Finn and RS:X Men golds sealed
The Medal Race places at ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères have been decided as the penultimate day brought drama and early victories across the ten Olympic events.
Pieter Jan Postma (NED) was able to seal the deal in the Finn fleet with a race to spare, as was Poland's Piotr Myszka in the Men's RS:X.
After a slightly delayed start an easterly 10-12 knot breeze and a choppy sea meant for close calls and tense racing on the race courses as sailors pushed for positions going into the final day.
Pieter Jan Postma (NED) sealed the deal in the Finn with another dominant display of racing in the 59-boat Finn fleet. He finished behind Josh Junior in Race 9 and came through with another second place in Race 10, finishing behind Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO).
After seven months out of race action trialling out for the Volvo Ocean Race Postma has come back into the fleet incredibly strong and goes into the Medal Race with an unassailable 33 point lead.
"This is a very special feeling,” commented Postma after racing. "A big step. Up to today during major events something went wrong in the end. I set myself straight. This now feels like a break, I can win. I have put so much energy into it over the past decade. Despite the stress I was really strong this week. This growth has been in recent years. If you look at the Olympics, which of course was a huge thing, on sailing quality I deserved a medal but I failed to rise above. Now I have to overcome it, so it feels very special.”
In the opening race of the day Postma found himself down in 11th but as he's done all week he clawed back up the pack. At the second upwind mark he was seventh and weaved his way through to finish proceedings in second. In the final race the Dutchman was at it again and came from tenth to second and with it World Cup gold.
The battle for silver and bronze will be close on the final day with three points dividing Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO), who took the Race 10 victory, and French favourite Thomas Le Breton.
Poland's Piotr Myszka took gold in the Men's RS:X with a day to spare following an exceptional week of racing. In the 15 race series Myszka has taken no fewer than eight race victories and is in a good place ahead of a busy summer featuring European and World Championship racing.
Providing Pawel Tarnowski (POL) completes the Medal Race he will pick up silver.
Six points separate Przemyslaw Miarczynski (POL), in third, and Dorian Van Rijsselberge (NED) in fourth so it will go down to the Medal Race for the bronze.
It will be a three horse Medal Race showdown in the Women's RS:X between Maja Dziarnowska (POL), Jiahui Wu (CHN) and Germany's Moana Delle. The Polish sailor leads on 61 points whilst the Chinese and German racers are tied on 63 points. All three have guaranteed themselves medals, but it's going to be a winner take all fight in the Medal Race.
"It's been a pleasure to race here and I'm happy to have the yellow jersey,” said Dziarnowska, "It's been good for me. I like flat water and strong winds. I will fight with Moana and the Chinese sailor in tomorrow's Medal Race.”
It could be a golden ending for Delle as the Medal Race will serve as her final RS:X race. Delle, who finished fifth at London 2012, will want to leave the scene well as she returns to her studies, "It's my last regatta, and after this I'm going to finish my Olympic sailing career. For me it's special to finish off my career well. I'll try to enjoy my last race and enjoy it one last time.
"I'm going to finish my degree. Windsurfing will always be a part of my life, I'm going to go on to short boarding but it's not going to be Olympic RS:X windsurfing anymore.”
On the week she concluded, "It's Hyeres at its best, I've never seen it this beautiful. It's a World Cup, it's a strong fleet and there are the best racers in the world here. The girls are fighting closely.”
Tatiana Drozdovskaya (BLR) advanced from third to first in the Laser Radial as a slip up from Evi Van Acker (BEL) handed the Belorussian the advantage.
"Today I was first in the first race and I sailed the wrong course which was really stupid,” explained Van Acker. "I had a good feeling through the day, I was fast and the second race I won.”
Drozdovskaya pounced on Van Acker's misfortune and took the first bullet of the day, five seconds ahead of Hannah Snellgrove (GBR). A fifth followed and she is three points clear of Van Acker going into the Medal Race, "Today I was very good downwind. It was good racing. I had a first and a fifth and I'm so happy,” said an elated Drozdovskaya.
She added, "All races have been hard. It's been good conditions for sailing and in all of the races I've felt good. Tomorrow will be another day.”
Van Acker and Marit Bouwmeester (NED) occupy the silver and bronze medal positions. The Belgian is three points off Drozdovskaya whilst the Dutch sailor is a further two points behind.
With the points close Van Acker knows it's still all to play for, "I'm staying positive and it's going to be exciting tomorrow. I first came here when I was seven years old, that was 20 years ago, I still love this venue and it's great to be here.”
Finland's Tuula Tenkanen (FIN) is fourth overall, 20 points off Drozdovskaya and 14 off Bouwmeester.
Three points separate Andy Maloney (NZL) and Tom Burton (AUS) heading into the Laser Medal Race.
Both sailors used up their discard on the penultimate day of racing as Maloney loses a 20th and Burton a scoring penalty.
The day's bullets went to Jesper Stalheim (SWE) who is 11th overall and the fourth placed Robert Scheidt (BRA) who is a single point off of Rutger van Schaardenburg (NED).
New Zealand's Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie put daylight in between themselves and the chasing British and American teams.
Double bullets handed the Kiwi racers a 12 point lead going into Saturday's Medal Race and another competent performance will hand them their third ISAF Sailing World Cup gold medal of the 2013-2014 series.
Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) are second on 32 points with Anne Haeger and Briana Provancha (USA) third on 34 points.
Sitting in fourth on 51 points Camille Lecointre and Helene Defrance (FRA) have an outside chance of taking bronze but will have to take the bullet and hope the Americans falter.
Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) have a solid advantage in the Men's 470. Their lead stands at 17 points over Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis (GRE) before the Medal Race.
The Australians obliterated the opposition on the penultimate day of racing. They took the first bullet of the day by 44 seconds and popped up with a 28 second victory in the final race of the series to leave them in a good position before the Medal Race.
Mantis and Kagialis are five points clear of Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion (FRA) whilst Sweden's Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergstrom are fourth.
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) will be able to wrap up 49er gold on the final day if they finish fourth or better.
The Kiwis have given themselves plenty of room for error on the final day and the way things are going an error of any sort looks unlikely.
They discarded a 20th in the opening race of the day but bounced back to take their fourth bullet of the series in the second and last race of the day. They go into the three final day races with a 23 point advantage.
Marcus Hansen and Josh Porebski (NZL) and Ryan Seaton and Matthew Mcgovern (IRL) are tied in second and third on 90 points with French favourites Manu Dyen and Stephane Christidis fourth on 94 points.
Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) have an 18 point advantage going into three single point stadium style races in the 49erFX.
The Brazilians posted three results in the top six to hold firm in the leading position, one they've barely relinquished over the 15-race series.
New Zealand's Alex Maloney and Molly Meech were also fairly consistent on the day recording a 4-10-2 and are second overall on 66 points.
Ida Marie Baad Nielsen and Marie Thusgaard Olsen (DEN) are third on 71 points whilst Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth (GBR) are fourth on 83 points.
Thirty points are on the table across the three 49erFX races on the final day.
It'll be all to play for in the Nacra 17 with plenty of permutations possible on the final day.
Darren Bundock and Nina Curtis (AUS) will enter the Medal Race with a seven point advantage over Billy Besson and Marie Riou (FRA) and a nine point lead over Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri (ITA).
The French and Italian teams received scoring penalties on the first race of the day whilst the Aussies sailed consistently across the day with a 7-4-5 score line.
Besson and Riou bounced back with vengeance and took the bullets in the following two races as they discarded their scoring penalty.
The Italians were also consistent in the proceeding races taking a fifth and a fourth.
With 14 points splitting the third place Italians and Euan McNicol and Lucinda Whitty (AUS) in eighth it will be intriguing action in the Nacra 17 Medal Race.
Medal Race action gets going at 11:00 on Saturday 26 April as racing at the fifth and final regatta of the 2013-2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup series concludes.