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Mat Belcher – 17 in a row - 'The harder I work, the luckier I get'

by Rob Kothe and the Sail-World Team on 20 Aug 2013
Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan after crossing the 470 Worlds finish line Thom Touw © http://www.thomtouw.com
The harder I work the luckier I get, is a quotation attributed variously to Thomas Jefferson and Mark Twain but perhaps of Amish origin, but regardless the sentiment is well understood. And it’s something that one of Australia´s most successful Olympic class regatta sailors and his coach understands very well.


You would have to think at winning 17 regatta´s in a row is a world record and that is what four time World Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Queenslander Mat Belcher has done in the 470 Class. Pushed along by super coach Victor Kovalenko.

We interviewed Mat once again at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week 2013 this week.

‘17 – in a row. I don’t like to think too much about it because it is one of those things you start to think about and you get punished at the next regatta. But it is phenomenal. It is really humbling actually. I would never had thought it would be possible.

‘This year to be able to backup what Mal (Page) and I did last year, after coming away from the Olympics with a Gold Medal has been obviously phenomenal.

‘The most rewarding thing for myself is for one finding the motivation as I wasn’t sure if I could after such a high to be able to back that up so quickly for the new campaign.

‘That is a real credit to Victor to get me focused and obviously to get my new crew Will Ryan motivated and up to skill and he is doing a phenomenal job.

‘The amount of pressure Will has got, to not replace Mal but to be able to find his way in the boat and get to his style and he has found that really well and we are gelling really well which is a great position.

‘We are lucky the way we transitioned, in terms of tactics and strategy it was my role anyway in the boat as being the skipper and it’s just the way Victor wanted that. It is a lot easier if that is the case to be able to transition to a new sailing partner as the core is still there.

‘This is not something that we sat down a couple of weeks after the Olympic Games. This is something that we planned two years before the games. I sailed with Will for two or three World Cup events back in 2010. I did a lot of training with him. Obviously they have been in the boat with us for the last three years coming into London so we swapped around a lot. I sailed with him only a few weeks before the games. Mal was crook for a few days and Will jumped in.

‘Will was the reserve crew for me for the Games and it certainly helped with the transition but the fact that he has been in the program and he has got the experience that he has got certainly made it a lot easier to get to where we are.

‘You just get into a good rhythm and a good dynamic and you do the event and you are in good spirits and good shape and you treat each event as it is. You treat each day racing as it is and sometimes it’s going well and sometimes it’s not.


‘It is just nice at the end of the day to be able to overcome all those difficulties and to come away with a win and keep coming away. It is close. It is really close. A lot of those regattas were winner takes all last day, six boats. We were lucky in some of those regattas to win and it is just nice it keeps going like that.

‘The 2013 change in scoring system has made it a lot harder to win. When you are doing an event where you are racing for five days and it counts for one race and then you are doing a winner takes all medal race really close to shore and you have two 60 foot boats come straight through the middle of the course and that counts for five days of competition that makes it extremely difficult.

‘We have had some events we have gone into the medal race and almost tied and having to beat the other boats.

There is a lot of pressure with that and I think that’s been the most rewarding as a team, to go through that pressure especially being new to be able to have that dynamic and to have that comfort ability with each other in those moments to know we trust each other and to know we are able to perform when we need it.

‘The last three events that we did which was Medemblik which was a winner take all final, the Europeans and the Worlds were. We had to really fight for those events.

‘I think people underestimate when you are a new team you have to, not start again but there is a lot of things that you have got to go through and that hardened team spirit and that grinding on the circuit and all those, the bad results, getting kicked from your competitors a little bit on the water. You have got to go through that.


‘We are going through that ourselves but it is just nicer that our platform and our levels are a bit higher. We have got heaps of work to do. We have got a list a mile long of what we want to do and I think it is just really rewarding that we know where we want to go and we obviously know where we are at and it’s an exciting time. It has been one of the most enjoyable years of my sailing career.

‘Winning certainly keeps the sponsors happy and the support and to be able to back up what we did last year to show hey we have got a lot of talent in Australian sailing and it’s not just Will’s coming through. We can see that in the Lasers now. The 49er women’s program. There are a lot of people coming through and it is a great position to be at.

‘Right now my focus is very much at home. Rike and I are expecting a child in three weeks.

‘We are really excited. A little daunting to know what to expect but the skills that you learn with sailing and versatility and everything I am sure we will work it out.

‘Looking ahead the 2013 ISAF Sailing World Cup - Sail Melbourne will be our next regatta.’

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