Semaine Olympique Française - great skills and battles

(Medal Race) Scheidt/Prada (BRA) Star - Semaine Olympique Francais 2011
© Guillaume Durand
Semaine Olympique Française regatta featured the ten Olympic sailing events and Paralmypic classes and is the fourth of seven ISAF Sailing World Cup regattas. This year's regatta has seen many displays of great skill and battles in Hyères, France, with six different nations winning gold.

Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada (BRA) won the gold in the Medal Race. The Brazilians said, 'We had a consistent week, and it is great because the weather conditions were hard and the fleet really strong. We will race a lot this year to try and keep our best level, hopefully until the Olympics.'

French team of Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot took second place on the podium while 2009 World Champions George Szabo and Mark Strube (USA) took bronze after coming second in the Medal race.

Pietro Sibello and Gianfranco Sibello (ITA) won gold in the 49er. They said, 'To win the title means a lot for us. We are on the right track with our preparation and the intense training with both French teams. We hope that our training partner and friend Manu Dyen will recover quickly from his injury. This title here and our second place in Palma does give us confidence for the future.'

Julien D'Ortoli and Noé Delpech (FRA) improve on their bronze last year in Hyères and took silver this year. Sydney Gold medallist, Jonas Warrer now racing with Soren Hansen (DEN) have claimed third place.

Ben Ainslie claimed victory in the Medal Race to the seal the Finn gold. Zach Railey (USA) had a slow start in the regatta but gradually improved to take the silver medal. Railey said, 'My last podium was in 2009 for Sail for Gold. I used last year to work on the equipment. Sometimes you need to take one step backward in order to take two forward. There is still lots of work to do but I am getting there.' Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) took the bronze.

In the 470, the Silver and Bronze medals were decided after Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos (FRA sealed the win on the penultimate day. Nicolas Charbonnier and Jeremie Mion (FRA) took the silver, leaving the bronze to Onan Barreiros and Aaron Sarmiento (ESP).

In the women's 470 Tara Pacheco and Berta Betanzos (ESP) who had started the Medal race with a Gold in the pocket, took it all on the water again with a first in the Medal Race. Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark (GBR) improved to the second position overall in front of team mates Penny Clark and Katrina Hughes (GBR).

'We've made some massive gains forward since Palma, particularly on our starting and upwind communications and you can see the difference,' Mills explained. 'The result is great for us as well as just knowing in ourselves that we've got better.'

'I think having two teams on the podium is maybe unheard of for British 470 women's sailing,' Clark added, 'so it's a really exciting place for the squad and we'll hopefully keep pushing forward together through until next summer.'

Javier Hernandez (ESP) won the final day Medal Race to seal a gold medal in the Laser. 'I had a very consistent week with no bad race,' said Hernandez. 'I worked hard because the fleet is strong here. It was nice to win this title so hopefully I can win it again this year.'

European champion, Tonci Stipanovi (CRO) came second ahead of Tom Slingsby (AUS).

Racing was tight in the Laser Radial and the Standings changed throughout the race as Sara Winther (NZL) and Sarah Steyaert (FRA) battled for Gold.

A second place finish for Steyaert was not enough to win the event as a fifth for Winther gave the Palma champion another ISAF Sailing World Cup title. Winther said, 'I have good speed in the light wind so it helped me take a good position in the races. In Hyères, I was trying new strategies on the water and it has paid off.' Gintare Scheidt (LTU) won bronze.

Blanca Manchon (ESP) has held the lead from the start to finish in the Women's RS:X with a string of six victories and top six placings. The ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year said, 'This is an amazing week for me. I was surprised to win so many races. It does motivate me for my Olympic trials. I need to keep working my strength for the extreme weather conditions.'

Charline Picon (FRA) once again places second to a Spaniard, after a second two weeks ago in Palma against Marina Alabau (ESP). Bryony Shaw (GBR )won the Medal Race and took the bronze medal.

Piotr Myszka (POL) has gained a placed per day since the start of the finals and won the gold medal in a tight medal race in the men's RS:X. Two points behind was Olympic silver medallist Julien Bontemps (FRA) who took the silver and finished one point ahead of Shahar Zubar (ISR) who settled for bronze.

Lucy MacGregor (GBR) won the final of the Women Match Racing against team Sally Barkow (USA) 3-0. 'It's fantastic winning here in Hyères. Kate and Annie did an awesome job, it was pretty tricky conditions all week so we're really pleased to be on the top of the podium after a couple where we haven't been,' Macgregor explained.

'We didn't expect it to be three-nil really. None of the matches were easy - the breeze kept us on our toes and especially in that last match we managed to come back from behind, stay calm and get the win to finish off three-nil so that was just fantastic.'

In the Petit Final, Renee Groeneveld (NED) defeated Claire Leroy (FRA).

In the Paralympic Classes Damien Seguin won the 2.4mR in Hyères for the fourth time. Megan Pascoe (GBR) took Silver and Helena Lucas (GBR) picked up bronze on her birthday. In the Skud, Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell (GBR) won the gold medal after winning nine out of 11 races.

The next event in the ISAF Sailing World Cup circuit, the Delta Lloyd regatta, will start in Medemblik, Holland on 24 May.



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