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24 April 2009, 07:26 pm
French Team Perform In The Breeze As Medal Races Decide Winners At Semaine Olympique Francaise
Xavier ROHART and Pierre-Alexis PONSOT of France
The French team Xavier ROHART and Pierre-Alexis PONSOT wrapped up gold in the Star fleet

Semaine Olympique Francaise 2009
Hyeres, France

France came out on top with two ISAF Sailing World Cup gold medals as the breeze finally arrived in Hyeres for the Medal Races and the conclusion of this year's Semaine Olympique Francaise.
After racing all week in light conditions the wind finally came in Hyeres for the Medal Race providing great racing for the top ten sailors in each class. The easterly was up early this morning, increasing to reach 20 knots by 10:00 when the first Medal Races started.

The two racing areas positioned along the pier provided a great show!

The French showed their skill in the breeze, winning five Medal Races. These victories gave gold to Xavier ROHART and Pierre-Alexis PONSOT (FRA) in the Star and silver to Julien BONTEMPS (FRA) in the RS:X.

The SIBELLO brothers, Pietro SIBELLO and Gianfranco SIBELLO (ITA), were the first to confirm their early victory in the 49ers with a second place taken in the Medal Race. This is the second ISAF Sailing World Cup event won back to back by the Italians since their return to international competition. "We didn't expect to be winning our first two events like that! We see now the result of all the training we did leading to the Olympic Games." About the windy Medal Race they added: "When you race with such wind you have to give everything and be careful at the same time to avoid breakage or injuries. We haven't raced in strong wind for a long time and this was a good test."

A fourth place in the Medal Race gave silver to the Austrian team of Nico DELLE - KARTH and Nikolaus RESCH who take the lead in the ISAF Sailing World Cup Standings on equal points with Paul CAMPBELL-JAMES and Mark ASQUITH (GBR). Manu DYEN and Stéphane CHRISTIDIS (FRA) climb to fourth after claiming their first Medal Race win. "We are very happy with our win, this is our best result in Hyeres."

The young Danish team of Henriette KOCH and Lene SOMMER set in stone their earlier lead in the Semaine Olympique Francaise after placing fourth in the Medal Race. They win their second ISAF Sailing World Cup event this year and extend their lead on the World Cup Standings over the Austrians Sylvia VOGL and Carolina FLATSCHER. The Dutch team of Margriet FOKKEMA and Marieke JONGENS (NED) were the only threat for the Danish going into the Medal Race. "It is too dangerous to match race in this wind and waves! We had decided to only do it if we had the opportunity. We were not with the Dutch at the start so we sailed our own race. We were third at the top mark and they were ninth so we raced normally, just keeping a loose cover."

About their first place in the ISAF Sailing World Cup the Danes explained: "We would like to keep it like that, unfortunately we both have engineering exams and will miss the Delta Lloyd Regatta."

Laser Olympic Champion Paul GOODISON (GBR) is clearly starting his new Olympic campaign for London 2012 in top form. Leading from day two, the Skandia Team GBR sailor increased his margin after a third place in the Medal Race to win his first event this year.

"It's nice to be back sailing again. I've not sailed much in the light wind so it was quite reassuring to be performing in those conditions. In the final series the results didn't really show how well I sailed. I thought I sailed pretty well but unfortunately just seemed to be on the wrong side for the first five minutes of each race but apart from that I did pretty well."

With three sailors disqualified for premature start and Javier HERNANDEZ (ESP) not racing, six sailors completed the Medal Race won by Tobias SCHADEWALDT (GER). Among the early starters scored OCS Tonci STIPANOVIC (CRO) drops from second to seventh. Russian Maxim SEMERKHANOV takes silver and Matias DEL SOLAR (CHI) bronze. Nick THOMPSON (GBR), who finished sixth overall, moves into the lead of the ISAF Sailing World Cup.

In the Men's RS:X fleet, Shahar ZUBARI from Israel saved the day by a small point after crossing the line in seventh place to take gold, narrowly edging out Beijing silver medallist BONTEMPS.

"I saw that Julien was coming to win the Medal Race. I had a bad start and rounded the top mark in seventh. The others were further back so I knew that was enough to win. I took it easy and tried to maintain my seventh place without taking too many risks. This is my first victory in an international event. I have to work more in the planning conditions as I am a better sailor in light wind." This victory gives ZUBARI third place in the ISAF Sailing World Cup.

BONTEMPS won his first Medal Race to take second overall. "I made a good start, I was in front and then I increased my advance. I wanted to check my level in the breeze, it was a short test but very productive." About the French teams winning five Medal Races BONTEMPS adds: "I knew the French had won four Medal Races and did motivate me to add another victory!"

China's Peina CHEN won gold in the women's windsurfer as she held on to a narrow lead after scoring a sixth place in the Medal Race .

"I especially wanted to learn about racing in the breeze, I didn't have any objective of winning the event but only to sail the Medal Race as a normal regatta, learn and do well."

CHEN's biggest goal this year is to finish in the top three in the Chinese national Championship next May which will give the young windsurfer the right to represent China in the international circuit. She enters the World Cup Standings in 16th position, while Medal Race winner Blanca MANCHON (ESP) increases her World Cup after taking bronze behind Bryony SHAW (GBR) in silver.

Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC (CRO) has this week won his first major international event by scoring a consistent series of top 10 races. Reflecting on the Medal Race, GASPIC says: "I had decided to stick to Gasper VINCEC [(SLO)] either in front or behind. On the first beat I covered him and we passed the top mark in eighth and ninth position. Gasper capsized and I could sail away." VINCEC who is getting married in two weeks added: "If I had known getting married would stimulate my results, I would have planned it last year after the Olympics!"

Ed WRIGHT (GBR) consolidates his top position in the World Cup with a second at the SOF. Today WRIGHT won his third Medal Race in a row: "It's been crazy - we've had 10 races in really tricky light winds, which is unheard of in Hyeres I think. But the Medal Race was exciting and that's what sailing's all about - big waves, great breeze and it was really enjoyable."

Medal Races changed the leaders in two classes.

A disqualification at the start of the Men's 470 Medal Race for the Italians Gabrio ZANDONA and Edoardo MANCINELLI, give the gold medal to new Swiss team of Matias BUHLER and Felix STEIGER. Pierre LEBOUCHER and Vincent GAROS (FRA) place third overall while Palma winners Nicolas CHARBONNIER and Baptiste MEYER (FRA) climb to fourth overall after winning the Medal Race.

Olympic Champion Anna TUNNICLIFFE (USA) adds a third ISAF Sailing World Cup event victory to her wins in the Sail Melbourne regatta and Rolex Miami OCR. She is comfortably leading the World Cup Standings in front of Tina MIHELIC from Croatia. "I think the Sailing World Cup is a great concept, I am very happy to have had a good start this year and hope to continue to lead it until the end."

For the home nation, both of their gold medals came in the keelboat events.

ROHART and PONSOT maintained their lead from the second day in a small but talented Star fleet. ROHART had already won the SOF with Pascal RAMBEAU in 2001. "I really enjoy competing in Hyeres, it is a challenging racing area. I am really glad to win again in Hyeres after many years and especially to be able to race in the Star here. I hope we will have more boats next year with the help of the class. I have added some good points for the Sailing World Cup but I missed Miami so I will have to work harder in the next events to catch up."

As a result of their win here in Hyeres, the French team gets up into third place in the ISAF Sailing World Cup Standings. The Americans Andrew MACDONALD and Brian FATIH increased their lead in the Standings after a fourth place in the SOF.

Double Paralympic medallist in the 2.4mR, Damien SEGUIN (FRA) successfully defended his title in Hyeres. Thierry SCHMITTER (NED) won the windy Medal Race, helping him jump up from fifth to second overall. "Racing has been just great today, we were surfing the waves and I love these tough conditions. I am also very happy because my second place is insuring the continuing support of my Olympic Committee. I am pleased that the SOF event organizers have include the 2.4mR in the Medal Race. I hope it will be the same in all the Sailing World Cup events."

Bernard BONNEAU, the Semaine Olympique Francaise coordinator, was a happy man after an exhilarating end to a very successful week: "I am satisfied with the outcome of this week. I wasn't feeling very comfortable at the start of the week. The cancellation of the Women Match Racing, the Sonar and the low number of entries in the Star led me to think this year we would have a "small" week. In fact I have received a lot of positive feedback from sailors and coaches and despite the weather conditions the Race Management team did a great job in providing fair racing.

"We have been surprised to see this year such a high number of media on site and covering the event from home, especially for a post Olympic year. For everybody here, it was clearly visible that our event was part of the Sailing World Cup as we made a special effort to include the SWC logo everywhere (boats, cars, results…). This is important regarding the support we have received this year from the City, Toulon Provence Mediterranée and all our partners. I believe that if we all do the same efforts we will help ISAF to find a naming rights sponsor."

The next event of the ISAF Sailing World Cup is the Delta Lloyd Regatta in Medemblik, Netherlands from 27-31 May. Along with the fleet racing events, Women's Match Racing makes its return to the ISAF Sailing World Cup.

ISAF Sailing World Cup

The ISAF Sailing World Cup 2008-2009 consists of the following events:

16-21 Dec 2008 - Sail Melbourne The Asia Pacific Regatta, Melbourne, Australia
25-31 Jan 2009 - Rolex Miami OCR, Miami, USA
4-10 April 2009 - Trofeo SAR Princess Sofia MAPFRE, Palma, Spain
18-24 April 2009 - Semaine Olympique Francaise, Hyeres, France
27-31 May 2009 - Delta Lloyd Regatta, Medemblik, Netherlands
20-29 June 2009 - Kieler Woche, Kiel, Germany
14-19 Sept 2009 - Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, Weymouth, Great Britain

Find out more about the ISAF Sailing World Cup, including more on the seven events, the latest World Cup Standings, the scoring system and the Notice of Series at

Corinne Rolland-McKenzie
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