Great Britain’s Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Stuart Bithell took 49er gold in the USA but were beaten by compatriots James Peters and Fynn Sterritt at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia who took the title to ensure the British Skiff battle continues with both teams in Hyères 49er fleet.
Germany’s Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel who claimed bronze at Rio 2016 step back in the boat for the first time since Rio. Will they step back in as competitive as they were last summer, or will the long gap in racing take them a while to catch back up?
Spain’s Diego Botin and Iago Marra will again look to push for medals and will be joined in the hunt by fellow young guns from Argentina, the Lange brothers.
The Phillips brothers are up from Australia, perpetually competitive while typically not doing the whole circuit. With reports Outteridge and Jensen will not step back into the 49er, this could be their chance to go all the way from down under. Speaking of medalist rumours, Burling and Tuke will not make their decisions on further skiff sailing until after the America’s Cup, and two young teams from New Zealand came up for the World Cup. With a whole compeitive season in the Southern Hemisphere under their belts, the Kiwi teams could be in great form compared to others in the fleet just back to getting their feet wet.
Stand out names in the 49erFX are the darlings of Brazilian sailing, Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze. With Olympic gold and a win at the World Cup Series Miami it is hard not to hang the tag of favourites around their neck.
Other Miami medallists on the start line are Argentina’s Victoria Travascio and Maria Branz who will look to upgrade their bronze from round 1.
Rio 2016 Nacra 17 bronze medallist, Austria’s Tanja Frank, continues her transition from the Nacra 17 to the 49erFX partnering Lorena Abicht and will be joined by another Olympic multihull sailor, Aruba’s Nicole van der Velden. Van de Velden has teamed up with Odile van Aanholt who has a silver Youth Olympic Games medal to her credit from Nanjing 2014.
Finnish sailors Noora Ruskola and Mikaela Wulff make another appearance in the skiff, performing an atypical experiment among themselves. The duo have come together after each completing campaigns in the 49erFX and 470W respectively. All winter and spring they have been jumping back and forth between the classes, Miami in the FX, Palma in the 470W, and now back to FX for Hyeres. “We can’t keep doing this forever, so at some point we’ll have to choose,” said Noora, but it seems for now they will keep enjoying the variety.
In addition to the 10 Olympic classes and the 2.4m, the Formula Kites will join the Olympic classes in Hyères and will be spearheaded by France’s very own World Champion Maxime Nocher. Nocher will be joined by a host of countrymen who will have to contend with sailors from around the world like Germany’s Florian Gruber and Canada’s Catherine Dufour to take a gold medal on home soil.
Racing begins in Hyères, France on the 23 April and concludes with two days of LIVE Medal Races on 29 and 30 April 2017.
By Richard Aspland – World Sailing