Leads tighten at French Olympic Week

Published on May 2nd, 2019

Hyères, France (May 2, 2019) – Olympic sailing is a cut-throat business at the 51st Semaine Olympique Française (French Olympic Week). The camaraderie in the boat park is extraordinary, particularly between countries, but because only one sailor in each class can represent their country at the Olympics it can test the relationships between friends and countrymen to destruction.

Australia’s Matt Wearn has talked about how pressure affected his relationship with Tom Burton, the Rio 2016 Olympic champion, and with the top three in the Laser fleet here all Australians, that is only increasing.

It was a day of shifting winds if not always fortunes, starting with unstable 6-8 knot south-westerlies and building slightly and stabilizing by the late afternoon. The forecast for the next two days is for 18-20 knot westerlies.

Laser Radial
With eight races down, the Laser Radial fleet looks like a two-horse race between the 21-year-old Hungarian, Maria Erdi and the 28-year-old Finn, Tuula Tenkanen. Erdi finished 15th in the second race, her first time out of the top ten, but Tenkanen had been 19th in the first race in shifty conditions.

Just a point separates Erdi and Tenkanen, but with three races to come tomorrow before the medal race, there is still plenty of room for big changes.

Maria Erdi said, “The first race was 6-8 knots, so there was wind but it was really shifty. I had a great start and looked like I was going to win the race and then the wind was so crazy that I didn’t commit to any of the sides and then both sides came in and they passed me on both sides on the first upwind.

“Just before the second race it looked like the wind was coming in, but then at the start it dropped. I thought that the left was going to come in and I think most of the others did too, but there was a massive right shift and I was like 25th around the top mark. I think I managed to get back to 15th.”

A tricky day on the water shook up the fleet and only Australia’s youngster Zoe Thomson prospered, winning the second race after finishing second in the first race, moving Thomson up from 17th to 9th.

Thomson struggled with Perth conditions yesterday, but hopes to prosper in those conditions if the forecast delivers tomorrow. Another day like today could put her in contention for a wide-open bronze medal. She said, “I’d been chatting to the Australian Laser boys and their main message was to keep it simple, get off the start line and sail fast.

“I’ve been struggling with my execution and today I sailed fast and made less mistakes. Swifto (Luke Elliott) and Wearny (Matt Wearn) are the role models out there and they’re at the national training center a lot but when they’re at home it’s really good to get tips off them. I struggled a little bit yesterday – a couple of capsizes, but hopefully tomorrow’s like home conditions.”

America’s Paige Railey sits in third overall today after finishes of 7-31.

It may not have been Perth conditions today, but the Perth boys, Matt Wearn and Luke Elliott, shared the honors again, dominating the first day of gold fleet. Wearn tightened his grip at the top and Elliott moved past New Zealand’s Sam Meech into second, eight points behind.

Racing in more stable conditions after the Laser Radial had finished, Elliot won the first race, ahead of Wearn, and then Wearn won the second. Matt Wearn said, “A two and a one, can’t complain about that. It’s intense (the first day of Gold fleet), you get a little bit used to maybe having a boat-speed advantage, where, especially in stuff like today when it was quite flat water, everybody is about the same speed. So, it becomes really important to position in the right spots.

“The first day is always a shock to the system, so it’s nice to get a good couple of races in on the first day of Gold fleet. Not having a considerable drop yet helps a lot. A seven is my worst race at the moment and that is a pretty good result in Gold fleet, so I’m pretty happy with having a solid regatta so far. It means I can race for the win rather than be racing conservatively.”

Meech could not find any rhythm for the first day this week and finished 13th in both races. Tom Burton moved into third, two points ahead, but he too struggled in the first race, finishing 15th. But with three races tomorrow, in what promise to be more Perth-like conditions, nothing is decided yet.

American Charlie Buckingham pulled into 12th after posting 4th in the first race of the day, his second finish become his throwout (21st). His teammate Chris Barnard maintained his 14th overall after a 8-17 day.

Women’s RS:X
The model of consistency, Charline Picon, France’s 2016 Rio Olympic Champion, took the lead and holds a 12-point advantage after 12 races. She racked up her third win in the second race yesterday and has not finished outside of the top four this week, leaving her two rivals from China behind her.

But the gap is nowhere big enough for Picon to relax with three more races before the medal race. Peina Chen, who Picon beat into silver in the Rio Olympics, had a good day too, moving back into second past her compatriot, Yunxiu Lu, with a win in the first race. Lu, the overnight leader, uncharacteristically struggled, having her worst day of the week to drop nine points behind Chen, having started the day 13 points ahead of her.

Mexican Demita Vega de Lille posted a 24-24-16 to drop her one position to 21st.

Men’s RS:X
With 12 of the 15 races completed before the medal race, Italy’s Mattia Camboni extended his lead over his countryman Daniele Benedetti by 24 points. Camboni won the first race, survived the crash in the second and his consistency keep him riding high even though Benedetti won the third race to give himself a chance.

Benedetti has won five of the 12 races to Camboni’s three, but Camboni’s lowest finish is ninth. At some point Benedetti may have to worry about covering Poland’s Piotr Myszka, who is just one point behind him.
Due to complications within the Olympic Class competition schedule, the focus for the 51st edition is on four singlehanded classes of the ten Olympic events: Laser, Laser Radial, RS:X (Men), and RS:X (Women). Racing for the 197 sailors representing 49 nations is on April 29 to May 4.

Event detailsResultsFacebook

Programme (subject to change):
Monday, April 29 to Wednesday, May 1: qualifying phase (one to three rounds per day)
Thursday May 2 to Saturday May 4: final phase (one to three rounds per day)
Saturday, May 4: Medal Races (30-minute round for the top ten in each series in which points count double)

North American Results (Canada, Mexico, and USA):
Top ten or top position
• Laser Men (8 races): 12th Charlie Buckingham (USA).
• Laser Radial Women (8 races): 3rd Paige Railey (USA).
• RS:X Women (12 races): 21st Demita Vega de Lille (MEX).
• RS:X Men (12 races): No entries

North American Entries (Canada, Mexico, and USA):
• Laser Men: Malcolm Lamphere, Charlie Buckingham, Chris Barnard, Paul Didham (USA).
• Laser Radial Women: Paige Railey (USA).
• RS:X Women: Demita Vega de Lille (MEX).
• RS:X Men: No entries

No Competition:
• Nacra 17 Mixed
• 470 Men
• 470 Women
• 49er Men
• 49erFX Women
• Finn

Source: Soazig Guého

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