Immediately following the Princess Sofia Regatta currently underway in Palma, Mallorca, the second Olympic Qualification Regatta for 2004, the Tornado World Championship, gets underway at the same venue.
By the end of the Tornado World Championships 2004, a total of 17 nations will have qualified for an entry to the Olympic Sailing Event in Athens in August. Five nations qualified at the 2002 World Championship, which was held in Martha's Vineyard, USA, whilst a further seven qualified at the epic, ISAF World Championship in Cadiz, Spain in September 2003. Of these 17, Greece the host nation has qualified automatically.
At the forthcoming World Championship, there were to be a further three qualification places available to nations. Following discussions between ISAF and the IOC however, it was decided to increase the number of places available to the class by adding a further place, for a total of four.
The following nations have already qualified for an entry to the Olympic Games 2004:
So far, all the nations who have already qualified for Athens
were also represented at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Australia, who qualified for Sydney 2000 as host nation, qualified for Athens 2004 at the first opportunity by virtue of Darren BUNDOCK
and John FORBES' victory at the 2002 World Championship. This week's appearance on the startline was confirmed earlier this week by the Australian National Olympic Committee. The Netherlands and Puerto Rico, who qualified at the final opportunity before the Sydney Olympics, have already gone one better this time around in qualifying at the ISAF World Championships last year.
Yet to qualify out of those nations represented in Sydney are New Zealand, Brazil, Russia, Denmark and Portugal, who will all be hoping to take up one of the remaining places available in Palma.
Portugal's Hugo ROCHA, with previous crew Nuno BARRETO, did not fare well in Sydney, suffering from a few too many OCS points. Prior to the Tornado Hugo, with Nuno, was a 470 sailor, and participated in both the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Regattas, placing 24 in Barcelona, whilst claiming the Bronze Medal at the 1996 Olympic Games. Hugo who is Portugal's top ranked helm will be looking to qualify Portugal and make his mark in Athens. Currently sailing with Luis BRITO, Hugo is ranked 26 on the ISAF World Sailing Rankings.
All the nations represented in the world's top 20 ranked sailors have qualified for the 2004 Olympic Regatta. The top ranked unqualified nation is Canada, who are placed 21. Canada was not on the starting line in Sydney, but made appearances in 1996 and 1992. Their current stars, Oskar JOHANSSON and John CURTIS after some mid-fleet opening scores are now placing well at the Princess Sofia Trophy regatta in Palma, and have been improving their position on the world rankings over recent months.
Based on a nation's position in the ISAF World Rankings, the next unqualified nation is Russia, ranked number 22, followed by Denmark, Portugal, New Zealand, Switzerland, Slovenia, Hungary, South Africa, Belgium, Brazil, Poland and the Ukraine.
Interestingly, New Zealand's top placed helm is Aaron MCINTOSH, who won the bronze medal in the men's boardsailing event in Sydney. With crew Mark KENNEDY, Aaron has made a steady climb up the world rankings, moving up from his position of 90 in May 2003, to his current ISAF World Ranking of 45. New Zealand last won an Olympic medal in the multihull open event at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea when Rex SELLERS and Chris TIMMS took the silver medal, to add to their Gold claimed at the 1984 Olympics.
Brazil who claimed the bronze medal at the 1996 Olympic Games through the successes of Lars GRAEL, brother of the renowned Star sailor Torben GRAEL, and crew Kiko PELLICANO, will need to put in some fighting effort to qualify at the Tornado World Championship. Their highest ranked crew, at 65, are Mauricio SANTA CRUZ and Jonathan FARRAR. However, their world ranking place could be attributed to the fact that they are only counting three event results out of a possible seven to their world ranking points.
As well as the all-important Olympic qualification for those yet to qualify, the World Championship represents the competition of the best Tornado sailors in the world. Darren BUNDOCK and John FORBES arguably represent the best of the best with 10 Tornado World titles between them. Bundy and Forbes will be looking for one more World Championship win to tighten their grip on the class leading up to Athens, but the likes of current world number one's, Mitch BOOTH and Herb DERCKSEN (NED), Santiago LANGE and Mistral convert Carlos ESPINOLA (ARG), and a host of other world class sailors will be chomping to deny the Australians another win.