ISAF Sailing World Mallorca: Belcher Preps for the 470
Published on March 30th, 2014
The ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca starts Monday and runs through Saturday April 5, with some 1,130 sailors from 55 nations registered to race. Olympic medalists, World Champions, Rio aspirants and new contenders are among the entrants with high intensity racing the name-of-the-game across one Paralympic and ten Olympic events.
Mat Belcher, Olympic Gold Medalist (London 2012 in the 470), ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, many-time World Champion, and newly selected skipper of the Australian America’s Cup team, provides an update on his preparations for this Olympic event in Spain…
Wow, the last couple of months have been super busy. As most of you will probably know by now, I have taken on the role of skipper for Team Australia, the Australian America’s Cup Challenger. After so many years to finally have an Australian team competing for the America’s Cup is a huge opportunity for Australian sailing, thanks to Hamilton Island Yacht Club and the Oatley family. Being involved and leading this sailing team is a great honour and I look forward to the many challenges and opportunities it presents. Thank you to everyone who has supported me and Team Australia on this journey so far.
One of the biggest challenges for me personally will be balancing my commitments within Team Australia with our Olympic campaign. We are receiving a lot of support, both from the Australian Sailing Team as well as Team Australia, to combine the two programs. And while at times it will certainly create added pressures, we are confident that both the Olympic and the America’s Cup program will complement and benefit from each other.
Over the last few weeks I have been spending a lot of time on the America’s Cup program. We have launched our AC45 catamaran and have taken it for a few spins against the Oracle guys on Sydney Harbour, as well as helping our team find its feet in the Extreme 40s Sailing Series. We have a long way to go, but it has been great to start building a team and identifying what needs to be done.
But now it is back to 470s. We have arrived in Palma for the first World Cup event of the European sailing season. While the weather has been quite chilly we have been working hard to make sure we are on our best game for the regatta ahead. 95 mens teams are entered in the 470s and most, if not all, the top guys are here so it will be very tough racing. We have launched our new boat “Far and Away”, christened by Olympic Gold Medalist Olivia Powrie, and so far she seems fast and solid.
We are looking forward to the opportunity to stabilise our 470 program and to see if all the training with our Australian sailing partners has paid off. While racing here will be a good gauge of current progress, the main focus this year will be the ISAF world championships in Santander later this year. We have a busy program ahead of us, working hard to defend our World Champions title and to use this first opportunity to secure a spot for Australia at the Rio Olympics.
Coming to Palma brings back many memories for myself. This was the first ever 470 event that I competed in 14 years ago. I was at university during the time and Victor [Kovalenko, coach] said I needed to trust myself and ability and come over to Europe to follow my sailing career. It was an interesting conversation with my parents as to why I needed to defer but what a ride it has been. To have my family with me here, and to think how our life’s have developed over these years is incredible. With his support, we have achieved so much during this period. I cannot ever repay Victor for the opportunity he has given me. He is a great man.