by Cora Zillich
ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami 2014 - Olympic Champion Mat Belcher (QLD) and World Champion crew Will Ryan (QLD) took home a silver medal at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami, which concluded today in Florida, USA. Victorian Oliver Tweddell won the second silver medal for Australia in the Finn class.
Belcher RyanI - ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami 2014
The uncooperative wind on Biscayne Bay this week with either no wind or very light, at times unpredictable winds meant a limited number of series races for most of the events. But the Miami weather saved the best for last and medals were decided under sunny skies and enough wind for good racing on the final day of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Miami on Saturday, February 1, 2014 (EST). The Medal Race series included the top ten ranked sailors in each fleet competing in one race with double points applied.
Racing had been a mixed bag for Olympic and current World champion Mat Belcher (QLD) and his World champion crew Will Ryan (QLD) in the 470M class this week with the duo going into the one double-points medal race placed third. With 14 points behind the leaders Stu McNay and Dave Hughes (USA) and 13 points behind the second placed French duo Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion (FRA) the task at hand for the current World #1 crew of Belcher and Ryan was not an easy one.
But Saturday belonged to the French team of Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion who notched their first ISAF World Cup victory and consequently ended the unprecedented winning streak of Belcher and Ryan. Belcher and Ryan placed second in the medal race, which moved them up to the silver medal. The fleet leaders McNay and Hughes won bronze.
The second place finish for the 2013 Male Sailor of the year Belcher snaps his 18 regatta win streak and tenth regatta with Ryan. But as Belcher pointed out about this week’s experience, it’s all about continuing to learn as it will ultimately all come down to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio:
It’s been a really tough week having the same conditions for the last six days and only getting in six races as opposed to 10 was challenging. But the French had a great regatta, and so did the Americans. The fleet quality here is phenomenal. We've got most of the top 15 in the world here and we’ve learnt a lot about our competitors and how they race in these conditions and we’re in a pretty good position. It certainly motivated the fleet to try and turn our past results, but for us it's all about Rio. And these conditions will be similar to Rio.'
'Obviously we are a little bit sad that the winning streak is finished. It’s been over a year we had not lost and to get this silver medal is a little bit different. But it’s also good to have a bit of a reflection on what we have achieved. In the sport of sailing anything can happen and it’s good to learn how we handle this in our preparation. We are looking back and it’s cool to know we won all those events and did that performance.'
'The goal is Rio and our aim has always been to not worry about the streak so much. We did learn a lot about ourselves during that process though and how we handle the pressure and expectation and that type of pressure it puts on our performance. It was a great learning curve, which I’m sure will help us a lot going into Rio.'
The Finn class in Miami had attracted a quality fleet of 37 boats from eleven nations and it was a strong performance by Australian Sailing Squad member Oliver Tweddell (VIC) to go into the final medal race after the six race qualifying series as the leader.
On the final day it was Giles Scott (GBR), the 2011 world champion, who had the better day and secured a last minute victory ahead of Oliver Tweddell, whose eighth place in the medal race was just enough to win silver. Current world champion Jorge Zarif (BRA) repeated his result of last year to take the bronze.
Tweddell’s silver medal repeats his second at ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne and he said afterwards about his performance:
'The medal race was extremely tough. We had about three-four knots and a lot of chop, so it was very difficult. While I'm devastated with losing the Gold medal, I’m still pleased with how I've sailed all week. My performance was very good throughout the week, so to lose it the way I did is pretty hard to take. The positive is, I've learned a lot throughout the regatta and highlighted some key areas I need to improve on in the light winds.'
About his training squad and plans ahead Tweddell said: 'The Australian Finn Squad is in great shape, we are working well as a team and constantly improving. So I feel very strongly that it is on its way to emulating the success we have in our Laser, 470 and 49er squad systems. From here we have a few training camps back home before we head over to Palma for the next round of the World Cup.'
Australian Sailing Squad member Jake Lilley (QLD) and Olympian Brendan Casey (QLD) just missed out on the medal race and finished an overall 12th and 14th.
Today was not the day for World number one ranked Tom Burton in the Laser, who went into the medal race in second place. In the medal race, Burton got a bit trapped to one side on the first beat and was then too far behind to recover. His strong results throughout the week though secured him overall fourth.
It was World number two and 2013 European Champion Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) who held on to his three-point lead from Friday and took home the gold medal, while medal race winner and 2013 World Champion Robert Scheidt (BRA) won silver.
Tom Burton said afterwards: 'I have been sailing well at times and not so great at others. Today was one of the latter. I have a load of tiny things to work on heading into the year, which is good as I am still near the front of the fleet at the moment. I had taken some time out of the boat after Melbourne and had not specifically trained for this event. We have a strong fleet and I'm looking forward to racing these guys throughout the year and to continue building.'
Two Australian Sailing Team crews raced the Nacra17 medal race with Olympic silver medallists Darren Bundock (NSW) and Nina Curtis (NSW) finishing in overall sixth position and Olympic silver medallist Lucinda Whitty (NSW) and Olympic silver medallist coach now turned athlete Euan McNicol (NSW) finishing eighth.
Bundock’s assessment of the week: 'It was a very pleasing result for us even though we finished sixth, but we were quite pleased with how we went in only our second event together ever. We had very light conditions here, which we never thought was amongst our strengths at this stage. We feel we’ll be a much stronger team when there’s wind as well. In light breeze the level in the fleet is obviously very high and unfortunately we didn’t get any breeze to test how we go against the other guys once there’s a bit of wind. All in all it was a great regatta.'
Australian Sailing Team’s Lisa Darmanin (NSW) and Jason Waterhouse (NSW) missed out on today’s medal race and finished an overall 19th.
The next leg of the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup will be held in Palma de Mallorca, Spain from 29 March – 5 April 2014.
Australian Sailing is the performance program of Yachting Australia in partnership with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and with support from the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) and the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC). The Australian Sailing Team is the national representative team for Olympic and Paralympic class sailing.
The Australian Sailing Squad is the development program of the Australian Sailing Team and provides the pathway from elite youth to Olympic level competition.
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