470 Womens silver...only
From the words of the sailors competing at ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères it was a beautiful ending to a perfect week. Medals across the ten Olympic events were decided on the final day with a 10-12 knot westerly breeze on flat water.
Three points split Andy Maloney (NZL) and Tom Burton (AUS) going into the Medal Race and it was Burton who came out on top in a thrilling conclusion.
"It was a bit surreal,” said an ecstatic Burton after racing. "I think that was one of the closest races I've done in a long time, if not ever. It was pretty exciting.”
Burton finished fifth to Maloney's seventh which handed him gold. "I didn't have the best of first beats. I think I rounded in maybe seventh or eighth at the top and the guys were all in front of me which wasn't ideal,” explained Burton. "I just hung in there and Andy got a yellow flag on the first run that put me in front of him but at the second top mark I was directly in front of him so he still had it.
"In the last run it was a bit dicey with big pressure differences and on the line I crossed in front of him by a boat length and then there was a boat in between us two. I only beat him by a nose, it was such a close race. I'm pretty stoked. I won here last year and the goal was to come and win again after winning last week in Palma. It was a close race but I'm happy to take the win.”
Maloney went in to the Medal Race with a strong plan but was visibly disappointed ashore as things did not quite go his way: "It was really tough, like it always was going to be in the Medal Race. I was really close with TB [Tom Burton] going into it. The game plan was to lead at the top mark and then evaluate from there. I knew what I needed to do. I didn't have the best of start. The French guy was on top of me so that didn't help. I was looking pretty good two thirds up the beat and didn't have the best rounding at the top of the course but I was back in amongst it in the downwind. At the bottom gate I had another small hiccup with a yellow flag for rocking. I was then just behind Tom at the bottom gate and in with the fight.
"I got behind him on the final run and it was looking good right near the finish line. I was just sticking with Tom and then the French guy just slipped in right between us. It's tough to take but there are a lot of good points we can take out of this week.”
Rutger Van Schaardenburg (NED) walks away with Laser bronze.
ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne winner Tatiana Drozdovskaya (BLR) entered the Medal Race with a three point lead over Evi Van Acker (BEL). Van Acker relinquished her lead the day prior having sailed the wrong course and counted a high score that handed Drozdovskaya the advantage going into the last day.
Van Acker went out with intent and sailed a superb race that she led from the off to take the bullet and gold. As she explained: "I just had a strategy that I discussed with my coach and everything just worked out. I was the only one starting at the pin end. Everybody else was middle of the line or boat end so I was happy I was down there so could have a good start. I played the left side more than the others and I was in front from the beginning. Once you're sailing in front it's no so hard, if you're at the back it's quite difficult.”
Hyères is one of Van Acker's favourite venues as she was thrilled to take the regatta victory: "Hyeres is always the toughest World Cup to win. I've managed to win it only once before and now it's really nice to win it for a second time because it's a difficult venue. It's my first win in a very long time so I'm really happy. I had a lot of fans on the water, all the team went out and it was great fun. I'm really happy that I could make up from my stupid mistake yesterday.”
Marit Bouwmeester (NED) finished the Medal Race in second which was not enough to move in to silver medal position as Drozdovskaya held on to second podium spot with a third.
British Podium Potential sailor Hannah Snellgrove made the most of her first World Cup medal race opportunity. The Lymington sailor finished seventh to close out eighth overall, and said that qualifying for the ten-boat final was a real lift.
“It’s an honour to be racing against girls I was reading about when I was a Youth Radial sailor,” she enthused. “It has been a tough week with lots of ups and downs, so it’s been a real confidence boost going in to the rest of the season.”
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) made it two ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta victories in a row with another dominant display.
The Kiwis sealed the deal in the opening race of three stadium style races as they took the first bullet and Burling was delighted to pick up his second consecutive World Cup gold, "I'm pretty stoked to take the win. We had a pretty big lead but it was mathematically possible to lose it so we made sure we did the job in the first race and had a bit of fun in the last two.
"It was really great to get out in the lead in the first race and just be able to sail away. We're definitely really happy with how we backed up Palma with another win.”
The silver medal was picked up by Ryan Seaton and Matthew Mcgovern and the Irish team were all smiles after racing. "It was a great week and obviously the result tops it all off,” said Mcgovern. "What a great week of sailing in Hyères. It's been six days of brilliant breeze and sunshine. It couldn't be any better in every respect."
Seaton and McGovern finished a disappointing 35th in Mallorca just weeks ago and hit back hard to show the fleet what they are all about, "We came here and we knew we had to hit the ground running. We couldn't have two bad weeks in a row so it was full on, 'put the engines on' and go as fast around the course and keep the mistakes to a minimum.”
Australia's Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen pushed hard on the final day to pick up bronze.
In terms of the Team GBR performance John Pink and Stuart Bithell, plus their teammates Dylan Fletcher-Alain Sign and Dave Evans-Ed Powys, all improved their overall positions after three steady finals races for the 49er class. Pink and Bithell were fifth overall, Fletcher and Sign ended their event in seventh, and a race win for Evans and Powys helped them into eighth place from tenth at the start of the day.
Fletcher admitted he was frustrated after he and Sign enjoyed an impressive start to their Hyeres title defence: “We started really well and were pretty surprised at how we tailed off in the finals series whereas we normally do the opposite, like in Palma, where we were climbing through the week. We normally look forward to finals as it’s an opportunity to sail against everyone in the fleet and move up a bit.
“We’ve got to sit down and look at why it happened. We’re still scratching our heads as we weren’t up to our usual standards, so I’m sure we’ll be chatting lots of the way home and sorting out our plan of attack for the rest of the summer.”
Brazil's Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze will go into the remainder of 2014 full of confidence after they took their second consecutive ISAF Sailing World Cup gold medal in Hyères. The Brazilians were dominant in Mallorca and despite a final day wobble in Hyères they came away with gold.
Grael and Kunze held an 18 point lead over Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL) ahead of the three stadium style races and an 8-3-9 score line was enough for them to hold on. The Kiwis won the day with a 6-1-3 score line and reduced the deficit to eight points but they settled for silver.
After racing Grael said: "We're not used to the format and we had an 18 points lead so it wasn't too hard for us. We did pretty bad in the races but we still managed to win. I'm feeling awesome, what can be better than this? I think it's been the best week the sailors have ever seen in Hyères. We had great wind, weather and I've been talking to the old guys and they've all said it's the best week ever. We're looking forward to coming back here again.”
Ida Marie Baad Nielsen and Marie Thusgaard Olsen (DEN) finished third overall.
After their unbeaten run was ended at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami, Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) returned to winning ways in the Men's 470 at the final ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta of the 2013-2014 series. Belcher and Ryan took silver in Miami and bronze in Mallorca and are back atop of the podium.
The Australians had a 17 point lead going into the Medal Race and with a fifth they sealed the deal, "It wasn't our best race,” commented Ryan. "It was quite tricky conditions but we knew we had to stay in front of the Greeks and the French. Off the start we managed to get in a good position and from there we protected where we were with the jury on us at the top mark. We were back on track after that and we're really happy. It's been a pretty long week and to come down today with not too much pressure was quite a nice way to do it.”
For Ryan the result has extra significance as he concluded, "It's quite special for me because all my family are over here. My sisters are competing and the parents are over. So it's really nice to do well and hopefully we can carry the momentum through the year. It's been a beautiful week here in Hyères with beautiful conditions and perfect sailing.”
Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis (GRE) finished one point ahead of Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion (FRA) as the two teams took silver and bronze.
The Medal Race bullet went to Germany's Jan-Jasper Wagner and Dustin Baldewein.
Britain's Luke Patience and Elliot Willis enjoyed an impressive medal race, finishing second to elevate them to sixth overall – the best position they could have achieved heading into the final day.
“From the start of the week it’s felt like we’ve been involved in a bit of a street fight – tricky conditions – and we feel like we’ve been battling, either back into a race where the wind has shifted up the first beat, or claws in digging,” explained the two-time World Champion Willis, competing at just his second event with Patience since they teamed up in February. "It was great to finish it off the medal race and doing the maximum we could to pull up. We had good speed, a good start, and good execution of what we wanted to do today.”
Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (NZL) won their third ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta of the 2013-2014 series after another controlling display in Hyères. The Kiwi girls had a tough day on the water.
As Powrie explained, "It was a little bit stressful. We made it hard for ourselves. We thought we may have been over at the start so we came back and re-started. We managed to make our way back through the fleet and we still managed to come away with an overall win but still stressful.”
The Kiwis finished the Medal Race in fourth which was enough to defend their overnight lead. Aleh and Powrie sailed in Qingdao, Mallorca and Hyères taking gold at all. On the victory Powrie added, "I'm very relieved. It's really nice to win again. We put together a relatively good series which was nice. We didn't have that many different conditions this week. It was a bit of a grind by the end of it.”
A broken finger proved no problem for Eilidh McIntyre and as she and Sophie Weguelin closed off an impressive week to claim the silver medal. The European bronze medallists Weguelin and McIntyre only confirmed their participation at this final World Cup event of the season at the very last minute, after McIntyre broke her finger in a training accident back in February, missing the Palma edition of the series three weeks ago. The 19-year-old had the pin removed just three days before the start of the event, leaving the pair short of practice prior to competition, but sailed a steady series to see them go into the final ten-boat medal race all but assured of a podium finish.
Today the British crew was intent on protecting its silver from the third placed American duo of Anne Haeger-Briana Provancha. The British duo sailed a solid medal race to finish second, and consolidate their second place overall.
“It was a tough race actually – the Americans had a little chase of us at the start but we got away cleanly in the end so that was great,” Weguelin explained. “A few boats went back [at the start] and at one point it looked like it was possible to win the event, but our main focus was on defending the silver medal.
“It’s been a big time off for us unexpectedly, so we know we’ve got more to work on. Our boat-handling was a bit scrappy and at times we were a bit annoyed with ourselves, but that’s only natural and there’s plenty to work on going into the season.”
McInytre echoed her teammate’s thoughts: “It’s been a really fantastic week. We’ve sailed really well but just started to get a bit tired towards the end of the week as our sailing fitness isn’t really there. But we’re so pleased – to do so well in spite of that is really brilliant, and we’ve got lots of work on during May in our training.
“We’re in a great position [for the season], especially as we feel we weren’t a million miles off. We were right there during the week and that’s a really positive place to be.”
There were plenty of permutations possible in the Nacra 17 with ample medal opportunities across the top five racers.
Darren Bundock and Nina Curtis (AUS) had the advantage in the fleet with a seven point lead over Billy Besson and Marie Riou (FRA) and Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri (ITA).
Unfortunately the Australians made an error on the race course. Bundock explained: "We had to finish within three boats of French or within four boats of the Italians. We were doing that midway through the race but then they shortened the course and we stuffed up basically. We headed to the wrong mark and we ended up finishing second last and let the other guys get away. We finished third overall and the Italians finished first with the French in second. It's a silly mistake on our behalf. They halved the leg and we weren't expecting that at all. By the time we tacked and looked back it was all over.”
Bissaro and Sicouri and Besson and Riou were tied on 72 points upon the conclusion of the race but the Italians came through in second compared to the French teams third, which game them gold.
Pieter Jan Postma (NED) had gold in the bag ahead of the Medal Race and sailed with a clear head, finishing sixth to cap off a great week.
"It's my first world cup win,” said the experienced Dutch sailor. "I've always been there for years and years and I've never managed to step up so this week was awesome. It feels like a personal victory as I topped my best. I've got a few more grey hairs but I managed to deal better with my opportunities and I've been able to play out my strengths on the battlefield.”
The fight for silver and bronze was between Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO) and Thomas Le Breton. Three points split the pair with a Croatian advantage. Gaspic finished up in third place to take silver whilst Le Breton came away with bronze.
Jorge Zarif (BRA) took the Medal Race victory and ended up ninth overall.
It's now full tilt towards to 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships this September for the sailors.
Silver in the 470 Women was the sole piece of silverware for the British Sailing Team from the final day of competition at the southern French venue, adding to the gold and bronze won by Britain’s Paralympic Classes sailors in the Sonar and 2.4mR events on Friday.
After a good start to the week in the remaining Olympic Classes, Britain’s sailors endured a difficult finals series to leave them needing some strong performances and a bit of luck if they were to make the podium elsewhere on the final day.
The Nacra 17 duo of Ben Saxton-Hannah Diamond, 49erFX crew Charlotte Dobson-Sophie Ainsworth and 49er pairing John Pink-Stuart Bithell went into the final day’s ten-boat medal racing with a chance to break into the top three, but it was a case of what might have been.
Britain qualified three boats in the Nacra 17 fleet, with world silver medallists Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond disappointed not to improve on their fifth place going into the final day. They end their event in sixth, with Lucy Macgregor-Andrew Walsh ninth and Pippa Wilson-John Gimson tenth.Nick Thompson also sailed a solid medal race in the Laser class, finishing third to consolidate overall fifth, while Nick Dempsey was also in final day action in the RS:X men’s windsurfing event, finishing seventh in the final race and tenth overall.
RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park rued some missed opportunities at this World Cup event, and admitted he would have hoped to be leaving with more silverware, but was confident that the team would continue to build and improve ahead of the key events of the 2014 season.
“While we’ve been saying all along this is not an outcome regatta, from the positions we were in at the end of qualifying you could have expected that we would have had a better finishing positions than we did.
“Clearly that’s something that the coaches are going to have to look at with their sailors. That said, I don’t think that necessarily some of those finishing positions represent the progress that’s been made by some of the sailors,” Park explained.
“Pink and Bithell got together in the 49er just before Christmas and it’s fantastic to see that each time they go and race they do slightly better, so to be sixth running into this final medal stage is fantastic. It’s great to see Sophie and Eilidh having come back from an injury lay off and fighting out to win the event, and it’s good to see the Paralympic sailors doing well also.
Park continued: “There are ups and downs and justifications for all the individual classes, but at the end of the day we would have liked to have thought that we would have come away with more than one medal in the Olympic Classes, so there’s a little bit of work to go on there. But we’re still pretty comfortable that we’re on track for the Worlds and the Test Event later on in the year when those things will need to be addressed by then and people will need to deliver the performances that we believe that they’re capable of.”
“What is interesting is that there isn’t a dominance by any one particular country here. That does reflect the continuing rise in the level of competition – it’s getting ever harder to win and to dominate. But we have to be careful not to make excuses for things where we expect to perform better.”