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24 April 2011, 08:51 pm
Pre Race Favourites Take Early Honours In Hyères
Leboucher and Garos
Leboucher and Garos

Semaine Olympique Francaise 2011
Hyères. France

Perfect conditions blessed the first day of competition in the Semaine Olympique Française, fourth regatta in the ISAF Sailing World Cup.
The easterly breeze ranging from 12 to 18 knots in the seven different racing areas, big waves and sun provided for excellent racing in Hyères and saw many favourites taking the honours.

ISAF World Sailor of the Year, Tom Slingsby (AUS) took a rocket start with two bullets in the Laser. The Australian, renown for his breeze sailing skills has dominated the competition in one of the three Laser group. Simon Grotelueschen (GER) scored his best day ever in the Laser with two victories in his group. Brazil's Bruno Fontes also had a good performance claiming two second places to end the day third overall.

World # 1 Marit Bouwmeester (NED) has also given the pace in the Laser radial with two victories. "That was great, stable winds, I love it. Perfect sailing conditions. Tomorrow we will need more patience as they expect a sea breeze," said Bouwmeester.

Other race victories go to Alison Young (GBR) and Evi Van Acker (BEL) who place respectively in second and fourth place overall. Sarah Steyaert (FRA) is in third.

The British Armada continues to dominate the Finn fleet. Ben Ainslie continues his good form after winning both races in the breeze despite his preference for the lighter conditions. Giles Scott, Rolex Miami OCR Gold Medallist, took a race and a second to place second in front of Pieter-Jan Postma (NED) while Andrew Mills and Edward Wright are one point behind in fourth and fifth overall.

British team coach Matt Howard, is taking this first day philosophically, "You can't win the regatta on the first day, but you can lose it so in that respect it's a good start. We were strong today but it's all about the gold fleet racing towards the end of the week and there's a lot of points to be won and lost between now and then."

The favourites are in command in the RS:X with today's results copying the Olympic podium. Tom Ashley (NZL), Olympic Champion, is in first position, Julien Bontemps (FRA) in second after a sixth and two bullets and Shahar Zubari (ISR) third.

World Champion Blanca Manchon (ESP) won two races and finished second in the other to lead Flavia Tartaglini (ITA) by eight points in the women's RS:X.

Tara Pacheco and Berta Betanzos (ESP) mastered the conditions in the women's 470. The Spanish duo placed fourth in the first race and won the second for a two point lead over Gil Cohen and Bouskila Vered (ISR) and 2009 Hyères winners Henriette Koch and Lene Sommer (DEN).

Results are tight among the 470 men, Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis (GRE) are leading on equal points with Palma winners Nicolas Charbonnier and Jeremie Mion (FRA) and a point from Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos (FRA) who won the last race.

Erik Storck and Trevor Moore (USA) have enjoyed the breeze with fantastic results in the 49er. A third and two bullets give them a good six point lead in the 49er. Palma winners Manu Dyen and Stéphane Christidis (FRA) had a consistent day with top six finishes, placing them in second overall.

Unfortunately, a cartwheel capsize on the way back to the harbour resulted in a dislocated shoulder for skipper Dyen. "It is real bad news, we were in a good dynamic. Now Manu needs to be immobilised for at least three weeks. We hope to be ready for Sail For Gold and show we can bounce back," commented sailing partner Christidis.

Quadruple Olympic champion Robert Scheidt with Bruno Prada (BRA) lead the strong Star fleet. They have a one point advantage over George Szabo and Mark Strube (USA).

French teams have taken all in the Sonar and 2.4. Last year winner, Damien Seguin his taking the bullets while main rival Thierry Scmitter was penalised with a start disqualification after placing second. British ladies Megan Pascoe and Helena Lucas are in second and third overall.

Bruno Jourden, Eric Flageul and Nicolas Vimont Vicary are dominating the seven boats fleet in the Sonar.

Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell (GBR) are leading the Skud in front of team mates Alex Hovden and Kate Mannerings (GBR).

Twenty four Women's Match Racing teams are divided into three groups for the Stage One round robins. Seven teams are undefeated in their groups: Claire Leroy (FRA), Sally Barkow (USA), Silvia Roca (ESP), Ekaterina Skudina (RUS), Tamara Echegoyen (ESP), Lucy Macgregor (GBR) and Renee Groeneveld (NED).

Stage One will continue tomorrow. The top two teams from each group will move into the Gold Group and the next two will move into the Repechage Group. The Repechage Group will sail a round robin to determine who will join the Gold Group in the knock-out quarter-finals.

Racing will start early on Monday for the second day of the competition.

Semaine Olympique Française Website

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Corinne McKenzie
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