ALL the focus was on the battle between Rio rivals Tom Burton and Tonci Stipanovic.
But an Aussie young gun and a London 2012 silver medallist stole just as much of the Laser class attention as the Sailing World Cup Final got underway at St Kilda Beach on Tuesday.
Burton, Australia’s sole sailing gold medallist from this year’s Olympics, admitted to being “very rusty” in what were his first two races back in the Laser post-Rio, but still managed to end the day in fourth place after finishing seventh in race one and fourth in race two.
In a three-way tie atop the leaderboard after Day 1 is Perth local Matthew Wearn, who finished second in both races, Cypriot Pavlos Kontides (third then first) and Stipanovic (first then third).
Burton, 26, only arrived in Melbourne on Monday after competing in the Star Sailors League in the Bahamas.
And while he conceded his preparation didn’t necessarily have his hopes high for winning in Melbourne, he said he was still left kicking himself “with a few frustrating mistakes” on the water.
“Kind of more boat-handling orientated than anything else. I was very rusty,” Burton said.
“I sailed five days with the boys a few weeks back and I wasn’t too bad, so I didn’t think I’d go too badly this week.
“But doing the Star thing kind of took a little bit of the feel away from the Laser I think.
“Obviously Tonci did it quite well today, but he’s been sailing the Laser a fair bit (post-Olympics) and has done a few events.
“Tomorrow will be better for sure.”
Burton said Wearn can be one of the best Laser sailors in the world.
Wearn also had some time off post-Rio after helping Burton in his Games preparations and said he harboured huge aspirations of making it to Tokyo 2020.
As for this week, the 21-year-old said this was the first event he had prioritised after his break.
“The age old saying is ‘you can’t win a regatta on the first day, but you can definitely lose it’, and with the inconsistent breeze it was a bit tricky,” Wearn said.
“So it was good to have some good results.”
MEANWHILE, two of Australia’s silver medal-winning crews from the Rio Olympics got their World Cup Final campaigns off to perfect starts.
Nacra 17 cousins Lisa Darmanin and Jason Waterhouse won all three of their opening day races to put themselves in a commanding position atop the leaderboard.
While men’s 470 sailors Mat Belcher and Will Ryan also top the standings after winning race one and coming second in race two to China’s Hao Lan and Chao Wang, who won the Qingdao leg of the World Cup series in September.
Fellow Aussie Jake Lilley, eighth in the Finn in Rio, got his Melbourne regatta off to a flawless start as well by winning both races in what was a prosperous day for the host nation.