#isafworldcup – Ireland will be hoping to repeat last year's silver medal performance when the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Hyères, France starts next week. The Olympic sailing campaigners will be in action with podium results the main target for crews that last year made the gold fleet cut in both the Radial and 49er classes. Unfortunately, this year there will be no Irish mens Laser sailor because under a new rule only the top 30 racers have qualified to compete from the ISAF's world rankings.
Irish interest is not limited to just the sailors either. Irish international judge, Gordon Davies of Bray, is on the international jury for the ISAF event.
The finest sailing talent on the planet will assemble in Hyères, France from 20-26 April for the next instalment of the ISAF Sailing World Cup.
Elite level fleets in all ten of the Olympic events will put their skills to the ultimate test with 40 of the world's best in each class. ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères marks the first occasion where fleets are decided based on the ISAF World Sailing Rankings and a qualification regatta.
The world's top 30 sailors from the 2 February 2015 ISAF World Sailing Rankings release were invited to Hyères with the remaining ten receiving their spot at ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères qualification regatta, Trofeo Princesa Sofia.
From now, until 21 April, 600 Olympic sailors in 400 boats and 39 Paralympic sailors in 25 boats will train, prepare and tune up ahead of the first racing day on 22 April. A four day racing series will build up to the Medal Races on Sunday 26 April where titles will be won and ISAF Sailing World Cup Final spots snapped up.
49er and 49erFX
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) come into ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères as the pair to beat in the 49er. Seventeen consecutive wins since their silver medal exploits at London 2012 have solidified their position as the ones to beat. The manner in which their victories have come has been outstanding, in many cases winning with a day to spare and even missing out a day of competition to attend the 2014 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards Ceremony.
With the countdown to the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition truly on it would be hard to bet against the Kiwis but their rivals are pushing hard.
Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel (GER) remained in contention with the Kiwis at the recent Trofeo Princesa Sofia whilst Nico Delle-Karth and Nikolaus Resch (AUT) come into the event full of confidence following their victory at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami. Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) will renew their winning partnership after Jensen sailed with Joel Turner in Miami and they will certainly be in the fray in the French Riviera.
With a packed start line of the world's best 49er talent from day one, the level of competition all the 49er sailors will face will be of the highest quality.
ISAF Rolex World Sailors of the Year Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) will spearhead the 49erFX fleet, aiming to defend the title they won 12 months prior.
The Brazilians won by eight points over Kiwis Alex Maloney and Molly Meech in 2014 and Grael described Hyères as, 'the best week ever'. With the likes of Maloney and Meech, who recently won ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami, Trofeo Princesa Sofia regatta winners Maiken and Anne-Juline Foght Schütt (DEN) and the dangerous Marie Olsen and Ida Marie Nielsen (DEN) and Charlotte Dobson and Sophie Ainsworth (GBR) on the startline it's set to be another great week of competition.
Laser and Laser Radial
It will be a who's who of Laser and Laser Radial sailing in Hyères with 40 of the finest one-person dinghy sailors within each fleet.
Such is the nature of both fleets that clear favourites would be hard to determine with a mixture of recent regatta winners in the Laser and the Laser Radial.
On a fine run of form, however, is Belgium's Evi Van Acker who has finished on the podium at the last five regattas she's competed in, winning the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi, UAE last November. A veteran of nine previous Olympic class regattas in Hyères the Belgian took her first title on French waters in 2014 and will be back to defend her title.
World #1 and 2014 World Champion Marit Bouwmeester (NED) will join the Belgian, renewing their long running rivalry once again. Anne Marie Rindom (DEN) will be firmly in the hunt alongside the London 2012 silver and bronze medallists having beaten them both to gold at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami in January.
In the Laser, World #1 Tom Burton (AUS) has had an up and down time in 2015 with an 18th at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami and a fifth at Trofeo Princesa Sofia. Burton will make a welcomed return to Hyères having won the last two ISAF Sailing World Cup editions on the French waters.
Germany's Philipp Buhl heads into Hyères in fine form with two wins from his last two regattas. Victory at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami and Trofeo Princesa Sofia will give him confidence in a fleet that's packed full of some of the finest athletes in the world.
Names such as Matt Wearn (AUS), Robert Scheidt (BRA), Tonci Stipanovic (CRO), Pavlos Kontides (CYP), Jean Baptiste Bernaz (FRA), Nick Thompson (GBR), Nicholas Heiner (NED), Andy Maloney (NZL), Sam Meech (NZL) and Charlie Buckingham (USA) ensure the fleet is of the highest calibre.
Giles Scott (GBR) is on a run of nine consecutive Finn regatta victories. His form is impeccable and he will come into Hyères as the man to beat.
Much like Burling and Tuke in the 49er, Scott has won the majority of his regattas by an emphatic margin. Consistently at the top and barely putting a foot wrong Scott has blown his opponents away but Hyères is a regatta gold that does not feature on his mantelpiece.
From four previous appearances, Scott's best result is a second behind compatriot Andrew Mills at the 2013 edition with a seventh coming in 2011, a fourth in 2009 and a 39th in the Laser in 2005. Nonetheless, with an unrivalled run of victories in the Finn, Scott will fancy his chances to add a further gold to his impressive repertoire.
Pieter Jan Postma (NED) won his first ISAF Sailing World Cup gold medal in Hyères in 2014 and will be back to defend his title. Further strong competition will come from World #1 Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO), Thomas Le Breton (FRA), Ed Wright (GBR) and Vasilij Zbogar (SLO).
Throughout the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup series Billy Besson and Marie Riou (FRA), Darren Bundock and Nina Curtis (AUS) and Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri (ITA) were the dominant trio, sharing the podium on a number of occasions.
Whilst the form guide shows that at least one of the breakaway trio will be on the Hyères podium, their stranglehold has been infiltrated recently with a number of teams making impressions on the fleet.
Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin (AUS) took a well-deserved bronze at the 2014 ISAF Worlds and followed this up with gold at ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne, which also confirmed their place on the 2015 Abu Dhabi Final start line. The pair will be aiming to make an impression in Hyères.
A strong British team will also be on the startline and they will be buoyed by recent successes. Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves (GBR) finished second at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami whilst John Gimson and Hannah Diamond (GBR) picked up silver at Trofeo Princesa Sofia. Gimson and Diamond are a relatively new Nacra 17 pairing and with their silver, qualified for ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères.
Men's and Women's RS:X
French sailors will be at the forefront of the Men's and Women's RS:X fleets In Hyères. Julien Bontemps and Charline Picon made it a double French gold at the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships in Santander, Spain and they have continued that form in 2015.
At the recent Trofeo Princesa Sofia, Picon claimed the women's gold whilst Bontemps narrowly missed out on gold in the men's via countback.
On their home waters in Hyères they will want to continue their good form but face strong opposition.
Kiran Badloe (NED) had the beating of Bontemps at Trofeo Princesa Sofia and will head over to Hyères full of confidence. Fellow Dutchman and London 2012 Olympic Champion Dorian van Rijsselberge will be on the startline as will the strong Polish trio of Przemyslaw Miarczynski, Piotr Myszka and Pawel Tarnowski.
With a strong winter training period behind each competitor, the level of competition in the Men's RS:X will be one of the highest ever seen.
Joining Picon in the Women's RS:X fleet will be World #1 Flavia Tartaglini, ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami gold medallist Bryony Shaw (GBR) and London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Marina Alabau (ESP).
Men's and Women's 470
Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (NZL) and Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark (GBR) will renew their longstanding rivalry in the Women's 470 in Hyères. Ever since their final day winner takes all battle at the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition, which saw the Kiwis take gold, the pair have battled it out at the front of the pack.
2014 World and European Champions Lara Vadlau and Jolanta Ogar (AUT) will miss out on Hyères. Nonetheless the fleet will feature an abundance of big game contenders such as 2013 Hyères gold medallists Fernanda Oliveira and Ana Barbachan (BRA), Hélène Defrance and Camille Lecointre (FRA), Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) and Anne Haeger and Briana Provancha (USA).
In the Men's 470, as with any regatta they attend, Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) will be amongst the favourites. Since their partnership formed, they have featured on every ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta podium they have competed at, winning five gold medals, two silvers and a bronze.
Most recently Luke Patience and Elliot Willis (GBR) pushed the Aussies back at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami taking the spoils and they'll be back in the mix in Hyères. Further teams that will be in the hunt in Hyères are Lucas Calabrese and Juan de la Fuente (ARG), Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic (CRO), Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis (GRE) and Stu McNay and Dave Hughes (USA).
Hyères will feature 18 sailors in the 2.4mR and seven teams in the Sonar.
At the 2014 edition of ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères, Heiko Kroger (GER) and Damien Seguin (FRA) had an epic final race winner takes all battle in the 2.4mR. The German came from behind to defeat Seguin and take gold. The rivalry will be renewed in 2015. The 18-boat fleet features a number of leading contenders who will want to come between Kroger and Seguin. London 2012 Paralympic gold medallist Helena Lucas (GBR) will be in the mix as will her compatriot Megan Pascoe.
Bjorner Erikstad (NOR) won ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami in January and will also fancy his chances in Hyères.
In the Sonar, John Robertson, Steve Thomas and Hannah Stodel (GBR) will return to defend their title. Joining them will be World Cup Miami gold medallists Aleksander Wang-Hansen, Marie Solberg and Per Eugen Kristiansen as well as 2014 Hyères silver medallists Bruno Jourdren, Eric Flageul and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary (FRA).
Team Providence Ireland will be racing at ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyères from Wednesday 22 April. Medal Races on Sunday 26 April will bring the regatta to a close.