Olympics, fight grows for final slots: here’s the situation here in Hyères

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Olympics
A 470 attempts the approach to the first disengagement buoy with 20 kn
© Sailing Energy / Semaine Olympique Française; 22 April, 2024

Second day of racing in the waters between Hyères and the Porquerolles, with the
Semaine Olympique Française 2024
proceeding in alternating wind shifts, rotations and major changes of direction. A day that lasted from 11:00 a.m., time of the first start, until 6:00 p.m., with the 80+ nations present engaged on the different circuits belonging to their respective classes. In an atmosphere full of expectations, anxieties and tensions, a thousand athletes continue their confrontation, whether it is to win the last Olympic passes, to test the competition at the Paris Olympics or to test their potential at the highest level. The atmosphere here in Hyères, in short, is by no means to be underestimated, and the “game” is getting more and more serious.

French Olympic Week 2024

The more trials disputed, the more indicative a picture is outlined and the stakes rise, increasing anxieties, tensions and focus. With the second day of practice held in decidedly variable conditions, we are still far from the conclusion of the event, and the atmosphere here in Hyères leaves no doubt: no one is here to play. And on this front, the weight of attention falls perhaps more on the backs of the Italian athletes in LCR (Last Chance Regatta), that is, the 4 crews who, here, see the highest stakes on the horizon: the Olympic pass. In this case, almost positive results again today. Here is our “report” from the second day of racing at SOF 2024.

  • Find the article about the first day of racing HERE. Want to know the classes featured in the 2024 Olympics? We explain them HERE.
Olympics
One of the iQfoil class starts | © Sailing Energy / Semaine Olympique Française; April 22, 2024

SOF 2024: under pressure

Competitive sailing has always been a particularly competitive sport. In a different way, perhaps, from many other activities, but no less so. Indeed, willing to concede, it is almost a step beyond, influenced as it is not only by one’s own abilities but also by a whole range of external elements that, if not elusive, are certainly beyond one’s control. A key prerogative, in sum, is a very high level of adaptability and, therefore, a good deal of confidence in oneself and one’s ability to read one’s surroundings, one’s possibilities, and the choices of others. All while creating that perfect balance that simultaneously allows one’s hull to run more than any other. Not exactly a recipe for peace of mind-and here in Hyères it shows.

The ILCA area at the Base Nautique

Confidence in oneself and one’s abilities is perhaps the key. Without it, the house of cards collapses, anxiety and tension take over, and concentration drops, and with it the results. A shared, homogeneous, almost “talked about” parameter. It is best revealed by the Swedish team, but it seems to be a shared formula among the athletes, and among the enemies, obstacles to this, the main one is perhaps the weather factor. Everyone is well aware of their ability to perform, but there are ideal contexts and contexts, on the other hand, that are more inhospitable…

I know very well when I can give it my all, when I am allowed to be aggressive, when the conditions are perfect for pushing and flying the boat… but if the conditions are not right, if they stray too far from that suitable context, I know just as well that I am weaker, that I have to be defensive, and there I slip… the anxiety of losing the advantage prevents me from reading the race course, the wind on the water, and the trajectories to the best of my ability. It all becomes a defensive game about others and it wears me down…”

Keeping that confidence high is a matter of concentration, of detail. This is what emerges, and the only solution is not to get out of it, and, here, it is fully seen by observing the athletes, moving from one class to another, arranged among the different slides and water accesses that Base Nautique has to offer. Everywhere, the concentration is palpable, everyone is in a bubble, unapproachable. Even more those still hunting for the slot … marked on sight by teams, almost afraid of disturbing even passing by, peeking at preparations from afar. And today’s weather certainly didn’t help relax the nerves….

Formula Kite (M) | LCR 22.04

SOF 2024: the weather front and the “interims”

At 10:00 a.m. the situation is confusing. One low pressure center, far to the east over Italy, two low pressure centers to the north. Gusts of 40 knots are reported in Marseille, 36 in Genoa, and the surrounding areas have plenty of air of their own. All around it is windy, except in Hyères, and shifts in fronts will determine the day. The briefing prior to the “boats on the water” signal confirms this prediction.

11:00 a.m., 7 knots. Starting 49er class, Last Chance Regatta. The bulk of the fleet is “in the boat,” few counterstarter hulls. After 4 minutes into the first upwind the wind already turns left (west) by at least 5 degrees, and the balance is reversed, the few free parties tack and are ahead. Those who struggled to get off to a good start, in the boat, now pain. The wind drops again, 4 knots. At the second windward mark, having reached the buoy, it is desolation: 2 knots, and the wind turning. Trial cancelled. And that’s just the 49er field…not far away the Formula Kite field doesn’t even have a “kite” in the air and you can’t see the athletes: there’s no wind and the boards “don’t float.” All over the field it’s all cancelled, it will wait, bad for nerves (but manna from heaven for those who had been screwed by the wind shift).

Olympics
First turnaround for 49er LCRs, before trial cancellation

Around 12 noon the air returns, settling at 10 to 12 knots for a good hour. It is, however, shot in the West Northwest. The practice day begins again with gradual increases in wind. At 4 p.m., 22 knots were recorded. Exactly that context that can put one in crisis, that can hurt one’s concentration. Each trial is different from the previous one, each time is a reset. To the Azzurri crews in LCR pay…

Olympics
Elena Berta and Bruno Festo (ITA 6) during the first race of the day © Sailing Energy / Semaine Olympique Française | 22 April, 2024

The 470 LRC Azzurri give high hopes, flying in 18 to 20 knots of air-or so we record at the windward mark. The provisional ranking reads a first and a second homegrown, with Elena Berta and Bruno Festo (ITA 6) recording a 1-2, overtaking Giacomo Ferrari and Alessandra Dubbini (ITA 3), who were first yesterday and second today. Third is 9 points (net) behind. The 49er Azzurro suffers the day a hair more, aided by a race course more exposed to wind vices. It is still Top 10, however, with Umberto Crivelli Visconti and Giulio Calabrò (ITA 88) provisional fourth and Simone Ferrarese and Leonardo Chisté (ITA 23) tenth. Leading, here, is the Belgian crew Lefèbvre/Heuninck.

Women’s iQfoil © Sailing Energy / Semaine Olympique Française; April 22, 2024

On the QN front, and thus in the trials intended for the Qualified Nations, 27th Manolo Modena in the Men’siQfoil , one of the three young iQFoil athletes the Federation brought here, to taste “the Olympic air” while the selected ones are doing dedicated preparations. They record an 18th and 20th Oprandi and Renna, respectively, in the women’s. Closing the ranks are Lorenzo Chiavarini, Olympic selection for theILCA 7 Azzurro, and Dimitri Peroni, today 17th and 25th respectively on the 68 in the provisional.

Overall, a multifaceted day filled with anticipation, changes of route and conditions. One of the least suitable settings for one’s form to shine. But the level here is very high, and the next four days will be used to draw conclusions.

Olympics
Lorenzo Chiavarini (QN) | © Sailing Energy / Semaine Olympique Française; 22 April, 2024

 

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