Semaine Olympique Française - Excitement rises

Semaine Olympique Française 2011
©Guillaume Durand / FFVoile / DPPI

Semaine Olympique Française - Strong wind and rain plagued the day in Hyères for the last day of registration and equipment inspection.

Expected numbers have increased at the end of registration with 1200 athletes and 64 countries, two more than the nations represented at the Olympic Games. Among new countries, Bahrain, Salvador and Georgia will have sailors on the starting line.

The forty Olympic medallists engaged in the competition will be honored during the Opening Ceremony, perfect illustration of the high quality of the competition to come.

Among these medallists, Torben Grael and Marceilo Ferreira (BRA), with five Olympic medals, are sailing for the first time in the Semaine Olympique Française. 'We sailed once in Hyères during the Star Europeans. We are coming this year because there is a good fleet. About 15 teams can win the regatta.' Racing at high level since the 80's with a first Olympic medal in the Los Angeles Games, the Brazilian are keeping their enthusiasm and drive for racing. 'We keep doing it because it is fun! Sailing keep us young!'

Semaine Olympique Française 2011
©Guillaume Durand / FFVoile / DPPI
Other multiple medallist to race in Hyères is Ben Ainslie. The British has only race in Hyères once in the Finn and is looking for a new challenge after wining Palma and Sail Melbourne. 'I hope for the lighter sea breeze however, I wouldn't mind a good day of Mistral for the fun.' After taking a break from Olympic competition Ainslie finds a difference in the level of athleticism in the class. 'Sailors are now taller and bigger, they are fitter too which is giving them an advantage on me in the breeze.'

Last year defending champions in the 470 women, Emmanuelle Rol and Hélène Defrance are also playing in Hyères their first Olympic selection regatta. 'When we sailed in Hyères some years ago we were impressed by the level of the other teams. Now we have won the event last year we are more relaxed and confident. Of course, being an Olympic selection and with the increased level, we are still a bit stressed but it is like racing any other important regatta in the circuit.'

Other French to defend his title is Damien Seguin (FRA) in the 2.4. 'The first time I sailed in Hyères was on the Tornado. I like coming to Hyères, the mixed conditions suit me well. I have won the event five times and hope to better this record next week.'

Last entry in Hyères is going to Michal Maier who enjoyed a last minute cancellation in the Finn class. The Czech who is playing in the SOF-TPM his first Olympic selection regatta, is one of the event veteran with not less than 20 participations.

Races start on Sunday at 9am for the Women Match Racing and 11am for all other classes. Two races are scheduled for all classes and three for the 49er. The easterly is expected to remain present in Hyères at around 15 knots and decrease throughout the day.

Semaine Olympique Française 2011
©Guillaume Durand / FFVoile / DPPI

Semaine Olympique Française 2011
©Guillaume Durand / FFVoile / DPPI

Semaine Olympique Française 2011
©Guillaume Durand / FFVoile / DPPI

Semaine Olympique Française 2011
©Guillaume Durand / FFVoile / DPPI

Semaine Olympique Française 2011
©Guillaume Durand / FFVoile / DPPI

Semaine Olympique Française 2011
©Guillaume Durand / FFVoile / DPPI

Semaine Olympique Francais website
http://www.sail-world.com/82769