Iker MARTINEZ and Xavier FERNANDEZ (ESP) have marked a fantastic return to the International 49er circuit by winning the 2004 World Championship in style in Athens.
Plagued by injury over the last 12 months, they didn't compete at the 2003 ISAF World Championship in Cadiz. However, with a scoreline that included five first place finishes, they returned to the fray by winning the regatta with a race to spare from Chris DRAPER and Simon HISCOCKS (GBR), 2003 World Champions.
At this moment, the pair are waiting for the decision from the Spanish Sailing Federation to confirm that they will be the team that represents Spain in Athens in August. The news that all the Spanish team wait will be issued before Semaine Olympique Francaise in Hyères - beginning on Sunday
Martínez commented on their result. "It´s great, we have learnt form 2003. We didn´t stop and as a results injuries sent us home. We had good technical preparation with the new boat, and mainly rested my knee over the last months".
As well as the prestigious title of World Champion up-for-grabs at this event, there were vital qualification positions for the Olympic Games available. Five places being available meant the competition intensity was at a high level to the bitter end.
The five countries who have qualified for Athens, subject to ratification by ISAF, are: Finland, France, Ireland, Japan and Sweden. Speaking after racing today, the Irish team of Tom FITZPATRICK and Frazer BROWN were clearly happy having qualified Ireland for the first time in the 49er class.
"We are so happy to finally qualify and relieved at the same time. It will be a dream come true when we get to the start line in Athens, among the worlds best sailors and experience the Olympic Games."
The duo finished 22nd overall at the championships with a fourth place being their best individual performance of the 14-race series.
Other excited people were the Danish pair, Michael HESTBAECK and Dennis DENGSOE who finished the championship in fourth place but with a win in one race. Michael said "Cadiz was a disaster. We had good speed, but were always on the wrong side of the course. Before coming here we decided to be in the Gold fleet and being top half. What is important is that things we are doing have to come through. At the qualifications we were second and capsized which made us lose 10 points. Today everything was going really well."
This event was one of their Trials and Allan NORREGAARD and Klaus NAUR are still leading. We also know that Polish team that will go to Athens in August will be Marcin CZAJKOWSKI and Krzysztoff KIERKOWSKI.
Full results are available on the event website at the address below.
Overall Top Ten
||Iker MARTINEZ/ Xabier FERNADEZ
||Chris DRAPER/ Simon HISCOCKS
||Marcus BAUR/ Max GROY
||Michael HESBEK/ Dennis DENGSOE ANDERSEN
||Tim WADLOW/ Pete SPAULDING
||Christoffer SUNDBY/ Frode BOVIM
||Allan NORREGAARD/ Klaus NAUR
||Marc AUDINEAU/ Stephane CHRISTIDIS
||Stevie MORRISON/ Ben RHODES
||Thomas JOHANSON/ Jukka PIIRAINEN