Two gold medals for Australia at ISAF Sailing World Cup Final

Australian Sailing Team’s Laser and Men’s 470 World #1 crews Tom Burton (NSW) and Mat Belcher (QLD) with Will Ryan (QLD) have become the first ISAF Sailing World Cup Champions by winning Gold at the inaugural ISAF Sailing World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates last night (Sunday, 30 November). 

Burton kicked-off a successful medal race day for Australia with World Champions and World #1 in the Men’s 470 class Mat Belcher (QLD) and Will Ryan (QLD) following suit. While Burton won his medal race to finish off a strong week in the lead, a fifth place in the medal race was enough for Belcher and Ryan to seal the deal.

Australian Sailing Squad’s Matt Wearn (WA) finished the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final in overall fifth as did Queenslander Jake Lilley in the Finn class.

A testing breeze in the region of 8-12 knots greeted the Laser and Finn racers for the morning session of Medal Races and dropped later in the day.

Laser (One Person Dinghy

Australian Sailing Team’s Tom Burton (NSW) added ISAF Sailing World Cup Final gold to his 2014 medal haul that includes top honours at World Cups in Mallorca and Hyeres as well as gold medal at the 2014 Rio Test Event and the silver medal at the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships in Santander, Spain in September.

Burton has been a class apart in the Laser throughout 2014 and delivered a knockout blow on the final day in Abu Dhabi.  He grabbed the Medal Race lead from the start and never looked back, storming to take the gun and with it, the title of ISAF Sailing World Cup Final Champion.

“It was good racing conditions with flat water and a nice breeze,” commented Burton after racing, “No one got stuck and left behind but there were a lot of yellow flags flying around a bit across the three laps. I got a bit lucky, like you need to in these races and came away with the win.”

Burton had a nine-point advantage over compatriot Matt Wearn coming into the Medal Race, which gave him some breathing space, “The point’s buffer made it a little bit easier.  It’s always tricky in these races so a point’s buffer takes a little bit of pressure off.  But you have to go out there and plan to race to win.  That’s what I did and got a good shift up the first beat and lead all the way round.

“I came here with a plan to win. It was my sister’s wedding yesterday so it’s nice to win for her. I thought I sailed well here and it’s nice to finish the year with a win.”

An Aussie one-two was on the cards heading into the day with the youngster Wearn occupying second overall.  However his more experienced rivals Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) and Jean Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) drew upon their years of experience.

19-year old Wearn finished the medal race in eighth, which saw him drop to fifth overall.  The experienced gained from the regatta will be invaluable looking ahead.

“It was great to have two Aussies up there going into the final day.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to continue the run I have had at this event in today’s medal race.  But I’m happy to finish fifth overall in this competitive field and tight racing and am happy for Tom to take home the win.”

“I had a bad regatta at the worlds so it was good to get the confidence back up and get back into the groove of the Laser class and I’m looking forward to the next events.”  

Men’s 470 (Two Person Dinghy

Australian Sailing Team’s Mat Belcher and Will Ryan were the red hot favourites going into Abu Dhabi and coming off the back of the recent 2014 World Championship glory in Santander, Spain in September.  And once again they left no doubt that they are the World #1 in the Men’s 470 class. 

The World Champions went into the final 470 Men ten-boat medal race line up on Sunday with six points over Panagotis Mantis/Pavlos Kagialis from Greece, who finished the event with a silver medal ahead of the USA in bronze.  

For the Australians, a fifth place in the medal race was enough to add yet another accolade to their long string of success and rounding off a great week and taking home the overall win and welcome prize money.  

Consistency has been the name of the game for the pair and a fourth place in race two was the worst result of their regatta. 

“It’s the first time this event has been hosted and to come away with a win, I couldn’t ask for more”, Will Ryan commented after racing. “The race today was really tricky.  It was tough racing with big shifts.  It was tough to keep control of the fleet, but I’m really happy with how the week has been and we’ve enjoyed our time here.”

About the new ‘Super Final’ event and format he added:  “It’s been really tough competition.  I think that’s what was the aim of this ‘Super Final’.  We had six of the top seven from the Worlds and that is exactly what we came for – really good racing and everybody really enjoyed it.

“A few of the races came down to the final few metres and there was no chance to get any points separation.  There were very few classes where it was decided before today and the intensity of the racing showed that.”

Abu Dhabi has spoilt the competitors throughout the four racing days and the gold medallist was quick to praise the Emirati capital and the event as a whole:

“It’s a really unique event.  This event is a concept that all of us professional sailors have been hoping for in the Olympic scene and it does give that chance for us to be professional.  It’s exciting for the future and hopefully we can get more events with more support from places like this. Abu Dhabi has been a fantastic host.”

Finn (Men’s One Person Dinghy Heavy

Finn sailor Jake Lilley (QLD) had a strong regatta and went into Sunday’s medal race ranked fourth.  The light conditions on the final day posed some challenges for Lilley and saw him finishing tenth in the medal race.  This put him into fifth place overall – a result the 21-year old was quite happy about:

I’m happy finishing fifth in such a competitive fleet and the new World Cup racing format.  More importantly, I was focused on specific performance objectives at this regatta on areas that will improve my overall consistency and race results. 

“I struggled in the harbor races including the Medal Race so this is one area that we will put on the list of things to work on to be better prepared for next year’s World Cup Final.

“But all in all the ISAF World Cup Final was a huge success.  Abu Dhabi is a fantastic place to sail and the local organizers did a top job especially considering they only had three months notice to be ready.  I’m looking forward to attending many more World Cup Finals in Abu Dhabi in the future. 

“I’m on a flight out tonight and will have a short sleep before racing in the Sail Sydney regatta next week!  And then another couple days off before starting Sail Melbourne (8-14 December).  It will be great to take my good result forward into the Australian World Cup in Melbourne.”

Lilley is currently Australia’s top ranked Finn sailor and qualified Australia for its place in the Finn class at Rio 2016 by finishing 13th at the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Santander, Spain.

In other Australian results, Australian skiff crews with David Gilmour (WA) and Rhys Mara (NSW) in the men’s and Tess Lloyd (VIC) and Caitlin Elks (WA) in the women’s fleet had just missed out of Sunday’s medal races after finishing 11th and 13th respectively.  Finn sailor Oliver Tweddell (VIC) finished the regatta in 15th.

The inaugural ISAF Sailing World Cup Final saw over 270 Sailors from 38 countries compete in the ten Olympic boat classes limited to fleets of 20 boats plus an open event in kite-boarding.  The medallists of the Medal Races were awarded ISAF Sailing World Cup Final glory as well as a share of the USD$200,000 prize money.

The Australian Sailing Team (AST) and Squad (ASS) were represented with seven crews in five of the Olympic events.  Entries to the event were invitational and based on ISAF World Championship results (see Editor’s notes for qualification rules). 

The majority of the Australian crews will now head to the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Melbourne (8-14 December) to start the next ISAF World Cup round on home waters.

ISAF Sailing World Cup Abu Dhabi – AST & ASS final results:

470M (Men’s Two Person Dinghy) – 7 races:

Mat Belcher (QLD) / Will Ryan (QLD) – AST: 2, (4), 3, 1, 2, 2, 5 – 1st

Laser (Men's One Person Dinghy) – 7 races

Tom Burton (NSW) – AST: 5, 1, (21 UFD), 1, 1, 3, 1 – 1st

Matthew Wearn (WA) – ASS: 3, 8, 9, 6, 2, 1, 8 – 5th  

49er (Men's Skiff – 49er)

David Gilmour (WA) & Rhys Mara (NSW) – AST: 5, 6, 11, 4, 12, 5, 14, (16), 13 – 11th  

49erFX (Women's Skiff)

Tess Lloyd (VIC) & Caitlin Elks (WA) – ASS: 6, 7, 8, 12, 5, 6, (18 DNF), 18 DSQ – 13th  

Finn (Men’s One Person Dinghy Heavy) – 7 races

Jake Lilley (QLD) – ASS: 2, 5, 13, 11, 3, 8, 10 – 5th  

Oliver Tweddell (VIC) – ASS: 16, 10, 17, 3, 10, 10 – 15th

Results are available here –

 Cora Zillich/AST

Australian Sailing Team’s Medal Race Highlights video here:


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