by Craig Heydon
ISAF Sailing World Cup Palma 2013. Australian sailors will get their first taste of European competition for the new Olympic cycle when racing begins at the ISAF Sailing World Cup round in Spain on Monday.
Mathew Belcher with the silverware in Palma in 2012
Large fleets will take to the waters of the Bay of Palma, with new classes and new combinations keen to get the early jump on their competition.
Palma is the third round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup, following events in Melbourne and Miami, with 15 Australian crews making the trip to Spain for the event.
London 2012 Olympic Games gold medallist Mathew Belcher will contest his first European event with new crew Will Ryan, with the pair heading to Spain off the back of a strong build up in Australia.
Belcher and Ryan have won all four regattas they have contested together since teaming up at the end of 2012, with Belcher’s winning streak stretching back to November 2011, and Ryan is looking forward to taking on a strong 470 men’s fleet next week.
'We would certainly expect to be competitive given Mat and Victor’s experience in the fleet,' said Ryan. 'But for Mat and I as a team this event will be more about building our experience together. This will be the biggest event we have raced in together, but it won’t stop us from trying to race as well as we can.
'Sailing and racing in Australia over the last few months has definitely given us a sense of confidence coming into this event,' he said. 'We’ve had the opportunity to get more time in the boat than we may otherwise have expected and our preparations have gone well. We’re extremely lucky to have a great training centre in Australia as well as getting to compete at Sail Melbourne and our class nationals to give us some racing experience before coming over here to Europe.'
Belcher and Ryan will be joined in the 72 boat 470 men’s fleet by another new Australian combination, with Angus Galloway and Tim Hannah to contest their first European event together.
Five Australian sailors will line up in the Laser fleet, including current world number one Tom Burton. Burton finished on the podium in Spain last year and comes into the event in form having just won the Mussanah Race Week in Oman, and the Australian Laser Championships and Sail Melbourne prior to that.
Burton will be joined in Spain by Australian team mates Ashley Brunning, Ryan Palk, Jared West and Matthew Wearn.
The Finn fleet will be one of the largest at this round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup with three Australians in the mix, including London 2012 Olympian Brendan Casey, Oliver Tweddell and Jake Lilley.
Casey has started this year’s ISAF Sailing World Cup well, with an opening round win in Melbourne and then a fifth place finish in Miami in January.
'Palma is the start of a six week period of training and competition,' said Casey. 'I’m looking forward to the challenge of racing in Europe against a strong and competitive Finn fleet. There are fresh faces joining the fleet from the Laser and Star classes plus existing strong campaigners so racing will be exciting and aggressive.'
Fellow Australian Oliver Tweddell will compete in Palma for the first time with the 22 year old looking forward to the challenges ahead of him.
'It’s great to see many new faces in the Finn class and it’s going to be very interesting to see how everyone fares, especially against the more experienced Finn sailors,' said Tweddell. 'It’s great to have a lot of London Olympians still racing too, and along with the new sailors it’s going to provide an interesting mix which I can’t wait to get involved in.
'I expect a lot of the new faces to the class will want to prove themselves to the fleet, while the 'old guard' will not be so willing to let this happen,' he said. 'It will be intriguing to see how the regatta, and the rest of the season, will unfold. It’s going to be a good marker as to where everyone is at, and how they have progressed over their training blocks. I've had little time in the Finn over the last four months due to other sailing commitments, and will be using this event to get myself back into Finn mode and blow some of the cobwebs away.'
Queensland sailor Ashley Stoddart will be the sole Australian in the Laser Radial fleet, with Patrick Vos racing in the RS:X men’s class. Three Australians will line up in the RS:X women’s class, Joanna Sterling, Annalise Gilbert and Paris Stowell.
Racing begins in Palma on Monday 1 April and continues until Saturday 6 April.
ISAF Sailing World Cup 2013