by Craig Heydon
Racing begins at the second round of the EUROSAF Champions Sailing Cup in Medemblik, Holland, later today with Australian crews in action in six classes.
The Delta Lloyd Holland Regatta has traditionally been a successful event for Australian sailors, with the team winning 12 medals in Medemblik over the last four-year Olympic cycle. While a smaller team than some previous years has made the trip to Holland in 2013, Australian sailors will be in medal contention in a number of classes.
Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan will be out to continue their impressive winning streak in the 470 men’s class, having claimed victory in all six regattas they have contested together, including three ISAF Sailing World Cup events. Belcher’s winning run now stretches back to November 2011, a feat which is even more impressive when you consider it includes two different crews, an Olympic Games and three World Championships.
The pair has spent some time apart over the last few weeks, with Belcher returning to Australia to be with his pregnant wife and complete a university exam while Ryan remained in Europe.
“We’re feeling relaxed after some time out of the boat,” said Ryan. “We have a busy schedule so it’s nice to have a bit of a change, plenty of off water work and time in the gym. It’s great to get back in the boat, even if it’s pretty cold over here.
“It’s hard to believe that we’ve already been together for six months, it’s been great sailing with Mat and Victor,” he said. “Mat still buys me coffees so I’d say that we’re still in the honeymoon phase! The time together has helped us improve our sailing a lot, we also beginning to feel that we can predict the other person much better which makes the relationship more comfortable.”
Nacra 17 sailors Jason Waterhouse adn Lisa Darmanin. Image copyright Roberto Vuilleumeir
Six Australians will contest the Laser class, including current world number one and medallist at the last three ISAF Sailing World Cup rounds, Tom Burton, bronze medallist from last week’s EUROSAF Garda event Ryan Palk, Ashley Brunning, Matthew Wearn, Jared West and Luke Elliott.
Burton almost led from start to finish in Garda, falling foul of an experimental scoring system which made the final race almost winner takes all, the same system which will be used this week.
“In Garda I felt I sailed well the whole regatta,” said Burton. “Even on the last day I thought I sailed quite well, although I made one or two critical errors which in the end cost me the regatta with this experimental point system. I definitely took some positives away and hopefully can work on some more things this week.
“We’ve got a slightly smaller fleet for this regatta but I think all the main players are here so it won’t really feel any different and I need to be sailing well again to be at the front of the fleet,” he said.
Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin won Australia’s first medal in the new Nacra 17 class in Garda last week, a silver, and will be back in action in Holland. They’ll be joined in the Nacra 17 fleet by three other Australian crews, Josh McKnight and Nina Curtis, Euan McNicol and Lucinda Whitty, both who also raced in Italy, and Pip Pietromonaco and James Wierzbowski who are making their debut in the class this week.
Waterhouse said that the silver medal in Garda shows that himself and Darmanin are heading in the right direction in the new mixed multihull class.
“We were very happy with our result in Garda, it was nice to see the improvement as the last month has been hard work getting our skills and the boat race ready,” said Waterhouse. “It was nice to get out and race at the front of the pack again and focus more on trying to win race rather than catching up.
“We’re really excited about this regatta as we have a top quality fleet entered and the weather forecast looks like we’ll have some challenging wind and waves thrown at us,” he said.
Nina Curtis, who won silver alongside Olivia Price and Lucinda Whitty in the Women’s Match Racing at the London 2012 Olympic Games, said that she was enjoying the challenge of sailing in the new class with Josh McKnight.
“Garda was a great place to kick off our Nacra 17 campaign, the water is flat and the wind was great,” said Curtis. “We leant a lot about the boats and each other in a short space of time, ticking off a lot of goals and improving throughout the regatta, we couldn’t really ask for more.
“Nacra racing is so different from Match Racing,” she said. “It’s fast and the boats are a real handful in windy and wavy conditions. I’m having so much fun developing my skills and learning on the run, I’m really excited for the next regatta and then our World Championships.”
Euan McNicol and Lucinda Whitty also made their Nacra 17 debut in Garda, quickly getting up to speed with the new boats.
“I’m really enjoying sailing the Nacra,” said Whitty. “We gained a lot of knowledge racing on Lake Garda and are looking forward to this week in Medemblik with a lot more teams on the water.”
Beijing 2008 gold medallist Elise Rechichi and two-time Olympic rower Sarah Cook will be back in action in the 470 women’s class as they continue their first European season together. The pair, who have only been sailing as a crew since the end of 2012, took a lot of positives away from their first event in Garda, including winning a race against the current Olympic champions.
Joining Rechichi and Cook in the 470 women’s fleet will be sisters Sasha and Jaime Ryan. Three Australian crews will be joining Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan in the 470 men, Alexander and Patrick Conway, Matthew and Robert Crawford and Angus Galloway and Tim Hannah.
Oliver Tweddell will be out to continue his strong start to the year in the Finn class, while Annalise Gilbert will contest the RS:X women.
Full results will be available at http://www.deltalloydregatta.
org/, along with live race tracking.