Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Belcher and Page aim to stay at top of 470 class at Australian Nationals

Belcher and Page training in Brisbane. Image copyright Victor Kovalenko.

by Craig Heydon

The Australian Sailing Team’s 470 men’s crew of Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page will be looking to continue their dominance of the class on Australian waters when the 2011 470 Australian Championship begins at the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron today.

Belcher and Page have been unstoppable in the class in Australia since 2002, winning the past two Australian Championships together while Page won a further six with Nathan Wilmot and Belcher won one with Nick Behrens.

The pair will have to shake off some cobwebs on day one, having been out of the boat since finishing second at round two of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Miami at the end of January.

“To be honest it feels exciting to be getting back in the boat,” said Page. “It feels like it’s brand new and being out training for the last two days has been really nice.”

The 2011 470 Australian Championship is on home waters for Belcher, as he’s been a member of the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron for the past 20 years.

“While I haven’t had the chance to race in Brisbane for the past two years it is my home club and they’re given us a lot of support over the years,” said Belcher. “It’s great to be back racing here and hopefully we can give something back over the week.”

While Belcher and Page have been out of the 470 for the past five weeks they haven’t been idle, with Page contesting the 2011 Rolex Farr 40 World Championship in Sydney and most recently the pair won the SB3 class at the Audi Sydney Harbour Regatta last weekend.

“It was nice to change classes and be faced with a bit of a challenge,” said Belcher. “There were four of us sailing the SB3 and we had a great weekend out on the harbour, winning all six races.”

This week’s regatta is an important one for the reigning World Champions and world number one crew, not only is it the most significant Australian regatta for the 470 class but it provides an opportunity to spend time in the boat and racing before they head off to Europe in the coming weeks.

The 2011 470 Australian Championship will be contested by 12 crews, including Australian Sailing Squad members Sam Kivell and Will Ryan.

Kivell and Ryan also made the trip to Miami where they finished 10th at the North American 470 Championship and 14th at the ISAF Sailing World Cup round a week later. The pair also had success at the end of 2010, winning Bronze at Sail Melbourne in December.

The 2011 470 Australian Championship runs from today through till March 12.

Australian Sailing Team