'Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page (AUS), Men’s 470 Medal Race - London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition'
© Ingrid Abery
At the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition, Australian sailors Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page have won gold in the 470 men’s class. The win was a historic one for Australia, with Malcolm Page becoming the first Australian sailor to win two gold medals, defending his Beijing 2008 win.
Australia will have a shot at winning a fourth London 2012 sailing gold medal on Saturday with Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty qualifying for the Women’s Match Racing final.
Price, Curtis and Whitty defeated Finland two wins to one with the final race held in almost no wind late in the day. The Australians came from behind to win right on the finish line by less than a metre.
Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell finished seventh overall in the 470 women’s competition following an eighth place finish in the medal race in light conditions on the Nothe spectator course.
Belcher and Page went into the medal race four points clear of Great Britain’s Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell with the British needing to beat the Australians and have a boat between them to claim the gold.
Light winds made the decider an incredibly tight affair with just six knots of breeze on the course at the start. Belcher and Page rounded the top mark third, with the British out in front, but fought back on the run to take the lead by the bottom gate.
The two crews stayed close on the final upwind, engaging in a tacking duel as they approached the top mark, with the Australians going around in second and the British fourth. On the final run the British were forced to do a penalty turn after receiving a penalty for rocking the boat, giving Belcher and Page some breathing room.
Belcher and Page crossed the line second, with the British fourth, to win the gold.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page (AUS), Men’s 470 Medal Race - London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition - http://www.ingridabery.com
'I’ve gone through the highs and lows in the last 15 years, from missing selection to failing at an Olympic Games and obviously feeling the highest reward of success in Beijing,' said Page. 'These last four years have probably been some of the most rewarding of my whole sailing career, the development of Mat and I as a team under Victor’s guidance has been incredible and the team that we’ve become is the best I’ve ever seen. This is our eighth regatta in a row that we’ve won and it’s an incredible feeling.'
For Belcher it’s a gold medal at his first Olympics but one that has been a long time in the making.
'It’s been 12 years of work to get to this stage,' said Belcher. 'Just to make it to the Olympics was quite special after eight years of trying to beat Mal. I thought I was going to give it away but while driving the media boat in Beijing I decided I wanted to give it another shot, with the best crew in the world, the best coach in the world and the best support staff in the world.
'We would love to have had a few more points coming in to today but in saying that we won half of the races,' he said. 'Luke and Stu sailed a fantastic week as we did. I don’t think we expected to pull away from the rest of the fleet as we did. Racing on the Nothe is great for spectators but quite difficult for racing. We made the most of the situations, a few things went our way a few things didn’t, we kept calm and I think that showed our experience. The first time around the top mark we didn’t have the gold but by the bottom we did. It’s tough to race like that, there’s a lot of pressure and tension and it was nice to have trust in ourselves to get the job done.'
Australia’s Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty came up against Finland in the Women’s Match Racing semi-final with the winner to go through to Saturday’s final for a shot at gold.
The Finnish got off to a good start, controlling race one, leading at every mark to take the win. In incredibly light conditions Price and crew hit back in race two, winning to tie the series at one-all.
The breeze dropped right away and after a delay of a few hours the crews headed into Portland Harbour to try and complete the program.
With racing needing to be finished by 5.30pm there was time for just one race in almost no breeze. The Australians were just over the line at the start, having to re-cross the line before begin their chase of the Finnish crew. There was just seconds in at the top mark with the Australians closing the gap on the reigning World Champions on the run.
The gap was almost the same the next time they reach the top mark with the Australians shadowing their opponents. Heading towards the finish line Price, Curtis and Whitty were on the back foot, splitting from Finland to find more breeze. The gamble paid off with the boats hitting the line almost simultaneously. A final puff filled the Australian spinnaker and got them over the line first, less than a second ahead.
'To be honest I’m still trying to take it all in,' said Price. 'The series was cut short a little so we were a little unsure what was going on, whether we were going to race again so we stayed focused and are ready to go racing tomorrow.
'The last race against Finland was a really tough one, we made a couple of mistakes in that race but luck turned our way and we got it by half a metre,' she said. 'It was tough mentally with that long break, it was very shifty and the breeze was up and down but we knew that we were going to get some races in and we had to use our time wisely and keep sailing.
'We never thought about losing, we kept looking for the next puff, where we were going to meet next and how we were going to get ahead,' said Price. 'It really was a hard fight, we had to make some really good decisions and we got there in the end.'
The Australians will race against Spain in the best of five final with racing to begin at 12pm.
Australians Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell have finished seventh overall in the 470 women’s fleet, following an eighth place in Friday’s medal race.
Rechichi and Stowell went into the race with a slim chance of winning bronze but ultimately it wasn’t to be.
'It was a little bit tricky out there but unfortunately it was a little bit of our own fault as well,' said Rechichi. 'We really, really needed to go out there and win the race but didn’t get out of the blocks too well. We had to take a couple of big risks and we had one that really didn’t pay off on the downwind. Not how we would like to have finished but it was good to have a strong one a few days back and nice to be in the medal race.'
'We’ve got to be able to hold our heads high, it’s been a tough road,' said Stowell. 'It’s been short and we’ve had to throw everything we’ve got at it and every moment of every day we’ve been trying to get ourselves into the game. We’ve been really close and we’re pretty happy with how we’ve sailed, improving through the whole range of conditions and we were able to go out there and fight. Different mishaps on different days put us back but it’s terrific to have given it everything that we had and to have no regrets.
'We said on the way back in that if we’d been sitting at home watching on TV we would have been regretting much more than we have standing here now having given it everything that we’ve got. That’s what it’s about, going out there and competing. We’ve had our moments and opportunities but just didn’t make the most of those opportunities when they came. We can walk away really happy knowing that we were a part of a great team.'
Current Australian standings:
470 men – Malcolm Page and Mathew Belcher – Gold Medal Winners
49er – Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen – Gold Medal Winners
Laser – Tom Slingsby – Gold Medal Winner
Women’s Match Racing – Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty – Racing for Gold in Final
470 women – Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell – 7th overall
RS:X women – Jessica Crisp – 11th overall - finished
Laser Radial – Krystal Weir – 12th overall – finished
Finn – Brendan Casey – 13th overall - finished
Australian Sailing Team website
by Craig Heydon
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7:36 PM Fri 10 Aug 2012GMT
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