Main Photo: Jim Colley Shaun Connor 49er. Photo by Beau Outteridge

Australian sailors showcased their skill and determination amidst challenging conditions at French Olympic Week in Hyeres, securing two silver medals and positioning themselves strongly for Paris 2024

Grae Morris, at just twenty years old, dominated the fleet, entering the final in first overall. Whilst he had to settle for silver, when asked if he expected to be fighting for medals just months from the Games, he said jovially

“One hundred per cent, I’ve been a believer since childhood, you can just ask my dad and my mum.” Morris added, “You do sport to win and I want to win.”

Matt Wearn faced frustration with cancelled racing and only a point between himself and first place. After securing silver, Wearn was preparing for a who-beats-who battle for Gold in today’s double point race that was ultimately cancelled in the ILCA7 class.  

The Olympic Champion commented, “It’s doubly frustrating, as yesterday we didn’t get a third race in for whatever reason, so that meant I couldn’t exercise gains with my drop. Then today it’s perfect conditions and we’re not out racing, but that’s the decision we’ve got to deal with.” 

Wearn continued, “From here on we’re based in Marseille. I’ve got a few coaches regattas to do along the way, which will be good. Just ticking those final boxes before we get into the Games.”

Australia had three sailors in the ILCA7’s top 10 with the strong performances of Wearn’s teammates Ethan McAullay and Finn Alexander. Wearn is proud of the legacy they have as an Australian squad, he commented, “It’s great to have three Aussies back in their medal race. It’s a good sign of things to come.”

The resilience of the Australian ILCA6 women was highlighted this week along with their talent and unity. Squad coach Carolijn Brouwer echoed Wearn’s frustration, “I’m really gutted that we didn’t sail today, especially in the ILCA class, I think we could have pushed a bit harder it would have been a cool medal race to watch, and Mara (Stransky) and Casey (Imeneo) were really pumped up to get out there and battle the elements.” 

The focus is now all on the Games for the squad and Brouwer emphasised their commitment to supporting Olympic-bound Zoe Thomson, “We head back to Marseille, where the hard work continues. We’ve got the squad keen to come and support Zoe, we’ll be spending a lot of time there.”

Townsville athlete, Breiana Whitehead’s impressive fifth-place finish, coupled with her third-nation ranking, positions her as a formidable contender for the upcoming Olympic Games.  Whitehead will stay in Hyeres, France where the Formula Kite World Championships will be held 14th to the 19th of May. 

Meanwhile, the skiff classes battled the challenging conditions, with the FX sailing predominately in the moderate unstable breeze in the morning, whilst the 49er men faced strong and shifty afternoon winds. All Australians put some solid results on the board as they progress towards Paris 2024 and beyond. 

470 sailors Nia Jerwood and Conor Nicholas battled it out at the top of the standings all week until they were punished with big points on the last day, collecting a black flag for being over the line early and finishing the regatta in 10th. The pair will head down the road to Cannes, France for the 470 European Championships to be held from May 7th. 

This event also served as the last chance for nations to qualify for Olympic quotas, Australia was racing for a spot in the men’s Formula Kite discipline, however with only five spots remaining it was too much of a reach this time around for the Australians fighting for a place at the Games. 

Australian Sailing High Performance Director Iain Brambell, emphasised the invaluable experience gained at this weeks event, “The split between the Qualified Nations and the Last Chance Regatta in Hyeres was an excellent opportunity for our Aussie sailors to experience highly competitive yet reduced fleets, enabling our sailors to test out Games specific strategies and tactics.”

He continued, “Accessing these fleets was a critical advantage to both our Paris 2024 selected sailors as well as those with their sights firmly set on podium success in LA 2028.”

Brambell affirmed the team’s readiness for the challenges ahead, “Hyeres provided a mixed bag of conditions that the team showed immense tenacity in and truly affirmed that the Australian Sailing Team will be coming to Marseille firing on all cylinders for the Paris 2024 Games.”

Whilst many sailors are heading to the Olympic waters for training, there is still plenty of racing to come in May for the athletes to fine tune their skills ahead of the Olympic regatta which will take place July 28th to August 8th in Marseille.

Full results can be found here