Racing intensifies on first day of final series at Hyères

It was the first day of gold fleet racing at the French Olympic Week regatta Hyères, and with all eyes now set on Saturday’s medal races the intensity of the competition went up a notch.

Olympic champion Matt Wearn OAM (WA) was the first one to feel it after dropping from second to third place in the ILCA 7 (former Laser), while others managed to move up the ranks with only one day of final series left to qualify for the top 10 medal races.

It was gold fleet racing in the ILCA 7, 470, 49er, 49er FX and men’s Kite while fleet racing continued in the ILCA 6, Nacra 17, Kites (W) and iQFOiLs. A light and shifty morning gave way to an afternoon of fine if choppy conditions in 12-15 knot easterlies, which made for a full day of competitive sailing across the 10 classes.

“It was super tough racing and I think that caught us off guard a little bit, but it is good exposure and I’m looking forward to another day of it tomorrow,” Wearn said.

“You get caught up in the qualifying where you are a fair bit quicker than everyone else and when you go into the gold fleet it’s always three times harder,” Wearn explained, who was leading his fleet for the first two days of the regatta but dropped into second on day three following a UFD, before finishing today in third after posting a 15th and fourth.

“It’s really nice to be in gold fleet and racing against the best of the best. Once you have done three days of qualifying you haven’t really raced two thirds of the fleet, so it was nice to get out there again. Hopefully there will be a bit of a lighter breeze tomorrow, which can mix things up a bit and hopefully I can continue to push for the podium,” Wearn concluded.

Germany’s Philipp Buhl, who won the Laser World Championships in Melbourne in 2020 and finished fifth in Tokyo, leads the gold fleet with four-time Olympian Pavlos Kontides from Cyprus in second.

Australian Sailing Squad (ASS) sailor Finn Alexander (NSW) also looks strong in his quest to qualify for the top 10 medal race, after finishing the day in 10th.

Finn Alexander sailing upwind in the ILCA 7.
Finn Alexander (ILCA 7) competing at 2022 Semaine Olympique Française in Hyeres. Pic – Beau Outteridge / Australian Sailing Team

“I had a good day today with a 12 and then a seven and for the first day of final series I’m pretty happy with that,” Alexander said.

Australian Sailing Team (AST) athlete Luke Elliott (WA) goes into the last day of the final series ranked 19th, while Zac Littlewood (WA) sits in 24th and Ethan McAullay (WA) in 28th.

In the 470, both Australian boats made the gold fleet with Chris Charlwood (WA) and Amelia Catt (TAS) the top ranked in 13th after scoring an 18th and eighth place.

“We had two races in almost 15 knots, which was a lot more than we had expected today. We struggled off the line in the first one unfortunately and had to try and chip away from there, but we did a lot better in the second one and managed to sneak into the top 10,” Charlwood explained.  

Four points separate them from 10th place with another two races scheduled on Friday.

“The points are pretty tight which is exciting for us, and we are working super hard on and off the water to try and sneak into that medal race,” Catt added.

In the 49erFX Laura Harding (VIC) and Annie Wilmot (NSW) also have their eyes set on the medal race after finishing their first day in gold fleet in 14th.

In the men’s 49er three Australian teams qualified for the gold fleet with Queenslanders Tom Needham and Joel Turner, Jim Colley (NSW) and Shaun O’Connor (NSW) as well as Jack Ferguson (NSW) and Max Paul (NSW) going into the last day of the final series ranked 19th, 26th and 27th respectively.

The Nacra 17 continued racing in their 32-boat fleet with dual Olympians Jason Waterhouse (NSW) and Lisa Darmanin (NSW) remaining in fourth place after scoring a fifth and eighth and dropping a 21st from the second race of the day. Jake Liddell (NSW) and Lucy Copeland (NSW) are ranked 17th with another three races scheduled on Friday.

The ILCA 6 fleet (former Laser Radial) has two races left on Friday for sailors to make it into the top ten with Victoria’s Casey Imeneo the top ranked Australian. She sits in 13th after finishing fourth in the last race of the day.

“We had two races today in pretty tricky conditions. The first race was not so great (39) but the second definitely a lot better (4). I basically just had to have a clear strategy and execute the start and get to the front. It’s a little less stressful when you are at the front of the fleet as we are close to 70 boats so if you can get to that front, life is a little bit easier,” Imeneo said. 

After a blistering day yesterday, Zoe Thomson dropped from fourth into overall 18th after a gear breakage in the last race saw her finish 42nd.

“I had a really tough day,” said Thomson. “First, I was on the right in a persistent lefty and in the last one I tore my tiller extension off the line and really struggled to be able to hike and sail downwind far enough forwards. It was a tough day but I’m looking forward to tomorrow for a bit of redemption.”

Tokyo Olympian Mara Stransky (QLD) goes into the last day of the final series in 17th, while Elyse Ainsworth moved up into 24th.

Elyse Ainsworth sailing on a reach with boats behind her.
ILCA 6 sailor Elyse Ainsworth. Pic – Beau Outteridge / Australian Sailing Team

The women’s Kite also continues to race in one fleet, with Breiana Whitehead (QLD) moving up the ranks into 10th after finishing the last two races of the day in fourth and sixth.

In the men’s Kite, the fleet has split with Australian Sailing Futures sailors Zac Pullen and Alex Landwehr continuing in the silver and bronze fleets respectively.

After racing was blown out for the iQFOiL on Wednesday, the fleet got four races in today with Australian Sailing Squad’s Grae Morris (NSW) back in action after breaking his foil box and missing day two of the regatta before a replacement was found. He sits in 32nd, while Australian Sailing Futures athlete Will McMillan is 17th.

Australian Sailing Team (AST), Australian Sailing Squad (ASS) and Australian Sailing Futures (ASF) results and overall placings: 

470 Mixed Gold fleet – 8 races (one drop)

13th – Chris Charlwood and Amelia Catt (ASS) 2, 6, 11, 5, 9, 10 | (18), 8 = 51 points 
18th – Nia Jerwood and Conor Nicholas (ASS) 10, 11, 7, 9, 13, 5 | (19), 10 = 65

470 Mixed Silver fleet – 8 races (one drop)
42nd – Sophie Jackson and Angus Higgins (ASF) (24), 21, 20, 19, 23, 24 | 13, 5 = 125

49er Gold fleet – 12 races (one drop)
19th – Tom Needham and Joel Turner (ASS) 7, 14, 8, 10, 13, 9, 10, 13, 17 | 12, (21), 19 = 132 points 26th – Jim Colley and Shaun O’Connor (ASS) 9, 18, 8, 13, 17, 18, 14, 7, 13 | 21, 12, (26) = 150 27th – Jack Ferguson and Max Paul (ASS) 10, 19, 13, (30), 3, 14, 3, 23, 25 | 20, 23, 5 = 158

49er Silver fleet – 12 races (one drop)
40th – Tom Burton and Simon Hoffmann (ASS) 16, 9, 22, 20, 2, 16, 21, 26, UFD (32) | 16, 9, 14 = 171 points

48th – Otto Henry and Miles Davey (ASF) RET (32), DNS 32, DNF 32, BFD 32, 12, 21, 26, 18, 16 | 7, 6, 15 = 217 

51st – Ryan Littlechild (ASF) and Jack Hildebrand (ASF) DNF (32), 26, 25, 28, 20, 27, 27, 28, 24 | 4, 17, 7 = 233

49erFX Gold fleet – 12 races (one drop)
14th – Laura Harding and Annie Wilmot (ASS) 4, 6, 3, 12, 14, 7, 6, 7, DSQ (20) | 9, 5, 18 = 91 points 

49erFX Silver fleet – 11 races (one drop)
25th – Olivia Price and Evie Haseldine (ASS) 13, 2, 11, 14, 5, DNF (20), UFD (20), 13, 9 | 5, 7 = 99 points

Formula Kite – 16 races (three drops)
10th – Breiana Whitehead (ASS) 20, 7, 12, 5, (21), (22), 8, 15,16, 15, 16, 5, 17, 12, 4, 6 = 138 points 

Formula Kite Male Silver Fleet – 16 races (three drops) 
38th – Zac Pullen (ASF) 12, (DNF), 15, (16), 10, 15, 13, 10, 8, 15, 8, 10 | 10, 13, (16), 14 = 153 points 

Formula Kite Male Bronze Fleet – 16 races (three drops) 
47th – Alex Landwehr (ASF) 15, 16, 16, (17), 14, 9, 12, 12, DNF, 15, DNF, 13 | 1, 1, 1, 3 = 128 points

ILCA 7 – Gold Fleet – 8 races (one drop)
3rd – Matt Wearn (AST) (2), 1, 1, 1, 1, (UFD, 44) | 15, 4 = 25 points 
10th – Finn Alexander (ASS) 3, 10, 5, 4, 3, (14) | 12, 7 = 44
19th – Luke Elliott (AST) 9, 7, 4, 14, 9, (17) | 13, 10 = 66

24th – Zac Littlewood (AST) 1, 13, 22, 6, 7, 9 | 27, (35) = 85 
26th – Ethan McAullay (ASS) 4, (24), 20, 15, 7, 1 | 35, 26 = 97

ILCA 7 – Silver Fleet – 8 races (one drop)
48th – Samuel King (ASF) 25, 11, (30), 27, 17, 12 | 4, 15 = 111 
81st – Stefan Elliott-Shircore (ASF) 32, 30, 19, 27, 22, 19 | (41), 23 = 172 
82nd – Michael Compton (ASF) 27, 30, 36, (37), 14, 17 | 23, 29 = 176

ILCA 6 – 8 races (one drop)
13th – Casey Imeneo (ASS) (39), 26, 35, 3, 1, 15, 39, 4 = 123 points

17th – Mara Stransky (AST) 20, 28, 12, 13, 27, 2, (45), 29 = 131

18th – Zoe Thomson (ASS) 13, 16, (BFD), 9, 10, 13, 33, 42 = 136 

24th – Elyse Ainsworth (ASS) 31, 39, 21, 20, (51), 20, 25, 7 = 163
52nd – Paige Caldecoat (ASF) 53, 54, 38, 34, 48, 18, 43, (BFD) = 288

iQFOiL Men – 14 races (three drops)
17th – Will McMillan (ASF) 5, 9, 14, 3, 11, 17, 2, 21, 9, 33, 9, BFD (39), (35), (44) = 132 points 
32nd – Grae Morris (ASS) 25, 11, 15, 15, 12, DNC, (57), DNC (57), DNC (57), DNC 57, DNC 57, 23, 17, 13, 25 = 270
36th – Harry Joyner (ASF) (41), 31, 34, 29, 40, 29, 39, (45), (41), 12, 19, 19, 33, 21 = 305 
41st – Caelin Winchcombe (ASS) 39, (43), 43, (47), 36, 38, 34, 42, 34, (47), 21, 27, 21, 26 = 361

iQFOiL Women – 13 races (three drops)
20th – Natasha Bryant (ASF) 17, 19, 15, (29), 21, (24), 16, 19, 18, 20, (27), 13, 14 = 172 points 
24th – Samantha Costin (ASF) 21, 21, 18, (26), 20, 23, (26), 22, 24, 22, 23, 23, (26) = 217

Nacra 17 – 12 races (one drop)
4th – Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin (AST) 4, 9, 5, 2, 7, 7, 6, 4, 8, 5, (21), 8 = 65 points 
17th – Jake Liddell and Lucy Copeland (ASS) 11, 20, 14, 14, 13, 21, 11, 14, 18, 15, (24), 16 = 167

For the full results, see: https://sof.ffvoile.fr/results/

The live race status can be followed here: https://dashboard-sof.sailti.com/en/default/races/race-directcomplet

By Cora Zillich

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