Australia 470 teams firing up for challenges ahead
17 May 2017
SAILING: London 2012 470 Olympic gold medal skipper, Mat Belcher, and training partner crew Will Ryan teamed up in early 2013 and dominated the 470 Men’s scene into 2015, winning a record 18 regattas in a row.
They won three World Championships but then they struggled a little by their very high standards, missing the top step on the podium at the 2016 Worlds and finishing with a Rio Olympic 2016 silver medal.
After a long lay-off they returned with their coach Victor Kovalenko to the international Olympic class circuit winning the 2017 Hyeres World Cup in France a few weeks ago with a day to spare.
Next up they headed just along the Riviera to Monaco, for the 2017 470 European championships, where they finished third behind two young teams Foch/Dackhammar (SWE) and Pirouelle/Mion (FRA) on the weekend.
A disappointing result, one might think…. No say all three, it was ‘mission accomplished’.
"We knew this would very much be a light wind event, the main reason we wanted to do it, to build our light weather experience and obviously, Monaco was a pretty cool place to visit," Belcher said.
They were leading the regatta until Thursday, when disaster struck in the second race. As Belcher explains "a front came though, it was blowing 22-23 knots, with quite big waves. We were winning the race well, over half way through, when the forestay broke, mid-wire.
"Disappointed to have that happen when we were leading but for us it wasn’t so much about our performance in heavy weather, we know we are strong in those conditions, it was more about winning in light winds and we did that.
"The competition was great and we were sailing well and irrespective of the result we need to discover if we still we have the level of motivation required to be on the circuit for three and a bit years, time away from family and everything else. We had a really good time and it was important for our team at this stage to have that experience."
"I was very happy with the performance of Mat and Will, certainly a step up from last year. They were very switched on. Very sharp and very well prepared and ready to race," Kovalenko added.
"Mat and his family are settled on the Gold Coast and Mat has been working hard there. At the same time, Will has benefited from a lot of sailing in big boats and MC32 as a tactician and his skills in that area are continuing to grow. He is fresh and in really good shape, very strong. During this Monaco regatta, he was running every morning. He ran 35 km on his day off.
"On Saturday, the race committee was trying to make a medal race in super light conditions, 2-3 knots. Our team had a very good start, midway up the first beat they were leading the fleet and the Swedish team was seventh, so they were in Gold medal position. Of course, the Race Committee sensibly abandoned the race, it was just too light but the quality of their light wind sailing is a strong message for the fleet."
"These two events allowed Mat, Victor and I to re-taste the European competition and see if we felt the team had more development potential. The sailing has been enjoyable and it has been nice to revisit a familiar location in Hyeres and something new in Monaco," Ryan said.
Sailing at the European 470 Women’s titles was Carrie Smith, who sailed in 15th place in Rio, with crew Jamie Ryan (Will Ryan’s younger sister).
With Jamie recovering from minor surgery and unable to sail in Monaco, Smith with stand-in crew Amelia Catt finished 11th overall, just missing the medal race by two points.
"I am very proud that Amelia and I were so competitive after just a week sailing together. It just shows how much we as a 470 group have lifted our standards," Smith said.
Kovalenko is certainly upbeat about future medal prospects for the 470 Women.
"Even closer cooperation between the Men and Women’s program is about to start in earnest and we are expecting to see a lot of good results from our Women’s squad over the coming seasons.
"Overall, for the Australian Sailing Team, the voyage towards Tokyo 2020 looks very exciting."
Australian Sailing Team (AST) & Squad (ASS) at 470 Open Europeans 2017
Men’s Two Person Dinghy - 470M
Mathew Belcher & Will Ryan – AST: 1,1,11,1,13,6,2,(RET),1 – 3rd
Women’s Two Person Dinghy – 470W
Carrie Smith & Amelia Catt– AST: 15,7,6,11,25,8,(30),17 – 11th
Nia Jerwood & Monique Devries – ASS: 35,24,(39),34,17,13,3,35 – 30th