When racing commences at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne, Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) will be aiming to assert their dominance once again. Held at Sandringham Yacht Club, Melbourne, Australia from 2-8 December, the second stop of the 2013-14 ISAF Sailing World Cup series features strong fleets across two Paralympic and ten Olympic events.
ISAF Sailing World Cup - Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan
Since making their inaugural appearance together at the 2012 ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne, Belcher and Ryan have dominated the Men's 470, extending the unbeaten run Belcher had established with Malcolm Page to 17 regattas.
After winning gold at the 470 World Championship in La Rochelle, France in August the pair are hot favourites to pick up where they left off after a short break.
'We've had an amazing year this year,' said Belcher. 'It's been a lot better than we anticipated. We didn't really know what to expect. I'd just come off winning an Olympic gold with Malcolm and there was a bit of pressure for Will coming into that partnership and we really just took every day step by step and just enjoyed the training.
'We knew where we had to go. To start at Melbourne, winning every race was quite phenomenal for us and really unexpected and for our season to go as it has winning all the events it gives you great confidence to know where you're at.
'But in saying that we're very determined guys and we know exactly what we need to do and we just need the time and the hours to keep up our development and we look forward to where we can progress as a team.'
Whilst the pair will be favourites heading into the regatta Belcher knows he can't rest on his laurels, 'It's difficult because you have the home pressure in that event and there's obviously a lot of media commitments and other things that are outside of your performance so we've recognised that for this year and we're training hard.
'Fingers crossed we can keep that run going but our focus is on performance and getting back racing again.'
Belcher was crowned ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year 2013 in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman for his emphatic performances but each victory has brought greater expectation, 'The fleet starts to focus more on you and you place more pressure on yourself to perform. The hardest part of this streak has been to remain stable, focused and motivated to perform every day you hit the water,' concluded Belcher.
Joining Belcher and Ryan in the Men's 470 fleet will be Croatia's Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic who finished second at ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao as well as Japan's Kazuto Doi and Kimihijo Imamura and China's Hao Lan and Chao Wang.
In the Women's 470 fleet 2012 ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne victors Sasha and Jaime Ryan return to defend their title but will face strong opposition from Elise Rechichi and Sarah Cook and China's Shasha Chen and Haiyan Gao and Nan Zhang and Yixiao Lv.
Thirteen Finns will line up on 2 December with fierce competition expected between the three Australian front runners Brendan Casey, Oliver Tweddell and Jake Lilley.
At 36 years old the more experienced Casey got the better of his young opponents at the 2012 ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne, taking the honours convincingly. However throughout the year Tweddell, 23, and Lilley, 20, have shown their worth and finished ahead of Casey at the 2013 Finn Gold Cup.
With a small Melbourne fleet the three will face off once again whilst Swedish World #14 Bjorn Allansson will also be in the equation after a strong 2013.
The Men's and Women's RS:X features a strong Chinese contingent with nine competitors making the trip to Melbourne.
Peina Chen CHN RS-X - 2013 ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao Day 4
Peina Chen (CHN) will be the one to beat in the Women's RS:X fleet after she claimed gold in a hard fought week at ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao. After missing out on a London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition spot, Chen made a comeback to racing in Qingdao after her last international appearance came at the 2012 RS:X World Championship.
Chen's return to racing was convincing as she defeated World #1 Bryony Shaw (GBR) and World #2 Maayan Davidovich (ISR).
China's first ever ISAF Youth Worlds gold medallist Yunxiu Lu will also be competing in the Women's fleet whilst Joanna Sterling holds hopes for the host nation.
Three Chinese racers go in the Men's RS:X fleet alongside 2012 silver medallist Patrick Vos and bronze medallist Sam Treharne.
Racing in the Men's and Women's 470, Finn, Laser, Laser Radial and Paralympic events commences on Monday 2 December through to Saturday 7 December.
The 49er, 49erFX, Men's and Women's RS:X and Nacra 17 fleets start racing on Tuesday 3 December through to their Medal Races on Sunday 8 December.
ISAF Sailing World Cup website