The US Sailing Team Sperry (national team) has gathered in southern France for Sailing World Cup Hyères (April 27 – May 1), the third event in sailing’s premier international Olympic-classes regatta series. Competing at the 2016 edition of the event will be 574 sailors from 47 nations, along with the Rio 2016 U.S. Olympic Sailing Team representatives in 7 of 10 classes. Hyères will also serve as the final event in US Sailing’s Rio 2016 Paralympic Athlete Selection Series in the 2.4mR and Sonar classes.

“For many, this will be the last European racing event before all of their focus shifts back to training in Rio,” said Charlie McKee (Bend, Ore.), US Sailing’s High Performance Director. “This regatta is another gauge of how our preparations are going in a super-competitive environment.”

Hyères looks set to deliver challenging conditions to the hundreds of athletes in attendance. The region’s famously strong “Mistral” wind has been in place for the past three days, with sustained speeds of over 25 knots, and is forecast to remain present for the first day of racing. “The conditions we expect to see here are not totally similar to what we will likely get in Rio, but you have to be prepared for everything,” said McKee. “Hyères is one of the iconic European racing venues. Another great thing about racing in France is that sailing is a popular and mainstream sport here. The excellent organization of this regatta, and the overall spirit of this place all reflect that.”

Sailing World Cup Miami presented by Sunbrella Day 4

Pictured: Smith (left) and Rosenfield (right), Paralympic 2.4mR.

U.S. Olympic Sailing Team selection concluded earlier in April, and McKee says that the national team is now entering a new phase of its strategic plan. “Now that the Olympic selection events are behind us, our sailors can totally focus on what they need to do to prepare for the Games,” said the Seoul 1988 and Sydney 2000 U.S. Olympic medalist. “We are entering the final stretch [before Rio 2016]. It’s a difficult field of play since all countries are working hard. We are excited about our Olympic team, and are looking forward to this next phase. We are also wishing U.S. Paralympic hopefuls the best of luck this week as two classes end their selection process.”

In the Paralympic 2.4mR class, the US Sailing Team Sperry’s Charlie Rosenfield (Woodstock, Conn.) leads Dee Smith (Annapolis, Md.) and Kevin Holmberg (Tampa, Fla.) in the two-event selection series for Rio based on the results from January’s Sailing World Cup Miami, Presented by Sunbrella. In the Paralympic Sonar, Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), Brad Kendell (Tampa, Fla.) and Hugh Freund (South Freeport, Maine) lead the two-event Sonar selection series based on the results from the 2015 Para World Sailing Championships.

In the Olympic classes, the US Sailing Team Sperry’s Stu McNay (Providence, R.I.) and Dave Hughes (Miami, Fla.) are coming off a podium performance (bronze) at the 470 Class Open Europeans in Palma de Mallorca Spain, and are looking strong after also medaling at Sailing World Cup Miami (gold) and Palma’s Trofeo Princesa Sofia (silver) earlier this year. The Women’s 470 team of Annie Haeger (East Troy, Wisc.) and Briana Provancha (San Diego, Calif.) finished 4th at the Open Europeans, and will attempt to make the podium in Hyères for a second time in three years. Women’s RS:X athlete and 2015 Pan American Games bronze medalist Marion Lepert (Belmont, Calif.) is fresh off a breakthrough performance at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia, where she finished 10th overall and won the medal race.

Racing at Sailing World Cup Hyères (April 27 – May 1) will begin on Wednesday, with medal races taking place on Sunday. American sailing fans will be able to watch medal race action LIVE online at WatchESPN (ESPN3).

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Pictured: Stu McNay (Providence, R.I.) and Dave Hughes (Miami, Fla.), Men’s 470, US Sailing Team Sperry.

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