Despite a pessimistic forecast, the intense Medal Race programme was completed as scheduled in Hyères. The wind, light and often shifty, forced the Race Committee to adjust constantly the course. Sailing proved difficult and tested the skills of the ten teams in each of the ten classes engaged in the event. The Sonar and 2.4 Metre Paralympic aspirants concluded the regatta with a final fleet race. Many champions and medallists will take a place on the podium.
The 470 men were the first to start the Medal Race show in front the harbour in Hyères. The wind, light and shifty, forced the Race Committee to reduce the course to a single windward return. The French teams led the ten-boat fleet and rounded the top mark in first and second, but the run proved costly. Athens silver medallists, Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANFIELD (GBR) and New Zealand youngsters Carl EVANS and Peter BURLING passed the French on the run. The British took first place with the last two jibes to the finish claiming the gold medal and their second title at the SOF.
"The wind was really light and patchy and didn't reach any more than five knots throughout," explained GLANFIELD. "It's pretty hard to sail under pressure in those sorts of fickle winds - you have this kind of nervous energy and have to make good decisions - so it's pleasing that we managed stay calm and sail well under those circumstances.
"While you're kind of obsessing about light winds for China, we could easily be in a situation where a third of our races at the Games are sailed in strong winds, so you still need to be able to race well in the strong stuff and we've been really pleased with our strong wind sailing this week," he added.
Early regatta leaders, Sven COSTER and Kalle COSTER placed fifth for Silver. The New Zealanders secured third on countback after ending with points to Nicolas CHARBONNIER and Olivier BAUSSET (FRA).
The start of the Yngling Medal Race, scheduled at the same time on the south course area, was postponed with the wind shifting east. The committees repositioned the racing areas to fit with the new wind direction.
Match racing specialists, Sally BARKOW, Carrie HOWE and Debbie CAPOZZI (USA) excelled in the Medal Race with a good start and speed to win the race and climb on the second step of the podium. After only one year in the Yngling, Athens gold medallist in the Europe class, Siren SUNDBY (NOR) has won her first ISAF Grade 1 event regatta in the Olympic keelboat equipment with crew Lise Birgitte FREDRIKSEN and Alexandra KOEFOED. The podium was completed with another gold medal team: current European and World Champions, Sarah AYTON, Pippa WILSON and Sarah WEBB (GBR) took second place in the Medal Race to give them bronze, on equal points with the Americans.
A victory in the 470 women Medal Race gives the Germans Stefanie ROTHWEILER and Vivien KUSSATZ the silver medal in the SOF. World #2 crew, Japan's Ai KONDO and Naoko KAMATA, sixth across the line in the Medal Race, did enough to hold on to their overall lead and claim their first ISAF Grade 1 event title. The Japanese team, who placed second in the 2007 Olympic Test Event confirmed their status as one of the favourites for success in China this August. World #1 crew Giulia CONTI and Giovanna MICOL (ITA) had to settle for bronze after a eighth place in the Medal Race.
The Finn Medal Race, won by Pieter-Jan POSTMA (NED), was sailed in very light wind that didn't exceed 5 knots. The lead changed many time with the shifty conditions. Overnight leader, world #1 Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN defended his overall lead to win the event for the first time after placing second last year and third in 2006.
"I had to cover Gasper VINCEC to protect the overall lead. At one stage he came close to the win but dropped back enough for me to win," explained the Dane.
2006 SOF winner Ed WRIGHT (GBR) took the second place in front of Gasper VINCEC (SLO).
In the Tornado, French team Xavier REVIL and Christophe ESPAGNON won the Medal Race with a safe lead over Dutch crew of Mitch BOOTH and Pim NIEUWENHUIS and Belgium's Carolijn BROUWER and Seb GODEFROID. Australia's Darren BUNDOCK and Glenn ASHBY, 2008 World Champions, conserved their overall lead in the regatta and added a SOF title in their already impressive achievements. Francesco MARCOLINI and Edoardo BIANCHI (ITA) won the silver medal in front of the Dutch.
Paul GOODISON's (GBR) victory in the Medal Race was not enough to lift the British skipper onto the podium. Michael LEIGH (CAN) and Andrew MURDOCH (NZL) ended the regatta in first and second overall, while Athens silver medallist Andreas GERITZER (AUT) took the bronze after placing fourth in the medal race. The Canadian, winner of the 2007 Sydney International Regatta, has made the podium twice before in Hyères with a third place at the 2007 Laser European Championship and the Semaine Olympique Française in 2006.
There was no surprise in the Laser Radial fleet where the top four remain unchanged after Lijia XU's (CHN) victory in the Medal Race. Overall victor Sarah BLANCK (AUS) has kept command of the Radial fleet all week and has proved her skills in the breeze as well as in lighter air.
The 2007 RS:X World Champions in both the women and men's fleets took the gold in Hyères. Ricardo SANTOS (BRA) mastered the light conditions that have prevailed in Hyères these last two days with the Brazilian winning the Medal Race and the event, proving his skills in all type of weather. Julien BONTEMPS (FRA) will be the only French medallist in Hyères this year. He took second in the Medal Race and the regatta. Bronze went to Przemyslaw MIARCZYNSKI (POL). Casper BOUMAN (NED) narrowly missed third place and the top-three selection criteria requested by his National Olympic Committee. Consequently another top-eight result is needed by the Dutch sailor to get his ticket for China.
The top three remain unchanged in the women's fleet. Zofia KLEPACKA (POL) maintained her good form, adding a comfortable overall win in Hyères to a bronze medal performance a few weeks earlier in Palma. At ease in the breeze as well as light conditions she will be a main threat for her opponents at the European Championship next month in Brest and, of course, at the Olympic Games. Olga MASLIVETS (UKR) and Jannicke STALSTROM (NOR) maintained their second and third place positions respectively.
In the 49er fleet, recently crowned European Champions Iker MARTINEZ and Xabier FERNANDEZ (ESP) continue on their good form. The reigning Olympic Champions appearing to be coming into their top form at just the right time and with a third in the Medal Race, stole the lead of the regatta from Americans Tim WADLOW and Chris RAST. European Championship silver medallists, Federico ALONSO and Arturo ALONSO (ESP) took third place. Pietro SIBELLO and Gianfranco SIBELLO (ITA) won the Medal Race and are placed fifth.
Amongst the Paralympic events, the Sonar and 2.4 Metre raced a final race to complete their series.
Tao WANG, Huiagao ZFOU and Weija XU (CHN) won the last race in the Sonar and placed fourth, only one point from the podium. However, it was John ROBERTSON, Hannah STODEL and Stephen THOMAS (GBR) who were the undoubted stars this week, winning the regatta after collecting no less than eight victories. It was a similar story in the 2.4 Metre. After leading the ranking all week, 2004 Paralympic gold medallist Damien SEGUIN (FRA) further increased his advantage today. Heiko KRÖGER (GER) and Thierry SCHMITTER (NED) finished on equal points in second and third place respectively.
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