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15 April 2004, 10:05 am
Wacky Races on Day One
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49er World Championship & Olympic Qualification Regatta
Athens

After a year missed through injury, it was a momentous return to form for Spaniards Iker MARTINEZ and Xabier FERNANDEZ on Day One of the 49er World Championships in Athens.
Having dominated the 2002 season with victories in the 49er Worlds and Europeans as well as many Grade 1 international events, both helmsman Martinez and crew Fernandez took it in turns to be injured throughout 2003. Unable to defend their World title on home waters in Cadiz last September, some were beginning to wonder whether they could ever re-establish their dominance of past years.

A scoreline in today's qualifying races of 4,1,1 suggests they can, although it is very early days, and defending World Champions, Great Britain's Chris DRAPER and Simon HISCOCKS, are just a point behind with race finishes of 1,2,4. "It was a nice day's sailing," commented Draper. Whether others saw it that way is arguable, however, as the sudden unexpected gusts played havoc with the fleet. "The wind was quite changeable," he admitted. "It was blowing 8 to 10 knots in one race, until the final run when it got up to 25 knots." Boats were capsizing left, right and centre, and many failed to finish within the time limit. The USA's recently selected Olympian Pete SPAULDING injured his leg quite badly, although with helmsman Tim WADLOW managed to record a reasonable score to be lying just outside the top ten.

Considering the wildly variable conditions, it is surprising just how much the fleet is running to form at this early stage. Just behind Draper and Hiscocks are their training partners, Norwegians Christoffer SUNDBY and Frode BOVIM who were second in Cadiz last year, and Germans Marcus BAUR and Max GROY, fifth at the last Worlds. Britain's Paul BROTHERTON and Mark ASQUITH are the exceptions, currently lying in 23rd overall, although they managed to climb from a similar position last year to finish fourth in Cadiz.

No one takes anything for granted at such early stages of a World Championship. With the 82-boat fleet currently divided into three qualifying groups, all you can do is sail your best and try not to worry what the rest are up to. With another two days of qualifying to go, the first priority is to book a ticket into the 25-boat Gold Fleet final, where the battle really intensifies. The priority for the competitors this evening is to check over their boats after a grueling first day, ready for round two of qualifying tomorrow.

Top Ten After Three Races

Pos Helm/ Crew Nation R1 R2 R3 Pts
1 Iker MARTINEZ / Xabier FERNADEZ ESP 4 1 1 6
2 Chris DRAPER/ Simon HISCOCKS GBR 1 2 4 7
3 Christoffer SUNDBY/ Frode BOVIM NOR 2 2 4 8
4 Markus BAUR/ Max GROY GER 5 5 1 11
5 Christopher RAST/ Christian STEIGER SUI 3 4 5 12
6 Rodion LUKA/ Georgy LEONCHUK UKR 3 8 2 13
7 Marc AUDINEAU/ Stephane CHRISTIDIS FRA 8 2 3 13
8 Stevie MORRISON/ Ben RHODES GBR 2 6 5 13
9 Chris NICHOLSON/ Gary BOYD AUS 1 7 7 15
10 Michael HESBEK/ Dennis DENGSOE ANDERSEN DEN 1 5 10 16
Camille Parrain (As Amended by ISAF)
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