Searching for Silver in Southern France

Saturday April 26, 2014

A spectacular week of racing in Hyeres, France has tested the fleets with a full schedule of races and wonderful weather on the French Riviera.  Day 5 of the regatta brought more wind again for the fleet, and challenged even the very best.  The regatta culminates with 3 X theatre style races for each of the 49er and 49erFX fleets.

At the top of the leaderboard it looks exactly the same as two weeks previous, when Peter Burling & Blair Tuke (NZL) and Martine Grael & Kahena Kunze (BRA) won the ISAF World Cup of Sailing – Majorca.  While both teams are mathematically catchable, both should have a reasonably easy time securing their victories.  The kiwis and Brazilians are 23 and 18 points ahead respectively of 2nd place with a maximum of 27 points available.

Where the action gets really interesting is in the 49er fleet, where four teams are virtually locked and will sail off for the final two podium positions.  Each of the 49er generations is present in the fight for Silver and Bronze, with Marcus Hansen & Josh Porebski (NZL) tied on points with Ryan Seaton & Matt McGovern (IRL), local heros Manu Dyen & Stephane Cristidis (FRA) are 4 points back, and 2012 Gold medalists Nathan Outteridge & Iain Jensen (AUS) are 7.7 points back, having secured redress for an incident in the final race of the series.

The young Kiwis, the Aussies, and the French have been in this situation before, but this is the first time we’ve seen the Irishmen complete for a podium position at a major European or World event.  The skiff scene in Ireland has been a long and steady progression, with a single team always pushing at the world level.  Now, with the 49erFX girls and Matt & Ryan there is a bit more momentum for skiffs in the Emerald Isle, and these two racers will be ever so eager to bring home some hardware in the sixth year of their partnership.

For the Australians, Outteridge and Jensen, this is the first time they will have competed in a bounded course area since the America’s Cup as they have been absent from the 49er circuit for most of the duration of the theatre style test period.  A start in the theatre could also be an end, as there is a chance this will be the last ever theatre style conclusion to a regatta, with ISAF set to vote again on the matter in less than 2 weeks time.  While theatre style racing has upped the intensity of fleet racing, many in sailing leadership positions prefer consistency among the events and traditional racing.

Hansen & Porebski had a poor qualifying in Palma but have been able to bounce back sharply in Hyeres.  They are sailing with plenty of confidence as they know they can keep up with the very best after training day in, day out with Burling & Tuke.  For the French pair of Dyen and Christidis, this is also a bit of redemption from Palma, where they too missed out on qualifying.  They won the Bronze medal at the 2013 World Championship just down the road in Marseille, and will be looking to do at least that well again this time around.

In the 49erFX, there is no chance of a French bronze medal this time, like there was at the Worlds last year, as Sarah Steyaert and Julie Bossard withdrew from the event after Sarah suffered an ankle injury in training just days before the first race.

There is a good fight shaping up for Silver, as the 2013 World Champions, Maloney & Meech (NZL) and 2013 European Champions, Nielsen & Olsen (DEN) are separated by only 5 points after 15 races.  The 49erFX raced as a single large fleet for the first two days of qualifying, and then a split fleet of 21 boats for the three days of gold fleet.  All of these teams have had plenty of opportunity to go head to head, and it will take three more short races to see who emerges.  Nielsen & Olsen picked up the silver in Palma, while Maloney & Meech took a little while to get going in both Palma and Hyeres, but not seem to have regained their swagger from 2013.

In fourth place are Dobson & Ainsworth (GBR) who have an outside shot at a medal should either of the teams ahead falter.

Up to date results are being published and updated quickly, so that’s a good way to see what’s going on.

There is no live broadcast on this event, but there is GPS tracking and live twitter available from the French web page.

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