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Australian team set for Olympic test event

by Australian Sailing Team 16 Aug 21:50 PDT 17-22 August 2019
Mat Belcher and Will Ryan - Hempel World Cup Series © Beau Outteridge

Success is traditionally and increasingly the hallmark of the Australian Sailing Team. To date the team has delivered an incredible 27 Olympic medals, making it the fifth most decorated Australian Olympic sport.

With such a firm footing, it's hard to believe that Australia's first ever sailing gold medal was only in 1964. Now with just one year to go, the team are back where it all began in Enoshima, 70 kilometres South of Tokyo, with the Ready Steady Tokyo Olympic Test event starting today.

Our current crop of sailors is shaping up to win more gold. Only one month ago, Australia's reigning Olympic gold medallist, Tom Burton, won his Maiden Laser World Championship. Then just last week, the incredible Mat Belcher and Will Ryan collectively amassed their 13th 470 World Championship.

In July, Darren Bundy Bundock and Conor Nicholas won the F18 Catamaran World Championship, confirming the former's phenomenal capabilities as a multihull sailor with a plethora titles across many classes. When not competing, Bundock is coaching medal contenders Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin, our silver medallists from Rio, 2016, in the Nacra 17 foiling catamaran.

Iain Murray, the Performance Director of Australian Sailing observed that championship wins for Australians are now coming at a remarkable pace. "Seems like one a week of late. Success is inspiring for the rest of the sailors. It is great to have Australian crews of many levels doing so well on the world's stage," he observed.

In some instances that means coming first and second. Breathing down each other's neck, Tom Burton and Matt Wearn achieved an exhilarating sailing double placing, first and second in the Laser World Championship. As a nod to Australia's performance, World Sailing found an additional place to ensure both sailors could be attendance at Enoshima. Normally only one representative from each country is invited to attend. This speaks volumes for the quality and experience they bring to the popular Australian class.

"Having both Tom and Matt there is important because we still have a fair bit to learn about doing well at this venue," says their coach Michael Blackburn.

Adding to the excitement are Australia's emerging female sailing stars, such as the young and highly promising Mara Stransky sailing the Laser Radial. Her recent outstanding seventh place at the Laser Radial European Championship is a promise of things to come.

"The past week has been great training, learning all I can about the Olympic environment. Although I competed here last year, it has been an invaluable to experience the full team set up for this Test Event", says the eager Stransky.

West Australian pair Nia Jerwood and Monique De Vries are also showing their strength in the Women's 470, qualifying Australia for the 2020 Games by finishing in an impressive ninth place at their World Championship just last week. Up against the best and toughest, coming within the top ten means they are right up there with everything to play for come 2020. There is more to come from this pair.

Interestingly sailing talent does run along family lines. Jaime Ryan, sister of Will Ryan is racing with the totally inspirational Tess Lloyd in the newest Olympic Class, the 49erFX. This point was underscored less than two weeks ago when father/daughter duo Rob and Nic Douglass claimed their third World Championship in the Tasar.

Literally hanging from the exhilarating Men's 49er will be the brothers from Sorrento, Sam and Will Phillips. Will commented on Enoshima, "It will be a valuable experience for us. We're looking forward to some really high quality racing."

Jake Lilley will sail in the men's heavyweight vessel, the venerable Finn. The towering 2.04m supreme athlete is one big, and very fit unit. Focused and determined, this highly likeable competitor is a regular in the top 10 at many an elite regatta. Often on the podium, Lilley has big hopes for Tokyo as part of his pathway to a serious sailing future.

Inevitably quality coaching is part of the mix. Lilley is learning to harness his power with the help of his coach, Spanish superstar Rafael Trujillo. Meanwhile Australian Sailing team coach Victor Kovalenko, the famed medal maker, is on track for personal gold. The Belcher/Ryan 470 win alone brought to 20 the number of 470 crews he has assisted in becoming World Champions.

This on the back of Iain Murray taking out the Etchells World Championship in July, aided by six-time Olympian, Colin Beashel, and former sail maker Richie Allanson. This kind of wisdom and inspiration unquestionably transfers down the line.

With such a bevy of remarkable sailing talent, backed by superlative strength and experience, success for the Australian sailing team seems very much on the cards in the upcoming Olympic test events. The Tokyo Olympics of 2020 may prove to be our most successful sailing Olympics ever.

Racing starts today and concludes on August 22.

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