Pleasing surprises on the Road to Rio

Oli Tweddell - 2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami
ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami
As the Australian Sailing Team reviews its path towards Rio, some very pleasing progress has been made.

Last year ahead of the Palma regatta in April, we wrote that for the first time in a very long time it appeared that Australia could be a serious player in the Finn class, which in spite of some good sailors working hard over the decades has not produced medals since John Bertrand's bronze in Montreal in 1976.

And it’s certainly coming to pass, with a rapidly growing racing fleet in Australia, with experienced American coach, John Bertrand (the other one who won silver in 1984 behind Russell Coutts) progress for the Australian Fin squad has been very encouraging.

With Brendan Casey so generously passing on his experience to Oliver Tweddell and the still growing Jake Lilley, the results are coming. After his injury last year, Oliver has shown rapid improvement and it’s clear he will be a force to be reckoned with on the road to Rio.

Tweddell went into the medal race with a solid lead but emerged second overall, while Lilley and Casey were just out of the medal race with a 12 and 13th place.

Last night Oli commented, '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.'

Two World Cup silver medals in a row, we look forward to seeing him and the entire Finn squad in Palma.

Darren Bundock and Nina Curtis (AUS) win the Nacra17 at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne

Late starters in the Nacra 17, the old fox Darren Bundock, one of the most successful multihull campaigners in the class, with 2012 Olympic silver medallist Nina Curtis, won their first up Nacra 17 regatta, in Melbourne and then backed up in Miami with a sixth.

Today Darren said, 'Good regatta for us as we identified light air as a weakness and area we wanted to work on, as this week has only been light and shifty we got plenty of practise and made big improvements.

‘Really looking forward to Palma now. Palma was always my favourite regatta. By the sounds of it everyone will be there. We arrive 20 March (all AUS Nacra squad). We will be spending quite a lot of time in Spain this year. We will be Santander from 15 Aug straight after RIO test event ahead of the World championships which start on September 8th.’

Belcher Ryan - ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami 2014

Of course, the easiest headline today was the break in Mat Belcher's 470 winning streak. The shortened regatta obviously played a part in that.

Matt commented, '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.

'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.'

Expectations for Matt and Will Ryan are very high, as super-coach Victor Kovalenko commented.

‘For Matt a bad regatta like Sail Melbourne 2011, was when they came third.‘

Victor is right, this time the world has almost ended with a second.

Laser, Tom Burton (AUS) - 2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres, day 1

World number one ranked Tom Burton in the Laser, was a close second going into the Miami medal race in second place and slid to fourth overall after a bad medal race first beat

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.’

Looking ahead, the London 49er Gold Medallists Outteridge and Jensen will hit the circuit in Palma as will the big squad of 49er FX crews.

Interesting time ahead on the Road to Rio
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