Over 1,100 athletes have registered to sail at ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères with the crème of the crop of Olympic and Paralympic sailing set to compete in Hyères, France.
Olympic medallists, World Champions and ISAF Sailing World Cup medallists will compete on the French Riviera as the 2013-2014 World Cup series draws to a close.
At ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca a French Finn battle came to the forefront as Thomas le Breton and Jonathan Lobert jostled for internal bragging rights.
Whilst Giles Scott (GBR) took gold by six points, silver and bronze was taken by Le Breton and Lobert and that battle will resume in the 61-boat Finn fleet at ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères.
Relationships between the French sailors are strong onshore but when the starting gun goes the pair put friendships aside, "We are sharing sails and masts and we try to be efficient,"
said le Breton. "We've shown that in the past we are able to work together but when we are on the water everyone wants to win."
Lobert added, "With Thomas the relationship is very good and we are working and training together to be as good as possible. I think it's a great chance for me to have such a good team mate. I really do believe that a challenging trial prepares you even better for the Olympics. You always have to go forward and push your limits to stay ahead."
The pair are part of a seven boat French contingent in the Finn fleet but the experienced le Breton and Lobert do not see an immediate threat from the youngsters coming through, "A few young French sailors are improving well but the gap is a bit too big to beat us in the next two years, but after…"
explained le Breton.
Lobert echoed his compatriot, "For now there is no other guys really competing with us in France but we have some good youth coming and I try to help them to get closer to the top of the fleet. Most important thing I always tell them is to spend time on the water, have fun and the rest will follow."
Racing commences at 11:00 local time on 21 April and Lobert is excited to race the likes of World #1 Oliver Tweddell (AUS), 2013 Finn World Champion Jorge Zarif (BRA) and World #3 Deniss Karpak (EST), "I love to race,"
exclaimed Lobert, "to race anyone. This is why I am training so hard, to be as good as possible during the regattas. I really enjoy sailing with all the guys around because every day is different and each time it's a new challenge.
"In sailing you never know what's going to happen and this is why it's such an exciting game."
A 91-boat Men's RS:X fleet will race in Hyères and features experience in abundance.
London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Dorian Van Rijsselberge (NED), silver medallist and 2013 Men's RS:X World Champion Nick Dempsey (GBR) and bronze medallist Przemyslaw Miarczynski (POL) will all sail in Hyères. With the addition of World #1 Ho Tsun Leung (HKG) and ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao gold medallist Shahar Zubari (ISR) it will be an exciting week of racing.
Zubari hasn't competed since he took gold in Qingdao and Hyères marks a return to action for the Israeli, "I've been taking it easy for the last two years after the games meaning only 1-2 world cups and World and Europeans,"
said the Beijing 2008 bronze medallist.
"I've been studying at university to get my degree and combining it with some cross training and a bit of sailing. Hyères will be the competition to start the year so I'm really looking forward to getting there. I feel in good shape and excited to compete."
Zubari has enjoyed four top ten finishes in Hyères, taking gold in 2009 and enjoys the vibe on the French Riviera, "Hyères is a well-organized competition, the atmosphere is great and the sea conditions is always challenging whether its offshore wind that is really shifty or onshore winds that are really choppy. Either way I like it."
With a 15 race series and Medal Race it will be an intense reintroduction for Zubari and racing commences at 11:00 local time on 21 April.
The Women's RS:X features 60 registered racers and just like the men's fleet sees a large number of experienced campaigners.
China's Peina Chen will be the one to watch having recorded three top five finishes at three 2013-2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup regattas. Gold in Qingdao was followed up by a bronze in Melbourne and a fifth in Mallorca and the in-form Chinese racer will be gunning for another podium finish.
ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca silver and bronze medallists Lilian De Geus (NED) and Blanca Manchon (ESP) will be amongst the fleet whilst Zofia Klepacka (POL) will make only her second appearance on the race course after taking bronze at London 2012.
Laser racing at ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca was incredibly open with the lead changing hands numerous times. In the end Tom Burton (AUS) got the job done in the Medal Race after taking an early lead and holding on all the way through to the finish. Jean Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) and World #1 Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) took silver and bronze.
The trio will be in Hyères and with all the strong Laser sailors registered it will be another tantalisingly close week of racing.
Racing in the Laser Radial will be just as tight with strong competitors across the 90-boat fleet. Marit Bouwmeester (NED) took a convincing gold at ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca but will face a determined fleet in Hyères. Mallorca silver medallist Tuula Tenkanen (FIN) and bronze medallist Chloe Martin (GBR) will take to the start line alongside Bouwmeester.
Further competition will come from Evi Van Acker (BEL), ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao gold medallist Dongshuang Zhang (CHN), 2013 Laser Radial World Champion Tina Mihelic (CRO) and Sailing World Cup Miami victor Paige Railey (USA).
Racing commences on Monday 21 April across ten Olympic and two Paralympic events in Hyères, France. The Medal Races on Saturday 26 April will bring the regatta to a close.
ISAF Sailing World Cup Website