|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|
Franck Cammas is cherishing his first bullet and looking forward to a big fight on Sunday, some have their calculators out or are acting casual.
Returning Supermum, Zofia Klepacka is so far ahead she is planning her Saturday night out in La Rochelle and around them the rest are stripping down their boats ready to go home.
Such was the scene in Les Minimes boat park as the Semaine Olympique Française in La Rochelle looks forward to its super Sunday medal races with the destination of the gold still not decided in nine out of the ten classes. Only the top 10 go through the medal race and with double points scored in the medal races things can change quickly.
A day of brutally light air with the wind appearing in pockets and as easy to predict as bubbles in a boiling pot, saw some leaders upset and new favourites emerge. Five or six knots of patchy wind ebbed as the day went on and some classes only managed one race. There is a similar forecast for Sunday.
The new Olympic class is the most open with four teams separated by just four points at the top of the leaderboard, all in with a chance of gold.
Britain's Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond jumped from fifth to first by winning the first and third races on Saturday, making it three wins out of the last four races. But level on points with them are France's Volvo Ocean Race winner and all-round star, Franck Cammas and his crew Sophie de Turckheim, who won the second race of the day in only their second full regatta in the boat. Three points behind them are Spain's Iker Martinez and Tara Pacheco and one point further back are France's world champions, Billy Besson and Marie Riou.
The overnight leaders, Austria's Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank and France's Audrey Ogereau and Matthieu Vandame, who were in third place after leading over the first two days, struggled in the uncertain conditions and spent a frustrating day well down the fleet as their hopes evaporated.
For Saxton and Diamond, both 23, who have known each other since they were 10 and racing optimists, it is an extraordinary position. They have no previous multihull experience. "It's great, I was watching them (Cammas and Martinez) on TV sailing the Volvo Ocean Race last year and now I'm racing against them, it's cool and we'll just try and beat them now." Saxton did however struggle to get his head round the 26-year age gap; with a combined age of 72 Cammas (40) and de Turckheim (32) are the oldest crew in the fleet. "Wow…" he said. "…hey, we could get an extra person in our boat."
Despite their wins the British acknowledged the conditions were a struggle. "It was really unstable today," Saxton said. "The race we came seventh in, halfway up the first beat we looked like were going to win it by a mile. We were doing two laps and it was just really patchy will small gusts and not bands where you get into the right lane and play the fleet. Someone five boat lengths away from you could be gaining lots. But we like all conditions, the mix has suited us this week."
An animated Cammas was cherishing their first win and was only disappointed to have lost three places after having to a penalty turn in the last race. "It's the first bullet we've got in to our life on this boat," he said. "It's good to learn how to win. For sure these wind conditions are very good for us because there is not a lot of technique with the boats and we are fast because we are light also. It's like the Volvo Ocean Race, there will be a new match with Iker Martinez and I intend to win. If we win the race we win the week, it's easy to understand."
It was a great day for Holland in the Laser. After watching his rivals twist and turn in the lack of breeze, Holland's Rutger van Schaardenburg, the silver medalist at the European Championships in September, leapt into a clear eight point lead from an overnight fourth place. If he finishes fourth or better in the medal race he will take the gold. But it could have been ever better as he finished seventh in the third and last race of the day and Italy's Marco Gallo finished fourth to move into second.
Two points behind Gallo, Britain's Nick Thompson could only chalk the day up to experience. Thompson had led by 12 points going into Saturday but finished 20th in the first race and then 22nd in the third race to leave him 10 points behind the leader. The man who finished ahead of him in bronze in the Europeans, Sweden's Jesper Stalheim, had an even tougher day, finishing 25th and was disqualified in the last race.
Thompson is part of a large pack all with hope of the podium; 12 points separate seven skippers from Gallo in second to Croatia's Daniel Mihelic in eighth. Mihelic made the most spectacular leap by winning the last two races. But Holland's Nicholas Heiner put himself into a great position for a medal by winning the first race and finishing third in the second to move just two points behind Thompson.
"It will be a really interesting race, I will go out there and try to win the race but I think if I'm fifth or sixth then it's all safe," van Schaardenburg said and was not phased to find out he had to be fourth. Hopefully you have the freaky conditions you had to today because I feel lucky here. It's like this today; if every jump you make is the right one it all connects, but if it doesn't connect then it's tough on you."
Thompson can vouch for that. "You'd think you'd definitely be in the top five guaranteed about half way up the beat and then it would completely 180," he said. "I took a gamble on all three (races) and got it wrong. The second I did OK but the other two I put myself in a sensible position, not trying to win an end, not doing anything too flash, just hedged my bets and it didn't come in. The nature of being in the middle is that when either side comes in you don't get anything."
Thompson did not expect to see any covering from Rutger and expected the medal race to be a straight shootout. "It's pretty close all the way down for the rest of us but Rutger's in a pretty solid position, he just goes out and does what he can in the race and he's got a nice cushion," he said. "For everyone else you've got to out and try and win the race."
The women's Laser will see a much closer shootout with the top three separated by just four points. France's Marie Barrue won both races to move into second and onto the shoulder of compatriot Pernelle Michon, from La Rochelle, who was third then second and is four points ahead. Norway's Martha Eide Enge, who had been level on points with Michon overnight, finished seventh in the small eight-boat fleet to finish third, level on points with Barrue.
With the wind dying completely in the afternoon just one race was possible, but it was enough for Britain's Giles Scott, the 2011 world champion, to increase his lead to seven points over Estonia's Deniss Karpak. If Scott finishes fourth or better he will take gold. But five sailors have a chance of gold - 14 points separate Scott and France's La Rochelle local, Jonathan Lobert, in fifth - and there will be a fierce fight for podium places. The top five have been in a different class in all conditions and were at the front even in Saturday's conditions. Scott was second as Poland's Piotr Kula won his second race in succession, closing the gap to Britain's Mark Andrews in third to just three points.
With a 16-point lead at the top of the women's RS:X just three month after returning from the birth of her second child, Poland's Olympic bronze medalist, Zofia Klepacka is understandably confident. If she finishes eighth or better in the 10-sailor medal race she will take gold.
"It's finished I think, the girl behind me has a lot of points," the Supermum said. "I will go and enjoy the evening and night in La Rochelle. Tomorrow, I will look for a good start, look around for the wind, 'where is the wind?' Because I hear the medal race is going to be inside the harbour."
In the two races yesterday, Klepacka was fourth and then sixth, her lowest position in the 10 races in the regatta. France's Eugenie Ricard gave herself a mathematical chance by finishing third then second. New Zealand's Natalia Kosinska is two points behind her overall.
"I'm a little surprised to see the Polish at this level," Ricard said. "It's always better to be ahead before the medal race. But you never know what can happen. I've not made great starts, but then I've been moving through the fleet."
Poland look set to make it a clean sweep of the RS:X with the Piotr Myzska nine points clear at the top of the mens's RS:X. If Myzska, the 2010 world champion, finishes fifth or better he cannot lose. But France's Julien Bontemps, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist and world champion in 2004 and 2012, closed the overnight 13-point gap to 9 by winning the first race of the day and then finishing second as Myzska finished fifth. With five French sailors and three from Poland in the top ten the tactics could get interesting in the medal race. Poland's experienced bronze medalist at the London 2012 Olympics, Przemyslaw Miarczynski, is ten points behind Bontemps in third and France's Pierre Le Coq just two points behind him.
"I have to concentrate on Julien for sure in this race and it will be enough if I am close behind him," Myzska said, "but of course if there are options to attack I will try to win the race."
Austria's Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar, who were silver medalists at the world championships in La Rochelle in August, won the only race possible on Saturday extending their lead to five points. If they finish third or better on Sunday they will take gold. France's Camille Lecointre and Helene Defrance could do no better than fourth but have a 16-point cushion to the Brazilian team of Renata Decnop and Isabel Swan in third place overall.
France's Pierre Leboucher and Nicolas Le Berre, second in the world championships in La Rochelle in August, lead by a solitary point from compatriots Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion in the men's 470. There was some internal drama after Leboucher and Le Berre reluctantly followed instructions from their temporary coach, Stéphane Jaouen, to match race Bouvet and Mion out of contention in the only race possible on Saturday
Jaouen is normally the men's RS:X coach, but France are playing musical chairs this week to encourage an ideas exchange. It went spectacularly wrong as Leboucher and Le Berre attempted to control their team mates at the start but succeeded only in winning a double penalty turn. They trailed in 20th as Bouvet and Mion finished fifth. "We want to change our coach," Le Berre joked.
But it looked to be the right tactic and with the third place boat 23 points further back, they should probably try again today. Leboucher and Le Berre knew they would be able to discard this race if needed whereas it would have ended the hopes of Bouvet and Mion, who finished 17th in the previous race, on Friday.
Women's 49er FX
France's Sarah Steyaert and Julie Bossard, third in the women's 49er FX world championships in September, are the only guaranteed gold medalists. They won both the races yesterday to make it eight wins out of ten. They lead by 14 points and with the small five-team fleet cannot be caught.
France's Manu Dyen and Stephane Christidis, third in the 49er world championship in September, stretched away from two Italian teams and lead by 15 points. They finished third and then second as Stefano Cherin and Andrea Tesei stumbled to two seventh places behind them. If the French finish eighth or better they will take gold.
Photo © Thomtouw