As if a world championship medal race isn’t taxing enough, in Haifa, Israel, defending men’s champions Mat Belcher and Will Ryan, of Australia, went into the final round 1 point ahead of Croatia’s Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic.
“Sometimes it just really goes your way,” says Belcher in an official 470 class statement. “The conditions are so difficult. We’re really proud to have been able to come back to the front and put together a really solid final series and to come away with a win.”
“We stayed calm until the start, and then the Australians attacked and we defended,” says Fantela in the same statement. “They were ahead, but we caught on the downwind, and in the second upwind we made a good tactical decision to tack left. But then we made a mistake when they tacked and we didn’t stay close to them, and that was when we lost our chance for the title. These are usually our toughest conditions, so I am really happy we managed to pull it off.”
Finishing fourth overall, but ahead of the Croatians, the Australian team secured its third world championship win in as many years.
Belcher is no stranger to gold, this win being his sixth world championship. An even larger goal—repeating the performance he and former crew Malcom Page put on in London—to stand atop the podium in Rio next summer. Belcher and Ryan also won gold at the Aquece Rio Test Event in August, a strong indicator of their medal potenial come summer2016.
“It just shows how great our system is,” said Belcher, “and the effort everyone is putting in. It’s also about keeping in the right mind state to be able to perform at this level.”
“This regatta is a key indicator on our way to Rio,” says Ryan. “We had a few challenges so it’s been great to go through those experiences together.”
On the women’s side, the situation was much different. The Austrian team of Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar also defended its 2014 title, besting Great Britain’s Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark by 12 points. Vadlau and Ogar went into the medal race so far ahead that they only had to finish ahead of one boat in the fleet to secure gold.
“We knew we were well prepared before the championship and could fight for the medal, but getting gold we knew we had to sail brilliantly,” says Ogar. “We put all our power to gain upwind and downwind and we just fought to the end, pumping like hell to gain. It’s hard to express what I feel inside. When you cross the line and win, it is just unbelievably nice. Second time for us is huge.”
Though the Australian men and Austrian women both secured their spot in the Olympics at last year’s worlds in Santander, Spain, at this event, men’s teams from Argentina, Finland, Germany, Israel, South Africa, and Turkey, and women’s teams from Australia, Germany and Poland secured berths for Rio.
“The pressure was immense on all the teams that were trying to qualify and you could feel that in all the racing,” says South Africa’s Roger Hudson. “The conditions here in Haifa are really shifty and really on and off pressure which made the racing extremely challenging. In the end it was an interesting game and there was a great contest.”
For the US Sailing Team Sperry, Stuart McNay and David Hughes finished 17th overall, while Aquece Rio gold medalists Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha finished 7th.