Australian Sailing Team starts Olympic selection series in Hyeres

The Australian Sailing Team will compete in full force at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères, which gets underway in France on Wednesday, 22 April 2015 (22-26 April 2016).

This Olympic and Paralympic class regatta is the first major event on the road to Rio 2016 selection and the third of five 2015 ISAF Sailing World Cup series events that lead up to the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi later this year. Top results at the key international regattas are required to be named in the Australian Sailing Team and to be nominated for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic teams.

Changes to the format of the ISAF Sailing World Cup mean that fleets are restricted, by pre-qualification, to the top 40 boats in each of the ten Olympic class events being contested in Hyères. Fleets at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères were decided based on the ISAF World Sailing Rankings and a qualification regatta. The world's top 30 sailors from the 2 February 2015 ISAF World Sailing Rankings release were invited to Hyères with the remaining ten receiving their spot at ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères qualification regatta, Trofeo Princesa Sofia in Palma Majorca, Spain.

The Australian Sailing Team (AST) and Australian Sailing Squad (ASS) qualified a total of eighteen boats in nine classes of the ten Olympic class events, and are also entered with three boats in the two Paralympic class events contested in Hyères.

Thirteen AST and 20 ASS Olympic class athletes as well as four AST and one ASS Paralympic class athlete will be competing amongst a total of 600 Olympic sailors in 400 boats and 39 Paralympic sailors in 25 boats in France.

Racing commences on Wednesday, 22 April with a four-day series building up to the Medal Races on Sunday 26 April.

Men’s Two Person Dingy – 470M

London 2012 Gold Medallist and five-time World Champion Mathew Belcher (QLD) together with dual World Champion crew Will Ryan (QLD) are well positioned going into the Olympic selection season starting in Hyères. They are the current World #1 and have been on the podium at every major event they have competed at since they started sailing together at the end of 2012.

They won the event last year and are looking forward to competing in the new format this year as Belcher explained,

“There's a sense of pride here because it's the first time entries have been restricted. The Worlds and Europeans are open, but it's a privilege to be here.”

“Everyone knows they've qualified to be here and they've earned their place and they're looking forward to racing. People are excited and that's filtered through to the younger sailors and teams who haven't qualified. They're going to be training harder and doing the other events and they'll be proud to get on the start line at future World Cups. It's a pretty cool and exciting time to be in sailing at the moment.”

They are joined at Hyères by Australian Sailing Squad’s Alexander and Patrick Conway who qualified for the ASS at the ISAF Sailing World Champs in September last year and secured their invite to Hyères as the 19th ranked team.

On the Men’s 470 Australian Sailing Squad two additional crews recently qualified and they will join Mat and Will and the Conway twins on the European circuit for the EUROSAF event in Medemblik, Netherlands at the end of May.

Nacra 17

The mixed multihull catamaran Nacra 17, which will premier on the Olympic program in 2016, will be one to watch with regards to internal battles for the final Olympic spot as two AST and one ASS crew will be competing.

Olympians Darren Bundock (NSW) and Nina Curtis (NSW), who have three Olympic silver medals amongst them, have their eyes set on Rio and Hyères will be the first important event to set a mark as Darren Bundock explains:

“Hyères is an important regatta for us. It’s our first chance to be considered for nomination for both the Olympic test event and potentially the Olympics as well. So we have a lot to achieve at this regatta and we are hoping to get ourselves in early consideration for nomination for the Olympic Games.”

The Nacra team started their European season in Palma a couple of weeks ago but the event did not go as planned and Darren Bundock is looking forward to get some proper racing in next:

“This is our second European regatta this year. Palma was our first one but we had a bit of a disaster on the first day, capsizing and breaking our mast, so we spent the time here training and tuning a new mast and getting things back up to pace. We had a really good pace prior to Palma and unfortunately broke our rig. But we have been pretty happy how everything has been going in pretty much all conditions now, so we are looking forward to the racing.”

The mixed multihull made its debut at the 2013 ISAF Sailing World Cup in Miami and has seen a steep learning curve for the entire fleet. AST cousins Lisa Darmanin (NSW) and Jason Waterhouse (NSW) were the most successful Australian crew at the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships in Santander winning bronze and were the first Nacra 17 pair to qualify for the Abu Dhabi ISAF Sailing World Cup Final when they took the Melbourne title in December.

And with the third crew of Australian Sailing Squad’s Olympic medallist Lucinda Whitty (NSW) and Euan McNicol (NSW) also in the mix, the pressure is on with the Australian Nacra team to compete against the rest of the world as well as against their team mates.

Women’s Skiff – 49erFX

Australian Sailing Squad’s Olympic silver medallist Olivia Price (NSW) and crew Eliza Solly (VIC) kicked-off their 2015 European season well finishing third at the recent Princes Sofia Regatta in Palma. The pair is now looking forward to build on this result in Hyères.

“Palma was a great warm-up event for us. We put everything we’ve been working on into practice and came away with a third. We’ve progressed a lot over the last few months and hope to transfer this into Hyères before we go home after this for a bit more training and a fitness block. After that we’ll come back to Europe for the Weymouth World Cup event,” Olivia Price said about the schedule ahead.

And about the new World Cup format and forecast she added: “It’s going to be an interesting regatta with the new format. With the top 40 boats competing in the fleet, we will effectively have four days of gold fleet racing before we likely have a windy medal race on Sunday.”

Fellow Australian Sailing Squad 49erFX teammates Tess Lloyd (VIC) and Caitlin Elks (WA) are the second Australian crew in the fleet and after a 16th place in Palma the duo will be aiming to climb the results ladder in Hyères.

Men’s Skiff – 49er

London gold medallists Nathan Outteridge (NSW) and Iain Jensen (NSW) are back in the 49er for the start of their European World Cup season and after a couple of solid training camps in Australia, they are keen to get some Olympic class racing in.

They are juggling their Olympic preparation with another America’s Cup campaign but have made their intentions clear on defending their Olympic Gold medal in Rio.

At the ISAF Sailing World Championships last September, Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen had their last encounter with current World #1 and World Champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) finishing third and Hyères will be their first opportunity to catch up to the Kiwis.

At the pre-event “coaches regatta” a couple days ago the duo showed that they have every intention to do so when they finished on top of the ranks with the New Zealanders following in third.

A total of four Australian 49er crews will be competing in the 40-boat fleet, after new ASS combination of Will Phillips (VIC) and James Wierszbowski (VIC) also secured their qualifying spot at Palma.

Men's One Person Dinghy – Laser

By his own standards, current Laser World #1 Tom Burton was off the pace at the beginning of this year, when he did not make the medal race at the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Miami at the end of January and he will be aiming to gain valuable World Cup points in Hyères.

He is closely chased by teammate Matt Wearn (WA) who won bronze in Miami and finished a close sixth at the recent Trofeo Princesa Sofia Regatta in Spain at the beginning of April where Tom Burton finished fifth. 

With five boats qualified, Australia has the largest contingent on the 40-boat Laser fleet, underlying the current strength of the Australian Laser program coached by Olympic bronze medallist Michael Blackburn and former Australian Sailing Team athlete Ashley Brunning.

Men's One Person Dinghy (Heavyweight) – Finn

In the Finn class, young guns and Australian Sailing Squad members Jake Lilley (QLD) and Oliver Tweddell (VIC) are both chasing the Olympic spot.

And the battle is close – at the last ISAF Sailing World Cup in Miami at the end of January, 21-year old World #4 Lilley, came away with a bronze medal, while Tweddell finished tenth. And at the most recent event in Palma Jake Lilley finished 13th with Oliver Tweddell following in 15th.

“Hyères is the first European World Cup of the year and it’s incredibly important to race all the big boys in the lead up to the Olympics. Secondly, it’s also the first round of the Australian Olympic qualification. It’s a very important regatta and it’s a good benchmark to see how our development over the Australian summer has progressed and to see where we now sit on the world stage after some improvements and as we head into the Games next year,” Jake Lilley explained the importance of the regatta.

“I love Hyères, it’s a great place. There are Palm trees everywhere and it’s a great place not only for sailing but for cycling too. We’ve got a good team atmosphere here and it’s the best part of Hyères that we have the whole team here,” he added.

Women’s 470 / Laser Radial / RS:X Women

In the Women’s 470 Sasha Ryan (QLD) and Amelia Catt (TAS) will be the only boat to represent Australia. 2013 ISAF Youth Sailor World Champion Carrie Smith (WA) and crew Jaime Ryan (QLD), who had just qualified in Palma, had to pull out of the event with Carrie Smith having to fly home early for medical reasons.

In the Laser Radial Ashley Stoddart (QLD) will represent Australia while Jo Sterling (QLD) will be competing in the Women’s RS:X.

Paralympic classes

In the Paralympic boat classes, Australia has two boats in the 18-boat 2.4mR fleet with London Olympian Matt Bugg (TAS) as well as Australian Sailing Squad’s Neil Patterson (TAS) competing in Hyères for the first time:

“It’s my first time in Hyères and so far I love it here,” Matt Bugg said. “We’ve got a really good fleet and all the best guys in the world are here racing. It’s really good for me, because it’s a similar size fleet to what the Paralympics will be next year and with the same sailors. So it’s a good quality fleet and we should see some good racing.”

Last year’s bronze medallists Colin Harrison (WA), Jonathan Harris (NSW) and Russell Boaden (WA) are competing in the eight-boat Sonar fleet.

Paralympic gold medallist and 2014 World Champions Daniel Fitzgibbon (NSW) and Liesl Tesch (NSW) will kick-off their European season at Delta Lloyd Regatta, Netherlands at the end of May.

2015 Australian Sailing Team & Australian Sailing Squad

Men’s Two Person Dingy – 470M

–      Mathew Belcher (QLD/QAS) & Will Ryan (QLD/QAS) – AST

–      Alexander Conway (NSW) & Patrick Conway (NSW) – ASS

Mixed Multihull – Nacra17

–      Jason Waterhouse (NSW) & Lisa Darmanin (NSW) – AST

–      Darren Bundock (NSW) & Nina Curtis (NSW) – AST

–      Euan McNicol (NSW) & Lucinda Whitty (NSW) – ASS

Men’s Skiff – 49er

–      Nathan Outteridge (NSW)  & Iain Jensen (NSW) – AST

–      David Gilmour (WA/WAIS) & Rhys Mara (VIC/VIS) – AST

–      Joel Turner (AST – QLD/QAS) & Lewis Brake (ASS – QLD/QAS) – ASS
–      Will Phillips (VIC/VIS) & James Wierzbowski (VIC/VIS) – ASS

Women's Skiff – 49erFX

–      Olivia Price (NSW) & Eliza Solly (VIC/VIS) – ASS

–      Tess Lloyd (VIC/VIS) & Caitlin Elks (WA/WAIS) – ASS

Men's One Person Dinghy – Laser

–      Tom Burton (NSW) – AST

–      Matthew Wearn (WA/WAIS) – AST

–      Luke Elliott (WA/WAIS) – ASS

–      Mitchell Kennedy (QLD/QAS) – ASS

–      Ryan Palk (QLD/QAS) – ASS

Women's One Person Dinghy – Laser Radial

–      Ashley Stoddart (QLD/QAS) – ASS

Men's One Person Dinghy (Heavyweight) – Finn

–      Jake Lilley (QLD/QAS) – ASS

–      Oliver Tweddell (VIC/VIS) – ASS

Women's Two Person Dinghy – 470W

–      Sasha Ryan (QLD/QAS) & Amelia Catt (TAS/TIS) – ASS

Women's Windsurfer – RS:X

–      Joanna Sterling (QLD/QAS) – ASS

Paralympic Classes

One-Person Keelboat – 2.4mR

–      Matt Bugg (TAS/TIS) – AST

–      Neil Patterson (TAS/TIS) – ASS

Three-Person keelboat – Sonar

–      Colin Harrison (WA/WAIS) & Jonathan Harris (NSW) & Russell Boaden (WA/WAIS)

– Cora Zillich/AST

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