In 1987 the America’s Cup hit the shores of Fremantle, Western Australia where the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships currently present the 1,200 sailors from 79 nations.
And a little bit of the America’s Cup is brought to Fremantle at Perth 2011 as sailors such as Ed Wright (GBR), Tom Slingsby (AUS) and Iain Percy (GBR), who have recently been campaigning in the America’s Cup World Series, continue their Olympic and World Championship aspirations in their respective classes.
Unlike Wright, Slingsby and Percy, Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) is at the helm of Green Comm Racing. But like the three sailors he has a vast knowledge of Olympic Sailing after claiming a bronze medal at Athens 2004 and silver at Beijing 2008 in the Laser. And now Zbogar has taken a break from his America’s Cup duty and is back in dinghies, this time the Finn, for Perth 2011.
On the switch Zbogar said, “I would lie if I said the transition back into the Finn from the AC45 was easy as they’re completely different boats. It is completely different sailing.”
“In the Finn I’ve sailed for two years, so I am used to it and to have a few days off is not a big change, but sailing in the America’s Cup, I have to practice a little bit more. The multihull is a bit different.”
Whilst Zbogar is yet to place on the podium at an ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta, the progression he has made has been noticeable having moved from World #102 to World #6 in just 19 months. But with his last competitive Finn event at the Open Europeans it’ll be interesting to see how he moves back to the competitive nature of Olympic Sailing.
Zbogar faces tough competition from compatriot Gasper Vincec. The former World #1 has sailed at two Olympic Games and with both sailors with bags of experience, Zbogar knows that even if he qualifies Slovenia for the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition, he may not necessarily go, therefore he has a choice on his hands. “I have to improve in both but the Finn is more important, especially for this event,” said Zbogar. “Afterwards I will see how it goes and at the end of the year I have to choose America’s Cup or Finn.”
“I am very light and the main problem in the two boats is that in the America’s Cup you only have to be around 88kgs and with the Finn you should be around 100kg, especially for this event which will be very windy. I am one of the lightest sailors in the Finn. I will try to do my best but another winter will be a big help and another step forward in the Finn class.”
With Zbogar, Slingsby, Wright and Percy in attendance they need to look no further than Perth 2011 Event Director John Longley to hear stories of America’s Cup success. Longley was part of the Australia II crew that won the America’s Cup in 1983. The cup was brought to Fremantle in 1987 where Stars and Stripes 87 defeated Kookaburra II 4-0 to take the trophy back to American waters.
After a lengthy delay the eyes of the sailing world are back on Perth and Fremantle, and Longley is proud to be hosting an event of the ISAF Worlds size and stature, “It’s so important because it is ten championships in one and at the same time the athletes earn the right to go to the Olympics. To bring an event of this size to one of the great places in the world to sail a boat is very special.
“1987 was an extraordinary time in Fremantle with the whole world focused on Fremantle and what is fantastic about Perth 2011 is that we have a different section of sailing.”
Zbogar, Vincec and the rest of the Finn sailors begin their Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships campaign tomorrow on the Leighton Course at 13:00 local time.
Women’s Match Racing commences at 10:00 local time tomorrow with the Laser Radial the first fleet to receive their warning signal at 12:00 local time. The Women’s RS:X and Men’s 470 follow at 12:30.
The Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships website will bring the results, tracking, live updates and all the latest news both on and off the water.