Racing begins today at the Sailing World Cup in Hyeres, France. This event is the second to last World Cup event leading up to Rio, with the final event in Weymouth, England in June. Nearly every country has completed Olympic selection, and many of those team members are sailing in Hyeres, making it an excellent preview for the Games in August. Here’s who to watch, by class, this week:
Laser Radial: Marit Bouwmeester (NED) and Evi Van Acker (BEL) continue to flip-flop between first and second in the world rankings. They’ve been duking it out all quad, with a few other leaders mixed in here and there, but they have been the most consistent overall. Sailing in the challenging Mistral, it will likely come down to Bouwmeester and Van Acker in Hyeres. Buowmeester is coming off a 4th place finish at Radial Worlds in Mexico last week, so fatigue could play a part in the results in Hyeres. Josefin Olsson (SWE), who just finished second overall at Radial Europeans to Bouwmeester’s win (in the absence of Van Acker), could make an appearance on the podium, but she’ll have to beat out Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN), who just won bronze at Laser Radial Worlds, and Paige Railey (USA) who just won silver in the same event. The highly-physical Railey should have a strong regatta in Hyeres, while Rindom in the past has had more success in light air regattas.
Laser: A familiar name stands at the top of every Laser list — Robert Scheidt. The five-time Olympic medalist will be sailing this year’s Games in his home country, while his wife (Lithuania’s Gintarė Scheidt) sails the Radial. For Schedit, this quad has been a series of success, and his experience will give him the edge he needs to stay on top for the next few months, especially this week in the crazy conditions Hyeres has produced so far. The Sailing World Cup could be a showdown of the Aussies in the Laser class, with both Tom Burton and Matt Wearn on the starting line. Burton, ranked first in the world, is the defending champion at this event, having won both the Hyeres World Cup and the Sailing World Cup Final in 2015, and is on the Australian Olympic Team, while Wearn can focus entirely on this regatta, as the Olympics is not on his schedule this year.
Finn: In a class that has long been lead by Giles Scott (GBR), there are no Brits competing in Hyeres. At the Trofeo Princess Sofia Regatta in March, Scott had his first non-first place win in over a year, with the win instead going to Josh Junior (NZL). To solidify his place at the top of the pack, Junior will need to best Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO), who has been sitting just behind Scott in the Finn world rankings for nearly a year. This regatta is also US Sailing Team Sperry’s Caleb Pain’s first World Cup regatta following Olympic selection, a process in which Zach Railey put him through the ringer. Though he finished 24th overall at the Finn Europeans (the US Sailing Team’s second selection event), this poor result is mostly due to match racing with Railey, rather than focusing on the fleet as a whole, in the final days of the regatta for the American berth. His focus can now turn to the international fleet, and Hyeres is his moment to make a statement.
Men’s 470: The top performers in this class have been swapping out in the lead all quad, but these final events are the ones that matter most. 2012 gold medallists Matt Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) will be looking to continue their success and add another world title to their collection. Earlier this month, they bested current world champions Sime Fantel and Igor Marenic (CRO), at the 470 Europeans in Mallorca. The conditions in Hyeres will be nearly opposite from the Europeans, and Belcher and Ryan have a history of success in the heavy stuff. US Sailing Team’s Sperry Stu McNay and David Hughes, who have medalled at almost ever event they’ve entered in the past two years, including silver at Europeans, are one of the American’s strongest medal hopes, and they’ll look to solidify that prediction this week. Finally, Paul Snow-Hansen and Daniel Willcox (NZL), who skipped the regatta in Mallorca, will be back on the scene in Hyeres, adding another layer of high performance to this already intense competition.
Women’s 470: In a fleet where the top seven teams in the world have all held first place in the rankings at one point, this regatta will be one to watch. Saskia Clark and Hannah Mills (GBR) are returning to Rio to repeat or improve upon their medal performance from London. They won silver, while New Zealand’s Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie climbed to the top of the podium. Clark and Mills have been slightly leading Aleh and Powrie through the quad, but they’re far from a definite win over the reigning Olympic champions. Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar (AUT), Ai Kondo Yoshida and Miho Yoshioka (JPN) and Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha (USA) are all at the top of their game right now and have all had major successes this quad, so this fleet could be anyones for the taking, not only in Hyeres but also Weymouth and on to Rio.
49er: New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Blair Tuke seem to be unbeatable. Burling and Tuke haven’t placed anywhere but first in any 49er event since their silver medal at the 2012 Olympics. Defending gold medalists Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) will not be sailing in Hyeres, so the showdown between the two south-eastern hemisphere giants will have to wait. If there’s a team in Hyeres who can put up a good fight against Burling and Tuke, it will be Austria’s Nico Delle-Karth and Nikolaus Resch, who have been nipping at their heels, getting closer each event, and won the Sailing World Cup Abu Dhabi (Burling/Tuke did not sail). Delle-Karth and Resch, however, haven’t performed well in the big breeze slated for this week, while Burling and Tuke have no fear of pushing the pedal down—hard. If the Kiwis give their usual performance, Hyeres will once again be a battle for second place in the 49er.
49rFX: Brazil’s Martine Soffiatti Grael and Kahena Kunze look to maintain their top world ranking, but after a surprising 25th-place finish at the Trofeo Princess Sofia regatta last month, it seems all sure bets are off in the women’s skiff. Jena Mai Hansen and Katja Salskov-Iversen (DEN) have had a steady, two-year climb to the top and now sit just behind Grael and Kunze in the world rankings. The Danes also have Ida Marie Baad Nielsen and Marie Thusgaard Olsen flying their flag, who have performed well over the past two years and are known for pushing their countrywomen to perform at their best. For this event, as well as the Sailing World Cup Weymouth and Rio, this class remains mostly open, and it could be anyone’s game.
Nacra 17: Cousins Lisa Darmanin and Jason Waterhouse (AUS) look to be the top performers in the Nacra, but France’s Billy Besson and Marie Riou have them beat when it comes to time on the water. The young Aussies have been consistently on the podium, but they can’t get comfortable in the position as not only the French, but also Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri (ITA) and Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves (GBR) will be looking to return to their former lead in the class. Saxton and Groves had a bad regatta in March in Mallorca at the Trofeo Princess Sofia, so they’ll be looking to redeem themselves in the international fleet before Weymouth and Rio.
Men’s RS:X: Ivan Pastor Lafuente (ESP) and Byron Kokkalanis (GRE) will be battling for the top in the absence of China’s Aichen Wang, who is ranked first in the world for the men’s windsurfer. Kokkalanis finished third at the Trofeo Princess Sofia last month, behind Tom Squires (GBR) and Pawel Tarnowski (POL), who he will see again on the water this week in Hyeres. The game is wide open for this fleet, with many of these windsurfers in the midst of ramping up to their first Olympics, including US Sailing Team Sperry’s Pedro Pascual.
Women’s RS:X: Great Britian’s Bryrony Shaw has been at the top of her game in the women’s windsurfer for some time, and her recent performances show no sign of slowing down. Lilian De Geus (NED) is right behind her, but Shaw is more confident in big breeze and will certainly be on the podium at the end of the week in France. For US Sailing Team Sperry’s Marion Lepert, Hyeres is the first event she has sailed since she won American selection, so this week will be her opportunity to find her place among the overall fleet.
Results will be available throughout racing at http://www.sailing.org/worldcup/results/index.php
Live tracking will be available when races are underway at http://www.sailing.org/worldcup/multimedia/tracking.php