Fri, Mar 07, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Olympic champion Belcher to skipper Team Australia

AFP, SYDNEY

Team Australia’s new AC45 catamaran speeds over the water during its first outing in Sydney Harbour yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Olympic champion Mathew Belcher was yesterday named as skipper of Australia’s America’s Cup entrant as the country looks to win the prestigious Auld Mug for the first time since 1983.

The 2012 London Games gold medalist’s appointment was announced along with Team Australia’s first boat — a new AC45 catamaran — on the shores of Sydney Harbour.

America’s Cup racing represents a big challenge for Belcher, 31, who is more accustomed sailing small two-man dinghies than the larger and faster catamarans.

“I’m not alone in doing this,” said Belcher, who insisted he can successfully balance the twin pressures of skippering an America’s Cup challenger and winning gold again at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“A lot of the Australian guys did it last year, including Tom Slingsby and Nathan Outteridge. So I’ll use that as guidance. It can be done,” he said.

Slingsby won Laser class gold at the London Olympics, before serving as tactician aboard Oracle Team USA for their come-from-behind America’s Cup victory over Team New Zealand last year, while Outteridge won gold in the 49er skiff with crewmate Iain Jensen.

Slingsby agreed that Belcher could be successful in both disciplines.

“It is a juggling act, but I believe Mat will do just fine and he’s already ahead of the pack in the Olympic stuff, so I wish him the best,” Slingsby said.

Belcher is regarded as one of the world’s best sailors, with four 470-class world titles to go with his London Olympics gold. He won a record 18 successive regattas between 2011 and this year, with former crewmate Malcolm Page and current partner Will Ryan.

The America’s Cup boat and its crew will spend the next few days training with Oracle Team USA, led by Slingsby, in Sydney Harbour.

The 35th America’s Cup is due to be staged in 2017, but there are a series of challenger events staged around the world in the years beforehand.

Australia is trying to win the event for the first time since its historic 1983 triumph when Australia II, skippered by John Bertrand, defeated Liberty of the US to end the New York Yacht Club’s 132-year stranglehold on the race.

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