With the exception of the Star and SKUD18, all Olympic and Paralympics Classes will be presents and 12 titles disputed. This year the SOF has included the Sonar, three-person keelboat in the programme, bringing participation to over 900 boats and 58 countries.
The large number of entries in all classes will not dilute the level of competition. All of last year's winners will be back to defend their titles and will have to face strong opponents, with over 30 Olympic medallists and many World and European Champions present. Some sailors are back to their usual boat after trying unsuccessfully a new discipline. The new faces from the start of the Olympiad are starting to gain expertize and catch up with the favourites.
After winning comfortably last year, Casper BOUMAN (NED) is back to defend his title in the Men's RS:X. Among the top women, we will see again Athens gold and silver medallists, Faustine MERRET (FRA) and Jian YIN (CHN).
Ed WRIGHT (GBR), who dominated the event in the Finn last year, will face strong opposition despite the desertion of ten of the best Finn sailors to Valencia where they are engaged with America's Cup teams. To defend his title, WRIGHT will have to count with the presence of experienced and capped sailors like Emilios PAPATHANASIOU (GRE) winner of the SOF in 2004 and 2006, Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN), the current World Champion and world #1 and Marin MISURA (CRO) winner of the recent ISAF Grade 2 Princess Sofia Trophy.
Young Australian Laser sailor Tom SLINGSBY, winner in 2005 and 2006, will be competing in Hyères again this year. Before winning for a third time in Hyères, SLINGSBY will have to go through the qualification rounds among 205 opponents and especially overcome his team mate and 2006 World Champion Michael BLACKBURN (AUS) and world #1 Paul GOODISON (GBR).
In the Laser Radial, the hierarchy is not totally established even if 2006 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Paige RAILEY (USA) and Sophie DE TURCKHEIM (FRA) were dominating the fleet in 2006. Evi VAN ACKER (BEL) is a new threat for them having made giants strides over the past 12 months. The young Belgian pocketed the 2006 European title, won in Palma recently and is current top of the ISAF World Sailing Rankings.
|Over 1,000 sailors are preparing
for the start in Hyères
© Gilles Martin-Raget
Amongst the skiffs, Chris DRAPER and Simon HISCOCKS (GBR), current 49er World Champions, world #1 crew Jan-Peter PECKOLT and Hannes PECKHOLT (GER) and Athens gold medallists and 2006 ISAF World Sailing Games winners, Iker MARTINEZ and Xabier FERNANDEZ (ESP) should insure a great show on the water!
The 470 has a strong tradition in France where the boat was designed in the 1960s by André CORNU. Benjamin BONNAUD and Romain BONNAUD (FRA) and the women's team of Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadege DOUROUX (FRA) will be among the home teams hoping for victory in Hyères.
The competition will be strong for the French in the men's fleet, with Gideon KLIGER and Udi GAL (ISR) defending their title for the second consecutive year, World Champions Nic ASHER and Elliot WILLLIS (GBR), Athens silver medallists Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANFIELD (GBR) and 2004 and 2005 World Champions Nathan WILMOT and Malcolm PAGE (AUS) all lining up..
PETITJEAN and DOUROUX will have to get the better talented teams like the 2006 European Champions Stephanie ROTHWEILER and Vivian KUSSATZ (GER) and current World Champions Marcelien DE KONING and Lobke BERKOUT (NED). The Women's 470 fleet will also need to contend with the comeback of Ruslana TARAN (UKR) at the helm of a boat that won her two World and five European titles and two Olympic medals!
Xavier REVIL and Christophe ESPAGNON (FRA) will defend their title in the Tornado hoping for a third victory in the 39th SOF in Hyères. Double Olympic gold medallists Roman HAGARA and Hans Peter STEINACHER (AUT) have not lost their stamina and remain amongst the leading challengers in the fleet! Riding the top of the wave, Darren BUNDOCK and Glenn ASHBY (AUS) are the current World Champions, the world #1 crew and comfortably won the Princess Sofia Trophy at the start of the month.
Many teams are waiting and ready for the opportunity to defeat the Yngling team of Sally BARKOW, Carrie HOWE and Deborah CAPOZZI (USA) after their consecutive victories in 2006 and 2005! The top ranked women Ulrike SCHUEMANN, Ute HOEPFNER and Julia BLECK (GER) or the British boats helmed by Shirley ROBERTSON and Sarah AYTON are eager to take their chance.
The usual favourites are back in the 2.4 Metre with 18 boats engaged in the 39th SOF. Damien SEGUIN (FRA) returns after a two year absence with the objective to win the title back from Thierry SCHMITTER (NED). Helena LUCAS (GBR), winner in 2005, is also a strong prospect for the title.
All are ready for serious racing, because this year is when part of their future will be decided. Hyères, like other ISAF Grade 1 regattas on the international circuit, is part of many nations' selection process for the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Cascais and for the Olympic Test Event in August in Qingdao.
The regatta is scheduled over six days of racing on six racing areas to optimize the bay of Hyère, and provide the best racing possible. Racing starts on Sunday and continues through the week with the Medal Races set for Friday.
For a complete list of all the news from the Semaine Olympique Française 2007 CLICK HERE.
The Semaine Olympique Française will be included in the first running of the ISAF World Cup© series for the Olympic Classes. For more on the ISAF World Cup© CLICK HERE.