Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI/FFVoile

Percy and Simpson still ahead despite dismasting

Another big day at the Semaine Olympique Francais in Hyeres

Thursday April 26th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

The Semaine Olympique Française in Hyères is providing the whole gamut of conditions. After a light Wednesday so today the big conditions returned with a strong easterly and large waves.

Today's survival conditions claimed the mast on Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson’s Star. The Skandia Team GBR duo held a comfortable lead and were around 200m from the finish of their race in 18-22 knot conditions, when the breakage occurred.

In fact there were just 12 finishers in the 25-boat Star fleet with the British team's closest rivals Richard Clarke and Tyler Bjorn (CAN) among those who didn’t, so despite of the British boat's damage they are able to discard today’s result and still head into Friday’s ten boat double points-scoring medal race with a five point lead over Sweden’s Fredrik Loof and Max Salminen. Today's race was won by the French team of Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot in fourth position.

The most impressive performance in Hyères has been that of the Dutch 470 Women, Lisa Westerhof and Lobke Berkhout. The double world champions were a bit off the pace last year, but have won with a day to spare holding a 26 point lead over Camille Lecointre and Mathilde Géron (FRA).

“We have sailed a really good series with a very solid performance," said Berkhout. "No ups and downs, resulting in the fact that we are leading with more than 20 points. That is a really nice feeling. We want to do that again this year.”

Lecointre and Mathilde Géron have steadily climbed up the result table this week and will be satisified as results here is being used by the FFV to determine which team will go to London 2012. “We sailed well this week in the breeze," said Lecointre. "The hard day was yesterday in the lighter and shifty winds. It was important we sailed well and without risk. We did our best and are happy to be in second place.”

The fight for Silver will be tight in tomorrow's medal race, with just five points separating second from fifth. The strong Japanese team of Ai Kondo ans Wakako Tabata and last year winners Pacheco/Betanzos (ESP) have won a race each and will be gunning for the French team.

With two bullets today World Champions Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page (AUS) are doing nearly as well as the Dutch girls in the 470 Men's class. The Aussies like the big conditions and have increased their lead to a near unbeatable 18 points over European champions Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic (CRO).

“470s can take on most conditions and the boats lived up to that today,” said Page. “It was pretty extreme out there, though nothing we haven’t experienced in Australia and it was actually quite enjoyable, especially when you’re leading.”

Belcher said that the conditions made it quite tough to even get around the racecourse. “We started quite well today and know that we have quite a lot of speed against our competition in these conditions. They were such extreme conditions that anything could have happened like we saw on day one when our rig just exploded so we were definitely on edge the whole way to the finish line. We knew that if we focused on ourselves and got around the race course we’d be at the front and to get two wins today was fantastic.”

The Croatians finished second to the Australians in both races. “It was another challenging day, with strong wind and big waves, especially downwind was quite an undertaking not to capsize," said Fantela. "We are very happy with our two second places, just behind the Aussie pair: it was quite a battle! We are looking forward to tomorrows medal race!”

Sven and Calle Coster (NED) have dropped to third but will be relieved to have secured their berth at London 2012, the third time the brothers will take part in the Olympic Games.

In the Laser, Tom Slingsby (AUS) scored another bullet and hold a slender three point lead going into the medal race. “It was sort of my conditions out there today,” said Slingsby. “I was a bit sluggish off the line but once I got into a bit of a groove I was going nice and fast and was able to sail away for a win. Going into the medal race anyone can win, I can’t concentrate on just one boat but it was always going to be one of those series after everyone was having good scores. I’m happy that I sailed really well and have one more to go to try and win it.”

Philipp Buhl (GER) remains second four points ahead of Andrew Murdoch (NZL), who replaces team mate Andy Maloney in third. The Croatians will have three boats in tomorrow's medal race, but of these only Tonci Stipanovic is within reach of the podium.

The top three remain unchanged in the Laser Radial with two races sailed in the strong afternoon breeze and waves. Marit Bouwmeester (NED) is still in first but she is just a point ahead of today's race winners Lijia Xu (CHN) in second with Skandia Team GBR's Alison Young another two points adrift in third. At present any of the top seven is within reach of gold tomorrow.

“It wasn’t that bad out there,” said Young of today's race, after an earlier aborted attempt to start them in the morning. “The course area was quite sheltered so it was a good solid race in the end. I ended up fifth – there were opportunities there that could have made it better, but a fifth is solid enough. It’s been a week of hiking this week so good to stretch the legs out. Fitness has probably been one of the key things this week to be able to keep going through all the races. The forecast tomorrow is for a bit of breeze again, so I’m looking for a breezy medal race with all to play for!”

Young's team mate, Charlotte Dobson, who’s eighth in the overall standings, agreed that fitness had been key factor in today’s windy racing. “It was quite interesting because I think day five of the event when it’s been really, really windy as well you can see people starting to switch off a bit and getting too tired, so It’s definitely been survival of the fittest. Clearly having finished seventh, I was about seventh fittest."

Australian Brendan Casey won the only race sailed today in the Finn. Awarded average points by the jury for yesterday races, the Australian has moved into third position overall. “It was quite a long day as I had to replace the hull this morning then we launched, were sent back in due to the committee boat not being able to hold anchor and then eventually got one race in,” he said. “I was lucky that I had the opportunity to go out and tune up for the race that we didn’t have as I was able to come back in and make sure everything was sitting well. When we eventually got racing we had quite a strong breeze and big waves but it went really well and I came away with the win and am in a good spot heading into the medal race."

Rafa Trujillo (ESP) still leads by two points from Deniss Karpak (EST).

The extreme conditions kept the 49ers ashore today, however there was a leader change this morning. Manu Dyen and Stéphane Christidis won their protest overnight against the New Zealand team of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke in race seven and as a result have taken the lead from World champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) now just a point behind in second. Only the top four can get to the podium after tomorrow's medal race.

In the inter-Brit contest, Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes are poised just outside of the medal race positions in fourth, on equal points with the third-placed Danish team. The overnight protest improved the standings of Skandia Team GBR’s other 49er crews – John Pink and Rick Peacock will now make the medal race cut in tenth place.

The tough conditions prevented the Women's Match racing from concluding the round robins with the organisers only able to complete one flight today due to the harsh conditions. With seven flights remaining, getting to finals seems to be unlikely. In this Anna Tunnicliffe (USA) remains undefeated, followed by Ekaterina Skudina (RUS) and Sally Barkow (USA) with 79% victories while Lucy Macgregor's team lost today to the Russians and now hold fourth with a 70% win-loss record. The round robins will resume Friday at 8.30am.

In the RS:X Men Piotr Myszka (POL) is still first, but World Champion Julien Bontemps (FRA) won today's race to close to seven points now in second with Myszka's team mate Przemek Miarczynski.

Poland regained the lead in the RS:X Women, with Maja Dziarnwska back on top two points ahead of Moana Delle (GER) and Charline Picon (FRA) another two points behind.

Bruno Jourdren, Nicolas Vimont-Vicary and Eric Flageul (FRA) won the only race in the Sonar to take second overall, with John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas (GBR) still leading, three points ahead. Aleksander Wang Hansen, Per Eugen Kristiansen and Marie Solberg (NOR) hold third, 14 points from first.

“It was pretty epic,” said helm Robertson. “It was pretty much near my limit I think really just for the wave conditions – it was a pretty short steep sea and wind driven. We sent it at the start, managed to get around the windward mark second, and just held on all the way round. The bear away was pretty epic but we managed to keep hold of it and then just surfed down the waves at 15 knots.”

“It’s a great place to be,” Robertson added on his team’s overall first place. “Unfortunately the Norwegians pulled out of that race with some boat damage so I don’t know if they’re going to sail tomorrow, but the French are also pretty close so it’ll be good to get another race in tomorrow and see if we can finish it off.”

There was no racing today for the 2.4 and the Skud. The paralympic classes can race up to three races on Friday, weather permitting!

The forecast for the last day of racing in Hyères is for very strong winds that could once again compromise racing.

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