Australian sailors continue their build up to London 2012 Olympics

Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page in Spain - 470 World Championship 2012
© Victor Kovalenko
World Championships for the 470, Finn and Laser Radial are being held across Europe next week. Australian sailors will compete in the three World Championships as crews continue their build up to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

In what has already been a busy month for Olympic class sailing with the Laser World Championship finishing in Germany on Thursday and the 49er worlds wrapping up in Croatia later today the focus will shift to the 470, Finn and Laser Radial classes.

In Barcelona, Spain, the 2012 470 World Championship begin on Sunday in both men’s and women’s classes with Australians Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page aiming to make it three straight world titles victories.

Page is the most successful 470 sailor in history, having won six titles and gold at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, and since teaming up with Belcher in 2009 the pair has been at the top of the class, winning the 2010 World Championship in the Netherlands and 2011 title in Perth.

'I don’t feel any extra pressure going in as defending World Champion, quite the contrary actually,' said Page. 'The first World Championship that I won was the hardest, I still remember how stressful the last day was, being postponed on shore then the breeze came in and disappeared again, it was a pretty crazy day.

'Now that I’m going for my seventh world title I treat it as just another regatta, sure there are some nerves there but I’m sure it’s a lot worse for the other competitors,' he said. 'We’re feeling confident heading into the event due to the work we did at home at the start of the year.

'All of that work is paying off and we’re pulling everything together now as we close in on the Games,' he said. 'I’m sure Victor would like us to have a few extra months before the Games but we’re in a good position, we’re the reigning World Champions, world number ones and I’m sure a lot of the others are trying to guess what’s in our toolbox.'

Joining Belcher and Page in the 470 men’s fleet will be five other Australian crews including Australian Sailing Squad members Sam Kivell and Will Ryan, and Matthew and Robert Crawford.

Also racing in Barcelona will be Scott Cotton and Rob Size, Matt and Ben Taylor, and Alexander and Patrick Conway.

The 470 women will be racing at the same time in Barcelona with Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell representing Australia.

The pair, both Olympic gold medalists, teamed up together last October and are continuing their campaign to compete at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Rechichi and Stowell finished ninth at the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships in December and recently finished fourth at the ISAF Sailing World Cup round in Spain.

On the same day the 2012 Finn Gold Cup kicks off in Falmouth, England, with four Australians competing.

Brendan Casey will be looking for another strong performance after posting a performance that will see him nominated for the London 2012 Olympic Games with a win at the ISAF Sailing World Cup round in France at the end of April. He’ll be joined on the start line by Australian Sailing Squad member Oliver Tweddell and fellow Australians Rob McMillan and Dirk Seret.

'Oli, Rob and myself have been training here along with coach John Bertrand (of Laser and Finn fame – rather than his namesake Australian Americas Cup legend) for the last week,' said Casey. 'One of the biggest factors from the World Cup rounds in Spain and France has been getting used to sailing in the cold conditions here in England.'

'Right now I have sailed in a variety of wind directions, strengths and sea conditions and feel comfortable in the sailing environment,' he said.

Having scored his breakthrough win in France and booking his ticket for London, Casey said that the focus for the Finn Gold Cup doesn’t change.

'The game plan for this week hasn’t changed since posting a nomination performance for the Olympics,' said Casey. 'I’m here to perform at the highest level and race directly against the world’s best. I’m constantly improving and it feels great to be hitting some of my milestones both on and off the water.'

For Tweddell the event provides a great opportunity to line up against the leading Finn sailors, many of whom will be competing at the Games this August.

'As there are usually a lot of people taking a long break after the Games, this will be one of the last chances to race against the best Finn sailors in the world for a while,' said Tweddell. 'My aim for the regatta is to soak up as much knowledge as possible, as well as observing different techniques for making the boat go fast. I would also love to finish in the top 20, with such a high standard of sailors here that would be awesome!'

The final Olympic class World Championship to be held this month is for the Laser Radial class with racing to begin in Boltenhagen, Germany, on May 15.

Australian Sailing Team member Krystal Weir will be racing in Germany, alongside fellow Australians Alexandra South and Caitlin Elks.

Weir has had a promising start to 2012, with top 10 finishes at the last two ISAF Sailing World Cup rounds.

'Our preparations have been going really well, we arrived in Germany early to get use to the conditions of Boltenhagen and also to watch the end of the Laser World Championship,' said Weir. 'We’ve been working on the little things around the race course, mainly the starts as this is the most important part of the race.

'I have the speed, smarts and boat handling to do well at these worlds,' said Weir. 'I’ll be disappointed with anything less than a podium finish.'

The Victorian was just off the podium in Spain, finishing fifth, before a seventh a few weeks later in France.

Weir is aiming to compete at her second Olympic Games, having represented Australia in the three-person Yngling class in 2008.

Australian Sailing Team website