Mat Belcher and Will Ryan on medal course at ISAF Sailing World Cup23 April 2014
The qualification stage at ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères, France has drawn to an end after two days of racing with Australian Sailing Team crews performing strongly in the first two days of racing at the fifth and final World Cup of the 2013-2014 season.
After the Qualification Series the majority of the Australian Sailing Team have advanced into the Gold Fleets starting on Wednesday, 23 April, 11:00 CET (19:00 AEST) with realistic medal chances in the 470M, Laser and Nacra17.
Perfect weather conditions and the consistency of a 10-15 easterly breeze with steady waves ensured excellent racing throughout day one and two for the 1,111 sailors from 59 nations and ensured a full complement of races across ten Olympic and two Paralympic fleets.
Leading a near-full contingent of the Australian Sailing Team (AST) and Squad in Hyères is Olympic Gold Medallist Mat Belcher (QLD), who after two race days is looking to defend last year’s Hyères win together with World Champion crew Will Ryan (QLD).
Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) held on to top spot in the Men's 470 after picking up their third race win and a ninth place on Tuesday. Heading into the gold fleet racing Belcher and Ryan are in a strong position in the 81-boat Men’s 470 fleet.
“We are pretty happy with the regatta so far and winning three out of five races obviously is a good start. We’re feeling really good in the boat and where we’re at.
Belcher first made an appearance in Hyères in 2001 and with two gold medals behind him he continues to relish the French breeze,
"Hyeres is a fantastic event. It's a regatta we can't afford to miss on the circuit and we always try to prepare the best we can for the extreme conditions. I think the timing is quite critical for us. We warmed up in Palma and we've come here in better shape.”
Little separates the top seven in the Laser fleet as the qualification series concluded.
Following a successful World Cup in Mallorca with three Australian Laser sailors in the top ten including winner Tom Burton, medal hopes are high in Australia’s Laser squad with three boats in the top fifteen after two days of racing.
Only four points separate the leading Croatian Stipanovic from Australian Sailing Team’s World Number One Tom Burton (NSW) in second, Brasilian Olympic Champion Robert Scheidt in third and AST’s Matt Wearn (WA) following in fifth.
Things did not go to plan for 49er Olympic Champions Nathan Outteridge (NSW) and Iain Jensen (NSW) on Tuesday when they finished the Qualification Series in 15th position. After a fifth position on the opening day, they dropped down the ranks as a consequence of some struggles with the waves, which put them into 32nd position in Tuesday’s second race of the day.
As Nathan Outteridge explained after today’s three races: “We came fifth in the first race and were inside the top ten first time around in the second race when on the hoist, as the kite was going up, we ran over it.
We had to stop, turn head to wind and pull the kite back into the boat, which took two of us because it was full of water and then we had to try to get going again. But at that stage we had dropped to 35th and with the short races there’s no real chance to catch back up. We haven’t done a lot of sailing in waves like this for a while which explains a mishap like that. But you can’t make mistakes like that.”
“We’re still in the gold fleet and the real racing starts tomorrow. We’ve only done six races out of sixteen so we can catch up a long way. It looks like the weather is going to change and with the predicted flat waters and shifty conditions off the land, it will be a completely different race course on Wednesday”, he added.
Hyères is the first time the duo have returned to the European racing circuit in Olympic class sailing after they won the Olympic 49er event at the Sailing World Cup in Melbourne in December. With their eyes set on the World Championships and Olympic qualifying event in Spain later this year, “this event for us is just to get back into racing again and checking in with the fleet.”
“The main goal for us is good result at the test event in August in Rio and at the World’s in Santander in September. We knew we’d have some rust in some wind conditions and we found them today. The boat is going quite fast, which is good, so we just need to keep it upright and go in the right direction.”
Dual Olympic Medallist Darren Bundock and London medallist Nina Curtis who finished third at the last World Cup in Mallorca moved into third position on day two of racing with a third, second and first place in the three races and are hot medal contenders for the racing ahead.
After lying sixth after day one, Euan McNicol (NSW) and Lucinda Whitty (NSW) have slipped to 12th with teammates Jason Waterhouse (NSW) and Lisa Darmanin (NSW) following in 13th.
Other Australian Sailing Results: 49erFX, 470W, Laser Radial, Finn
In other Australian Sailing results, London Silver medallist in the Women’s Match Racing Olivia Price (NSW) with new partner Eliza Solly (VIC) is sitting in overall eleventh position in the 49erFX after the Qualification Series. Australian Sailing’s Caitlin Elks (WA) and Tess Lloyd (VIC) follow in 19th with both crews to sail in the Gold Fleet starting Wednesday, April 23.
In the Finn class Australian Sailing Squad’s Jake Lilley (QLD) is ranked eleventh, while Oliver Tweddell (VIC) is currently ranked 25th.
In the 470 Women’s fleet Jacqueline Gurr (VIC) and Amelia Catt (TAS), Sarah Cook (VIC) and Carrie Smith (WA), plus Sasha and Jaime Ryan (QLD) are ranked 37th, 38th and 39th respectively.
Australian Sailing Squad’s Ashley Stoddart (QLD) is having a break-through regatta ranking seventh after the Qualification Series in the Laser Radial. Also Australia’s only entry in the Women’s Windsurfing RS:X Jo Sterling (QLD) had a successful regatta kick-off and is now 10th.