The world's top sailors are currently in the process of descending on Hyeres, to compete in France's pinnacle ISAF Grade 1 all Olympic Class Regatta, the 35th Semaine Olympique Francaise de Voile.
Semaine Olympique Francaise is the third ISAF Grade 1 Event of 2003, following on from Sail Melbourne in January 2003 and Rolex Miami OCR in February 2003.
Hyeres Week comes close after the ISAF Grade 2 Princess Sofia Trophy which concluded in Palma, Mallorca on Friday 18 April. So for many, this week has then been a dash up to Hyeres to prepare for this important event.
For many countries, Hyeres is used as a selection regatta for their teams, as will be the case for Australia. All eyes will be on Australia's Laser sailors, as this is the second Olympic Nomination Regatta for the Laser class. Representing Australia will be Brendan Casey (AIS/QLD), Michael Blackburn (NSWIS), Tom Slingsby (NSWIS) and Jon Holroyd (NSWIS). Fresh from the Princess Sofia, Michael Blackburn had maintained the upper hand for most of the regatta, before a drop in performance in the latter days which saw Karl Suneson (SWE) take the event title, whilst Blackburn finished 6th, ahead of his teammates.
Australia has representatives in all Olympic class events for the first time in a European regatta for 2003, with some of their finest athletes competing in Hyeres, including current world champion Sarah Blanck (AIS/VIS) sailing in the Europe class, current world champion Tornado sailor Darren Bundock (AIS/NSWIS) with temporary crew Glenn Ashby (VIC), Olympic gold medallists Jenny Armstrong (AIS/NSWIS) and Belinda Stowell (AIS/WAIS) in the women's 470 class fresh from their win in Palma and world number one 470 sailors Nathan Wilmot (AIS/NSWIS) and Malcolm Page (AIS/NSWIS) who will be set to defend their 2002 win. The Australian team will be supported by seven Australian Yachting Federation coaches led by AIS/AYF Head Coach Victor Kovalenko.
For the second year, Semaine Olympique Francaise de Voile has included the single-person event, 2.4mR, as used in the Paralympics. Last year's winner Damien Seguin (FRA) is back, ready to defend his title.
Depending on the number of entries in each event, the regatta takes the form of single-fleet races or qualifying rounds and final rounds. If under 50 entries then racing will be a single-fleet series, 50-59 entries either single-fleet or qualifying at the decision of the Organising Committee and 60 or more entries will see a qualifying and final series. For the qualifying and final series format, competitors are given an initial seeding, and then re-seeded after each day's racing depending on their result. After the qualifying rounds the competitors are split into final series groups of Gold, Silver (and Bronze and Emerald if required), with competitors with the best qualifying series score racing the final series in the Gold group, those with the next best qualifying score in the Silver group and so on.
The practice race takes place on Saturday 26 April followed by the Opening Ceremony. For those events sailing qualifying rounds, these are scheduled for 28 and 29 April with the finals on 30 April, 1 and 2 May.
The event has an excellent website which will bring daily reports, photos and of course results.
Semaine Olympique Francaise de Voile is an ISAF Grade 1 event for all Olympic Classes, except the Star Class for which it is a Grade 2. From Semaine Olympique Francaise de Voile, the next ISAF Grade 1 Event is SPA Regatta, from 21-25 May in Medemblik, Holland
The ISAF World Sailing Rankings will be issued on 6 May 2003 immediately after and including the results from Semaine Olympique Francaise. You can receive the latest ISAF World Sailing and Match Race Rankings direct by email immediately they are issued. Simply subscribe via ISAF Sailor