Pushing forward

Aussies chase podium steps on Day Three in Enoshima.

Photography by Beau Outteridge

20 August 2019


The Australian Sailing Team’s slow and steady hunt towards the podium was evident on day three of the Ready Steady Tokyo Olympic Test Event in Enoshima, Japan.

More breeze than expected brought them in a cache of third and fourth placings, and therefore within striking distance of pole position. In the case of the Men’s 470 stars Mat Belcher and Will Ryan it was enough to get them right up there. A win in the last race has catapulted one of sailing’s most dynamic duos into first place overall. 

Having won the 470 World Championship in Japan just last week, Belcher and Ryan had been exercising a pragmatic approach, thinking not to expect too much from the test event itself. Exhaustion setting in after a huge fight for first with their Spanish rivals, the pair was determined to relax.

That approach certainly takes the pressure off high performance athletes, and a game of something else in between seems to be one of the ways to arrive back fresh. 


Commenting immediately after racing today, Belcher said “Yes, it was all the extra sleep during the gap between regattas. I relaxed and improved my game, so am now playing off about a 12.”

The bullet (or first) has taken the pair by surprise. “It is hard to peak for every event when they’re in a row. As for top spot here, well it is wonderful to enjoy the environment and process, as we certainly know what to expect. It is great to be able to learn more about the conditions here ready for 2020. We are sailing well perhaps because we are not applying too much pressure”, said Belcher.

“Thankfully, we are used to this position. It is what it is. We can go about ticking things off for us like our team program. From here we will just go about our stuff – situation normal.”

Another method for gain is to jump classes altogether, and by this we don’t mean academic ones. Jaime Ryan, sister to Will, has benefitted from the switch from 470 to become a 49FXer alongside Tess Lloyd. 

“It has been a big challenge to take on, and also a really steep learning curve,” admits Ryan. “I do miss the class, but am definitely starting to get into the groove with the FX, and enjoying it immensely.” 

Currently sitting in seventh place overall, when asked about their somewhat scatter-graph like results Ryan replied “We take the positives out of it. The primary one is that we can definitely be at the front of the fleet.” A pair of thirds and a fourth at this level is certainly an indication of that.

“We can see our mistakes, and then work to turn it all around. Each day we have had results in races that have us at both the front and also the back of the fleet. So, we are learning all the way through and we certainly take plenty away from it all. It is absolutely a mental game at this level, and yes, we are absolutely hanging out for the magic bullet.” 

This would be their first race win together.

Elsewhere on the waters of Enoshima, Jake Lilley continued to ply his craft and pursue total consistency, climbing to seventh overall in the Finn. 

The cousins, Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin in the Nacra 17 foiling catamaran put a wonderful collection of top five places together to make it into fourth place overall. Clearly they are making up for a small mishap on Day One.

After climbing up the ladder yesterday, Mara Stransky in the Laser Radial amassed a few unwelcome points today. Nia Jerwood and Monique de Vries in the 470 collected the proverbial mixed bag and went a little bit backwards overall to be in 12th place. Equally, Sam and Will Phillips in the 49er were not as prolific in the lighter breeze and even had to sit out the last race today after being early across the line. 

Laser sailors, Matt Wearn and World Champion Tom Burton have solidified their positions in the top five, but not without the odd heart stopping moment when they placed mid-fleet. For now they are their drops (discarded result in total), and they will be working hard to make it stay that way.

So the challenges are there. Whether it is to stay at the top, make your way there, or merely return up the scale to more familiar ground. The Australian Sailing Team will take to the water once more tomorrow to make it so.


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