Day 4, the first two days of Final’s racing at the 2023 Hyeres Regatta in France, was a test of light and shifty breeze skills and make or break time in a lot of respects, as Australian athletes worked hard to avoid big scores and move up the board, which the likes of Matt Wearn, Casey Imeneo and Mara Stransky did.

A good proportion of those in the Australian Sailing Team (AST), Australian Sailing Squad (ASS) and Australian Sailing Futures (ASF) programs made it through to the Gold fleet Finals that started today. Some excelled in the conditions; others did not find it to their liking.

Two races were planned in the ILCA 6 Gold fleet, but after the second race started, officials abandoned it and sent the fleet ashore. Although the breeze returned, it was the Silver fleet that was sent out to race instead.

Casey Imeneo held steady to move up to second overall after placing sixth in Race 7. She is only four points off the lead. Mara Stransky’s win moved her up to fourth place, six points behind Imeneo.

“Casey and I were second and third (respectively) to the top mark, so that was good. I prefer it when the wind is onshore – and it was today. I like a bit of wave action and that’s what we got in the first race. It made a nice change.

“It’s been an odd week. I made a lot of mistakes. Yesterday was annoying,” Stransky said of her 30th place in Race 6. “I forgot how to sail. I felt a bit scatty.

he Nacra 17s did three races in the afternoon in a lightening breeze. Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin are third. The Rio Olympic silver medallists also did their best in the last race of the day, with sixth place.

“We have three races tomorrow. A lot can happen, as everyone in the top 10 is counting every race. I plan to have three of the best races I can produce,” the Tokyo Olympian said.

Matt Wearn moved up to fourth overall in the ILCA 7, with 7-2 results. He is three points off the lead with a day of Final’s racing remaining ahead of Saturday’s Medal Race for the top ten.

On his slow burn in moving up to fourth place in a variety of conditions this week, Wearn said, “This is the way I’d normally sail a few years ago. It’s good to be back in the groove now and in the results again.”

Pleased with his week’s handiwork, the reigning Olympic champion said, “It’s good that after eight races I’ve got no big scores on the card. That’s what  hurt me at Palma (earlier this month). It’s nice going into final day (of the Final’s) with 10th as my drop. It means I can sail freely tomorrow and not have pressure on myself.”

On his solid performance during the week, Wearn stated: “In this class you can’t afford not to be good across all conditions. That’s what you have to do if you want to win regattas.”

With two more races scheduled tomorrow, the West Australian said, “The points are close, so the plan will be to finish off with a couple more good results.” 

In 10th place overall, Finn Alexander is next best of the ILCA 7 squad and is capable of making the Medal Race based on recent form.

With a third place finish in the last of four races in the 49er, Jim Colley and Shaun Connor moved up a place to sixth overall. A mixed day included disqualification for prematurely starting Race 7. However, those around them also had their ups and downs.

“Today it was important to keep your head level and chip away, pick up a place here and there. In the last race we did get clear at the start and were in third all race pretty much,” Connor said.

Weatherwise, the NSW athlete said, “The day started off with a 10-12 knot easterly and choppy on starboard, then it dropped out a little towards the end of the day. The last race got tricky because the breeze receded and moved to the left.”

Their game plan tomorrow? “We have to get the starts right and be in a better position. We were in the trenches a bit in the first three races today. In terms of strategy, it was clear the top left worked the best, so getting access to that axis is the thing we need to do.

Olivia Price and Evie Haseldine remain best of the Australians in the 49erFX, but like many others across the board, did not produce their best in the light shifty conditions. The pair dropped to eighth overall with a best result of ninth in the day’s final race.

By Di Pearson
AST media