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3 July 2007, 05:00 pm
Runners And Riders - Finn Fleet
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ISAF Sailing World Championships 2007
Cascais, Portugal

Cascais is sunny, windy and beautiful this morning as Finn sailors make final preparations for the 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championship. Moderate to strong winds and clear blue skies have so far indicated a challenging week of superb sailing conditions ahead.
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Competition within the Finn class is often regarded as one of the toughest of Olympic sailing disciplines, combining physical prowess with technical knowledge and tactical expertise. The 77 Finn sailors in Cascais are competing for the Finn Gold Cup, the class's World Championship trophy, and one of the oldest and elitist dinghy trophies sailed for on the international stage.

The Finn is also the oldest Olympic dinghy, having been used at every Games since 1952, when it was selected following a design competition for a single-handed dinghy. Designed by Rickard SARBY from Sweden in 1949, the Finn may be 58 years old, but it is arguably one of the most modern looking hiking dinghies around with epoxy moulded hulls, carbon wing masts and hi-tech sails.

The 35 nations represented here in Cascais include many sailors from established nations as well as a number of new and emerging nations trying to qualify for one of the 19 Olympic places at the 2008 Games. At the recent European Championships - albeit held in light winds on Lake Balaton on Central Europe - the top 19 nations finished in the top 26 places. This is going to make gaining one of this initial batch of Olympic spots very hard indeed.

Racing for the Finn fleet begins on Thursday 5 July. Two races are schedule for each day on 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10 July, with the Finn Medal Race on 11 July.

Finn

The Basics

Event: Heavyweight Dinghy
Equipment: Finn
Fleet size: 77
Olympic qualification places: 19
Reigning World Champion: Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN)
Reigning Olympic Champion: Ben AINSLIE (GBR)

Leading Challengers

Ones to watch...

Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN
© 2007 Robert Deaves, International Finn Association

Dan SLATER
© 2007 Robert Deaves, International Finn Association

Ed WRIGHT
© 2007 Robert Deaves, International Finn Association

Daniel BIRGMARK
© 2007 Robert Deaves, International Finn Association

Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC
© 2007 Robert Deaves, International Finn Association

Jonas HOEGH-CHRISTENSEN (DEN)

Age: 26
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 1
Career Highlights: 2006 World Champion

Should adapt well to the conditions off Cascais. Likes steady, breezy conditions and has a powerful downwind technique when the wind exceeds 12 knots and unlimited pumping is permitted. He has held the ISAF World Sailing Ranking top spot since June 2006 and has to be one of the firm favourites for this event. Results so far this year include fifth at the Europeans, a sixth at the Breitling Regatta and second places at Hyères and Princess Sofia.

Ed WRIGHT (GBR)

Age: 29
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 5
Career Highlights: 2006 European Champion, 2006 World Championship bronze medallist

In the absence of his main competition for the 2008 GBR Olympic spot - Ben AINSLIE (GBR), who has been involved in the Emirates Team New Zealand America's Cup campaign - Ed WRIGHT will be looking for a solid performance to bolster his chances of going to the Olympic Test Event this August as well as giving the selectors a definite indication that AINSLIE is not a dead cert for Beijing. Finished third at the Breitling Regatta and fourth in Hyères.

Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC (CRO)

Age: 23
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 3
Career Highlights: 2007 European Championship silver medallist

After entering the class in 2005, Ivan KLJAKOVIC GASPIC immediately began to make his mark winning the Junior World Championship in his first year and following that up with an 8th in the Finn Gold Cup in 2006. This year he has clearly improved further with podium places at four major regattas and a very close second place at the Europeans.

Dan SLATER (NZL)

Age: 31
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 2
Career Highlights: 2005 European Championship silver medallist

A win at the Breitling Regatta in May confirmed SLATER as one of the top favourites for 2007. He has finished in the top ten at every ISAF Graded regatta except two since he entered the class from the 49er (a class in which he finished eighth in the 2000 Olympics) in 2005, and has steadily moved up to Rankings to his current #2 spot. Very determined and committed, SLATER is definitely one to watch.

Chris COOK (CAN)

Age: 32
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 9
Career Highlights: 2005 Finn Gold Cup bronze medallist

When on form, Chris COOK can produce great performances, but sometimes struggles with consistency. COOK has been the top ranked North American Finn sailor since he entered the class in 2001 and has a very physical style around the boat.

Pieter-Jan POSTMA (NED)

Age: 25
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 7
Career Highlights: 2007 Breitling Regatta second place

Jumped into the Finn from the Laser in 2005 and has steadily improved since then. Sometimes inconsistent he has recorded a string of individual race wins this year in windy conditions and could prove hard to beat if he does not make too many mistakes. Finished a disappointing 15th at the Europeans after a third at Princess Sofia, seventh in Hyères and second in Holland. Likes the breeze so could do well here.

Emilios PAPATHANASIOU (GRE)

Age: 34
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 4
Career Highlights: 2006, 2005 Finn Gold Cup silver medallist, 2002, 2001, 2000 Finn Gold Cup bronze medallist

Probably the most experienced Finn sailor in the fleet, Emilios PAPATHANASIOU has had excellent speed all year, winning Hyères on the Medal Race. He was the only sailor at this year's Europeans to win more than one race. Sometimes a risk taker, and with a liking for flamboyant end-of-line starts the Greek sailor is still looking for his first World Championship win, after finishing on the podium five times in the past seven years.

Anthony NOSSITER (AUS)

Age: 33
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 13
Career Highlights: 2000 Olympic Games sixth place

Another member of the +39 America's Cup team here in Cascais, Anthony NOSSITER has proven very capable of winning races, and is a powerful, strong sailor who likes the breeze. Trying to qualify for his third Olympics ahead of fellow Australian Brendan CASEY.

Daniel BIRGMARK (SWE)

Age: 34
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 6
Career Highlights: 2006 Finn Gold Cup fourth place

Although he has not repeated some of his success in the Laser class, Daniel BIRGMARK has always been there or thereabouts and is consistent throughout the wind range. Quite capable of winning races and putting together a good series. Main competition for Olympic berth is Johan TILLANDER, who is at #10 on the ISAF World Sailing Ranking, having placed seventh at last year's Europeans and Gold Cup.

Rafael TRUJILLO (ESP)

Age: 31
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 11
Career Highlights: 2004 Olympic Games silver medallist, 2003 Finn Gold Cup silver medallist

Although Rafael TRUJILLO has taken time out of his Finn sailing to compete on board the +39 America's Cup boat, he has still maintained his high Ranking position since winning the silver medal at the 2004 Olympics. With a definite liking for windy conditions, TRUJILLO should perform well here if there is a solid wind every day.

Outside Bets

Guillaume FLORENT (FRA)

Age: 33
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 48
Career Highlights: 2006 European Championship silver medallist

Not sailed much since the 2004 Olympics where he famously protested Ben AINSLIE out of the second race, but is good in a breeze and capable of posting a good series here.

Eduard SKORNYAKOV (RUS)

Age: 26
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 66
Career Highlights: 2007 European Champion

Recently shocked the established sailors by claiming the 2007 European title on Lake Balaton in Hungary, without winning a single race and after only nine months in the Finn. His home club is Moscow Sailing School, so it will be interesting how he adapts to the open sea conditions of Cascais.

Gasper VINCEC (SLO)

Age: 26
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 8
Career Highlights: 2005 European Championship bronze medallist

Just won Kiel Week following a fourth at the Europeans, so perhaps peaking at the right time. Although Gasper VINCEC has regularly been in the Medal Races this year, he seems to struggle in the high pressure regattas, while winning low pressure ones. Often cited as good in light airs and small fleets, VINCEC finished a lowly 20th in the 2004 Olympics

Waclaw SZUKIEL (POL)

Age: 31
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 12
Career Highlights: 2005 Finn Gold Cup fourth place

Entered the class in 1997 and has put in some race winning performances, but the fourth in Moscow in 2005 marks the best he has sailed at a major event.

Rafal SZUKIEL (POL)

Age: 30
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 17
Career Highlights: 2007 European Championship eighth place

Taller than his brother and having sailed in his shadow for a number of years, Rafal SZUKIEL has produced better form on average in the past year and could easily produce a top ten and race winning performance this week.

Zach RAILEY (USA)

Age: 23
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 15
Career Highlights: 2007 Championship fifth place

Admits to still being on a steep learning curve, Zach RAILEY entered the class in 2005 and will be one of the youngest sailors here. Outside chance of winning individual races.

Peer MOBERG (NOR)

Age: 36
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 16
Career Highlights: 2007 Rolex Miami OCR firth place

Peer MOBERG moved into the Finn in 2005 after three successful Olympics in the Laser, including a bronze medal in 1996. Apart from the occasional regatta he has failed to break into the top ten

Joao SIGNORINI (BRA)

Age: 30
ISAF World Sailing Ranking: 57
Career Highlights: 2004 Olympic Games tenth place

Only got back into the Finn for the first time since the Athens Olympics in September 2006 after competing on Brasil 1 in the Volvo Ocean Race. So far this year he has made it to two Medal Races including a tenth at the Europeans.

About The 2007 ISAF Worlds

The 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championships will take place from 28 June-13 July in Cascais, Portugal. 'The Wind Is Calling' is the official motto for the 2007 Worlds. The Championships are the principal qualification regatta for the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition, with 75% of all national places to be decided.

All Media wishing to attend the Championships will require accreditation. On-site accreditations only will be available after 31 May.

For all the news on the ISAF Sailing World Championships 2007 CLICK HERE.

Robert Deaves (As Amended By ISAF). Image:© Gilles Martin-Raget
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