Hyères, France signed off round three of the 2018 World Cup Series in style with consistent wind conditions allowing the final five Olympic disciplines to conclude their competition.
Marit Bouwmeester (NED) and Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergström (SWE) wrapped up gold in the Laser Radial and Men’s 470 ahead of their Medal Races. However, it was still wide open in the remaining fleets as a great day of competition played out in a consistent 11-14 knot breeze.
From six days of racing, the French team were the most successful, amassing seven medals, four of them gold. Poland managed to snap up two golds and a bronze with New Zealand taking five medals home, one gold, two silver and two bronze.
Watch all the Medal Races back here – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0yLg4wYxxpfe3oPrA-zWhUnK0nflh1dm.
Home nation favourite Jean Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) claimed his first Hyères World Cup Series gold medal after controlling Sam Meech (NZL) in the Laser.
Ahead of the Medal Race, only Meech could overhaul the Frenchman and Bernaz did an exceptional job covering him at the start and keeping him at bay during the race.
“I was 14 points ahead and could lose my first place, so I had to keep close to Sam Meech the entire race,” said Bernaz. “I did not expect him to be match racing with me but I recently won the French Match Racing Championship and I knew exactly what to do. It was a great fight and I managed to keep him in the bad wind behind me.”
Tom Burton (AUS) went into the Medal Race in third and had a chance of overhauling Meech. His third was not quite enough as Meech finished in seventh which confirmed silver to New Zealand and bronze to Australia.
Marit Bouwmeester (NED) won gold the day prior in the Laser Radial and signed off the week in further dominant fashion by winning the Medal Race convincingly.
“I haven’t been racing much since the Olympics, so for me, it was just another competition to use as training for the World Championships in Aarhus,” commented Bouwmeester. “I was happy to get away with a win.
“I’ve been injured but my body has finally recovered, and I am just happy to do a full programme again. I raced in Palma, Hyères and next week I’ll be at the Laser Europeans.”
The fight for silver and bronze was between Paige Railey (USA) and Monika Mikkola (FIN) but after an individual recall, the pair sailed back to restart the race. This allowed Mikkola, who was in silver medal position, to gain control over Railey.
Mikkola covered Railey, ensuring she remained ahead of her at all times. As Mikkola did enough to pick up silver, Anne Marie Rindom (DEN) was pushing hard, trying to catch Bouwmeester to gain extra points to move into the final podium position.
However she couldn’t make up the distance, ending up second, as Railey sailed through in eighth to pick up bronze.
Any one of Nicholas Heiner (NED), Jorge Zarif (BRA) and Alican Kaynar (TUR) could take gold in the Finn fleet with the scores incredibly close.
As Heiner and Kaynar stayed quite close at the start of the race, Zarif distanced himself on the other side of the race course and was able to concentrate on sailing fast with clean air in the upwind and downwind legs.
Zarif was able to streak ahead to take the race win which gave him gold but the real battle developed behind him with Kaynar and Heiner fighting.
Kaynar looked like he had silver in the bag but on the final downwind Heiner pumped his sail hard and continuously to propel his boat forward faster to gain the extra place he needed. He managed to succeed to snatch back silver, relegating Kaynar into bronze.
“There was a big shift to the right so I was able to turn at the first mark in the lead and win the race,” commented Zarif. “Everyone thought there would be match racing but the three of us could easily win gold. I wasn’t thinking much about that but more of how I perform and try my best.”
France’s Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz locked horns with Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) in the Women’s 470.
The French needed to keep the British team within touching distance to win gold and straight from the start they matched the Brits every move to ensure they did not get away to pose a title threat.
This played out throughout the race and although Mills and McIntyre got slightly ahead, a penalty turn on the final downwind all but ended their gold medal hopes. They finished eighth to the French teams tenth resulting in a fourth and final French flag on the top of the podium.
China’s Mengxi Wei and Haiyan Gao needed to put one boat between them and Japan’s Ai Kondo Yoshida and Miho Yoshioka to take the final podium spot. The Chinese did what they had to do by taking the Medal Race win.
Germany’s Frederike Loewe and Anna Markfort put the pressure on the Japanese on the final downwind but the experience of Kondo and Yoshioka shone through as they kept a slender advantage to finish second to the Chinese to win bronze.
Sweden’s Dahlberg and Bergström had gold signed sealed and delivered ahead of the Men’s 470 Medal Race after a consistent week of racing where they didn’t finish outside of the top five once.
“It’s been a difficult week but lucky for us, we’ve been sailing really well so before the last race yesterday we already knew that we’ve won,” said Dahlberg. “We could just go out there today and enjoy a nice Medal Race with the top boats in the 470 fleet.”
Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) delivered a 470 masterclass, sailing their way to a race win to confirm silver. A sixth in the Medal Race ensured Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Wilcox (NZL) remained in the final podium spot they had occupied overnight.
All of the Hyères gold medallists will automatically receive an invitation to the Marseille World Cup Final, set to be held 85km down the coast from Hyères.
The remaining places will be based on performance across the whole series. The Laser and Laser Radial fleets will welcome the top 25 sailors with the remaining fleets opening up to the top 20.
Racing will commence in Marseille on Tuesday 5 June and conclude on Sunday 10 June.
Daniel Smith – World Sailing