by Cora Zillich
2014 Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta - Olympic Gold medallist Mat Belcher (QLD) and World Champion crew Will Ryan (QLD) have brought the Aquece Rio – International Sailing Regatta 2014 to a successful close by winning Gold in the Men’s 470 fleet. Earlier in the day Tom Burton (NSW) won the Gold medal in the Laser class.
Mat Belcher and Will Ryan
This brings Australia’s medal tally at the first Olympic test event in Rio de Janeiro Brazil to four medals across the six events with Australian participation, including two Gold and two Silver. Already yesterday London 2012 Olympic Gold medallists Nathan Outteridge (NSW) and Iain Jensen (NSW) won the Silver medal in the 49er class. The second Silver medal for Australia was won in the Nacra 17, the new mixed-gender multihull class in the 2016 Olympic program, by dual Olympic Silver Medallist from Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008 Darren Bundock (NSW) and London 2012 Olympic Silver Medallist crew Nina Curtis (NSW).
On the last day of the Aquece Rio Regatta 2014 a south easterly breeze in between five - ten knots allowed all the fleets to conclude their racing on the Pão de Açucar race track. The breeze died towards the latter part of the afternoon as the 470 fleets wrapped up proceedings.
Mat Belcher and Will Ryan made sure of their Men's 470 gold whilst Laser Tom Burton took a four point lead over Nick Thompson (GBR) into the Medal Race. With the Briton unable to take to the course due to injury the Australian had a strong advantage over the chasing pack.
Burton came through in sixth in the final Medal Race to take gold in the light breeze and whilst on paper the result seems convincing, it was far from that as Burton explained.
'It was pretty tough. I had a really good start and was going good in the first half of the first beat but I got a bit conservative and made a bit of an error and ended up at the back pretty quick. The rest of the race was pretty stressful.'
Things could have been tighter for the Australian had Thompson raced which Burton was quick to recognise, 'Yesterday I didn't see him in that second race where he got hit but obviously he got hit pretty badly after seeing him today. It would have changed things up so who knows what would have happened.'
For Burton and the fleet it has been a good test and offered a glimpse of what will occur in two years time. With a mixed bag of conditions the best Laser sailor will win Olympic gold as Burton concluded, 'If you're good across the board you'll be good here. The conditions are pretty hard and tricky, but Sydney Harbour is not so different and we like it. Finishing here in first is great and that’s the plan for 2016.'
Western Australian Laser sailor Matt Wearn finished fifth, underlining the strength of the Australian Laser squad around coach and Sydney 2000 Bronze Medallist Michael Blackburn.
In the Men’s 470 fleet Mat Belcher and Will Ryan brought a 17 point advantage into the Medal Race and whilst they got the job done their ninth place finish was far from their best. 'It was tricky final race,' admitted Ryan. 'We were comfortable with what we had to do in the final race so we didn't really feel any pressure or stress. It was the first time we sailed on that course and we rushed into it a bit. It was nice with some good racing in the fleet and we learnt something new and we'll practice some more on that area again.'
British pair Luke Patience and Elliot Willis took a third and walk away with silver whilst Paul Snow Hansen and Dan Willcox (NZL) won the Medal Race to take bronze.
A lot of positives can be taken from the week by the Men's 470 fleet but Belcher knows there is work to do two years out from the Olympic Games, even with an excellent performance, 'A lot of the athletes that haven't performed to their expectation here will turn round and say they've got plenty time so they'll be okay. And the guys that did perform get confidence from it. It depends on the situation and for us we are really happy to come here and win. We knew if we sailed well we could but it's nice to get a bit of confidence. We've got to spend some more time here and the other athletes will do the same.'
Attention now turns to the Santander 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championship, which takes place in northern Spain from 8-21 September 2014.
The Santander 2014 ISAF Worlds is the first Olympic Qualification regatta for the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition. 50% of Rio 2016 spots will be decided in Santander. The Australian Sailing Team and Squad will be there in full force.
For further information on Aquece Rio visit the event websites or here.
Final rankings of Australian Sailing’s Athletes at the 2014 Rio Test Event:
Mat Belcher (QLD) / Will Ryan (QLD) - first
Angus Galloway (QLD) / Rob Crawford (NSW) - 21st
Tom Burton (NSW) - first
Matt Wearn (WA) - fifth
Nathan Outteridge (NSW) / Iain Jensen (NSW) - second
Steve Thomas (WA) / Rhys Mara (NSW) - 12th
Olivia Price (NSW) / Eliza Solly (VIC) - fourth
Darren Bundock (NSW) / Nina Curtis (NSW) - second
Euan McNicol (NSW) / Lucinda Whitty (NSW) - ninth
Ashley Stoddart (QLD) - 18th