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Hyeres Preview: Australians come out firing at French Olympic Week

by Lisa Darmanin/AST 21 Apr 23:21 BST 21-28 April 2024
Breiana Whitehead (Women's Formula Kite). Australian Sailing Team & Squad competing at Semaine Olympique Française 2024 in Hyeres © Beau Outteridge / Australian Sailing Team

The French Olympic Week commenced today in Hyeres, France where 20 Australian entries are set to battle it out over the coming week. As the first fleets took to the water, Australian sailors revelled in the light seabreeze. Leading the charge in the men's iQfoil qualified nations category is Grae Morris after a day of slalom racing. Meanwhile, Breiana Whitehead sits in fourth in the Women’s Formula Kite, setting the stage for an exciting week ahead.

This year, the iconic event has a unique format, with two simultaneous regattas catering to different objectives. The 'Last Chance Regatta' offers a final opportunity for nations to secure Olympic quotas, with Australia keeping a keen eye on the men's Formula Kite discipline where five spots are up for grabs. In contrast, the 'Qualified Nations' regatta accommodates countries already guaranteed a spot at the Games, presenting an ideal platform for fine-tuning strategies and honing skills.

Australia has entries in all but iQfoil Women, with the Nacra 17 squad not present either as they prepare for their World Championships in just a few weeks in La Grande Motte, France.

After a short delay racing got underway, the light wind start to the day made it challenging for the foiling classes to keep flying, Grae Morris reflected on the day, describing it as “Light and tricky, but we got it done.”

Despite a setback in the first race, Morris remained resilient, clinching impressive results in subsequent races, he went on to explain “I had a bit of a shocker on my first one, I was the leading, but then touched it down (into the water) which wasn't great, but then pulled through for the next one with a two and a one. So, I was pretty happy and had some good learnings.”

For Morris and Whitehead, the French Olympic Week serves as invaluable preparation for the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris. With a smaller fleet of qualified nations, the regatta provides an ideal training ground for navigating the complexities of Olympic-level competition.

The Formula Kite racing completed five races in the building breeze. Whitehead, fresh from her recent triumph at the Princesa Trofeo Regatta in Spain, views the event as a crucial opportunity to refine her skills, “This is the last event before Worlds next month and then we have a bit of a break before Paris, so it's just another chance to check in with the fleet,” said Whitehead.

Both Morris and Whitehead are bound for Paris, with other 2024 Australian Olympic Team members set to hit the water tomorrow, including the newly announced athletes Nia Jerwood and Conor Nicholas in the Mixed 470 and ILCA6 sailor Zoe Thomson. These sailors are joined by the 49er team of Jim Colley and Shaun Connor, as well as FX pair Olivia Price and Evie Haseldine. Olympic Champion, Matt Wearn will also be fighting it out in the 68 boat ILCA7 fleet over the week.

There is a strong contingent of Australian Sailing Team and Pathway Team members who will be pushing hard to make the most of the international racing here in France.

For updates and insights over the French Olympic Week, follow us on socials @aussailingteam for daily updates or head to the event website to find the results.

Australian Sailing Team (AST), Australian Sailing Pathway Team (ASPT), Australian Sailing Futures (ASF) and other Australian entries (AUS) at the French Olympic Week Regatta:

49er – QN – 30 Entries
Jim Colley and Shaun Connor (AST)
Jack Ferguson (AUS) and Max Paul (AST)

49erFX – QN - 9 Entries
Laura Harding and Annie Wilmot (AST)
Olivia Price and Evie Haseldine (AST)

Formula Kite Men’s – LCR – 64 Entries
22nd - Hector Paturau (ASF)
32nd - Oscar Timm (ASF)

Formula Kite Women’s – QN - 24 Entries
4th - Breiana Whitehead (ASPT)

ILCA 6 – QN – 69 Entries
Casey Imeneo (AST)
Mara Stransky (AST)
Zoe Thomson (AST)
Elyse Ainsworth (ASPT)
Evie Saunders (ASPT)

ILCA 7 – QN – 68 Entries
Finn Alexander (AST)
Ethan McAullay (AST)
Matt Wearn (AST)
Zac Littlewood (ASPT)

iQFOiL Men’s – QN - 35 Entries
Grae Morris (AST)
Joseph Folley (ASF)
Matthew Quinlan (ASF)

Mixed 470 – QN – 27 Entries
Nia Jerwood and Conor Nicholas (ASPT)
Ashlee Daunt and Brayden Daunt (ASF)
Sophie Jackson and James Jackson (AUS)

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