Take a long weekend off and you quite literally miss everything. Some seismic results have been posted across sailing as the northern hemisphere season kicks into gear and I have to say I think one of the most impressive performances at Hyeres, aside from the classes where utter dominance is found, was in the Men’s Laser fleet. Elliot Hanson pulled out a remarkable silver, winning the medal race and besting fellow GBR team-mate Micky Beckett to give the selectors one almighty headache ahead of Marseille 2024.
What’s even more remarkable in the Lasers is that the seeming dominance of Matty Wearn is being crushed on the wheel of Olympic ambition. A run of four bullets early in the regatta where he looked imperious belied a rare show of inconsistency in the ‘Thunder from Down Under’ and fifth place was a poor return by his standards. The game is white hot at the top and the popular Cypriot Pavlos Kontides held it together, to much relief, in the medal race and took the title. All bets are off now for the medals of the XXXIII Olympiad where the finest of margins, perhaps a judges call, will decide their fate. Electric racing.
Same too in the Women’s Lasers where one of my favourite sailors, Marie Barrue from France – she of the heels on the boat photoset – sailed magnificently to silver just behind the fast-charging Polish ace Agata Barwinska. That’s a big result for Marie who had a middling Princessa Sofia Regatta in Palma and for sure is one to watch.
Britain’s Hannah Snellgrove ended up 6th overall and has so much promise that the RYA must be delighted to be working with her. Hannah can handle it at the top of the fleet for sure and these regattas are great training in the run up to the Games. Britain expects…
The Nacra 17s meanwhile is undoubtedly the story that will run and run. This is such a technical class in terms of development and whilst the Italians, Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti are the stand-out names, it will be fascinating to see how the GBR Team in its entirety respond. Big name coaches are working with John Gimson and Anna Burnet now and I’ll lay a pretty penny that by Marseille the ‘on’ button will be found. This week the team were testing rudder configurations and for sure, found some speed. The gap is closing. Watch this space.
Big wins elsewhere for the peerless Daniela Moroz of the USA in the Women’s Kites, Nicolas Goyard in the Men’s iQFOiL whilst the super-popular and close-to-sailing-royalty pair of Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze showed utter class to win the 49erFX fleet by a healthy margin. Strong performance from the USA however with Stephanie Roble and Margaret Shea taking silver – and the USA is coming fast in the 49ers with a silver in the Men’s discipline for Nevin Snow and Maximiliano Agnese – Paul Cayard will be smiling.
Overall Hyeres was a tremendous success and so good to have it back on the calendar after a three-year absence. The sailors more than played their part with interest across the spectrum, and dynamite competition everywhere proving that this Olympic cycle is as good, if not better, than ever before. I have a good hunch in some fleets as to where precious metal will be awarded but in others, it’s anyone’s game (Games?). Plenty of water to run ahead of Marseille 2024. Really interesting to see the next generation of our sport’s superstars emerging.
But I’ll finish on a completely separate result. And this is one of truly seismic proportions to ape the title of this blog post, namely the Alpen Cup down at Torbole in the quite stunning 5.5m Class. For all of us purists out there, that’s you and me for whom foiling has whizzed past our ears with a youthful yee-hah, the 5.5 metres offer us joy to the senses. My goodness those boats look right – tell me I’m wrong – and they’ve just had a superb regatta that tested outright boatspeed.
Now, I have a particular dog in this fight or at least a runner that I am backing and it was wonderful to see Peter ‘Morty’ Morton’s Hollom designed ‘Jean Genie’ at the sharp end of the standings. The campaign that Morty, one of the great campaigners of all time, has put together for a tilt at the world championships in Hanko, Norway on the 26th June has been exemplary.
Training has been conducted on the Costa del Solent throughout the winter and early Spring, often in fresh to frightening conditions, and the attention to detail led by Andrew ‘Dog’ Palfrey is off the scale. It’s often of an afternoon that I will wonder down to the yard just to admire the two 5.5’s in the yard, appraise the winged keels and stroke the finish. By comparison my H-Boat, parked nearby, looks industrial.
But it’s all coming together and despite huge competition down in Italy, Jean Genie, with Etchells ace James Howells steering this weekend, showed a clean pair of heels to beat off the challenge laid down by both Kristian Neergaard and Mateusz Kusnierewicz and set a new marker in this white-hot fleet of Olympians and Starboat sailors. Great sailing and everyone now knows where the standard is at in the 5.5 metres.
The season is off and running. The storylines are flooding in. SailGP Season 3 gets underway in two weeks’ time, Foiling Week kicks off at the end of June and everything is pointing to one heck of a summer.
What a sport we have. Enjoy.