Comeback kings: Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan have again demonstrated their amazing ability to dig deep and tough out any situation, clinching the 3017 470 World Championship in Greece.
After five days of racing from 7-15 July in Thessaloniki, it came down to a nail--biting conclusion in the medal race. Series leaders Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergstrom were guaranteed either gold or silver in a match race to the finish with the Aussies.
The Swedish pair, believing they were over at the start, re-crossed the line 150 metres behind the fleet and fought hard to claw their way back to finish 6th. But Belcher and Byan sailed a flawless race, taking the gun--and the gold.
Dual Olympic medallist Belcher had previously won three World Championships with Malcom Page, and now four with Will Ryan, his Rio Olympic crew. (Belcher and Ryan won Olympic silver in Rio last year, while Belcher claimed Olympic gold in London in 2012.)
The 2013 ISAF World Sailor of the Year, Belcher began his career at the Southport Yacht Club in Queensland at the age of seven, and now mentors for the club's High-Performance Program. The SYC's General Manager Brett James said, "We are ecstatic for Mathew on this phenomenal achievement."
Reflecting on this year's worlds in Greece, Belcher described the win as "thrilling, exciting and surprising," and was relieved not to have had the pressure of being leader all week. "To win when it counted was nice. When everything goes right, it's a great feeling. The fact that we're racing at the level we are and still enjoy sailing is the main reason we perform well together."
Belcher continued, "It was great to return to Thessaloniki ten years after the 470 Europeans. It was even better to take home the gold this time!
The conditions were challenging, however. "It was extremely hot with light winds. The temperature was in the high 30s and into the 40s every day. The sun and the glare were strong, and there was no relief, but it was the same for everybody competing.
"The on-water conditions favoured more extreme, inner racing; the boats are a lot closer in light winds. Consistency normally pays, but for these types of conditions, higher risk strategies meant that boats extended to the sides.
Belcher recognised his long-time coach Victor Kovalenko--the man they call The Medal Maker--for his ongoing contribution to their world-championship success.
Kovalenko has worked consistently with Belcher and Ryan, encouraging them to control the strategy and tactics of their program and performance, and is a constant support.
"Viktor gives us the confidence and the framework to make the right decisions," said Belcher.
He added, "It's also about management and team psychology. And preparation ahead of travelling."
It's another big step toward their bid to finish on top of the podium in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But for now, Belcher has commitments with the SYC High-Performance Program.
Then next month, he and Ryan will travel to Japan for the National Championship, and possibly the World Sailing Cup in Gamagori, south Japan, at the end of October.
"I'm looking forward to returning home and continuing our campaign training at the new Gold Coast 470 sub-site at the SYC Sailing Academy," said Belcher, who is enjoying soaking up the mild winter sunshine at home in Palm Beach with his wife and children.