The first of six ISAF World Sailing Rankings releases prior to the Olympic Games in Athens have been released today following the culmination of the Rolex Miami OCR last week. There are new leaders in three of the classes.
The remaining two ranking releases will be published after the Olympic Games, for a total of eight releases in 2004.
Many sailors will have seen the last two all Olympic Class, ISAF Grade 1 events - Sail Melbourne, and the Rolex Miami OCR - as ideal opportunities to start 2004 with a kick. Laser sailor Paul GOODISON (GBR), who has had some time off sailing over the last couple of months, is living proof. He went to Australia and after 8 races, won by 12 points from Australia's Brendan CASEY. A mere two weeks later in Miami, despite the last day being cancelled, Goodison beat USA's Mark MENDLEBLATT by seven points. Both Casey and Mendleblatt are high flyers on the Laser circuit.
Mistral - Windsurfer Men
In 2002 the Mistral World Championship was held in Thailand in December, so after last year's ISAF World Championship in Cadiz in September, both events held a first year weighting. The big moves in the Mistral fleet could be attributed to the fact that as of these rankings, the 2002 Worlds in Thailand don't have a year one weighting.
As a result, Maxim OBEREMKO (UKR) has returned to the top of the rankings after a three month sabbatical in second place. He overtakes Jon-Paul TOBIN (NZL), who has recently just missed out on being nominated to the New Zealand NOC for the nations spot in Athens, after a closely fought battle at the New Zealand Olympic Nomination Trials in Auckland.
Another big mover in the Mistral fleet is the emergence into the top twenty of Alexander BARONJAN (GER), previously in 26 position, he has moved into 18 following an eighth place finish at the ISAF Grade 1, Rolex Miami OCR.
Mistral - Windsurfer Women
In the women's fleet it's a similar story to the men in that with the World Championship from 2002 now losing it's year one weighting, the ranking positions have been turned around somewhat. Lee LAI SHAN (HKG) is the biggest beneficiary from this shake-up, and has now moved up from equal tenth position to third overall. This is useful for a sailor who led the rankings for much of 2002.
Still leading the rankings is Lisa VIDAL (FRA), whose string of top five results keeps her almost 100 points ahead of second placed Romy KINZL from Germany. Olga MASLIVETS (UKR) is continuing the form of both male and female windsurfers as she pops into the top twenty into 16 position. A tenth place at Sail Melbourne gave her valuable points in the rankings, and she starts this Olympic year with confidence.
Europe - Single-handed Dinghy Women
As well as Sail Melbourne and the Rolex Miami OCR, included in the Europe Rankings were the Sydney International Regatta and the Christmas Race in Palamos, Spain, which are both ISAF Grade 2 events.
Lenka SMIDOVA (CZE), who finished ninth at the ISAF World Championship, started 2004 with a victory at the Rolex Miami OCR and as a result continues her move up the rankings. She now lies a mere 11 points behind Carolijn BROUWER (NED) in fifth place.
There is little movement in the rest of the top twenty. The top two, Siren SUNDBY (NOR) and Sari MULTALA (FIN), who look sure to continue the battle between them on the water right up until the final race in Athens, remain as they ended 2003, in first and second respectively.
Laser - Single-handed Dinghy Open
A fleet with the most number of boats worldwide of the Olympic Equipment, this is highlighted in the number of events that are graded, and the number of sailors on the ISAF World Sailing Rankings. This month there were no fewer than seven events counting towards ranking points, including four ISAF Grade 1 events for the class. There are over 900 sailors with positions on the rankings.
Having said that, the top of the rankings seem fairly stable this time around, with the top four remaining in their final 2003 positions. The points are close in the top three though, with less than 100 points separating Michael BLACKBURN (AUS), Robert SCHEIDT (BRA), and Paul GOODISON (GBR), whose individual return to form has been well documented over the last few weeks.
Another British sailor, Mark HOWARD, has pushed into the top twenty, and now resides in 17 position, at the expense of Andreas GERITZER (AUT), who has dropped to 22.
Finn - Single-handed Dinghy Men
The results for the Finn class at Sail Melbourne were not eligible to be included in the calculations for this ranking release, so the only ISAF Grade 1 event for the class was the Rolex Miami OCR. This is added to the results from the Sydney International Regatta and the Christmas Race in Palamos to calculate the points for this release.
Ben AINSLIE (GBR) remains at the top of a highly competitive Finn fleet ahead of 1996 Gold medallist Mateusz KUSNIEREWICZ (POL), who was first at the Rolex Miami OCR. Kusnierewicz is closing the gap however, and things will get tighter and tighter at the top as athletes make their final preparations for Athens.
49er - Double-handed Dinghy Open
The Sydney International Regatta was a Grade 1 event for the 49er class, but coupled with The Rolex Miami OCR and Sail Melbourne, has only resulted in one major change in the rankings. Australian team Chris NICHOLSON and Gary BOYD have plummeted from sixth overall, down to 11 position.
Chris DRAPER and Simon HISCOCKS (GBR) are still at the top, followed by Rodion LUKA and George LEONCHUK (UKR). Paul BROTHERTON and Mark ASQUITH and Alistair RICHARDSON (GBR) round out the top four, but with Draper and Hiscocks already selected to represent their country in Athens, these positions could change in the not too distant future.
Tornado - Multihull Open
The Tornado is another class where we see a new leader at the beginning of 2004. Fernando ECHIVARRI and Anton PAZ BLANEO (ESP) have achieved the lead in the rankings from previous leaders Xavier REVILL and Laurent GUILLEMETTE (FRA). The Spanish pair have sat in seventh place in the rankings for some time now, but with a consistently good scoreline over the last 12 months, they have leapfrogged six of the world's best sailors to jump into the lead.
Other big movers include Darren BUNDOCK (AUS), who shimmies up from ninth place to third overall, and Leigh MCMILLAN and Mark BULKELEY (GBR), just behind Bundock from tenth into fourth.
470 Men and Women - Double-handed Dinghy
The 470 fleet only have two results counting in this rankings release, Sail Melbourne (Grade 1) and the Sydney International Regatta (Grade 2). There are a few teams who have suffered as a result of some of their older results being down-weighted, or not being counted in their ranking calculations.
There are no new leaders in either the men's or women's fleet, with Nathan WILMOT and Malcolm PAGE (AUS) still leading the men and Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadege DOUROUX (FRA) still ahead of the women. Both teams are in strong positions in this final few months before the Olympic Games.
Benjamin and Romain BONNAUD (FRA) are the highest movers, going from fifth into fourth place for France, whilst the biggest movers are slightly further down the rankings. Kazuto SEKI and Kenjiro TODOROKI (JPN) have moved into the top twenty, their highest place since 2002, following a fourth place finish at Sail Melbourne.
In the women's fleet, Stefanie ROTHWEILER and Monika LEU (GER) have dropped out of the top three into fifth place, and are replaced by Spanish Olympic representatives Natalia VIA DUFRESNE and Sandra AZON. Suzanne and Michaela WARD (DEN) are up to ninth place after finishing fifth in the class at Sail Melbourne.
Yngling - Keelboat Women
All it took was a good result at the Rolex Miami OCR, an event she didn't compete in last year, and Dorte JENSEN (DEN) has returned to the top of the first rankings of 2004. She achieved it with a tenth place in Miami, and replaces Betsy ALISON (USA), who drops to second.
Sharon FERRIS (NZL) has rocketed up the rankings from 16 into seventh position in a northern hemisphere top twenty. She is the first sailor from the southern hemisphere in the top twenty and is currently four places ahead of Melanie DENNISON in 11 place.
Monica AZON (ESP) has had a quiet time of it. In the final rankings of 2003 she was equal tenth with Shirley ROBERTSON (GBR) now she has dropped to 17 in this ranking release, although she is still the first Spanish skipper in the Class.
Star - Keelboat Men
The Star class, distinctive both in design and by the characters within it's folds is a class that attracts some of the most experienced and diverse sailors in the world. Finn silver medallist in Sydney 2000 Freddie LOOF, still leads the epic line-up, but he must be a little concerned looking over his shoulder and seeing the likes of Colin BEASHEL, Mark REYNOLDS, Mark NEELEMAN, Paul CAYARD, Iain MURARAY etc, slowly or in some cases very quickly, climbing the rankings towards him.
Mark NEELEMAN (NED) was a trimmer for Alinghi in the last America's Cup and, given time off to pursue an Olympic dream, seems to be making the most of his time away from Switzerland. In the last rankings of 2004 he was in 24 position. Now he is tenth, his highest position since pre 2002.
Paul CAYARD has also upped his game somewhat as the Olympic trials for the USA draw near. He has risen from 22 to 14 in the rankings, whilst 2003 World Champion Xavier ROHART (FRA) has fallen a further three places from tenth to 13. Rohart now sits less than 100 points in front of the ever hungry Cayard.
The next issue of the ISAF World Sailing Rankings will be released on 14 April 2004 following the Princess Sophia Trophy Regatta in Spain.
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