by Dana Paxton
On day two of the 2012 Semaine Olympique Francaise, the strong Mistral wind experience in Hyeres, France, has proven a challenge that the US Sailing Team is enjoying.
Clark and Lihan in action
Racing in 20-25 knots, all classes caught up from day one’s abbreviated schedule, and the Team holds five top-10 positions: Jen French and JP Creignou third in the SKUD-18; Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan third in Women’s 470; Mark LeBlanc is eighth in 2.4mR; Caleb Paine is ninth in the Finn; and Paul Callahan, Tom Brown and Bradley Johnson are eighth in Sonar.
In Women’s Match Racing, Anna Tunnicliffe’s 'Team Maclaren' of Molly Vandemoer and Debbie Capozzi continued to go undefeated and now find themselves up 6-0. Sally Barkow’s 'Team 7' of Alana O’Reilly and Elizabeth Kratzig Burnham extended their win-loss record, as well, and are at 6-1.
Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan settled into the heavy-air racing and climbed up to an overall third, with race finishes of 3-4 in the Women’s 470.
There is a lot of racing left this week, but Clark chalked up their strength to performing when the conditions increase. 'The wind is strong here in France,' said Clark in an exclusive video. 'We got a great light-air practice in Palma, and we’re getting in good practice in heavy air here. We’ve been training in the same conditions and working on our upwind technique. As a team we’re really strong and it’s showing out there. In the second race we flipped a couple of times, but being a strong team we were able to catch up and finish in 11th. If we didn’t have that physical endurance we wouldn’t have been able to.'
Anna Tunnicliffe, Molly Vandemoer and Debbie Capozzi turned in another solid day of women’s match racing. They remain undefeated with the balance of the round robin left to race.
This event differs from others in that all teams are in one group, not two, and are scheduled to race against each other in the round robin. With 17 international teams, it’s a relentless schedule.
For Sally Barkow, Alana O’Reilly and Elizabeth Kratzig Burnham, today’s only loss occurred against fellow team mates Genny Tulloch, Jenn Chamberlin and Alice Manard Leonard.
The Elliott 6m keelboats are overpowered for light wind, so when the wind starts to get into the double digits, the strategy changes. 'Upwind it’s pretty difficult because there’s not much of a keel and we go sideways, so it’s about going forward,' explained Barkow in an exclusive video.
'Downwind, anything above 20 knots it’s about holding on, it goes pretty fast. With three people, you have to be on the same page. Jibing, it can go well or really bad. We pretty much make a call if the wind is above 20-22 knots, it’s just getting around the course. If the boats get close someone is forced to wipe out. It’s really just a big focus of boats going around the track.'
The Sonar class began its class racing today and Paul Callahan, Tom Brown and Bradley Johnson scored 6-11-6 for an overall eighth. This is the first time the team has been on the water since US Sailing’s Rolex Miami OCR, in January, and found they had some work to do, especially in heavier wind.
'We set up for heavy air in the first race, but found we had a couple minor errors we were shaking off,' said Johnson in an exclusive video. 'In the second race, we thought the wind was going to build, but it dropped. It was painful going downwind. It was a surprise lull and it lasted for the duration of the second race. When we were prepping for the third race, we were able to get it dialed in a little better and got a 6th. We just need to find that gear a little faster.
'It’s going to be a tight race here and going into the Paralympics since we’re all going to be on the water a lot more.'
Racing continues through Friday, April 27.
Semaine Olympique Francaise website