World Champion crew of Mat Belcher and Will Ryan as well as World Championship Silver medallist Tom Burton, the current ISAF World Rankings #1 crews in the Men’s 470 and Laser classes, are aiming for gold at the inaugural ISAF Sailing World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates this week from 27-30 November 2014.
283 sailors form 39 nations will contest this new event on the World Sailing calendar in the Emirati capital for the right to become an ISAF Sailing World Cup Champion. All ten Olympic events will be contested in Abu Dhabi along with an open kiteboarding event. The Australian Sailing Team and Squad will be represented with seven crews in five of the Olympic events.
The ISAF Sailing World Cup Abu Dhabi will allow the teams an opportunity to race within a fleet limited to just 20 boats. Sailors will contest an opening series and a Medal Race with racing to kick-off on Thursday 27 November. Prize money will be awarded to the top three overall finishers in each of the Olympic events from a total prize purse of US$200,000. Entries to the event are invitational and based on ISAF World Championship results.
With a maximum of just 20 boats present across the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final events, the list of achievements across the board is outstanding and will make for tight battles.
470M (Men’s Two Person Dinghy)
Australian Sailing Team’s Mat Belcher and Will Ryan are red hot favourites going into Abu Dhabi and coming off the back of the recent 2014 World Championship glory in Santander, Spain in September. Belcher has won it all in the Men’s 470. He has London 2012 Olympic gold to his name and is a five time 470 World Champion, winning it twice with Ryan, but given the high calibre of the fleet, he is realistic about the challenge ahead
“To have this calibre of fleet is no surprise,” commented Belcher on the elite level athletes in all fleets. “The sailors are after top level competition and well run events. The profile of ISAF events are high and the quality of sailors reflect this.
“The numbers are slightly down [in the Men’s 470] however with the notice given I’m surprised we managed 16. We do however have six of the top seven teams from the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Santander. Abu Dhabi is a new venue for us and we only got here on the week-end so I hope we can adapt quickly.”
Abu Dhabi will be the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final venue from 2014 through to 2017 and Belcher is optimistic heading into the future,“We are looking forward to seeing how the event develops moving forward. With the ISAF Sailing World Cup now in its sixth year, we really hope this style of format is the new pathway to making sailing more attractive to the broader community.”
Laser (Men’s One Person Dinghy)
The Laser fleet features the highest performers with numerous World Championship medals and Olympic appearances within the pack. The shortened format of six fleet races, with one discard, and a single Medal Race will ensure close racing with sailors aiming to keep mistakes at a minimum.
Australia will have two athletes in the 20-boat fleet, including Australian Sailing Squad’s Matthew Wearn (WA) and Australian Sailing Team’s Laser World #1 Tom Burton. Burton has consistently proven himself at the highest levels, taking gold at the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca and Hyeres and at the Rio Test Event as well as a silver medal at the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships.
At the most recent 2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao Burton had a weak start, finishing down the pack in both races but then moved up the leader board day by day to claim a well-earned bronze. His performance in Qingdao was an eye opener and with six weeks in-between regattas he has had time to get back into the groove, “I wasn’t really happy with the way I sailed [in Qingdao],” commented Burton. “If you’re not on your game, it doesn’t matter who you are, you’ll get hurt. Going into Abu Dhabi, Melbourne and the Australian summer I’ve got a few things to work on that’s for sure.”
Sailors make many tough life decisions to compete at the highest level and Burton has certainly made one for the opportunity to compete against the best of the best in Abu Dhabi, “It should be good racing and hopefully I’ll go well. It’s the same time as my sister’s wedding so I’ve got to give a shout out to her and say thanks for letting me go to Abu Dhabi.”
49er/49erFX (Men’s/Women’s Skiff)
Olympic gold and 2014 ISAF World Sailing Championships bronze medallists Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen have opted out of the event due to their Artemis Racing America’s Cup requirements and will next contest in the Olympic 49er class at the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Melbourne in December.
David Gilmour (WA) and Rhys Mara (NSW) will represent the Australian Sailing Team (AST) in the 49er in Abu Dhabi. The duo recently qualified for the AST after finishing seventh at the World Championships, a position that also secured them the invite to ISAF Sailing World Cup Final.
In the 49erFX Australian Sailing Squad’s (ASS) Tess Llloyd (VIC) and Caitlin Elks (WA) will carry the Australian Flag in a fleet of 19 boats.
Finn (Men’s One Person Dinghy Heavy)
Seven of the world’s top ten Finn racers will be competing in Abu Dhabi, including World #3 Jake Lilley (QLD), who is currently Australia’s top ranked Finn sailor ahead of Victorian Oliver Twedell, who will also race in Abu Dhabi.
Lilley qualified Australia for its place in the Finn class at Rio 2016 by finishing 13th at the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Santander, Spain. For the 21-year old the World Cup Final will be another exciting stepping stone on the road to Rio:
“I’m really excited to be racing in Abu Dhabi. Since this regatta was a late addition to my schedule, my focus will be less on achieving a specific result and more on certain performance objectives that will strengthen my program moving forward. I will also gain experience for next year’s World Cup final in Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi is an awesome venue. It is nothing like the European cities we visit every year on the World Cup circuit, which adds to the overall excitement. The light wind that is forecast should provide a good opportunity to test my light air speed and tactics.”
Australia also had received two invites for the mixed-multihull Nacra 17 class, but both World Championship bronze medallists Jason Waterhouse (NSW) and Lisa Darmanin (NSW) as well as Olympic silver medallists Darren Bundock (NSW) and Nina Curtis (NSW) decided to prepare on home waters ahead of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Melbourne 7-14 December 2014.
Results will be available here: http://www.sailing.org/worldcup/results/index.php
ISAF Sailing World Cup Abu Dhabi – AST & ASS entries:
470M (Men’s Two Person Dinghy) – 7 races
Mat Belcher (QLD) / Will Ryan (QLD) – AST
Laser (Men's One Person Dinghy) – 7 races
Tom Burton (NSW) – AST
Matthew Wearn (WA) – ASS
49er (Men's Skiff – 49er) – 10 races
David Gilmour (WA) & Rhys Mara (NSW) – AST
49erFX (Women's Skiff) – 10 races
Tess Lloyd (VIC) & Caitlin Elks (WA) – ASS
Finn (Men’s One Person Dinghy Heavy) – 7 races
Jake Lilley (QLD)
Oliver Tweddell (VIC)
– Cora Zillich