4 September 2014 – Issued on behalf of ISAF – A pocket of Nacra 17 and Finn racers will head into the Santander 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships marked as favourites following exceptional results throughout 2014.
However with the stakes high and tension mounting there will be plenty of competitors aiming to peak and upset the form book in the Spanish city. The Nacra 17 fleet will feature 75 boats from 31 nations whilst the Finn pack sees 76 sailors from 32 nations.
As well as world titles being awarded 50% of Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition places will be won based on results in Santander. The top ten nations in the Nacra 17 and top 12 in the Finn will take the first Olympic spots.
Throughout 2014 the Nacra 17 fleet has seen a small handful of crews dominate proceedings. Billy Besson and Marie Riou (FRA), Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri (ITA) and Darren Bundock and Nina Curtis (AUS) have shared ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta podiums throughout the 2013-14 series and will be serious contenders in Santander.
Bundock and Curtis started their series off exceptionally well by taking gold at ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne. Bronze medals followed in Mallorca and Hyeres and they are in a good spot. “We want to try and win there or at least be in the top three and on the podium, ” said Bundock, “but to win it would be very nice. It’s a nation qualifying event for the Olympics but it’s also a qualification event for our funding next year. We need to do well there.”
The Australians have jostled with the French and Italian teams all year and Bundock realises the threat they pose, “Billy’s always very consistent. He’s always quick and he’s always sailing well and he’s doing everything right at the moment. All year it’s been Billy and the Italians [Bissaro and Sicouri] who have been the most consistent ones so we’re just plodding along.
“The Italians won in Miami, Hyeres and at the Garda event and they won Kiel as well so they’ve had a pretty good year. Vittorio and Billy have dominated this season.”
Besson and Riou took the inaugural Nacra 17 world title in 2013 and will be aiming to defend that title in Santander. When asked at the Rio test event, which he won, if he thinks he can win the worlds again Besson exclaimed with a smile, “Yes, why not? We don’t know the spot because we’ve not been but after Rio we will go for ten days training.
“It’s really important for the Federation to get the qualification spot for the Olympic Games so every racer wants to be at the top to get that spot.”
The Italians have finished on the podium at every regatta they’ve competed at in 2014. They took gold at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami and Mallorca, Garda and Trentino Olympic Week and Kieler-Woche. Silver medals at World Cup Mallorca and at the European Championships handed them the World #1 spot and they will be challenging for the world title come race day.
Ben Saxton and Hannah Diamond (GBR) were runners up to Besson and Riou at the 2013 worlds and will be aiming to go one better in Santander, “We wouldn’t say no if that was given to us as an opportunity, ” said Saxton on the subject of moving a step up the podium. “One thing for sure is that there will probably be a load of boats. It will probably be the best racing we have done yet and there will probably be a mix of conditions. That’s what we’re getting ready for because you never know whether it’s going to be a windy rainy week or a light wind sea breeze week. We’ll just try and sail consistently.”
The Nacra 17 fleet features several strong sailors who are all aiming to peak in Santander. Australia, Spain, France, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the USA have great depth within their national squads with experience in abundance. The likes of Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank (AUT), Luke Ramsay and Nikola Girke (CAN), Sofia Bekatorou and Konstantinos Trigkonis (GRE), Gemma Jonas and Jason Saunders (NZL) and Matias Buhler and Nathalie Brugger (SUI) will also be fighting for the top spots.
In the 76-boat Finn fleet it will be hard to bet against Great Britain’s Giles Scott who is on a run of six straight Finn regatta victories.
The manner of Scott’s execution and victory has been astounding with those six victories coming in a convincing manner. At the 2014 Aquece Rio International Sailing Regatta 2014, Scott sealed gold with a day to spare. He blitzed the field at the European Championship in La Rochelle, France in May but knows the real test will come at the Santander 2014 ISAF Worlds. After the Finn Europeans Scott said, “I am very happy with how things are going at the moment and where I am at, and now I’m looking ahead to the bigger events later in the season.”
The biggest event of the season is just days away and Scott knows what it takes to win. His last World Championship appearance came at the Perth 2011 ISAF Worlds where he struck gold and he’ll no doubt want to add a second world title and continue his unbeaten in Santander.
The Finn fleet features a number of experienced and strong competitors who will want to put Scott’s run to an abrupt end in Santander.
Pieter Jan Postma (NED) has always mixed it up at the head of the fleet and has picked up silver and bronze medals at previous Finn world championship regattas. A World, European and World Cup gold medal has always eluded Postma but his breakthrough came at ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres in April 2014 where he took his first major title.
After racing in Hyeres Postma said, “Up to today during major events something went wrong in the end. I set myself straight. This now feels like a break, I can win. I have put so much energy into it over the past decade. This growth has been in recent years. If you look at the Olympics, which of course was a huge thing, on sailing quality I deserved a medal but I failed to rise above.
“Now I have to overcome it, so it feels very special.”
With a mental block overcome the flamboyant Dutchman will be gunning for Finn gold at his ninth consecutive Finn world championship.
Unlike his competitors, 2013 Finn World Champion Jorge Zarif (BRA) does not have the pressure to qualify his nation for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. As host nation Brazil automatically receives one spot in the Finn and whilst Zarif has the hunger for victory he will be using Santander to look to master his technical attributes, “We are preparing our material, mast, rigs and everything for the Olympic Games in two years, ” said Zarif. “If we have close conditions and something like Rio then we can have a good result there. If it’s really strong and very different then it might be hard for us because we are doing different things and I hope it will work.”
London 2012 Olympic silver medallist and 2006 and 2009 Finn World Champion Jonas Hogh-Christensen (DEN) will use Santander 2014 as his comeback regatta. The Dane channelled his efforts away from sailing and into the music industry following London 2012 success and Santander came at the right time for the Dane, “This World Championship fits nicely into my schedule, ” said the Dane to avisen.dk, “It’s really important to get the national spot in our house so I hope I can help Mads Bendix and Danish sailing qualify but it’s super cool to get on the water again.”
The 26-year-old Bendix finished mid-fleet at ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca and Hyeres and will no doubt benefit from Hogh-Christensen’s guidance in Santander. As for Hogh Christensen his future plans are far from concrete, “As it stands right now, the Olympics does not fit into my planning but it’s certainly not because I do not have the desire. I do not have the form right now but I can promise that I will work in the gym and then see what I can bring.”
Sailors from 32 nations will be aiming for one of 12 Rio 2016 Olympic spots. Further competition will come from Greg Douglas (CAN), Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO), Deniss Karpak (EST), France’s Thomas le Breton and Jonathan Lobert, Ed Wright (GBR), Josh Junior (NZL), Vasilij Zbogar (SLO), Bjorn Allansson (SWE) and Caleb Paine (USA).
The Nacra 17 and Finn fleets will kick start their competition on 15 September with the start of the qualification series. That will conclude on 16 September with five races for the Nacra 17 and four for the Finn scheduled over the opening two days.
The final series will commence on 17 September with 18 September the scheduled reserve day. Two further days of final series on 18 and 19 September will conclude fleet racing with the podium places to be decided in the Medal Races on 21 September.