The big guns of Australian sailing have created waves on a spectacular day of racing south west of Tokyo as the sport bids to continue its run as one of the smallest but most successful Australian teams in the Olympic arena.
And while medal hopes Mat Belcher and Will Ryan, in the 470, and Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin, in the Nacra 17, were out racing for the first time, it was a pair of brothers making their Olympic debut who drew first blood for Australia in the moderate to strong winds and bouncy seas at Enoshima.
Will and Sam Phillips, racing the only Australian designed boat in the Games, became the first Australians to taste victory at the Olympics with a fourth, first and eighth on Wednesday which put them into 3rd place overall in the 49er skiff class
“It might be the first win but it won’t be the last one by an Australian,’’ said skipper Will Phillips, from Sorrento, in Victoria.
“We’re pretty happy with that day.’’
The pair were also delighted to have an incident-free day after their skiff hit a log at full speed in a practice race, severely damaging their centreboard.
Belcher, from the Gold Coast, and Ryan, from Newcastle, came off the water happy with their 2nd and 5th which has put them in the lead of the 470 class in which they won a silver in at the Rio Games.
“It was just nice to be out there after spending the last five years thinking out it,’’ said Ryan.’
“You are always a little nervous to get the first day in.’’
Also on the water was Queensland Finn sailor Jake Lilley who is in 9th place after his first four races and a 4th and 11th on Wednesday.
Laser medal hope Matt Wearn from Perth had a day’s rest after his mammoth effort in fighting his way back from a disastrous start to be placed second overall
Why Aussie sailor takes prize for weirdest injury
Sailing debutant Mara Stransky’s day started on a painful note as Australia’s sailors took to the waters off Enoshima, south west of Tokyo, for the first time on Sunday.
Debutant Stransky raced to a 12th and 26th in her first races at an Olympic Games after her day started on a painful note when she injured her foot launching her Laser Radial.
“It was low tide and as I went to jump on my boat, I stood on a sea urchin and felt the spine go through my boot and into my foot,’’ she said.
“So I spent my sail out to the start line trying to get bits of sea creature out of my foot and boot.’’
Meanwhile, gold medal contender Matt Wearn had hoped to start his campaign with a bang but instead finished 17th in a shock first-up result for the man who beat reigning Olympic champi
on Tim Burton for the Australian Laser spot in Tokyo.
While moderate conditions were the order of the day for the opening races, a different picture is being painted for Monday and Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Finn sailor Jake Lilley and the 49erFX team of Tess Lloyd and Jaime Ryan join the action with strong winds and big seas predicted.
With team boss, Iain Murray, describing the conditions as “fruity”, Wearn and Lilley, in particular, will relish these conditions.
“There will be plenty of rock and roll. It will be interesting. It would be just like sailing off Sydney Heads for our guys,” he said.
Aussie sailors have been preparing for a variety of conditions while in Japan with all-rounders tipped to take the medals in Enoshima.