April 17, 2014 (ISN) – The fifth and final International Sailing Federation (ISAF) World Cup event of the season gets underway in Hyères, France next week.
It will see some top-level racing taking place between a host of the world’s best sailors including reigning Olympic and world champions.
Frenchman Pierre le Coq took gold in the men’s RS:X class last time out in Mallorca and the field for the competition on the French Riviera looks one of the strongest of the week, with all three medallists from the London 2012 Olympic Games taking part.
The Netherlands’ Dorian Van Rijsselberge, Britain’s 2013 world champion Nick Dempsey and Przemyslaw Miarczynski of Poland will lead the charge for top spot and will be joined by current world number one Ho Tsun Leung of Hong Kong and Israeli Shahar Zubari, who took gold at the first event of the season in Qingdao, China.
Zubari, who is a bronze medallist from Beijing 2008, has not competed since that opening win, revealing that he has been busy with academic studies in the meantime.
“I’ve been studying at university to get my degree and combining it with some cross training and a bit of sailing,” said Zubari, who took gold in Hyères in 2009.
“Hyères will be the competition to start the year so I’m really looking forward to getting there.
“I feel in good shape and excited to compete.
“Hyères is a well-organised competition, the atmosphere is great and the sea conditions are always challenging whether it’s offshore wind that is really shifty or onshore winds that are really choppy.
“Either way I like it.”
Shahar Zubari has been missing from the ISAF World Cup circuit to concentrate on his academic studies ©Getty Images
The women’s RS:X race looks equally competitive and includes the likes of London 2012 bronze medal winner Zofia Klepacka of Poland, Qingdao gold medallist Peina Chen of China, and Dutchwoman Lilian De Geus and Spain’s Blanca Manchon, who took silver and bronze respectively in Mallorca earlier this month.
The top three in the men’s Laser from Mallorca will battle it out in Hyères again as Australia’s Tom Burton, Jean Baptiste Bernaz of France and Croatian world number one Tonci Stipanovic look to secure a World Cup gold.
The 90-boat-fleet women’s Laser Radial will also see the Mallorca podium-placers; Marit Bouwmeester of the Netherland’s, Finland’s Tuula Tenkanen and Briton Chloe Martin challenging for medals along with reigning world champion Tina Mihelic of Croatia and China’s Dongshuang Zhang and American Paige Railey, who took gold in Qingdao and Miami respectively this season.
Once again the men’s 470 class looks set to provide another week of top class sailing as world number one pairing Mat Belcher and Will Ryan of Australia, who missed out on top spot at both Miami and Mallorca, will be looking to finish the series in style, but will face stiff competition from the likes of Miami gold medallists Sofian Bouvet and Jeremie Mion of France and Croatians Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic, who emerged victorious in Mallorca last time out.
The 84-strong fleet also contains world number two pairing Lucas Calabrese and Juan de la Fuente of Argentina and New Zealand duo Paul Snow Hansen and Dan Willcox, who sit at number five on the world rankings.
Fellow Kiwis Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie will be the team to beat in the women’s 470 competition after claiming seven gold medals and a silver in their last eight regatta outings.
Australia’s Olympic champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen will also look to deny New Zealand gold in the men’s 49er as they take on reigning European and world champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, who will be for a second consecutive World Cup series win.
In all around 1,100 sailors are expected in Hyères as racing takes place across 10 Olympic and two Paralympic classes with the event scheduled to run from April 21 to 26.