Snakes and ladders day in Hyeres
ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères reached a critical stage with a fourth day that included near disaster, small margins of error and hard fought battles across the ten Olympic and two Paralympic events. It was a long day out on the water with the last race concluding at 20:01 local time.
Following a delayed start to the day a shifty 10-12 knot westerly breeze tested the sailors' and the race committees. Minus one Nacra 17 race, a full complement of gold fleet races concluded ahead of the penultimate day.
With two days left to run for the Olympic Classes, today's tricky light wind racing provided a tough test for a number of the international fleet, with several British crews frustrated to find more snakes than ladders on the racetrack.
Pieter Jan Postma (NED) came from the brink of a near disastrous day to hold his lead in the 59-boat Finn fleet.
Postma finished 58th in the opening race of the day and explained what transpired: "Today was something different. I was around tenth or 12th at the top mark and then my halyard broke. I tried to fix it as I went downwind and I finished the race but I only had three boats behind me. Then I needed to fix it and it took us 15 minutes or so and I only had one more minute before the race so it was really close. A lot of people helped and in that last race I was sixth. The points are getting close. It will be exciting tomorrow, I like some action and the heat is on.”
The day's bullets went to Bjorn Allansson (SWE) and Thomas Le Breton (FRA).
Le Breton is second behind Postma and after racing the Frenchman said: "It was quite a physical day. I had good downwind speed and helped me win the last race. I'm a bit tired but that's okay. The goal is not to have a bad race and I'm still in it and we'll see what happens tomorrow.”
Croatia's Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic was the most consistent racer of the day and is third overall, a point behind Le Breton.
Just two points separate the leading trio of Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri (ITA), Billy Besson and Marie Riou (FRA) and Darren Bundock and Nina Curtis (AUS) after two Nacra 17 gold fleet races.
By their high standards the leading three had some what of a disappointing opening race with an 18th for the Italians, 21st for the French and a 20th for the Australians.
On the first race Curtis said: "There was very little wind with massive pot holes and big streaky gusts coming through on the race course. We rounded the top mark in second last - we got stuck on the upwind. We were in a lot of trouble but we got the hang of the conditions throughout the rest of the race and we avoided those sticky situations. We managed to fight our away back so a good recovery, especially by Bundy from picking up on those shifts.”
Riou concurred with her opponent on the opening race: "We finished close with the Australians and Italians and we didn't race the same race but we finished close together. It's quite close but we race our races with the wind, not our opponents. We are happy to be in the top three at the moment with good and bad races."
The trio were back on form in the second race of the day and hit it from the off. Besson and Riou were rampant and took the victory by a minute over Luke Ramsay and Nikola Girke (CAN). The Australians came through in third with the Italians in fourth.
Bissaro and Sicouri have the two point lead over the French and Australia teams who are tied on 43 points and Curtis is looking forward to the fight for the medal positions over the next two days, "It's so good to get this type of pressure and tight racing. We've got another three races to go before the Medal Race with all these points. It's testing us and as a new combination it's nice to be put through these situations early on. We're loving it.”
Team GBR's Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond pulled back to fifth place, with a ninth in their second race of the day helping to offset a 27th from their first.
Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (NZL) held on to their two point advantage over Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) and Anne Haeger and Briana Provancha (USA) who are tied on 20 points in the 51-boat fleet.
Weguelin and McIntyre made it three wins on the bounce in Race 7 but finished seventh whilst the Kiwis took the final win of the day, recovering from a seventh in the first race.
"It was good to get some races in,” commented Aleh after racing. "It looked a bit suspect for a while with a delay and not much wind when we first got out but there were two good races. We stuffed up one of them but came through in the last one and it was good to get another win.”
The Kiwis are on course for their third ISAF Sailing World Cup gold medal following victories at Qingdao and Mallorca but every day is a learning curve for the ISAF Rolex World Sailors of the Year. Aleh concluded, "We came here to find out things to work on and we're finding lots. The thing with sailing is that you're always learning and you've never learnt it all. There's always something new and the conditions change and the fleet change. Every day we get a bit out of it.”
The top three have put 27 points between them and Camille Lecointre and Helene Defrance (FRA) who are fourth overall.
“It was quite a similar day to yesterday – a bit harder and a few more shifts to play,” said Eilidh McIntyre. “We didn’t get off the startline very well today, so we made our lives quite hard, and we should have done better in the last race, so that was a bit frustrating. But overall we’re pretty pleased – we had a good day.”
The points are close in the Men's 470 but it's Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) who maintain their lead. The Aussies took the final bullet of the day whilst ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami gold medallists Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion (FRA) picked up the first.
Bouvet and Mion are second overall, two points behind the Australians. Greece's Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis are third, two points off Bouvet and Mion.
Team GBR's Luke Patience and Elliot Willis saw the wrong side of a 20° windshift in their first race, posting a 30th before improving to finish ninth in the second. They end their day in eighth place.
Tom Burton (AUS) and Andy Maloney (NZL) are divided by a single point in the Laser as the 62-boat gold fleet concluded racing at 20:01 local time.
With nine races done and dusted in the Laser there's very little to separate top four in the Laser. Burton sits on 31 points, Maloney 32, Robert Scheidt (BRA) on 36 and Rutger van Schaardenburg (NED) on 39 points.
Burton and Maloney have the most impressive score cards with only top eight results.
On the day Burton said: "It was a good day for me. I got some consistent results. The first race was a little bit tricky and the second race was even more tricky but it ended up well for me. It was getting late and everybody was getting pretty frustrated and everybody was pushing the starts pretty hard.”
The Kiwi racer added, "I was pretty happy to come away with another top ten result and I go into tomorrow with a good score line. I went in to the day second overall and just been trying to chip away and keep inside the top ten in every race and so far so good. Hopefully we'll get another couple of good ones tomorrow and push on to the Medal Race.”
Team GBR's Nick Thompson made up ground, picking up a second and a third, to boost his overall position to sixth.
Marit Bouwmeester (NED) advanced into the lead overtaking Evi Van Acker (BEL). The pair have set the pace across the week but in the opening encounter of the day Bouwmeester came through in 30th with Van Acker in 23rd as they struggled in the light conditions.
As the breeze stabled they performed to their high standards as Bouwmeester took a second and Van Acker an eighth, which she counts having discarded her 23rd.
Bouwmeester now leads on 18 points and is four clear of the Belgian. ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne gold medallist Tatiana Drozdovskaya (BLR) held on to third overall with a final race bullet. Paige Railey (USA) took the day's other race victory and is ninth overall.
Among the Brits, Podium Potential sailor Hannah Snellgrove is in 14th place, with Chloe Martin 16th.
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) showed a fine display of racing on the 49er course to stay out of trouble, avoiding a double point score like many of their competitors succumbed to. A ninth in the opening bout was followed up with a fourth and a ninth and they have a healthy 22 point lead with two days remaining.
Ireland's Ryan Seaton and Matthew Mcgovern held on to second overall but they found the going tough discarding an 18th and count a 15th and an eighth to trail the Kiwis on 72 points. They are just a single point ahead of Marcus Hansen and Josh Porebski (NZL).
Germany's Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel started the day emphatically in the gold fleet and in Race 10 narrowly missed out on the bullet to Manu Dyen and Stephane Christidis (FRA) as they came through in second. In Race 11 they hit back hard and were truly dominant. Leading from the outset they never truly looked threatened and eased through to a 15 second victory overall Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS).
Unfortunately it did not go to plan in the final race of the day for the Germans as a 25th puts them in ninth overall.
The final bullet of the day went to David Evans and Ed Powys who are 11th overall.
Their teammates Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign had a day they’d rather forget, finishing in eighth place after starting it in third. Among a number of crews to see up and down scores during the day, Sign admitted they had found it tough going in the tricky three races on Thursday, and were ‘dictated to by the fleet, not able to make our own decisions’, with Fletcher vowing to ‘reflect and regroup ahead of tomorrow’.
Teammates John Pink and Stuart Bithell, however improved to sixth overall in the men’s skiff fleet thanks to a 10,9,2 from their day.
Bithell, the 2012 silver medallist in the 470 class, explained: “It was a tough day. It was the first racing we’ve had in the really light stuff, which has been interesting and mixed up the fleet. It was pretty hard to get consistent but we just about came out of the day with three decent results.
“Certainly today we’ve experienced some tricky conditions – very shifty and light with a difference in pressure. We were talking on the way in that we’ve not really experienced that type of condition yet as a team, so it’s good. We’re working well as a team at the moment and every day brings a bit more experience as a team. Hopefully we can just keep building.”
Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) have opened up a 12 point lead in the 49erFX but there's plenty still to play for with six races remaining.
The Brazilians picked up their third and fourth race victories and a final race seventh solidified their position atop of the pile.
Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL) moved up to second overall with a consistent day of racing whilst Ida Marie Baad Nielsen and Marie Thusgaard Olsen (DEN) took third with a final race bullet.
Poland's Maja Dziarnowska advanced in to pole position following double bullets in the 59-boat fleet. She opened her day with an eighth as her second and third race victories of the week flowed in. As she takes the lead she has Germany's Moana Delle for company who is a point behind following a 2-3-2 score line.
Overnight leader Jiahui Wu dropped to third. A less than convincing day for the Chinese racer saw her struggle in the shifty breeze. She picked up a 13th, a discarded 19th and a fourth.
Piotr Myszka (POL) continues to lead following a 1-4-3 score line but the young Polish sailor Pawel Tarnowski and Dutchman Kiran Badloe continue to impress.
The young guns lead the likes of London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Dorian van Rijsselberge (NED) who is fourth, bronze medallist Przemyslaw Miarczynski (POL) who is fifth and silver medallist Nick Dempsey (GBR) who is eighth.
Tarnowski is second on 45 points whilst Badloe is third on 50 points. Badloe is five points ahead of compatriot Van Rijsselberge.
Team GBR's Nick Dempsey, who admitted to making it ‘harder than it needed to be’ in what were three inconsistent races for the current World Champion, who is eighth overall.
There will be very little room for error on the final day of Sonar racing as four points separate the top four racers.
John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas (GBR) keep their overnight lead and still have a slight advantage over Bruno Jourdren, Nicolas Vimont Vicary and Eric Flageul (FRA).
Aleksander Wang Hansen, Per Eugen Kristiansen and Marie Solberg (NOR) are three points behind the Brits with the Australians Colin Harrison, John Harris and Russell Boaden in fourth.
It's a three horse race for the medals on the final day of 2.4mR racing with Heiko Kroeger (GER) on 13 points and Damien Seguin (FRA) and Megan Pascoe (GBR) on 14 points.
Seguin and Pascoe had trailed the German by a larger margin coming into the day but a bullet each mixed with a solid top three result sees them pull to within one point. Kroeger meanwhile had his worst day on the water with a 2-5.
Racing commences at 11:00 local time on Friday 25 April as the places for the Medal Races are decided.Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth remain in touch with the podium spots in spite of a tough day in the 49erFX class. They started strongly with a fifth in the first race of the day, but were unable to match it in the following two races, picking up a 19,9 to end the day in fourth.