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16 February 2004, 11:16 am
502 Sailors From More Than 30 Nations To Sail On Olympic Waters
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Athens Eurolymp

Athens Eurolymp consists of four days of racing, commencing Wednesday through until Saturday, with 11 races scheduled for each event, except the 49er fleet which is scheduled to sail 16 races.
The fleets have a mix of the world's best who will be back in Greece for the 2004 Olympic Regatta, together with many national and continental level sailors.

The Star, Yngling and Finn will sail from the Nautical Club of Voula, the 49er's, Mistral men and women and Tornado from Agios Kosmas Beach, the 470 men and women from Olympiakos SFP, and the Laser and Europe fleets from Kalamaki.

The 470 men's fleet fields four of the top 10 world ranked crews, including local heroes Andreas KOSMATOPOULOS and Kostas TRIGONIS (GRE), on which there is much hope for an Olympic medal. Over in the women's fleet reigning world champions Sofia BEKATOROU and Emilia TSOULFA (GRE), will be hoping to defend their win from the 2002 event and continue to exert their domination on the women's fleet. In contention against them in the 17 boat fleet, will be four other crews from the world's top 10.

The largest fleet in Athens is the Laser, where 90 boats from 26 countries will be hoping to oust the defending title holder and world ranked number 4, Kalle SUNESON (SWE). Up against Suneson will be four other top 10 ranked sailors, although missing is the reigning world champion Gustavo LIMA (POR).

The Finn class is somewhat diminished, with the Finn Gold Cup taking place at the same time in Brazil. This may give way for a new hero to emerge, possibly in the form of Alexandros DRAGOUTSIS (GRE), who finished eighth last year, and is the top placing sailor from 2003 competing again in 2004. Dragoutsis is world ranked number 63.

Distinctly missing from the men's Mistral fleet is another local hero, Nikos KAKLAMANAKIS (GRE), due to a training programme abroad. Nikos won the event last year, and no doubt the sailor finishing behind him in second in 2003, will be wishing to convert this place to a win in 2004, and as the world's number 11 ranked sailor Nick DEMPSEY (GBR) will have every chance of doing so. However, ahead of him are some of the world's best, including the 2003 World Champion `Pont' MIARCZYNSKI (POL).

The women's fleet hosts the 2000 Olympic Gold Medallist, Alessandra SENSINI (ITA), who won the event in 2003, along with four other of the world's top ranked sailors Mistral sailors, so competition will be tough.

The 49er fleet welcomes the reigning World Champions and world's number one ranked team, Chris DRAPER and Simon HISCOCKS (GBR), and hosts in total 6 of the world's top 10 crews. Last year's Athens Eurolymp winners in the 49er fleet Iker MARTINEZ and Xabier FERNANDEZ (ESP) are back and ready to defend their title.

The Star and Tornado fleets are relatively small. To watch in the Stars are the two Italian crews of Francesco BRUNI/Anta Vigna GUIDO and Roberto BENAMATI/Filippo DOMENICAU, world ranked 22 and 27 respectively. Italy qualified for the Keelboat Men - Star event at the 2004 Olympic Regatta from the results of Francesco BRUNI at the 2003 ISAF World Championship in Cadiz, but as yet the crew that will represent Italy at the Olympics has yet to be chosen. These two crews are very close.

Over in the women's keelboat event, the 15 boat fleet sees Russia's Ekaterina SKOUDINA and crew return to defend the title they won last year. However, one place ahead of Ekaterina in the world rankings at number 13 is team mate Anna BASALKINA (RUS) and crew who will be after the number one position. Russia qualified for the 2004 Olympic Regatta at the ISAF World Championship in Cadiz last year from the results of Ekaterina.

Valuable Grade 2 world ranking points are on offer from the Athens Eurolymp, along with a performance which for some will count towards their respective country's Olympic selection process.

Confirmed entries received as at the end of last week, were:
Class Total No of Entries Number of Countries
Laser 90 26
Europe 54 21
Finn 15 7
49er 47 19
Yngling 15 9
Mistral Men 39 13
Mistral Women 27 12
470 Men 33 17
470 Women 17 12
Tornado 7 4
Star 8 3

Part of the all-Olympic class Eurolymp circuit, Athens is followed by Olympic Garda in Italy in early March and Barcelona Olympic Week, Spain at the end of March.
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