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20 April 2005, 01:19 pm
The Race Is On
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Semaine Olympique Française 2005
Hyeres, France

The ISAF Grade 1 Semaine Olympique Française starts today bringing together a host of holders and challengers for the top spots in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings.
Hyeres, France is the host for some of the world's best sailors over the course of a week from 22-29 April for the 36th holding of this event. With the Star event cancelled, the other ten Olympic events see five of the world's number ones on the ISAF World Sailing Ranking's present and five absent. As the first ISAF Grade 1 event of the European season it is sure to bring a major shake up of the next ISAF World Sailing Rankings published on 4 May.

Laser

With last year's winner, Olympic Champion and ISAF World Sailing Ranking's number one, Robert SCHEIDT (BRA) not racing the Laser fleet looks wide open. Paul GOODISON (GBR) has had a great record here in recent years with victory in 2002 and two third places since then. A second in the recent ISAF Grade 2 Princess Sofia Trophy proved the Brit is not short on form and victory next week could well see him rise to the summit of the ISAF World Sailing Rankings.

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GOODISON at the 2004 Olympics
© Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
After beating GOODISON in the Princess Sofia in Spain, Gustavo LIMA (POR), will be full to the brim with confidence and looking to repeat the sailing that brought him the ISAF World Championship in 2003. In a difficult fleet to predict Olympic silver medallist, Andreas GERITZER (AUT), will also start as one of the favourites. Last year he was second here behind SCHEIDT in a result that was to be repeated in the Olympic Games. Bronze medallist in Athens, Vasilij ZBOGAR (SLO), has never really shown his best form in Hyeres and will be keen to show the French spectators what he is capable of.

Laser Radial

In the Laser Radial fleet, the Europeans have the chance to make up some ground on the New Zealanders, Australians and Americans who are dominating the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, with the plethora of events which have taken place in their regions of the world. Since the Laser Radial took over as the equipment for the Single-handed Dinghy Women event, the Europeans have barely had a look in at the top of the World Rankings.

Alicia CEBRIAN (ESP) is the only European in the top 20 of the Rankings. After strong recent performances in the ISAF Grade 2 Barcelona Sailing Week and the ISAF Grade 2 Princess Sofia Trophy she starts the competition as one of the favourites.

In the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship, the Radial has been the equipment used for the last couple of years meaning a lot of younger sailors are not having to go through the process of adapting to the new equipment that is affecting the more experienced single-handed dinghy sailors. Sarah STEYAERT (FRA) is the current Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Champion and she will be looking to make a mark on the senior circuit after some fairly anonymous performances in the Europe. Olympic bronze medallist Signe LIVBJERG (DEN) will also be looking to make an impact in the new Olympic equipment, especially as the two athletes who beat her in Athens will not be contesting the Radial fleet in Hyeres.

470 Women

That does not mean that Olympic Champion in the Europe, Siren SUNDBY (NOR), will not be in France. Since her gold medal in Athens she has transferred to the 470 and Hyeres will be the first ISAF Grade 1 event she has raced in since her switch. In her first event in the 470, the Princess Sofia Trophy, SUNDBY struggled, finishing outside of the top 20. Hyeres does not look like being any easier for the Norweigan, with ISAF World Sailing Rankings' number ones and last year's winners, Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadege DOUROUX (FRA) in front of a home crowd and Olympic silver medallists Natalia VIA-DUFRESNE and Laia TUTZO (ESP) providing more tough competition.

470 Men

In the 470 men's fleet Gabrio ZANDONA (ITA) will continue his partnership with new crew, Francesco DELLA TORRE. The Italians will be looking for a good result to secure their position at the top of the ISAF World Sailing Rankings. The Portuguese pairing of Alvaro MARINHO and Miguel NUNES are not too far back in third and a good finish in France could see them moving up a position or two. After winning their first ISAF Graded Event at the Princess Sofia Trophy, Nick ASHER and Elliott WILLS (GBR), now know what it takes to win and will be another of the fancied pairings in the fleet.

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HAGARA in Athens
© Clive Mason/Getty Images

Tornado

With the Laser and 470 men and women fleets both missing their current Olympic champions it is up to Roman HAGARA and Hans Peter STEINACHER (AUT) in the Tornado to display the sailing that took them to the top of the podium in Athens. As an added spice the Austrian pair recently lost their ISAF World Sailing Rankings' number one position to their American rivals and Olympic silver medallists in 2004, John LOVELL and Charlie OGLETREE (USA). In France the Austrians will be looking for a swift return to the number one position that they occupied before the ISAF World Sailing Rankings release of 30 March. Just outside the medals in Athens but lurking dangerously at number three in the Rankings is the Netherlands' Mitch BOOTH. He knows that a result here at Hyeres combined with a slip up by HAGARA and STEINACHER could see him grab the top spot.

Finn

With Ben AINSLIE (GBR) concentrating on the America's Cup, favourite in the Finn fleet is Spain's Rafa TRUJILLO. However in the recent Princess Sofia Trophy TRUJILLO struggled on his home waters only managing a sixth place overall. Greece's Emilios PAPATHANASIOU took victory in Spain and will start Hyeres with a psychological advantage over his Spanish rival as he aims for another victory.

49er

The SIBELLO (ITA) brothers, Gianfranco and Pietro, are back in France looking to defend their title. With ISAF World Sailing Rankings' number ones Chris DRAPER and Simon HISCOCKS (GBR) absent, Olympic silver medallists and second place men in the Rankings, Rodion LUKA and George LEONCHUK (UKR), know that a good finish could see them displace their British rivals.

Yngling

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AYTON with ROBERTSON on their way
to gold in Athens
© Ben Radford/Getty Images

Olympic gold medallist Sarah AYTON (GBR) will continue in her new position at helm. She won here last year crewing for Shirley ROBERTSON (GBR) and this year AYTON is sure to have the opportunity to put every trick her former team mate taught her into action with the competition here looking very stiff. Olympic silver medallist Ruslana TARAN (UKR) and ISAF World Sailing Ranking's number one, Kristin WAGNER (GER) are just two of the names AYTON will be up against.

Mistral Men

France's Fabrice HASSEN won here last year thanks to victory in the last race. He will need to be at his very best to out do ISAF World Sailing Rankings' number one Maxim OBEREMKO (UKR). With numbers two and three in the rankings both missing Hyeres, OBEREMKO will be looking to secure his number one spot with a good result.

Mistral Women

Another returning winner is Olga MASLIVETS (UKR), who narrowly defeated home sailor Pauline PERRIN (FRA) last year. MASLIVETS lies third in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings and with number one and Olympic champion, Faustine MERRET (FRA) and number two, Alessandra SENSINI (ITA), both missing the event, a repeat performance by the Ukrainian could see her rise to the top of the windsurfing pile.

ISAF. Image:© Gilles Martin Raget/FF Voile2004
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