Brit 470 girls on the ascent
Gold fleet racing got underway at ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères with tense competition across ten Olympic and two Paralympic events.
With a full complement of races completed so far the leaderboards are shaping up nicely with fine margins between the world's top sailing talents.
After a short morning postponement the 1,111 sailors were greeted with an increasing 13-17 knot westerly breeze as well as a smooth sea state. Racing kicked off shortly after 12:00 local time.
Brazil's Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze displayed astute consistency in the 21-boat 49erFX gold fleet to move back into the leading position they lost overnight.
Grael and Kunze recorded a 5-3-8 score line and hold a two point advantage over Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth (GBR), who had the lead coming into the third day.
After racing Grael said: "Today we had a tough day, the wind picked up a lot in the second race and then in the third there was a big drop. We were kind of always in the wrong gear but it was still a good day for us. It's always good to get top tens, we had very good recoveries and we're happy.”
Dobson and Ainsworth picked up a scoring false start penalty in Race 7, which they discard. They hit back with a ninth and a fifth and Ainsworth admitted they had a bit of an up and down day, but Dobson admitted this affected their subsequent two races, leaving them in overall second, just two points behind Grael and Kunze.
“I don’t think we can say that we executed our best – I think we really struggled off the starts today,” Dobson explained. “We unfortunately got OCSed in the first race and I think that kind of knocked our confidence a little bit for the next two races.
“What we’ve got to be really happy about is that we pulled back – just steadily picked them off through the fleet and finished with a ninth and a fifth in the end, and we’re just two points off the lead. So you’ve got to be pretty happy that on your bad day that’s how it happened and that it didn’t fall into some big disaster day."
With two more six more fleet races and a three-race final day still to come, Dobson is feeling determined, and positive about their performance so far this week: “We’re looking forward to tomorrow, to just getting back to where we were for the last two days and get racing properly again. We’re definitely in a pretty happy place, we’re pretty happy with our speed at the moment and we’ve got a couple of good routines that we’re locked in to a bit, so we’ll try and stick to those and hopefully the results will look after themselves tomorrow.”
2013 49erFX World Champions Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL) recorded their first race victory of the week and move up into third overall. The Kiwis rounded the first mark of the final race of the day in second overall. They edged out Denmark's Maiken and Anne-Julie Foght Schütt on the downwind and held on to take the bullet by ten seconds.
On the race victory Maloney commented: "There were really nice conditions, a little more breeze than expected and it was nice to stretch out again. It's always nice to get a bullet and it helps with confidence, it was a solid day and we're looking forward to the next three days.”
The day's remaining race victories went to Kate Macgregor and Katrina Best (GBR), who are eighth overall, and Tamara Echegoyen and Berta Betanzos (ESP) who are a place behind the Brits.
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) climbed back into the lead and are followed by Ireland's Ryan Seaton and Matthew Mcgovern who also pulled into contention.
The Irish pair finished a disappointing 35th at ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca, but impressed in the gold fleet with a discarded tenth and two thirds.
After racing Seaton said: "It's the second regatta for us this year and we're just getting back into it. We had a pretty solid day. We really wanted to get good starts and try to be consistent and it turned out to be quite a good day. It was very tricky with the fleet really close and the racing's really good. Everybody's trying to get prepared in the build-up to the Santander Worlds and the fleets getting more competitive.”
Burling and Tuke set the pace on the third day of racing and are 11 points clear of the Irish. "Gold fleet racing's always the best, all the top guys in one fleet,” commented Tuke. "For us it could have been better but all in all not a bad day. We mucked up the last one. We went through qualification better than we did in Palma which was one of our goals so we were really excited coming into the day.
"Gold fleet racing is where it's all at. It's where the points are up for grabs and you want to get the least you can. It's still all to play for.”
Overnight leaders Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign (GBR) were consistent in their results, but unfortunately they didn't post the steady string of results, they'd have expected. A 14th in Race 7 was followed up with two further 14th places. As a result they fall to third, a point ahead of Marcus Hansen and Josh Porebski (NZL).
The first gold fleet Men's 470 bullets were picked up by Joonas and Niklas Lindgren (FIN) and Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS). Belcher and Ryan now lead while the Finnish team lies fifth overall but is chasing hard.
Having notched up two bullets the day prior the Lindgren brothers made it three in a row by taking the race 6 honours.
Joonas is relishing the time in the French Riviera: "It's going well and the boat is going quite fast, we've still got four races to go so we can't celebrate too early. The podium is our goal. That's something we desire the most as Palma didn't end so well as I got sick at the end and that took us down so now it's time to try again. Medium winds are our best and as long as it stays medium we should be at the top.”
London 2012 gold medallist, Belcher, and Ryan started the day slow with an 11th but hit back with a 22 second victory in the last race of the day.
Ryan explained the day's two races: "Today was pretty tricky, it was quite light winds and no one really knew what was going to happen. We were pretty fortunate that the breeze came in just as we were starting. The first upwind was really tight and we stuck with the French which didn't turn out to be on the right side of the course so it was a pretty tough race. We gained a little bit at the end. It's not a keeper but we bounced back.
"We were little bit more confident in our strategy with the experience gained from the previous race. We played it a bit better and stuck to our guns. In the end we came away with a win. The standard's pretty high and with two more days we'll see what happens.”
The points between the top six remain tight with nine points splitting them. Occupying second overall is Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis (GRE), while home favourites Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion (FRA) are third.
Britain's Luke Patience and Elliot Willis had a good start to their finals series after a tough qualification round and lie eighth overall with a fourth and a seventh today.
Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre stole the show today, taking a clean sweep of race wins. This first day of the finals series saw mixed fortunes for the British Sailing Team’s medal contenders in France, but the European bronze medallists Weguelin and McIntyre took it all in their stride to take the gun in both of their two races, and move into overall second place.
“I think we just had really good boat speed. We were really fast, we sailed in clean lanes, we waited for the correct opportunities to tack and didn’t do anything stupid,” said 19-year-old McIntyre of their day. “We just kept it simple and just kept pulling through, and once you were in the lead it was one of those days where you could just cover the fleet and you’re away.”
The duo is in competition for the first time since their gold medal-winning outing at the Miami World Cup in January, with McIntyre having been sidelined from the Palma World Cup earlier this month after breaking a finger in training.
The pair spent just two days back in the boat together before the start of racing in Hyeres and are pleased with their progress so far, which sees them just two points off of the series-leading New Zealand World and Olympic Champions Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie.
Although Weguelin admits they would like to reel in the Kiwi pair over the remaining three days, she says it’s not foremost in their minds.
“For us this week’s just more about getting back into sailing. We haven’t sailed for quite a long time and so it’s just about keeping our routines simple and building on them – especially with our new coach,” the 25-year-old Lymington sailor explained. “It would be nice to overtake [the Kiwis] obviously, but for us to stay focussed on our goals is more important.”
The Britons had Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (NZL) for company as they edged them out by 11 seconds in both races.
Overnight leaders Anne Haeger and Briana Provancha (USA) fall to third overall following a fifth and a sixth but they are 18 points clear of Camille Lecointre and Helene Defrance (FRA) in third.
Pieter Jan Postma (NED) blitzed the 59-boat Finn fleet taking both of the day's race victories. With devastatingly strong form Postma has opened up an 18 point ahead going into the fourth day.
Postma took the initiative from the off in both races and was at the front of pack from start to finish. The Dutch sailor has a strong advantage over Caleb Paine (USA) in second and Thomas Le Breton (FRA) who is a point off the American.
The current top three teams in the Nacra 17 in Hyères all took medals at ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca. However the positions have changed with bronze medallists Darren Bundock and Nina Curtis (AUS) leading the way.
Bundock and Curtis opened their day with a fourth and a third but an 18th, which they discard, is the only disappointment of an otherwise impressive string of top four results.
Mallorca gold medallists and reigning World Champions Billy Besson and Marie Riou held the lead coming into the day and while they were consistent with a 3-8-2, it nonetheless sees them slip to second.
Italy's Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri were the recipients of silver in Mallorca and are on track for another World Cup medal in Hyères. The Italians doubled up with two race wins and a fifth to progress up the leader board nicely. They are eight points off the leading Australians with plenty of race action remaining.
Britain's Ben Saxton-Hannah Diamond slipped to fifth after a tough three races, and Lucy Macgregor-Andrew Walsh improving to seventh and ending the day with a race win.
It's a familiar picture in the Laser Radial with Evi Van Acker (BEL) and Marit Bouwmeester (NED) battling it like old times. A second and a third apiece ensures Van Acker leads on nine points with Bouwmeester on 11 points. Tatiana Drozdovskaya (BLR) holds on to third overall following a ninth and a fifth.
The day's race victories went to Ashley Stoddart (AUS) in sixth overall and Annalise Murphy (IRL) who climbs up three to 12th.
It's a Polish 1-2 with Piotr Myszka and Pawel Tarnowski leading the charge. While the experienced Myszka runs away with the lead, it's the youngster Tarnowski who is the surprise package.
Among the youth sailors, Tarnowski was a formidable force as he became Techno 293 Under 17 World Champion in 2008. RS:X Youth World Championship titles followed in 2011 and 2012 and among a strong fleet of racers Tarnowski is shining.
The same can be said for Kiran Badloe (NED), who lies third overall. Badloe competed against Tarnowski in the youth division and the pair are fighting hard to mix it up amongst Olympic and World Champions. After racing a delighted Badloe saw his name on the leader board and duly sent his Twitter and Instagram followers with the following update, "Had a nice day on the second race day. Even climbed to the 3rd place! 3 more days to go!!"
Six further fleet races and the Medal Race are to follow in the Men's RS:X and despite Myszka leading by 14 points there's still plenty of time for the chasing pack to reduce the deficit.
Britain's World Champion windsurfer Nick Dempsey gained ground on the series leaders and ends the day in fourth just two points from the bronze medal position.
China's Jiahui Wu took a pair of race wins a fifth to open up a 13 point lead in the Women's RS:X. The Chinese racer has been strong from the start and only a 14th blemishes a healthy looking score card.
Moana Delle (GER) is second overall whilst Poland's Maja Dziarsnowska is three points behind the German.
Heiko Kroeger (GER) had another exceptional day on the water in the 16-boat 2.4mR fleet and leads Damien Seguin (FRA) by three points.
The German has only finished out of the top two in one occasion across the six race series, a fourth which he discards. On the third day of racing he notched up a second and a 17 second victory over Megan Pascoe (GBR).
Seguin on the other hand had his worst day on the water and picked up a seventh and a fourth. Megan Pascoe (GBR) drew into contention with a bullet and a second with ten points separating herself in third and Helena Lucas (GBR) in fourth.
Five points separate the top four in the Sonar fleet but John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas (GBR) hold the lead.
The Britons are two points clear of Bruno Jourdren, Nicolas Vimont Vicary and Eric Flageul (FRA).
Norway's Aleksander Wang-Hansen, Per Eugen Kristiansen and Marie Solberg blitzed the day taking double bullets.
A nine second victory in Race 5 and a 32 second victory in Race 6 brings them up to third overall whilst Colin Harrison, John Harris and Russell Boaden (AUS) are fourth overall, a point behind.
Racing commences at 11:00 local time tomorrow as the sailors enter a critical point of the regatta.