Team France Goes All Out To Select Best Squad For ISA Worlds

 

Team France ISA World Stand Up Paddle ChampionshipGotta hand it to the French – they sure know how to punch above their weight when it comes to SUP races. Not content with simply hosting one National SUP Racing Championship, the national federation has organised a special event next month that’s half-training camp/half-second round of qualifying and will feature the very best talent in the country.

The six day camp will involve four different races (in addition to lots of training) that, combined with results from last week’s nationals, will decide once and for all who the two fastest guys, and fastest girl, really are in France right now. The whole aim is to strengthen the talent at the elite end of stand up paddling in the country, while also ensuring the nations ends the absolute strongest paddlers to Nicaragua next May, for the 2014 ISA World Stand Up Paddle and Paddleboard Championship.

After last weekend’s “Championnats de France Stand Up Paddle Racing” aka France’s National SUP Racing Titles, the team for Nicaragua

The special half-training half-qualifying event will be held 13th-18th December on the West coast peninsula of Quiberon. It’ll feature two different Beach Races (the European name for Battle of the Paddle-style SUP racing) plus two Long Distance events. Only a dozen of France’s top paddlers will be there, making this a very elite affair, while the squad will be whittled all the way down to the top two guys and one girl by the end of the week, with those three earning a trip to Nicaragua.

As the results from the “Championnats” are counting for 50% of the qualification, we already have a pretty good form guide and can guess pretty closely who will make the team…

In the women’s it looks to be a battle between Olivia Piana, twice an ISA World Champs French Team representative, and Céline Guesdon, with the pair locked on 1.5 points after trading victories at the nationals last week. Olivia was three minutes clear in the two hour distance race but Celine was too quick around the Beach Race course, so it’s hard to split these two at the moment.

Meanwhile on the men’s side it’s probably a three horse race between the long-time, undisputed king of French SUP racing, Eric Terrien, the dark horse newcomer Titouan Puyo, and young gun Arthur Arutkin. Those three filled the podium on both the Distance and Beach Races at the Nationals and have a solid lead on the rest of the French guys heading into December’s special qualifying week. Another rising star, Arthur Daniel, is probably the only one close enough to move up into the top two.

Even for the other guys who don’t make the final team, this squad of 12 paddlers is a good sign for the strength and depth of talent in the region. Gaetene Sene has long been one of Europe’s fastest, while Yoann Cornelis was a national representative at Peru 2013. Meanwhile Martin Letourneur and Gabriel Bachelet are a couple of young guns following in the footsteps of the two Arthurs. It’s also great to see one of the original stalwarts of SUP racing in France (and Europe) Greg Closier back in action after six months out of the water through major injury.

We’ll know for sure who’s made the team this time next month, but either way we can safely assume that France is going to have a very strong SUP racing presence at the ISA event next May. Whoever is on the squad will have thoroughly deserved it…

Here’s the list of competitors, including their current total points after the first two of four results:

Eric Terrien: 3.5 points
Titouan Puyo: 3.5 points
Arthur Arutkin: 4 points
Arthur Daniel: 8 points
Gaëtan Sene: 11 points
Martin Letourneur: 15 points
Gabriel Bachelet: 16 points
Yoann Cornelis: 17 points
Grégory Closier

Olivia Piana: 1.5 points
Céline Guesdon: 1.5 points
Sarah Delauney: 6 points

This is a very interesting twist on national team qualification and will also give us a pretty solid look at the rankings of SUP racing within France, one of the top paddling regions in the world (I’d rank France 4th behind Australia/Hawaii/US). Yes, you could argue this is a whole lot of effort to fill three just spots in a national team, and it’s likely this wouldn’t work logistically in many other countries, but I think it’s a pretty cool idea.

Also how the French managed to organise not one but two separate national qualifying events in the space of a month, while at the same time some of the biggest nations in the world of SUP can’t organise one, is beyond me. So whether you think this extra effort is worth it or not, my hat/beret goes off to the Team France for ensuring they get their Nicaragua team selections spot on.

We’ll keep you posted next month with how the event goes and who qualifies for the ISA World SUP Championship.

(photo credit: quoideneufweekend.com)