Gold and Bronze for Australia at Sailing World Cup Final

Australian Sailing Team’s World Champions Mat Belcher (QLD) and Will Ryan (QLD) have won the Men’s 470 at the 2015 ISAF Sailing World Cup Final, which wrapped up on Sunday, 1 November in Abu Dhabi.

Tom Burton (NSW) added another gold medal in the Laser and teammate Matt Wearn (WA) completed the Aussie medal haul by adding a bronze.

Both Mat Belcher/ Will Ryan and Tom Burton successfully defended their 2014 title.

Australian Sailing Squad’s Laser Radial sailor Ashley Stoddart (QLD) finished the event in overall seventh, while the second Australian men’s 470 crew of Alexander and Patrick Conway (NSW) finished tenth.

Men’s 470 – Two-Person Dinghy

There were no bigger gold medal favourites at the start of the regatta than Men's 470 defending champions Mat Belcher and Will Ryan, and the multiple world champions have certainly lived up to their billing.

Mat Belcher and Will Ryan secured the yellow leader’s jersey on the first day of the regatta and never let it go. After consistent results over the three days of fleet racing including two race wins, they went into the final medal race leading by seven points from Sweden’s Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergström. A win in the medal race sealed the deal and another successful regatta for the pair.

Belcher appreciated the challenge of the 'tricky' Abu Dhabi conditions and was happy to win the World Cup crown saying, “Conditions have been pretty difficult this whole week, but it's been great to race in the morning; It can be pretty dynamic racing this early and with the direction of the breeze. The racing has been close, and it was an exciting medal race with a lot to fight for. We made a few mistakes on the first leg and rounded in last but there were plenty of opportunities to come back and we managed to get back in touch with our competitors by the bottom mark and then work our way through the fleet to take the win on the finish line.

“I’m really happy for us to end the season off on a high and even though we had a small fleet the competition was tough. This small fleet size also meant close racing and little opportunity for anyone to extend on points coming into the medal race.”

“We feel quite strongly about the ISAF Sailing World Cup and wanted to come here to support the event. Quite a few of our competitors wanted some rest after competing in our Worlds Championships a few weeks back but we felt it important to come here and show our support not only for the class but also ISAF and the World Cup concept.”

Speaking about the event as a whole crew Will Ryan added: “It has been a tough event with difficult timing straight after the Worlds. But a lot of effort is put into making this a good event, and it is a pretty special place to visit and sail, for sure something we will remember in years to come.”

“Next up for us, we are all looking forward to a bit of a break and getting back home after a few busy months. We have had the chance to identify plenty of things to work on over this coming ten months though and we will be full noise from now on to the Games I'm sure.”

Mat Belcher and Will Ryan, coached by Australian Sailing Team’s ‘medal maker’ head coach Victor Kovalenko, have finished on the medal podium at every regatta they have competed at since teaming up after the London 2012 Games. Most recently they won the 2015 Rio Olympic Sailing Test Event at the end of August as well as their third consecutive World Champion title at the 470 World Championships in Haifa, Israel a couple of weeks ago. It was Olympic gold medallist Mat Belcher’s sixth World title in a row (see here: )

They will be competing next at the 2015 Copa Brazil de Vela in Rio in December in order to spend additional training time at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games venue.

Laser – One Person Dingy

Defending Laser Sailing World Cup champion Tom Burton showed his liking for off-shore breeze conditions in Abu Dhabi over the week and had a strong regatta.

After kick starting the event with a second place and a race win, he took hold of the leader’s jersey and kept it throughout.

In the 20-boat Laser class, Burton went into the final top-ten medal race with a three-point lead over five-times Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt (BRA). A third place there secured him the overall win and gold medal.

“It was another great event here in Abu Dhabi. Very different conditions to last year and quite different to what was expected but good to get all the racing in with minimal waiting around,” Tom Burton said.

“It's great to get some tough racing in the lead up to next year and having all the top laser guys here was great. To come away with the win after not racing for a while was good and I'm happy with the way I was sailing although know I'm not at 100% yet.”

And with reference to the Rugby World Cup and winning the Sailing World Cup instead he added with a smile: “I watched a bit of the game before falling asleep as I'm still on Australian time so it’s hard to stay awake past eight pm. But we put up a good fight and it was good to get it done for Australia today.”

This concludes a successful 2015 World Cup series for Tom Burton, who won this event last year as well as the 2015 ISAF Sailing World Cups in Melbourne and Hyères. Most recently he finished third at 2015 Rio Olympic Sailing Test Event at the end of August.

Teammate Matt Wearn (WA) had a slow start to the regatta, but moved up the ranks over the six races to go into the final medal race ranked fourth and only one point off the bronze medal. With a sixth place in the medal race and a reshuffle at the top, he managed to secure the bronze.

“The regatta itself was extremely tough. After training in light winds in the lead up it was a rather windy event. I struggled initially and never really felt 100%. To come out with a bronze after such close racing means a lot and is a great step forward for me,” Matt Wearn said.

The result ranks quite highly for me. It proves that I am one to look out for in every condition and the regatta helped improve aspects of racing that you don't often get to use in the bigger fleets.”

Throughout the regatta I had some great battles with TB (Tom Burton) but some bigger results throughout the start of the regatta put me behind the eight ball going on to the final day. The results from both of us show that what we are working on as a team with Blackers is working great and everything is looking good for the coming year in the lead up to the Games”

This also wraps up a strong World Cup season for the youngest Australian Sailing Team member, who was second at the Sailing World Cup in Melbourne, third in Miami and second at Weymouth/Portland. The 20-year old has just moved into the World #1 position on the ISAF World Sailing rankings, with Tom Burton World #2.

While the rankings do not carry much significance, they do underline the strength of Australian Sailing’s Laser team coached by Olympic bronze medallist Michael Blackburn.

Australian Sailing Squad’s Laser sailor Ryan Palk (QLD) finished the regatta in overall 19th.

Laser Radial – Women’s One Person Dingy

In the Laser Radial Australian Sailing Squad’s Ashley Stoddart (QLD) had some strong races throughout the event, which saw her move in between fourth and fifth place in the overall rankings.

She went into the final medal race ranked fifth, but an unfortunate late arrival at the morning’s measurement inspection resulted in a penalty for three of the medal race sailors, including Stoddart. The penalty resulted in the sixth place in the medal race turn into a ninth and thus seventh overall, as Stoddart explains:

“The sixth place in today's tight medal race, would have placed me fifth overall, however a Discretionary Penalty (DPI) of six points was given to myself and two other Radials for being late to the measurement inspection due to difficulties in getting a taxi in peak time. I'm taking full responsibility for this, and although it has a disappointing impact on the scorecard to instead finish seventh, I can't let it taint a good week of sailing and ultimately my preparation for the worlds!”

For Ashley Stoddart the event was a practice regatta in the lead up to the Laser Radial World Championships in Al Mussanah, Oman (20-26 November 2015).

“I'm still happy with the event as a whole, obviously it wasn't perfect sailing but it's a result to build from in the lead up to worlds now,” she added.

Australia has not yet qualified the Laser Radial for the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Regatta and the World Championships will be the next opportunity to do so.

The four-day ISAF Sailing World Cup Final took place from 29 October to 1 November and allowed the teams an opportunity to race within a fleet limited to just 20 boats. After three days of fleet racing, the top ten athletes from each of the classes moved forward into Sunday's (1 November 2015) medal races, which decided World Cup gold, silver and bronze.

 A total of 144 competitors from 37 countries were in action at Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club and competed for World Cup titles in eight of the ten Olympic classes, as well as kitesurfing. The top three finishers in each class earned a share of a USD$220k prize fund.

 The ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta marked the climax of a World Cup journey which began in Melbourne, Australia last December before continuing with other qualifying events in Miami, USA, Hyères, France, Weymouth and Portland, Great ritain and finally Qingdao, China last month.

 The 2016 series will start again with the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Melbourne form 7 to 13 December 2015.

 More event details can be found at
– Cora Zillich

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