Sailing World Cup Hyères, held in France from 25 April to 1 May, will provide our Olympic contenders with one of the final chances to measure up their competition ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
The Hyeres regatta will feature racing in all ten Olympic and two Paralympic classes, and will feature strong fleets across the board.
Leading the charge for the Australians will be 2012 Olympic Gold Medallist Mat Belcher and his current 470 crewman, Will Ryan. Belcher, a six-time world champion and Ryan, who has paired with Belcher at three of these world championships, will come up against some tough competition in Hyeres. The pair just last week claimed the European Championships and will use Hyeres to closely analyse the form of key competitors, including current world champions, Same Fantela and Igor Mareni of Croatia, Kiwis Paul Snow-Hansen and Daniel Willcox and the team from France, Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion. Australia will be well represented at the event, with Victorians Tom Klemens and Tim Hannah and NSW brothers, Patrick and Alexander Conway also competing.
“Hyères is a high-ranking event,” said Belcher from Hyeres this week. “Being one of the last events before the Games, all teams are looking to put down a good performance. We’ve mainly been focused on ourselves and it’s been great to start the season off well. We had a good camp and event in Palma and we’re happy with where we are at in the program. We're trying to tick a few boxes here and making some big steps as we are coming into the Games.
“Most of the top guys are at this event and everyone who will be at the Games will be racing here. The only difference is that the conditions this week will be quite windy and we’re not really expecting that for Rio. But it should be good fun out there. Racing is racing and everyone will be racing pretty hard.”
Australia will also be in the hunt for a strong result in the Laser class. Olympic team member, Tom Burton is the defending champion at this event, having won both the Hyeres World Cup and the Sailing World Cup Final in 2015. Matt Wearn, Jeremy O’Connell, Luke Elliott and Mitch Kennedy will also represent Australia in the Lasers.
Prior to racing, Burton commented, “we’re in Hyeres and it’s going to prove to be a windy one. We’ve got the Mistral in at the moment and it looks to be windy all week.
“This is the first event (for me) after being selected for the Australian Olympic Team, so it’s obviously going to be a nice event with less pressure than the past year. There are lots of boats out there and it’s the start of a building block towards the pinnacle, the Olympics.
“Hyeres has always gone pretty well for me, winning the past three years. The goal is obviously to try and win a fourth in a row.”
In the 49er event, defending Olympic champions, Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen will not compete in Hyeres, instead opting to train elsewhere. However, three Australian crews will take to the water in Hyeres, including David Gilmour and Lewis Brake, Will and Sam Phillips, and Joel Turner and Tom Siganto. Current World Champions, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke will be competing and will be the team to watch in Hyeres.
The Olympic pairing of Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin will be the only Aussies in the Nacra 17 event. Coming off the back of a successful 2015, which included winning the Olympic test event in Rio, Silver at the World Championships, and Gold at two World Cup events, the Sydney cousins will be a team to watch in Hyeres. They face stiff competition from several strong European teams, including those from France, Denmark, Italy and Austria.
“This event is really important for us as it’s one of the last events before the Olympics and we’re looking to take as much as we can from it,” said Waterhouse from France over the weekend. “Everyone is here so it will be a tough event and a good benchmark for us. We’re on point with our boat and equipment and the team feels good, so we’re excited and I’m sure it will be great.
“We were a bit disappointed with our end result at the World Champs in February. We had some time off and spent a lot of time in Sydney training and we’re looking to put what we learnt in Sydney into Hyères and develop it going into the Games.”
Meanwhile, Australian Olympic team spots are still up for grabs in the women’s 470, 49er FX, Women’s RSX, Laser Radial and Finn classes, so the Aussies competing in Hyeres will be looking to impress ahead of final team nominations in the coming months.
In the 470 women’s event, the pairings of Carrie Smith/Jaime Ryan and Sasha Ryan/Ella Clark will be looking for a strong finish to impress Olympic selectors. The Austrian pairing and current World Champions, Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar, will be the team to beat.
Similarly in the 49er FX event, three Australian crews will be looking to make their mark. Tess Lloyd and Caitlin Elks will come up against strong competition from fellow Aussies, including London 2012 Silver Medallist Olivia Price and crew Eliza Solly; and Haylee Outteridge and crew Nina Curtis; who is Price’s old team mate and also a London Silver medallist. The 49er FX event will be an interesting one to watch, with the class wide open and this event is expected to provide a good indicator of form ahead of Rio. Teams to watch include those from New Zealand, Italy and Brazil. The Brazilian pairing of Martine Soffits Grael and Kahena Kunze will be home-town favourites in Rio, drawing a lot of interest given Martine is the daughter of five times Olympic Medallist, Torben Grael.
Joanna Sterling of Queensland will be looking to impress in the RS:X windsurfer women’s event, as will fellow-Queenslander Ashley Stoddard in the Laser Radial.
Meanwhile the competition between Queensland’s Jake Lilley and Victoria’s Oliver Tweddell in the Finn class is sure to be tough as they vie for the single Olympic nomination in the Finn.
In the Paralympic classes, last year’s Hyeres Silver Medallists, Colin Harrison, Jonathan Harris and Russell Broaden will be looking to go one better in the Sonar class this year. However, a 12-boat fleet boasts some serious competition for the Aussies, with teams from across Europe, the USA and the Middle East.
In the International 2.4mR class, Australia’s Matt Bugg will take on a 20-strong fleet as he looks to size up the competition ahead of the Rio Paralympics. Bugg also took the Silver Medal at this event last year, and will be looking for another strong performance.
Over 60 nations will be represented at this year’s Hyeres regatta. The opening series racing will begin on Wednesday 27 April and run through until Saturday 30 April, with the deciding medal races held on Sunday 1 May.
To follow the event visit: http://swc.ffvoile.com
Women's Two Person Dinghy – 470W
– Carrie Smith (WAIS) and Jaime Ryan (QAS) – AST
– Sasha Ryan (QAS) and Ella Clark (WA) – ASS
Men’s Two Person Dinghy – 470M
– Mathew Belcher (QAS) & Will Ryan (QAS) – AST
– Tom Klemens (VIS) & Tim Hannah (VIS) – ASS
– Patrick and Alexander Conway (NSW) – ASS
Women's Skiff – 49erFX
– Olivia Price (NSW) and Eliza Solly (VIS) – ASS
– Tess Lloyd (VIS) and Caitlin Elks (WAIS) – ASS
– Haylee Outteridge (NSW) & Nina Curtis (NSW) – ASS
Mens’ Skiff – 49er
– David Gilmour (WAIS) & Lewis Brake (QAS) – ASS
– Joel Turner (QAS) & Tom Siganto (QAS) – ASS
– Will Phillips (VIC) & Sam Phillips (VIC) – ASS
Men's One Person Dinghy (Heavyweight) – Finn
– Jake Lilley (QAS) – ASS
– Oliver Tweddell (VIS) – ASS
Men’s One Person Dinghy – Laser
– Tom Burton (NSW) – AST
– Matt Wearn (WAIS) – AST
– Luke Elliott (WAIS) – ASS
– Mitchell Kennedy (QAS) – ASS
– Jeremy O’Connell (VIS) – ASS
Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17
– Jason Waterhouse (NSW) & Lisa Darmanin (NSW) – AST
Women’s One Person Dinghy – Laser Radial
Ashley Stoddard (QAS) – ASS
Women’s RS:X Windsurfer
– Joanna Sterling (QAS) – ASS
Paralympic Three Person Keelboat – Sonar
– Colin Harrison (WA), Jonathan Harris (NSW) & Russell Boaden (WA) – AST
Paralympic Single Person Keelboat – International 2.4mR
– Matt Bugg (TIS) – AST
– By Megan McKay