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21 April 2008, 09:11 am
Heavy Weather Start In Hyères
Action from the 470 course on day one
It was a wet and wild start in Hyères

Semaine Olympique Française 2008
Hyères, France

The 40th edition of the ISAF Grade 1 SOF in Hyères started with gruelling conditions, upsetting the form book as many of the pre-regatta favourites struggled.
It was an exciting opening day for the crews competing across the Olympic and Paralympic events in Hyères, France. The easterly wind blew up to 25 knots with deep short waves until mid-afternoon, with the heavy conditions resulting a number of surprise results on the opening day of racing.

Strong winds and choppy waves provided hard sailing conditions for the 49ers sailors split in two fleets. Danish Olympic representatives Jonas WARRER and Martin KIRKETERP have mastered the tough conditions to lead the yellow 49er group after consistently racing to fourth and fifth positions. Their team mates, Peter KRUGER ANDERSEN and Dennis ANDERSEN (DEN) won the second race.

"We started the regatta with a bad race and where very disappointed, we had only three boats behind us! In the second, we managed to sail fast and keep our boat upright!" said the Danish pair.

Third at the top mark, the Danish went on to win the race - "our first race victory at this level and in these conditions!" according to the pair - after avoiding the race leaders, Jonas LINDBERG and Kalle TORLEN (SWE) and Ukrainians Rodion LUKA and George LEONCHUK, who had capsized at the start of the downwind leg,

"We had managed a good first race with a second place and were on our way to repeat it," explained LUKA. "Unfortunately the Swedes just nosedived in front of us, we tried to sail round them but got hit by a big wave and capsized as well!"

The Athens silver medallists finished the race in 14th position. The same fate befell world #3 crew Stevie MORRISON and Ben RHODES (GBR), who damaged their boat after capsizing. The Brits, who had won race 1, were among seven boats who failed to finish the second race.

Only seven boats managed to finish the sole race in the 49er blue group won by Marcin CZAJKOWSKI and Krzysztof KIERKOWSKI (POL). This result will not be included in the overall classification until both groups sail an even number of races.

The Finns enjoyed the gruelling conditions with wind reaching 27 knots in their racing area. Pieter-Jan POSTMA (NED) proved again he likes the breeze. The Dutchman, who won the two final fleet races last year in similar conditions, won the first race with a huge lead and was among the leading group in the second when a starboard incident forced him to do a 720. POSTMA recovered from 35th to seventh to place in fourth overall. Chris COOK (CAN) leads the standings after placing second and third. World #1 Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN) suffered from a collision at the first top mark and finished race 1 in sixth place with a big hole on the deck. The Dane kept his concentration to win the second race and secure a second position overall on equal points with 2008 Finn Gold Cup runner up Dan SLATER (NZL).

Faithful to their fame, Dutch teams excelled in the breeze in the Tornado and 470 women fleets. Mitch BOOTH and Pim NIEUWENHUIS (NED) took the first bullet in the Tornado opening race and placed fifth in the second. They are on equal points with Carolijn BROUWER and Sebastien GODEFROID (BEL) and 2007 World Champions Fernando ECHAVARRI and Anton PAZ (ESP). The second race went to Francesco MARCOLINI and Edoardo BIANCHI (ITA) in fifth place behind the German team of Johannes POLGAR and Florian SPALTEHOLZ who are playing in Hyères their Olympic selection.

Triple World Champions, Marcelien DE KONING and Lobke BERKHOUT (NED) placed twice second to lead the Women's 470 fleet. American pair Amanda CLARK and Sarah MERGENTHALER won the first race. French Olympic representatives Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadège DOUROUX claimed the second race. The 2007 World Championship silver medallists have kept their form in the breeze despite having fully started their preparation for China's light conditions. In the men's fleet, the 2008 World Championship silver medallists, Álvaro MARINHO and Miguel NUNES (POR), who have retrieved their "good" boat from Australia, lead the rankings with a second and a bullet. They are on equal points with Athens silver medallists, Great Britain's Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANFIELD (1,2 in the day's two races).

The RS:X favourites didn't perform in the breeze, with Athens gold and silver medallists, Faustine MERRET (FRA) and Jian YIN (CHN) placed 21st and 24th respectively! 2007 ISAF Sailing World Champion Zofia KLEPACKA (POL) who hasn't lost her strength in the breeze, was unbeatable with two bullets. Blanca MANCHON (ESP) lies in second place.

There were close results in the RS:X men with the top ten within eight points of one another! Toni WILHELM (GER) is leading the group on equal points with Casper BOUMAN (NED) second. Julien BONTEMPS (FRA) is third in front of Dorian VAN RIJSSELBERGE (NED). Hyères is one of the Olympic selections for the Dutch sailboarders and the battle between BOUMAN and VAN RIJSSEL promised to be intense!

2008 Yngling World bronze medallists, Ulrike SCHUEMANN, Julia BLECK and Ute HOEPFNER (GER) have taken the lead in the Yngling fleet, only a point ahead of world #1 crew Sarah AYTON, Sarah WEBB and Pippa WILSON (GBR).

Evi VAN ACKER (BEL) and Lijia XU (CHN), first and second in the Laser Radial, are among the rare class favourites to have performed well in the first day of racing in Hyères! Mixed results have penalized other class leaders. Despite claiming a race, Sari MULTALA (FIN) and Sarah BLANCK (AUS) have also collected top scores to place 15th and 31st respectively. Jo ALEH (NZL) and Paige RAILEY (USA) had good scores in the first race but they were balanced with a disqualification at the start of the second. They are placed in 40 and 42 places!

2007 ISAF Worlds bronze medallist, Deniss KARPAK (EST) has enjoyed the strong winds to win both races in a 154-boat Laser fleet. Current World Champion and world #1 Tom SLINGSBY (AUS) despite earlier expectations, has made it to Hyères. A first and a Black Flag collected in the second race place him in 74th position overall.

The only race sailed in the 2.4 Metre fleet saw last year's leaders taking the first three places. Athens Paralympic gold medallist Damien SEGUIN (FRA) is in first place in front of Thierry SCHMITTER (NED) and Helena LUCAS (GBR). The Sonar race went to British team helmed by John ROBERTSON. The conditions for the sailors aiming for the Paralympic events were on the upper limit. One of the German crew went overboard during the race but was quickly rescued by French coach.
Men's RS:X
Women's RS:X
Laser Radial
Men's 470
Women's 470
2.4 Metre

Semaine Olympique Française -

Corinne Rolland-McKenzie
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