The wind might have dropped on day 2 of the 53rd Semaine Olympique Française de Hyères - TPM, but the pressure kept rising for the sailors either getting to know their new crews or crafts. You can feel it in the boat parks here in Hyères, with an Olympic cycle of just three years before the Paris 2024 Olympic sailing event takes place in Marseilles, a fine morning’s sail west along the coast. On a day that started light and built steadily from shifty 6s in the late morning to steady 17-19-knot south-westerlies by the late afternoon, the classes that set off in the morning were tested in a range of conditions.
49er sail split
The clear leaders in the two 49er men’s fleets are both running old rigs in Hyères, for some different reasons, and one major one that’s the same; reliability. Last year the 49er class announced a change from Mylar sails to North Sails 3di, and the accompanying new rig means a shallower spinnaker too. Time will tell if performance gains have been overblown.
Poland’s Dominik Buksak and Szymon Wierzbicki, the overall leaders, have gone back to their old mast and sails after broken spreaders on the new mast in the first race in Palma at the beginning of April cost them a place in the gold fleet.
They had another strong day, that included a third race win and a lowest of fourth in six races over two days.
“We are sailing on the old mast and sails,” Wierzbicki said. “We tried the new ones in Palma, but it still wasn’t as strong for us as we need in windy conditions. We broke a spreader in the first race in Palma, so we lost two races at the beginning of the regatta and we didn’t manage to qualify for the gold fleet, so we said no more.”
Buksak added: “I think most of the fleet is using the old style mast, but many people are using the new style of sails. The masts are pretty similar, but in the new style masts all the fittings and spreaders and things can break. I think the new and old sails are very similar. I think there is not much difference, as we’ve seen in the racing today; we were sailing against the Danish (Frederik Rask & Jakob Precht Jensen), they were really fast with the new sails, but not faster.”
In the other fleet, USA’s Nevin Snow and Maximiliano Agnello, have been almost equally as consistent, with a 1, 2, 3 in their three races today. Unsurprisingly, given it is their first regatta together in three years they are using their old gear. “We’re happy to run the old stuff just because we know it’s reliable and it’s our first regatta in such a long time that we didn’t want to have to worry about anything extra or breakages,” Snow said. “It seems like there have been fewer breakages here.”
Norway’s Helene Noess & Marie Ronningen took the overall lead in style after winning the first three of the four races yesterday.
The Nacra 17, learning to fly
Sometimes the performance gains have been immediately more obvious. There is a new craft in the Nacra 17 - in all senses. After a 2016 Olympic debut, in 2017, the Morrelli & Melvin-designed Nacra 17 evolved: the sporty catamaran abandoned its curved daggerboards for Z foils, and now this season, its rudders are equipped with wings, allowing it to fly at all angles. Its hulls are now partly carbon and a lot of weight, around 22kg, has been added at the level of the foil well to be able to support all the extra force. The Nacra 17 is therefore totally flying and the first flying Olympic support.
“The contribution of foils is huge across the whole sport, it's part of the evolution of sailing and half of the classes going to the Olympic Games have foils - it's starting to become quite interesting,” France’s Billy Besson (& Noa Ancian) said. “On the first Nacra 17, we only had C foils, the boat was quite light and at the end of the Olympiad with Marie (Riou), we managed to make a flight of 25 seconds. The first evolution was to add real foils with rudders with wings that allowed you to fly downwind but not upwind. The latest development we have is a 4 degree differential on the rudders, which allows you to fly upwind: there is a rudder that pushes the boat up and a rudder that pulls down. Now the boats fly all the time from 10 knots of wind up.”
Italy’s Olympic champions, Ruggero Tita & Caterina Banti, lead overall after winning the fourth and last race of the day. That took them past Britain’s pair of John Gimson & Anna Burnet are second overall after a strong finish to the day in the bigger breeze.
Burnet said that even a few day training in Hyères had helped them bridge the speed gap. “The Italians and the Finnish were a lot quicker than us in Palma and were upwind foiling,” Burnet said. “But we have been trying to catch up and have managed more speed in just a few days training really. It’s just about learning about how to set the sails up, the technical side and then coordinating with the helm. It’s not like a Moth where it’s all done by one person, you have to coordinate.”
Kitefoil (men’s and women’s foiling kitesurfing)
France’s Alex Mazella and Singapore’s Maximilian Maeder continue to dominate their two fleets after 4 more races on Tuesday. Although Maeder slipped to second overall after picking up a big discard for not finishing race 8.
After 4 more races and 8 in total, France’s Lauriane Nolot moved past USA’s five-time and reigning world champion, Daniela Moroz, at the top of the leaderboard. Moroz finished ninth in race 7.
iQFOiL (men’s & women’s - new Olympic windsurfing class)
France’s Nicolas Goyard jumped into a commanding lead after winning all five races today as all his rivals faltered with heavy discards.
Hélène Noesmoen was not quite as dominant as her compatriot and fellow World and European champion, winning only three of her five races. Her rivals look distant, but remain in touch, just.
ILCA 6 and 7 - (women’s & men’s solo dinghy)
Agata Barwinska, made it a strong day for Poland’s sailors, as she held onto the overall lead despite finishing 17th in the second race of the day (Race 4). In two days of violently swinging results, nearly the whole leaderboard already have big discards.
Australia’s Olympic champion, Matt Wearn, kept the overall lead by winning both his fleet races, but Germany’s 2020 World Champion, showed his class and form too, but winning both in his to move second overall.
470 (mixed double-handed dinghy)
The 470 looks like being one of the most hotly contested classes in Hyères. Germany’s Luise Wanser & Philipp Autenrieth are edging the overall lead after winning both races in their fleet.
Dominik Buksak and Szymon Wierzbicki (POL), 49er men
Wierzbicki: “We were 3, 4, 1 today. We had a strict plan on how to start, there was more pressure on the right side, so we started on a port tack from the pin end. And we did that quite well! We were leading from the first minutes of the race , they were quite close to us from the bottom gate, and then from the bottom gate we decided to go to the right and were pulling away more and more. The Danish (Rask) had been close to us.”
Buksak: “I think we were leading at the bottom game in the second race, but then we made a mistake and went too far left. In the light wind there were lots of spinnakers and we tried to find our path, but we didn’t make it, so that cost us a few spots.”
Buksak: “It was the same people at the front today (as yesterday in bigger winds). The race committee waited for half an hour or so and that allowed the pressure to rise, we had 6 knots at the start and then 14-15 knots.”
Buksak: [Some people we struggling in the bigger winds yesterday] “It was perfect for us (yesterday), when the water is flat you don’t have a lot of pressure on your sails, so all the tacks and gybes are very easy. We won the last World Cup event here in 2018, we like it here and we enjoy it with the wind up.”
John Gimson & Anna Burnet (GBR), Nacra 17
“We messed up the first race. We got the start completely wrong. It started off very light and we were expecting it to come in from the right, and it came in from the left. We were almost last and then started coming back at the top mark.
[On following that with 3, 1, 5] It’s always good to turn it round in a day, it’s easy to get distracted and not concentrate on the races to come.
We were a lot more conservative in the next three races and the wind was building. We had a chance to do some upwind foiling, so the speed differences came into it.
[On the shorter Olympic cycle and evolving boats] It’s definitely an opportunity, I think a lot of teams will be thinking that. But we’re an established partnership (they’ve sailed together since 2016) and had some time to learn how to work things out.”
Nevin Snow & Maximiliano Agnese (USA), 49er men
Snow: It’s a good day. We had three different sets of conditions, the first race was 6-7 knots, the second 10-11 knots and the third 13-15 knots. Different day to yesterday, yesterday was quite breezy. It’s our first regatta together in three years, so we’re enjoying the breeze.
Agnese: Nevin was sailing with somebody else before and I was down in New Zealand with American Magic (America’s Cup). We just got in the boat together again in December and have been doing a little bit of training in Miami here and there. We didn’t really come in with expectations but just to get a feel for racing again.
Agnese: In the first race, we rounded the top mark second behind the British team ( Chris Taylor & James Grummett), but they gybed early and we passed them. In the second one, we rounded in the top five and kind of caught our way into third, but the first boat was OCS. And in the last race, we had a pretty bad start, so we had to fightback. It’s good feeling to battle back from a bad position. We thought it was going to be bad, so we were pleasantly surprised to pull back like we did.