Early start in Hyeres
There was another early start on the third day of the Semaine Olympique Française in Hyeres. The forecast indicating strong winds, the race committee had decided to start the day as early as possible to make the most of the sailable conditions. As a result at 8am, all the sailors were ready to hit the water, their races scheduled to start at 0900. Even so, competitors saw gusts of up to 35 knots during the afternoon.
With qualification ending tonight, priority was given to the classes sailing in groups. The Stars, Sonars and 49ers sailed only one race, while Finns, 2.4mR and Skud stayed ashore. All other classes were able to complete their two scheduled races.
Despite a long day on the water, in the Laser Radial, Britain's Alison Young successfully defended her lead, although she has Australia's Krystal Wier breathing down her neck, one point astern. The Radials were first to go out at 0800 this morning to their course area 3 miles offshore, but when they reached their racing area, the wind had increased making sailing too dangerous. They came back to ashore and waited until the RS:X had finished their races to take their place on their calmer course.
Young posted a 1, 2 clearly enjoying today's windy races: “It was pretty breezy for the two races this afternoon, piping up as well all the way through. It was pretty shifty on that course area so some good racing. It definitely gets harder from here going into the gold fleet. There are four races and the medal race to go, so still a lot of racing. I just need to be consistent for the remaining races.
“It definitely gets harder from here going into the gold fleet,” said Young, looking ahead to the rest of the regatta. “There are four races and the medal race to go, so still a lot of racing. I just need to be consistent for the remaining races. The legs are keeping it together. It would be good to have a bit more light wind racing, to make it a bit more of a thinking game, but we’ll take whatever we get!”
Dutch sailors Marit Bouwmesteer and Claire Bom also posted a 1-2 and hold third and six positions. Fellow Team GBR hopeful Charlotte Dobson posted a 5,2 to see her up to fifth overall and still within reach of a podium position.
In the Laser Men the leaderboard is impossibly tight with Germany's Philipp Buhl edging into the lead after the discards kicked in, but Andrew Murdoch (NZL), Tom Slingsby (AUS), Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) and Tom Burton (AUS) are all just one point behind with Andy Moloney (NZL) a further point adrift.
In the 470 Women, double World Champions Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout continue to dominate in the windy conditions, maintaining a seven point lead ahead of Ai Kondo and Wakako Tabata (JAP), with Americans Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan third.
In the Men's class, the inevitable has happened with World no1s Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page (AUS) easing into first place, after discarding a 24th place from the race where they broke their mast. The Aussie aces are now five points ahead of Croatians Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic with the Coster brothers (NED) hanging on to third a further two points back.
“It was pretty windy today, you know when they start you at 9am that you’re expecting a pretty scary forecast” said Belcher. “The race committee did a great job and we got two races in. We had a bit on but just tried to get around the course and keep it upright. We’re sailing really well and are happy with our form from Palma and to continue that here is great. We had a bit of a hiccup with the broken rig on day one but are sailing really well and are in a nice spot at this stage, we just have to work hard and keep it going.”
The top three remain unchanged in the Star after one race won by Britain's Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, although Canadians Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn came home in second to maintain their lead, with France's Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot in third.
The 49er managed to sail one race despite the strong breeze. In this the Brits can to the fore with Dave Evans and Ed Powys crossing the line with a sizeable winning margin in their group, but with Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes close behind who now taken the lead from France's Julien D'Ortoli and Noe Delpech, who suffered in the breeze. After many capsizes, the early leaders didn't finish the race and are now third overall. Manu Dyen and Stéphane Christidis (FRA) won their race to move into second overall. John Pink and Rick Peacock still hold fifth overall with a seventh from their race today.
Poles continue to lead both RS:X classes with Piotr Myszka and Maja Dziarnowska winning more races to extend their respective leads. Dziarnowska summarised her first three days: “I am very tired but satisfied with my results. I have great speed in the breeze. I came to give my best but didn't expect to be leading the event.” Maja is Zofia Keplacka's training partner for the Olympic Games. “I am very fast in the breeze and I can help her be faster in these conditions.” Olga Maslivets (UKR) and Charline Picon (FRA) are second and third overall.
Just a point behind Myszka in the Men's class is World Champion Julien Bontemps.
In the Sonar John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas put their 12th from race three yesterday behind them by adding another win to their scorecard and pull them up into the top three after four races.
Stodel said she has been enjoying the windy conditions experienced so far in Hyeres. “It’s been a while since we actually sailed in this kind of breeze, so it’s nice to come back and put the boat through its paces. We’ve brought the new boat here and are testing a few things, and I’m pleased to say it’s going well! It was honking [today] – we managed to pull away from the fleet and stay clear to win the race, so we’re happy.
“The 9 o’clock start was not ideal,” Stodel admitted. “People don’t realise that we’re not Laser sailors and we can’t roll out of bed five minutes beforehand and just throw a wetsuit on. Unfortunately for John that meant a 4.30am start this morning so I think he’s feeling it now! This week we’re just working on all the stuff we’ve been training with – the new things on the boat, testing some sails, and hopefully this is going to be the cut off regatta that we’re going to have everything ready for the Games, so it’s nice to put everything through its paces really. We’re keeping an eye out on the competition, but it’s mainly equipment [focus] for us - it’s nice to be racing anyway!”
Overall in the Sonar, Bruno Jourdren, Nicolas Vimont-Vicary and Eric Flageul (FRA) continue to lead Aleksander Wang Hansen, Per Eugen Kristiansen and Marie Solberg (NOR).
So all classes have completed their qualification stages. The Women Match racing will conclude their round robins. Sailing will start at 8.30 am for the Women's Match Racing and 1100 for the other classes.
More photos from Ingrid Abery/www.ingridabery.com: