On the opening day of competition at the 2012 Semaine Olympique Francaise, the schedule of racing was revised due to the famed Mistral. With winds topping out at 42 knots, most racing was shortened with racing being postponed in the Sonar.
US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics holds four top-10 positions with Jen French and JP Creignou third in the SKUD-18; Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl are third in Men’s 470; Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan are sixth in Women’s 470; Mark LeBlanc is ninth in 2.4mR; while two women’s match racing teams went undefeated: Anna Tunnicliffe’s 'Team Maclaren' of Molly Vandemoer and Debbie Capozzi (3-0); and Sally Barkow’s 'Team 7' of Alana O’Reilly and Elizabeth Kratzig Burnham (2-0).
Jen French and JP Creignou, bronze medalist at US Sailing’s 2012 Rolex Miami OCR, completed the lone SKUD-18 race in third, to establish an overall third position.
Before racing, Jen French talked about preparation. 'This is our first regatta since Rolex Miami OCR. Our first time in Hyeres. It’s a little exciting. We have discovered what the Mistral is. Since we left Miami we have been on eh water a lot and working out some kinks. We discovered some weaknesses and trying to improve those. This will be our first test against the international competition. We have just about everyone we’ll see at the Games, except for three countries. We have a good fleet here and a good way to gauge ourselves, not just here but also at Sail for Gold.'
For Laser sailor Rob Crane, day one was a strong start. Two race finishes of 3-11 puts him into 17th overall in the 106-boat class.
'It was really windy,' said Crane. 'I went the right way in the first race and managed to hang on for third. In the second race I took a bit of a pit stop. I didn’t flip, but the rudder cavitated and it took me a while to get going. The cover (on the mainsheet) ripped off and it just made it uncomfortable. It was a good day.'
Erik Storck and Trevor Moore experienced an extreme day with a capsize in race 1 that kept them from finishing the only race of the day.
'We got out there for the first start and it built very quickly,' said Storck. 'It was maybe blowing 13-14 when we left the harbor and quickly got up to 17-24. We’re sailing a couple of miles offshore. Even though it’s almost an offshore breeze, it’s really steep chop and waves and it made for some very difficult sailing.
'We had a great start, around the top mark in the top five; we couldn’t quite get the bear away. We were avoiding a boat that was already capsized and went over ourselves. We went over a few more times and just missed the time limit on the first race.' Storck and Moore were one of 16 teams to not finish the race.
Graham Biehl describes the wind speed and how it affected the fleet, with many teams experiencing breakdowns.
'We are less than 100 days from the Games and we have to put together what we learned so far and from Palma,' said High Performance Director/Head Coach Kenneth Andreasen (Tampa, Fla.). 'We have to go out and perform no matter what the conditions are. The Mistral has been strong. That’s a known fact in Hyeres. (The wind) can be strong or light. I’d be surprised if this holds for the week.'
Racing continues on Monday, April 23 through Friday, April 27.
The Team: There are 26 USSTAG athletes competing at this event, 15 of whom have qualified for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Teams.
Competing in the French Olympic Sailing Week:
2.4mR - Mark LeBlanc (New Orleans, La.) 49er - Erik Storck (Huntington, N.Y.) and Trevor Moore (N. Pomfret, Vt./Naples, Fla.) 470 Men - Stuart McNay (Boston, Mass.) and Graham Biehl (San Diego, Calif.) 470 Women - Amanda Clark (Shelter Island, N.Y.) and Sarah Lihan (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Finn - Caleb Paine (San Diego, Calif.) Laser - Rob Crane (Darien, Conn.) RS:X Men – Bob Willis (Chicago, Ill.) RS:X Women - Farrah Hall (Annapolis, Md.) SKUD-18 – Jen French (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and JP Creignou (St. Petersburg, Fla.) Sonar – Paul Callahan (Cape Coral, Fla./Newport R.I.), Tom Brown (Castine, Me.) and Bradley Johnson (Pompano Beach, Fla.)
Women’s Match Racing:
Anna Tunnicliffe (Plantation, Fla.), Molly Vandemoer (Stanford, Calif.) and Debbie Capozzi (Bayport, N.Y.) Sally Barkow (Nashotah, Wis.), Alana O’Reilly (Charleston, S.C.) and Elizabeth Kratzig Burnham (Miami, Fla.) Genny Tulloch (San Francisco, Calif.), Jenn Chamberlin (Washington, D.C.) and Alice Manard Leonard (New Orleans, La./East Haven, Conn.)
Fred Strammer (Nokomis, Fla.) and Zach Brown (San Diego, Calif.), members of the 2012 US Sailing Development Team, will compete in the 49er.
The US Sailing Team is not represented at French Olympic Sailing Week in the Finn, Laser Radial or Star classes.