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23 April 2009, 08:59 pm
Italy Secure First Gold As Medal Race Line Ups Decided At Hyeres
Henriette KOCH and Lene SOMMER of Denmark in the Women's 470
Henriette KOCH and Lene SOMMER of Denmark lead the way going into tomorrow Women's 470 Medal Race

Semaine Olympique Francaise 2009
Hyeres, France

Italy's 49er team of Pietro and Gianfranco SIBELLO secured their second ISAF Sailing World Cup gold medal a day early as the Medal Race line ups were decided on the penultimate day of racing at the Semaine Olympique Francaise in Hyeres.
The pressure was on during the fifth day of competition at the Semaine Olympique Francaise, event four of the ISAF Sailing World Cup. With the final exchanges before the Medal Race line ups were decided, there was one last chance to make the final top 10 cut and gain the chance of a medal shot and big points towards the ISAF Sailing World Cup Standings.

Italian brothers Pietro SIBELLO and Gianfranco SIBELLO have sailed to success in their second international 49er event since the Olympic Games. With a 22-point lead on the Spanish ALONSO brothers, Federico ALONSO and Arturo ALONSO, in second position overall, the Italians have already secured victory ahead of tomorrow's Medal Race, winning their second consecutive ISAF Sailing World Cup gold medal. After the heartbreak of finishing fourth at the Olympic Games, the SIBELLO brothers have started their London 2012 campaign firing on all cylinders.

Behind the leaders, the battle for silver will be fierce with only two points separating the Spanish from Nico DELLE - KARTH and Nikolaus RESCH (AUT), while any of the top six teams have earn a place on the podium. However, among the four French teams who will race the Medal Race tomorrow, only Morgan LAGRAVIERE and Yann ROCHERIEUX in fifth place overall stand a chance to climb on the podium.

In only their second event together, the French Star team of Xavier ROHART and Pierre-Alexis PONSOT (FRA) already have one hand on the gold medal. A disqualification at the start or an equipment failure are the only opportunity overall victory could go to one of the next three teams.

New Leaders In The Men 470's

Gabrio ZANDONA and Eduardo MANCINELLI (ITA) are the new leaders in the Men's 470 event, which has seen a different team at the top on each day of the championship. The Semaine Olympique Francaise is the first international regatta for the new Italian team. Experienced 470 skipper ZANDONA has teamed up for this new Olympiad with young ex-420 sailors MANCINELLI. "This is my first international event in the 470! It is a long regatta with many hours on the water, it does make it hard to keep the rhythm."

With the top teams all scoring high points, the podium is opened to the top ten teams engaged in the Medal Race.

The Men's 470 are the only class to have changed leaders today. However, a second discard in all classes has opened the chances for making the podium in most fleets.

Four Duals For Gold!

It will be a two-boat battle for gold in the Laser Radial Medal Race. Beijing gold medallist and ISAF Sailing World Cup leader Anna TUNNICLIFFE (USA) has closed to gap on leader Veronika FENCLOVA (CZE) to just four points. Commenting earlier on the strong wind expected in the Medal Race, the Olympic Champion said: "After these light conditions all week, it will be good to hike again and stretch our legs!" Evi VAN ACKER from Belgium is in third place. The podium is opened to the top six.

The Women's 470 Medal Race should provide a good fight for gold between ISAF Sailing World Cup leaders Henriette KOCH and Lene SOMMER (DEN), who have held on to overall lead, and young Dutch team of Margriet FOKKEMA and Marieke JONGENS (NED). "Anything can happen tomorrow with the wind. So we'll focus on sailing our own race and do as good as possible," declared KOCH.

The Dutch pair have progressively moved up the leaderboard to reach second place overall with consistent racing throughout the regatta. FOKKEMA, aged 22, and JONGENS, 21, were very excited with their result:

"This is very cool" said FOKKEMA. "We only differ five points with the Danes. We did not expect this. We can only win first tomorrow. We have been sailing together for two and a half years now. We were always there, in contention. But we are very happy that we are in this position now." And about the pressure of racing in their first Medal Race in an international event: "We feel the pressure for sure to maintain this position. But as soon as we get in the boat we are chilled. That will be the same tomorrow," said JONGENS with a big smile!

Spanish pair of Tara PACHECO and Berta BETANZOS are in a hot seat in third place with bronze medal open to the top 10 teams. The Medal Race is sure to provide plenty of thrills!!

Croatian Finn sailor Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC has increased his lead at the top of the Finn fleet. Only Gasper VINCEC from Slovenia can threaten his chance to take gold. ISAF Sailing World Cup leader Ed WRIGHT (GBR) is in third position overall. "The second discard came in today so it changes the results around a lot, so I needed to get a couple of good races in," WRIGHT explained. "I went out there and pretty much tried to sail conservatively but still try and win, and I got a third and fourth which was what I really needed."

"It would be nice to walk away with a medal," continued the 31-year-old who picked up gold at the Rolex Miami OCR World Cup event, and silver in Palma a fortnight ago. "I've medalled here [in the Finn] all but one time - hopefully again tomorrow."

The top 10 windsurfers qualified in the Men's RS:X Medal Race all have a chance to take a position on the podium. However, like in the Women's 470, the Radial and the Finn, the gold will be a dual between the top two; Beijing bronze and silver medallists Shahar ZUBARI (ISR) and Julien BONTEMPS (FRA). Behind them, any of the top eight sailors could win silver!

In the Women's RS:X fleet, Peina CHEN (CHN) has seemingly picked up the baton from China's Olympic gold medallist Jian YIN and leads going into tomorrow's Medal Race. CHEN will face strong competition from experienced windsurfers, 2008 Olympic bronze medal Bryony SHAW (GBR), world #1 ranked Marina ALABAU (ESP) and Blanca MANCHON (ESP), leader of the ISAF Sailing World Cup Standings.

The Medal Race in the Laser division will decide all medallists tomorrow. Olympic gold medallist Paul GOODISON (GBR) holds on to the overall lead despite scoring big points today. Croatian Tonci STIPANOVIC has climbed to second.

The 2.4mR Paralympic event will be racing their first-ever Medal Race tomorrow. Fittingly it looks set to be a fantastic contest, with Damien SEGUIN (FRA), winner of Paralympic gold in 2004 and silver in 2008, leading the way in front of reigning Paralympic Champion Paul TINGLEY (CAN) and just three points covering the next three skippers.

The Medal Races will be sailed on two courses close to the pier. The first start will be given at 10:00. A nice 15-knot breeze is expected to provide for great racing!

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 www.sailing.org/isafsailingworldcup.

Corinne Rolland-McKenzie
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