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26 July 2007, 10:51 am
Two Bullets On Day One For Defending Chamipon
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Optimist World Championship 2007
Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy

A perfect day's racing was the unanimous verdict on the cloudless 20+ knots of the seas off Cagliari where 251 sailors are entered from 55 countries. All starts were perfectly clean with the only apparent OCS proving to be a late starter from a previous division! Reigning world champion Julian AUTENRIETH (GER) opened the defence of his title in splendid style with two wins on day 1.
No ALT tag specifiedAt this very early stage Pierre QUIROGA in second place is one of three French sailors in the top 20 and is followed by two Italians who qualified at this venue in similar winds. Five of the six continents represented have sailors in the top 20 and four in the top 10.

Lara VADLAU (AUT) is the slightly unexpected leader of the girls.

The entry numbers are not a record because in 2000 to celebrate the millennium IODA sponsored entry and charter for over 20 countries and 252 sailors from 59 countries participated. But since then the IODA continental championships (see below) have grown in popularity and a further 13 countries have elected to attend only those, giving a total attending IODA events in July of 69 countries (+ four more at the IOC African Games). Since only 50 sailors will take part in more than one of these events, that means that a total of 701 sailors will have represented 69 countries at IODA events during the month.

Standards have risen worldwide in the seven years since the millennium.

In the 1990s only Argentina regularly competed with the Europeans for the top of the fleet: only two of the 30 medals went elsewhere. In the six years since, 50% of the medals have gone to other countries: China, Singapore, Trinidad, New Zealand, Bermuda, Ecuador and Malaysia have all had medallists.

Some countries such as the Dominican Republic, Netherlands Antilles and Kenya did not even have Optimists seven years ago, and others which did not participate then include Australia which currently has one of the fastest growing Optimist fleets, Russia and Ukraine.

All of this makes predictions of names to watch very difficult. Defending champion Julian AUTENRIETH (GER) is present but only four sailors in 45 years have ever retained their titles. Others from the top ten 'last year' include a trio of South Americans, Stephanie ZIMMERMANN (PER), Jonathan MARTINETTI (ECU) and Benjamin GREZ (CHI) But this year none of them has been able to beat South and North American champion Raúl RÍOS of Puerto Rico. The Asian challenge may be led by Singapore with Russell KAN and Rachel LEE but Navee THAMSOONTORN (THA) could also show well.

With the 2006 Worlds dominated by non-Europeans there is less indication of the strongest European sailors. Fanis KAVVAS (GRE) and Jes Lyhne BONDE (DEN) are both former European champions and Jes placed 2nd in Garda at Easter. Phil SPARKS (GBR) won the Magic Marine, also at Easter, and there have been some useful results from several Scandinavian sailors.

But in the Optimist Class anything is possible and a fascinating championship is in prospect.

Robert Wilkes (As Amended By ISAF). Image, 2006 IODA World Champion Julian AUTENRIETH:© Optimist World Championship
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