by Craig Heydon
470 Australian Championship, hosted by Fremantle Sailing Club, has been won by Australian Sailing Team’s Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page, continuing the pair’s incredible run in the event.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page racing at the 470 Australian Championship 2011
Between them Belcher and Page have now won the last 11 straight 470 Australian Championships, either together or in competition with each other.
Thursday’s win in Fremantle was against the strongest fleet at a 470 Australian Championship in many years with a number of the world’s top crews using it as preparation for the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships which begin in less than two weeks.
'We managed to sail well all week in a range of winds, from a building sea breeze to incredibly light and shifty conditions,' said Belcher. 'It was great to get use to everything that Perth can offer.
'Mal and I started well with four bullets in the first four races and then had some strong results in the next six races which were held in variable conditions,' he said. 'It was nice to have the experience of racing with a strong fleet here as we prepare for the Worlds.'
The win was Belcher and Page’s fourth straight 470 Australian Championship win together since teaming up at the beginning of 2009, with the pair the current World, Australian, European and North American champions.
'It was great to keep the tradition of winning the Australian Championship alive and we’re really happy to have won it again against a very strong fleet,' said Belcher.
The 470 fleet now turns it attention to Perth 2011 with racing getting underway for the men on Monday 5 December and Monday 12 December for the women.
'All of the crews are firmly focused on the Worlds but this week was a good indicator of where we’re at and it was good to touch base with the fleet before day one of racing,' said Belcher. 'Everyone has surprises up their sleeves so we’ll have to see what happens when the Worlds kick-off.'
Belcher and Page finished the regatta with a 10th and a second, giving them a 14 point win over Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders of New Zealand with Japan’s Ryunosuke Harada and Yugo Yoshida third.
The Australian Sailing Squad crew of Sam Kivell and Will Ryan had a strong final day with a third and an eighth ensuring them fourth place overall.
Matthew and Robert Crawford were the third place Australian crew in 13th overall, with the brother’s the first placed junior crew.
New pairing Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell finished the regatta in style with a win in the final race moving them to 17th, an impressive recovery after missing the opening two races following gear breakages.
Rechichi and Stowell were the fourth placed female crew in just their second regatta together, having only teamed up a few weeks ago.
The second half of the regatta was very strong for the Olympic Gold medalists, with three top eight finishes in the final four races.
Full results can be found here.
Australian Sailing Team website