Photos: JM Liot et G.Durand/DPPI/FFVoile

Seven classes decided pre-medal race

Perhaps a record at the Semaine Olympique Francaise in Hyeres

Thursday April 28th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

The last day of finals in the fourth ISAF Sailing World Cup event in Hyères has concluded on Thursday with an impressive seven early winners in the Olympic and Paralympic classes.

Spain's Tara Pacheco and Berta Betanzos have been in control in the 470 Women since day one and have kept increasing their lead to an amazing 32 points lead in a talented field.

“It is the first time we win an event with such a big lead before the medal race," said Pacheco. "We have been able to sail well in the breeze, our favoured conditions but also in the lights where we are trying hard. Tomorrow we will sail our race as usual and will try not to disturb the others who are playing for the other medals."

Pacheco and Betanzos have had a dream start in their Olympic selections which will continue in Weymouth for Sail for Gold and at the ISAF Worlds. The next four teams will fight for Silver and Bronze during the medal race on Friday. Among there Penny Clark-Katrina Hughes and Hannah Mills-Saskia Clark will be in the fight for the remaining podium spots with Clark-Hughes currently second overall and Mills-Hughes third.

In the 470 Men, the French teams have been fighting it out in the top placings. This time it is Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos who come on top. They have created enough of a gap today to win the event from team mates and rivals Nicolas Charbonnier and Jeremie Mion. Silver and bronze are still open to the second to sixth placed boats.

“We have sailed together for 11 years and it is the first time we win before the medal race. We came here to win and we are very happy especially when this event is our first Olympic selection event,” said Leboucher.

Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell couldn’t make the medal race spots ending their regatta in 16th place.

With six victories in all manner of conditions over 10 races, Ben Ainslie has proven once again he is the master of the Finn! The medal race will be a round of honour for the multiple medallist who has won his third Sailing World Cup victory this year after Sail Melbourne and the Trofeo Princesa Sofia in Palma last month. Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) and Beijing Silver medallist Zach Railey (USA) will start the Medal race in second and third position. For Italy's Filippo Baldassari, 20, it will be his first medal race, significant because it is the second Olympic selection event for the Italian team, and his best result ever in the Finn.

The day proved less rosy, however, for teammate Giles Scott who went into the penultimate day in third place overall, but his medal hopes came to a rapid halt when he was forced to retire from both of the first two races after receiving two yellow flag penalties for sculling from the jury. He still makes the cut for the 10-boat finale on Friday, but in seventh place both he and teammate Ed Wright (eighth overall) are now out of medal contention.

“It’s been a really good week, I’m happy with the result and it’s nice to win with a day to spare – it takes the pressure off the medal race,” Ainslie commented.
“I’m really looking forward to the next regatta which will be Skandia Sail for Gold in five or six weeks’ time which, being at the Olympic venue, is obviously a bit more relevant in terms of the Games next year.  Hopefully I can keep the form going and keep the results coming along for that regatta as well, so that’s really the focus now.

“The last two regattas have been really good for me – I seem to be happy with the kit development we’ve done over the winter and speed seems to be reasonably good in some conditions and very good in others, so hopefully I’ve got a package I’m happy with so I’ve just got to go out there and race well,” the 34-year-old continued.

“The important thing is to try and keep the consistency, and try and keep things rolling along for the next event.”

Like Ainslie in the Star, Robert Scheidt has had a similar effect on the Star class, after leading the SOF-TPM from day one with his crew Bruno Prada and have already won the event in Hyères. In fact going into the medal race the podium is already set with France's Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot second and Italy's Diego Negri and Enrico Voltolini third.

The Paralympic classes didn't bring much surprise over the week and early leaders have continued to keep control of the fleet. Damien Seguin has won for the fourth time in the 2.4mR, while it is the first victory for Bruno Jourdren, Eric Flageul and Nicolas Vimont Vicary in the Sonar at this event: "We had a good week. We came here to try new equipment because we had problems with our new boat. Of course it is easier to be smarter and relaxed with good speed. This is the first time we win the SOF or any regatta in the Sonar. We are ahead with our objective to be ready for the Worlds at the end of the year.”

In the Skud class, Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell have a scoresheet which would make even Ben Ainslie envious, posting eight race wins from the nine races sailed so far to amass an eight point lead over fellow Brits Alex Hovden and Kate Mannerings.  With a maximum of two races left and a worst score of second in the six boat fleet, Rickham and Birrell cannot lose the gold medal, with Hovden and Mannerings comfortable in the silver medal spot.
“Alex and I have had a good week. We’ve sailed well for all the week really,” Birrell explained.  “We had a small blip yesterday but all week has been very light and very shifty so to have eight wins and a second out of nine races when it’s light and shifty, we’d have taken that at the start of the week.

“It’s definitely wasn’t as easy as the scoreline might suggest.  We were really taking each race at a time and trying to really concentrate on each race and each manoeuvre and not really worry about how far ahead we were or not.   It was about being cautious at the right times and attacking at the right times and I think we got the right balance this week.”

Rickham was also full of praise for Hovden and Mannerings for their World Cup performance this week.
“It’s great for the class – it’s good to see that things are starting to open up and we’re hopefully getting some more depth, especially in Britain as that would be really helpful to us as well.
“It’s great to see Alex on the startline this week and doing so well, but that starts turning the screw on us a bit doesn’t it?  We might actually have some trials on our hands!”

Pietro and Gianfranco Sibello (ITA) have sailed consistently this week in the 49er in all conditions, a 12th their worse result. “We had the same type of racing in Palma, and didn't go higher than 12th as well in any race. We are happy with our results which prove that our training in Spain with the French teams has paid off. We have started conservatively in the qualification stages as we wanted to go in the final stage without a bad race. We have good starts and speed and are happy with how we are going. Tomorrow we will follow the French. In any case we will be happy because we know we have reached the level we want.”

The Italians are going into the medal race with a big advance, one point short of an outright win, ahead of their French training partners Julien D'Ortoli and Noe Delpech. The podium remains open to the top six going into the medal race.

A disappointing day of 21,15,11 has effectively ended Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign’s hopes of a first 49er class World Cup medal after their strong start to the week. They’re sixth overall heading into the medal race, with defending champions Paul Brotherton and Mark Asquith eighth.

Ten countries will be represented in the Laser Medal Race tomorrow. 2010 Sailing World Cup winner Javier Hernandez (ESP) leads with Australian Tom Slingsby in second on equal points with Croat Tonci Stipanovic third. “I have sailed a perfect day from start to finish without any doubt. We are tight in points now so tomorrow everything is possible,” admits Stipanovic.

Slingsby who is renowned for his talent in the breeze has improved in the light with good results scored this week. “I have been working hard in the light and I have improved a lot. The important factor is consistency. The fleet is very good and today I have tried to close the gap between Javier and me.”

A premature start in the only race of the day saw Paul Goodison’s late surge up the leaderboard come to an end – he goes into the medal race in eighth overall, but is out of medal contention.

In the Laser Radial Palma winner, Sara Winther (NZL) has regained the lead after winning the last race of the event. She is now seven points ahead of Sarah Steyaert (FRA). Dongshuang Zhang (CHN) has climbed to third overall after top seven places and two victories in the finals.

It will be a dual for Gold in the RS:X Women between World Champion Blanca Manchon (ESP) and Charline Picon (FRA). While they fight it out for the top two position, bronze remains open to the next four on the rankings with SOF 2009 winner Peina Chen (CHN) the best placed in third.

In the RS:X Men Piotr Myszka (POL), second in Hyères last year has climbed to reach first place during the finals. The event title is up for grabs by the top five, including Beijing medallists, Shahar Zubari (ISR), Julien Bontemps (FRA) and Tom Ashley (NZL) as well as Przemyslaw Miarczynski (POL) in fifth place.

Sally Barkow (USA) and Lucy MacGregor (GBR) at into the finals of the Women's Match Racing. Team Barkow defeated team Rene Groeneveld 3-0 and MacGregor (GBR) defeated Claire Leroy 3-1 in the semi-finals.

“We train a lot together so we have the same style and we know each other well so it will be a tight match. We have met already this year in Palma and we won in five matches so it will be hard,” explains Barkow.

Results:  RS:X Men, RS:X Women, Laser, Laser Radial, Finn, 49er, 470 Men, 470 Women, Star, Women's Match Racing, 2.4mR, Sonar, Skud

From Richard Langdon/Skandia Team GBR



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