Returning to action
Friday, April 21, 2017
There will be one home nation favourite gracing the waters of Hyères, France from 23 - 30 April for round two of the 2017 World Cup Series when multiple World Champion Billy Besson steps back onboard the Nacra 17.
Besson, along with partner Marie Riou, won all four Nacra 17 World Championship titles in the Rio 2016 quadrennial but failed to capitalise on that dominance as a back injury hampered any Olympic medal ambitions the pair harboured.
There will be a Riou partnering Besson once again in Hyères, but this time it will be in the shape of former Laser Radial competitor, Amélie. Despite the name, the two Riou's aren't related and have mixed sailing backgrounds. For Amélie it is quite a shift in gear to go from the One Person Dinghy to the Two Person Multihull and this will be a tough first test.
Like many French sailors, Besson has a strong history of sailing catamaran's and took that experience to help former partner Marie adapt from match racing to make a formidable Nacra 17 team. Besson will need to weave some more magic on the younger Riou, Amélie, while putting the disappointment of the injury ravaged Rio Games behind him to look to Tokyo 2020.
While Besson used time between major regattas to recover from injury, Ben Saxton (GBR) has had to use his time between winning the World Cup Series Miami and Hyères to find a new partner after Nicola Groves made the decision to pursue challenges out of the water. Stepping in to Groves' shoes for Hyères is Steph Orton who moves from the 49erFX.
Although being among the youngest team in the fleet, New Zealand's Olivia Mackay and Micah Wilkinson already know what it takes to win becoming Red Bull Foiling Generation champions in 2016 and have good experience in the Nacra 17.
Still learning their trade in the Nacra 17 are Austria's Nico Delle-Karth, who sails with Laura Schofegger, and Denmark's Christian Peter Lubeck, who crews for Lin Ea Cenholt. Both have moved from the skiff fleet but have shown real potential in their new class. Delle-Karth claimed bronze in Miami and Lubeck matched that with a bronze at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia.
Great Britain's Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Stuart Bithell took 49er gold in the USA but were beaten by compatriots James Peters and Fynn Sterritt at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia who took the title to ensure the British Skiff battle continues with both teams in Hyères 49er fleet.
Spain's Diego Botin and Iago Marra will again look to push for medals and will be joined in the hunt by Germany's Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel who claimed bronze at Rio 2016.
Stand out names in the 49erFX are the darlings of Brazilian sailing, Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze. With Olympic gold and a win at the World Cup Series Miami it is hard not to hang the tag of favourites around their neck.
Other Miami medallists on the start line are Argentina's Victoria Travascio and Maria Branz who will look to upgrade their bronze from round 1.
Rio 2016 Nacra 17 bronze medallist, Austria's Tanja Frank, continues her transition from the Nacra 17 to the 49erFX partnering Lorena Abicht and will be joined by another Olympic multihull sailor, Aruba's Nicole van der Velden. Van de Velden has teamed up with Odile van Aanholt who has a silver Youth Olympic Games medal to her credit from Nanjing 2014.
There is a strong home nation presence in the Men's RS:X with Rio 2016 bronze medallist Pierre Le Coq, World Cup Series Miami winner Louis Giard and 2016 European Champion Thomas Goyard all competing.
Yoav Omer (ISR) dominated the RS:X field in Auckland, New Zealand to take the 2016 Aon Youth Sailing World Championship and will be a strong contender if he can take that form in to this senior competition. Pawel Tarnowski (POL) is also coming off the back of a win in Palma, Majorca, Spain at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia and is expected to be at the front of the fleet.
From the Men's Youth Worlds champion to the Women's where the RS:X line up will have the three most recent Youth Worlds champions aiming for more senior glory. Great Britain's Emma Wilson took the 2016 title and will be joined by Stefania Elfutina (RUS) who won gold at youth level in 2014 and 2015 before going on to claim bronze at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Wilson and Elfutina's predecessor, 2013 Youth Worlds champion, Yunxiu Lu (CHN) will try to win back to back World Cup Series gold medals after taking the win in Miami while the silver medallist on that occasion, Spain's Marina Alabau, will do her best to upgrade and top the podium ahead of her Chinese rival.
The Formula Kites will join the Olympic classes in Hyères and will be spearheaded by France's very own World Champion Maxime Nocher. Nocher will be joined by a host of countrymen who will have to contend with sailors from around the world like Germany's Florian Gruber and Canada's Catherine Dufour to take a gold medal on home soil.
Racing begins in Hyères, France on the 23 April and concludes with two days of LIVE Medal Races on 29 and 30 April 2017.
By Richard Aspland - World Sailing