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Semaine Olympique Franšaise9-13 Oct

Cammas keeps dreaming of the Olympics as the action starts in La Rochelle

 

The first day of the inaugural Semaine Olympique Française in La Rochelle bay saw superstars of the sailing world rubbing shoulders with young hopefuls and them all reaching for Rio.

The 27-strong fleet for the new mixed-crewNacra17ft multihull Olympic class is particularly strong and fluid in its first season. The crews of all ages and backgrounds are still getting used to the boats, with the new carbon masts arriving only two days ago to replace the aluminum ones.

Cammas and his crew, Sophie de Turckheim, only competing at their third event together, hunted there way back to ninth in the first race, but Cammas showed his tactical nous off the start in the second race of the day as the sun went down.

"You had to be on the right, but on the left of the right," Cammas said with a smile."The boat is very exciting and it's hard to drive. We need to look around a bit because at the moment we are concentrating on the boat so much."

De Turckheim suggested one reason for that, teasing Cammas: "Well, Franck has been away for September doing something else," she said. "We are beginners at the moment, we are training while racing."

Cammas, the Jules Verne Trophy record breaker and winner of the last Volvo Ocean Race, has been drawn to the Olympic flame late at the age of 40 and has teamed up with the 32-year-old de Turkheim to make the oldest couple in the fleet. After an injury-hit outing in Hyères in May, when de Turckheim broke her sacrum, they finished a creditable sixth place in the European Championships on Lake Como in August. But with only one team from each country able to qualify from each nation for the Rio 2016 Olympics, the stakes will keep getting higher.

"It's a dream to try and go to the Olympics but there are so many good sailors in France in this boat that you have to get through that first."

The second race, won by another Volvo sailor, Spain's Iker Martinez, split the field with Vincenzo Sorrentino, the winner of the first race tearing his mainsail off the start as the wind built towards 15-knots and the twin-hulled Nacra flew along at 18-20 knots. Austria's Thomas Zajac, second in the first race and world ranked number at the moment admitted to be foxed by the right shift. "The start favoured the right, but then halfway up the beat we could see the guys in the middle had so much more pressure and it was too late," he said, "I don't think we're ranked number one in this fleet."

With stronger more consistent winds forecast for Thursday the fleet is likely to be shaken up again. "I hope I wake up brave rather than scared," said Pippa Wilson, one of Britain's gold medalists in the Yngling at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, and one of Britain's three female skippers here. Billy Bresson and Marie Riou, 12th and 7th will hope they wake up brave too.

After a light start saw a four-hour delay the event came to life in the afternoon with keenly fought contests throughout the fleet of ten Olympic classes.

 

The 49ers and 470s were first out in 6-8 knots, racing the men and women at the same time. The aptly named Amy Seabright, the British women's 470 skipper, leads after the first two races, showing better speed than most of the men's teams. She and crew Anna Carpenter won the first race from the front and worked their way back to second place in the second race after a disastrous start saw them last off the line. But Seabright is more certain about how she will feel tomorrow. "I'm not looking forward to tomorrow because there's going to be lots of wind," she said. "That should separate the (men's and women's) fleet out a bit more. I think the Austrians (women) will do well, because they're bigger."

France's Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion were even more dominant in the men's 470, winning both races.

France's Manu Dyen and Stephane Christidis won the last two of the 49er races after finishing second in the first to head the leaderboard. As expected, France's Sarah Steyaert and Julie Bossard dominated the women's 49er FX, winning all three races.

In the men's RS:X windsurfing France's Pierre Le Coq leads countryman Julien Bontemps although neither won a race and the powerful Polish team are likely to push them hard all week. In the women's RS:X, Poland's Zofia Klepacka was the standout sailor, winning the second race after finishing second in the first.

With 63 laser sailors in La Rochelle, the fleet was split in two with Sweden's Jesper Stalheim leading overall after winning his first race and finishing fourth in the second. In the women's laser radial, France's Pernille Michon won both races each time ahead of Denmark's Line Flem Hoest.

The battle of the giants in the Finn saw honours shared at the top of a 21-strong fleet. Estonia's Deniss Karpak was third and then second, but back from his America's Cup with Luna Rossa, Britain's Giles Scott, the 2011 Finn world champion, looked like he was straight back in the saddle, winning the second race after slipping to fifth in the first.

"It was a good start to a regatta a 5 and 1 but I would have been a lot happier if the 5 had been a 3 as it probably should have been," Scott said. "In the second race I made a good start then me and (Jonathan) Lobert had a little battle, I tacked twice on him and he got a little bit out of phase and I managed to sail away a bit."

 

10/10/2013 11:07

 

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