ISAF Sailing World Cup - Sail Melbourne will take place from 2-8 December, marking the start of the road to Rio 2016. London 2012 Men’s 470 Olympic gold medallist Mathew Belcher (AUS) will get his Rio campaign underway with new crew Will Ryan.
Krystal Weir (AUS)
The 2011 regatta was the last time Belcher, with former crew Malcolm Page, finished in second place before they went on to win eight consecutive regattas including two World Championships and an Olympic Games. But with a new crew and a small amount of sailing time together Belcher is enthusiastic about getting back in the swing of things with Ryan after a short break, 'We are really looking forward to getting things back on the water and start training again. I'm excited to start my new partnership with Will Ryan, who was our training partner towards London 2012.
'I've really enjoyed the time off since London but we are now ready to start racing again. Sail Melbourne was the first event for Mal and I four years ago so we decided to keep the tradition alive and race. We would have only sailed a few days before hand so we have no idea what to expect yet.'
With a wave of young and talented Australian 470 sailors’ coming through the ranks Belcher believes he has the cream of the crop in Ryan, 'Having spent the last three years training with us, his technical ability is amazing. There are so many younger Australian 470 teams starting up, since our success in London 2012; it's exciting to still be involved in the class.'
Joining the 11-boat Men’s 470 fleet for the 2012 ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne is Asenathi Jim and Roger Hudson (RSA). The South Africans came together just 18 months before London 2012 and took one of the final Men’s 470 Olympic spots at the 2012 Worlds in Barcelona, Spain. With an Olympics already under their belt they will look to hone in on their skills acquired in the new quadrennial.
In the Women’s 470 fleet, four Australian crews will sail with World number 58 Sasha Ryan the only world ranked sailor competing.
Ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition eventual gold medallist Tom Slingsby (AUS) had the perfect training partner in Tom Burton (AUS). Burton racked up several impressive performances on the international stage which saw him take the ISAF Sailing World Cup Laser title which helped him move to World number two, behind Slingsby.
With Slingsby taking some time out to sail in the America’s World Cup Series Burton will be the man to beat at ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne in the 35-boat fleet.
London 2012 Olympian Wannes Van Laer recognises the Australian threat in Melbourne, 'The Australian competition is very tough,' said Van Laer. 'Sailors like Tom Burton, Ash Brunning, Ryan Palk and Jared West are very hard to beat. I'll just try to do the best I can and I'll be satisfied with wherever this brings me.'
However the Belgian, who sailed at his first Olympic Games at London 2012, learnt a lot from his first experience and at the start of another Olympic quadrennial will apply it moving forward, 'The Olympics taught me that you can never work enough. You need to be 100% physically, 100% mentally, you need to know every aspect of the venue and try to make less faults than your opponents. For every mistake, you get seriously punished. You have to fight for every centimetre because the whole fleet is so compact. One lack of concentration can cost you several places.'
Sailing alongside Van Laer and Burton in the fleet will be a strong pack of Australian sailors as well as youngsters Zan Luka Zelko (SLO), who finished second at the 2011 ISAF Youth Worlds in Zadar, Croatia, and Michael Cate (NZL) who came 11th in Zadar.
In the 24-boat Laser Radial fleet, Krystal Weir comes into the regatta as the highest ranked sailor. The current World number five finished 12th at London 2012 and will want to get her new campaign off to a flying start in her home town.
Singaporean Olympian Elizabeth Yin, who finished 24th at London 2012, will be competing in Melbourne for the fifth consecutive year and with Olympic experience added to her armour the cycle begins once again. 'I am trying to get more ISAF World Cup regattas under my belt,' said Yin. 'It’s the start of a new Olympic campaign and I am planning to do as many regattas as possible to gain more experience.'
The 21-year-old comfortably qualified for London 2012 at the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships and after a 13th in Melbourne ahead of the World’s last year she already knows where to improve, 'The Olympics taught me that I need to work harder in order to be better next time. I need to get much fitter and stronger. I have already experienced an Olympics so now I know what to expect.'
Melbourne signals the start of the cycle for many sailors and after a lengthy break from competition it’s more about finding yourself at the early stages. Yin added, 'I am aiming to try my best in Melbourne and see where I stand after the Olympics. Coming back to sailing after the Olympics is different so I hope to get back into form through Melbourne. The sailing conditions are great, with warm air and good breeze, not much else you can ask for.'
Competing against Weir and Yin in the fleet is another London 2012 Olympian, Susannah Pyatt (NZL). But whereas the Australian and Singaporean know their way around a Laser better than the average Joe, Pyatt will be competing in her first World Cup regatta in a Laser Radial, making the transition from a Kiwi Women’s Match Racing crew, to the one person dinghy.
In addition to the Olympic classes on show in Melbourne there are healthy fleets in invited classes from Optimists, OK Dinghies, the Viper multihull and Kiteboarding.
Sail Melbourne website