Photos: JM Liot et G.Durand/DPPI/FFVoile

Team GBR girls on song

As Hannah Mills/Saskia Clark and Penny Clark/Katrina Hughes podium in Hyeres

Friday April 29th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

Despite an unprecidented seven winners determined yesterday, so the Semaine Olympique Française, the fourth event on the Sailing World Cup circuit, drew to a close today with the final medallist decided.

In the Star Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada (BRA) who had won the event already yesterday, also took the Medal Race. “We had a consistent week, and it is great because the weather conditions were hard and the fleet really strong," said Scheidt. "We will race a lot this year to try and keep our best level, hopefully until the Olympics.”

The French team of Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot held on to the second place on the podium while 2009 World Champions Georg Szabo and Mark Strubbe (USA) took Bronze, after a second in the Medal race. “This result is very encouraging. We have worked hard these last months. We have better communication and decisions on the water,” explained the French pair.

In the 49er Pietro and Gianfranco Sibello (ITA) won their second Semaine Olympique Francais title. “To win the title means a lot for us. We are on the right track with our preparation and the intense training with both French teams. We hope that our training partner and friend Manu Dyen will recover quickly from his injury. This title here and our second place in Palma does give us confidence for the future.”

Julien D'Ortoli and Noe Delpech (FRA) improve one place on the podium from their Bronze last year in Hyères in taking silver.

“We saw this week the fruit of our training with the winners and team partners Manu Dyen and Stéphane Christidis (FRA). We have improved our speed and starts. We didn't collect good results in Palma but a second in Hyères is just fantastic.”

Sydney Gold medallist, Jonas Warrer, now racing with Soren Hansen (DEN), steadily climbed the leaderboard to finish third overall. “In Palma we had some good days, but we for sure also had some very poor days. Since then we have trained intense on getting rid of the many small errors and on our starts. And that for sure pays off here.”

Britain's Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign were unable to improve on their sixth place heading into today, with teammates Paul Brotherton and Mark Asquith ninth overall.

Ben Ainslie, like Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada in the Star, has added a victory in the medal race to his Finn win yesterday, ending the event with a formidable 40 point margin over second. For the first time since Sail Melbourne, there was just one Brit on the podium. After a slow start in the regatta Zach Railey (USA) gradually improved in the results to take today the Silver medal.

“My last podium was in 2009 for Sail for Gold. I used last year to work on the equipment," said Railey. "Sometimes you need to take one step backward in order to take two forward. There is still lots of work to do but I am getting there.”

Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) lost silver but was happy with bottom place on the podium. “Top three was my objective in the regatta. I needed this ranking to get funding so mission accomplished!”

Giles Scott and Ed Wright ended their regatta in seventh and eighth places respectively, having placed fourth and sixth in the medal race.

In the 470 Men, the Silver and Bronze medals were decided after the pre-medal race win for Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos (FRA). Following their victory at the Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma, Nicolas Charbonnier and Jeremie Mion (FRA) took silver leaving Bronze to Spain's Onan Barreiros and Aaron Sarmiento.

“All the best are here and we have learned from them.” say the Spanish crew. “We were able to improve day by day, wave by wave!”

In the women's class, Tara Pacheco and Berta Betanzos similar started the medal race with gold already secure, and like Ainslie and Scheidt also claimed the final double points scoring race of the regatta. The newly formed duo of Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark proved their potential taking second position ahead of team mates Penny Clark and Katrina Hughes.

“We’ve made some massive gains forward since Palma, particularly on our starting and upwind communications and you can see the difference,” Mills explained. “The result is great for us as well as just knowing in ourselves that we’ve got better.”

“I think having two teams on the podium is maybe unheard of for British 470 women’s sailing,” Saskia Clark added, “so it’s a really exciting place for the squad and we’ll hopefully keep pushing forward together through until next summer."

Spain's Javier Hernandez didn't leave any doubt and comforted his lead in the Laser by winning the Medal race. “I had a very consistent week with no bad race. I worked hard because the fleet is strong here,” he said. On winning the Sailing World Cup circuit last year, the Spaniard added: “It was nice to win this title so hopefully I can win it again this year.”

In the end European champion, Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) won the Silver from Australian Tom Slingsby. Things didn't go according to plan for the Australian World Champion in the Medal race. “There was an individual recall on the start, so in doubt, I came back. I tried to catch up but at the bottom mark I broke the boom vang. From then on I was lacking speed. All was played on the last wave to the finish with Tonci who crossed the line first!”

Racing was tight in the Laser Radial and placings changed throughout the race with New Zealand's Sara Winther and France's Sarah Steyaert battling for Gold. In the end a second place for Steyaert didn't provide the expected result and a fifth for Winther gave the Princess Sofia Trophy winner another Sailing World Cup title. “I have a good speed in the light wind so it helped me take good position in the races. In Hyères, I was trying new strategies on the water and it has paid off,” said Winther. Steyaert was disappointed, but admitted that her opponent was racing at "her highest level and was the best”.

Win the medal race was not enough for Croatia's Tina Mihelic to prise bronze from Gintare Scheidt (LTU). “I missed a bit of breeze this week and I had to work really hard.” Gintare, in Hyères with husband Robert and their 18 months old son, admitted that “life with a child makes things different. It is hard to be at 100% both as a mother and a sailor, it does make a difference with the girls who are focussed 100% on their racing.”

The RS:Xes were last off the water. Spain's Blanca Manchon has kept the lead from start to finish of this event with a string of six victories and top six placings. “This is an amazing week for me," she said. "I was surprised to win so many races. It does motivate me for my Olympic trials. I need to keep working my strength for the extreme weather conditions.”

Charline Picon (FRA) was once again second to a Spanish sailor, after finishing behind Marina Alabau two weeks ago in Palma. “This is my first podium in Hyères so I am really pleased. I started the Medal race in last position but tried hard and caught up to fourth,” she said.

Britain's Bryony Shaw won the Medal race and goes home with the Bronze: “I've been slowly climbing up the results all week, so it's great to have been able to finish it off with a medal today and make up for what was a disappointing event for me in Palma.”

In the RS:X Men, Piotr Myszka (POL) has gained a placed per day since the start of the finals and won the Gold medal finally today in a tight medal race. Two points behind, Olympic silver medallist Julien Bontemps (FRA) claimed the silver, just one point ahead of Shahar Zubari (ISR). Olympic Champion Tom Ashley (NZL) was short of the podium by one point.

“I have been training with all these guys since the Worlds and this was my first opportunity to measure up with them,” explained Myszka. “I saw this week that the training was good. I have good speed and it is npositive in view of my Olympic selections. I have been training in the Polish team with 'Pont' (Przemyslaw Miarczynski) for the last 10 years. He used to beat me all the time but since last year I am able to win against him. We are pushing each others hard to the top. If I relax my training, I know he will be there, so I can never give up!”

Lucy Macgregor (GBR) and team won the final of the Women Match Racing against Sally Barkow's team (USA). Not prepared to settle for second place they took a comfortable 2-0 lead before having to claw back behind in the third match to secure the 3-0 win – their first World Cup medal since the Rolex Miami OCR last January.

“It’s fantastic winning here in Hyeres. Kate and Annie did an awesome job, it was pretty tricky conditions all week so we’re really pleased to be on the top of the podium after a couple where we haven’t been,” Macgregor explained. “We didn’t expect it to be three-nil really. None of the matches were easy – the breeze kept us on our toes and especially in that last match we managed to come back from behind, stay calm and get the win to finish off three-nil so that was just fantastic.

The trio, who donned Annie Lush-designed makeshift crowns on the water after their victory, in tribute to today’s Royal Wedding celebrations, have been working with a new Dutch coach Maurice Paardenkooper, this year and are excited about their progress. “It’s great working with Maurice,” said Macgregor. “The three of us are really enjoying it and we feel that there’s loads more to come so that’s the most exciting thing looking forward.”

In the Petite Final, Rene Groeneveld defeated Claire Leroy.

Damien Seguin won his fourth Semaine Olympique Francaise in the 2.4mR with British sailors Megan Pascoe and Helena Lucas taking silver and bronze. In the Sonar Bruno Jourdren, Eric Flageul and Nicolas Vimont Vicary came out on top: "We had a good week. We came here to try new equipment because we had problems with our new boat. Of course it is easier to be smarter and relaxed with good speed. This is the first time we win the SOF or any regatta in the Sonar. We are ahead with our objective to be ready for the Worlds at the end of the year.”

In the Skud, Britain's Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell came out on top winning nine of the 11 races .

The next event in the Sailing World Cup circuit, the Delta Lloyd Regatta, will start in Medemblik, Holland on 24 May.

Results:  RS:X Men, RS:X Women, Laser, Laser Radial, Finn, 49er, 470 Men, 470 Women, Star, Women's Match Racing, 2.4mR, Sonar, Skud



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