Planes, trains, automobiles (and bikes)
The Icelandic volcano may have put paid to many Britons’ travel plans in recent days, but GBR’s top sailors swapped planes for ferries and cars in their bid to make it to Hyeres on the south coast of France for Semaine Olympique Francais, the latest leg of the ISAF Sailing World Cup series to be held over 25-30 April.
Olympic medallists Sarah Ayton, Nick Dempsey and Paul Goodison were among the sailors who switched their travel plans in order to make the French Olympic Sailing Week.
For most Skandia Team GBR sailors, with the help of team partners SeaFrance, it was a straightforward journey to the continent – but others were less fortunate.
Laser sailor and 2009 World Cup winner Nick Thompson was forced to abandon his trip to the event altogether, having struggled to make it back from the USA in time, while match racing world number one Annie Lush endured a determined journey from Palma to join her Elliot 6m teammates Lucy Macgregor and Ally Martin at the regatta.
Lush had been racing a Swan 82 at PalmaVela last weekend, and hampered by the air traffic control restrictions, embarked upon a ferry crossing to Barcelona and train towards France. But with her travel complications then exacerbated by striking French train drivers, the she was forced to make up gaps in her transport via pedal-power on her road bike, cycling some seven hours in between public transport options with 17kg of sailing kit, before finally reaching Hyeres.
Some 60 Skandia Team GBR sailors have made the trip to the French Riviera for this World Cup, which will be the first competitive outing for double Olympic gold medallist Sarah Ayton and Saskia Clark since formally announcing their new 470 partnership last week.
Olympic, World and European Champion Paul Goodison will also take to the water for his first international Laser event of the year, while Ed Wright will be the sole British Finn entrant in Hyeres, with teammates Giles Scott, Andrew Mills and Mark Andrews having skipped the event in favour of training in their European Championship venue in Croatia.
Nick Dempsey and Bryony Shaw will fly the British flag in the RS:X men’s and women’s windsurfing events, while the 49er and 470 men’s events will see strong British competition.
In the 49er class, Chris Draper and Peter Greenhalgh, silver medallists at the last World Cup event in Palma, will look to continue their form, while Palma bronze medallists Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes will be keen to turn the tables after losing out to their teammates.
John Pink-Rick Peacock and Paul Brotherton-Mark Asquith will look to push the two leading British boats in the skiff class, while the 470 men’s event will see all three performance boats of Nick Rogers-Pom Green, Nic Asher-Elliot Willis and Luke Patience-Stuart Bithell vying for the podium spots.
Women’s Match Racers Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Ally Martin will be keen to rectify their fourth place at the Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma, and will be joined in the regatta by second Skandia Team GBR boat comprising Katie Archer, Lauren Martel and Nicky Muller, while John Gimson and Ed Greig will hope to match their medal winning performance at last year’s event in the men’s keelboat Star event.
Charlotte Dobson, Andrea Brewster and Alison Young will feature in the Laser Radial event, while in the Paralympic classes, Helena Lucas and Megan Pascoe will push for the podium in the 2.4mR event, with John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas hopeful of medal success in the Sonar class.
“With the recent travel disruption it’s inevitable that some sailors will be unable to make the trip, which is disappointing as the French Olympic Sailing Week is typically a really competitive regatta,” said RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park. “Even so, we’re looking forward to building on the successes of the opening European World Cup event in Palma and returning from Hyeres with around five medals.
“Hopefully Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Ally Martin will bounce back after their disappointing fourth place in Palma, and it will also be interesting to see how Sarah Ayton and Saskia Clark get on at this first event since announcing their campaign. It’ll be a tough fleet but they will be hoping to get into the medal race,” Park concluded.
Racing at Hyeres starts on Sunday 25 April, with the final medal races scheduled for Friday 30 April.