The Med’s famous Mistral pushed the sailors to their limits and beyond on day 2 of the 54th Semaine Olympique Française de Hyères - TPM. Glorious sunshine and 23-knot+ westerlies building throughout the day and gusting towards 30 welcomed the fleets in the Bay of Hyères. Big wind specialists relished a rare chance to spread their wings, but for some - even Olympic medalists - it was the windiest conditions they had ever sailed in.
We’re happy the Mistral stuck around for two days, we were stoked to be out there,” USA’s 49er sailor Hans Henken, said. “Days like this are really good for the fleet because it allows everyone to showcase their strengths, we don’t usually get to see the big breeze because more often than not we end up being postponed. It’s awesome to race in this stuff.”
For Sweden’s Josefin Olsson, a Tokyo Olympics silver medalist in the Ilca 6, Hyères is the place to come for big wind racing. “I think it was one of my most windy days of sailing ever, I think I’ve sailed my windiest days ever in Hyères,” she said. “It’s really choppy waves, but still flatwater, so it’s possible to race in these conditions, so that’s kind of fun.” It was a philosophical response after she enjoyed another tough day on the comeback trail after a break following the Tokyo Olympics.
The 49er and FX classes were first out on the water in the morning to ensure they were able to start their regatta after being the only ones to miss out on Monday.
An overnight wind shift will see shifting lighter winds on Wednesday, although some westerlies in the night teens might blow through in the late afternoon.
49er (men’s and women’s high-performance double-handed dinghy)
Italy’s Jana Germani & Giorgia Bertuzzi are the early leaders after winning both their races, but in the other fleet the Dutch world champions, Odile van Aanholt & Annette Duetz had a strong day finishing second in both their races.
The conditions were a huge test even for those most familiar with them, such as France’s Lara Granier & Amélie Riou. “Difficult day today, the wind picked up and we didn't manage to finish the second race - we tasted the water temperature a little too much,” Riou said. “It is the law of our sport to sail in these conditions. The 49er is a boat that is not very forgiving of mistakes and the penalty arrives fast.”
The Dutch did the double at the World Championships in Nova Scotia last September, winning both the FX and the 49er. And Bart Lambriex & Floris van der Werken matched their female compatriots on day 2 by also finishing the day handily in second place overall after winning the first and last of their three races (and finishing 1, 2, 1) in yellow fleet - one of the three.
Fresh from their victory in Palma at the beginning of April, New Zealand’s Logan Dunning Beck & Oscar Gunn matched the Dutch by winning their last two races in red fleet to finish 2, 1, 1.
Just behind them, France’s Kévin Fischer & Yann Jauvin, were the dominant boat in blue fleet, finishing 2, 6, 1. “It was a tough day today,” Fischer said. “We managed to negotiate this wind and steep and short chop well and have stayed in the frame. We made one small error when the spinnaker halyard came out of the cleat, but we managed to limit the damage by only finishing sixth.”
But for some crews it was a very welcome and rare chance to show off their big wind talent in an international regatta. USA had two crews consistently at the front of their two fleets and Ian Barrows & Hans Henken, (who won the American domestic trials and will represent USA at the Test Event in Marseille)
“Ian and I love these conditions,” Henken said. “We were bummed not to sail yesterday. We train all the time in this in California, in San Francisco, we do a lot in the ocean in Miami. The French are really fast in this stuff and obviously the Kiwis and Australians are good in this too.
“I think it was probably as windy as could be for them to race us, I think they had to race our fleet’s third race because the other two had finished. Before we started the third race the wind gear on our coach boat said it was averaging 23, and then gusting 28. For us, it was about trying to do clean laps and we accomplished that for 75% of the race and then had a few swims trying to get around the last 25%. It was a race of attrition. At some point everyone was doing a bit of swimming.”
ILCA 6 and 7 - (women’s & men’s solo dinghy)
Another strong day for Britain and Australia who dominate the leaderboard. Britain has the leader, Eliott Hanson, two boats on the podium and three in the top eight. Their Tokyo Olympian, Hanson, gave a lesson in the art of Mistral sailing winning both his races in blue fleet (one of three) and is the overall leader after his 2, 1 on Monday. His fellow Briton, Daniel Whiteley was second in both those races and is third overall. Between them is Australia’s Finn Alexander, who was 2, 1 in red fleet.
But the top of the leaderboard is packed with pedigree and single digit numbers across the four races so far. Australia’s Olympic champion, Matt Wearn, was 1, 2 in blue fleet to move to sixth overall - one of three Australian’s in the top six.
“Any day you win two races it’s very satisfying, but with some heavy wind specialists in an international fleet even more so,” Hanson, second in Hyères last year, said. “There will be changing conditions, which kind of what happened last year, I don’t think the Mistral is going to stay here for much longer. But these conditions, if you’re fit and strong and healthy it’s very enjoyable.”
The women’s dinghy fleets went out after the men and only managed one race as the wind built, and the leaderboard is much more scattered by some big numbers across the three races they have managed in the first two days.
USA’s rising star from Texas, Charlotte Rose underlined her relative comfort in the big stuff, winning blue fleet, her second win in two days. She overtook Canada’s Sarah Douglas, who was ninth in yellow fleet, at the top of the leaderboard.
Last year’s SOF champion, Poland’s Agata Barwinka won yellow to move to third. Denmark’s Olympic Champion, Anne-Marie Rindom, was fourth after a mistimed start and still had a bit of a headache after being hit by a rival boom that knocked her back to 13th place in the second race on Monday.
“When we were at the top mark someone hit me on the head with their boom, I dropped a lot of places and I still have a bit of a headache, but luckily I didn’t have a concussion,” Rindom said.
“Today, I didn’t have a good start, I had the wrong time on my watch, a huge mistake, it was four seconds late and thought some were over the line, I think a few were.
“The brutal thing about the laser is you have to hike, hike, hike and if you have a break you either stop or capsize in these conditions. The first upwind I had to tack my way out of a hard situation - I rounded in 8th - and then really charge on the downwind.”
Belgium’s Emma Plasschaert, fourth in Tokyo, was one of those over the line and will need that for her discard.
Sweden’s Olympic silver medalist in Tokyo, Josefin Olsson, had another tough day finishing 29th and is way after 28, 34, 29 finishes.
“I capsized every race. I made some silly mistakes but it’s been some good lessons,” Olsson said. “I haven’t raced in theses conditions or even trained in them for a long, long time, so, that’s super useful.”
iQFOiL (men’s & women’s)
Denmark’s Laerke Buhl-Hansen increased her grip at the top of the leaderboard winning all four races yesterday to make it six out of nine in total. She has three Czech Republic riders behind her, led by Kristina Pinosova, one of four Czech Republic riders in the top eight, who was second in the last three races.
Brazil’s Mateus Isaac was rewarded with his consistency winning two of the four races to finish 2, 1, 2, 1 for the day to jump above Thailand’s Will McMillan, who after winning four out of five on the first day, had a more mixed - 10, 7, 1, 14 - second day. Mateus has not finished out of the top four across the two days.
Formula Kite (men’s and women’s foiling kitesurfing)
Did not race
Did not race
Nacra 17 (mixed double-handed hydrofoil catamaran)
Did not race
470 (mixed double-handed dinghy)
Did not race