“Total control” could have been the song playing in Will Ryan's headset this morning on his way to the boat park. That's what he and helm Mathew Belcher showed as they cruised to their second consecutive 470 world championship together.
Along the way, we believe Mat Belcher set a new record – we can't find anyone who has ever won five straight world championships in a major class before. Ben Ainslie won four of his six Finn titles in a row between 2002 and 2005 and Glenn Ashby won four of his eight A Class titles in a row between 2006 and 2010, but that's as close as anyone has gone.
Needing to finish only eighth or better, and then only if Croatia won, the Australian pair deserved their big margin after fighting back from a poor start on the first day and some appalling umpiring decisions early in the regatta. (See Related Content.)
They had to endure another long wait while the race committee continually moved the start boat, but when the gun went the Australians took charge. Sitting on the stern of the Spanish boat, which was racing for pride and applause in front of a huge crowd, Belcher and Ryan worked every shift until the second upwind.
Realising that there was a battle going on for the minor placings, they eased to one side and let Croatia, Greece and GBR fight for the crumbs. The Australians went around the top mark in fifth with Croatia safely two boats behind them, then used their usual downwind speed to cross the line in fourth behind Spain, Great Britain and USA. Croatia took the silver medal and Greece slipped into the bronze ahead of GBR.
As well as his record fifth world championship, Mat Belcher was celebrating his 32nd birthday today. “It's been an amazing week,” he said. “There's been a lot of pressure but we came away with the win. We worked hard and now we're looking forward to Rio and, fingers crossed, we'll get the win there too.”
Belcher paid credit to the support they had received from the Australian Sailing Team and, of course, to their coach Victor Kovalenko. This victory made 17 world championship titles and six gold medals in Victor's amazing coaching CV.
I asked Will Ryan whether, two years ago, he would have thought this possible. “It's a dream Victor tried to give me in 2008,” Ryan replied, when Kovalenko first dangled the prospect of taking over from double Olympic Champion Mal Page. “When Mat asked me to sail with him in 2012, I definitely wasn't going to say 'no'.”
The pair were all smiles as they mounted the top step of the podium, when Victor Kovalenko led an impromptu chorus of “happy birthday”. And then the champagne came out.
Kiwis Fall Short
Going into the medal race in the women's class, Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Agar of Austria had just a one point lead over Olympic champions Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie of New Zealand, but it was more than enough. With the wind oscillating all over the course, the Kiwis were buried at the start and couldn't find a lane through the pack.
The Austrians flew to the front and stayed there, easily accounting for Great Britain and Slovakia.
The Kiwi pair were sixth in the medal race which was good enough for the silver medal, five points clear of Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark (GBR).
– Roger McMillan in Santander
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