© FFVoile / SailingEnergy
SOF: Golden starts to gold fleet in Hyères as Olympians begin to swoop
All ten Olympic classes were on the water in building easterly winds as the top of the 900 competitors in 670 boats from 66 nations from the first three days split into gold fleets at he 54th Semaine Olympique Française de Hyères - TPM.
The pressure cranked up several notches and cracks appeared in many of the podiums, as some of the dominant forces of the opening three days fell away as they faced all the best boats together for the first time. Across the fleet, Olympic medal winners who had struggled earlier in the week began their rise.
Friday could be trickier with light 6-8 knot easterlies in the morning veering south in the afternoon.
iQFOiL (men's & women's)
Five races today
Denmark's Laerke Buhl-Hansen is out on her own at the top after another dominant day in which she followed a 7th place in the first race of the morning with four straight victories. She has won 10 of the 14 races in completely different conditions.
"It's been a really good event because this week we've had super light slalom conditions today and also storm course racing," Buhl-Hansen said. "It's really helpful before our European Championships in two weeks. So far I've been in a really good flow and have just been able to keep that going.
"I feel all the pressure is on them (the riders behind her). I'm not so used to being in this position but it's good preparation. But you have remember the medal race is winner takes all, so it's all open. That's pressure on the person in first place, but we still have a day of racing tomorrow.
The class is very open, you have the established people but all the time someone new is coming in at the top. It's definitely interesting (before the Paris 2024 Olympics). Some nations have a really strong team, but at the Games there is only going to be one, so that's a new game again."
She has three Czech Republic riders behind her, led by Kristina Pinosova, who took back the second place overall at the end with two second place finishes in the last two races.
Five races today
Brazil's Mateus Isaac retained the overall lead with consistently excellent racing, finishing 1, 5, 3, 2, 3. He has not finished outside the top 5 in any of the 14 races so far and has easily the best discards too. Thailand's Will McMillan took back second place from Turkey's Onur Cavit Biriz with 1, 2 finishes in the last two races. France's Fabien Pianazza is marginally behind in fourth after winning the last race and the top four have opened a big gap on the rest of the fleet.
Formula Kite (men's and women's foiling kitesurfing)
Six races today
The 16-year-old Singaporean, Maximilian Maeder still leads despite a more mixed day in the six races in gold fleet. After winning his five races across the opening days, Maeder finished 3, 5, 1, DNC (36), 13, 2 in the 36-boat gold fleet. That last second place took him back to the top past
France's Maxime Nocher (5, 4, 7, 2, 1, 5). Britain's Connor Bainbridge moved into third with 1, 2, 3, 1, 6, 7 finishes.
Six races today
Hyères and France's local hero and rising star, Lauriane Nolot, enjoyed a golden start to gold fleet winning four of the six races and finishing 1, 1, 1, 2, 1, 2. She jumped past here compatriot, Jessie Kampman, who also had a strong day with 9, 2, 2, 1, 2, 4 finishes and even more significantly USA's six time and reigning world champion, Daniela Moroz, who beat Nolot into second in Hyères last year.
"The first few days were complicated but I was very happy to be back on the course today," Nolot said. "These waiting periods were a little stressful from a results point of view, but I managed to recover well. And I enjoyed sailing in 30 knots (on Monday), it was very nice."
Today, we were able to do six races, I won and had two second places. To be in the lead tonight is a great satisfaction. I showed today who was the boss."
Moroz did not finish her first race after going in for a smaller kite as the wind changed and had a mixed day with DNC (26), 4, 3, 11, 9, 1. The final race win was a reminder though that presuming she makes it - and the top 4 have a small cushion - she will be a force on Saturday in the Medal Race.
"I started the first race today but didn't finish it because the wind picked up a lot and I was out on a 21 and the rotation time between races was really short," Moroz said. "So I chose to go in during the middle of the race and switch to my smaller kite, the 15, and that was definitely the right call and worked out well.
"The conditions have been pretty tricky, a waiting game and we only had one day of racing and four races and then went straight into gold fleet today, so it was a bit tricky. But I feel like I handle the uncertainty pretty well, go with the flow and try not to make any predictions on the weather.
I loved that first day of racing because I love a lot of wind, so it was fun to race in that.
Obviously, there's a little bit of pressure on me (as six-time world champion), I think a lot of it is internal, but I think Paris (2024 Olympics) is a big opportunity, exciting for the sport and exciting for us as athletes. I'm really happy to be here and doing something I love everyday, so I'm enjoying the process."
Britain underlined their strength in depth with four riders in the top nine.
Nacra 17 (mixed double-handed hydrofoil catamaran)
Three races today
Britain's John Gimson & Anna Burnett, Olympic silver medalists in Tokyo and second here last year, made the perfect start to gold fleet winning all three races to open up a 22-point lead. Australia's Jason Waterhouse & Lisa Darmanin, the overnight leaders, slipped to fourth overall with 8, 13, 7 finishes in the 23-boat fleet.
Argentina's Mateo Majdalini & Eugenia Bosco (3, 4, 12) moved up to second place. The surprise was Ruggero Tita & Caterina Banti, Italy's Olympic and world champions and the winners here last year, were still left down the leaderboard in seventh with 14, 2, 6 finishes.
49er (men's and women's high-performance double-handed dinghy)
Four races today
The consistency of the Dutch world champions, Odile van Aanholt & Annette Duetz, was rewarded on a day of fluctuating fortunes when podium finishes were spread throughout the fleet. They finished 7, 3, 3, 4 in the four races today and have not been out of the top 10 across the nine races thus far.
They jumped into the overall lead past Italy's Jana Germani & Giorgia Bertuzzi, who won the first race, were second in the second but then finished 17, 16 to leave them with work to do on Friday.
The Danish sisters, Johanne & Andrea Schmidt moved up into third with 5, 16, 4, 3 finishes. And the boats are tightly packed behind them, including Brazil's double Olympic champions, Martine Grael & Kahena Kunze in fifth are after 11, 4, 14, 5 finishes. Even China's Xiaoyu Hu & Mengyuan Shan should not be discounted after winning two of the four races yesterday.
Four races today
None of the fleets saw quite such a change at the top of the leaderboard as the men's 49er, as the top two boats feel down the ladder as Spain's Diego Bottin & Florian Trittel enjoyed a golden finish to the start of gold fleet, winning the last two of the day's four races. The Dutch world champions Bart Lambriex & Floris van der Werken are all that is left of Wednesday's podium after they finished 8, 5, 2, 5.
Meanwhile New Zealand's Logan Dunning Beck & Oscar Gunn, winners in Palma at the beginning of April, and leaders overnight had a day to forget, finishing 10, 19, 12, 17 in the 24-boat gold fleet and slipped to 5th overall. Likewise, USA's Ian Barrows & Hans Henken, who slipped from second to seventh with 16, 4, 19, 22 finishes.
470 (mixed double-handed dinghy)
Three races today
Spain's Jordi Xammar- Hernandez &Nora Brugman retained the overall lead and opened up a significant gap at the top as the only leading boat to register three single digit results, finishing 4, 2, 6 as others floundered.
After flourishing in the light winds on Wednesday, Portugal's Beatrice Gago & Rodolfo Pires finished 3, 29, 10 and dropped to third just behind Austria's Lara Vadlau and Lukas Mähr (9, 10, 2).
ILCA 6 and 7 - (women's & men's solo dinghy)
One race today
After biding his time, Pavlos Kontides, the first Cypriot to ever win an Olympic medal (silver at London 2012) and the winner of a thrilling medal race in Hyères last year, made the perfect start to gold fleet, winning both races to swoop past the previously dominant British contingent to the top of the leaderboard. But only three points separate the top 4.
Britain's Michael Beckett, the winner in Palma, moved into second despite 11, 3 finishes in in the 52-boat gold fleet (because of earlier consistency) and Eliott Hanson (6, 4), second in Hyères last year, slipped from leader to third. Australia's Olympic champion, Matt Wearn, stayed on all their shoulders after finishing second in the last race after seventh in the first.
One race today
Canada's Sarah Douglas, sixth at the Tokyo Olympics, retained her overall lead despite an 8th place in the only race of the day as the wind dropped. Just 14 points separate the top six now. Australia have two in the top four after Maya Stransky won the race. Perhaps most significantly, Denmark's Olympic Champion, Anne-Marie Rindom, moved into fifth after finishing second, her best finish of the week.
Programme (subject to change):
Monday 24 to Friday April 28: qualifying phase
Saturday April 29: Medal Races
Saturday April 29: Prize giving and closing ceremony
Dates to remember: the next edition
2024: April 20 to 27 April – 55th edition