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Australian World Champions set Gold Medal platform for London 2012

by Rob Kothe on 12 Dec 2011
ISAF Sailing World Cup Day 8 Gold fleet race 10. Australians Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships Alex McKinnon ©
Australians Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page became the 2011 470 Mens World Champions on Sunday afternoon, at Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships being sailed in Fremantle, Western Australia.

The duo showed just why they are hot favourites to win Olympic Gold in Weymouth next August and Sail-World spoke to them after their medal race.

Obviously happy, Malcolm Page’s first comment was ‘Winning the world championship in Perth is a great step towards Weymouth. The confidence we have gained from this regatta and winning the world championship is very good.

‘It’s a little win over our competitors and more importantly, really good for us. We are a step closer to our goal and I am sure we have a lot of things to work on but it is a good psychological win for us.

‘The difference for us is our coach Victor Kovalenko.

‘There’s no real secret to making the boat go fast. It is a lot of hard work and we are working on the synergy between the two of us. In many ways we are a very new team compared to our competitors as we have only been together for three years.

‘Mat has been in the class for eleven years now and I have been in it for fourteen. It takes a long time to learn how to sail the boats well and I feel like we still have a lot to build on between now and the Games. There is no reason why we can’t reach our full potential.

‘The medal race - I think that because we were so close to shore, we really expected pretty much anything. Whether we had wind or not it was always going to be a very difficult race. There are so many spectators, on the shoreline and in the grand stand, that the breeze goes everywhere. All we needed to do was try and keep clear and not foul ourselves or get into any messes. We did sail cleanly and it was nice to come away with the win after a great week.’

Asked how his sixth World Championship title compared to the others, Page said ‘It’s as good as the first. It is something you can’t do every day of the week so to come away with a world championship win is special. I am a bit lost for words when asked that question - it is such a great feeling.

‘I have always said other regattas, especially regattas like world championships, are physically very difficult but obviously moving into the Olympic Games it is more of a psychological game and as the coach says, you are not ‘playing’ like in a world championship, you are playing for much bigger stakes at the Games.

‘That’s what we are here for, it is a four year cycle and Perth 2011 is our major regatta. It’s just a good step on the way and it certainly doesn’t secure anything. We still have to do all the hard work and all the steps in between, now and seven months time.’

Page continued ‘The Stadium course is fantastic, in the sense that it brings the spectators closer to our racing.

‘It certainly adds a little bit more of the luck or intuition element into racing. To be able to have the crowd out there and hear them when you are sailing is fantastic. It’s a great atmosphere to race in and it is also great for the public to be able to see what we do.’

Mat Belcher described the medal race.

‘In the medal race our first objective off the start line was to stay out of trouble.

‘Jumping the gun and being out of line was not an option. That would have certainly put us behind the eight ball.

‘We probably got a little bit too close to the wall in the end, starboard boats etc pushed us that way and it was a bit of a temptation to look for fresh air that got us in there in the first place.

‘But we stabilized ourselves as quickly as possible and we were back (in ninth) half way up that first work and we chipped away.

‘A couple of other boats got fouls and they had to do penalty turns, which helped us get back in the game. We knew if we sailed well then everything should work out right.’

Page explained ‘We had 11 races across the series and it’s an accumulation of points so to get ourselves into the position of having the 18 points lead going into the last race, was very pleasing.

‘We didn’t have to win, we didn’t have to be too risky and the win is just as satisfying. I am sure anybody in the fleet would loved to have swapped with us and to be in our position. Coming fourth across the line is just fine if it wins you the regatta.

‘The medal race course? Sailing into Bathers Bay was a compromised course, to bring the racing closer to the audience. It was effectively a wind-ward leeward course with a dog-leg.’

He continued ‘It is a difficult issue. I suppose personally I find the jury is still out a bit on medal race style and such close to shore racing. It is not traditionally what we do in sailing but we are trying to make it more exciting and more understandable to the public, so we have to take that into account as well.

‘I understand what is happening with the sport and it’s just something as sailors, we have got to take on the chin, be good enough and not let it worry us.

Mat Belcher added ‘The course, coming round the corner at the end, meant we were certainly going close to the rock wall which actually played quite a big influence in the race. It was the same for everyone and if you were in good form and saw the shifts, well it shouldn’t have really mattered. The best sailors will still come out at the top.

‘Midrace we were ninth with our Gold medal rival leading. But we have been in that position before. As I’ve said, we did get caught a little bit close to the wall and the pressure difference was quite a bit.

‘We didn’t panic and just kept sailing, we knew we would be able to come back if we stayed at it and communicated, which we did. Certainly it was a little bit hairy at the end when the breeze completely died and we were trying to get around the mark, but again we had it under control.

‘We are going to enjoy a few weeks off over Christmas which we haven’t done for a while. Obviously being able to peak when we have meant our break was cut short after the Weymouth test event so it’s great to be able to have a few weeks off over Christmas. We will then reassess and sit down with our plan and build up towards London.

‘We have another World Championships before London. The 2012 World Championship is in Barcelona, Spain in mid May 2012.

‘That is only five months away, then we have to try and defend our world title again’ Belcher concluded.

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