Semaine Olympique Francais - Olympic champion Tessa Parkinson returns

Belcher and Page training in Hyeres - Semaine Olympique Française 2011
© Victor Kovalenko
Semaine Olympique Francais - Australian sailors are preparing for the fourth round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Hyeres, France, beginning today, including Olympic Champion Tessa Parkinson who is returning to the 470 class for the first time since 2009.

Parkinson, who won Gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games alongside Elise Rechichi, has been away from Olympic Class sailing since finishing fifth at the 470 World Championship 2009, and most recently has been heavily involved in the promotion of the Perth 2011 World Championships, to be held in December.

In returning to the 470 class, Parkinson has switched from crew to skipper and in 2011 is testing the waters with crew Marieke Jongens ( from the Netherlands, now it seems an Australian resident. Tessa and Marieke sailed together at the Australian 470 Championships- SW Ed.) , with the pair looking forward to the challenges ahead.

'It’s a great feeling to be back in the boat and involved in the competition again. I was inspired to return to Olympic sailing to have the opportunity to compete in my hometown in Fremantle for the World Championships. I’m lucky to have people around me that support and believe in what we are working to achieve,' said Parkinson.

Australian Sailing Team members Tom Slingsby and Tom Burton will compete in the 154 entry strong Laser fleet in Hyeres with Slingsby keen to finish on the top step of the podium in Hyeres after bringing home Silver just two weeks ago in Spain.

Tom Slingsby and Tom Burton training in Hyeres - Semaine Olympique Française 2011
Michael Blackburn

The three-time World Champion and current ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year has finished in the top three at the last 11 regattas he has contested, including six medals at ISAF Sailing World Cup rounds.

'I’ve been here for about five days preparing now, and have had a really good mix of conditions,' said Slingsby. 'Racing starts on Sunday and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve had mixed results in Hyeres, winning a few times and having my worst result ever last time I was here with a 57th, so I’m definitely hoping to improve on that result.

'I’m definitely going for the win here,' he said. 'Hyeres is certainly about staying out of trouble, it’s very easy to put a big score on the board here so hopefully I can avoid those and be near the top come the medal race.'

Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page will been keen to improve on their seventh place finish in Spain after a few more weeks in the boat as they look to increase their lead in the Sailing World Cup standings.

'We’re feeling a lot more comfortable following the 470 Spring Cup last week where we tried lots of equipment on top of having another week sailing,' said Page. 'We’re a long way from where we want to be at our peak but we’re heading in the right direction.

'This week we’re going to focus on ourselves and our performances,' he said. 'Saying that we always go in to win and if we sail well we can come away with a medal but a top six would be ideal.'

Australian Sailing Team member Brendan Casey will compete in the Finn class in Hyeres following his 20th at the last round in Spain and fourth at round two in Miami.

In the Women’s Match Racing competition the Australian Women’s Match Racing Team will have two entries with Nicky Souter sailing with Nina Curtis and Olivia Price while Katie Spithill will compete alongside Jessica Eastwell and Lucinda Whitty.

Both crews will be keen to improve on their last outing in Spain where Souter, Curtis and Price were 10th and Spithill, Eastwell and Whitty were 14th.

The Australian Sailing Squad will be well represented in Hyeres including the 470 men’s crew of Sam Kivell and Will Ryan who head into the regatta after a strong 10th place finish at the 470 Spring Cup last week.

Squad members Ashley Brunning and Ryan Palk will contest the Laser class while Krystal Weir is racing in the Laser Radials.

Racing begins in Hyeres on Sunday and will conclude on Friday.

Australian Sailing Team website