The Medal Race places were decided on the penultimate day of racing at ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères as sailors jockeyed for the perfect position ahead of the final day.
Tricky conditions have evident throughout the week and the fifth day of racing was no different as an early morning easterly breeze faded as the day progressed.
Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) had a wonderful start to his day taking the penultimate race win in the final series to open up an 18 point Laser lead. One to keep things interesting Stipanovic finished 25th in the final race of the series, and having already discarded a black flag he counted the score which let Robert Scheidt move into top spot after the Brazilian had a steady down on the water.
“Tonci really impressed me a lot this week with the way he has been sailing in light winds and strong winds with solid starts,” said leader Scheidt. “He got a bit unlucky because he got a black flag and one bad race today so otherwise he would have been far from us in the points so he made things a bit more exciting. So tomorrow it will be between him, myself and Tom Burton who is also a very strong sailor.
“I had a good series and consistent every race with not too many big mistakes,” added Scheidt. “I’m happy with the way things are going and tomorrow we have got two Medal Races so a lot can change.”
Tom Burton (AUS) took the days other race win to continue his climb up the leader board and remains wary going into the final day having lost a 16-point lead at ISAF Sailing World Cup Palma, “It was a pretty good day. In the first one I thought I was going to win but I missed a shift at the top and ended up in the bunch but finished ninth which is solid anyway and got the last guy on the run in the second one so was nice to finish off with a win.
“It’ll be pretty close between he, [Tonci], myself and Robert. I blew a 16-point lead in Palma so I’ll see if I can make up a few points.”
Marit Bouwmeester (NED) held onto her lead in the Laser Radial but with only three points separating the Dutch sailor, Alison Young (GBR) and Tuula Tenkanen (FIN) the game is wide open ahead of two Medal Races.
ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne and Palma victors Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) have established a 16-point lead in the Men’s 470. The penultimate day of racing was tricky for the all of the fleet but the Australians put in a steady ninth and sixth to lead Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion (FRA) and Pierre Leboucher and Nicolas Le Berre (FRA).
“It was really difficult today,” said Belcher. “The last two days were quite unexpected and we were expecting quite a lot more breeze out there and I think in one point of the race we had 1-2 knots. The last day of finals adds a bit of pressure for everyone to try and get two good races.
“The French probably had the most consistent week out of anyone and today had two really bad races so anything can happen.”
With such a substantial lead Belcher and Ryan go into the final day as the favourites and Belcher knows more than anyone how to approach the Medal Races, “You can’t worry about too many people other than yourself,” he exclaimed. “First Medal Race try and get the best result you can and then reassess. We’ve got a lot of experience and been in this position before so we couldn’t be any better prepared coming into tomorrow.”
Belcher is on an undefeated Men’s 470 run that stems back to November 2011 but it’s not something that he strives to conserve, “I try not to think about it because certainly it’s going to end at some point. From a team and pressure point of view it’s probably better if it ends earlier than later but with our experience and what we’ve developed it’s a great feeling and confirmation of our program.”
Also on an impressive 470 run is Fernanda Oliveira and Ana Barbachan (BRA) in the women’s fleet. Taking victories at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami and Palma they have a perfect record in 2013 and go into the Medal Races nine points ahead of Camille Lecointre and Mathilde Geron (FRA).
Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (NZL) sailed themselves into the 49erFX lead on the penultimate day taking two bullets and a second. “It was quite close racing,” said Meech. “Not as much breeze as we were expecting but it was nice and we had good speed. The starts were a bit tricky so we had to focus on getting a good lane.”
Eighteen points separate them and Charlotte Dobson and Mary Rook (GBR) but three Stadium Races follow, a format that is relatively unknown to the 49erFX fleet, “We had our first one in Palma so we’re pretty new to it,” said Maloney. “Right now it’s about keeping it clean and trying to stay calm under pressure because it’s pretty intense especially for the crews as they’re up and down gybing so it’s quite physical.”
British sailors occupy all of the top spots in the 49er with David Evans and Ed Powys and rivals Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign sharing the lead on 53 points. Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes sit third ahead of the three double point stadium races on the final day in Hyeres.
With eight 49erFX and 49er teams taking to the water on the final day anything could happen with 48-points being fought for.
Double bullets for Ivan Pastor (ESP) pulled him back into the Men’s RS:X lead as he bids to make it three World Cup regatta victories in a row. Louis Giard (FRA) is just one point behind the World #1 and Piotr Myszka (POL) sits third.
Remaining consistent as ever in the Women’s RS:X is Charline Picon (FRA) who picked up another 1-2 score line on the day. Bryony Shaw’s (GBR) day of 12-3 meant she discarded the 12th and counts her eighth allowing Picon to take an 11 point advantage into the Medal Races.
France’s Billy Besson and Marie Riou have moved into the Nacra 17 lead after a steady day on the water but with very little splitting the top teams anything can happen, “We lead just before the Medal Races so we are very happy,” said Besson. “There are six boats that can win because the first five boats have only five points separating them and it’s possible to finish 10-10 and get 40-points so tomorrow it is a really big day for all.”
Elke Delnooz and Coen de Koning (NED) took the final Medal Race spot by one point as Argentina’s Cecilia Carranzo Saroli and Esteban Blando and New Zealand’s Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders missed out.
The day’s Finn bullets went the way of Giles Scott (GBR) and Pieter-Jan Postma (NED). Scott maintained his lead whilst Postma pulled back into medal contention. Andrew Mills (GBR) is second.
Racing on the final day at ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères gets going at 10:00 local time across three race courses with a chance of showers and a light 9-10 knot breeze with gusts of 13 knots.