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27 April 2007, 10:26 pm
Ideal Conditions For The Medal Races
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Semaine Olympique Française 2007
Hyères, France

Perfect conditions on the last day of the ISAF Grade 1 Semaine Olympique Française brought the full drama of the Medal Races to the spectators gathered in Hyères. It was a day where generally the overnight leaders prospered, although a couple of surprises were sprung.
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Conditions could not have been better for the ten Medal Races, with a stable wind averaging 15 knots, sun and waves. Racing was set close to the shore bringing the thrill of the last race to the spectators in Hyères. In these conditions and with a short course, a good start and a fast first beat became all important.

French Win

In the 470 and Men's RS:X events, the podium remained unchanged. In the 470s the Medal Race became a home procession, with the three French 470 boats sharing the lead. Pierre LEBOUCHER and Vincent GAROS (FRA) won the Medal Race and the regatta. Nicolas CHARBONNIER and Olivier BAUSSET (FRA) kept second place overall in front of the Greek pair Panagiotis MANTIS and Theodoros POLICHRONID.

In the Men's RS:X, Medal Race winner Ricardo SANTOS (BRA), jumped up two places to sixth overall. The Medal Race results did not bring any change to the regatta leaders, with Tom ASHLEY (NZL) the clear winner of the SOF. The 23 year old New Zealander confirms in Hyères his domination of the RS:X fleet after winning the ISAF Grade C1 South American Championship in Buzios and the ISAF Grade 2 Princess Sofia Regatta last month. Shahar ZUBARI (ISR) and Julien BONTEMPS (FRA) took silver and bronze.

Men's RS:X
Women's RS:X
Laser Radial
Men's 470
Women's 470
2.4 Metre

'I am happy with my speed,' declared Bryony SHAW (GBR) after winning the Women's RS:X Medal Race and the regatta in style. Second at the top mark, SHAW took the lead on the downwind leg. 'I am more confident in the breeze now,' she said. 'I have improved a lot especially in surfing conditions'. Blanca MANCHON (ESP) kept second place overall while Jannicke STALSTROM (NOR) placed second in the Medal Race to climb onto the last step of the podium. Athens silver medallist Jian YIN (CHN), who dominated the early part of the regatta in light winds, missed out on the podium after finishing last in the Medal Race.

Title For CONTI

Giulia CONTI and Giovanna MICOL (ITA) and Stefanie ROTHWEILER and Vivien KUSSATZ (GER) could not lose much today and kept their earlier positions, first and second overall respectively. It is the first ISAF Grade 1 event win for the Italian pair in the 470 and a further demonstration of the talent of the 21 year old CONTI. After a close Medal Race, Lenka SMIDOVA and Veronika FENCLOVA (CZE) won on the last leg relegating Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadege DOUROUX (FRA) to fourth place.

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France's gold medallists Pierre LEBOUCHER
and Vincent GAROS
© Guilain Grenier/FFV
Sally BARKOW, Carrie HOWE and Debbie CAPOZZI (USA) led the Yngling Medal Race from start to finish hoping to claim the title. However they could not dislodge overall leaders Ekaterina SKUDINA, Diana KRUTSKIKH and Alexandra SOKOLOVA (RUS), who held on to the gold medal with a fifth place finish in the Medal Race. Sarah AYTON, Sarah WEBB and Pippa WILSON (GBR) finished on equal points with the Americans and in third place overall.

Leading the event from the second day, Oskar JOHANSSON and Kevin STITTLE (CAN), had a comfortable advantage over the Tornado fleet and could easily afford a ninth place in the Medal Race.

'We didn't really expect to win,' confided the Canadians. 'We are fast on the light and heavy conditions.' With the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Cascais in July and the Olympic Sailing Competition in Qingdao in August 2008, being able to masters a range of conditions like the Canadians looks like being a key ability. Francesco MARCOLINI and Edoardo BIANCHI (ITA) took second place overall in front of Yann GUICHARD and Alexandre GUYADER (FRA). Going into the Medal Race in second place but on close points to their opponents, Iordanis PASHALIDES and Konstantinos TRIGONIS (GRE) collected high score and lost six places to finish eighth overall.

Aussie Laser Battle

In a remake of the Laser Worlds, the Australians dominated the fleet in first and second place. Michael BLACKBURN (AUS) and Tom SLINGSBY (AUS) have contrasting styles; the former likes the light conditions, is one of the most sailors experienced in the fleet and is very quiet, whilst the latter is more at home in stronger breeze, is 14 years younger and has a more flamboyant style. On the regatta circuit they are always within a few points of each other; last year, the title went to SLINGSBY, this year BLACKBURN claimed it.

Like the top spot on the Laser podium, they are both after one thing they cannot share: a place at the Olympic Games. 'I have lost some weight to adapt to the weather conditions in Qingdao,' explained BLACKBURN. 'As a result I struggle a bit more in the breeze.'

Explaining his tactics for today, BLACKBURN added, 'It all depended on the weather! In the light I knew I had an advantage over my opponents, but in case of a windy race, and it was the case today, I had to mark my direct competitor, the Swedish Johan WIGFORSS who is more at ease in the breeze. We were slow on the start and I controlled him on the first beat. We were the last two boats to round the top mark. I finally passed him on the run and gained more places.' The tactic worked. WIGFORSS collected the maximum score and missed on the podium by two points. SLINGSBY won the Medal Race, his third bullet on the trot, to move up to second, whilst Andrew MURDOCH (NZL) claimed the bronze medal.

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Dan SLATER held on to third
place in the Finn
© Guilain Grenier/FFV

49er World Champs Win Out

World Champions Chris DRAPER and Simon HISCOCKS (GBR) helped ensure a golden end to the week for the British team, clinching the regatta win after a nail-biting 49er Medal Race in which they trailed the rest of the pack heavily, eventually finishing in eighth place. It was enough to see them hold on to their overnight lead by four points and broke their jinx of the Hyères regatta being the only ISAF Grade 1 event they have never won a medal at.

'We were pretty slow upwind today - we didn't quite get our rig tuning right so that didn't help,' DRAPER explained. 'We had a bad first day to our regatta, but kept on believing throughout that we could do it and surpassed our goal for the event which was to finish in the top five.'

Despite winning the Medal Race and adding a fourth bullet to their score, the British sailors John PINK and Simon WHEELER did not make it to the top three. The Nico DELLE - KARTH and Nikolaus RESCH (AUT) climbed from third to second, while Marcus BAUR and Hannes BAUMANN (GER) lost a place down to third.

Leaders Change In Finn And Radial

The only change of leadership happened in the Finn and Laser Radial fleets. Emilios PAPATHANASIOU (GRE) won his third SOF title in four years after taking the Finn gold medal ahead of World Champion and world #1 Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN). Dan SLATER (NZL) held off the challenge of Ed WRIGHT (GBR) to finish third overall.

In the Laser Radial, world #1 Evi VAN ACKER (BEL) improved steadily through the whole regatta to finally reach the top step of the podium. In contrast, after a terrific week-long performance in Hyères, Elin Maria SAMDAL (NOR) came unstuck in the Medal Race, finishing ninth to drop from the top spot out of the medal positions. Jo ALEH (NZL) held on to second overall, whilst Gintare VOLUNGEVICIUTE (LTU) got the better of 2006 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Paige RAILEY (USA) to win the Medal Race and the bronze medal.

The Paralympic classes did not sail a Medal Race but remained in their original fleet sizes. In the 2.4 Metre, Thierry SCHMITTER (NED) won the only medal for Netherlands after an impressive score including five bullets. Jen Als ANDERSEN (DEN) remained in second place and Helena LUCAS (GBR) in third.

In the Sonar class, it was a close regatta between the top two Paralympics keelboats. Vasilis CHRISTOFORO, Nikolaos PATERAKIS and Anastasios KOSTARIS (GRE) took the gold with a three point lead in front of the British boat of IFDS World Champions John ROBERTSON, Hannah STODEL and Stephen THOMAS. Jostein STORDAHL, Per Eugen KRISTIANSEN and Aleksnder WANG-HANSEN (NOR) came in third position overall.

Record entries have been reached for the 39th edition of the SOF with 920 boats from 58 nations. Racing continues through the week with the Medal Races on 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.

Corinne McKenzie/Linsey Bell (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Bryony SHAW celebrates victory:© Guilain Grenier/FFV
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