The 2012 Semaine Olympique Francaise is the fourth event of the ISAF Sailing World Cup circuit and is now all set to get underway on Sunday in Hyeres, France for a week’s worth of thrilling racing action.
With less than 100 days to the Olympic Games, the stakes are high for some of the teams playing in Hyères their last chance for London. The Semaine Olympique Française will also be one of the rare opportunities for sailors to race against some of the World's best before the Olympics. Most of last year's winners are back to defend their title and win some points towards the Sailing World Cup standings.
The Polish windsurfers will surely have their word to say. World Number One, Piotr Myszka (POL) will be defending his title with strong opposition from recent World Champion Julien Bontemps (FRA), or European champion Przemyslaw Miarczynski (POL). In the women, Zofia Klepacka (POL) will be one of the favourite after placing second at the last two World Championships. French Charline Picon, second last year in Hyères will defend her colours on home ground.
Racing is promising to be tough in the Lasers and Radials with most of the top sailors in Hyères. Javier Hernandez (ESP) will be keen to get another victory; however the job will not be easy with the strong Australian contingent lead by Tom Slingsby and Tom Burton, European champion Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) or 2010 winner and Athens Silver medallist, Andreas Geritzer (AUT).
A world contest is expected in the Radial with most of the World best sailors on the starting line. World Number One Evi van Acker (BEL), 2011 ISAF World Champion Marit Bouwmeester (NED) or Lijia Xu (CHN), who has started the series by winning both Sail Melbourne and Miami, will start as hot favourites. However, Alicia Cebrian (ESP) who has won two weeks ago her first Sailing World Cup event in Palma, Tina Mihelic (CRO) or last year SOF Silver and Bronze medallists Sarah Steyaert (FRA) and Gintare Scheidt (LTU) will also stand a good chance to take the title won last year by Sarah Winther (NZL).
The French 470 men teams will have to work hard to keep last year record. Placed first and second in 2011, Pierre Leboucher/Vincent Garos and Nicolas Charbonnier/Jeremie Mion, will face the World Number One and World Champions Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page (AUS). The Australians had a great start this year after winning the Rolex Miami OCR and the Trofeo Princesa Sofia Mapfre in Palma. They have a good lead in the ISAF SWC standings. Other threats to the French include the strong Japanese team of Yoshida/ Harada, the Italians Zucchetti/Zandona or the Croatians Sime Fantela and Igor Marenis, only to name a few.
Despite racing below their usual level in Palma last month, World Number One Tara Pacheco and Berta Betanzos (ESP) are expected to defend their 470 title in Hyères. The Spanish team had perfect results last year after winning the European and World titles and should be at the front if the wind blows. World Number Two Ai Kondo and Wakako Tabata (JAP), Berkhout/Westerhof (NED) or Italians Giulia Conti and Giovanna Micol (ITA) will spice up the contest.
The Semaine Olympique Française is the last Olympic 'observation 'regatta for the French 470 women teams who will be under scrutiny all week. A race within the race.
Another one will be among the Danish 49ers playing in Hyères their last Olympic selection event. After Palma only a point separate the top two teams of Warrer/Hansen and Norregaard/Lang. This year, the SOF promises to be exciting and full of challenges.
Last year winners, the Sibello brothers, will only be back with Gianfranco at the helm while his brother is waiting for the green light to get back on board after last year health problems. The hot favourites for the title will be World champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) who will start their European season in Hyères. The French will provide some good competition with Manu Dyen and Stéphane Christidis (FRA) and young team of Julien D'Ortoli and Noe Delpech who placed second last year.
Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada (BRA) are back in top form to defend their Star title. After winning back to back the ISAF Worlds in Perth, the Rolex Miami OCR and the Trofeo Sofia Mapfre in Palma, the Brazilians have set the bar high for the title. Loof/Salminen (SWE), World Number Two Melleby/Pedersen or Bacardi Cup winners French Xavier Rohart and Pierre-Alexis Ponsot will need to gear up to defeat the strong Brazilians.
The Finns will see some action while Olympic selection continues for the Polish, Czech, Turkish and Slovenian teams. Already selected for London, Athens Silver medallist and World champion Rafa Trujillo (ESP) will only have his eyes set on the title. The young generation with Caleb Paine (USA), Matt Coutts (NZL) or Deniss Karpak (EST) will be ready to get to the front, in the absence of most class's favourites.
The Women Match-Racing will see another week of great battles against the best teams. The Mermaid team of Claire Leroy, Elodie Bertrand and Marie Riou will enjoy racing on home waters against four strong US teams or last year winners the British team of MacGregor/Lush/MacGregor.
In the Paralympic classes, the 2.4 sees one of the best fleet ever with 28 of the World’s best. World Champion Damien Seguin (FRA) will be back to try and win his seventh title! He will face Trofeo Sofia Mapfre winner Thierry Schmitter (NED), Beijing Gold medallist Paul Tingley (CAN), or last year runner up Megan Pascoe (GBR).
Bruno Jourdren, Nicolas Vimont-Vicary and Eric Flageul (FRA) will defend their title in the Sonar and World champions Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell will be back for another victory in the Skud after claiming Sail Melbourne and Miami OCR.
Racing will start on Sunday at 10am for the Women Match Racing and at 11am for all other Olympic ad Paralympic classes.
Semaine Olympique Francaise website
by Corinne Rolland-McKenzie
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9:26 PM Thu 19 Apr 2012GMT
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2012 Semaine Olympique Francaise (Hyeres)
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