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3 May 2003, 05:03 am
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Semaine Olympique Francaise

The Semaine Olympique Française in Hyères has been full of surprises and a real test for all the sailors engaged in the regatta.
The high level of competition combined with the wide range of sailing conditions contributed to a difficult regatta for the athletes and tested the skills of the best sailors. In many classes, the winners have been decided on the last race, keeping the suspense until the end.

In the Laser and Europe class, the battle for first place remained fierce. Roope Suomalainen, 8th in the World ranking, got the better of Michael Blackburn, and one point was enough for the Finn to take the title. Paul Goodison, winner in 2002, took bronze only 2 points from the leader.

Goodison commented: "I sailed a good week but a premature start at the beginning of the regatta made it a lot harder for me to finish with a good result. I am happy with how I sailed today and to finish with a medal from this event."

It was the same scenario in the Europe class also going to the wire with Siren Sundby winning the last race and the regatta. "It is the first time I have won a regatta at this level. I am only 20 years old and I hope I can keep this level until Athens," she commented. Sari Multala who was leading before the last race is only 1 point behind the Norwegian. It is the second time that the Fin has finished second in Hyères. "I wasn't very regular this week and I had to carry two very bad results." Sarah Macky from New Zealand finished third, 21 points behind the top 2.

There was another result in the Tornado class. Going into the last day on equal points, Mitch Booth and Herbert Dercksen won the regatta one point ahead of the French team and title holders Olivier Backes and Laurent Voiron. The Spanish team of Echavarri/Paz held on to their third place.

In the 49ers, Ukrainians Rodion Luka and Georgiy Leonchuk managed to hang on to their first place, winning the regatta three points ahead of second placed Paul Brotherton and Asquith. The Spanish team of Martinez/Fernandez were third, the Spanish skipper recovered from a knee operation.

"I am delighted with our result this week," commented Paul Brotherton. "We came here to win but as the week went on the qualification for the Pre-Olympics took over and this became our goal. I am hoping that we have done enough to qualify for the Pre-Olympics and now look forward to a week back at home before going to train in Cadiz in preparation for the worlds."

In the Mistral classes, the top five places are unchanged. Jian Yun (CHN) and Jon-Paul Tobin (NZL) took Gold, Lai Mingshuang (CHN) and Gal Fridman (ISR) silver while the third placed spots went to Jian Gao (CHN) and Ricardo Santos (BRA). The Mistral sailors are now all heading for their European Championship in Sicily.

Despite a Black Flag in the last race for a premature start, the 470 Greek champions Sofia Bekatorou and Emilia Tsoulfa held onto their first position and the championship title they won last year. The 12th race was won by Israeli team of Nike Kornecki and Vered Bouskila who hold on to second place on equal points with Spanish duo Natalia via Dufresne and Sandra Azon.

In the men's 470, early leaders Molund/Andersson from Sweden took the title from Australians Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page, placed third, with the Portuguese team of Alvaro/Nunes in second.

Today's one race didn't change the results in the Yngling class. World Championship runners up, Germans Ulrike Schuemann, Wibke Buelle and Winnie Lippert took Gold despite collecting an OCS. Danes Jensen/Jespersen/Kiel are second in front of Melanie Dennison's Australian team who were OCS.

The dual between Sebastien Godefroid and Ben Ainslie in the Finn class ended with the Belgium taking the regatta after taking a second place today. Ben Ainslie chances for a win went when he overshot the weather mark on the first leg of the last race. Ending the regatta with a win, Croatian Karlo Kuret secured third place, only 1 point from last year's winner Mateusz Kusznierewicz. Ainslie commented, "I sailed pretty well this week, I still have some work to do in some conditions but on the whole I am happy with where I am at this time. My main focus for this year is the Europeans in June and the Worlds in September so I don't want to peak too early."

Placing remained unchanged in the 2.4 with Damien Seguin (FRA) winning 9 races out of 12. Thierry Schmitter (NED) was second while Andrew Millband (GBR) was third.

With a total of 186 races, racing in Hyeres was intense with competition remaining fierce in most classes until the end.
Event Media (As Amended by ISAF News Editor)
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