by Craig Heydon
On day three of the Semaine Olympique Francaise in Hyeres, Australian sailors Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page have taken the lead in the 470 men’s class as strong winds again limited racing.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page leading 470 fleet in Hyeres - Semaine Olympique Francaise 2012
Gusts above 30 knots meant that just the 470, Laser, Laser Radial and RS:X classes were able to complete their full quota of races.
Belcher and Page moved up from their overnight position of 10th to take the regatta lead after a second and a third in the testing conditions.
The reigning World Champions and current world number ones have a five-point lead over the second placed Croatian crew.
'It was pretty windy today, you know when they start you at 9am that you’re expecting a pretty scary forecast,' said Belcher. 'The race committee did a great job and we got two races in. We had a bit on but just tried to get around the course and keep it upright.
'We’re sailing really well and are happy with our form from Palma and to continue that here is great,' he said. 'We had a bit of a hiccup with the broken rig on day one but are sailing really well and are in a nice spot at this stage, we just have to work hard and keep it going.'
The competition is extremely tight in the Laser class with just two points separating the top six boats at the end of the qualifying series. The leading crews will finally get the chance to race each other on Wednesday as the class splits into gold, silver and bronze fleets.
Tom Slingsby is a point off the lead in third place with the Gosford based sailor finishing the day with a second and a first.
'Two points separate the top six so it’s very close, we go into gold fleet tomorrow so all of the points will spread out then,' said Slingsby. 'We’ve all been having really close racing and I’m looking forward to racing against the top guys tomorrow and hopefully I can have a good day and put some points on them.
'The 9am start today was pretty early for sailing but I’m glad we got two races in as the breeze is too strong now,' he said. 'I had a second and a first in a really hard fought day, I was right next to people the whole way around.'
Tom Burton is tied with Slingsby on eight points and finds himself fifth overall on a count back, with Burton crossing the line second in both of the day’s races.
Queenslander Jared West has moved himself into 11th overall after a fifth and a fourth, ahead of Matthew Wearn in 21st, Ryan Palk, who won the first race of the day, in 45th, James Burman in 53rd, Ki-Raphael Sulkowski in 62nd, Ashley Brunning in 76th and Klade Hauschildt in 80th.
The Laser Radial class headed out early only to be sent back to shore due to the strong winds on their course area. After a delay they managed to complete two races on a different course with gusts above 35 knots recorded at times during the afternoon.
Krystal Weir went into the day in second place, just a point off the lead, with the Australian not finishing race one due to being adjudged to have sailed the wrong course. Weir successfully protested the result with the international jury after racing and was given redress of first place.
Krystal Weir Aus - 43 Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofia Mapfre
The Laser Radial sailor bounced back well in race two with a fourth to finish off the day and heading into day four Weir remains second overall, one point behind Great Britain’s Alison Young. Caitlin Elks is 47th and Alexandra South is 65th.
The 49er fleet was able to complete one race before the breeze became too strong with Australians Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen finishing eighth.
The result leaves the 2011 World Champions fifth overall, just six points off the lead with plenty of movement to happen in the fleet as competition enters the finals series.
Sam Kivell and Will Ryan are 15th in the 470 men’s class following a fourth and a 12th, while Matthew and Robert Crawford are 40th, Alexander and Patrick Conway are 41st, Scott Cotton and Robert Size are 71st and Matt and Ben Taylor are 73rd.
Women’s Match Racers Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty are sitting on five wins and six losses from their first 11 races after losing to Americans Anna Tunnicliffe and Sally Barkow on Tuesday morning.
Price and crew have five more races scheduled for Wednesday with the top eight crews qualifying for the quarterfinals.
The strong winds kept the Skud 18 fleet on shore with Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch tied on points with leaders Alexandra Rickham and Nikki Birrell.
The Finn class were also shore bound on Tuesday with Australian Brendan Casey fourth overall.
Luke Baillie continues to be the leading Australian in the RS:X class in 20th overall, finishing the day with a 14th and an 11th, ahead of Patrick Vos in 29th who had his best two races of the regatta, and Jimmy Levy in 49th.
Star sailors Paul McKenzie and Philip Toth are 18th overall with just one race completed on day three.
Australian Sailing Team website