Belcher and Ryan on their way to two race wins in the 470. Image copyright Thom Touw.
by Craig Heydon
Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan have made the perfect start to finals racing at the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Hyeres, France, with two wins from two starts in the 470 men’s class.
After two days of light conditions the breeze finally picked up in Hyeres, getting up towards 20 knots in the afternoon, allowing the crews to stretch their legs.
Belcher and Ryan went into the finals in fourth positions with their two wins moving them up to second, two points behind Great Britain’s Luke Patience and Joe Glanfield.
“It was postcard sailing today here in Hyeres with sunshine and a building breeze up to about 20 knots,” said Ryan. “We started the first race well and were able to sail smart to extend nicely and win, it’s always great to start the finals with a win.
“The second race didn’t start as well as we didn’t have a very good lane, and at the same time Mat lost his last Olympic hat! We were able to get clear though and quickly get back in phase with the fleet, there were lots of small shifts and pressure lines across the course keeping the racing pretty tight, but we were able to just slip into second place around the top mark,” he said. “We were quite a way back from the leading British crew but we were slowly able to work our way up to them and overtook them on the final downwind which was very satisfying and a great way to finish the opening day of finals.”
Belcher said that the day went pretty well to plan as himself and Ryan continue to develop their partnership in the boat.
“Most things went our way today, with good speed we managed to win both races,” said Belcher. “We had to work quite hard during the second race to catch the British but got them in the end, we’ve got such a great rivalry with them.
“With the new scoring system allowing a drop after two races things are quite close but we hope to continue our performance during the rest of the finals series,” he said. “We’re expecting similar conditions tomorrow, so it’ll be nice to have the opportunity to continue developing ourselves in these conditions.”
Tom Burton was the big mover in the Laser fleet, ending day one of the finals series seventh, up from his overnight 21st.
Burton, who won silver at the last World Cup round in Palma, was second over the line in both of Wednesday’s races and with two days of racing remaining before the medal races will be keen to continue moving up the leader board.
Fellow Australian Ashley Brunning is one place further behind in eighth, tied on points with Burton. Brunning started the day 15th, with a 14th and an eighth allowing him to move up.
Ryan Palk is the next best placed Australian in 13th, one place ahead of Jared West, with Matthew Wearn 26th. Wearn had two good races on Wednesday, opening the day with an eighth before finishing in style, winning the final race of the day. Luke Elliott is currently 59th.
In the Finn fleet Oliver Tweddell continues to be the leading Australian, in eighth overall. Tweddell began the day with an 11th before slipping back in race two to finish 31st.
“I had a nice start to the gold fleet racing posting an 11th but unfortunately my arms blew up in the second race and I limped across the line in 31st,” he said. “I’ve had some treatment and will see how I'm going in the morning, hopefully I can race tomorrow as I’ve been having fun today.”
Brendan Casey ended day one of the finals in 17th overall, picking up a sixth and a 24th from the day’s two races. Jake Lilley is the next best Australian in 32nd, ahead of Rob McMillan in 65th.
Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin had a tough day in the Nacra 17 fleet, with a couple of capsizes hampering their progress. The Sydney based cousins were 24th in the opening race, before rounding the day out with an 18th and a 21st.
“Not much good news from us today as we had a tough day with two capsizes,” said Waterhouse. “We’re still trying to find the limits of the boat and today we pushed them a bit too hard.
“We’re hoping for more wind tomorrow so we can use what we learnt today and better our heavy weather skills,” he said.
In the 470 men’s fleet Angus Galloway and Tim Hannah are currently 44th, ahead of Matthew and Robert Crawford in 48th.
Joanna Sterling ended day one of finals racing 26th in the RS:X women’s fleet, ahead of Paris Stowell in 35th and Annalise Gilbert in 40th. Patrick Vos is 40th in the RS:X men’s.
Full results are available at http://swc.ffvoile.com/.