Sailors from around the world including 8 teams from China and 11 from Japan will also be contesting their National Olympic Selections in Zadar. However, whilst Japan has qualified for the Olympics in both the men and women's fleet, China is as yet unqualified in either, with their top ranked female crew of Xiaqun SONG and Yan WANG leading the charge.
Qualifying rounds for the 470 World Championship will start on the 10 May with six races scheduled. The finals will be contested from 13-16 May with eight races scheduled.
As the last chance for those nations that haven't already done so to qualify for the Olympic Games in Athens in August, competition will be tight, especially amongst those on the verge of gaining a prestigious entry to the Olympic Sailing Event.
Countries such as Poland, Turkey, Hungary, Canada and Russia are yet to qualify and all have sailors in the top sixty of the ISAF World Sailing Rankings for the 470 Men. An invitation to the Olympic Games in the class will be at the forefront of athletes' minds as they enter the final preparation stages for the World Championship and seek one of the 6 slots available.
In the Women's fleet, there are five qualification slots up for grabs. Unlike their male counterparts, Hungary's women sailors have already secured a slot. This is not the case for the one of the two countries ranked in the world's top 20, but as yet unqualified. Canada's pair of Jennifer PROVAN and Nicola GIRKE are ranked number 16 in the world, so a final slot is well within reach. Alongside Canada, the USA pairing of Katie MCDOWELL and Isabelle KINSOLVING at number 19 will be aiming high. Behind these two countries in the top 20 of the world rankings, there are a further six nations from 20 through 40, being Argentina, Switzerland, Finland, Austria, Italy and Poland who will all be seeking qualification.
Current Qualified Nations in the class are as follows:
Many eyes will be on the dominant Greek women team of Sofia BEKATOURU and Emilia TSOULFA (GRE) to see if they can secure a record breaking fifth World Championship in a row. This would certainly be a good omen for the Greek pair looking to "Grab Gold" in their home country's Olympic Games come August.
Chasing Sofia and Milly, who were ISAF Rolex World Sailors of the Year in 2002, will be the French pair of Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadege DOUROUX and the rapidly rising Russian team of Vlada ILIENKO and Natalia GAPONOVICH. Reigning Olympic Gold Medallists Jenny ARMSTRONG and Belinda STOWELL will no doubt run to some form and may have a hand in the final standing. Young veterans Susanna and Michaela WARD are starting to re-gain speed after a break following the 2000 Olympics, not to forget the Spanish medallist skipper Natalia VIA DUFRESNE, as well as Lisa WESTERHOF (NED) crewed by 1999 ISAF World Sailor of the Year and Olympic medallist Margriet MATTHIJSSE.
In the Men's Championship, competition has never been tougher with 15 or more teams possible Title winners. Just 10 points separated the top six places at the recent Princess Sofia Trophy. But favourites must come from the Australian's Nathan WILMOT and Malcolm PAGE, ranked at number 1 in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, Johan MOLUND and Martin ANDERSSON from Sweden (Winner of the both the 2002 and 2003 Pre-Olympic regattas) or Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANFIELD of Britain (winners of the ISAF Grade 1 Princess Sofia Trophy) .
One cannot count out the 1996 Olympic Gold medallists Eugeniy BRASLAVETS and Igor MATVIYENKO of the Ukraine and boats from Argentina, Portugal, the Netherlands, Russia, Greece, France, USA, Israel or the reigning World Champions Gabrio ZANDONA and Andrea TRANI (ITA).
Paul FOERSTER and Kevin BURNHAM (USA) have recently been granted the US nomination to compete in Athens, and the pair cannot be ruled out of the equation. Foerster has been to two Olympic Games, 1992 and 2000. He has won a medal at both (Silver in the FD in 1992 and Silver in the 470 in 2000). The pair, as well as fighting for World Championship glory, will be sussing out the latest in form sailors as they aim for their peak at the Olympic Games.
The winners of the 2004 Worlds will deserve the title of "Favourite for the Gold" in Athens, but in both fleets the possibilities are numerous as to who the champions will be.