Beautiful conditions graced the first day of gold fleet in the 53rd Semaine Olympique Française de Hyères - TPM. A light and shifty morning gave way to an afternoon of fine if choppy conditions in 12-15 knot easterlies. It made for a full day of competitive sailing across the 10 classes.
470 (mixed double-handed dinghy)
Sweden’s Anton Dahlberg and Lovisa Karlsson showed their combined powers (Dahlberg took silver in Tokyo and Karlsson crewed Sweden women’s entry) as they seized the yellow bib after being the only ones of the lead boats to put together two consistent races (3, 5). They are in pole position but have no margin for error with the leaderboard bunched behind them. Germany’s Luise Wanser & Philipp Autenrieth, won the first race but were 13th in the second.
A wedding win goodbye
One of the contenders they will not have to worry about is Britain’s Martin Wrigley and Eilidh McIntyre, who signed off their regatta in style by wining the second race to move into fourth place.
The other British boat came in second and 1-2 was a good way to finish the day, “and our regatta actually, I’m going home, I get married next weekend, so I’m off home to my hen party,” Eilidh McIntyre, the women’s 470 gold medallist last summer at the Tokyo Olympics, said
Wrigley: “It definitely gave us a bit more fuel in the last race.”
McIntyre: “I wish it had done in the first.”
Ryan Orr (from Britain’s next door boat): “I’ve never seen Eili pump so hard as in the last one.”
470s mixed evolution
For this Olympiad, some classes are entirely new to the Olympics, some have changed their equipment and some, like the 470s, have changed their crew. The mixed 470 crews are still getting to know each other after the 470 class after nearly 50 years with a men’s and women’s fleet has become a mixed boat for the Paris 2024 Olympics. The 470 class decided not to make any changes to this technical boat that was first included in the Montreal 1976 Olympics. The French might have had much to say about any major changes, as this is a boat close to their hearts having been designed 60 years ago by the French naval architect, André Cornu.
“What’s interesting for us is that the racing is super close, almost more than it was before, probably, because you’ve got the two tops of the fleet merged,” McIntyre said. “In some cases you’ve got double the really good boats, so many good people coming back and quite a few splits of good teams.”
“I honestly thought it was going to be a write-off for female crews, I just didn’t think we were going to be big and strong enough. And actually, sort of doing fine, which is pretty cool. It just goes to show how mixed teams can be and how they can work.”
49er (men’s and women’s high-performance double-handed dinghy)
Women’s 49er FX
It was all change in FX, as the Swedish duo of Vilma Bobeck and Rebecca Netzler continued their fine form of Wednesday into gold fleet, finishing 1, 1, 9 in the three races to jump into the lead.
Wednesday’s leaders, Norway’s Helene Noess & Marie Ronningen were hoping for light winds but it was building past 14 knots as the gold fleet started and 16, 19, 4 saw them drop from first to sixth.
France’s Lara Granier and Amélie Riou dropped from second to fifth overall with 8, 12, 8. Everyone in the top 10 has used up double digit discards, so everything is up for grabs. But they will all be watching Brazil’s double Olympic gold medallists (Rio 2016 & Tokyo 2020(21), Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze, whose 11, 2, 3 took them into fourth.
“We’ve been consistent in all conditions which has given us a good ranking. Today the level was deeper, we had to fight hard,” Riou said. “We have no complaints, we did what we could and we’re very motivated to get back on the podium tomorrow.”
Answering yesterday’s question, gold fleet did shake things up! Poland’s Dominik Buksak and Szymon Wierzbicki, had a tougher day with finishes of 8, 2, 10 in the three races. They extended their overall lead to a healthy 24 points as the Americans struggled even more. But the Danish and French duos are on the charge and will close the gap if their Friday matches their Thursday.
Kitefoil (men’s and women’s foiling kitesurfing)
Singapore’s 15-year-old European champion, Maximilian Maeder, strengthened his lead despite winning only one of the four races as his two closest rivals, Alex Mazella and Théo Ramecourt, the world champion, faltered badly. Fellow Frenchman, Benoit Gomez, was the dominant force of the day winning three of the four races and looks the most likely to challenge Maeder. Croatia’s Martin Dolenc moved into second and has been the most consistent sailor in the fleet, so discards tomorrow could favour him.
USA’s five-time and reigning world champion, Daniela Moroz, dominated Thursday’s gold fleet recording 2, 1, 2, 1 in the four races. Only Britain’s Ellie Aldridge (4, 2, 3, 4), third to Moroz in Palma, was able to avoid some big numbers and moved into fourth. France’s Poema Newland and Lauriane Nolot, second in Palma, lie second and third respectively but hurt their discards.
Coolest cats on the Cote D’Azur
Nacra 17 (mixed double-handed hydrofoil catamaran)
Italy’s Olympic champions, Ruggero Tita & Caterina Banti won Thursday’s award for the coolest cats on the Cote D’Azur. They were last out on the water - by some margin - and first in after winning the last three races of the day (2, 1, 1, 1 overall). They looked like they had left some Champagne on ice in the sun as they flew into Base Natique in Hyères.
The Palma Podium is in tact and probably impenetrable now, but it was Britain’s John Gimson & Anna Burnet (1, 3, 3, 3) who continued to have the edge over Finland’s Sinem Kurtbay and Akseli Kiskenin.
ILCA 6 and 7 - (women’s & men’s solo dinghy)
Poland’s Agata Barwinska suddenly finds herself with a 35 point lead at the top after more carnage as the women moved into gold fleet. Canada’s Sarah Douglas, who won in Palma, was the standout sailor of the day winning both races to move into second. But along with everyone bar Barwinska she has already spent some big discards. Belgium’s Emma Plaaschaert, 4th at the Tokyo Olympics, was disqualified in the first race and they will now rely on Barwinska slipping up on Friday.
Gold fleet flattened by charging Buhl
“Philipp was the only one to make it look easy today,” said Britain’s Michael Beckett, speaking for a slightly shell-shocked gold fleet. That being Philipp Buhl, Germany’s 2020 World Champion and the standout sailor of the regatta in the class so far. Buhl finished ninth in the second race, losing 6 places after having to make a penalty turn at the finish, but he was able to discard that.
Even Australia’s Olympic champion, Matt Wearn, struggled, finishing 16th in the first race won by Buhl. Pavlos Kontides, the first Cypriot to ever win an Olympic medal (silver at London 2012), jumped into second with a 7, 5 and was an exception to the big numbers among the other likely rivals.
“It did not (feel easy)! Buhl said. “I was sailing well. I could execute my plans, the speed was good. But I was hoping and expecting to have a little more advantage when there were only a few guys out in front, especially in the second race was the wind was stronger.
“It was a little surprising how quick everyone was, there were no huge speed differences. That made it tough for everybody because you had to hike and fight and it was exhausting.
“In both races, I was nicely off the start and there was a gap of two lengths where I could come in right in front of this bunch of 40 boats, so I was just a bit lucky enough or fast enough to get there.”
iQFOiL (men’s & women’s - new Olympic windsurfing class)
After racing was blown out for the iQFOiL on Wednesday, France’s World and European champion, Nicolas Goyard, is starting to make this look like a procession after winning all four races again. All his rivals, again took double digit discards. Germany’s Sebastian Koerdel (11, 3, 1, 5) has impressed in second and is the only non-French or Polish rider in the top ten.
It was the same story for Hélène Noesmoen, who was as dominant as her compatriot and fellow World and European champion, Goyard, winning the first two races and discarding her 8th place in the last race. Her rivals all racked up double digit discards.