A mix of British Sailing Team youth and experience will be gunning for gold at the World Cup Series as debutant Sam Whaley lines up among a strong British Laser squad in Hyères, France.
Round three of the 2018 World Cup Series will see 47 British sailors battle it out for honours against a host of Olympic, World and European Champions from 24-29 April as over 650 from 46 nations take to the waters of the south coast of France.
The British Sailing team will be looking to continue a run of good form that includes a gold and four silvers from the recent Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma, Spain, and an even more impressive four golds and one bronze from the last round of World Cup Series action in Miami, USA, at the start of the year.
As well as a place in the World Cup Series Final there is the opportunity to sharpen sailing skills ahead of the Sailing World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, in August, the major highlight of the 2018 racing calendar.
The British Laser fleet will also be looking to gain momentum in French waters as the upcoming Laser European Championships heads to La Rochelle from 5-12 May, and World Cup Series debutant
Whaley is making the most of his immersive Hyeres experience: “It’s my first real taste of being in the squad for a lengthy period,” said Whaley, 21, from Swanage, “so it’s great to learn as much as I possibly can and really take advantage of the opportunity.”
Despite his World Cup Series bow, Whaley is such a bubbly character that nerves haven’t even entered his mind: “I’m just really excited. Just to be on the water in this group is great.”
One of those squad members that has a wealth of experience and knowledge is current European champion Nick Thompson who has been impressed by the young Whaley: “He is definitely a talent. I know he will have a good event but I’m sure he will learn a lot also and we will see him at a lot more of these events in the future.”
Looking at his own chances of improving on his World Cup Series Miami bronze Thompson, from Lymington, Hants, said: “I think it is going to be strong competition as always. It is nice to be back in a small manageable fleet though. To sail in a fleet of 70 rather than the 160 we had in Palma will be good for tight racing, and hopefully I can come away with a medal.”
Thompson and Whaley are joined on the Laser start line by Michael Beckett, Lorenzo Chiavarini and Jack Wetherell while in the Laser Radial Ali Young will be looking to add to her Miami gold and Palma silver from her last two events. Georgina Povall is the other British interest in the Laser Radial.
Sailing together for the first time in Palma Ben Saxton and Nicola Boniface took an impressive silver medal in the Nacra 17, but this time around Saxton is a little more cautious in a fleet that includes the Rio 2016 gold and silver medallists, Argentina’s Santiago Lange and Cecilia Saroli and Australia’s Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin.
“Obviously we had a good result in Palma considering the short amount of time we have been sailing together,” said Saxton, “and we come in to Hyères with confidence, but also we know we are by no means the finished article as we are still a very new team.”
The British Sailing Team boasts two current world champions in their ranks with Saxton the current multihull holder and 49er team Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell the other. Fletcher and Bithell will welcome back James Peters alongside them on the skiff start line as Rhos Hawes steps in to the shoes of stricken crew Fynn Steritt who unfortunately suffered a knee injury ahead of the Princess Sofia Trophy.
In the 49er FX Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey will be hoping Hyères can bring back good memories and medals as the team return to the waters of their first podium as a partnership in last year’s event.
For Dobson though, the journey is more important as the team builds towards the World Championships: “We did really well here last year but we have process goals which we are really focussing on and hopefully a medal can come from us completing those.”
The 470 teams of Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre and Luke Patience and Chris Grube hold up the experience side of the British Sailing Team, while the RS:X has a youth domination running throughout the men’s and women’s entries. Current youth world champion Emma Wilson, 19, lines up alongside Saskia Sills, 21, in the women’s fleet while Tom Squires, 24, and Kieran Holmes-Martin, 23, compete in the men’s.
European champion Ed Wright and U23 champion Henry Wetherell will also go for gold in the Finn alongside Ben Cornish and Hector Simpson as the British aim to show their dominance against a strong line-up that includes home favourite Jonathan Lobert, bronze medallist at London 2012.
Full results are available on the Manage2Sail website on behalf of World Sailing.
Racing begins in Hyères at 1100 local time (0900 GMT) on Tuesday 24 April for all classes with two days of medal racing on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 bringing the action to a close.
Follow all the action at the British Sailing Team’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.