The racing got under way in Hyeres today for the second major event of 2015, ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres. The 49er fleet, 40 boats strong, was up first and started in extremely light conditions. In fact, conditions were so light that five of the best sailing teams in the world could not finish the race before the time limit.
Races 2 and 3 were sailed in more breeze, 6-9 knots, and unstable conditions. With winds shifting back and forth, there were few options but to start well and avoid holes. Only four teams managed to keep their average points below 10 places per race, which really shows both the parity and challenging racing conditions on the day.
Since 49er racing first got going, gold fleet racing has almost always been contested in fleets of 25 boats, with the aim to race short intense races close to shore. Further, the 49er has large and deep sails, with huge wind shadows, so large lanes are typically required for teams to keep up with one another. ISAF decided instead to hold the Sailing World Cup events with fleets of 40, and the fleet will have to get used to higher average scores.
British Sailing Team members James Peters and Flynn Sterritt had one of the best days, picking up a total of 29 points without any throw out races. They got out to the side of the fleet in race 1, and then in races 2 and 3 just stick to the middle of the pack and played what shifts they could. “In the very light, it was vital to get to a side for the better breeze. In the slightly windier conditions it was important to have options as the shifts came through at the top 1/3 of the beat,” said Sterritt. They played both types of racing well, started well, and as such are one of very few teams to without a poor result yet to drop.
With a disastrous start to the regatta are the local French favorites. Both Manu Dyen with Stephane Christidis and Julien D’Ortoli with Noe Delpech are last and second to last respectively. Both teams are typically medal racers, and it will be tough to fight back from such deep positions.
Despite the tough conditions, at the top of the pile are the headliners, Nathan Outteridge with Iain (Goob) Jensen (AUS) in the lead tied on points with Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL). In the lead up to the regatta there was a ‘coaches regatta’ where the teams coaches run formal races and these two teams were atop that table too, again with Outteridge on top. Nobody has beaten Burling and Tuke since their Silver medal in London, but with Outteridge and Jensen rededicated to Olympic sailing this could be the time. ISAF chatted with Burling in their article after racing today.
The 49erFX fleet waited on shore until the 49ers were done and got their races done in similar random breeze to start their regatta. New french pairing Lili Sebesi and Julie Bossard got off to a fantastic start with a pair of dueces, but then finished up with a race near the back for the last one. The French squad has been trading partnerships of late with 2013 standout Sarah Stayaert now sailing with Lili’s old crew Aude Campan. Sarah and Aude had a solid day are are in the top 10, so the French 49erFX faired much better than their 49er countrymen on day 1 at the home World Cup.
Coming on strong and through the day were 2013 & 2014 European Champions Ida Nielsen and Marie Olsen of Denmark. Their scoreline of 7, 3, 1 puts them tied on points with a low drop to have squeezed through a tough day in fantastic shape for the regatta ahead. “It was the type of day you hope to score at least 2 keepers just because it was so random out there,” said one of the top coaches. “Even more so, if you didn’t, it’s not a day to get too upset over, things happen in days like this and it’s just best to move on.”
ISAF announced today 6000 Euros of prize money per event, the first time prize money has been on offer so far at World Cups, so the sailors are excited for a new era of professional sailing, even at a small start. The final day will be live broadcats on youtube on Sunday and we will have the embed on 49er.org for viewers looking to tune in.