At the World Cup in Hyeres, France 2017 there were two wins in two races for the 470 Men’s Rio 2016 Olympic Silver medallists, Mat Belcher, and Will Ryan, who after a long layoff from international racing have shown they are back on the pace and are now clear favourites to win this round of the World Cup series.
Going into the fourth day of the event the Australian pairing were just a single point behind the Rio Olympic Bronze Medallists Mantis and Kagialis (GRE) on the leader board so a tense battle was expected on the water.
While winds were forecast in the 20 to 30 knot range for Hyeres Bay on the Southern French Mediterranean coast, the Mistral winds died away early from 22 knots, replaced by a 15-knot northerly and the starts of all the classes were pushed back until the breeze was at least semi stable.
And so, to race seven…. 14-15 knots from the north west, a good start for Belcher and Ryan had them fourth in the pack. But disaster for the regatta leaders, Mantis and Kagialis were late and slow at the gun. As Mantis explained post-race ‘the boats either side of us had more speed and we had to tack to port ducking sterns. Then we missed the first shift, had to duck more sterns and our race was over.’ They were 31st three minutes into the race.
Down the first run with clear air the Australians moved up into second place and as they came back up the course they passed within waving distance of the Greeks 22nd, still struggling downwind.
By the time Belcher and Ryan hit the lead there were six Japanese teams and one French team behind them. They won from Doi/ Kimura (JPN) some five boat lengths back with Isozaki/Takayanagi (JPN) a minute behind.
In race eight the Aussies ran away with the race from Ichino/Takashi (JPN) and Takayama/Imamura (JPN). There were six Japanese in the top eight, Flock/Dackhammar (SWE) who had moved into second place overall after the first race of the day were 19th and the Greeks had a 21st they could not discard.
Straight after racing we talked to Belcher ‘Probably one of the most enjoyable days for a long time. We sailed quite close to shore and what that meant is that it was extremely variable so massive shifts 40/45 degrees. Absolutely crazy. Big changes in velocity as well so we had up to 23 knots and down to five knots, just a really challenging day.
‘Speed was probably not as important today. It was just making sure that you positioned the boat well. You really had to watch where the shifts were coming down the course. Really good fun being able to play the checkers game.
‘What was significant today was the Japanese statement in the both races. It seemed like we were at the Japanese Nationals. It just shows you the talent and the depth that they have in their fleet. They are only going to get stronger in the time up to Tokyo 2020.’
It was a chaotic day of racing for the Laser fleet and that was reflected in the results for a lot of the sailors. If the medal race was to be tomorrow then Australia would have three contenders. Matt Wearn who was atop the leader board before today’s racing is holding onto fourth behind Marrai (ITA), Kontides (CYP) and Thompson (GBR).
Tom Burton is fifth and Kennedy eighth. It will be interesting to see if they can hold or improve on these conditions tomorrow.
A good result for Jeremy O’Connell with a win in the final race lifting him to 18th overall. Luke Elliott is now 50th overall.
Atop the ramp Wearn summed up. ‘Rooster to feather duster, I was buried big time today, in both races. When I was on the left it went right and when I went right it went left.
‘Just a tough day at the office, poor decision making cost me a lot. One of those days to forget.’
Rio Gold Medallist Burton was not pleased either as he hauled his boat out. ‘Not a good day at all. It was very shifty. I think we were out there for a fair amount of time and initially we kind of got a handle on the shifts and then during the first race it went outside the pattern with a big righthander and that benefited some guys like Thompson and Pavlos who had been deep and then they got onto the big righty and I think there were ten or so boats like the other day when I was on the left.
‘The last race could easily have been abandoned. The boats on the right were just glassed out pretty much for a fair time and all the boats on the left were firing. It was just luck unfortunately.
‘Big day tomorrow, with two more races before the medal race, we will all be pushing hard to improve our positions.’
In the 49ers men’s skiff Botin le Chever/Lopez Marra (ESP) have cleared out to lead from Fletcher Scott/Bithell (GBR) the Philips brother after a 19th in Race 10, showed good speed in Race 11 with a fourth.
In the Finn heavyweight dinghy class Kaynar ((TUR) is four points ahead of Heiner (NED), Oli Tweddell with a ninth and DNC is now 20th overall.
Medal Races 49ers tomorrow Saturday and for the Finns, Lasers and 470 Men’s.
Australian Sailing Team (AST) & Squad (ASS) at World Cup Series Hyeres 2017
Men’s Two Person Dinghy - 470M
Mathew Belcher (QLD/QAS) & Will Ryan (QLD/QAS) – AST: (10),3,3,1,2,3,1,1 – 1st
Men’s Skiff - 49er
Will & Sam Phillips (VIC/VIS) – AST: 21,21,19,8,(26),17,6,20,1,19,4,26 – 19th
Men’s One Person Dinghy (Heavyweight) - Finn
Oliver Tweddell (VIC/VIS) – AST: 21,15,15,19,12,20.9,(35) – 20th
Men’s One Person Dinghy – Laser
Matt Wearn (WA/WAIS) – AST: 5,15,4,1,4,2,26,(45) – 4th
Tom Burton (NSW/NSWIS) – AST: 4,5,8,6,(28),14,8,26 – 5th
Mitch Kennedy (QLD/QAS) – ASS: 11,(28),26,4,21,24,4,6 – 8th
Jeremy O'Connell (VIC/VIS) – ASS: 10,34,24,12,12,(61),44,1 – 18th
Luke Elliot (WA/WAIS) – ASS: 43,52,50,46,(61),7,45,35 – 50th
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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/