With just over a year to go until the Rio 2016 Games, the Australian Sailing Team today announced its team for the Olympic Test Event to be held on Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August.
The Aquece Rio International Regatta (15-22 August 2015) is the second official Test Event for the sport of sailing, and will see ten Australian sailors, including four London 2012 Olympic medallists, compete against their international rivals in six of the ten Olympic classes in what is a key dress rehearsal at the 2016 sailing venue.
The team announcement follows a series of selection regattas and will see the following sailors represent Australia at the event:
– 470M: Mat Belcher (QLD) and Will Ryan (QLD)
– 49er: Nathan Outteridge (NSW) and Iain Jensen (NSW)
– Laser: Tom Burton (NSW)
– Nacra17: Jason Waterhouse (NSW) and Lisa Darmanin (NSW)
– Finn: Jake Lilley (QLD)
– 49erFX: Olivia Price (NSW) and Jaime Ryan (QLD)
Yachting Australia’s Performance Director Peter Conde says that the Test Event will be an important step in the team’s preparation towards the Olympic Games in August 2016:
“The Rio 2016 Games are just over a year away and the Test Event will be an important milestone on our team’s preparation for 2016. We are in a good position at the moment and currently have a strong mix of Olympic medallists and new comers who will contest the Test Event. While this is an important event, we have another year to go and have a team of strong sailors who will continue pushing to the top and everyone will have to keep working hard to secure that final spot for 2016.”
“We’ll have a couple of extra crews with us training in the lead up to the regatta, which will provide everyone with a valuable opportunity to understand the Olympic waters and to continue to build our understanding of what is a challenging venue.”
The Olympic sailing program comprises ten boat classes and last year the Australian
Sailing Team already secured national qualification for all but three of the nine Olympic classes Australia is expecting to qualify.
At the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships in Santander, Spain last September, Australia secured a spot in the Men’s 470, the Men’s 49er and Women’s 49erFX skiffs, the mixed-gender Nacra 17 multi-hull as well as the one-person Laser and Finn dinghy classes. In 2015 the aim will be to qualify the last three spots of Women’s 470, Laser Radial and RS:X Women.
At the Rio Test Event in August, Australia will be represented in all of the six of these boat classes that are already qualified.
Men’s Two Person Dingy – 470M
London 2012 Gold Medallist and five-time World Champion Mathew Belcher together with dual World Champion crew Will Ryan are the current World #1 and have been on the podium at every event they have competed at since they started sailing together at the end of 2012.
They qualified the boat class by winning the World Championships in September 2014 and have had two wins on Rio waters already after winning last year’s test event as well as the Copa Brasil de Vela in December.
The second gold medal for Mat and first for Will is the only aim for this team aiming for a peak performance in 2016:
“For all of us, everything, every day we train, every minute and hour, weeks, months, years, it’s all about the Games. The regattas we do give us the opportunity to test things where we need to test, to benchmark ourselves, so that throughout the cycle we know where we are at and what we need to work on. And hopefully it will all come together when we need it – at the Olympics,” says Mat Belcher.
The Rio test event comes after the recent third place at the 470 Open European Championships and following three second places at the previous three World Cups. The 2015 test event will mark an important step in the pair’s preparation as Will Ryan explains:
“We’re very competitive and had a couple of challenging regattas over the last few months, but it’s all been about making improvements for us as a team, which has been the ultimate goal for the last few events. This has put us in a good spot preparing for the Rio Test Event in August, which is what we are focused on. It’s still a long road to Rio 2016 and we are happy with where we are at in our campaign.”
Men's One Person Dinghy – Laser
Laser World #1 Tom Burton (NSW) will represent Australia at the Rio Test event after recently finishing the Laser World Championship with a Bronze medal.
Australia’s second ranked Laser sailor and World #2 Matthew Wearn (WA), who finished fifth at the World Champs, will also head to Rio to train with Tom, but he will not be able to compete at the Test Event where only one competitor from each nation is permitted to race. The tight ranking of these two athletes will make for an interesting Australian battle with both sailors vying for the Australian spot at next year’s Rio Olympic Games.
“I was happy to come away with a fifth place at the Worlds. As far as Rio goes there is still a lot of work to do to close the gap to Tom, but I am definitely doing all I can to get that spot,” Matt Wearn said.
Both sailors are backed by a strong Australian Laser Squad, coached by Olympic bronze medallist Michael Blackburn and the competitive training environment contributes to its success as Tom Burton believes: “It does help to have someone (Matt Wearn) on the same team chasing you so hard and pushing you so closely. And also to have the other guys there gives us the opportunity to train together and simulate a bit of a fleet environment to push each other.”
The mixed multihull will premier on the Olympic program in 2016 and made its debut at the 2013 ISAF Sailing World Cup in Miami. It has seen a steep learning curve for the entire fleet since then, with cousins Jason Waterhouse (NSW) and Lisa Darmanin (NSW) topping the Australian rankings over the past few events and representing Australia at the Rio Test Event as a consequence.
The pair, who just won the silver medal at the Nacra 17 World Championships at the beginning of July, qualified the boat class for Rio by winning bronze 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships in Santander and were the first Nacra 17 pair to qualify for the 2015 Abu Dhabi ISAF Sailing World Cup Final when they took the Melbourne World Cup title in December. At the recent ISAF Sailing World Cup in Weymouth and Portland in June, Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin set a mark by winning the gold medal, which put them into the #1 spot on the ISAF World Rankings.
Olympians Darren Bundock (NSW) and Nina Curtis (NSW), who have three Olympic silver medals amongst them are not far behind, winning bronze in Weymouth, but finished 16th at the World Championship in Aarhus. They will join Waterhouse and Darmanin as training partners in Rio.
“We are very happy on how we are progressing on the road to Rio and have ticked some major goals for the year but we still have a bit of work to do to get that gold. We have a training camp in Rio with Bundy (Darren Bundock) and Nina in a few weeks to lead into the pre-Olympics, so we are looking forward to testing the Olympic waters,” Lisa Darmanin said.
And as helm Jason Waterhouse adds: “We were really happy with our second place at the Worlds. And the improvements we’ve made since Santander last year have been fantastic. We’re moving up the ranks in our progress and our path to Rio and in a year’s time we plan to be in the gold medal position. Billy (Benson – FRA, World Champion) has been sailing really well and we’re improving as we go and will go for gold next time around.”
Men’s Skiff – 49er
London gold medallists Nathan Outteridge (NSW) and Iain Jensen (NSW) are managing their Olympic preparation with another America’s Cup campaign with their Artemis team but have made their intentions clear on defending their Olympic Gold medal in Rio.
After a silver medal at the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Hyères, France, followed by a couple of results off the podium, including a fourth place at the 49er/FX Open European Championships most recently, the pair is looking forward to build on their performance at the Test Event.
“The European Champs were the last event for us in Europe this year. After a second at the World Cup in Hyeres and sixth in Weymouth we were looking to try and get back up on to the podium, which unfortunately did not happen after a bad last day and dropping from first into fourth. But reflecting on the event as a whole, I think it was really good for us to sail well there, all but the last day, which gives us a lot of confidence for Rio in August,” Nathan Outteridge said.
Australian Sailing Team’s David Gilmour (WA) and Rhys Mara (VIC) will join the pair in the lead up to the Test Event as training partners.
Men's One Person Dinghy (Heavyweight) – Finn
Jake Lilley (QLD) is the up-and-coming Finn Sailor on the Australian Sailing Squad and secured the Test Event spot after convincing performances, including qualifying the boat at last year’s World Championships, a bronze medal at the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Miami in January, eighth at the Finn European Championships, as well as sixth place at the recent ISAF Sailing World Cup in Weymouth and Portland in June.
21-year old Lilley joined the class in 2013 and is one of its fastest improvers.
There is no doubt that performing well at Rio is Jake Lilley’s aim:
“It’s fantastic to have been selected on to the team to compete at the Test Event. I haven’t been to Rio before. The Olympics are less than a year away and it will be great to go there and learn as much as we can. And sailing with the best in the world is going to be beneficial come next year.”
“We still have a long season ahead with our World Champs in November and all events are crucial on the road to Rio. It’s all about being as best prepared and cementing myself at the top of the leader board this year and to bring home the medal in 2016 – that’s our real objective.”
Women’s Skiff – 49erFX
In the 49erFX, the second new boat class on the 2016 Olympic sailing program, Australian Sailing Squad’s Olympic medallist Olivia Price (NSW) will team up for the Rio test event with Jaime Ryan (QLD) after a knee injury sidelined her regular crew Eliza Solly (VIC).
Other Australian 49erFX crew of Tess Lloyd (VIC) and Caitlin Elks (WA) are also out of action due to a foot injury (Lloyd). With Jaime Ryan’s Women’s 470 skipper Carrie Smith recovering from surgery, Price and Ryan have teamed up to sail this event together in order to gain valuable experience on the Rio waters.
The Rio Test Event regatta runs from 15 – 22 August and will be based at Marina da Gloria on Rio’s inner harbour. It is based on the same format and schedule for racing that will be used one year on at the Rio Olympic Games with ISAF regulations permitting countries only one entrant per nation.
The selection period for the 2016 Olympic Games continues until May 2016.
Australia will be represented at the Rio Sailing Test Event in six events:
– Men’s 470 (Men’s double-handed dinghy) – Mat Belcher (QLD) & Will Ryan (QLD)
Coach: Victor Kovalenko
– Nacra 17 (Mixed multihull) – Jason Waterhouse (NSW) & Lisa Darmanin (NSW)
Coach: Andrew Landenberger
– Laser (Men’s single-handed dinghy) – Tom Burton (NSW)
Coach: Michael Blackburn / Jared West
– 49er (Men’s skiff) – Nathan Outteridge (NSW) & Iain Jensen (NSW)
Coach: Emmett Lazich
– 49erFX (Women’s skiff) – Olivia Price (NSW) & Jaime Ryan (QLD)
Coach: Shane Smith
– Finn (Men’s heavy-weight dinghy) – Jake Lilley (QLD)
Coach: John Bertrand