|Fraglia Vela Riva||8-12 May|
|Delta Lloyd Regatta||21-25 May|
|Sail for Gold||8-13 June|
|Kieler Woche||22/26 June|
|Semaine Olympique Franšaise||9-13 Oct|
a day for the come back kids to make their marks.
If Britain's Giles Scott has made a strong comeback in the Finn after a year out with the America's Cup and others are powering back from broken sacrums (Sophie de Turckheim) having their tonsils out (Mark Andrews), flu (lots), manflu (more) or cutting a tendon in their foot with broken bottle while cleaning their basement (Julien Bontemps), none among the 312 competitors at the inaugural Semaine Olympique Française in La Rochelle, can hold a candle to the comeback queen Zofia Klepacka.
After winning bronze in the women's RS:X in Weymouth at the London 2012 Olympics, the 27-year-old Klepacka took some time out and three months ago gave birth to a baby girl, Maria. But as they move into the business end of the week she leads the event after winning three of the eight races over the last eight days and has not been out of the top five.
"I am really happy, this is my first international regatta since the Olympic Games (London 2012) and I've been off from windsurfing because I had a baby three months ago," Klepacka says with a mixture of surprise and delight. "I'm at the front, it's the third day and we've had different conditions every day; the first day was light, yesterday really strong, today really light and I am sailing in the top five all the time. I'm not supposed to be good here because my physical conditioning is very bad."
Where would she put her fitness in percentage terms compared to last year? "Compared to the Olympics I'm about 30%. I can't run, my body is not ready, so I'm only sailing. But you don't forget how to sail; the technique, the tactics but physically I need to work harder. I want to be ready next year for the world championships, this is training for me."
Her results should perhaps not be such a surprise as Klepacka, the 2007 world champion, is a past master at this, having given birth to her son, Mariano after the 2008 Beijing Olympics. "My parents are looking after them back home in Warsaw," she says.
"I am planning to go to Rio (2016 Olympics). If I qualify in RS:X I'll go to Rio to fight for a gold medal, I know I can do that, if not I want to change class for the Nacra. I like it, it's extreme and it looks nice. I'll know if I qualify for the RS:X a year before the Olympic Games."
Polish power on in windsurfing
Poland kept up their domination of both the women's and men's leaderboard. Behind Zofia Klepacka, the 2012 her compatriot Maja Dziarnowska just held onto second after tough in which she finished 7th and 17th, the last her discard. France's Charline Picon, the European champion, leapt from 8th to 3rd overall by finishing 2nd in the first race and winning the second race but the contrast with Klepacka's joie de vivre could not have been more marked. "We had three big regattas in a row this summer, and that was maybe too much," Picon said. "I'm at home, there is the world here and I did not want to do the wrong thing but I was sick last week and I could not sail to prepare. Yesterday (Thursday), there were four races in difficult conditions. Today it was less physical and you had to be opportunistic. It worked for me. I must keep perspective, the season has been good and I have to have fun. But this is the first time I attacked a race with this little energy. I have no impulse. I would have liked it to be fun like the rest of the season but this is not the case."
In the men's RS:X, Pawel Tarnowski, could not come to terms with the light conditions and lost his lead after a disastrous last two races in which he finished 34th and 18th, slipping to sixth overall. But his Polish team mates took up the fight. Piotr Myszka showed his versatility by winning the first and finishing third in the next two to move from an overnight third into the overall lead. France's' Julien Bontemps stayed in second overall and Poland's experienced bronze medalist at the London 2012 Olympics, Przemyslaw Miarczynski, moved into third with three solid finishes at the head of the 38-man fleet.
"I had a really bad day," Tarnowski said. "I had some plans for the races but they failed. This is my first season in senior. I'm happy with the result but it's always a bad feeling when you're falling from first position. But two guys in my team had a good day. I lost my yellow jacket, but I'm happy to give it to my friend."
French favourites holding on
In the Men's 470,Pierre Leboucher and Nicolas Le Berre, second in the world championships in La Rochelle in August, held their overall lead, winning the second of the two races yesterday to make it four wins out of the last five. Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion stayed in second but France no longer hold all the podium places, but there was some shuffling at the top with Austria's Mathias Schmid and Florian Reichstaedter moving into third.
Manu Dyen and Stephane Christidis, third in the 49er world championship in September, kept the overall lead in the 49er, holding off the two Italian teams who finished ahead of them in the last race.
Sarah Steyaert and Julie Bossard, also third in the women's 49er FX world championships in September, won both the races yesterday to make it six wins out of eight in the small five-team field keep their lead.
Michelle Pernille was disqualified off the start in the first race and the two Norwegians continue to close on her, but still holds the overall lead of theLaser Radial.
Heavyweights slug it out
Two second places for Britain's GilesScottsaw him retain the lead of tough Finn fleet. The first race was won by his team mate Mark Andrews and the second by Poland's Piotr Kula. The top five in the heavyweight dinghy all have a chance of gold. "I'm a few points behind the top 3 but everything is pretty close," Kula said. "After we reached the last leeward mark in the second race there was a group of four of us (Lobert, Deniss Karpark and Giles Scott) and I figured out the shift was coming from the left, went their first and I won the race. But it was funny, because for a moment we were just standing there, not even moving because there was almost no wind for a couple of seconds. It was like a war of nerves you needed to keep cool.
"It's hard but good here. Normally in the breeze when you are front that's pretty much it, but here even if you are fast, if you don't catch good shifts, you will be just the fastest guy in the wrong place."
To the versatile go the spoils
Rio 2016 may not have as light winds as people think andthe sailors will need to have a range of skills. Some were displaying them yesterday after Thursday's bigger winds were followed by the lightest so far.
Inthe women's 470, despite the return of light winds, the bigger Austrian pair of Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar, who were silver medalists at the world championships in La Rochelle in August, won the first race of the day - their third in the row. They were able to discard their 6th place in the next race to keep their overall lead.
Britain's Nick Thompson was the standout sailor in the Laserfinishing 2nd and 4th in the two races of the day as his major and larger rivals struggled in the light airs. Sweden's Jesper Stalheim was 12th and 21st and Germany's Philip Buhl 17th and 22nd. Both races were won by Italians - traditional light wind specialists - with Marco Gallo and Marrai Francesco respectively, prospering, but it underlined Thompson's versatility.
Experience rises in Nacra
The Austrian pair, Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank, ranked number one in the world, took the overall lead in the Nacra, as France's Audrey Ogereau and Matthieu Vandame struggled in the light and slipped back to third.
But there is plenty of experience at the top of fleet. Spain's Iker Martinez and Tara Pacheco won the first race and kept their overall second place as France's Franck Cammas and Sophie de Turckheim enjoyed their best day finishing third then second to move to fourth place overall.
"Today you couldn't cover or sail with the fleet because every 10 metres the boats were going at different angles and speeds so you had to find your own way," Zajac said. "We gained on every downwind. It would be nice to just have downwind races, new system please."
Photo © FFVoille