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Australian Sailing Team in Rio for Olympic Test Event

31 July 2014

SAILING: Selected crews of the Australian Sailing Team have arrived in Rio de Janeiro to compete at the first Olympic test event in the lead up to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.   

Officially titled “Aquece Rio – International Sailing Regatta 2014”, the August regatta is the first of two 'Test Events' for the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition and will see sailors compete across the ten Olympic sailing events from 3 to 9 August 2014.  

Each nation has been permitted two entries per class, with the Australian Sailing Team being represented in six of the classes (Nacra17, 49er, 49erFX, Men’s 470, Laser and Laser Radial). In both the 2015 Test Event and the 2016 the Olympics, the racing program will be reduced to one spot per class for nations that have qualified. The regatta is the first of all Rio 2016 test events. With 324 athletes from 34 nations, racing in 215 boats, it is set to be the largest Olympic classes sailing competition ever held in Brazil.  

The regatta venue is the Marina da Glória with racing taking place inside and outside Guanabara Bay. 

Whilst being a key regatta for the Rio 2016 workforce and ISAF Officials, the regatta will offer the 324 sailors an opportunity to take to the Olympic race courses to gauge conditions and circumstances that may be present in 2016. 

Many of the teams and sailors have hours of Rio practice and race time under their belt but for ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year and Olympic Gold Medallist Mat Belcher (QLD) with crew Will Ryan (QLD) it will be new territory. 

The pair will be a part of the 25-boat Men's 470 fleet and with an Olympic quota of 26 it will resemble Games time racing, yet it's not about the end result for the Australians in 2014.

"Most teams are aiming to get comfortable in the Olympic environment and have an understanding of what to expect for the games,” explained Belcher.  

"This isn't a performance event for us as the World Championships are quite close. With this being my first time to Rio, we just are there to enjoy the experience and gather some more information on what to expect.” 

"It is important to spend enough time on the Olympic waters to feel comfortable. This event will provide a great opportunity to gain a better understanding of the conditions. We are not too focused on our development at this point. When we come back we will be in a better position to adapt our preparations towards the Rio environment.” 

Whilst being a newcomer to the venue Belcher has done his homework and explained what it will be like racing across the five courses, "Rio will be unique in the sense that the conditions will vary quite considerably depending on the race course. We certainly can expect strong currents, shifty winds and flatter waters on the inside courses, ocean waves on the outer courses.”  

Yachting Australia’s Performance Director Peter Conde explains the aim of the test event: “This regatta for us is a good opportunity to get to know the area and venue and to test our team set up and processes on and off the water. Individual crews have already been here a couple of times, but this gives us the opportunity to experience it all as a team and to gain valuable knowledge about Guanabara Bay and Rio as a whole. We will continue coming back here ahead of 2016 and this is a stepping stone to become as familiar as possible with the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic sailing venue.”  

With regards to the recently addressed issues of water quality in Guanabara Bay, Conde said: “Water quality is a challenge there is no doubt.  We are extremely concerned about water quality from perspectives of both health and fair racing given pollution and obstacles in the water. We have heard from Rio authorities that much is being done to clear the racing areas and more will be done over the coming years. The main issue that we can see is significant debris that will clearly affect racing.  The Rio authorities claim that they are working hard to remove more debris in the racing areas so we will see how that progresses in coming days.  They also claim that sewerage pollution in the race areas, as opposed to Guanabarra Bay in general, currently meets international standards.  We have not independently verified this.” 

With regards to the actual racing he added: “Our main focus this year is the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Santander, Spain in September where we will see our full Australian Sailing Team and Squad contest.  Santander also is an Olympic qualifying event and an important opportunity for our teams to assess their performance with two years to go to the Olympic regatta.” 

Aquece Rio – International Sailing Regatta 2014 is the first of two test events with the second following in 2015, provisionally scheduled for 12-22 August. Organised by Rio 2016 and Confederação Brasileira de Vela (CBVela) in conjunction with the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), the regatta will test the field of play, equipment, workforce, systems and procedures two years out from the Olympic Sailing Competition. 

All five proposed Olympic race course areas will be assessed during the course of the regatta.  Three course areas – Ponte, Escola Naval and Pão de Açucar – are situated inside Guanabara Bay with the other two – Copacabana and Niterói – located outside the bay in open water.

Australian Sailing’s Athletes racing at the 2014 Rio Test Event:

49er                Nathan Outteridge (NSW) / Iain Jensen (NSW)                        Steve Thomas / Rhys Mara (NSW) 

49erFX            Olivia Price (NSW) / Eliza Solly (VIC) 

470M               Mat Belcher (QLD) / Will Ryan
(QLD)                        Angus Galloway (QLD) / Rob Crawford (NSW) 

Nacra17          Darren Bundock (NSW) / Nina Curtis (NSW)                        Euan McNicol (NSW) / Lucinda Whitty (NSW)
Laser              Tom Burton (NSW)                        Matt Wearn (WA) 

Laser Radial  Ashley Stoddart (QLD)

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