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29 April 2004, 10:54 am
Breezy Wednesday
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© Gilles Martin-Raget

Semaine Olympique Française - Olympic Qualification Regatta

If the conditions on Tuesday were perfect for some, the "breeze lovers" had their fair share yesterday with sea breeze and waves. The South-Easterly wind increased all day to reach 20 knots in its peak.
Choppy at the start, the sea evolved quickly to nice rolling waves. The "heavy weather" sailors made the most of these physical conditions, sometimes winning all the races programmed.

In the Tornado, Mitch BOOTH and Herbert DERCKSEN won each one of the three races by an impressive margin. They now lead by 15 points over the Americans John LOVELL and Charlie OGELTREE. The Sydney Gold Medallists, Roman HAGARA and Peter STEINACHER (AUT) climbed to third position.

Mateusz KUSZNIEREWICZ (POL) was also at ease with the tough conditions, scoring two bullets. He is closing the gap on Emilios PAPATHANASIOU who is seven points ahead in first place. Rafael TRUJILLO (ESP) and Sebastien GODEFROID, (BEL) strong wind masters, both scored a second and a third to place respectively fourth and seventh.

New-Zealanders and Australians proved their experience in this type of weather. In the Mistral, Tom ASHLEY (NZL) leads the scoreboard after three second places and a win in the last race.

In the Women's fleet, Olga MASLIVETSUKR takes over the lead after posting a first and two seconds. She now resides ahead of two French sailors, Pauline PERRIN and Charline PICON who are in second and third respectively. Overnight leader Amelie LUX (GER) slides to sixth after having her worst day of the regatta so far.

Sharron FERRIS, used to sailing in extreme conditions, scored a first and a second in the Yngling class. The 30 years old "Kiwi" has won three World Sailing Speed Records on Maiden with Tracey Edwards: "My most thrilling experience was helming Maiden into Newport with 40,6 knots!" The other race in the three women keelboat was won by the Australian team of Nicky BETHWAITE, Karyn GOJNICH and Kristin KOSMALA. The British team, helmed by Shirley ROBERTSON continues on its high performance and increased their lead to 21 points after scoring a second and a third.

Despite a slow start in the regatta, Sydney Gold medallists, Jenny ARMSTRONG and Belinda STOWELL won the three races in the 470 women fleet. They slip just into first place, one point ahead of British team of Christina BASSADONE and Katherine HOPSON.

In the Gold group of the 470 Men's division, only six boats took the start of the second race. The majority of the fleet (31 boats) went back to shore at the end of the first race, thinking that the day was over! The 31 boats are protesting the Race Committee tonight. As a result, the overall standings have drastically changed. Jumping from seventh position, the new regatta leaders are the British team Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANDFIELD.

In the Laser, both Michael BLACKBURN (AUS) and Robert SCHEIDT (BRA) won two races. The double Olympic medallist and six times Laser World Champion is one of the best performers with a fourth as his worse result since the start of the regatta. He acceded to the top of the rankings with a nine points margin on the Australian. Tuesday's leader, Hamish PEPPER went down to seventh after scoring top 20's results.

It was a long day for the 49ers who completed four races. The Sibello brothers are keeping the lead of the fleet with conservative results. They are threatened by the Americans Tim WADLOW and Peter SPAULDING who have climbed within three points of leaders after two victories and a second. The Brazilians Andre FONSECA and Rodrigo DUARTE are showing their regularity in the regatta with nine results in the top seven. They are in third position (4; 5; 6).

In the 2.4mR, a battle has started between Thierry SCHMITTER (NED) and Damien SEGUIN (FRA) now on equal points. Allan SMITH (GBR) is still in third place, four points ahead of Olympic selection rival Helena LUCAS.

Trine ABRAHAMSEN (DEN), Mexican Tania ELIAS CALLES and 2003 World Champion, Sarah BLANK (AUS) won a race each in the Europe Gold fleet. Siren SUNDBY (NOR) remains unchallenged 30 points ahead of main rival Sari MULTALA, (FIN) who was penalized by a Black flag at the start of the second race.

Lost Olympic chance for Europe in Silver group

With the grouping in Silver and Gold fleets, a first selection has been made for the countries in contention for a place at the Olympic Games in Athens.

Europe sailors from Brazil, Hungary, Switzerland and Turkey have missed the cut for the Gold fleet. To be in the Silver group means that they will not be able to grab one of the five berths still available for Athens, (unless unforeseen circumstances).

Nine nations are still in contention for these coveted five places. They are: Argentina, Austria, Canada, Croatia, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Portugal and Sweden.

At the end of the eighth race, Italy is well placed with Larissa NEVIEROV in seventh place overall, to take a spot in Athens. Among the other countries to qualify Portugal, Japan, Argentina and Sweden are next in line. With four more races scheduled, anything can still happen in Hyères!
Corinne McKenzie (As Amended by ISAF)
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