470 sailors Matthew Belcher and Will Ryan. Image copyright Thom Touw
by Craig Heydon
Australian sailors are busy preparing for the final round of the 2012/2013 ISAF Sailing World Cup in Hyeres, France, with racing to begin on Monday.
Hyeres is the fourth and final stop for the ISAF Sailing World Cup following rounds in Melbourne, Miami and Palma. Australian crews will be in contention for medals in a number of classes, with regular faces plus a crew making their debut in a new Olympic class all in action.
Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan will be looking to continue their unbeaten run in the 470 men’s class, with the pair having won all four regattas they have contested together, including World Cup rounds in Melbourne and most recently in Palma.
Belcher’s winning run now stretches back to November 2011, first with former crew Malcolm Page and now with Ryan, and includes 12 regattas on three continents.
“Palma was great for us, we started off on the right foot and set the tone for our campaign,” said Ryan. “Though we won’t allow ourselves to back off, I guess Mat knows that best, once you begin winning it’s a nice way to continue.
“For me it was great to have my first European World Cup win so it was very special, and it’s nice to be able to help keeps Mat's winning streak going,” he said. “At the same time it’s a process and it’s about making sure we can focus on the important areas we have identified, so the targets for this event will certainly be different.
“The fleet quality in Palma was strong, I think there’s a greater sense of professionalism in sailing now as the profile lifts and people don't take time off after the Olympics,” he said. “We certainly put some time in before the Palma regatta and it was nice to know we used our time effectively but I don't feel we would have put in any more than any of the other teams, everyone is there to win.”
Belcher won gold in Hyeres last year with Page but the event was far from straightforward for the pair, recovering from a broken rig in the second race to take the overall win.
“It’s a great feeling coming into these events knowing you have already won previously,” said Belcher. “I would prefer if we can keep our rig up this year on the opening day, unlike last year, but with a light forecast we’re looking safe.
“We try and stay relaxed at each event and just focus on what we need from the event,” he said. “We’ve been campaigning for so long now that we try and spend some time away from the boat park where possible. Again, Hyeres will be a top quality event with the top sailors attracted to it, we almost always have a very strong 470 fleet and here is no exception.”
Laser sailor Tom Burton heads into the event having won silver at the last World Cup round in Palma. Burton was in contention all week, leading the regatta heading into the final medal race but was knocked off the top step of the podium after being excluded from the final race for crossing the start line early.
“I’m feeling good after Palma, it was nice to be at the front and I’m looking forward to hopefully another close battle here in Hyeres,” said Burton. “I had a bit of time away from the boat and did a bit of cycling in Palma before heading to Hyeres but am now ready to ramp it back up before the regatta.
“My final day in Palma was far from ideal, obviously it would have been nice to win but it was a bit of a reality check of what can happen and provides more motivation for the upcoming regattas, which I’m really glad for and is a big positive for my sailing,” he said.
Burton will be joined in Hyeres by fellow Laser sailors Matthew Wearn, Ryan Palk, Ashley Brunning, Jared West and Luke Elliott. A number of the Australians also had a good week in Palma, with Wearn and Palk joining Burton in the top 10.
“It’s always nice to see the other Australian guys going well,” said Burton. “There’s a bit of an in joke sometimes, if all the Australian guys are in the same fleet it’s like a mini Australian Nationals, which we all get a bit of a laugh from. But at the same time we aren't here just to beat each other.”
One of two new classes for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is the mixed multihull, to be sailed in the Nacra 17, with an Australian crew in action for the first time.
Sydney based cousins, Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin, will make their debut in the class but are no strangers to high level competition, having won World Championship titles together before, including the 2010 ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship.
“The Nacra is a great boat, a lot of fun and super challenging to sail so we’re excited to get her racing around the buoys next week,” said Waterhouse. “We’ve been training a lot here in Hyeres, doing speed testing and the boats seem to reward boat handling more so than technical differences in the rig. I guess that’s why I enjoy one design classes as it takes out the guessing game a bit.
“Lisa and I have a huge schedule of regattas this year and have experience doing similar multihull campaigns in the past but not at this level, so we’re very motivated to step it up a notch and mix it up this year in Europe,” he said.
Four Australians will be on the start line in the 77 boat strong Finn class in Hyeres, including London 2012 Olympian Brendan Casey, Jake Lilley, Oliver Tweddell and Rob McMillan.
Casey was ninth at the last event in Spain, following his fifth placing in Miami and win at the opening World Cup round in Melbourne last December. Casey had success in Hyeres in 2012, winning gold in the final race of the regatta.
Joining Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan in the 470 men’s fleet will be fellow Australians Angus Galloway and Tim Hannah, and brothers Matthew and Robert Crawford.
In the RS:X women’s fleet Joanna Sterling will be looking for another good result after finishing 10th in Palma and will be joined in the class by Paris Stowell and Annalise Gilbert, with Patrick Vos racing in the RS:X men.
Racing begins in Hyeres on Monday 22 April and continues until Saturday 27 April.
For more information on the Australian Sailing Team visit www.australiansailingteam.com.