From 1 December onwards, the Europe Rankings will be directly replaced by rankings from ISAF Graded Laser Radial events throughout the world. The first of these events will be the ISAF Grade 2 Christmas Race in Palamos, Spain, from 26-30 December. The rankings for the RS:X, will begin to be calculated as soon as the class is scheduled into ISAF Graded Events.
So for this final ISAF World Sailing Rankings release of 2004 all eyes of the athletes will be in the distant future of 2008. The Olympic dream continues for some for another four years in the same class, for others, the dream will still be Beijing, but the equipment may be different and for others, Athens will have represented the hanging up of their Olympic Buoyancy Aid.
Windsurfer - Mistral
Representing a gradual wind down in the Mistral Class since Athens, there isn't much movement within the fleet, or at least within the top twenty in these final rankings of the year. Since the last rankings on 2 September, Julien BONTEMPS (FRA) has topped the list, followed by Athens Bronze medalist Nick DEMPSEY (GBR). Maxim OBEREMKO (UKR) has moved up from fourth to third ahead of the Polish legend 'Pont' MIARCZNSKI.
Further down the top twenty, Joao RODRIGUES (POR) has continued the climb he began after dropping from third and falling to his lowest position of 26 position. He has now built up a solid list of results including a fantastic sixth place in the Athens 2004 Olympics. What will be interesting to see is whether or not he makes the switch into the Neil Pryde RS:X in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
With only the ISAF Grade 3 Enoshima Olympic Week, held from 15-18 October, counting towards these rankings, on top of previous results from Graded events, movement is bound to be small, and the future remains an unknown quantity as to how these athletes, if they choose, will compare in the new Olympic equipment for 2008.
In the Women's fleet it is again only Enoshima Olympic Week that adds potential further points to the scores of athletes, and as such any movement can be attributed to the timescale of the rankings' calculations and events falling from athletes' counted scores. As a result the top three in the rankings for the Women's fleet remains as it was for the last rankings release from September 2004 following the Olympic Sailing Competition in Athens. Faustine MERRET (FRA), Gold medalist in Athens, remains at the top, followed by Alessandra SENSINI (ITA) in second place and Great Britain's Natasha STURGES in third.
Further back, Olga MASLIVETS (UKR) has jumped from sixth into fourth place and this represents the second biggest climb within the top twenty. Behind her, Anja KAESER (SUI), who finishes off the quadrennium in eleventh place, is up three places from her previous best of fourteenth and notches up her highest ranking position in the last two years.
Single-handed Dinghy Women - Europe
The final Europe rankings of 2004, and indeed for the foreseeable future. It's the faithfully dominant Siren SUNDBY (NOR) who finishes the year where she started off; leading the rankings. It is a position she has held since October 2003, following her victory in the 2003 ISAF World Championships in Cadiz. With plans to move into the double-handed 470, it will be interesting to see if she can build up a dominance in that fleet to match her command over the Europe world.
Sari MULTALA (FIN) has sailed in the shadow of Sundby but a disappointing Olympic regatta by Sari's standards did not affect her position as runner-up in the final Europe rankings and this is where she closes the quadrennium. A serious and dedicated campaigner, it would be a surprise not to see her on the Olympic trail over the next four years. Behind Multala, Petra NIEMANN (GER), despite her tenth at the 2004 Olympic Sailing Competition remains in third place.
Three ISAF Grade 3 events; the Lipno Regatta, United IV and the International Opatija Cup are additions to the final release and as such have relatively little impact at the top end of the table. Min DEZILLE (BEL) however, finishes her Olympic Europe career by popping back into the top twenty.
Single-handed Dinghy Open - Laser
Following the ISAF Annual Conference in November and the inclusion of the Laser Radial as an Olympic Class, the Laser will shortly be re-classified as the Single-handed Dinghy - Men and the Finn will become the Single-handed Dinghy Open. A change in name only, but it is something that ties the Laser and the Laser Radial together.
Michael BLACKBURN (AUS), Australia's answer to Robert SCHEIDT has popped back to the top of the final rankings for 2004, deplacing the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year for 2004 down to second place in the rankings, and Great Britain's Paul GOODISON, who narrowly missed out on a medal in Athens, down to third. All this despite Blackburn's ninth in Athens, but he has built up his ISAF Graded event participation and goes into the 2005 topping the World.
The only ISAF Grade 1 event for the Laser Class was the Asian Pacific Championship, which was held from 30 October to 6 November and won by the young Ricky IRONMONGER (AUS). Ironmonger, who won the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship in 2003 as part of Australia's Nations Trophy winning team, is steadily making a name for himself on the Olympic circuit and is now 54 in the rankings, his highest position to date.
Double-handed Dinghy - 470
In the men's fleet, Olympic Bronze medalists from Great Britain, Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANFIELD have made their intentions to sail for an Olympic medal in Beijing very clear and finish 2004 leading this competitive 470 fleet. They were third after the Olympic Sailing Competition in Athens, but a solid and consistent list of top results has bumped them up to first in time for New Year celebrations.
With only two events adding to teams' potential scores for this rankings release, changes are again probably due to solid performance over recent months and further back, Kazuhito SEKI and and Kenjiro TODOROKI (JPN) are testament to this as their bronze medal in Athens is enough to push them into the top ten in this rankings. Moving up from 11 place following the Olympic Sailing Competition, they will surely continue their rise towards Beijing and 2008.
Behind Rogers and Glanfield, Gabrio ZANDONA and Andrea TRANI (ITA), World Champions in 2003 have jumped back into second place following a dip to fourth after their average result of tenth in Athens. They will now go into the next Olympic cycle with renewed enthusiasm. Behind them third spot is currently occupied by 2004 World Champions Nathan WILMOT and Malcolm PAGE (AUS).
In the Women's fleet Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadege DOUROUX (FRA) remain in a position they have held since 1 October last year. It is a position that they were unable to turn into a medal in Athens however, as the Greek pair of Sofia BEKATOROU and Emilia TSOULFA returned from an injury plagued season to win the Gold medal on their home waters. Their position of 15 in the rankings is predominantly due to the time out that the Greek pair took prior to the Olympic Games.
Behind Petitjean and Douroux, Jenny ARMSTRONG and Belinda STOWELL (AUS) also had a disappointing Olympic regatta following a dedicated campaign. As a result of that campaign they still remain in second place in the rankings and over the last 24 months have won a plethora of Graded events. With the upcoming Southern hemisphere graded events, including ISAF Grade 1 Sail Melbourne and the Sydney International Regatta, they could well cement or even improve their position.
Vlada ILIENKO and Natalia GAPONOVICH (RUS) have been in the top two or three since October last year and in this rankings release lie in third place, a mere 28 points behind Armstrong and Stowell.
Double-handed Dinghy Open - 49er
Chris DRAPER and Simon HISCOCKS (GBR), Olympic Bronze medalists, still hold a 200 point lead over Tim WADLOW and Pete SPAULDING (USA), despite there being no change to the regatta list following the last rankings release on 1 September. With most sailors across all fleets recovering from a hard four years of sailing, and looking tentatively at the next four years, that is hardly surprising.
Chris NICHOLSON and Gary BOYD (AUS) and Olympic Silver medalists Rodion LUKA and George LEONCHUK (UKR) are now in equal third place. Olympic Gold medalists Iker MARTINEZ and Xavier FERNANDEZ (ESP), who were also plagued by injury leading up to the Olympic Games, are down in tenth position, moving up three places from 13.
Single-handed Dinghy Men
Shortly to be reclassified as the Single-handed Dinghy Open, the Finn class has seen sailors jump out of single-handed sailing and into the crewed chaos of an America's Cup match racing team. Olympic Gold medalist Ben AINSLIE (GBR), Rafael TRUJILLO (ESP) and obviously Dean BARKER (NZL), as well as a host of other heavyweight sailors are now in training for the 2007 America's Cup in Valencia, Spain, with various syndicates around the World.
In the meantime there is very little change in the top twenty. The top nine in fact remain as they were three months ago led by Mateusz KUSZNIEREWICZ (POL) and followed by Trujillo and Karlo KURET (CRO). Ainslie himself is in fourth place followed by a list that reads like a who's who of sailing.
With a new breed of Finn Sailors coming to the fray as well as hints of Champions from other classes joining the Olympic family, the next four years could provide some upsets to the established guard and some surprises at the front of fleets around the world.
Multihull Open - Tornado
Tornado Torbole, an ISAF Grade 2 event held on the famous Lake Garda in Italy is the only extra event to be included in this ranking release. The last three months has still produced a new world leader in the form of Roman HAGARA and Hans Peter STEINACHER (AUT). The pair were leading the rankings going into the Olympic Games but dropped to second on the 1 September release. However, their Gold medal in Athens has bumped them back up to the top as they go into the next cycle leading to 2008.
Santiago LANGE and Carlos ESPINOLA (ARG) were leading the Austrian pair after the last rankings release but have now dropped to second. The multiple class Olympic Champions have had a good run over the last two years and will no doubt continue to do so over the next few years. Third place still belongs to the Dutch pair of Mitch BOOTH and Herbert DERCKSEN.
Keelboat Women - Yngling
The first Olympics for the Yngling fleet has been and gone, and the equipment will again be used for 2008 in Beijing. Dorte JENSEN, who was dealt a cruel blow in the final stages of the Olympic Sailing Competition in Athens, still leads the World Rankings along with her crew of Hellen JESPERSEN and Christina OTZEN (DEN). Behind her the top three remain the same after no additional events are to be included in these calculations.
Keelboat Men - Star
Freddie LOOF and Anders EKSTROM (SWE) remain at the top of the ISAF World Sailing Rankings for the Star Class ahead of consistent performers Mark NEELEMAN and Peter Van NIERKERK (NED). With a huge depth of talent within the fleet, Loof and Ekstrom have held onto the top spot with sheer determination.
Olympic Gold medalists Torben GRAEL and Marceilo FERREIRA (BRA) came into the Athens Olympic Games quietly and took the event with a race to spare. The pair continue to climb the rankings going into 2005, which will see the ISAF Grade 1 Rolex Miami OCR as the first significant event for the fleet.
Iain PERCY and Steve MITCHELL (GBR), after a disappointing result by their standards in Athens, have dropped to third in the rankings and with Percy Joining an America's Cup Syndicate it will be interesting to see who takes over the Star Class reigns for Great Britain.
The first rankings for 2005 will be released on 2 Febuary up to and including the ISAF Grade 1 Rolex Miami OCR.