Today, ISAF published the latest rankings release, the penultimate one before the start of the Olympic Sailing Competition on the Saronic Gulf.
The rankings show who, over the last two years of competition, has been regularly competing at the highest level in the Olympic circuit.
What the rankings do not show is perhaps a little more important. Involved in the America's Cup, some sailors such as Dean BARKER (NZL) have returned to the Olympic fray, but due to their absence from international competition appear lower down in the rankings. The absence of some world class athletes from the top echelons of the rankings is due to the logistically difficult issue of travel to some of the ISAF Grade 1 events throughout the world, meaning their ranking position itself may not truly reflect their standing on the world scene.
What one must look at in all rankings releases is not necessarily the actual position of an athlete, whose points are calculated using regattas from the last two years, but how their position is changing.
ISAF will be publishing a complete event-by-event preview to the Olympic Sailing Competition, following the release of the provisional entry lists yesterday, over the coming weeks, before the final rankings before Athens are released on 3 August.
Back to the ISAF World Sailing Rankings and this time around there are several new events included in the rankings calculation; not least the All Olympic Class ISAF Grade 1 Kiel Week, the final All Olympic Class Grade 1 event before Athens. Racing during the week was hampered by strong winds, with the breeze barely dropping below 20 knots for the whole regatta.
For the 470 class, they now include the results from the European Championship, as well as Kiel week, as does the Mistral Class. The Laser Class includes the ISAF Grade 1 North American Championship among a host of other Grade 2 and Grade 3 events.
Windsurfing Men and Women - Mistral
(FRA) has popped back to the top of the ISAF World Sailing Rankings following his second place finish at the Mistral European Championships, held in Poland recently, replacing Ukraine sailor Maxim OBEREMKO
at the top, who finished a place behind him in Poland.
has moved up into third position from fifth, with Nicolas HUGUET
(FRA) and European Champion Przemek MIARCZYNSKI
(POL) dropping to fourth and fifth respectively. With the exception of Huguet, all of the top five will represent their nation in Athens in August and will most definitely be some of the ones to watch.
Greece's likely representative, who in the last 12 months has opted to concentrate his training on a personal level, cannot be discounted when it comes to possible medal winners in Athens. Nicos KAKLAMANAKIS
, currently sits 17 in the rankings and has dropped since the last release in June. However, at the last few top class events he competed in, he has finished close to, if not at the top of the results. Coupled with those achievements, he has won both the 2004 and the 2003 test events and clearly knows the sailing area well.
In the Women's fleet, Faustine MERRET
(FRA) completes the current dominance of Olympic Windsurfing by the French and it is a position she has held for the last couple of months. Natasha STURGES
, the Aussie turned Brit, has popped up into second place, replacing Romy KINZL
(GER), who has dropped to fifth. European Champion, Lise VIDAL
(FRA), who will not be representing France in Athens, is currently sixth in the rankings.
2004 World Champion and 2000 Olympic Gold medallist Alessandra SENSINI
(ITA) has stated her intentions in Athens with a jump from 14 in the rankings to third following her fourth place finish at the European Championships in Poland. Meanwhile, another big mover within the top twenty, Australia's Jessica CRISP
, her sixth place in Poland giving her the maximum number of events to include in the rankings, will no doubt be a force to be reckoned with in August. She finished fifth in Sydney and is looking good for Athens.
Another big mover is Spain's Blanca MANCHON
. Since finishing second at the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships in Lunenberg in Canada in 2002, she has upped her game to Olympic level and her nation's hopes will be upon her in Athens in August. She finished second at the Europeans in Poland and looks all set to perform in the big one in August.
Single-handed Dinghy Women - Europe
(NOR) continues to dominate the Europe fleet and holds her top spot ahead of Petra NIEMANN
(GER) in second place. All of the top six remain as the last rankings release and, alongside the addition of Carolijn BROUWER
(NED) and Sarah BLANCK
(AUS) in seventh and eighth positions, you'd be a brave person to bet that the Gold medal will not come out of these top eight.
Having said that , Germany's Olympic Team is, at the time of publication, unconfirmed and there is the added presence of Serena AMATO
(ARG), who prefers not to compete all that much on the Olympic circuit, but has two Olympic appearances and one medal under her belt already.
(SLO), who will represent her nation in Athens, has moved up the rankings since June with a fourth place at Kiel and looks in good shape going into Athens.
Single-handed Dinghy Open - Laser
The old master of the class is at the top of the World Rankings yet again. Having won the World Championships a record seventh time, Robert SCHEIDT
(BRA) is in a position that many Laser sailors aspire to and he is proving again that he is peaking at the right time to challenge for another top honour at the Olympic Games. Michael BLACKBURN
(AUS), Paul GOODISON
(GBR) and Gareth BLANCKENBERG
(RSA) follow him closely in the rankings in positions 2,3 and 4, alongside a host of the other top sailors chasing hard at their heels.
Big movers inside the top twenty include Roope SUOMALAINEN
(FIN) who has improved his position from 20 to 15 following his admirable fourth place at Kiel Week. Gustavo LIMA
(POR), who wrestled Scheidt from his perch during the ISAF World Championships in Cadiz in 2003, currently lies in ninth place behind Andreas GERITZER
(AUT), who is now in eighth place after finishing as runner-up in Kiel.
Double-handed Dinghy Men and Women - 470
and Joe GLANFIELD (GBR) look like they are going to peak at the right time in their quest to better their fourth place finish (by a single point) at Sydney 2000. They recently won the class European Championships in Croatia and as a result have lifted their standing in the world rankings to second, behind the ever consistent Nathan WILMOT
and Malcolm PAGE (AUS).
World Champions Wilmot and Page will represent Australia in the Olympic Games and will not only come up against Rogers and Glandfield, but also Argentina's finest, Javier CONTE
and Juan de la FUENTE, whose relative absence from some of the highest graded ISAF events does little to their position on the rankings, or their ability to win when it really matters. They beat Rogers and Glandfield in Sydney and are looking to go one stage further this time around.
Some of the big movers in the men's fleet over the last month include Dmitry BEREZKIN
and Mikha KRUTIKOV (RUS) who move into the top twenty in the world. They will be in Athens representing Russia at their second Olympic Sailing Competition as a team, and Berezkin's fourth in the Men's Double-handed Event.
The Women's fleet looks fairly stable going into the Olympic Sailing Competition with the top three having not moved since the last rankings release in June and the rankings still being led by Ingrid PETITJEAN
and Nadege DOUROUX (FRA). It is a position they have held for a while now and was cemented by their recent top five finish at the European Championships this year in Croatia.
The position of Nike KORNECKI and Vered BUSKILA (ISR) has always been a little understated. Two top ten finishes in the last two 470 World Championships among other results have earned them the right to represent Israel at the Olympic Games. Their ranking position has reflected their constant top ten results and they now lie fourth in the rankings ready for an assault on the fleet in August.
Mario Fernanda SESTO
and Paula REINOSO (ARG) are another pair who are peaking well in time for August, their move from 14 to tenth in the rankings prompts a look at their recent performances and despite perhaps not competing in as many ISAF Grade 1 events, they finished third at the 2004 World Championship and look in touch with the top of the fleet at the high pressure events where it counts.
Double-handed Dinghy Open - 49er
The top five in the 49er class have not changed in the last month and are still led by the British pair of Chris DRAPER
and Simon HISCOCKS followed by their good friends Marcus BAUR
and Max GROY (GER) and Rodion LUKA
and George LEONCHUK (UKR).
Competition has been so tight in the 49er fleet that in many cases there were multiple teams from particular nations towards the top of the rankings. This is a pattern that is slowly diluting as the cream floats to the top now that the majority of sailors have been selected for the Olympic Sailing Competition by their National Olympic Committee (NOC) and the top five are all from different nations and are the athletes that will represent their nation in Athens.
Some notable recent movements within the top twenty include Allan NORREGAARD
and Klaus NAUR (DEN), now up to seventh place ahead of rivals and fellow countrymen Michael HESTBEK
and Dennis ANDERSEN. With the Danish entry unconfirmed at the time of writing it will be interesting to see which of these two teams is sent to Athens.
Single-handed Dinghy Men - Finn
With the 2000 Gold medallist in the class now pulling moves in the Keelboat men's fleet, it might be left to the 1996 Olympic Gold medallist Mateusz KUSZNIEREWICZ
(POL) to return to his Gold medal winning ways. If the latest rankings release is anything to go by then the Polish sailor has been waiting in the wings ready to up his game and push back to the top of the class, a position that has been almost exclusively Ben AINSLIE
's (GBR) in recent times.
The remainder of the top two places are also held by Olympic veterans, Rafael TRUJILLO
(ESP) sailed in Sydney as a Star crew, and after finishing third in the 2003 World Championship, as well as a good few years hard work and dedication, he is now in second place ahead of Karlo KURET
(CRO), who, when his plane touches down in Athens, will be arriving at his fourth Olympic Games in the Finn Class, more than any other current Finn Sailor selected for Athens.
Ben AINSLIE, the three times World Champion and Olympic Gold medallist in the Laser in Sydney has dropped to fourth place, mainly because of a drop in attendance at the ISAF Grade 1 events, as he concentrates his training towards Athens.
Multihull Open - Tornado
and Peter STEINACHER (AUT) have popped into the top position in the rankings and will top them going into the Olympic Sailing Competition. This year's World Champions, Santiago LANGE
and Carlos ESPINOLA (ARG) have dropped into third place behind Mitch BOOTH
and Herb DERCKSSON (NED). Along with Olivier BACKES
and Laurent VOIRON (FRA), Darren BUNDOCK
and John FORBES (AUS) and a number of other world-class multihull sailors, it is very difficult to predict medal winners.
Most recent form would suggest either winners of the European Championship or maybe the highest placed sailors at the last Olympic Games. It just so happens that that team is one and the same. Darren BUNDOCK and John FORBES (AUS), silver medallists in Sydney, multiple World Champions and winners of the last two Tornado European Championship have seen their ranking position damaged due in part to a difficulty the pair face in attending some of the multi class grade 1 events. Their results in World Championships count highly though, and they'll definitely be wanting to go one better in Athens than they did in Sydney.
Keelboat Women - Yngling
There are still only 12 nations represented in the top twenty of the Yngling rankings, a fact that shows the competitive nature of this newest Olympic equipment. However, Dorte JENSEN
(DEN) who has led the rankings for sometime, is to be the sailor who represents Denmark in Athens. Two German teams led by Ulrike SCHUEMANN
and Christina WAGNER
follow her in the rankings, and at the time of writing it is not confirmed who'll be attending the Olympic Sailing Competition on behalf of Germany.
Like the top three, the rest of the Yngling rankings have remained fairly stable, something that was not apparent 12 months ago when there were many new faces coming on the scene and these dedicated athletes were beginning to get to grips with their new steeds.
One of the biggest movers is in fact from Janneke HIN
and her crew from the Netherlands, who are gradually building up their pocket of events and have moved up from 25 to 20 in the world. Although Annelies THIES
and her crew will represent Netherlands in the class, the improvement of Janneke is perfect for the future.
Keelboat Men - Star
Nobody knows who'll win the medals in the two person keelboat men in Athens, it's an almost impossible thing to call such is the depth, experience and talent in the fleet. One thing is for certain, current leader of the rankings, Freddie LOOF
and Anders EKSTROM (SWE) will not be far away when the medals are given out at the end of racing. They have led the rankings now for over a year and the 2004 World Champions are not going to let that dominance go without a fight.
Close on their heels however are friends and rivals Iain PERCY
and Steve MITCHELL (GBR), with both skippers knowing each other from the Finn class in which both won medals in Sydney 2000, the rivalry is bound to be tight but fair.
Most of the Olympic protagonists spend much time and resources sailing against each other in this fleet at almost all of the ISAF Grade 1 events where the Star is included and as such there is generally little points movement. It is difficult to move around the rankings in the fleet.
For a more detailed guide to the athletes who will be on the start line at the 2004 Olympic Sailing Competition, ISAF published the Provisional Entry Lists on 6 July 2004,