Aussie sailor Mat Belcher talks about becoming an America's Cup skipper and the Road to Rio whilst he and his sailing partner Will Ryan prepare for battle at the 45th Trofeo Princesa Sofia in Palma de Mallorca.
Wow, the last couple of months have been super busy. As most of you will probably know by now, I have taken on the role of skipper for Team Australia, the Australian America's Cup Challenger. After so many years to finally have an Australian team competing for the America's Cup is a huge opportunity for Australian sailing, thanks to Hamilton Island Yacht Club and the Oatley family. Being involved and leading this sailing team is a great honour and I look forward to the many challenges and opportunities it presents. Thank you to everyone who has supported me and Team Australia on this journey so far.
One of the biggest challenges for me personally will be balancing my commitments within Team Australia with our Olympic campaign. We are receiving a lot of support, both from the Australian Sailing Team as well as Team Australia, to combine the two programs. And while at times it will certainly create added pressures, we are confident that both the Olympic and the America's Cup program will complement and benefit from each other.
Over the last few weeks I have been spending a lot of time on the America's Cup program. We have launched our AC45 catamaran and have taken it for a few spins against the Oracle guys on Sydney Harbour, as well as helping our team find its feet in the Extreme 40s Sailing Series. We have a long way to go, but it has been great to start building a team and identifying what needs to be done.
Mat Belcher focussed - © Victor Kovalenko
But now it is back to 470s. We have arrived in Palma for the first World Cup event of the European sailing season. While the weather has been quite chilly we have been working hard to make sure we are on our best game for the regatta ahead. 95 mens teams are entered in the 470s and most, if not all, the top guys are here so it will be very tough racing. We have launched our new boat 'Far and Away', christened by Olympic Gold Medallist Olivia Powrie, and so far she seems fast and solid. We are looking forward to the opportunity to stabilise our 470 program and to see if all the training with our Australian sailing partners has paid off. While racing here will be a good gauge of current progress, the main focus this year will be the ISAF world championships in Santander later this year. We have a busy program ahead of us, working hard to defend our World Champions title and to use this first opportunity to secure a spot for Australia at the Rio Olympics.
Mat Belcher and Will Ryan unload their 470 - © Victor Kovalenko
Coming to Palma brings back many memories for myself. This was the first ever 470 event that I competed in 14 years ago. I was at university during the time and Victor said I needed to trust myself and ability and come over to Europe to follow my sailing career. It was an interesting conversation with my parents as to why I needed to defer but what a ride it has been. To have my family with me here, and to think how our life's have developed over these years is incredible. With his support, we have achieved so much during this period. I cannot ever repay Victor for the opportunity he has given me. He is a great man.
Mat Belcher and Will Ryan in action - © Victor Kovalenko
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