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Hyères Preview: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics (USSTAG) and US Sailing Development Team (USSDT) members made the mad scramble to get to Europe – anywhere in Europe! – to compete at French Sailing Week in Hyères, which starts Sunday. While the flight restrictions to Europe were lifted Tuesday after last week’s volcanic eruption in Iceland, the airlines are still trying to accommodate all the disrupted travel plans. As a result, several USSTAG members were left grounded in the U.S., on hold with their favorite airline representative, pressing refresh on a travel web site or getting creative with their itineraries. The athletes who stayed in Europe to train after Princess Sofia in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, drove to France and picked up other lucky USSTAG members who managed to get flights into any European airport.

French Sailing Week, or Hyères as it’s commonly called, is the fourth of seven events in the 2009-2010 International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Sailing World Cup series for Olympic and Paralympic class sailors. Once racing starts, check the USSTAG web site for updates, results and photos:

Here are two examples of travel stories from athletes who finally made it to France:

Sarah Chin, Women’s 470 class (Hoboken, N.J.)
Amanda Clark and I finally made it to Nice airport! Only took 30 hours of travel! I really thought this trip would never come to fruition after the events of the past 7 days. Between the two of us we experienced 5 cancelled flights before finally finding an itinerary that would work: we visited three continents in order to get to Hyères! New York-Miami-Caracas, Venezuela-Madrid-Nice. But we are here and that is all that matters now. And we are ready to if only my bag would arrive (was a no-show at the baggage claim in Nice)! The airline thinks it's stuck in Madrid and will hopefully deliver it tomorrow.

Zach Railey, Finn class (Clearwater, Fla.)
[USSTAG’s High Performance Director/Head Coach] Kenneth [Andreasen] and I flew to Atlanta and then to Madrid and then had to buy tickets on another airline to get to Barcelona. That’s as close as we could get to Hyères. Debbie [Capozzi] met us in Barcelona and we waited for Bryan Boyd to drive up from Valencia where he was training. All four of us then piled into the car with all our gear and boats in tow and made it to Hyères after a 7 hour drive!! Finally here and had the first day sailing. I’m glad we got lucky and were able to make it.