Sporty day at French Olympic Week
Published on May 3rd, 2019
Hyères, France (May 3, 2019) – Consistent excellence over a full week in all conditions at Semaine Olympique Française (French Olympic Week) has earned Mattia Camboni and Matthew Wearn the right to party tonight before tomorrow’s medal race.
Blasted by 25-knot westerlies even Camboni and Wearn looked a bit windshocked as they arrived back to the harbour today. But in their different ways the two 23-year-olds have been dictating to their fleets from the book of Matthew all week.
Like many before them in the 50 previous years in Hyères, both may remember this week as a significant statement in their careers. But where Australia’s Wearn, and in fact everyone else, had no idea he had already won the Laser, Camboni knew he had won the Men’s RS:X at the end of the second of the three races yesterday.
Camboni had finished third and his nearest rival both on the water and at home – Daniele Benedetti – lives in the same building in Civitavecchia as his Italian team-mate – had trailed in 16th. Windsurfers like to give the impression of being super-chilled wave travellers, but that does not mean they cannot do math on the fly.
Camboni’s worst finish in 14 races had been a 9th, which meant that he could discard anything worse in the final race – luckily, as that turned out to be a 17th – and that if he was 29 points ahead he could not be caught. He started the 15th race 34 points clear of Benedetti, so the celebrations had already begun. He finished the day 28 points clear.
“Of course, I have to party (laughs), it doesn’t happen every time that you win one day before,” Camboni said. “It’s feels really good. I didn’t expect a week like this. I had two good races and Daniele, who was closest on points to me had one good one and the second one was bad.
“So, to be sure I needed to be 29 points ahead after the second race and I had more (34 points). So, I knew (I’d won) at the end of the second race. It’s strange, this have never happened to me (in a big event). Last year, at the European Championship I got to the last day 18 points ahead, it was enough to get the gold. So, it’s a really big thing for me.”
In contrast, Wearn, who finished the day 23 points ahead of New Zealand’s Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Sam Meech, was off the water so fast after a last race in ‘survival mode’ in the Laser that the math had to wait. Doubtless he will be allowing himself some small celebration tonight. Camboni was consistent but ‘only’ won 3 of the 15 races, Wearn has won 7 of his 11, including the last two races today after a third place in the first.
“It was survival mode at the end, kind of hanging-on on the upwinds,” Wearn said – and that’s coming from someone from Perth who won the race. “With past experiences here with this kind of direction of breeze it can get pretty gnarly. So, when it starts to pump in like that you know you’re on for a pretty wild race. It’s that ‘anything could happen’ feeling, if you read a puff at the wrong time and suddenly capsize.
“I’m definitely happy to sail in it, but obviously there is that side of it where you know you’re going to be hanging on for dear life. But it was a great day on the water, the last time I can remember regatta weather like this was here last year (laughs). I’ll have a look at points (tonight) and try and execute a good race and go out on a high. I think I put some points on him (Luke Elliott) in the last two races, I think he was inside the top 10, but enough to have a pretty handy buffer going into tomorrow.”
In the end it was a much handier buffer than Wearn thought.
The closest of the all the fleets but Hungary’s 21-year-old rising star, Maria Erdi, extended her lead over the experienced, 28-year-old Finn, Tuula Tenkanen, to nine points from just one point the day before. Erdi finished 2-1-4 in the three races to Tenkanen’s 5-5-5.
Erdi has more experience than her years suggest – she represented Hungary as an 18-year-old at the Rio 2016 Olympics – but she has never been in this position before, as the one leading a major regatta going into a medal race. If Erdi finishes fifth or better she will win gold. But it sounds like she might have her own private battle in the fleet after saying she is going to match race Tenkanen tomorrow.
One thing in Tenkanen’s favour is that she does not have to look behind her. Silver, at least, is safe. Emma Plasschaert, who became Belgium’s first ever Laser World Champion in 2018, will doubtless feel frustrated tomorrow. After an inconsistent week she had her best day in the big stuff and showed her class by finishing 1-2-2, to virtually guarantee bronze. But she is 19 points behind Tenkanen.
America’s Paige Railey dropped to 8th and out of medal contention today with scores of 7-UFD/51-14.
Australia’s Matthew Wearn is 23 points clear and uncatchable going into tomorrow’s medal race. After an unusual stumble yesterday, New Zealand’s Sam Meech was back on form today with a 2-2-3 in the three races to jump from fourth back into the silver medal position.
He is five points clear of Australia’s Luke Elliott, who struggled for the first time with finishes of 4-13-17. He was lucky to hold on to third as Tom Burton, Australia’s Rio 2016 Olympic champion, was having a magnificent day. He won the first, was third in the second and then his cunningham broke four minutes before the start of the last race and put him out.
Burton is five points behind Elliott in fourth. Britain’s Elliott Hanson is a further six points back after another strong day, finishing second in the big-wind final race.
American Charlie Buckingham posted an 18-12-10 to remain in 12th. His teammate Chris Barnard fared worse with an 21-27-30 to drop to 19th.
Relaxed, confident and in home waters, France’s Rio 2016 Olympic Champion, Charline Picon, will be hard to catch tomorrow as she enters the medal race with a 14-point buffer over the woman she beat into silver in Rio, China’s Peina Chen. If Picon finishes 7th or better she will win gold.
As the wind grew too strong, their third race was cancelled. Picon had already had her toughest day, finishing 10th and 7th, having not been out of the top four in the previous 12 races, but Chen could not capitalise, finishing 6th and then 20th.
However, Chen may be able to attack more tomorrow as her greatest rival for China’s Olympic spot, Yunxiu Lu, also struggled finishing 12th and 14th to leave her 18 points behind Chen in third place. As Picon said yesterday, there is a lot more pressure to perform on the Chinese here – as for the British team, this event counts a lot in their Olympic programme – and you can see that on the faces with the twists and turns of each day.
“Yes, (there is pressure) because for us (the Chinese team) this is a very important competition so there is more pressure than on Charline, but for us the Olympic events have just started and we have a lot more coming,” shared Chen. “I think in the medal race everything is possible but there’s not a lot I can do, I’ll just do my best.”
Mexican Demita Vega de Lille posted a 19-DNF/31 to drop her to 23rd.
Italy’s Mattia Camboni is 28 points clear and uncatchable, but the battle for the other two medals has got even closer with France’s Thomas Goyard winning the last two races to jump into second place overall, just one point ahead of Italy’s Daniele Benedetti. Poland’s Piotr Myszka is six points further back in fourth.
“It was one hell of a day, we did three more rounds, so we did all the scheduled programme, which is pretty impressive,” said Goyard. “Today, I was 5-1-1, it’s a great day, it’s the best in the fleet. We had three very different races: a first with not very strong wind, a second where the wind began to turn away from the Mistral and the last one, where the Mistral returned at 30 knots, it was ultra strong, we had to be on the maximum settings to control the board, it was really amazing.
“Tomorrow is the medal race, the Italian, Mattia Camboni, who’s had a great week, already has gold, for me the goal will be to have a silver or bronze, we will see. I don’t know what wind we will have tomorrow but anything can happen.”
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.
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 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
• Nacra 17 Mixed
• 470 Men
• 470 Women
• 49er Men
• 49erFX Women
Source: Soazig Guého