Hamilton Island Yacht Club (HIYC) has today set sail on its four-year Australian Challenge for the 35th America's Cup in 2017, with the announcement of Australian Sailing Team’s Olympic Gold Medallist Mathew Belcher as its skipper and the christening of Team Australia’s AC45 catamaran.
Yachting Australia’s Performance Director Peter Conde congratulated Belcher on his appointment and said:
'This is a fantastic opportunity for Mat and we are very excited for him as well as for our sponsor Hamilton Island and the Oatley family who have been strong supporters of the Australian Sailing Team over the last decade. We have very talented sailors on our team and it’s great to see that this is recognised by professional programs like the America’s Cup.'
'I congratulate both Mat and also our Australian Sailing Squad member David Gilmour who both have been named on Team Australia today. The Australian Sailing Team will be a big supporter of Team Australia.'
At the Team Australia media launch Iain Murray, CEO Team Australia, said Hamilton Island Yacht Club was keen for the immense talents of Australia’s sailors to be showcased.
'As a country, we’ve proven we can produce some of the best sailors in the world, and now it’s our turn to build an all-Aussie winning team skippered by one of most awarded Australian sailors. Mat is a remarkable example of an elite athlete and one of the most accomplished sailors that Australia has ever produced,' explained Murray.
Belcher, the 2013 Rolex ISAF World Sailor of Year, Olympic Champion, five-time World 470 Champion and quadruple 2013 ISAF Sailing World Cup Winner, will lead Team Australia’s first training sessions on iconic Sydney Harbour with Oracle Team USA.
Mat Belcher on being announced Skipper of Team Australia said: 'I’m humbled and excited by this honour. It’s an incredible opportunity and I’m looking forward to the journey, coming aboard and working together with the crew to bring the Cup back to Australia.'
With the appointment of Mat Belcher as skipper of Team Australia and Olympic Gold Medallists Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen part of the Artemis race team, three current Australian Sailing Team members form part of the 35th America’s Cup Challenge. Olympic Gold medallist Tom Slingsby continues his America’s Cup campaign as part of team Oracle, while Olympic medallist Glenn Asbhy will once again play a key role in Team New Zealand’s challenge.
While the athletes have the support of Australian Sailing for their America’s Cup campaigns, the main focus for Belcher, Outteridge and Jensen remains on their Olympic campaign towards Rio 2016 and on defending their 2012 London Olympic Gold medals.
'I have no doubt that I can combine my Olympic goal of winning another Gold Medal with my America’s Cup involvement. Tom Slingsby and Nathan Outteridge have done this before and I will use that as a guide. I have the support of the Australian Sailing Team, our coach Victor Kovalenko, OAM as well as of my crew mate Will Ryan', Belcher reiterated today.
Performance Director Peter Conde supported Belcher’s view:
'If someone can do this, it’s Mat. He has immense experience and we were in a similar situation before 2012 when Nathan Outteridge and Tom Slingsby sailed the AC45 ahead of their Gold medal success in London.'
'Winning Gold Medals for Australia is our priority and all involved have committed themselves to our program. We believe that Mat’s agreed program is entirely appropriate to win Gold. The timing of the 35th America’s Cup in 2017 works well with this.'
Team Australia will use the training sessions on Sydney Harbour this week to rotate a number of crew through the boat, introducing them to the AC45 catamaran, as they race against Oracle Team USA.
Mat Belcher will then go back into his preparation for the 2014 European campaign ahead, which will see Will Ryan and him race the 470M class at the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Palma de Mallorca Spain at the end of March (29 March – 5 April 2014) as well as the World Cup in Hyeres in France at the end of April (19-26 April 2014). The main focus of the 2014 campaign will be the ISAF Sailing World Championship in Santander, Spain in September (8-21 September 2014).
Team Australia Crew
Mat Belcher (Australian Sailing Team – 470M)
David Gilmour (Australian Sailing Squad – 49er)