a surprise leader in the Laser Radial, ahead of the ISAF number one Marit Bouwmeester of the Netherlands. Sara Winther of New Zealand is in third place.

Bouwmeester said she didn't come here expecting to win. "I want to learn every time I go racing," she said. "I am happy to experience lots of different conditions."

Bouwmeester said she was "quite annoyed" with herself in the second race because she was passed in a way that she should have been able to prevent. "But in the last race I was leading from the start to the finish so I was quite happy about that."

The 470 crews also commented that the conditions were difficult to read. The Austrians had a good day in the women's races, with Sylvia Vogl and Carolina Flatscher adding second, first and a second to their overnight win. They lead by five points from Annina Wagner and Marlene Steinherr of Germany with Huimin Feng and Lizhu Huang of China a further three points back in third.

Had it not been for the 470 men, it would have been a tough day for the host nation Australia. Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page recorded third, first and second to go with yesterday's win, leaving them two points ahead of the Americans, Stuart Mcnay and Graham Biehl. The Austrian crew of Matthias Schmid and Florian Raudaschl are third.

Mat Belcher described the conditions as difficult. "It was a lot in where you went on the course." He said there were wind holes everywhere and also commented that the sea breeze tried to come in but just made the conditions worse.

Malcolm Page said that it was nice to get back on schedule after just one race yesterday. "We've had four good races, nothing too hairy. We didn't get it right all the time but we had a good day."

The light conditions on Port Phillip Bay suited the Chinese and Hong Kong windsurfers, who completed almost a clean sweep of the RS:X men's and women's events. Only Jessica Crisp of Australia was able to break the Chinese stranglehold on the event today. Huali Zhu and Qiubin Chen of China were first and third in the women's contest, with Jessica Crisp taking second

In the men's event, Ho Tsun Leung of Hong Kong recorded two second places to lead from Aichen Wang of China and Kwok Fai Cheng of Hong Kong. Both recorded a win and a fourth place. One point further back was another Hong Kong competitor, King Yin Chan. The first Australian was James Levy in fifth ahead of Sebastian Wang-hansen of Norway.

Australian Sailing Development Squad member Tom Burton leads the Lasers,just in front of compatriot and ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, Tom Slingsby. Burton has begun the ISAF Sailing World Cup in the same way he began Sail Sydney last week - clearing out after two days of very light winds. "I go better in the light, but I've been working on improving my strong wind sailing. I guess we'll see tomorrow," he said, referring to the forecast for gale-strength winds on Port Phillip Bay.

Tom Slingsby, the three-time Laser world champion, has moved rapidly up the leader board just as he did at Sail Sydney. After starting the regatta with a 12th place on Monday, Slingsby turned in a consistent performance of 3, 1 and 2 to be in third overall, just seven points behind Nick Thompson of Great Britain and with his twelfth still to drop.

"I sailed well today," Slingsby said. "I got good starts, went the right way. You have a good day if you get the little things right."

In the Finn class it is American Zach Railey who leads, with Frenchman Thomas Le breton holding second ahead of his compatriot, Jonathan Lobert and Ed Wright of Great Britain The Finn class was also keenly contested, with three different winners in the three races - Giles Scott, Le breton and Wright. However, Railey's 2,4,2 was consistent enough to put him at the top of the leaderboard.

"It's very early (in the regatta) but it's nice to have a good first day," he said. "The race committee did a good job making up one of the lost races (from yesterday)." When asked if he was a light airs specialist he replied that he likes to think of himself as an all-around sailor. "Consistency is the key and I was consistent today. There was one race where I was leading round the top mark but the French gybed away and got the wind shift. I was back to 6th at one stage and came back to get fourth, so I was happy with that."

ISAF Match Racing World Champion and triple Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie was near the front all day, without breaking through for a win. His 3,9,6 record leaves him in sixth place.

The forecast for Wednesday is for a cold front to cross Port Phillip Bay in the early afternoon, bringing thunderstorms and gale force winds. Racing is likely to be suspended if winds get above 25 knots. The Lasers and Finns sail in the morning tomorrow, and may get their races in before the predicted cold front hits in the early afternoon.