Florian Gruber (GER, North) and Ariane Imbert (FRA, North) have won Sail Melbourne. In second came Torrin Bright (NZL, Ozone/Mikes Lab)) and Adam Vance (Ozone/Mikes Lab) for the men, as well as Lisa Hickmann (AUS, Ozone/RRD) and Astrid Berz (SUI, Ozone/Aguera) for the women.
The medal race series were held on a new short track course with a reaching start, very similar to the Americas Cup racing format. Races took app. 5 minutes and were conducted in an elimination series, leading up to a final with the top 4 men. Gruber and Bright were both pre-seeded for the final, while Vance fought his way up from 6th position to win bronce in the end.
For the women, the same course setup was used but races counted for their 15-race single series.
In the mens fleet, already the qualifying series proved to be a challenge, with comparably light winds on the first day of the regatta and strong winds with gusts up to 38 knots and 2 meter seas on the second day. After splitting the fleet in gold and silver after day 2, racing continued in similarily strong conditions on the third day, before light and varying winds on day 4 made it difficult to get racing underway.
The final day of the opening series then saw champaigne sailing in a perfect 7-8 knot breeze, with another 3 races in for every fleet. In total, the men raced 6 races in the qualifying series, and another 7 in the final series before entering the medal race day.
The first heat of the medal race series went underway in a strong northerly wind with gust up to 28 knots, setting a perfect stage for the medal race course right in front of Sandringham Yacht Club. It was up to Hanel (GER, North), Johnsen (DEN, North), Aykurt (TUR, Ozone/North) and Girdis (AUS, Aguera/Ozone) to test this new format, and with board speeds around 25 knots they went off the start and towards the top gate. Hanel and Johnsen advanced from this heat to face Vance (CAN, Ozone/Mikes Lab) and Gynjol (TUR, Aguera/Ozone).
Vance went off with the best start and had a comfortable lead already at the bottom gate of the first lap, with a tight battle between Hanel and Johnsen for second. Hanel had the better end and advanced together with Vance to the Semi Final, where third placed Taggert (GBR, Ozone/NJS) and Cakir (TUR, Aguera/Cabrinha) where ready to battle.
Shooting off the start it was Cakir in front with Vance and Taggert close behind. Cakir and Vance went through the top gate with a nice downloop, fully committed to the acceleration to probably 35 knots on the downwind reach, while Taggert capsized shortly after the gate. He almost catched up with the leading two until the finish but could not just get them - Vance and Cakir advanced to the Final.
The Final was sailed as a 3-race series, with the first race pre-scored from the previous results, meaning that Gruber and Bright went into the final series with a first and second position respectively, while Vance and Cakir pre-scored a third and fourth position.
In the meantime everybody was nailing the starts on the reach with full speed, and this time it was Gruber who had control problems when going through the top gate. Falling back to third position he was however able to catch up and catch the victory in the first final race in a photo finish ahead of Cakir.
The second final went off with Gruber playing it save this time, knowing that only becoming third in this final race would secure him the Sail Melbourne Gold Medal. It was up to the second upwind for him to catch up and finally also winning this heat, putting him on top of the podium with not a single race lost. Vance managed to come into second, and with Cakir in fourth this meant securing bronce for him. Bright sailed a solid 2-3 to secure Silver.
Over in the womens fleet it was another time Ariane Imbert stealing the show, with three out of four bullets on the final day. Only Lisa Hickmann with a committed port tack start managed to beat Ariane in one race, securing second place. With a consistent performance Astrid Berz secured Bronce, and without an injury that forced her to abandon all racing on day two it could have been even better.
Congratulations to not only all the winners but to all competitors that made it to Australia.
A big thank you to Sail Melbourne and Sandringham Yacht Club to conduct the racing, and we will hopefully see more kiteracing action in future Sailing World Cups.
1. Florian Gruber (GER, North)
2. Torrin Bright (NZL, Ozone/Mikes Lab)
3. Adam Vance (CAN, Ozone/Mikes Lab)
4. Salih Cakir (TUR, Cabrinha/Aguera)
5. Matthew Taggert (GBR, Ozone/NJS)
1. Ariane Imbert (FRA, North)
2. Lisa Hickmann (AUS, Ozone/RRD)
3. Astrid Berz (SUI, Ozone/Aguera)
4. Bilge Oezturk (TUR, Cabrinha/Aguera)
5. Marine Sudre (AUS, Ozone/RRD)
Full results can be found at http://sailmelbourne.com.au/website/results.html