by Lindsey Bell
Semaine Olympique Francaise de Voile, the ISAF Sailing World Cup second European stop, is being held in Hyéres, France from 22nd April to 27th April 2012. British sailing team manager Stephen Park believes this will provide a tough test for the small but select GBR contingent competing in the Olympic and Paralympic classes off Hyeres.
Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor clinching the French Sailing World Cup women’s match racing title in 2011 - Semaine Olympique Francaise de Voile 2012
Skandia Team GBR has fielded its top sailors in just four of the ten Olympic classes, with 2012 picks Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson in the Star class and the women’s match racing trio of Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor among those expected to challenge for the podium spots, while GBR’s leading contenders in the 49er and Laser Radial classes will be also be in action and hoping to catch the eye of the RYA’s Olympic selectors, as crews for the 2012 Games in both of those events have yet to be named.
John Pink-Rick Peacock, Dave Evans-Ed Powys, Stevie Morrison-Ben Rhodes and Dylan Fletcher-Alain Sign will be aiming to impress in the 49er event at this French Olympic Sailing Week, as will performance squad sailors Charlotte Dobson and Alison Young who both finished inside the top ten in the Laser Radial class at the previous World Cup series event in Palma earlier this month.
In the Paralympic classes, the London-bound crews of Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell – four-time World Champions in the SKUD – and the multiple World Championship medal-winning Sonar trio of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas will use the World Cup regatta to build towards the Paralympic medal-winning efforts, while in the one-person 2.4mR event where the 2012 selection has still to be made, Helena Lucas and Megan Pascoe will be pushing for the podium.
'With just less than 100 days to go now to the Games, we’re really getting to the business end of the four-year cycle and this regatta is going to be incredibly competitive,' explained the RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park.
'Many nations will be using this as part of their Olympic trials and indeed in the events that we’re competing in we would hope to be challenging for the podium. It is going to be tough – there’s no doubt about that. Everyone’s going to be on their best performances across all the countries, but hopefully we’ll be able to get a few people onto the podium by the end of the week.'
Skandia Team GBR crews in the Finn, 470 men’s and women’s events, RS:X men’s windsurfing and the top British performers in the RS:X women’s and Laser fleets have opted to skip this stage of the World Cup series and are focussing instead on domestic training.
For Star Olympic Champions Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, the French Olympic Sailing Week provides a dual purpose in their preparations towards their Olympic title defence this summer.
'We’ve got to pick equipment for sure because we don’t want to be thinking about that late, but we’ve also got to do regattas – this period was in the diary to do competitions so that we’re sharper at competitions,' the 35-year-old Percy explained, who will compete with Simpson at the Star World Championships also in Hyeres shortly after this World Cup regatta ends (5-11 May).
'We made a lot of basic mistakes in Palma – racing mistakes and the reason we’re racing now is to iron these out, get savvier, get sharper, so Hyeres will be great for that, especially if it’s strong winds. In those conditions you’ve got to be on the ball, you’ve got to be sharp and alert and it will help us going forward into Weymouth. [Hyeres and the Worlds] and Skandia Sail for Gold in Weymouth for us are just about racing again.'
Skandia Team GBR development squad sailors Izzy Hamilton and Claudia Carney will also be in action in the RS:X women’s event, as will Alex Mills-Barton, Martin Evans, Jack Wetherall and Elliot Hanson in the Laser class.
Racing at the French Olympic Sailing Week in Hyeres will kick off on Sunday 22 April with the final medal races scheduled for Friday 27 April.
Click here for the full line-up of Skandia Team GBR sailors competing in Hyeres.
Skandia Team GBR website