by Craig Heydon
On the final day of the Delta Lloyd Regatta in Medemblik, Holland, Australian sailors have won a gold and a silver medal with 470 sailor Mathew Belcher extending his winning run to 15 straight events.
Matthew Wearn in the Laser medal race - Delta Lloyd Regatta 2013
Four Australian crews qualified the final medal races with Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan continuing their gold medal run in the 470 men, while Matthew Wearn won silver in the Laser class. Tom Burton finished just off the podium in fourth in the Lasers with Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin sixth in the Nacra 17.
Belcher and Ryan had been at the front of the 470 men’s fleet all week, winning seven of the 11 races, and with the experimental point score system being used in Medemblik took a one point lead over second place into the medal race.
The pair ensured that they remained unbeaten together, and extended Belcher’s 18 month winning run, by finishing second in the final race and taking gold ahead of New Zealand and Croatia.
'The medal race was difficult with the course positioned very close to shore and right off the shipping harbour entrance,' said Belcher. 'Will and I are really happy it worked out today, we sailed well this week and battled it out over the four days beforehand in temperatures under five degrees with rain on most of the days.
'With this format anyone in the top six could win and we saw today that in most cases the leader coming into the medal race didn’t win,' he said. 'For Will and I to win seven regattas in a row is pretty amazing. It’s really great for us as a new team and everyday on the water we’re learning something new.
Belcher’s unbeaten run stretches back to winning the 2011 Australian 470 Championships with Malcolm Page in November 2011.
Will Ryan, Mathew Belcher and Victor Kovalenko after winning gold in the 470 men - Delta Lloyd Regatta 2013
'To be undefeated for that long has been extremely humbling,' said Belcher. 'To perform at the top level over these events hasn’t been easy and is a total credit to our coach Victor for keeping us focused.'
Ryan said with the medal race being a lottery the pair had to focus on their own performance.
'Basically we had to approach the race as any other because with the scoring system virtually any of the six boats could win,' said Ryan. 'In a way it was a tough situation, for Mat to have worked so hard to be in a position with such an impressive winning streak and for it to come down to one race.
'At the same time, the real focus today as usual was on ourselves,' he said. 'We had a game plan and were able to execute it which is very satisfying for us as a team, and a positive way to end the event.
'It’s great to be able to continue the strong tradition of Australian 470s performances in Europe,' he said. 'It’s something which Mat and Mal Page demonstrated so well in the last Olympic cycle and footsteps that I’m trying to follow. Each regatta together has been an opportunity to develop another aspect of our sailing together and this event was no exception.'
Matthew Wearn’s silver medal in the Laser class was the 17 year old West Australian’s first podium finish in a European regatta and continued his run of strong results in 2013.
Wearn went into the final six boat race in third position, behind New Zealand’s Andy Maloney with fellow Australian Tom Burton leading overall.
Burton had been the sailor to beat all week, with a consistent series of results putting him into pole position heading into the final race.
Wearn was first to the top mark, with Burton in fourth and while the West Australian held his lead at the bottom gate Burton was on the move, climbing to second. Wearn remained at the front on the next upwind leg with Burton slipping back through the fleet to round the top mark sixth.
Local sailor Rutger van Schaardenburg got past Wearn in the final metres to claim gold, with Wearn winning silver and Maloney bronze. Burton finished the week in fourth position.
'It feels great to finish off a solid trip to Europe with a silver medal,' said Wearn. 'I managed to link up a few good shifts at the start to round the top for the first time with a 20 metre lead. The wind was shifting around dramatically and the group quickly bunched back up and it was very tight between three of us on the last downwind run to the finish.
'I managed to finish the race in second which left me tied on points for first but ended up with silver on a count back,' he said. 'I feel that I’ve had a very solid start to the year. This has been a great confidence boost for me and I feel that my sailing has improved considerably in the last three months in Europe.'
Sydney based cousins Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin headed into the Nacra 17 medal race in fifth position, with the pair looking to make it back-to-back podium finishes after winning silver in Italy last week.
The pair sailed well all week, with just two results outside the top seven from the opening nine races.
Waterhouse and Darmanin finished the final race in fifth position which saw them slip one spot from the start of the day to end the week in sixth.
Those crews outside the top six in each class complete one final race on Saturday, with the results leaving Josh McKnight and Nina Curtis, Euan McNicol and Lucinda Whitty and Pip Pietromonaco and James Wierzbowski 14th, 15th and 16th respectively in the Nacra 17 class.
In the Laser class Ryan Palk ended the week 13th, with Ashley Brunning 20th, Jared West 21st and Luke Elliott 40th. Matthew and Robert Crawford were eighth in the 470 men, ahead of Alexander and Patrick Conway in 13th and Angus Galloway and Tim Hannah in 14th. In the 470 women Elise Rechichi and Sarah Cook were eighth, with Sasha and Jaime Ryan 11th.
Full results can be found here.
Australian Sailing Team website