Team GB's Micky Beckett wins bronze at ILCA 7 World Championships
Welsh wonder scores another podium finish in run-up to Paris 2024
Team GB sailor Micky Beckett believes he can still beat all-conquering Aussie Matt Wearn at the Olympics after banking bronze at the World Championships.
The Welsh star overcame a tough start in Adelaide to reach the podium yet again at a major event in the ILCA 7 boat class.
Beckett - already selected for this summer’s Games - brushed off a penalty in qualifying to win bronze with 41 points, an ocean ahead of fourth place.
“It was a hell of a week,” said Beckett, from Solva. “The task to go one better than silver last year was always going to be enormous, even without the circumstances that we faced.
“The conditions were familiar, but it still was not a job done, I had one unfortunate rules incident on day one and started in tenth.
“I had to work my way up through the field and it was absolutely gruelling. It was the toughest week of sailing of my life. I’m battered and bruised but to have the composure to finish that high up in the field in conditions that don’t suit me is very pleasing.”
Beckett’s points tally in the 11-race regatta was more than enough to beat Germany’s Philipp Buhl, who finished fourth with 65. But gold standard still belongs to Wearn, out on his own with three race wins and only two counting finishes outside of the top three.
Wearn overtook Beckett to win gold at last year’s worlds and on Olympic waters in Marseille at the Test Event, with this the latest chapter in a compelling rivalry.
“Matt has clearly set the benchmark for what needs to be done to win,” said Beckett. “He sails in a consistently good way and often, not far off perfection.
“But I know I can beat him, particularly in the kind of conditions we’re going to get in the Mediterranean. There’s a bit of work to do to get there but it’s motivating to have him setting such a high benchmark. Australia is a very strong nation across the board.
“To win the biggest Championships, it’s all about consistency. It’s not that attractive a thing to work on, but winning the top regattas is about putting out 11 solid races.
“I’m good at doing eight or nine at the moment. I have to work out how to stay out of trouble in those other two and how to put together the kind of consistent series that’s going to challenge Matt.”
The opening day took place in glamour conditions, with Beckett ending it in seventh but Sam Whaley frustrated after seeing the second race called off when he was leading by a significant margin.
“Moments like that do reassure you that I’m doing the right thing and on the right path, it was only an act of nature that stopped me from winning it,” Whaley reflected. “It’s unlucky but that’s the sport we’re in.”
Beckett jumped into second place with a pair of wins in light winds on day three as Whaley finished an impressive second in the sixth race of the 11-race regatta.
A gusty fourth day brought a massive physical test, but Beckett was able to stay in touch, trailing Wearn by just one point at that stage.
Wearn took a nine-point lead into the medal race that he went on to win, with Beckett placing fifth.
Whaley led the rest of the British Sailing Team in finishing 18th, with Dan Whiteley coming 45th, James Percival-Cooke 60th and Fin Dickinson 72nd.
Dickinson said: “It’s been a tricky week. I don’t think I clicked with this venue very well, I never found myself doing things that resulted in me ending up near the front of the fleet. It’s not particularly an event-focused year for me, I’m just trying to work on my fitness.”
The ILCA 7 squad now have a quick turnaround to the European Championships in Athens later this month.
“I’d really hope that at the Europeans I can show what I can really do, that’s the perfect place to do it I think, straight after this, still hungry to do well and do as best as you can," said Percival-Cooke.
Beckett will test himself against the best on two further occasions before the ILCA 7 racing at the Olympics begins on 1 August.
He will return to action at the traditional European curtain-raiser, the prestigious Trofeo Princesa Sofia in Palma, from 29 March to 6 April.
French Olympic Week at Hyeres, a regatta he describes as a ‘half-time check-in’, follows from 22-29 April and acts as the last chance qualifier in other boat classes.
Beckett does not need to worry about qualification or selection having been part of an initial group of ten sailors named to Team GB in October.
“(Being selected) definitely gives you that peace of mind,” said Beckett. “All it’s about now getting to the Games in the best possible shape to win the gold medal.”