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25 April 2005, 09:21 am
First Timers And Old Timers
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Semaine Olympique Française 2005
Hyères, France

Racing in the ISAF Grade 1 Semaine Olympique Française got underway yesterday in Hyères, France. As the first ISAF Grade 1 European Regatta of the season, new partnerships and new faces are up against old hands and experienced heads as the Olympic cycle begins to turn once again.
One of the main characteristics of a post Olympic event is the diversity of sailors engaged in the race. For some, it is the very first international regatta, the opportunity to test against the world's best. 'The young sailors are very motivated for their first event, they are full of energy, eager to give their best and generally they have good results' explained George FUNDAK, Austrian head coach. 'It is during the next regatta that reality hits them. They have high expectations and often end up very disappointed.' Head coach for the Austrian Sailing Federation since 1986, FUNDAK made his debut in Hyères in 1975. 'It's 30 years since my first time here as a 470 sailor!'

The SOF is also the first time for teams changing class. Dan SLATER (NZL) has campaigned in the Laser and the 49er. The New Zealander is competing here in his first regatta in the Finn: 'I sailed the Finn many years ago with Craig MONK (NZL) but the Laser became Olympic and was better suited to my physique at that time. I am glad to have a chance to try the Finn now.'

This is the first time on the water for Roman HAGARA and Hans Peiter STEINHACHER (AUT) since their gold medal in the Tornado in Athens. Hot favourites in Hyères, the Austrian will be after some points to reclaim their top position on the ISAF World Sailing Rankings. They will face the most unusual Dutch team: the BOOTH father and son. Probably among the youngest and oldest sailors of the regatta (Taylor is 17 years old, Mitch is 42), they are sailing together for the first time in the Tornado. 'We have raced twice in the Hobie Tiger and Hobie 16 World Championships, but Hyères is our first time together in the Tornado. My crew, Herbert, stayed home to enjoy his new baby, and Taylor was happy to jump in. We like to sail together; there is no expectation, just fun.' In any case, Mitch will have to leave the regatta earlier to go to Carnac to compete in Eurocat. 'It is a real pity that both regattas are clashing. I asked the organisers to move the regatta a few days to allow Tornado sailors to race in both events, but I have had no luck so far.'

At the age of 15, Laura LINARES (ITA) is the youngest sailor in Hyères. The Italian Mistral sailor, had no luck with her regatta debut. She was one of eight to abandon the first race of the event won by Olga MASLIVETS (UKR).

The easterly wind, strengthened throughout the day to reach 20 to 25 knots when racing started for the Mistral, Laser and 470. With the wind increasing to 30 knots and rolling waves on the course, the racing committee decided to cancel sailing today for the Tornados, 49ers and 2.4.

Two races were successfully raced and won by French sailor Fabrice HASSEN in the Mistral Men despite 18 DNF's scored in both races. He is facing strong opposition from Spanish representative in Athens Ivan PASTOR and Quentin HENRY (FRA), in second and third place.

The 470 women and the men, divided in two groups, managed one race today. With half of the fleet abandoning racing, the Israelis Vered BUSKILA and Nike KORNITZKI mastered the gruelling conditions to claim victory in the women division in front of the French team of Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadège DOUROUX. Europe gold Medallist in Athens, Siren SUNDBY and crew Kariane MELLEBY (NOR) proved their ability in their new class by placing third.

The men's groups were won by some of the most experienced teams of the fleet, 1996 Olympic champion Evgeny BRASLAVETS and Igor MATVIENKO from Ukraine and Italians Gabrio ZANDONA and Francesco DELLA TORRE leaders of the ISAF World Sailing Rankings.

Two races were sailed in the Laser class, split in three groups. Leading the overall ranking after winning both races is breeze specialist Mate ARAPOV (CRO). His team mate from Croatia is placed sixth after winning the first race and finishing fourth in the second. Between them it is a close battle: Brendan CASEY (AUS) is second overall after a third and a first, on equal points with French sailors Thomas LE BRETON (1-3) and Jeremie STEYAERT (2-2), third and fourth on the overall ranking. In fifth position is Greek sailor Antonis BOUGIOURIS (4-1).

After being postponed until mid-afternoon, races in the Yngling, Laser Radial, and Finn were finally cancelled for the day after a race committee decision.

Racing will resume on today from 1200 hours local time.

Event Media (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Racing gets underway on day one:© FFVoile 2004
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