Country qualification on the line - 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships
The 2014 ISAF World Championships marks the first event of true significance for Olympic class sailors this quadrennial. Approximately 1400 sailors from 95 countries have descended upon the coastal town of Santander, Spain with Olympic country qualification and the title of World Champion on the line.
Fifty percent of the Olympic country berths and 10 World Champions across all classes will be settled by September 21st. Here is the breakdown of allocated berths:
Class # of boats # of nations 50% Olympic country qualifier
Each class has its rock stars, its wily veterans and the rookies that will make a name for themselves or at minimum have others take notice of their arrival.
The Nacra 17 is a classic example of this with the 2013 defending World Champions Besson and Riou of France arguably in a fight to be the most dominant boat from their own nation with the emergence of legend Frank Cammas teamed with Sophie de Turckheim. Another veteran, Australian Darren Bundock has teamed up with Nina Curtis and have demonstrated that they are a team to be reckoned with. Canadians Luke Ramsay & Nikola Girke (RVYC) will be vying for one of the 10 country spots at this event.
The Finn fleet continues to be dominated by the Brits, with veteran Ainslie being replaced by Giles Scott. Scott is absolutely no slouch having 6 straight regatta victories including the 2014 Test event. Speaking of talented veterans, you cannot overlook Jonas Hogh-Christensen of Denmark, the 2012 Olympic Silver Medallist, two time World Champion (2006 & 2009). Hogh-Christensen has been absent until recently but is making an appearance in Santander to test out his form. Canada’s Greg Douglas, warrants recognition in the ‘who to watch’ category. Douglas is a two-time Olympic veteran and is looking to make his mark in a meaningful way upon the class. Former junior world champion Martin Robitaille will also represent Canada.
The Skiff classes – 49er and 49er FX will without doubt provide some of the most entertaining viewership. These fast paced boats on shorter and challenging race tracks provide a thrill a minute. In the 49er the Olympic Silver Medal winning duo of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke of NZL are unbeaten since June of 2013 and look to defend their 2013 World title. Here to take back the crown is the team of Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen of Australia, the 2012 Olympic Gold Medalists have returned to form and look poised to challenge the Kiwi’s for the crown. Canadians Justin Barnes & David Mori are the top Canadian seed looking to secure top 10 country berth.
On the women’s side the FX team of Alex Maloney and Molly Meech of NZL are the defending World champs and have been on the podium in 10 of the past 11 events sailed. Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze of BRA have shown quality form as of late including a convincing win at the 2014 Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta (Test Event) recently held at the Olympic venue. There are three teams representing Canada in the FX.
The Laser class, 73 countries deep, boast one of the true legends of the sport. Robert Scheidt of Brazil. His 5 Olympic Medals and 9 Laser Class World Titles set him apart from the mortals. As the defending 2013 World Champion he now has a true bulls-eye on his back. After a successful hiatus in the Star class as a World Champion and 2X Olympic Medalist, Robert returned to his roots in 2013 and showed the “younger” men of Olympic class sailing that the grand champ still has plenty of fight in him. Although he casts a lengthy shadow there are numerous challengers to the throne and it will be an all out war in this class. Canada has some worthy challengers with Robert Davis showing solid form all season having moved himself steadily into the realm of Laser class challengers while Lee Parkhill looks to better his 19th place finish from 2013.
In the Radial class Canada boasts one of its top 10 contenders, Isabella Bertold. With a 7th place result in 2013, Bertold appears to be on form to challenge for the title again in 2014. Top performers in the class include, Marit Bouwmeester of the Netherlands and Evie Van Acker of Belgium. Bouwmeester is the 2012 Silver Medalist and has consistently been among the regatta leaders at the majors this year. Equally impressive is Van Acker, the 2012 Bronze Medalist has displayed impressive form over the course of this year and will push the envelope over the course of this event.
The 470 men’s division continues to be the domain of the Australian, Olympic Gold Medalists Matthew Belcher and Will Ryan, their dominance since the 2012 Olympic Games has been truly impressive with such consistency in performance. Amongst the other key players to watch beyond the Aussies are the teams of Luke Patience and Elliot Willis of GBR and Sime Fantel and Igor Marenic of Croatia. The Fantel/Marenic team is one of few teams to beat the Aussies this year, while the defending Olympic Silver Medal winning helm Patience is rounding into solid form with new teammate Elliot Willis and look to dethrone the champs after finishing a close second at the recent European Championships. Canadian Saunders team have been training hard on the circuit this year and will look to capture one of thirteen country spots.
The 470 women’s side has recently been dominated by a quartet of teams led by the 2012 Gold Medalists from NZL Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie, not to be overlooked are the 2012 Silver Medalist Hanna Mills and Saskia Clark of GBR and 2014 European Champions Lara Vadalu and Jolanta Ogar of Austria. Relative newcomers Annie Haegaer and Briana Provancha of the USA also look to make some noise amongst the lead teams.
The RSX Men and RSX Women’s classes include, as with most classes, the dominant long standing performers and some interesting new faces. On the men’s side it is the who’s who from the 2012 Games that leads the charge. Gold medallist Dutchman, Dorian Van Rijsselberge leads the way, coming off his recent nuptials, Dorian looks to re-establish class ownership. Standing in his way are fellow 2012 Medalists Nick Demspey of Great Britain and Przemyshaw Miarczynski of Poland. Canadian Zac Plavsic, fresh off the DL list, will play his hand in the attempt to secure a Rio berth.
The RSX Women’s fleet sees the ever-present Polish contingent and French sailors dominate the upper places on the score sheet, not to be outdone is the always competitive Bryony Shaw of Great Britain. Of any class this one may present the hardest pick to select a clear favorite but one can always be assured that the battle for the podium will be hard fought and come down to the wire in this physically taxing class.
Racing begins Friday September 12th with the Laser and Radial fleets leading us out of the gates and wraps up with the final medal racing from September 18 through 21st. For full details and up to the minute news and scores stay dialed to the Sail Canada website.