by Lindsey Bell
At the ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres 2014 the 49er defending champions Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign made their podium intentions clear on a fantastic first day of racing in Hyeres on Monday (21 April).
Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign, 49er - ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres 2014
The European Champions were quick out of the blocks on a three-race day for the men’s skiff fleet, while the Sonar trio of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas took an early advantage to sit them on top of the standings after two races in the three-person Paralympic fleet.
The 2013 edition of this Hyeres World Cup saw a confidence boosting first regatta win for Fletcher and Sign – and with the duo having been on the podium in major regattas three more times since, including a bronze at the Palma World Cup two weeks ago, they’re buoyed by their form coming into this event.
'We certainly did ourselves pretty proud out there,' admitted Fletcher, who is poised in overall second place with Sign after the first day of competition. 'We had a good first race and won that one, and then had a couple more top threes so we’re really chuffed with how it went.
'It couldn’t really have gone much better. It was 10-14 knots, bit of chop, the sun was out and 40 boats on the racecourse made it pretty hectic, but it was great fun!'
But with a strong 49er fleet racing at this final World Cup event of the 2013-14 season – including a return for Australia’s Olympic Champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jenson – the British Sailing Team duo know there’s a lot of work still to do on the five remaining days of competition.
'As soon as we get into gold fleet it’s going to be really tough,' Sign explained. 'We’ve got pretty much everyone from the Worlds here so it’s a real test of how the season’s going to pan out and how we can gain even more up until the Worlds in Santander, so it will be good to see how we go.
'Through qualifying it’s just about trying to keep it really simple off the startline, do the simple things really well and see where we end up when it comes to gold fleet racing and then plan the rest of our attack on the rest of the series.
'I think it’s just about making sure we don’t do anything stupid for the first couple of days and see how we get on in gold fleet.'
Not to be outdone, Fletcher’s girlfriend Charlotte Dobson and crew Sophie Ainsworth saw a solid start to their regatta in the women’s 49erFX fleet, with a race win among their three races seeing them into third after the opening day.
'We had brilliant racing today,' enthused Dobson. 'The forecast wasn’t fantastic and we came down expecting a bit of a crouch-off, but the wind picked up pretty quickly and we had a lovely three races in 10-14 knots in the end.
'Our race course is quite close into the shore and there are quite a lot of refracting waves, so the sea state is quite challenging. It was pretty hard to sail the boat today but we managed to have three pretty good races, so we’re pretty happy really.'
Dobson has fond memories of the southern French venue from her time in the Laser Radial, and in the 49erFX last year where she won silver sailing with Mary Rook.
'I love Hyeres. I did well in Hyeres in my Laser as well – I’ve never won here though. I’ve come third once and second twice, so maybe this time we can do a bit better!'
British sailors also saw a strong start in the Nacra 17 event, with Pippa Wilson-John Gimson and Ben Saxton-Hannah Diamond each sharing a race win from the three multihull races on Monday. Local heroes and World Champions Billy Besson-Marie Riou took an early lead with two race wins from the three, but the two British teams are right behind in overall second and third places respectively after this opening day, with Lucy Macgregor-Andrew Walsh in eighth.
Eilidh McIntyre’s splinted finger didn’t appear to impact her racing on Monday, as she and Sophie Weguelin picked up a seventh and a third from the two races in the 470 Women’s fleet to see them poised in third place, while in the 470 Men’s event, a three-race day improved as it went on for Luke Patience and Elliot Willis. The duo, competing in just their second event together since teaming up in February, scored 14,9,3 for their day.
In the Paralympic fleets, John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas saw a great start to their regatta with an opening day of three,two to sit them on top of the Sonar leaderboard, while Miami World Cup winner Megan Pascoe had a consistent day in the 2.4mR event, posting two third places to place third overall going into day two. Paralympic Champion Helena Lucas is poised in sixth.
RS:X World Champion Nick Dempsey picked up three consistent top-five results in the men’s windsurfing event, placing 10th overall with training partner Tom Squires right behind him in 11th.
In the single-handed Laser event, Nick Thompson and Elliot Hanson are 19th and 20th respectively after three races, while Hannah Snellgrove is 14th after day one in the Laser Radial event.
Racing at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres continues on Tuesday 22 April with the final medal races scheduled for Saturday 26 April.
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