Team GBR rules the 9ers
The qualification stage at ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères has drawn to an end with gold fleet racing on the minds of the world's best top sailors over the next three days.
Conditions at the fifth and final regatta of the 2013-2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup series could not have been any better on the second day of racing.
"Champagne sailing” and "glamour conditions” were the buzz words of the day used by the 1,111 sailors from 59 nations as an easterly breeze in between 10-12 knots with steady waves ensured a full complement of races across ten Olympic and two Paralympic fleets.
Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign (GBR) continued to display excellent consistency in the 80-boat 49er fleet as the two day qualification stage came to an end with six races in excellent conditions. The British duo took two race wins and a fourth in the blue fleet and lead London 212 silver medallistsPeter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) by three points.
On the day Sign said, "It was pretty glamorous conditions for 49er racing, probably about 11-12 knots and it was exciting, straightforward fun. We kept our tactics simple. We had pretty good boat speed today and we were just monitoring what the fleet were doing and not getting into trouble and that paid off for us.”
Twenty five 49ers will take to the gold fleet whilst the remaining racers will be split into silver and bronze fleets. Sign is now looking forward to the action and facing ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca gold medallists Burling and Tuke, "We're pretty happy with how it's gone but there's quite a long series to go with the gold fleet tomorrow. That's when it all matters.
"We've worked out that we haven't actually sailed against the Kiwis in a qualifying series for the last six events. We know we've got the boat speed and it's not all about the Kiwis and the Aussies, there are quite a lot of boats out there that can get it.”
The Brits took bronze behind Burling and Tuke and Jonas Warrer and Peter Lang (DEN) in Mallorca and whilst it's still early stages they are well on track as Sign concluded, "From our goals set in the winter we were aiming to try and medal early on in the season and that would give us the step forward so we know what we need to work on through the rest of the summer and then hopefully at Santander get a medal.”
Race wins in the yellow fleet went the way of David Evans and Ed Powys (GBR), who picked up two and Burling and Tuke. Marcus Hansen and Josh Porebski (NZL) picked up the fifth race bullet in the blue fleet and are third overall.
Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth (GBR) leapfrogged ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca gold medallists Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) in the 42-boat 49erFX fleet.
The Britons displayed consistency that was near on impossible to match as they sealed a 2-2-1 from the day. Sitting on 10 points they are three clear of Grael and Kunze as they look to upgrade their Mallorca bronze in the Hyères breeze.
Interestingly the top three spots are all held by the top three Mallorca teams with silver medallists Ida Marie Baad Nielsen and Marie Thusgaard Olsen (DEN) in third overall.
2013 World Champions Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL) are hot on their heels in fourth overall.
Having sailed in a single fleet over the opening two days the 42 racers are now divided into gold and silver fleets as proceedings get down to the business end.
Anne Haeger and Briana Provancha (USA) held onto their lead in the 51-boat Women's 470 fleet after two close fought races.
The Americans narrowly missed out taking the opening bullet of the day as China's Xiaomei Xu and Lizhu Huang swooped through to cross the line first. They maintained their form in the second race and took the gun six seconds ahead of ISAF Rolex World Sailors of the Year Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (NZL).
"So far so good,” said Haeger. "We've stuck to our game plan and had conservative starts but found really good speed so we're happy. It's been great. This is our second time here. The waves are just so much fun and we're having a really good time.”
The Kiwis had a steady day taking a third and a second and are just two points behind the Americans. At the early stage of proceedings Haeger and Provancha aren't too focused on their rivals, "There's not been a whole ton of boat on boat tactics just yet, it's still a bit early on in the regatta but we're very honoured to be so close to a very awesome team and hopefully we can keep it up.”
ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami gold medallists Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) had a steady day of racing and are third overall.
Race 3 victors Xu and Huang are down in 11th.
Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) held on to top spot in the Men's 470 after picking up their third bullet and a ninth overall.
Heading into the gold fleet racing Belcher and Ryan have good results on the board that put them in a strong position.
Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion (FRA) ended Belcher and Ryan's win streak at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami. The French pair are a single point behind the Australians whilst Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis (GRE) are three behind the French in bronze medal position.
Onan Barreiros and Juan Curbelo Cabrera (ESP) held second overall coming into the day and looked set to hold onto that position after a strong opening race but things did not go quite as well in the second of the day. Barreiros explained, "For us the first race was very good, we finished in second place and the last race was difficult. Our start was not so good and that's the problem for us and in the end we finished 17th.”
The pair fell to eighth overall but are happy in only their fifth regatta as a partnership, "The most important thing for us is racing in the gold fleet tomorrow. We're working hard all the time and we've only been sailing together for one year and I'm really happy with how it's going.”
Evi Van Acker (BEL) made it four race wins in a row to head into the final series on four points. Closely following Van Acker by two points is ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca gold medallist Marit Bouwmeester (NED) who has three race wins under her belt.
It was an up and down day for Ireland's Annalise Murphy as she took the opening bullet in the blue fleet before suffering a scoring penalty in the second of the day as she dropped from the leading positions to 15th overall, "I was over the start line in that last race which is a bit unfortunate but I'm still happy enough,” explained Murphy after racing. "I'm putting everything I've done in training into racing in this regatta. I'm happy with how I've been racing but just unfortunate I was over a little bit early.”
Murphy came agonisingly close to taking a medal at the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition, losing out in a way four shoot out for the medals. Since then she's been working hard with the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships this September on her mind, "Santander is the important one with it being a big world championship and the Olympic qualifiers. Hopefully I can stop making mistakes and get it all right there.
"It's much earlier in this cycle with it being two years before the Olympics. The last cycle it was eight months before and it's a big difference. It was good for me because if it had been two years out in the last cycle I probably wouldn't have qualified the country as I was still very young. This time I'm really looking forward to it.”
Murphy is 29 points behind Van Acker but with six races and a Medal Race on the horizon anything can happen.
Belarus' Tatiana Drozdovskaya had a consistent day on the water posting two second places and is third overall.
There is very little separating the top seven in the Laser fleet as the qualification series concluded.
Whilst Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) holds the lead he is only nine points clear of Sam Meech (NZL) who is seventh overall.
Race victories on the second day of racing in the split fleets went to Stipanovic, Tom Burton (AUS) and Robert Scheidt (BRA) who are second and third respectively. Julio Alsogaray (ARG) picked up the fourth bullet of the day and is 15th overall.
Rutger van Schaardenburg (NED), Matt Wearn (AUS) and Andy Maloney (NZL) are the remaining competitors in the top seven and with small margins splitting the top racers, gold fleet racing will make for an exciting spectacle.
Greece's Ioannis Mitakis retained his lead in the Finn class but stealing the day was Pieter Jan Postma (NED).
The Dutch sailor posted a bullet and a second and is now just a single point behind the Greek racer who recorded a discarded 17th and a fourth place finish.
France's Thomas Le Breton secured a convincing victory in the final race of the day, defeating Postma by 30 seconds. The Frenchman is fourth overall, two points behind Caleb Paine (USA).
Piotr Myszka (POL) is showing the 91-boat Men's RS:X fleet how it's done in Hyères. The Polish windsurfer has five race wins and a discarded second under his belt and as a result, is the leader after six races.
On the face of it Myszka could be seen as the runaway leader but Dorian Van Rijsselberge (NED) is just four points behind the Polish sailor going into gold fleet racing.
Nine fleet races and one Medal Race are scheduled for the remaining four days of competition and with Myszka facing all of the top guys for the first time on Wednesday 23 April he won't find the going as easy.
France's Thomas Goyard is third overall but only six points separate him and Nick Dempsey (GBR) in eighth.
China's Jiahui Wu and Poland's Maja Dziarnowska are tied atop of the 59-boat Women's RS:X fleet on 15 points apiece.
Very little has separated the Chinese and Polish sailors as they've finished ahead of each other on three occasions.
Wu took the first bullet of the day finishing 11 seconds of Dziarnowska whilst the second race victory was convincingly won by Moana Delle (GER) who is fourth overall.
Zofia Klepacka (POL) won the final race of the day and is fifth.
A 6-2-3 score line was enough for Flavia Tartaglini (ITA) to sit in third overall, two points off the leaders.
World #1 racers Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond (GBR) moved into the lead in the Nacra 17 with a dominant display of racing.
The Britons took two race victories and a fifth to push overnight leaders Billy Besson and Marie Riou (FRA) into second overall.
Besson and Riou recorded two keepers in a first and a fifth but discard a 19th in the opening race of the day. With those around them counting all of their results in the top ten the ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca gold medallists will have to tread carefully.
Darren Bundock and Nina Curtis (AUS) are one of those teams with their series featuring only results in the top four. They are a point behind the French team in third overall.
Overnight leaders Damien Seguin (FRA) and Heiko Kroger (GER) shared a race win apiece for the second consecutive day however it is the former that has the advantage.
Seguin finished second to Kroger in the opening bout but in the second race of the day the German finished down in fourth which he discards. By nature of a better series in the four races thus far the French sailor, who has won in Hyères on five previous occasions, leads overall.
Megan Pascoe (GBR) trails the French and German sailors by four points heading into the third day of the regatta.
Great Britain's John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas and France's Bruno Jourdren, Nicolas Vimont Vicary and Eric Flageul took a race win and a second apiece and are tied for top spot on five points.
The French team took the opening encounter whilst the Brits finished four seconds ahead of the French team in the second race of the day.
Australia's Colin Harrison, Jon Harris and Russell Boaden are third overall.
Racing resumes on Wednesday 23 April at 11:00 local time as gold fleet racing commences in the French sailing hotspot.