WINS TO AUSTRALIA AND GREAT BRITAIN AT SAILING WORLD CUP HYERES02 May 2016
Hyères threw out its toughest challenge for the final day of racing at the Sailing World Cup with a truly up and down day of the purest form.
A breeze in excess of 20 knots came through in the morning with many wondering if there would even be any racing at all. Thunder, lightning, torrential rain and huge winds ensured the Olympic sailors were pushed to their limits.
The sun did make an appearance, for the closing ceremony, shining light on the exceptional performances of the world's best sailors. The heroes of the sport are born at the Sailing World Cup and come of age at the Olympic Games.
The road to Rio is a hard one and if the racing in Hyères is anything to go by, expect fireworks at the Olympic Games.
Great Britain's Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark overhauled overnight leaders Camille Lecointre and Helene Defrance (FRA) to take gold in an exciting Women's 470 Medal Race.
Mills and Clark knew the maths before the Medal Race, beat the French, keep the Brazilians at bay and gold would be there's. It didn't start that way however as the Brazilians charged out the blocks, taking an early lead. The British sat in third and out of the gold medal position but they remained in contention.
"Going into the race the tactic was to race our own race," explained Clark, "Off the line the Brazilians got a bit of a jump so that left us protecting the French really, and seeing how the Brazilians' race played out."
New Zealand's Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie were pushing the Brazilians hard at the front of pack and very little could separate them. On the second upwind it was advantage Kiwis and they held on to take the lead, much to the delight of Mills and Clark (GBR) who had indeed kept the French at bay.
Mills added, "We had our eyes on what was going on, we caught the Brazilians up quite a lot up that second beat and once we saw that the Kiwis had definitely passed them we relaxed a bit on them and really wanted to protect the French to make sure we got the win."
Mills and Clark famously went toe to toe with Aleh and Powrie at London 2012. The Kiwis came out on top in the Medal Race but they were pleased their great rivals were able to offer a helping hand, "Obviously [the Kiwis were] a huge help at that point in the race. It was a fun, exciting race," Mills said.
Clark continued, "It's great to come to any World Cup regatta and win it. For me and Hannah to convert a second into a first in the Medal Race shows we're making progress with our comms and everything, but we've still got progress to make."
Oliveira and Barbachan finished in second with the French dropping to third via countback after an eighth.
The pressure was off Croatia's Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic in the Men's 470 Medal Race as they had opened up such an advantage that all they had to do was complete the race safely to snap up gold.
A fifth confirmed them as winners as they defended their title, just as stylishly as 2015.
"This feeling is great," explained Marenic. "We feel really happy with how we sailed this week and very proud. We sailed consistently and were always in the top six. We like this venue and this event. It's our favourite from when we first came here in 2002. We've come every year. We enjoy the conditions here and it's quite similar to those in Croatia. It obviously suits us.
"This is a huge confidence boost but it's just another race before the Games and we are really happy with the way we've been going. We will continue working."
The race for silver and bronze was significantly tighter out on the water. Six points separated Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS), Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergstrom (SWE) as well as Lucas Calabrese and Juan de la Fuente (ARG).
The trio were all bunched up at the start, getting underway almost as one but on the first upwind the Aussies and Argentineans just had the superior boat speed and edged ahead. They rounded well clear of the Swedes and were in the driving seat.
Dahlberg and Bergstrom worked their way through the fleet and drew within touching distance of the Argentineans as the Australians pulled away. The run to the finish was dramatic, the Swedes and Argentineans were neck and neck and separated by just millimetres. As they crossed the finish line almost simultaneously the Swedes were penalised for not giving way to the Argentineans and were forced to re-enter the racing area and conduct penalty turns.
The damage had been well and truly done and the Swedes picked up tenth which knocked them out of the medals. It was silver to Belcher and Ryan and bronze to Calabrese and de la Fuente.
Up next on the Sailing World Cup tour is SWC Weymouth & Portland, 6-12 June 2016.