Classic Hyeres conditions for the first day of the third World Cup event in the 2017 series, with the Australian Sailing Team in action in four classes as they start the long haul towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Light to moderate (6-12 knot) conditions on the Mediterranean today. There was a slow clocking breeze from east to south but some big shifts during the day and up and down pressure made a big difference with the rich getting richer and the backmarkers in rags.
With the tighter format of the Sailing World Cup, now with strict performance based entry limits, the harsh reality of top class Gold fleet racing starts on day one.
In the Laser class Pavlos Kontides (CYP), the London 2012 Olympic Silver medallist had a perfect start to his Hyeres 2017 regatta with two bullets, ahead of 2015 and 2016 World Champion Nick Thompson (GBR) who scored a third and second.
Tom Burton, Rio 2016 Olympic Gold medallist, is in third place with a fourth and fifth.
Burton, who has been on the podium in the last four World Cups in Hyeres commented after racing ‘Tricky conditions today, the level of racing is very high so you need to get good starts, you need to go the right way and you need to be going fast.
‘I had most of that today and got to the front so happy with the way I was going. My two penalty turns knocked me back from the lead to fifth in the second race, but I know I have speed.
‘If I am going the right way and put my boat in a good position, I will be good enough to win.’
Team-mate Matt Wearn followed Burton across the line in the first race to take fifth but fell back in the second to 15th to be currently placed fifth overall. Behind Wearn is Tonci Stipanovic the Rio Silver medallist.
Wearn explained, ‘The first race was a bit of a shock, with 60 boats and a Gold fleet level. I got bounced around a little bit at the start but my boat speed kept me in there and I got back into gear and started to pick up those places so it was good.
‘I had a bad start in the second race, falling back into the mid 20’s and had to fight back from there. I was grateful to get 15th.’
Laser coach Michael Blackburn commented ‘Another big fleet regatta, Kontides made some bold choices and did really well, it’s what you have to do sometimes.’
London Gold Medallist Mat Belcher took the Silver Medal in Rio with Will Ryan in the Men’s 470 dinghy class. They finished second in this regatta last year and had a solid start again today and were smiling as they came up the ramp.
Belcher said ‘it was really nice just to be back into it. We hadn’t really done much since the Games so to come back into a big fleet was interesting.
‘The first race was pretty light. The start was quite good but we got buried at the top of the first leg in some pretty chaotic traffic and we fell back to 34th. That reality was certainly quite a welcome back to the fleet but we fought our way back, improving 24 places before the finish. The second race we had a good start and then just worked forward from there.
‘We sailed well considering we haven’t done anything for quite some time and we are happy how it panned out. Will and I just really enjoyed being back and we enjoyed that environment and that’s a really positive step for us.’
In the Finn class Ben Cornish (GBR) leads the series after the first day, with a win in the first race and a sixth in the second. Nicholas Heiner (NED) who has moved up from the Laser class is second with a fourth and a fifth. Tom Ramsey (CAN) is third with a second and eighth.
Ollie Tweddell who was second at his event last year had a slow start today with 21, 15. He was penalised early in the second race and after the 720 fell back through the fleet.
In the 49er men’s skiff class Will and Sam Phillips had a tough day in their first overseas regatta for almost 12 months, they scored a 21st, 21st and, 19 and are 25th overall.
ASS Laser sailor Mitch Kennedy is 17th, Jeremy O’Connell is 19th and Luke Elliott is 53rd.
Stronger winds are forecast for the next three days which will favour the Australian sailors who normally race in much windier conditions than they experienced today and so should enjoy the days ahead.
The series continues all week with 49er medal racing on Saturday 29th and Laser, Finn and 470 Men’s on Sunday 30th.
Australian Sailing Team (AST) & Squad (ASS) at Sailing World Cup Hyeres 2017
Men’s Two Person Dinghy - 470M
Mathew Belcher (QLD/QAS) & Will Ryan (QLD/QAS) – AST: 10,3 – 4th
Men’s Skiff - 49er
Will & Sam Phillips (VIC/VIS) – AST: 21, (21), 19 - 25th
Men’s One Person Dinghy (Heavyweight) - Finn
Oliver Tweddell (VIC/VIS) – AST: 21,15 – 18th
Men’s One Person Dinghy – Laser
Tom Burton (NSW/NSWIS) – AST: 4,5 – 3rd
Matt Wearn (WA/WAIS) – AST: 5,15 – 5th
Luke Elliot (WA/WAIS) – ASS: 43,52 – 53rd
Mitch Kennedy (QLD/QAS) – ASS: 11,28 – 17th
Jeremy O'Connell (VIC/VIS) – ASS: 10,34 – 19th
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RESULTS / ENTRIES
A full list of sailors registered to sail in Hyères is available to view here - http://manage2sail.com/en-US/event/0adf7bcd-01d0-4214-a295-bb0b9136999e#!/entries?classId=7a9662de-4565-41e3-9008-4025d3177d5e
Results will be available from Tuesday 25 April via the World Cup Series results centre here - http://www.sailing.org/worldcup/results/index.php
Live tracking and competitor's analytics will be available via SAP Sailing Analytics throughout the event here - http://swc2017-hyeres.sapsailing.com/