Olympic Test Event – Silver for Australia's Belcher and Page

Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page in race nine of the 470 fleet in Weymouth - Weymouth and Portland International Regatta 2011
Weymouth and Portland International Regatta update from Australia’s 470 Silver medal champs Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page:

Mat and I have just completed our final regatta of this years European season. We came away with another Silver medal on the Olympic waters. We came second the last three times we have competed at this venue to the same French team. They are certainly showing the level we need to get too.

This was the Olympics test event and followed the same format of the Olympics with 11 races over eight days. The race schedule saw us changing course areas most days. We had a few more races in the harbour than normal and the medal race 'nothe' course was used very often. This is where the spectator tickets have been sold for next year's main event.

We had a slow start to the regatta with us having our three worst finishing results in the first three races. We then found our rhythm and feeling and clawed back into medal contention by half way through the regatta.

The most exciting (for wrong reasons) moment came late in the regatta. The breeze had slowly built throughout the day, and we found ourselves sailing solid 25 knot breeze. On the final reach with about 30 meters to go in the 10th race, we were following the New Zealand team when they cavitated which caused them to suddenly rounding up into the wind and come to a complete stop. With us travelling around 15 knots of boat speed we had no time to avoid hitting them.

Instead of cutting them completely in half and possibly hurting the crew, Mat violently bore away which made the collision became more a glancing blow to the boats. We had no time to get ourselves out of the way, with my left forearm and hip taking most of the hit. I was sent flying backwards on trapeze. When I landed I took out the tiller and sheared this completely away from the rudder, inverted the mast and left Mathew with a scar on his neck where the trapeze elastic had a go in cutting his head off. We righted the boat from the capsize and soon found we had no rudder to steer us across the line. We ended up in yet another screaming capsize and drifted below the finish line. We were unable to get back across the line to complete the race.

As you can imagine, we had a long list of jobs that evening. I had a trip to hospital to see if there was anything broken in my forearm, but luckily it came up all clear, with only had bruising and swelling to deal with. Mathew was in the protest room seeking redress from the situation, which was successful. And we had lots of boat work to get her ready for the medal race.

Going into the medal race we were placed second and had a large gap to first and third boat. Straight out of the start we ended up with a penalty turn to complete, which really put us behind the eight ball and gave the Israeli team a good chance at the silver. But after a few short words we got back on track and slowly caught the distance and worked our way through the fleet to secure the Silver medal.

We have now packed all our equipment into containers for the to return to Australia. We are both very excited to be heading home for our (real, not UK style) summer. We are going to use the next short period to take a break and refresh our batteries before building up towards the Perth World Championship in December. This is a key regatta as it's the first chance to qualify our country to the London Olympics.

Thanks for the support. See you back in Oz.

Cheers
Mat and Malcolm

Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page (AUS), prize-giving - Weymouth and Portland International Regatta 2011

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