by Craig Heydon
470 European Championships 2011.
European Championships 2011 - 470 sailors Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page in Finland
While results were not the focus for Australians Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page, their performance so far has shown their commitment. With the upcoming Weymouth and Portland International Regatta, which is the test event for the London 2012 Olympic Games, on their minds, they really wanted to improve their technique and performance.
Having such an agenda as their goal, the Australian Sailing Team’s 470 pair were more than pleased to have wrapped up the 2011 European Championships in Helsinki, Finland, with a day to spare.
They have an unassailable 27 point lead heading into the final, 10 boat, medal race on Friday, giving them their first European Championship victory since teaming up at the beginning of 2009.
The 470 fleet contested only one race on Thursday with Belcher and Page having their first race outside the top nine all week, with a 25th. Luckily their closest competitors were also caught out and thanks to the Australian’s consistency all week they were able to open up a massive lead on the scoreboard.
'Well, it’s certainly nice to be European Champions this year,' said Belcher. 'With only one final race remaining our main goal was to sail our own race and keep our lead intact. This didn't really go to plan, as we were caught out on the wrong side of a large right shift, luckily enough so was our main competitor.
'We struggled to get back in touch with the fleet and ended up only catching a few finishing in 25th position,' he said. 'In the end it worked out pretty well for us as our drop wasn't too bad, thus enabling us to take the title already.
'Overall results weren't our focus this week as we arrived quite late for this event after competing at Kiel Week so we wanted to take some time off,' said Belcher. 'We managed to capitalise on our opportunities this week to put in a good performance, the great thing about this sport is that you have to start all again next regatta, whereby anyone of the top guys can do the same next week.'
The 2010 World Champions and current world number ones sailed exceptionally well all week, leading the way from day one and finishing in the top three in seven of the week’s 12 races.
The Australians now have the opportunity to enjoy Friday’s medal race, finding themselves in the same position as when they won their World Championship last year.
Fellow Australians Sam Kivell and Will Ryan ended the week 20th overall, following an 18th in Thursday’s race.
In the silver fleet Alexander and Patrick Conway are seventh after finishing fifth in the day’s only race, while Max Taylor and Tim Hannah are 15th.
Australian Sailing Team Website