51st edition of French Olympic Week

Published on May 4th, 2019

Hyères, France (May 4, 2019) – France’s Charline Picon, the Rio 2016 Olympic Champion, made sure it was a golden finish for the hosts, winning the women’s RS:X windsurfing to close the 51st edition of the Semaine Olympique Française (French Olympic Week).

There could not have been a better concluding day as the Medal Races played out in perfect Côte d’Azur conditions with a golden sun, clear skies and 15-knot westerlies.

Leading by 14 points overnight, Picon finished the medal race today in third and confirm her expected victory. She spoke after of how pleased she was to win her first regatta after having a baby a year and a half ago. She outperformed a powerful and motivated China team and as in the Rio Olympics beat Peina Chen into second.

“A victory without pressure, that’s not bad for me,” Picon said “and especially as, this morning, I said to myself that it’s been a year since I made my comeback to competition here in Hyères. And here we are a year later, the first victory. It has been a lot of hard work for 12 months and there’s still some more to come.”

Italy’s Mattia Camboni and Australia’s Matthew Wearn had already won the men’s RS:X and Laser respectively on Friday. But there was a shock in the first medal race of the day as Hungary’s rising star Maria Erdi, leading the Laser Radial by nine points overnight, finished last in the medal race having been outmanoeuvred by Finland’s Tuula Tenkanen, who took gold.

The 197 sailors from 49 nations have been tested to their limits in all different conditions over an a long racing schedule (12 for the Lasers and 16 for the RS:X, only the RS:X women lost one race because the Mistral was blowing too hard on Friday evening).

“This Semaine Olympique Française in Hyères was another extraordinary vintage with great weather and very varied wind conditions,” said Nicolas Hénard, President of the French Sailing Federation. “Today, we had really good medal races and some great athletes on the podium.

“The French had excellent results in the RS:X with Charline Picon at the top of the podium and Thomas Goyard in second. Excellent results, which I hope we will see them again in a month in Marseille.”

The best in the world keep coming back to these waters because the level of competition is always high. With a solid week of racing even more paramount in Olympic year, the 52nd edition to April 25 – May 2 2020 will doubtless be even harder fought.

Laser Radial
Gold – Tuula Tenkanen (Finland) – 59 points
Silver – Maria Erdi (Hungary) – 62 points
Bronze – Emma Plasschaert (Belgium) – 84 points

The shock of the regatta. The 28-year-old Finn, Tuula Tenkanen, started the day nine points behind and could only finish the medal race in fourth place. It proved to more than enough though as the 21-year-old Maria Erdi trailed in last.

Erdi took a risk and will have learned several valuable lessons about trying to match race your rival out of contention, but as she said it will take a few days to feel wholly philosophical.

With both well clear of the rest of the field, Erdi had planned a match race within a race as way of gaining experience in case she needs to do this in an Olympics. The pre-start went well, but Tenkanen was able to tack on her immediately and then got away on the first beat.

Doubtless unsettled and in unfamiliar water, Erdi then compounded things with a tactical error of not just keeping as close to Tenkanen and the rest of the field as she could, instead she went her own way on the first downwind and could not find a way back. In the end eighth would have been enough for gold.

Two years ago in Hyères, Tenkanen was in the same position against Belgian’s Evi Van Acker but was completely match raced out of it. That is where experience counts. Emma Plasschaert, Belgium’s first ever Laser Radial world champion in 2018, took an unchallenged bronze.

America’s Paige Railey was second in the medal race but remained 8th overall.

Gold – Matthew Wearn (Australia) – 16 points
Silver – Sam Meech (New Zealand) – 49 points
Bronze – Tom Burton (Australia) – 55 points

With gold already secured yesterday, Australia’s Matthew Wearn sounded like he did not go out and party quite like Mattia Camboni in the Men’s RS:X and duly went out and did what he has been doing all week – blasted past the opposition and won the medal race. That made it 8 races wins out of 12 and he finished 33 points clear.

“It’s nice to get a win under my belt in 2019 and relieves a bit of pressure, you know what it takes to win regattas,” notes Wearn. “(The Medal Race) is almost easier when you have already won because you can just go for it and ground the track as fast as you can.”

New Zealand’s Rio 2016 bronze medallist, Sam Meech, did not have the race he wanted, but he had a five-point buffer over Australia’s youngster, Luke Elliott, and a sixth-placed finished was enough for silver.

“This is the reason we came – we know Hyères is a great sailing venue, usually we get all the races here and we’ve been coming back for quite a while now,” explained Meech. “It wasn’t quite going to plan (in the medal race). I thought I was doing the right thing, but I got stuck in between trying the sail shifts and get into the positions I needed to be.

“I went a little defensive and got lost on the first beat. I was mid-fleet the whole race. I was a boat behind Luke (Elliott) for most of the race, I was just trying to stick on his tail, then I got past him, he was unlucky he got flagged in the last run. Although, in this weather that doesn’t cost you that much because you turn and you’re still right in it. It really tightened up between everyone on the last run. For me it was one bad day, but otherwise pretty happy with how I sailed the rest of the week.”

Elliott started well but dropped back to finish seventh and his more experienced countryman, Tom Burton, the Rio 2016 Olympic champion, finished fourth to win bronze by a heart-breaking point. Australia finished with four sailors in the top six.

“Hyères is a pretty familiar venue for us, I’ve been here 19 times, these guys are up to 6, 7, 8 times too,” said Michael Blackburn, Australia’s coach). “I think the Laser fleet is still very open. Matt (Wearn) had a great regatta here. He sailed really well, but he knows he’s only as good as his last race and there’s more to come in two weeks at the Europeans in Porto.

“We’ve only got two regattas in Europe this year, this and the Europeans, so both are important working towards the Test Event and Olympic qualification and they know that. (Managing a big successful team) It’s a personality thing, these guys have really good personalities and they understand that it’s a competition but that ends when they come ashore and they get on really well with each other.”

Americans Charlie Buckingham and Chris Barnard did not qualify for the medal race, finishing 13th and 19th respectively.

Women’s RS:X
Gold – Charline Picon (France) – 49 points
Silver – Peina Chen (China) – 59 points
Bronze – Yunxiu Lu (China) – 79 points

China’s Peina Chen could not have done more yesterday as she won the medal race, but Charline Picon’s 14-point lead looked unassailable without a technical fault or penalty.

“It’s very nice to win this regatta a year after my comeback,” said Picon. “It’s been intense with 15 races in very different wind conditions. The level of competition was very high because the world’s best were here. For a few months I’ve been in a really tough program of Olympic preparation, the objective is to be even more the leader of the fleet.”

Chen was pleased with her week, not least because she beat her main rival for the Olympic spot, Yunxiu Lu.

“I’m very happy,” noted Chen. “I had a good performance in these wind conditions, for me they’re not my best conditions, but maybe it’s become my best now (laughs). I learned a lot this week, it was a good time for me.”

This was an important regatta for the China team and like the British they had marked Hyères and the European Championships in Palma in April as waypoints to Tokyo. Lu had started the day 18 points behind Chen, but only 6 points ahead of Britain’s Emma Wilson and 10 points ahead of Italy’s Marta Maggetti. She was able to leave them at the start though and bronze never looked in doubt.

“It was a good finish,” said Lu. “I gave everything in the race. I think there was about 100m between Peina and me and me and Charline. I’m not sure behind that. (There was less pressure) because I think today the Italian girl and GBR maybe didn’t have good starts. I’m half-happy. Sometimes I did things but sometimes I got angry at everything.”

Mexican Demita Vega de Lille failed to qualify for the medal race to finish 23rd.

Men’s RS:X
Gold – Mattia Camboni (Italy) – 57 points
Silver – Thomas Goyard (France) – 87 points
Bronze – Piotr Myszka (Poland) – 90 points

With gold already secured yesterday, Italy’s Mattia Camboni finished 30 points clear of the field after his comfortable third-placed finish in the medal race – and yes, he did go out to celebrate last night.

“Yes, we went for a party last night, of course – also, my coach said ‘OK, you can go’,” admitted Camboni. “And today I felt faster than yesterday (laughs), no, really, I felt really good. It’s been a great week. I was third but I didn’t push I was close to second but didn’t pump. I wanted to have a good medal race. I found a good setting and found a good strategy to attack, I’ll remember it and use it and use it again.”

But there was drama around him as Poland’s Piotr Myszka finished second to jump past Italy’s Daniele Benedetti into the bronze medal position and even had a sniff of silver. France’s Thomas Goyard, second overnight (just a point ahead of Benedetti), finished in fourth to stay three points ahead of Myszka overall.

“This is the third silver medal of my career at a major event,” shared Goyard. “It’s been a super positive especially week because I wasn’t on top form for first two days. I showed that I could perform in a lot of conditions and now, we have to do like Mattia: always be at the top (laughs). I’m very confident for the future.”

The different weather conditions have continually shaken up the fleet. Benedetti, who shares the same building as Camboni in Civitavecchia had the most wins in the fleet – 6 out of the 16 races, to 3 for Camboni and Goyard and 0 for Myszka, but consistency was crucial.

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 was 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 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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