2014 Kieler Woche - What went wrong for Mat Belcher and Will Ryan

470er Belcher Mathew
OK Press Kieler Woche
2014 Kieler Woche - The Olympic class regatta at Kieler Woche concluded overnight in Germany with a bronze medal for current World Champions Mat Belcher and Will Ryan. Besides Belcher and Ryan, seven Australian Sailing Team crews made the Kieler Woche top ten and raced in Wednesday’s medal races.

It was a week of ups and downs for Belcher and Ryan at Kiel. The duo kicked-off Kieler Woche strongly, posting two bullets on the first day with racing being cancelled the following day due to strong winds. On day three Belcher and Ryan had to hand over the overall lead to the Greek team after a course error saw the Australians finish fifth twice. Well in the lead on the upwind to the finish, Belcher went back on the downwind course and let pass four competitors before realising his mistake and crossing the finish line.

'It was a difficult day for us. We actually sailed pretty well but unfortunately we misread the sailing instructions and we ended up with two fifth and moved down the leader board a bit. This was the first time in 15 years that something like this has happened to me,' said Belcher after Monday's racing.

With this result Belcher and Ryan went into the medal race ranked second behind the 2013 World Championship bronze medallists from Greece Mantis Panagiotis and Pavlos Kagialis – the final winners of the regatta.

'It’s been a tricky week and a shortened format due to either too much or too little wind. We entered the Medal Race with points still tight and had hoped to produce a good race. However things became trickier when we crossed the start line early and had to return. We were then unable to get back to the front of the fleet and finished eighth in the medal race and moved down the ranks to overall third. Well done to the German crew finishing second on their home course and the Greeks who sailed well and secured the win,' said Mat Belcher after the medal race on Wednesday.

Belcher added 'We have been out of the boat for quite some time in between the World Cup in Hyeres and Kiel and it was great to get back into some racing again. Thus the main focus for us here was on our personal development and to get back into racing shape before the European championships start in a couple weeks time. The fleet here was small but of good quality. And we always love coming to Kiel – the quality and professionalism of how the event is run is what brings us here. It’s one of the biggest sailing events in the world running for more than 130 years and you know you will get some good racing.'

In the women’s 470 fleet three Australian crews qualified for the final medal race. Both ASS crews of Carrie Smith (WA) and Jaime Ryan (QLD) as well as Amelia Catt (TAS) and Sasha Ryan (QLD) posted an OCS for starting prematurely in the medal race and finished overall seventh and ninth respectively. After a couple crew changes in the Australian women’s 470 squad, it was the first regatta for both crews in this combination. Tasmanian State High Performance Program and Tasmanian Institute of Sport scholarship holders Lucy Shepard and Emma Barton finished eighth.

The next event for the Australian Men’s and Women’s 470 fleet will be the European Championships in Athens, Greece from 8 to 15 July 2014.

Three Australian Sailing Squad crews made the final top ten in the 49er fleet and with a final fourth, seventh and ninth place and in the absence of the Australian Olympic Champions in this class Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, Australia once again demonstrated its strong heritage in this boat class.

Joel Turner and Lewis Brake
OK Press Kieler Woche

Thus it was not surprising to hear the race commentator talk about ‘the Aussies being the most dominant nation in this boat class and being in the charge’. A medal race win by Queenslanders Joel Turner and Lewis Brake, the youngest crew in the fleet, underlined the potential of the current squad.

'This was our first medal race and theatre style races and we are very happy how we competed! We had a very wide range of conditions across the week, which were very testing at times and made for extremely close and tricky racing. It was the first regatta of the season for us so we didn't really know what to expect with regard to an overall ranking. It’s definitely great to finish inside the top ten in a 70 boat fleet,' an excited Joel Turner said after the race.

About the strong Australian 49er training squad, coached by Olympic Gold medal coach Emmett Lazich, and the steps ahead Turner added:

'We only stepped into the class last year and the training squad in Australia has been great for us. It’s such a highly skilled and experienced training group and it has been a really good environment to work in.'

'Kiel was a great start and we’ll go to Aarhus, Denmark for the 49er Junior Worlds next. After Aarhus we will race at the European championships in Helsinki, Finland. We will use the performance and experience from this regatta to build on how we perform in Denmark and Helsinki and are looking forward to more intense racing!'

Will Phillips (VIC) and Jasper Warren (WA), aka Fang, were the highest ranked Australian 49er team finishing fourth and were also pleased with their result – especially after a few challenges during the week as Will Phillips described post the event:

'It’s been good to see the Australian teams fighting at the front. We are proud to have recorded a decent result, especially as we had to overcome a few setbacks, which made for an interesting week. Due to some issues with German customs, we were only able to get our boat the day before the start of racing. With some help from our logistics partner Schenker we finally got there, but it gave us only limited time for preparation. To make things worse, on day three we then damaged our boat and were unable to repair it overnight. Thankfully our Irish friends and competitors Ryan Seaton and Matt Mcgovern lent us their spare boat for the last two days of sailing. Without their help we would not have been able to complete the regatta. A big Thank you to them!

In the 49er FX Australian Sailing Team’s and Olympic silver medallist Olivia Price (NSW) with crew Eliza Solly (VIC) went into the final three races with double points ranked overall ninth. After posting a second place in the first race, they crossed the start line too soon and had to turn back in the final two races. They remained ninth overall. Caitlin Elks (WA) and Tess Lloyd (VIC) just missed out on the medal race after finishing 12th overall.

All 49er crews will compete at the 49er European Championships in Helsinki (8-14 July) next and will be joined in Finland by Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (NSW).

Kieler Woche Regatta is the biggest sailing event in the world with more than 4500 sailors from more than 50 nations and 1800 boats in 42 Olympic, Paralympic, International and Offshore classes participating. In it’s 132nd year, it runs annually in conjunction with an onshore festival of events and celebrations in the Northern German town of Kiel: Event website.

All results can be accessed via the event website here.

Final Australian Sailing Team Results Olympic Regatta of Kieler Woche 2014:

470 M: 3. Mathew Belcher (QLD) / Will Ryan (QLD); 12. Robert Crawford / Matt Crawford (NSW); 15. Angus Galloway (QLD) / Tim Hannah (VIC)

470 W: 7. Carrie Smith (WA) / Jaime Ryan (QLD); 8. Lucy Shephard / Emma Barton (TAS); 9. Amelia Catt (TAS) / Sasha Ryan (QLD)

49er: 4. Will Phillips (VIC) / Jasper (Fang) Warren (WA); 7. Joel Turner / Lewis Brake (QLD); 9. David Gilmour (WA) / Rhys Mara (NSW); 18. Steve Thomas (WA) / Sam Phillips (VIC); 51. Harry Price (NSW) / Angus Williams (NSW)

49er FX: 9. Olivia Price (NSW) / Eliza Solly (VIC);12. Tess Lloyd (VIC) / Caitlin Elks (WA)

Finn: 15. Jake Lilley (QLD)

Laser Standard: 32. Mark Spearman (WA); 86. Jeremy O’Connell (VIC)