Focus on France

Skandia Team GBR sailors are gearing up for the Semaine Olympique Francaise ISAF grade one event

Thursday April 20th 2006, Author: Lindsey Bell, Location: United Kingdom
After a superb start to the European regatta season in Palma last week, Britain's top sailors will be looking for some further additions to their trophy cabinets when racing at the 2006 Semaine Olympique Française de Voile (French Olympic Sailing Week) gets underway on Sunday, 23 April.

The Brits had a lucrative outing at this regatta at Hyeres in 2005, netting six medals across four classes, including a first, a second and a third in the 2.4mR Paralympic class, in which Helena Lucas took gold.

The 38th edition of this ISAF Grade 1 event in Hyeres (23-28 April) sees over 1000 sailors registered to compete, with Skandia Team GBR sending a team of over 50 sailors, including Olympic medallists Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb, Nick Dempsey, Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks.

Dempsey's dominant performance in Palma last week not only gained him gold in the RS:X men's windsurf class, but also the Princess Sofia Trophy for the lowest overall points score across all classes, making the 25-year-old from Weymouth the man to beat going into the Hyeres regatta.

Both Dempsey and fellow Weymouth windsurfer Bryony Shaw in the women's RS:X class will be gunning for their third consecutive victories on the new Olympic board.

Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks will have a point to prove in French waters next week. After occupying the top of the 49er world ranking list since October 2003, the Olympic bronze medal-winning duo have slipped to third place in ISAF's recently-released list, in spite of their silver medal in Palma. The European Champions are keen for a good showing in Hyeres in a bid to reclaim the top spot.

European Champion Paul Goodison is poised to top the Laser world rankings following the Hyeres regatta, providing the Rotherham sailor can finish in the top eight next week, while 470 girls Christina Bassadone and Saskia Clark will be hoping to continue their winning ways from Palma by beating their French rivals Petitjean-Douroux once again - this time in their home waters.

Nic Asher and Elliott Willis will be pushing for a podium finish in the 470 men's class, after just missing out on the medals on the final day in Palma, while Ed Wright in the Finn will have similar aspirations following his fourth place finish in Palma, having claimed bronze in Hyeres last year.

Southampton's world silver medallist Helena Lucas will be looking to defend her 2005 title in the 2.4mR Paralympic class, with Laura Baldwin and Lizzie Vickers spearheading the Skandia Team GBR challenge in the Laser Radial class.

The new Yngling trio of Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Victoria Rawlinson continue to progress, claiming bronze at their first regatta in Miami and following up with silver in Palma, while a first ever top ten slot in the world rankings will be a timely confidence boost to Tornado sailors Rob Wilson and Mark Bulkeley as they head towards Hyeres.

"From our superb showing at the Princess Sofia regatta, it's clear that our sailors - both performance and development squad - have made some great gains from their winter training," said RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park.

"The competition in Hyeres will be just as tough, if not tougher than Palma, but I'm looking forward to an even more successful regatta for Skandia Team GBR as the focus on Beijing 2008 starts to intensify."

Racing at the 2006 Semaine Olympique Française gets underway on Sunday 23 April, with the final medal races on Friday 28 April.

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